The Will-o'-the-Wisps Are in Town
There was a man who once had known a great many new fairy tales, but he had forgotten them, he said. The fairy tale that used to come to visit him of its own accord no longer came and knocked at his door; and why didn't it come any more? It's true that for a year and a day the man hadn't thought of it, hadn't really expected it to come and knock; and it certainly wouldn't have come anyway, for outside there was war and, inside, the misery and sorrow that war brings with it.
The stork and the swallow returned from their long journey, for they had no thought of danger. But when they arrived they found the nests burned, people's houses burned, the fences smashed, yes, and some even completely gone, and horses of the enemy were trampling down the old grave mounds. Those were hard, cruel times; but they always come to and end.
And now those times were past, people said; but still no fairy tale came to knock at the door or gave any sign of its presence.
"It may well be dead and gone, like so many other things," said the man. But then the fairy tale never dies!
More than a year passed, and he longed so for the fairy tale.
"I wonder if it will ever come back and knock again." And he remembered so vividly all the various forms in which it had come to him - sometimes as young and charming as spring itself, as a beautiful maiden with a thyme wreath in her hair and a beechen branch in her hand, her eyes shining as clear as the deep woodland lakes in the bright sunshine; and sometimes it had come to him in the likeness of a peddler and had opened its pack and let the silver ribbons inscribed with old verses and mottoes flutter out. But it had been best of all when it had come as an old grandmother, with silvery hair and such large and kindly eyes. She knew so well the tales of the old, old times, of even long before the princesses spun with golden spindles, and the dragons, the serpents, lay outside, guarding them. She told her tales so vividly that black spots would dance before the eyes of her listeners and the floor become black with human blood; it was terrible to see and to hear, and yet very entertaining, since it had all happened so long ago.