I came into my castle and right away, I could smell human flesh. What had ill fate brought me? I looked through all the rooms and found nobody. I called out, “Do not be afraid, I will do you no harm.”
No answer. Silence.
“Come out, I tell you,” I said. “Your life is quite safe. If you are an old man, you shall be my father. If you are a boy, you shall be my son. If your years are as many as mine, you shall be my brother. If you are an old woman, you shall be my mother. If you are a young one, you shall be my daughter. If you are middle-aged, you shall be my wife. So come out, and fear nothing.”
A maiden came out of her hiding-place, and stood before me shivering. She had been through something awful. I could smell it on her. I told her she had nothing to fear and I went out to hunt game for her supper. I don’t care for hares or partridges. I only eat human flesh. But mark my words. I had no interest in eating that scared young girl.
Over supper she told me her father had gone away and he had warned his seven daughters not to unlock the door. After a while, they decided they wanted to go out to the market. When she, the youngest, said their father had forbidden it, every one of her sisters fell upon her. They hit her, spat on her, and tore at her clothes. All six of them had a hand in it. When they came home with their baskets full of vegetables, a witch burst in through the door and ate all her sisters. She hid behind a basket and then ran to my castle for refuge.
I wanted her to feel safe. I gave her the keys to six of my rooms, but I told her not to touch the seventh key. I did not want her going into that room.
I have found that she will say what I tell her to say and she will not say what I tell her not to say. But I’m not sure that she will not do what I tell her not to do!
The Well-Spoken Ogre in The Daughter of Buk Ettemsuch, Grey Fairy Book. Image by Dawn Hudson.