Monday, June 11, 2012

once upon a time

Mr Wolfe and the Valkyrie

We all know the dangers - our mothers told us - of tripping through the deep, green forest alone with a basketful of goodies, dressed all in red.
He sees her before she sees him. He sees her basket of fungi, of carnelian tinted armillaris clotted together in bunches, a killer of trees so as to live from its rotting wood for decades.

"They are lovely mushrooms", says Mr Wolf as he steps into her path.
He knows she always wears red into the forest. She is a fresh blood red splash against the emerald green leatherwood trees. He watches her every time she ventures into the cervix of feral blackberries and treads a quiet path leading through the forest where weeds cannot find purchase.
She's a polite young woman, just like her adopted mother taught her ...but still, much of her mother's other advice is brushed away with a flick of brown fingers and a magpie's curiousity for dark and shiny things.

"Will you take some of those mushrooms to my wife?" the hunter asks her. "She is in bed with a chill and needs sustenance."
"Don't be afraid," he adds, thinking she may take flight and leave him alone again with ravens and rabbits.

She considers the stranger, a shaggy man with carnivorous, apple green eyes. She would rather wander through the forest to the other side and out into the sunlight but these two are perhaps kin in their opportunism and so she takes her basket of fungi to his wife's bedside instead.

Trees flash by him. The honey eaters sound alarm calls. He treads stealthy and quick, leaving prints in the moss that spring back softer and greener than before. He told her to take a trail that meanders and weaves - a stream to cross, some bullrushes to circumnavigate. His way along the spine of the mountain is much quicker and he can look down into the valley and occasionally see her scarlet.

We know it is a trap - but it is neat as a nest, this little house. A copper kettle steams on a warm stove, herbs and chillies garlanded above. A goblin feast of cherries and potted cheese goes offering. A clock ticks. It is all one single room in a deep, green forest, divided by a heavy velvet curtain.
"Is someone there?" a querulous voice asks.

She pulls aside the mossy green velvet to reveal a brass double bed entwined with wildflowers. There lies his wife with her broderie anglaise covers pulled up to her pink chin. She breathes heavily, like she has been running.
"Oh, dear girl, you've brought something - mushrooms! Well thank you so much! Come closer."
She steps closer.
"Let me look in the basket."
She steps closer again and shows the wife her basket. The bedridden wife takes a golden orange mushroom to her nose and inhales deeply - a musky, secret scent.
"Can you comb my hair, my pretty?" It does seem a strange request but anyway, the wayfarer girl combs twigs and lichen and fleas and feathers from the wolf wife's shaggy mane. The wolfwife smiles. She never shows her teeth.
"Now, fetch yourself in alongside me, dear. I have a chill and need more warmth."

Of course, we know this story. "My! What big teeth you have!" says she dressed in red, when the triumphant hunter reveals his canines and his maleness in one lecherous, lupine grin.
He gathers her squirming body against his, peels her like a ripe, opening fruit and says, "All the better to eat you with!" Ha Ha!

But he doesn't know all about her yet - Miss Lupa, deadly flatterer and a war monger's daughter - he is just as pleasantly surprised and only slightly chagrined when she behaves so agreeably.
He menaces, "I am going to eat you!" And she is acquiescent to this pleasure. She is eaten whole, raw and from inside out and still she is unafraid. She is only afraid of one thing in the universe and that is falling. He is not capable of dropping her right now.

He eats her alive, all gravelly tongue and ivory tooth and when she is sated, she spills like umbrel seed across his belly, listening to the breath of the world beneath his tawny flesh. She hears birds and rabbits squirming inside his stomach and then she lifts her head and calls him Master.
"Master, you are not done with me yet!"
It sounds odd to call him Master when what she utters is a command but this is how it is.
She binds him down for her own unholy joy. She binds him to the polished brass with creeping tendrils of wildflowers. She kneels back to watch them weave throughout his fingers and toes, bedevil themselves around his extremities. She suckles him then, like a thirsty fawn, hungry for milk, her cheek lacquered to his curly hazelnut pelt, her fingers tormenting his brown, fat nipples. She makes her own self his one single dwelling in a deep, green forest. She plants herself in all his nerves.

We know now that it will probably end badly for Mr Wolfe. Someone will arrive with an axe very soon. Mrs Wolfe is likely to stove one through his belly, fatally venting her rage against her infidel husband, as is the Woodcutter, a compulsive rescuer who has always been in love with Miss Lupa.
Both have the passion behind their grasp of the haft and they are masters at swinging an axe.
Deary, deary me. Just wait.

Mr Wolfe is subject to base witchery as his tendril-flayed skin sprouts fur under her fingers. She strokes their mushroomy juices all over themselves and draws out soft new hair with her hot palms. She sings to him. It calms him. All prickly wildflowers release their hold. He rolls all over her and she cradles his great animal body and her skin flickers with heady delight.

Mrs Wolfe is returning home with a brace of fat river mullet swinging from each meaty fist. The Woodcutter, work weary, his axe balanced across his shoulder, sees the Wolf's little house with its gently smoking chimney and thinks he might drop in for a cup of tea.

They come from different directions and their minds are engaged in their own unique and tangled peace that a deep, green forest day may present. But they are smashed out of their reveries when they see a Valkyrie go shrieking naked into blue sky, sunwards, her mad hair streaming brazen red and riding on the tousled back of a magnificent grey wolf.

She is only afraid of one thing in the world and that is falling but Mr Wolf will never drop her now.


  1. Oo-er! Did I tell you that I used to see Angela Carter every day, waving at me from her window as she did the washing-up? Never knew who she was until she died.

    1. Was her chamber as bloody as her tales? She is quite amazing, nails the once upon a time.

  2. Once again, very evocative. Giddying. I need to read this several times. A really insightful foray into the co-responsibility of seduction.

    1. A foray, yes! And so much fun to write.

  3. It reminded me of Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita. The foreigness maybe? Has a devilishness about it, not just the fantasy, the imagery and the preoccupation but the manner of its delivery; multi-coloured, variously textured, dreamlike, laced with temptation and giving-in but with one eye always on the danger. Risk, what might happen but also getting caught, who might see and what would they think? She escapes in the nick of time...

  4. She does indeed but not before some witchery ... 'Lupa' is latin for both shewolf and prostitute, something I find quite intriguing.