THE DANCING WOODEN SHOES

A SANTHARIAN FAIRY-TALE

 
Master Tribell's Miraculous Narrations   
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Introduction. This is a tale as recorded in Master Tribell's "Miraculous Narrations", Scholar's Edition. It tells us about a girl who did something she was not supposed to do and a pair of enchanting shoes. A fancy tale and bedtime story, it is a tale that is popular with mothers who enjoy dancing their children off to sleep.

 

here it was - a tiny shop hidden away at the back corner of one of those streets. One of those streets, Myrtle thought to herself, one of those streets that sometimes disappear among the many streets that populate the town, there when you wish not for it and missing when you want it.

Myrtle had hunted for this street in the past few months but had been disappointed time and again. The search had been inspired by a sudden tumble into this same street some five months ago when chased by the bully next door, a boy of age twelve who enjoyed exhibiting his age by tormenting those younger than him. She had been surprised for she had never seen this part of town. It was quiet even though it was broad daylight and there was something strange about finding an empty street in the heart of a usually busy town. She stared at the row of shops that lined the narrow street trying to figure out what it was that left her unsettled. On one hand they looked like ordinary shops but on the other, they seemed untouched for years. She pressed her face against the thick glass windows of the first shop and found herself staring at jars of herbs and spices, nothing too unusual there. But as she removed her face she only found her nose coated with dust. She sneezed. The next shop contained an assortment of figurines and charms; the third shop had clothing, mostly cloaks; the fourth had lovely wands delicately placed on display stands - wands? That is strange. I did not know they sold wands in this town. But it was the last shop that caught her attention. All that was placed on the window sill was a pair of dancing wooden shoes. It was exquisite, made of wood but crafted so ingeniously it glowed like silk. The thickness of its sides measured equivalent to a shoe made out of cloth. She knew it was wood by the grain that was reflected along the sides. There were cravings on the shoe but the window had obscured her vision. Myrtle wanted to go into the shop to take a closer look but the door was closed. There seemed to be light somewhere within but the main door would not open and neither was there any response when she knocked.

 

Myrtle was sorely upset. The sun was setting and she could not linger around much longer. Every child knew it was a silly thing to loiter in empty streets after dark. The town belonged to those who lead darker lives when the townfolk rested in the comfort of their homes in the after hours. She left the street reluctantly, her heart lost to a pair shoes. It was as if those shoes called out to her and in the days that followed, captured her waking thoughts so much so she found herself hunting for that same street day after day, facing disappointment that was becoming increasingly unbearable. She did not forget the shoes in time but found herself longing for them with an intensity that caused her to lose track of the present. She found the shop again five months later.

She treaded gently on the cobblestone path, fearing to punctuate the silence. She went straight to last shop, the tiniest in the corner. She pressed her face against the window and there it was, those wooden dancing shoes. Like a starving child who finally had its hunger appeased, Myrtle felt a rush of sensation, an overdose of pleasure from satisfaction that soon gave way to a kind of mysterious horror, the realization that the shoes had held her in its thrall.

She stumbled along the window and pushed the door open. She fell through. The door had opened with just the slightest push, as if touch was a cue for an action it took into its own hands. Myrtle found herself on her knees but soon got up and swept the dust off her skirt. There was no one in the shop but that was not her concern. She ran straight to the display window and picked up the right half of the shoe. Cool to the touch, she traced the patterns that ran along the wood grains. There were carvings but they were not painted. She found herself looking at a series of tiny dancing figures etched into the fine wood. The harder she looked, the larger the figures became, until they enveloped her whole field of vision. She saw herself a part of them, dancing beneath the eves of summer bloom. Wood folk, maybe druids, were dancing oblivious to her presence, only listening to the wind which gave them rhythm to the dance. She was mesmerized and for a moment, lost herself completely… until a jolt back into reality by a cold wind that blew in her face. She blinked, momentarily displaced by a sudden change in consciousness, and found herself staring at the wooden shoe. The cold wind was a draught that came through the open door. It chilled the interior of the shop immediately and brought her back to her senses.

For the first time she noticed the rest of the shop. There were all kinds of shoes lining the shelves. Shoes of all shapes and colours, sizes and patterns, some beautiful, some plain but nothing that caught her attention the way the wooden shoe she was holding did. She picked up the other half of the shoe and looked around for the owner of the shop. No one was in sight. She placed the shoes on the wooden floor and slipped her feet into them - hey fitted perfectly. It did not feel as if she was wearing shoes made of wood for it was impossible for hard wood to be kind on dancing feet. She looked around again but there was no one. She wanted to call out but found her voice lost in her throat. She knew deep inside that calling out would mean returning the shoes to the shelf. There was no way she could pay for such exquisite shoes but at that moment, she decided to do what children are taught never to do. She ran with the shoes without paying for them.

She ran past the streets she knew and past her home. When she tried to stop she found that her feet denied her - what have I done? - her feet now had a life of their own and it danced her out of town and into woods, away from her home and lost to the world. What Myrtle did not know was that she was not the first of children to have gone missing this way. Not many did. She was believed to have been lost to crooks and bandits and her disappearance, while bringing sorrow to her family, was accepted into the normal humdrum of life. Some however, knew of the girl who danced out of town and there were those who knew she was another victim of the hidden street. There were not many who ventured into that street. Those who did either disappeared or went mad but some had managed to avoid its lure and lived to tell the tale. These were the people who knew the truth about Myrtle and how she was one of those who failed to keep herself in the face of temptation. They would caution those who would stop to listen, their words - be weary of the eyes for it can deceive, be weary of the heart for it can enslave, be weary of the mind for it can be lost and be weary of beauty when enchantment is its source.

Editor's Note. This simplified version of this story has often been told as a caution against stealing - a girl who stole a pair of enchanted shoes and ended up lost to the world. Others have used it as caution against venturing into unfamiliar streets or picking up strange objects without knowing its source. Due to many different retellings, the original story is but a skeleton which this edition has pieced together using various different accounts, the editor taking the liberty to write it into a coherent form. Other points of interest scholars have picked out would be the use of the number five - the fifth shop, five months; the wood of the shoe which some have theorized as coming from the wood of a druid’s tree, taken without permission; and the paranoia about big towns and losing children.
 


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