The Spoonmaker and the Stone
Once upon a time there was a woodsman who fell in love with Isabella, the very beautiful daughter of a local farmer. The woodsman lived in a log cabin within a great oak wood on the side of a large hill. Here, he made wooden spoons. Every Saturday he would take his spoons to a local market. People wondered how he could make a living as no-one ever seemed to buy anything from him. No-one, that is, except Isabella. Isabella took pity on the woodsman and would often buy his spoons. Recently she had bought a teaspoon and a small pot — hewn from a log of apple wood she had given him. She was always kind and smiled at him and would stay and talk to him if she had time. Sometimes she bought him a drink and a piece of cake. On other days they might meet and go for a walk. The woodsman loved Isabella very much.
There was one problem though. Isabella came from a very wealthy family. Her father owned all the land on the hill and many of the surrounding fields. He was not keen on Isabella seeing the woodsman. A man who carved spoons for a living would not be a worthy husband for his fine daughter. There were many stately homes in the area which would, he felt sure, provide a far better source of matrimonial and financial opportunities. With winter approaching he decided a good spring wedding was in order and he was determined to see his daughter wed by Easter the next year.
Late one afternoon the farmer was in his kitchen after a hard day’s work when the woodsman called by and asked for a few minutes of his time.
‘I would like your permission to marry your daughter,’ the woodsman said.
‘Over my dead body,’ replied the farmer. ‘That will not be happening. No. Not now, not ever.’
When Isabella heard this had happened, she was distraught and very angry with her father. So much so, he began to wonder if he had been unreasonable. Then he had an idea and a few days later he called on the woodsman.
‘You may have the hand of my daughter in marriage — on one condition. I have a challenge and, if you succeed, you may marry Isabella. If not, then she will wed another. My challenge is this: in the corner of the farmyard is a big stone. It is too heavy for a man to lift. If you can move it up to the top of the hill and place it by the clump of scots pines so I may sit on it and overlook the farm, then you shall have Isabella as your wife. Only you can perform the task and you may not seek help from any other being. You have until Good Friday next spring, for then will be her wedding day.’
The farmer knew the task he had set was difficult and was sure the woodsman wouldn’t be able to do it. So much so, that he began to arrange a whole series of winter parties with the local gentry. He would find a bridegroom for his daughter and she would be married as he wanted.
The woodsman waited, and he waited. All through the cold, dark winter months and into the following year, he did nothing. The farmer looked out into his farmyard everyday and saw the stone still there. He smiled, not just because the stone was still there, but because he had been asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage by a wealthy neighbour’s son and he had agreed.
It snowed the night before Good Friday. The only time it had done so all winter and when the farmer looked out onto the white wilderness in the morning he laughed at the realisation there would be a white wedding in more ways than one. But his smile suddenly disappeared — the stone had gone. He ran out and could see a path left in the snow. He followed it over the fields and up the woodland tracks through snow-laden trees. Up and up he went until, finally, with sides aching and nearing exhaustion he reached the scots pines. There, sitting on the stone, was the woodsman with a large sledge at his side.
‘Nice bit of snow,’ the woodsman said. ‘I’ve been waiting all winter for it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a wedding to go to.’
Copyright Matthew Slater 2022. No reproduction allowed in any form without permission.