The Silver Pine Cones. A Short Yuletide story.
by Leandra Witchwood
There once lived a poor family with hardly enough money for food much less, wood for their fire. Each day the mother would go into the forest to search for pine cones while her children would go into town to sell them. The damaged and small pine cones too broken or insignificant to sell would burn in their hearth, while the larger more beautiful pine cones could be sold or traded for food.
It was the Winter Solstice and Mother was hoping to find some extra nice pine cones, so she and her husband could have a small Solstice celebration with their family. In the forest, the woman kicked and dug away the snow as she found pine cones to bring home. As she persisted in her task, her fingers were soon numb with cold. After several hours she had collected a large basket full of various pine cones. She began to feel very tired, very cold, and very hungry. It was a good long walk back to the house so she decided to sit and eat a few bits of the apple and bread she packed.
She found a nice fallen tree in the sun where could and eat her apple as she warmed her cold fingers and body. Suddenly, she heard a voice from beside her. “Hello, my lady.” A little startled she looked up to see a man near her. He was dressed in traveling clothes and seemed to be a little tired and weary from travel. Other than that he was younger and appeared to be in good condition. “Do you have any food to spare an ill-prepared traveler?” he continued. The woman felt the hunger in her stomach, but also knew that the man has a long walk ahead of him before he would reach the nearest town.
“Certainly, sir. You can’t go on a journey without proper rations” she said. She gave the man her bread, and then gave him directions to the road where he could find the next town. He smiled and thanked her for her kindness and generosity. Before they parted he suddenly took a very keen interest in her load of pine cones. He asked her why she had collected so many. She answered him honestly, even though she felt ashamed to tell a complete stranger her hardships. He also said something else before he left, which puzzled the old woman. He said, “Beware the forest, and its tricks, for it holds more than mere sticks!” He took her cold hands in his and finished with, “May your life be blessed with gifts from the forest.”
With that, he seemed vanished toward the road. She heard stories of Magickal folk in forests nearby but she had never encountered them. She said to herself, “Old Wive’s Tales!” as she picked up a pine cone in admiration. “Gifts from the forest, indeed! Although, I did get some nice ones today,” she said as she tucked a piece of cloth around the pine cones in her basket to keep them from tumbling out. She then lifted her load of pine cones onto her back and turned toward home.
The basket seemed a little heavier than usual, but she did not give it much thought. She decided the weight was due to her strength failing from hunger. She could only think of getting home to her family and warming her cold hands.
Her walk was long, and as she reached her door she could barely carry the basket. “Oh! My! I think I am getting weaker by the moment. This basket is far heavier than before.” She called to her husband for help. He came out of the shed where he was feeding the mule, wondering what the fuss was about, seeing his wife struggle, he quickly came to help carry the basket. As he lifted the load from her, he could not believe she had carried such a heavy basket home. The basket’s binding cracked and strained from the weight. “Goodness Dear, you certainly picked the heavy ones today”, he said with a sense of struggle in his voice.
They brought the basket into the house and set it down on the table. The woman sunk down into the closest chair, relieved to be home safe and sound. Their hearth fire was burning low and the husband could tell his wife was freezing. He decided he could place one pinecone on the fire to help his wife warm up from the cold.
As he lifted the cloth away from the pine cones he gasped in disbelief. “OH! OOOOoooooh!” he said. His eyes were wide in disbelief. He was so shocked he could not speak. Wondering what the matter was, the wife looked over to see a basket filled with glistening silver pine cones. Every pine cone she has picked was now solid silver, shining cheerfully in the meager firelight. Tears of joy streamed down both their faces as she told her husband of the strange man she met in the forest. In an instant, all of their worries and troubles seemed to vanish, just as the man did in the forest.
From then on, the woman and her husband would venture out into the forest on the eve of the Winter Solstice with offerings of food and drink for their Magickal friend. Although she never again saw him, they would leave an offering at the base of the tree where she met him. They kept their grateful and generous hearts and their lives were filled with love, bounty, and joy until the end of their days.
This is my version of a similar story I read MANY years ago and retell to my children during the holidays. I had to write my own version because I am unable to find the original story.
It reminds me that by being generous and kind to others we are rewarded beyond our wildest dreams. Gifts are wonderful to receive, but the best ones are those we give from the heart. Even in times of turmoil and deprivation we always have something to give. Our gifts add value to one another, even when it seems like we have little to give.
This story resembles the true meaning behind the holiday season in general, for all who celebrate.
I hope you enjoyed this tale and share it with your family this season!