The fairy tale Luna features an interplay of autobiography and fiction. The use of a narrator is paramount in the tale’s ability to act therapeutically for the author and the reader. The main message embedded in this tale is that grief can be dispelled and life can become more readily accepted with the passage of time, and with work that gives meaning and purpose.
By Tanya Motiani
There once was a small, humble dwelling alongside a gurgling brook, deep in the heart of the woods. Made from rustic mud bricks, it had a thatched roof and a narrow, wooden door. The floor was hardened soil with scented rushes spread over it and the furniture inside was simple but sturdy.
Within its confines lived Luna, a pretty 15-year-old girl, along with her pet wolf, Fairbark, and a trustworthy raven called Seebright. These two animals were Luna’s constant companions, both of them tamed and trained since they were born. Luna believed that Fairbark was her spirit animal, such was the wolf’s devotion, while Seebright was her very own guardian angel. Luna lived with her ailing father Geraldo, now in his eighth decade and the two were devoted to one another as any father and daughter could be. Theirs was the kind of unconditional love that surpassed all others and their shared understanding of each other and the world around them was fathomless.
Tragically, Luna’s mother, Amara, and her three older brothers had perished in a fire some years ago. That same fire had left her father with weakened lungs and one blind eye. Geraldo also had a badly disfigured visage with scars from the burns he endured that night all those years ago. He wore a patch over the non-seeing eye and preferred not to mix with the townsfolk in the nearby village. Luna still had nightmares from that fateful night though her grief had eased somewhat with the passing years. Although just a child at the time, Luna was haunted by the smell of burning cinders, from the resounding screams of the other members of her family and from the sight of those savage curling flames as they destroyed her home and her loved ones. But there was a quality to Luna that her father noticed, a deep sadness and a restlessness within, for she could never quite put that night out of her mind. She was a singular girl, what with her two faithful pets and their almost human-like expressions, and – unless summoned – generally the people in the village let her and her father be.
After the fire, the villagers had rallied and together with her father had built the new dwelling in which she and Geraldo now lived. It was a simple, modest life they led, her father fishing in the stream that ran the length of one side of their cottage and doing repairs to maintain their home. Luna herself was industrious, milking their two cows, seeing to the chickens and, together with her father, raising their own vegetable and herb patch. Before her mother had died, Luna had learned the art of herbal lore and made salves and tonics which she sold in the village each market day. With the coin she earned from these tinctures, Luna was able to buy ground wheat and oats which she used to make a coarse bread and oatcakes. She was also able to afford honey and sometimes a bit of pork.
It was on one such market day that Luna set off from home, laden with herbal ointments and tonics as well as a basketful of fresh fish. As usual, Fairbark and Seebright faithfully accompanied her and as she walked through the woods, Luna chatted comfortably to her two pets, knowing in her heart that they understood her and she them. She had departed from her father with a warm embrace and a kiss on both cheeks, while he sat on a tree stump untangling and mending his fishing nets. Luna was accustomed to this walk to the village and always felt safe with her two trusty guides. At the forest’s edge, however, Luna would leave Fairbark and travel on to the village with just Seebright as her companion. Because he was a wolf, and a large one at that, Fairbark tended to unsettle people who didn’t know her.
The market that Saturday was populated by busy vendors shouting their wares but Luna had no problem edging herself through the crowds and into the thick of it. She knew that without the coin from the sale of her herbs and her father’s fish, there would be no bread nor oatcakes or porridge for a full week. But her usual customers found her and it wasn’t long before she sold most of her produce. She hurried back towards the woods, stopping only to buy her father a pint of spiced cider as a treat, buying nothing for herself, as was her custom. As she approached the edge of the woods she immediately noticed that Fairbark had left her post. What had happened, she pondered? Her steps quickened even more and she all but dropped her baskets in her frantic efforts to reach home.
As she approached the front of her house, she saw Fairbark come running towards her, grabbing hold of her skirts with her teeth and urging Luna towards the front door of their cottage. She seemed unsettled to say the least. Oddly, the wolf paused on the threshold and gave Luna a look which seemed to communicate the need for courage. With a thudding heart, Luna and Fairbark entered the cottage. What she then faced was the utter destruction of the furniture, window curtains slashed, beds broken asunder, tables upturned, chairs lying in pieces. The entire cottage was in a state of chaos. But where was her father? Running outside and around to the back of the cottage Luna faced what no fifteen year old should have to face – her father lying on the ground next to his fishing nets, his throat slit. What brigands had wreaked such murder? What rogues had ruined her cottage? It was a heinous crime and Luna felt it sorely.
Luna fell to the ground, sobbing inconsolably over the body of her beloved father and it was some hours before Fairbark gently nuzzled her as if to say it’s time… time to set things in order before darkness fell. With her wolf’s help, she managed to slowly drag the body of her father around to the front door and into the house where she laid him by the fireplace and covered him with a blanket. Next, she lit a fire, as though to keep her father warm, and set about righting as much as the furniture that could be salvaged. Then she wrote a message to the village priest and, tucking it securely into the raven’s beak, asked Seebright to hasten forth and deliver it before nightfall. Luna sat by her father’s body, knowing there was no sleep to be had that night. Fairbark snuggled close but Luna’s weeping was unstoppable.
Early the next morning the village priest arrived with a mule and cart and, after loading Geraldo into the cart, took Luna with him to that part of the woods where her mother and her three elder brothers were buried, saying a brief prayer over her father’s body before burying him. Luna laid a posy of wildflowers upon the grave as the priest hammered in a roughly hewn wooden cross to mark the grave. It was over. The life she had known these past seven years since the death of her mother and brother, was no more and Luna felt hopelessly bereft. She could not imagine how her life could continue, couldn’t imagine a life without grief.
Hours turned to days, days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months as Luna struggled to survive. She was but a skeleton of her former self, having no appetite nor desire to eat – to do anything in fact but to sit quietly with a vacant stare. The furniture had been mended by the same carpenters from the village that had helped rebuild her home after the fires seven years prior. And well-meaning women had visited for a while offering tasty dishes to tempt Luna to eat. They brought flour and oats with them, milk, cheese and honey – but all of this perished as Luna just could not eat, and soon they stopped coming altogether. Such was her lethargy that she could not even visit her father’s grave, could not summon the strength to replant the vegetable and herb patches, couldn’t even feed the chickens so that their starved existence stopped them from producing eggs. The cows also starved and stopped producing milk. The entire house spoke of an untold grief, of desolation and neglect.
And then one day salvation rained upon poor Luna. Ginevra, the wise woman from the next village made the 10-mile trek to visit Luna after hearing from the market-goers of Luna’s protracted absence. Totally shocked by what she saw, Ginevra unbound the cloth she had carried, heated some broth on the fire and gently fed Luna herself, spoonful by spoonful. She tended to Luna like she was her own daughter and stayed for some weeks, nourishing Luna, replanting the garden with seeds she had carried, feeding the chickens and the two cows, keeping the fire going, and helping Luna to slowly regain her strength. Thankfully, with Ginevra’s tender administrations, Luna started to glow with health again and with that came a measure of courage and confidence – enough for Luna to start contributing to the running of her little cottage and garden. Luna also started to venture into the woods, Fairbark and Seebright loyally at her side, placing flowers on the graves of each member of her family. In time, the wise woman left, confident that Luna’s health – and more besides – was restored.
After a few more weeks, Luna noticed that Fairbark seemed absent from her favoured spot by the fire more often than not until the day when she disappeared altogether. Not ready to give in to her absence, Luna decided to investigate the surrounding woods for herself, calling her wolf to her – but to no avail. She sent Seebright on ahead as desperation coiled inside her. But Seebright returned to his mistress’s side with no knowledge of Fairbark’s whereabouts. On the fifth day of searching, Seebright finally returned to Luna’s side with obvious haste and, pecking at Luna’s coat, steered her towards the caverns that dwelt deep in the woods. Carefully and hesitantly, Luna made her way, following the raven’s course until she came to the opening of one particular small cave. Peering in, there was just enough daylight left for Luna to see Fairbark with her body curled around five furry cubs. Overcome with relief, Luna gently knelt by the wolf’s side, waiting to be invited to pat her cubs. When that invitation came, Luna felt a peace and pleasure missing for so long – ever since her father had died.
The next morning Luna set out for the cave with a large basket. Fairbark was waiting for her at the cave’s entrance and seemed to know what Luna was about as one by one the wolf picked up each of the cubs, carefully carrying them in her mouth by the scruff of their necks and placing them in Luna’s basket. What a delighted party they made as Seebright led them home. Fairbark allowed Luna to help with the feeding of the cubs until the day they were ready to venture out into the woods with their mother. From that day hence, Luna felt totally safe as together with Fairbark, the other five wolves became her protectors and patrolled the perimeters of Luna’s land, keeping her safe to continue her life in the way she wanted, in true peace and heartfelt contentment.
I live in Geelong, Australia, with my husband and my pet cat, Oxford. Having recently resigned from my part-time job as an assistant kindergarten teacher, I now work as a nanny. In my spare time, I like to meditate, write, read, watch old movies, walk in nature, cook and birdwatch. My favourite place to be is at home, often with a candle lit to induce feelings of peace and contentment. I am enjoying my nannying jobs as I feel there is now purpose and meaning to my life, helping out parents and making small humans happy! Through my pastimes, I seek to improve my wellbeing as I continue to suffer both from the grief of losing my father two years ago as well as a deeply entrenched eating disorder. I use the craft of writing as a therapeutic tool through which I might understand, and ultimately resolve, these issues.