Once upon a time, there was a handsome woodcutter named Keith Wood. He lived in a small cottage near a forest with his mother. Every morning he went to the woods, looking for fallen trees and broken twigs. With his heavy axe, he cut them into smaller pieces. The day would roll into the afternoon by the time he gathered them into small bundles. He sold the firewood bundles at the town market. With the money, he bought milk, bread, and meat for his family. On his way home in the evening, Keith smelled the lovely aroma of baked goods as he passed by the baker’s shops. He could only imagine the sweet crumbs melting in his mouth.The tired and hungry woodcutter never had enough money to buy the expensive cakes.
One day he had an idea. He thought of making cakes at home. He began to save some money every day. In a few weeks, he saved enough to buy a packet of flour, sugar, butter and some eggs. He went home happily and asked his mother to bake a cake. Keith’s mother was feeble. She knew the right proportions but did not have the strength to mix the batter to the desired smoothness. Keith tried to help her. He added all the eggs at the same time. Part of the batter spilled on the table as he stirred too fast. When he added the flour, white powder blew onto his face. He blinked and coughed.
Finally, he poured the batter in the baking dish and put it in the oven. When he took out the cake, it was burnt on the edges. He regretted not having timed it more carefully. The cake looked plain and tasted dry. Keith wished more than ever to taste a perfectly moist cake with icing on top. If only he knew a skillful baker who would make them for free, then he could enjoy cakes every day.
The next morning he got up earlier than usual. In the forest, while picking up some branches, he noticed a clearing behind the trees. There, he saw a teenaged girl in a pink dress, dancing on the grass. She had a melodious voice and sang to her heart’s content. Keith was amazed by her beauty. His heart pounded, excitedly. Suddenly he heard a loud crack behind him. He turned quickly and saw some birds flying away. He looked for the girl again but there was no one around. Confused and sad, he went back to his work. Many times that day, he found his thoughts returning to the girl. His heart longed to see her again.
That night, he had a terrifying dream. He was trying to save a lovely princess. The maiden was attacked by a huge dragon with long nails dripping blood. Keith bravely fought the dragon with his sword in a long battle. In the end, the dragon knocked down his sword and struck him a blow with his big forearm. The young man fell to the ground with a big thud. Everything around him got blurry. He was about to faint when suddenly his mother’s call woke him up from the nightmare.
While returning home that evening, curiosity filled the woodcutter. He went to the same spot to look for the girl. In the twilight, the deserted glade was beckoning him. Keith crossed the grassy patch and found a narrow path between some overgrown bushes. He proceeded on the path for quite a while. It led him to a dingy cottage, half covered with mosses, ivy, and other creepers. Darkness fell on the forest in the meantime.
With abated excitement, he approached the small house. A light was coming out of a side window. Keith saw a big table with glass bottles. Green fumes were coming out of them. There was a tall lady with her back turned to him. The woman was wearing a black cloak, a black pointed hat. She mumbled some incoherent words. Keith felt scared. He thought of going back home.
All of a sudden his eyes fell upon a young girl entering the room. She was carrying a tray of food. “Put the food on that table,“ a shrill angry voice commanded her. Then the girl walked up to her master.“What is she doing here? It is the same girl, I saw yesterday!“ Keith thought. His thoughts were interrupted by a loud clap. To his utter dismay, he found that the girl had turned into a small porcelain doll!
The witch placed the doll on a shelf near the window. Keith quickly moved back, cautious not to be seen. He hid behind the thick bushes near the house. After some time, the window flung open and the witch flew out, on a broomstick. She was flying high in circles. Her long hair was flapping in the wind. Keith could see her hooked nose and pointed hat against the pale moon. Then he heard her evil laughter piercing the silence of the night. His hands and feet froze with fear.
He sat there motionless, caught in a dilemma. He could run home to safety or he could try to save the young girl. Keith finally came out from behind the bushes. He peered through the window again. There was a book lying on the table. As he looked away, he caught sight of the beautiful doll. It sent a ripple of warmth through his heart. Keith could not leave even if he had to risk his life. He decided to enter the cottage before the witch came back. He picked up the book and ducked under the table. As he looked through the book of spells he saw a curious rhyme written on the center page. There was a hand drawn map below it.
Abracadabra Shazam Khazam
Hid my life in the little black ram
Detach head without blood on the grass
Will spell the end as forever I will pass
Each blood drop, the grass will see
Will produce another stronger me !!
He studied the map carefully. It showed the forest, the cottage and the farm on the southern side of the forest, labelled “Shepard’s Farm”. Before he could look over other pages, Keith noticed the dark shape flying closer. Quickly, he hid behind a cupboard. In a short time, the witch came in and put her broom beside the cupboard.
The witch was hungry. She gobbled up the food with pleasure. Keith looked on with longing eyes when she relished a big piece of cake. At the end of her meal, she went to a bed and fell asleep. As soon as she started to snore, the doll dropped down from the shelf. The doll grew in size and came back to life. The spell had worn away after the witch had fallen asleep.
The girl picked up the dirty dishes and put them in a pile. Then she sat down to eat a bowl of porridge. The woodcutter came out of his hiding place and smiled at her. “I am Keith. I saw you dancing in the glade, yesterday. Did you make that cake? ” he asked. “Yes, I did. My name is Regina.“ she smiled back at the handsome woodcutter.“Where is your family? How did you get here ?“ he asked her. “I was kidnapped by the witch when I was five years old. I am her slave. I do all the housework here. You are very brave to come here. But I am afraid the witch will be furious if she sees you. You have to leave quickly.“
Keith reluctantly headed back home. However, he was too excited to go to bed. He had a plan to save Regina. He found some food scraps and put it in a bucket. He picked a piece of chalk, an empty bag, and his axe. He paced up and down, thinking hard. From his window, he saw the faint light of dawn. He knew it was time to start towards the farm.
The trees looked alike in the dense forest. After every few miles, he put a chalk mark on the nearest tree. When he was very close to the Sheperd’s farm, the witch woke up. She called for Regina.“Where is my book of spells? I had left it on this table, yesterday.“ she demanded. Regina trembled.“I really don’t know“ she said honestly. Suddenly, a thought crossed her mind.“ Keith was staring at the map and the riddle. Maybe he stole it,“ she guessed. The witch looked at her eyes and read her mind. She hurriedly flew out in search of the woodcutter.
When Keith reached the farm, sheep were grazing behind the fence. He lured the black ram to the fence with his bucket of food scraps. The ram put his head inside the bucket and fed hungrily. Keith spread his bag under the bucket so that nothing spilled on the ground. He lifted his heavy axe and gave a sharp blow at its neck. The ram let out a terrible scream.
Almost simultaneously, the witch came from the left side and knocked down Keith. The axe came off his grip. Luckily, the bloody axe fell on the bag. Without losing a moment, he reached out for the axe again. He swiftly dodged the witch’s attack and dealt another blow on the ram. The axe fell on its neck and severed it. Not a single drop of blood fell on the grass. As soon as the ram’s head fell into the bucket, the witch dropped dead. Keith breathed a sigh of relief.
Finding the chalk marks on the trees, he traced his way back to the cottage. He found Regina lying in her bed, crying. She was overjoyed to see Keith.“You have saved me from the evil witch. How can I thank you ?“ She wiped her tears.“I will take you to your family. Do you know where your parents are?“ Regina shook her head with a sigh. “Don’t worry. You can come and live with me and my mother,“ Keith suggested. Regina gladly agreed. He sensed the excitement in her eyes. As his gaze lingered on her, he was lost in her beauty. When their eyes met, Regina looked away with a bashful smile.
Keith’s mother was nice to Regina. Regina helped her with the household chores. They cooked together and the days went by quickly. One evening, Keith brought various ingredients to bake a cake. Regina baked the most delicious cake he had ever tasted. He took a sample for the town bakers. Soon, all the bakery shops wanted to buy Regina‘s cakes.
On an auspicious day, Keith and Regina got married and lived happily ever after.