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The Owl Maiden's Tale

The Owl Maiden's Tale is the fouth of a series of traditional tales that form part of my mesolithic novel The Drowning Land, which launches on the 30th of January 2020.

"As everyone knows, when a woman is too long without a man, an Owl may help them find one. So, it was with a woman of the tribe. She had seen all the other girls grow up alongside her and become Mothers, but still she had no man of her own, and there were none left in the place to choose.

"So, the woman went into the woods when the moon was full and called for an Owl, too-too, too-hoo. Now, as it happens, the only Owl to hear was the Owl Maiden, who had no experience in finding love. Still, she flew down into a tree and looked down on the woman in the moonlight and asked her what she wanted.

"'I am growing old, and have no man for my bed, nor a child in my arms', said the woman. Please help me to find a mate for my elder days.

"Now, the woman told the Owl Maiden that there were no men left in the tribe for her to court, so the Owl Maiden went seeking through the night, two days, and three days, and two days more. Then by a river bank she found a fisherman who was not of the tribe. She watched the man from the treetops, seeing that he had no woman to share his furs, nor any other family of his own. She watched him cut the trees with an axe of polished stone and pluck the trout from the water with his hands.

"The Owl Maiden knew that she should fly back to the woman and tell her that she had found a man for her, but when she looked at the man, she loved him for herself. Each day she told herself that she would fly away when evening came, but each night she perched in the tree above his camp and watched him sleep. Eventually the man noticed that the owl was watching him. 'What do you want, owl?' he said. 'Is there some woman looking for a man? If so, send her to me.'

"This was too much for the Owl Maiden. That very night she came down out of the tree and took a woman's form and went to the man's camp. 'I am a woman looking for a man,' she said, 'and the owl sent me' which was not quite a lie. Now, the man liked the look of the beautiful woman with her great bright eyes and downy hair very much, and he took her in to his camp and lay with her.

"When the morning came, the man woke next to the Owl Maiden, who was still sleeping. As he looked at her, he saw that her hair really was downy feathers, and that her ears stuck up from amongst them. He realised at once that she was the owl, and not a woman at all, but he did not care. And so, the man and the Owl Maiden lived together, while the unhappy woman went without." Edan laughed self-consciously. "It is a silly story."