Bedtime Stories for Kids - The Wicked Witch

 The Wicked Witch

This happened long ago. In a forest lived an old woman. She was extremely adept at all kinds of wizardry and black magic. The master who had passed on the knowledge to her had warned her, saying, "My daughter, never apply your power to harm anybody. I am giving you my knowledge because if I don't, it may be lost to mankind. So, you must use the knowledge with discretion." The woman remembered the advice for some years. Then she forgot all about it. She started amusing herself with her powers. An innocent woodcutter would suddenly find a tiger pounding upon him. He would faint. In fact, there was no tiger. The woman created an illusion to see the fun of it. However, people outside the forest came to know about the woman's uncanny powers. They feared her, at the same time they approached her to get their problems solved. The woman helped them if she was pleased. The people who benefitted by her help heaped gifts on her and flattered her. She grew proud. She moved about in the forest like an empress. She had a sister who told her once or twice, "I think you are being unfaithful to your master. You are putting your knowledge to wrong use."

"What is that to you? Go away, if you are displeased with my ways," the witch would say. And the sister really went away and lived in a different hut. The witch had a son. He was as arrogant as he was foolish. But the witch thought that he was a brilliant boy and quite charming too! She called him Guna, meaning personification of Virtues! One day Guna told his mother, "What if I fetch a daughter-in-law for you?" Then the witch smiled and said, "My son, I was going to tell you about it myself." She taught him a hymn and said, "Go and stand before the magic mirror and recite this hymn. Then tell the mirror to show the face of the most beautiful girl in the kingdom." Guna jumped with joy. He did as advised by his mother. A beautiful face flashed in the mirror. The pet crow of his mother informed him that she was none other than the princess! Guna told his mother what he saw and said pleadingly, "Mother, don't I deserve to marry her?" "Who deserves to marry her if not you? Meet the king and introduce yourself to him and tell him that you wish to marry his daughter. Carry the magic wand with you. If necessary, impress him by showing some magic. And tell him that he shall be ruined if he does not oblige you." The witch then told her crow to accompany him. Guna appeared before the king and whistled merrily. The king was surprised. The young man made a small courtesy to him and grinned. "What do you want?" asked the king, a bit annoyed.

"I wish to take the princess away with me, to serve as my mother's daughter-in-law," said Guna with a twinkle in his eyes. "What... What do you say?" the king was at his wit's end. "What kind of a king are you? Don't understand what I am saying cleverly? What I mean is, I will like to marry your daughter. Make the necessary arrangements," said Guna. The king stood trembling in anger. Guna did not realize that. He said, "My dear king, what stops you from showing me the courtesy which a would-be son-in-law deserves?" The king controlled his passion and said, "Right. We will give you what you deserve." He clapped his hands. An attendant came running. "Call the executioner!" ordered the king. The executioner appeared there in no time. At a hint from the king, he and his assistants took hold of Guna and dragged him to the execution ground. When Guna realized that they proposed to behead him, he looked for the magic wand. Alas! He had forgotten to bring it in his hurry. Needless to say, he lost his head. The crow flew back to the witch and reported to her the incident. The witch became mad with fury. With the concentration of all her magic powers, she whisked the princess away from the castle at night. It created a great sensation in the morning. The king's men fanned out in all directions in search of the princess. The king suspected black magic. He entered the forest himself. Imagine his happiness when he saw the princess seated under a tree, all alone.

"Is it you, my child?" he cried out. The princess looked at him. But suddenly there rose a cloud of ashes from the ground which almost blinded the king. And from that screen of ashes emerged a terrible looking demon. It rushed upon the king. The king had to retreat. The king tried to go near the princess again the next day. But the same situation repeated. The king's general, his minister, and his other senior officers too tried to approach the princess, but they were all driven away by the demon who emerged from the ashes every time. The king announced, "Whoever can rescue the princess will marry her!" Several young men took up the challenge and tried to approach the princess, but the fearful demon made them take to their heels. Some of them did not know that they could run so fast. One or two swooned away. A young man named Martin who did not know anything about the king's announcement watched the drama. He was a physician's son and he had been to the forest in search of some herbs. Whenever the cloud of ashes subsided, he could see the princess sitting alone and weeping. He felt convinced that the man or the woman who had cast a spell on her, can alone free her from the spell. Martin looked for the culprit here and there. He saw a hut, but it was deserted. But a crow flew out of it and cawed on, attracting his attention to it. It flew in a certain direction, halting from time to time to enable the young man to follow it. Following the crow, the young man reached another hut in which lived the witch's sister. 

When Martin told her about the plight of the princess, she said, "I know about it. My sister, the witch, was so angry at the death of her son that she wanted to change the princess into a beast. But the princess was a devotee of Mother Goddess. My sister's spell did not work on her. My sister was blind with fury. She uttered some incantation and went up in flames herself. She had made me promise that I will spread her ashes around the princess. I did so. Her spirit assumes the form of a demon whenever anybody treads on her ashes." "Is there no way to liberate the princess?" Martin asked anxiously. "There is. When my sister began to burn, she also began to repent for what she had done. She said that one who can decipher the meaning of a verse, will be able to liberate the princess," said the witch's sister. "What is that verse?" asked Martin. Said the old woman, "With her murmur, A thousand sprang to life, With her power, The princess becomes your wife." As soon as Martin heard the verse, its meaning became clear to him. The sacred river in the kingdom had brought to life thousands of people which flowed through the forest. Martin fetched the sacred waters and sprinkled on the ashes of the witch. No demon appeared anymore. He rescued the princess. As promised by the king, she became his wife and they lived happily for a very long time. 

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