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The Queen of The Woods
She looked back down the road toward the quaint and, she had to admit, adorable little log cabin she had lived in her whole life.
She had to leave. It wasn’t that she saw anything wrong with a life sheltered from the outside world; in fact, it was just the opposite: she was starting to feel cramped and suffocated by her two sisters, three brothers, and four grandparents all pushed into that small of a space.
She felt a little twinge in her heart; she would miss them, and perhaps she would one day come back, but for now she needed just to be alone.
She had sneaked out of her room at three in the morning. Even though she shared a room with three other members of her family, the whole family was a bunch of heavy sleepers and she had no trouble packing a sack full of fruit and jerky and making her escape.
The night was cool and clear and the air moved gently. It smelled fresh and untainted by humanity’s intrusions.
Her house was the type with a half-mile dirt driveway leading to a small paved main road. If you went one way you would be going deeper into civilization, but if you went the other way it would take you nowhere. Her whole reason for escaping was to remove herself from people, so she obviously would never head towards the city.
She decided to walk into the woods and live there. She thought of the books she had read and the movies she had seen in which somebody gets stranded on an island or in the woods and makes a quite comfortable living for themselves in the midst of nature.
She walked a few miles away from everything she had ever known before leaving the road and entering a new chapter of her life.
She was starting to get very tired; she could hardly keep her eyes open and lost her balance several times while trudging through the brambles and dead and rotting leaves. She noticed a little clearing and decided to fall asleep there. She now wished that she had thought of bringing her pillow and blanket, but the ground was covered in moss so she didn’t have much to worry about. She saw a fallen cedar tree leaning against another tree at a forty-five degree angle and decided to lie beneath it to have a shelter in case of rain.
She walked under the tree’s crown of leaves, dropped her sack of food, and plopped down onto the thick damp moss. As she lay, she looked up through the nearly solid wall of branches and caught a glimpse of the moon. It was so beautiful. Even in the little slivers of light she saw, she could tell that it was full and huge and bright, even more so than normal.
She sighed contentedly and closed her eyes. She was asleep immediately. She did not dream any dreams as far as she knew. She had heard that humanity always dreams, but she didn’t count it unless she could remember it, and she thought that the loveliest of dreams would be dim and distracting compared to the beauty of simple and pure rest on this clear night. Now she says that all she remembers of that night is that she felt more alive and light-hearted and free than she ever had before.
When she awoke she sighed and sat up. Dew had collected on her hair and face during the night and her clothes were slightly wet. The morning light she saw didn’t break through the leaves completely unaffected, by the time it hit her face and the grass it had been dyed a soft blue-green, making everything it touched the same color. She stood up and reached for the pack to grab an apple, but before she opened the pack, she noticed that the clearing she had fallen asleep in was surrounded by raspberry and blackberry bushes, so she saved the supplies she had packed and sated her hunger on what was around her.
While she ate, and unbeknown to her, a fox, raccoon, deer, and squirrel ambled out of the trees behind her and began to watch her actions curiously.
Squirrel leaned close to Deer and whispered, “A human! What is she doing here? Should we avoid her, attack her, or peacefully confront her?” Deer responded, “I don’t know! I really don’t think she’s a hunter, no weapon. Chances are she’s harmless and just camping. If that’s the case then we should avoid her.”
The raccoon (who was by far the eldest of the group) chimed in, “She doesn’t act like any campers I’ve seen. Campers tend to be louder and more numerous and burn wood for various foods they have packed. She is alone and collecting berries. We should simply ask her what her business is here.”
They conferred to choose a spokesbeast and decided that Raccoon had the best combination of wit and docile looks. He stepped forward to the girl, intentionally making enough noise. The girl started and turned towards the sound; when she saw that it was only a raccoon, she got up and walked to him. All the animals and trees in the vicinity stopped and leaned in to hear and see what would transpire. Even the Wind took a break from his constant running to see what would take place.
“Hello, Raccoon…how are you?”
Shocked, Fox whispered to Deer, “She spoke first!”
“I am quite well, thank you! We were just curious of your intentions in coming here. It’s not often that a human comes here. It’s even rarer for the human to be living off the land, and I’ve never before encountered one who wants to hold a mature conversation.”
At this the others regained their confidence, reappearing from the shadows to approach her.
“I grew tired of my surroundings. I felt like I was suffocating in my own family and I simply needed to escape for a while to rest, catch my breath, and think.”
“Wow, I’d never heard of a human doing this till now. Welcome to our woods! We aren’t accustomed to your kind living in our midst, but we are always open to new friends.”
A collective breath that had been unconsciously held by all was finally released and animals rushed her, flooding her with questions and generally being a nuisance.
Their revelries were interrupted by a loud cry of pain heard in the distance.
As a whole the forest rushed to see what the sound was. The Wind arrived first and gasped when he saw a large Stag trapped in a briar. The Stag was their king. Soon the other creatures arrived and then it was noticed that a large adder was going for the majestic animal.
When the snake was pointed out by a beaver all the animals fled. The Adder was the most feared creature in the forest. All other predators only killed when necessary and even lived in peace with the others most of the time, but the snake would attack and kill all who it encountered with a single deathly bite and often left into unknown parts without consuming its kill. He would leave the uneaten body to rot and to remind all that he ruled.
The girl showed up to the scene later than the others and noticed the snake sliding toward the trapped buck. Without hesitating, she ran forward and stomped the snake’s head, popping his skull. She then proceeded to untangle the animal from the thorns.
The forest stopped. All were stunned. She had done in twenty seconds what their biggest bears and bucks had failed to do in all the years that they could ever remember.
The Stag broke the silence, “You… you… did it? Did you just kill the snake? You didn’t just set me free, you set us all free from his awful reign of the woods. You have simply and efficiently solved the biggest problem we have ever as a whole population faced... thank you.”
The spell of awe had been broken and in its absence a roaring cheer rose throughout the forest. One and all danced and laughed. Birds danced with foxes! Deer danced with bears! Even the wolves and the mountain lion came out to partake in the celebration! All was merry and loud and joyful. It was a bigger celebration than even the ancient Apple Tree remembered ever having taken place before.
Finally Stag motioned for the girl, then had Bear quiet everyone down. He led the silent group back to the clearing in which the girl had spent her first night, and motioned for her to stand on the stump of the fallen cedar. He then began one of the finest speeches they had ever heard.
In the speech he told the girl that she had shown a bravery and care beyond his own and that she should be made the queen of the woods. He had decided that whether she took the position or not, he would be stepping down as head of the forest. He implored her to, “Please, accept my offer. Rule this realm. You have already shown us your capabilities. You have a grace and a dignified air about you that rarely is found, especially in your species.”
She thought of her family again. This new life would be simpler in some ways, but she had wanted to get away from all life and responsibility. This position would bring both back; still she couldn’t let these critters down. They depended on her to provide solid leadership. She also had already felt closeness to them.
She would accept.
The new forest queen scrambled up onto the huge old fallen cedar that was the symbol of government in this, her new kingdom. She raised her hands to gain the attention of the crowd, but this was unnecessary: every rich, dark, furry eye and every hilarious, floppy, elongated ear was focused entirely on her. “I thank you, dear Stag, for this responsibility! I will need all the help you friends have to offer, but I will govern and judge as fairly and honestly as possible. I pray that my decisions will not often be needed, but when it comes to the worst, that I will be able to resolve any disputes brought forth in a way that will be beneficial to all parties involved.”
The herd of assorted forest-dwellers made such a joyful ruckus that the old Oak who had been sleeping for two years awoke and drowsily inquired of Wind’s sister Spring Shower to see what the matter was.
She started her reign by sending a search party out with orders to kill any snake they may come across. After the few remaining threats had been stamped out, her rule continued for the most part as a peaceful period in woodland history.
The noble Stag retreated to his former herd and began a family. It had been his plan to step down soon anyway to lead a more restful life, so the girl’s arrival had been even timelier than just arriving to save his life.
Raccoon became her majesty’s chief adviser and right-hand beast. He was one of the elders of the land and knew the traditions and habits of nearly everyone, so his advice was invaluable to her decision making. Not only did he become a close adviser, he also became a close friend.
Other than her victory over the Adder family’s tyranny, her greatest accomplishment was her predator decency act. She came up with terms that helped relations greatly between carnivores and herbivores by making a deal that they could eat fish (who lacked the intelligence of other beings) and animals that had died of other natural causes. They could even put dying animals out of their misery if fresh meat was needed.
The beasts thought that this was a more reasonable solution than had previously been in effect and agreed that though it was a necessary evil, it would do perfectly considering the circumstances.
Both sides shook paws and that moment began a new age of cooperation between species, cooperation greater than all other attempts had yielded in the past.
The bears and foxes, wolves and mountain lion all benefited because they could be integrated into regular society and were now allowed to hold office and partake in local government. The deer and rabbits, birds and squirrels benefited for the obvious reason that they would not be eaten until they were ready!
As time passed, the weather grew warmer and the trees began to regain their summer coats. At this time, she remembered the family she had left behind and began to ponder what turns her life would have taken had she never left that life. She became quiet and withdrawn, spending hours on end sitting in her fallen-tree throne solemnly thinking. She realized she missed humanity. She had thought she was giving up work and busyness by running. She had wanted to be alone, but she had simply traded one responsibility for another. On one particularly slow day she thought of her siblings and her mother and father and softly began to cry. Fox heard her and climbed up onto the tree and curled up in her lap.
“What’s wrong, your Highness? The whole wood has become sullen. Your recent temperament has not gone unnoticed. Is there anything that you’d like to talk about? We are always here for you as you have been here for us.”
“Oh dear Fox, I’m sorry! Nothing has been wrong really… I’ve just grown wearied of this throne. I love you all, but I left my family to come here. I had nearly forgotten them, but as I remember them, I long to see them again. I miss the company of my fellow humanity. No offence of course, but I don’t feel that I am needed anymore. In fact, please tell Ash and Maple to spread the word. I need everyone here for a meeting to announce my resignation.”
“Yes your majesty, I shall send out the word at once. I am thankful for all the good you have done in this short time of bliss. We shall mourn your departure. You will be missed.”
Within the hour news had reached even the farthest corners of the forest and all had gathered to hear their queen bid her final farewell.
For the second time in history, the realm stood as one. All stood by sadly listening to her last words to them. Bear and deer stood side by side, simply listening. Many tears were shed; even Spring Shower began to weep quietly, gently. There could be no doubt that the girl would be missed.
Details had to be discussed. She was creating a power vacuum that had to be taken care of before her departure. Among other details, it was decided that Raccoon should lead and that he was to be assisted by Fox.
With this final address, she bid a farewell to every animal one by one, kissing each on his furry head, and began her journey out of the woods.
The animals never forgot the gracious girl who had brought peace upon their homes.
The trees and Wind like to tell her story to all who are willing to listen. They try to talk to the campers who pass through, but are usually ignored.
Occasionally someone will put out the fire, leave the tent, and wander off to sit on a stump and think; these few have been known to catch glimpses of a wonderful tale worth remembering.
As for the woodfolk themselves, it has become tradition to tell a romanticized version to their children every year on the first day of spring.
The raccoon continued the girl’s legacy very well and lived for many more years. He never lost his keen mind and humility. His wisdom and rule also remained in the hearts of his friends long after his passing.
A few days after she had left, Squirrel noticed Raccoon sitting in that clearing where it had all begun; he seemed to be writing in the dirt with a stick and humming.
“What’re you doing? What is that you’re writing, Highness?”
“My old friend, I’ve told you not to call me that, please! I find it slightly embarrassing.”
“Very well then, Raccoon. However, if I may, you still have not explained what you are working on.”
“It’s nothing really: just a little tune that kept coming to my mind this morning while I was gathering berries. It’s about her.”
“May you sing it for me?”
And he did.
The Forest Queen
She took the path to far away from home
With a large sack of food and the need to be alone
She lived among the animals and came to call them “friend”
Still, her time in the woods made her wish to see her family again
Lovely lady, you did us much good
We will never forget you
Oh, queen of the woods!