Gerjet and the Greedy Woodcutter


[excerpt from Myths of Old, collected by David Hooper]

Long ago when glass was still new, deep in the woods there lived a poor man with six daughters. The oldest was Gerjet, a Shaper who should have brought her father great wealth. But Gerjet was a willful girl that refused to use her Shaper strength in the presence of others.

Since she would do no work for the family, her father took her to his nearest neighbor in the morning, a greedy woodcutter. Hearing of Gerjet’s Shaper strength, the woodcutter agreed to buy her for his entire fortune of 50 silver pieces.

Yet Gerjet did not like what she saw in the woodcutter’s eyes. So she swore that her father lied, and that she was not a Shaper. So the woodcutter refused to buy her, and her father refused to let the lying Gerjet return home.

Without a home anymore, she sat down on the earth outside the woodcutter’s house. And when the woodcutter asked what Gerjet would do for food and lodging, she simply said, “Sol will provide.”

And when the woodcutter laughed at the girl, Gerjet wagered him that she could collect more deadfall wood in the night than he could chop in a day. If she could not, she would become his wife. But if she won, she would receive half of his 50 silver pieces.

Seeing the girl’s thin arms, the greedy woodcutter quickly agreed and set to work while Gerjet slept straight through the day. And when she awoke with the dusk, she saw he had chopped down a full cord of wood. Tired from his labor, and sure of his victory, the woodcutter fell into his bed.

As soon as she was sure he was asleep, Gerjet summoned her Shaper strength and in no time gathered a cord’s worth of deadfall to match the woodcutter’s. And to this she added two more branches to win the wager.

Sore but sure he had won, the greedy woodcutter awoke to discover Gerjet and her larger pile. Amazed at what the girl had done, he asked how it was possible, and Gerjet answered “Sol provided.”

And so the woodcutter paid Gerjet the 25 silver pieces. But Gerjet’s stomach rumbled, and she pretended to be tired from the night’s exertion. Seeing this, the woodcutter offered her the same wager for his remaining 25 silver pieces.

Gerjet agreed, and so the woodcutter redoubled his efforts during the day while Gerjet went to town to buy food. And when she returned, she found the woodcutter had chopped two full cords of wood. And when he asked her how she would gather more deadfall than he had chopped, Gerjet replied, “Sol will provide.”

Yet the woodcutter also thought himself clever, and desired to see how Sol would provide for Gerjet. So he sat with her to watch her gather. But after she had eaten her fill in town, Gerjet bought a bottle of wine, one she offered to share with the woodcutter. Sure of his victory, the woodcutter drank deep, and soon fell to slumber.

As soon as he was asleep, Gerjet gathered up all the remaining deadfall in the forest. And when the woodcutter awoke, he found she had gathered up more than four cords. So he was forced to pay Gerjet the rest of his fortune.

But before she could head back to town, the woodcutter tore at his hair, saying, “Surely you have ruined me! Allow me one last chance to win back my fortune.”

“And what will you wager since you have no more money?” Gerjet asked.

“All my worldly possessions,” the woodcutter replied, thinking himself clever. For he knew there was no more deadfall for Gerjet to gather in the night. And so Gerjet agreed, returning to town for more food and wine.

Sure there was no way for Gerjet to gather any deadfall, the woodcutter only chopped a quarter cord so as to remain vigorous to watch her work during the night. And so he sat beside her throughout the night, refusing her wine.

But Gerjet was still fresh and fed, while he was tired and hungry. And shortly before dawn, the greedy woodcutter fell asleep, still assured he would win back his fortune.

And as soon as he was asleep, with dawn racing down upon her, Gerjet went to the nearest standing tree. Summoning her Shaper strength, she shoved it with all her might and uprooted it.

The crash awakened the woodcutter, who was shocked to see Gerjet standing next to her deadfall. “See,” Gerjet said, “Sol provided.”

And again the woodcutter tore out his hair, Gerjet would claim all his worldly possession, including his woodlot. But Gerjet took pity on the man, saying that if he hauled all that he cut and she gathered to town to sell, she would only take one possession from him.

So the Shaper Gerjet watched as the greedy woodcutter hauled all the wood to town. And there she sold it for a fortune.

Their deal done, Gerjet returned to him his woodlot and all the rest of his worldly possessions. Except for his ax, which she took with her as her own. And so the greedy woodcutter watched as Gerjet walked away with his fortune jingling in her pockets, and his only means to earn more slung over her shoulder.

And the greedy woodcutter wept as Gerjet set out to see the world.

Riddle:

What is it that was given you,

Belongs only to you,

And yet your friends use it

More than you do?

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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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