Mary returned from the magical land of Frau Holle and she was all covered in shit. Everyone in the village square stared at her and moved well out of her way. She smelled, quite bad as I’m sure you could imagine. Her dress was covered in thick masses of dung, and so was her long dark auburn, now matted, hair.

Now you might be wondering how Mary got into this predicament. Well in the land of Frau Holle, a deceptively nice place full of magic and wonder.

As Mary did not feel like shaking the apple tree, or fluffing the pillows, or cooking, or cleaning, she was punished. Well, Mary was a bit of a dreamer and did not see the purpose in cleaning if everything was only going to just get dirty again. To her it seemed like a pointless effort and her energy could be better spent staring out into space. But alas, she got stuck in the land of Frau Holle where everything must be done at a precise time when it needed doing…and not when Mary felt like it.

So when Mary left the land of Frau Holle; the gate, which she had to pass through on her way out, covered her in shit (in another story it covered her in pitch…but I’ll save that for another thyme).

So when Mary returned to the village she was angry, very very angry. And stomped angrily all the way home. And oh boy was the shit flying.

Her mother saw her coming home, but smelt her first through an open window, and wondered what the strong stench was, so she went out to the front yard.

Shocked and speechless, she saw that it was Mary. Mary didn’t even look at her. She was so angry she stormed through the side gate into the backyard, her mother followed, but went through the house. Mary began to strip off all her clothes. Her mother was about to say something, but Mary gave her the most severe and fierce glare. So she snapped her mouth shut and went back into the house, occasionally peaking through the window.

Mary then proceeded to shake her dress covered in pats of dung, spreading the shit all over the garden. Some flew into the trees, scaring off a pair of pigeons. Some went splat on the wooden fence, then ran down the fence leaving a trail. A couple flew into the neighbours yard, and fertilised their roses. But most of it ended up covering the garden, which was full of autumn colours, now just a poo brown colour.

Then she hung her dress on one of the cleaner low hanging branches of an old oak tree. And then she started to scraped off the fecal matter from her face, neck and the rest of her body. As she was scraping, she felt a rain drop on the back of her head. So she looked up and a big angry grey cloud was gathering just over the garden. “Perfect.” she thought to herself in a sardonic tone and a wry smile. The rain came down hard. Cleaning Mary from all the filth left from Frau Holle’s gate.

Her mother brought her some soap, shampoo and a scrub brush, and left a fresh large towel by the door just under the awning. Mary was grateful and smiled humbly. She cleaned herself well from head to toe and let the rain fall clear away the soap suds. Mary walked to the back door, and wrapped the towel around her. She sat under the awning with a sense of relief and did nothing else for the rest of that evening, but look with satisfaction at the very brown garden.

That winter was somehow easier than the previous ones. Mary’s mother and her sister expected less from her, and thus she was willing to do a bit more. She also sat often under the awning looking out to nowhere in particular, something she never did until after her ordeal with Frau Holle.

On a particularly clear and dark night, she saw the stars and the shapes they made. And began to weave stories, just as her sister weaves fabric on the loom. But these were not plaid stories of squares and crosses. She would weave swathes of interconnecting beams of light from star to star. Infinite connections in an endless sky.

The thaw came and melted all the snow, and soon after it was spring. One morning when Mary was fast asleep, her mother called her. “Mary! Aufwachen! Komm nach draußen und zu sehen!” Mary’s sister came to Mary’s bedside and shook her, “Mary komm mit! Ist schöen!”.

“Was? Ich will mehr zu schlafen.” Mary replied
“Nein. Du musst draußen kommen. Schnell Mary, komm!” her sister insisted.

So Mary put on a tunic, woolen jumper and a light coat, as it was still a bit chilly in early spring.

“Was ist es?” Mary asked slightly irritated.
“Schau nach draußen.” her mother replied.

The garden was full of new life that was not there last spring. Early blooming flowers Mary had not seen before and shoots of strange twisting and winding plants from Frau Holle’s garden. And sure enough in the middle of the garden was a sturdy looking shoot about a twenty centimeters high, the beginnings of an apple tree. Mary smiled to herself, noting that she may well have to shake that tree in the years to come.

Later that day she walked along the path to the town square. Following the way she came back from Frau Holle. It was full of small violets, daisies and forget-me-nots stubbornly growing through the cobblestones. As she got to the square she saw the most peculiar sight. Growing all around the well, in the centre of the square, was a thick vine of jasmine which perfumed the whole area.

She went to the well and a thought came to her, she whispered into the well, “Danke schön.” Then she could swear that the echo returned with:

“Blumen wachsen nicht aus Gold, sondern aus der Scheiße und Dunkelheit das Leben bringt.”

(Flowers do not grow from gold, but from the shit and darkness life brings.)