Saturday, March 10, 2012

M is for Magic, by Neil Gaiman

From: "October in the Chair"
"...They squeezed through a huge iron gateway, rusted part open, part closed, and the were in the little meadow at the bottom of the slope.
'This place is cool,' said the Runt.
There were dozens of stones of all sizes in the small meadow. Tall stones, bigger than either of the boys, and small ones, just the right size for sitting on. There were some broken stones. The Runt knew what sort of place this was, but it did not scare him. It was a loved place..."

"...'How did you die?' asked the Runt.
'I got sick,' said Dearly. 'My maw cried and carried on something fierce. Then I died.'
'If I stayed here with you,' said the Runt, 'would I have to be dead, too?'
'Maybe,' said Dearly. 'Well, yeah. I guess.'
'What's it like? Being dead?'
'I don't mind it,' admitted Dearly. 'Worst thing is not having anyone to play with.'
'But there must be lots of people up in that meadow,' said the Runt. 'Don't they ever play with you?'
'Nope,' said Dearly. Mostly, they sleep. And even when they walk, they can't be bothered to just go and see stuff and do things. They can't be bothered with me. You see that tree?'
It was a beech tree, its smooth gray bark cracked with age. It sat in what once must have been the town square, ninety years before.
'Yeah,' said the Runt.
'You want to climb it?'
'It looks kind of high.'
'It is. Real high. But it's easy to climb. I'll show you.'
It was easy to climb. There were handholds in the bark, and the boys went up the big beech like a couple of monkeys or pirates or warriors. From the top of the tree one could see the whole world. The sky was starting to lighten, just a hair, in the east.
Everything waited. The night was ending. The world was holding its breath, preparing to begin again.
'This was the best day I ever had,' said the Runt.
'Me, too," said Dearly..."


"Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never saw before,
Say 'please' before you open the latch,
go through,
walk down the path.
A red metal imp hangs from the green painted front door,
as a knocker,
do not touch it; it will bite your fingers.
Walk through the house. Take nothing. Eat nothing.
if any creature tells you that it hungers,
feed it.
If it tells you that it is dirty,
clean it.
If it cries to you that it hurts,
if you can,
ease its pain.
From the back garden you will be able to see the wild wood.
The deep well you walk past leads down to Winter's realm;
there is another land at the bottom of it.
If you turn around here,
you can walk back, safely;
you will lose no face. I will think no less of you.

Once through the garden you will be in the wood.
The trees are old. Eyes peer from the undergrowth.
Beneath the twisted oak sits an old woman.
She may ask for something;
give it to her.
She will point the way to the castle.
Inside it are three princesses.
Do not trust the youngest. Walk on.
In the clearing beyond the castle
the twelve months sit about a fire,
warming their feet, exchanging tales.
They may do favors for you, if you are polite.
You may pick strawberries in December's frost.
Trust the wolves, but do not tell them 
where you are going.
The river can be crossed by the ferry. 
The ferryman will take you
(The answer to his question is this:
If he hands the oar to his passenger, 
he will be free to leave the boat.
Only tell him this from a safe distance.)

If an eagle gives you a feather, keep it safe.
Remember: that giants sleep too soundly;
that witches are often betrayed by their appetites;
dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always;
hearts can be well hidden,
and you betray them with your tongue.
Do not be jealous of your sister:
know that diamonds and roses
are as uncomfortable when they tumble 
from ones lips as toads and frogs:
colder, too, and sharper, and they cut.

Remember your name.
Do not lose hope - what you seek will be found.
Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have
helped to help you in their turn.
Trust dreams.
Trust your heart, and trust your story.

When you come back, return the way you came.
Favors will be returned, debts be repaid.
Do not forget your manners.
Do not look back.
Ride the wise eagle (you shall not fall)
Ride the silver fish (you will not drown)
Ride the gray wolf (hold tightly to his fur)

There is a worm at the heart of the tower;
that is why it will not stand.

When you reach the little house, 
the place your journey started,
you will recognize it,
although it will seem
much smaller than you remember.
Walk up the path, and through the garden gate
you never say before but once.
And then go home. Or make a home.

Or rest."

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