The First Fiddle


[excerpt from Dobra Tales and Lore, collected by David Hooper]

Long ago when glass was still new, there were two brothers, the older one industrious and the younger a layabout. The layabout would do no work, even as his brother labored every day as a woodsman. Neither could take a wife, the layabout because he was too lazy to earn one, and the woodsman because he was too busy working since his brother would not.

But the women of the village desired the woodsman, particularly Mara, who lived in the woods with her parents and four brothers. Each day the woodsman would pass her way, and each day Mara would wait by her window in hopes of catching his eye.

Yet the woodsman never noticed her and Mara wept and bemoaned her sorrow. And in her sorrow she called out, “O Waer, help me.”

And Waer came and asked what she wanted. When Mara told Waer her desire of the woodsman, Waer said, “Is that all? I shall help you, but you must give me your four brothers in trade, or I cannot help.”

Mara agreed and Waer came in the night when the four brothers slept, and made four strings of them, the oldest the thickest, then one thinner, the third thinner still, and the youngest the thinnest. Then Waer said, “This is not enough. Give me your father.” Mara answered, “Good, I give you my father, only you must grant me my true love.”

Of the father Waer fashioned a box, and stretched the strings across it, and made the first fiddle. Then Waer said, “This is still not enough. Give me also your mother.” And Mara said, “Good, I give you my mother, only you must grant me my true love.”

Waer smiled, and made the mother into a stick, her hair stretched across it, and Waer made the first fiddle-stick. Then Waer played the fiddle, and Mara rejoiced for the strange sound drew the woodsman to her door. And when he arrived he found the house empty except for Mara and asked, “Where is your family?” Mara answered, “I have sent them away so that we might share this house.” Weary of supporting his layabout brother, the woodsman took Mara as his wife and moved into the house. And there she played for him throughout the night.

But the next day Waer came and said, “Come away with me, Mara, for you belong to me.” And Mara was afraid and said, “O, is there anything I can do to escape this?” Waer answered “Give me your husband.” And Mara said, “Good, I give you my true love, only you must grant me my life.”

So Waer snatched up the unaware woodsman. But then Mara as well. When Mara wailed at her state, Waer answered, “You always belonged to me, as do any willing to bargain with Waer.” And Waer carried them away to their deaths.

The fiddle remained in the house lying on the ground, and the layabout came by searching for his brother. He found the empty house and the fiddle, and took possession of them both. He played well, and the people of the town paid him well as they laughed and cried as he chose.

Riddle:

Without a bridle or a saddle,

Across a thing I ride a-straddle.

And those I ride, by help of me,

Though almost blind, are made to see.

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MD Presley is a screenwriter, blogger and occasional novelist… which basically means he’s a layabout. But if you’ve ever got a hankering for some grimdark gunpowder fantasy with a female anti-hero, I have a suggestion...

 

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