I’m a famous witch. I live on an island in the center of a large lake. A golden lantern hangs outside my door, but no one comes here. It is quiet. I hear only the sweet tinkling bells on the golden horns of my goat who is feeding nearby. I am sitting by the fire, wrapped in a golden cloak that lights up the whole house.
On the surface, you will find me all sweet tinkling music and golden light. Underneath, I not so pretty. I have had to become cunning to acquire my wealth.
There’s a knock on my door. Three young men are standing there. They’re brothers, I can tell that. They are asking for shelter. They say they are tired and hungry. I don’t like the smirking faces of the two older boys. They haven’t done a day’s work in their lives and they think they can easily get handouts from an ugly old woman. The youngest boy would serve, however. I could do something with him..
“You can get no food or shelter here,” I say to the older ones. “Take your boat to the other side of the lake. There’s a palace there. Leave the boy with me. I can find work for him, though something tells me he is quick and cunning, and will do me ill.”
“What harm can a poor boy like me do to a great Troll like you?”: he says. “Let me go, I pray you. I promise never to hurt you.”
“Go then,” I say, and I let him go. Off he runs to join his brothers. He’ll be back, that little thief. It takes one to know one.
Witch in a Golden Cloak in Pinkel the Thief, Orange Fairy Book. Illustration by W. Heath Robinson.