I have been imprisoned in a castle that stands on a steep mountain. It is bolted by iron bars and chains, so imagine my surprise when all of a sudden a young man strode into my room.
“How on earth did you get in here?” I asked.
The youth replied that he was my brother, and that he had acquired several objects which had given him access to the castle, including the master key. He had resolved to go and find his three missing sisters, and as the eldest I wept tears of joy to see him. I had disappeared when I went into the marsh one morning. I had stooped to pick a pink when suddenly I was grabbed. The next thing I knew, I found myself in this castle, being wedded to a man who had no choice but to marry me because he had been put under a spell. He took the form of a bird for half the day.
“How is the spell to be broken?” my brother asked.
All I could say is that a man who could not die would have to be put to death. It made no sense! We talked together for a long time but then I grew anxious. My husband would be back at any moment, and he would not like to find me with a man. My brother said, “Have no worry, I have a cap that will make me invisible.” Just then, my husband flew in. I ran for a large golden basin, and the bird flew into it. He resumed his comely human form. Meanwhile, my brother had donned his magic cap and had vanished.
My husband said, “What is happening? Is someone in the room?”
“No, I am quite alone,” I said, trembling.
He did not believe me so I confessed that my brother had paid me a visit.
“If he is really your brother, why did you hide him?” Now he was pacing the room. My husband was suspicious, for good reason! We were both at the mercy of unknown forces. “If you are telling me a lie, and he comes back I shall kill him!”
Then my brother removed his cap and became visible. The moment my husband saw his resemblance to me, he apologized for doubting my word and embraced my brother with delight.
My brother explained his determination to find my two younger sisters. I had been having bad dreams about my youngest sister. Of all of us, I feared that she was in the worst danger.
My husband drew a feather from the skin of the bird that lay in the basin, and he gave it to my brother saying, “Take this with you, and if you are in danger, cry, ‘Come and help me, King of the Birds,’ and you will receive help.”
My family had always been strong, and our forces were growing.
The Imprisoned Maiden in What Came of Picking Flowers, Grey Fairy Book. Illustration by H.J. Ford.