One day when I was eight years old, I was playing in the courtyard with my golden ball when it rolled away from me and into the cage of the wild man. I asked him to give it back, but he wouldn’t, not until I had unlocked his prison door. I refused at first, but when he told me where to find the key (under my mother’s pillow), I went and got it.

It wasn’t easy to unlock the cage door, but when it finally did open, the wild man jumped out. He gave me back my ball and then started loping towards the forest. I cried, “Wild man, don’t go away or I’ll get beaten!”

He turned, hauled me up onto his shoulders, and took me into the woods.

Iron John with a Golden Ball in Iron John, Grimms. Illustration by Gustaf Tenggren.

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