Jorinde & Joringel
Once upon a time, in a mansion in the woods, there lived an old woman who was an arch-sorceress.  You know, the evil, mean and nasty kind.  During the day she appeared as either a cat or an owl, at night she returned to her human form.  She had the ability to attract birds and other wild animals; these she caught and butchered and ate.  If a male human came within a hundred paces of her mansion, he was unable to move from the spot until she decided to let him go.  But if a maiden came into her domain, she would be turned into a songbird, to be put into a cage and carried into the great hall of the mansion.  There were at least seven thousand such cages ...

Now there was a beautiful maiden, her name was Jorinde.  She lived in a near-by village and was promised to a young man whose name was Joringel.  As luck would have it, they loved each other dearly and had no greater pleasure than to spend time together, often walking through the fields and near the woods.

"We have got to careful," said Joringel one day as they had walked into the woods, "and not come too close to the mansion lest I lose you to the old witch's cage."  It was a beautiful evening, sunrays still sparkling between the trees.  The song of a turtledove echoed forlorn from somewhere in the bushes.

Then they realised that they had lost their way and didn't know how to get home or even out of the woods.  Joride got very depressed and sat down on a rock, crying silently.  By now, the sun was setting.  Then, with a start, Joringel noticed the grey walls of the foul mansion through the bushes, very close to them.  When he turned back towards Jorinde, she wasn't there anymore.  Where she had been sitting, a nightingale was singing her sweet song.  An owl, eyes glistening red in the twilight, flew around it, once, twice, three times ... Joringel was unable to move or make a sound.  Then the sun disappeared behind the mountains and an old woman, yellow-skinned and with the same red eyes as the owl, reached for the nightingale that had been Jorinde and locked her into a little cage, mumbling to herself as she walked away toward the mansion.  But still Joringel couldn't so much as move a finger.

After a long while, the woman reappeared, spoke some strange words and Joringel was free.  He fell to his knees and begged her to return his beloved to him.  "Not now, not ever," was her reply as she walked away from him.  He stayed there fore a long time, begging, praying, crying, but it was all for naught.

He didn't know what to do now and he wandered on and on until he came to a strange village, where he earned his keep by herding sheep.  Every so often, he would return to the woods and go around the mansion, being careful not to come too close.

Then one night, he had a strange dream.  He dreamt that he found a strange flower, blood red in colour, with a beautiful pearl in the middle.  He picked this flower and took it to the sorceress's mansion, and everything he touched with it was free from her spell.  He even regained his beloved Jorinde ... but then he woke.

That very day, he left the village to start looking for this flower, over hill and dale, everywhere his legs would carry him.  And finally, on the morning of the ninth day, he found a blood red flower.  In the middle, where he had seen the pearl in his dream, a huge dew drop shimmered in the first rays of the morning sun.  Taking great care not to shake lose the dew drop, he picked the flower and made his way to the witch's mansion.

Nearer and nearer he came, to the forboding mansion, but even when he was way beyond the hundred paces that bound him the first time, he just kept on walking, unhindered by any spells or magick.  The heavy iron gate opened with a touch of the flower, and even though his heart beat heavily in his chest, he conquered his fear and entered the mansion, the thought of his beloved Jorinde guiding his steps.  Soon, he came to a great hall.  And was about to lose heart ... thousands upon thousands of birdcages, each one holding a nightingale.  How was he ever to find his betrothed?

That's when the old witch noticed him.  She got furious, screamed and yelled and threw a right fit, but she could not come closer than a couple of paces, he was protected by the flower.  Paying her no mind, he set about his task of finding Jorinde.  He was still wondering whether he would ever see her again when he noticed a movement out of the corner of his eye.  It was the old woman, creeping toward a side door while trying to hide a lovely small cage in the folds of her robe.  But before she knew what was happening, he was upon her, touching first the cage, then the witch with the flower.  And right then and there, all magick was gone from her and there was nothing she could do to him or to anyone else, ever again.  That's when Jorinde stood before him, as beautiful as ever.  Happily, they hugged and kissed, then they touched every one of the cages with the magickal flower and thus freed the other maidens.

Whereupon they returned home and spent the rest of their lives together in happiness.
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Edmund Blair Leighton, 1853-19222
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