I Paramisi e Wistmaneske Vesheski – The Story of Wistman’s Wood
[Rromani – English]
I Sabrina tha i Yelena sos le dui Romachaia, phenia. Phenava „sos le” soske jivdie le bute bershe pàle, kana i Anglia sos li komi veshengo them, pherdo lenensar save bangeradie tha riseradie pen perdal lake hore xaria. Mari paramisi perela pes ko Dartmoor, kai opre e divie dombia, kai sàrkana i bavàl phurdelias, e bàre, kàlore bara save dikhlavena yeke sar muia varteradie mare phurene – yeke sar, ko-divès, varterena le mende.
I Sabrina sos la 12 bershe, tha i Yelena sos la 8 bershe, tha sàrko nilai achelie le pengri familiasar ko than opre yek e dombiender ko Dartmoor. Naturalnes, i Sabrina sos li te rakhela peskri phen tha te sikela la o tacho drom te jivela ko than, tha sos le dui te źuterena pengre phure lengre butiasar. Yeke sar sàrko Romachaia, sàrkodivès sos le te jàna kedena kàsht, te astiserena te kerena yàg te pekena haben tha te achena tate.
Bute shelbershipene pàle, o Dartmoor sos les bute rukha – mè, e phurene gàdje chindie sos len tele, tha muklie sos bàri, chuchi phuv kai chi rukh nai, tha kai i vrema astiseradias sigo te pàruvela pes: trasheno tatipen, vai mulikano shilipen, vai i bavàl rovelias, vai ruzles delias brishin. Odoi o jivipen lokho nai!
Yeke sar sàrko Romani familia, sàrko rardi e chaiengi familia beshlie pàshe i yàg, giladie kethanes tha shunelie paramisia, phende pengre phurender. Pengre paramisia phendie trustal e phuviake-manushnia tha e dukha kon beshlie ko vesh tha ko Dartmoor.
Akana achelie kek bute rukha pre e dombia – mè komi yek angluni grupa rukhender achelias. Akasar, keko muklo nai, ni te jàla odoi, ni te lela kàsht odoter soske sàrko pachelie te avelias lo devlesko tha stardo dukhender tha phuviake-manushniender – doleske, sos lo o pàluno jido kotor veshester kater o chelo Dartmoor saves keko nekana ne chindie tele.
Navesko „Wistmanesko Vesh”, beshlias lo perdal i len, kè xariaki vaver rig, kek bute dur e familiake thanester. Odoi, e rukha nai yeke sar chi vaver rukha dre e xaria, ni varekai vaver. Sos len bange kàshtore, save dikhlavelie sar fremte shtor-pirengre, ucharde moxensar, fuźeriensar tha vaver zelenipenesar: taches, retko dikhipen sos lo, tha dureder adral o vesh, dikhlavelias bute tamlo tha misteriakano.
Nilai, butevar i familia boldie pen adre yek e bàreder xeviender e lenake, savi pherdi sos shuker tha iuźio paniesar, savo pàlunes thadelias kinde-phuviake dureder tele i len, tha sos odoi vai grupa bete barender opral o pani, savensar te jàl perdal i len te avel e xariake vaver rigake.
Sàrko pàlepàshdivès, e chaienge phure bichenie len avre te lena kàsht te kerena yàg. Sàrkana pengre phure varteradie e chaia tha salie kana le jàlie tele i xar, perdal e bara opral o pani, tha jàlie le rakhles e vaver rigake – tala pirdie ko Vesh e Wistmanesko, tala dureder, dureder tele i xar. Pengro salapen lokes konyavelias, tha pàlunes nashadias pes e shunipenester, chivdo e lenake gudliasar.
Perdal pengro drom, sàrkodivès e chaia giladie yek yekesar, tha phendie penge paramisia saven komi pengre phurenge phure sikadie sos pengre chavenge, bute bershe pàle.
Mè, komi te pengre gilia tha paramisia butevar kerdie len loshale sar te jàna sos ko vesh, komi avelie tai divès kana pengro drom ka avela butiako, tha butevar màngelie le te avelias kàsht pàsheder pengro than, te astiserena lokheder te kedena les, anglunes kana shilo sos, vai sigo avelias i magla, vai delias brishin, tha avelie le kinde.
Ava divès, pengri dai achelias dre o than, tha pengro dad jàlias sos lunge dromesar te bikhinela e piria tha e kekàvia saven kerdias lo tha te kinela haben vash e familiake neve dromeske.
Angle te jàlie ko drom, sàrkana i familia kerdias devlesko-divès te parikerela e Devle tha e naturiake Dukha ke delie lenge pengro mistipen tha pengre deipene. Akana avela sos adovo cheiros – e nilaiesko pàlunipen – tha sàrkoter sos shuker muria.
Sar te e chaia jàlie penge te lena kàsht, pengri dai kerela sos bàri muriengi goyi, tha phendias lenge te i goyi ka avela pekadi, tha shai hàna la, kana avelie le pàle kàshtesar – tha vai, pengro dad ka avela pàle rardiasar.
Doleske jàlie, jàlie, tha giladie konyi gili trustal i len. Tele i xar, tha perdal e bara opral o pani, durial e kinde-phuviater, kai rovelie avre pengre daiake te avelie rakhles e lenake vaver rigake.
E dui chaia pirdie, pirdie, tha pàlunes avelie e dureder rigake e Wistmaneske Vesheski, kai beshlie bute bàre bara. Akoi, i Yelena achelias te gilevela tha, kinyes, rovelias, „Me shom te beshava tele yek cheireske, soske ko-divès mire here bute kinye se le, tha maro drom te lasa kàsht lungo se lo”. I Sabrina, soske jindias li te peskri phen komi tàrni avelias, tha ne ruzli avelias li, nekana ne honavelias lake – mè, tai moli, phuchlias pester kana prostes i Yelena kerela sos pes beshevnes, tha kàmlias li fereder te beshela tele tha dikhela, kek te buterela.
Akha beshlie le odoi, pre yek plato bar kai butevar beshlie le – sos les o tacho oprunipen tha adusta buxlipen te avela kushto e dui lenge. Yek cheireske beshlie le odoi, tha dikhlie i bavàl savi phurdelias konyes mashker e papuria, tha chiriklo shuker kluriensar urielias trustal len, yeke sar kàmlias lo te maladias len, angle te urielias avre e xariasar, te rodela kerme te hàla, vai rukh kai astis achela.
O kham tateradias e chaia tha pàpale i Yelena chivdias pes konyes te gilevela peskri gili. Haievalias pes bute loshali prostes te beshela odoi, e lenake gudliasar, mashker e tikne bara. Buteder cheiros nakhlias – tha chele diveseske kàmlias li te achela odoi.
Akana avelias chikalo yek kotor kater o thanopre, sar butevar perela pes ko Dartmoor. O kham avelias garado tha i bavàl chivdias pes te phurdela. Sigo, o shuker pokonyipen nashlias peske, tha e chaia ushtilie pre pengre barester.
„Av, av, chaie!”, phendias i Sabrina, „Te jàsa dureder ko vesh dre i xar, soske o divès xurdavela tha se lo bute buti anglal mende! Men shem te kedasa kàsht, tha maro drom ne ka avela kushto te sigo i vrema pàruvela pes!”. Li dikhlias opre ko thanopre, savo dikhlavelias te avela chikaleder – kàmlias sos te i bavàl ka iuźeradias o thanopre. „Ahh, kàmava te adovo ka avela phurdelo avre tha o kham ka avela pàle”, phendias li, „mè, taches, akana ne dikhlavela lacho!”.
Tala i Yelena avelias tugni, tha lako mui dikhlavelias yeke sar yek e tamle muiender save dikhlavena pre e bara save beshena pàshal; mui savo dikhlavelias shelbershipenenge te achelias odoi, brishinesar tha ruzle bavàliasar. I Sabrina salias lake tàrneder pheniake, kon butevar kerdias la te sala, tha kethanes chivdie pen ruzleder te sana sar te lacheradie pen te jàna peske pàpale pengre dromeske.
Tala, dikhlie le tha shunelie le varesaves pàlal pender. Riseradie pen, betes trashade, te dikhena so avelias – shai savo shtor-pirengro? Serna, shoshoi, chiriklo? Mè, avelie le trashade te dikhlie xurdo murshipen kon beshlias kek dur pender, opre yek vaver barender. Sos lo xurdo, xurdo jeno, yeke sar chavo, mè dikhlavelias lo phuro, yeke sar dai vai dad, shai komi phureder sar phure-dadester. Le dikhlie les, tha proviradie te haievena so dikhlie. Ridias lo choxa kerdi papuriender, tha chiokha sivde chamester, tha rikerdias lo ran chindi ruzle-rukheske kàshtester.
Rovelias lo lenge, „Mà darata! Me buterava sos dre o vesh kana shuneliom tumari shuker gili tha tumaro salapen, tha kerdie mande loshalo. Me kharava mande Maliro, tha me beshava kek dur akater. Butevar me dikhliom tumende kana jàlien tele ko vesh dre i xar te lena kàsht, te anena les pàle tumare thaneske tumare phurenge, te kerena yàg tha te pekena goyia muriender. Kharena tumende Sabrina tha Yelena, àvali?”
Sar te ràkradias, peskro phuro mui chivdias pes te pàruvela pes tha te dikhlavela tàrneder, loshaleder, pativaleder; e chaia phendie pen te astiserena te pachena les, loshale soske le jindie te varekon kàmlias pengre gilia tha pengro salapen, mè vai kàmlie le te jinena soster jindias lo pengre nava.
Sar te dikhlie les, leskro mui pàruvdias pes buteder, buteder, tha dikhlavelias bute loshalo, mè vai varesar… fremto. Peskre bala, peskro chor, dikhlavelie phuravele, bimanushikane, yeke sar o moxo tha o zelenipen save uchardie e kàshtore e phurene rukhenge dre Wistmanesko Vesh kokero! Pàlunes, komi peskro mui dikhlavelias sar yek e muiender save shai dikhlavena, kana se tute imaginacia, mashker e Dartmooreske bara.
Yektes ràkradias i Sabrina, soske sos li i phureder, tha varteradias peskri tàrneder phen. „So? Jinesa tu mende? Tha mare phure vai?”
„Àvali, taches!”, phendias pàle o Maliro, „Bute bershenge me beshliom pàshal, bute bershenge, taches, te dikhliom tumare phure kana sos le chave, kana bàravena sos le. Butevar nakhlie le akales vesh, ko drom ko vesh dre i xar te kedena kàsht vash pengre phurenge! Taches, bute, bute bershenge me beshliom akoi te butevar dikhliom komi pengre phure kana sos le chave, tha jàlie le te lena kàsht e veshester vai!”
„E navesar e Deviake!”, rovelias i Yelena, peskre yàkha buxles phire tha peskro mui phiro trashasar. Akana, bisteradias sos li sar peskro pàlepàshdivès chivdias sos pes, sar sos li te kedela kàsht, tala peskre kinye here, sar beshlias li pre bara peskre pheniasar, o shuker chiriklo tha o chikalo thanopre. „Tu shan t’avela tuke bute bershe, tha t’avesa bute godivalo, ke dikhlian sàr akalester, tha ke jinesa bute trustal e Romane familia kon avena akoi bersh bersheske!”
„Tachipen se tute”, phendias pàle o Maliro, „tha ka phenava tumenge vaver kova: kana me buterava akoi, ko vesh, kedava vai e kono bàre, kono shuker muria te hàva. Solahava tumenge, te jinava te e phuviake-manushnia kon varterena akales vesh kerena len te bàravena, tha taches se le e kono lache! Mè, sàrko bersh, me sungava e goyia saven tumari dai pekela, mè ne jinava o tacho drom savesar te kerava goyi mire kokerester. Butevar me phendiom paramisia manushenge kon nakhena, mè keko nekana ne avelias pàle te anela mange kotor goyiater!”
I Sabrina, komi te o Maliro dikhlavelias lake malikano tha godivalo, achelias betes daradi peskre pheniake rakhipeneske. Tha komi te o divès avela sos bute interesantno, komi jindias li te sàr akalester achevela sos len pengre butiater, savi sos te jàna tele ko vesh dre i xar te kedena kàsht, sar pengre phure màngelie sos lender. Tha, kana dikhlie le opre, dikhlias pes te o thanopre avela sos bute chikaleder, tha i vrema avela sos bilacheder.
I Sabrina dikhlias pàle e Malireske, tala e Yeleniake, tala pàle e Malireske. Peskro loshalipen nashlias peske, tha phendias li, „Tute parikerasa tire misto lavenge, tha loshale shem te mare gilia tha maro salapen lacheradie tiro divès. Kana nai mende pre bute buti, shai avasa pàle te shunasa buteder tire godivale paramisiender tha te anasa tuke kotor murienge goyiater, mè akana men shem te jàsa te kedasa kàsht, sar jinesa tu, soske sigo nakhela o divès – tha, me pachava, i vrema pàruvela pes.”
Tha vai i Yelena dikhlias ko thanopre tha phendias, kinyes, „Ai, nekàmava akales dikhipen! Kàmava te n’avela mende te pirasa bute dur tele i xar te lel kàsht, soske ka avasa men kinye, tha maro drom pàle mare thaneske e brishinesar ka dukhevela mende.”
Pàpale e Maliresko mui pàruvdias pes, avelias mistipenesko dikhipen. „Mire kàmle chaia”, phendias, „Tachipen se tumende, vasavi vrema avela, tha bigodivalo se lo te jàna bute dur te lena tumaro kàsht. Mè, mà darata – soske ko-divès me butereliom akoi, mashker e phurene rukha, kedeliom kàsht sar sàrkana kedeliom les. Tumare gilia tha tumaro salapen lacheradie miro divès tha loshalo ka avava me te deava tumenge bute kàsht. Nai tumende te avena kinye. Komi ka deava tumenge butipen akaie shuker muria – taches, se le e kono lache dre e Wistmanesko Vesh!”
I Yelena rovelias avre, „Ohh, pariko!” — akaio sos lo bute lokheder lenge, tha taches o Maliro dikhlavelias malikano tha lacho, tha akana nai len te pirena bute dur e brishinesar – savo sigo avela sos ruzleder, ruzleder.
„Keker!”, rovelias i Sabrina, „Ahh… kàmliom te phendiom, bute misto shanas te desa lav menge akalensar, mè mare phure, tha pengre phure, phendie menge te akaio vesh devlikeno avela lo, stardo e phuviake-manushniender tha e dukhender, tha màkhado se lo te kedel kàsht akoi – tha ka avela vasavi dosh koneske te honerela len!”
I Yelena ne phendias kekenes. Àvali, jindias li e paramisia, mè nekàmlias li te mukela saves deipen, ni te pirela dur e brishinesar. Dikhlias li dui peskre pheniake tha e Malireske, tugne muiesar.
„Avata, avata!”, phendias o Maliro, „Phendiom tumenge te beshava pàshal, tha bute bershenge kedeliom kàsht akoi, tha nekana n’avelias mange chi dosh. Ne phendiom tumenge te dikhliom tumare phure, kana bàravena sos le, tha vai pengre phure, bersh bersheske?”
Doleske, ko vesh e Maliresar le jàlie, jàlie. Loshale sos te achena avre e brishinester, tha loshale ke o Maliro delias lenge kàsht, tha ke maladie le saves misto mal kon ka phenela paramisia lenge kana le ka jàna pàle e vesheske. Komi delias lenge muria – tha, taches, shuker sos le.
E dui chaia achelie e Maliresar pàske achelias te dela brishin, sar te shunelie buteder leskre paramisia, tha bute salie le. Pàlunes, pàpale o kham sikela sos pes, beti maglasar, tha loshale ziensar jàlie penge e veshester, perdal i xar, kè bara opral o pani – tha pàpale gilevela sos le.
Sigo i rardi avela sos, mè jindie le te sigo ka avena pengre thaneske, kai pengri familia ka achela, tate yàgasar tha murienge goyiasar. Mar astis sungelie i yàg tha i pekadi goyi, perdal i len, tha salie le sar te delie pen godi trustal o Maliro – tha pengro solahevipen te anena leske kotor goyiater kana le jàlie pàle leskre vesheske.
„Dadorea, daiorie – men aveliem pàle!”, rovelie le.
„Parikeripene e Devlenge!”, rovelias pàle pengri dai durial pender, e lenake vaver rigater.
„Darava sos tumenge, soske jàlien avre bute ora pàle tha i vrema bute trasheni sos – delias bute brishin tha akana sigo bàravela i magla!”
E chaia avelie e barenge opral o pani, tha komi te i magla akana avela sos bute phari, pengro drom e thaneske lungo nai. Yek pàlal i vaver, rikerdie pengro kàsht tha chivdie pen te jàna perdal i len.
„Yek… dui bara… tha ake o trito!”, rovelias i Sabrina. Lokheder sos peske te ginela gudliasar sar te jàlias, soske e dui chaia jindie kisi bara sos odoi, tha, varesar, peskri tàrneder phen haievalias pes rakhli kana li jindias kisi bara sos la te pirela angle te avelias e vaver rigake e lenake.
Tala, i Yelena rovelias, „Trashadi shom!”. Akana, bute phari magla beshlias sàrkoter pensar, tha nastis dikhlie kekenes. I len bàravelias trustal o brishin tha thadela sos bute, bute sigo, tha chivela sos pes te ucharela e bara, te nastiseradie te dikhena len. E dui avelie bute trashade… sigo, komi pengre pire avelie ucharde paniesar. Te achelie odoi, sigo ka merena – le jindie te avelias le te kerena varesaves – sigo, sigo, mè rakhles vai!
„Trashadi, trashadi shom!”, rovelias i Yelena, sar te achelias i maglasar tha proviradias te latela vaver bar peskre pirensar. Mè, o pani bute ruzlo sos, tha peskre bete here nastiseradie te latena o bar. I Sabrina avelias trashadi vai, tha rovelias lake, „Bister o kàsht! Muk les! Jà tele, tire vastensar tha chàngensar, provira te staresa e bara – se lo o yekoro drom, vaverchandes shai peresa ko pani! Reperesa tu i paramisi, kek?”
„Phenie, trashadi shom! Daiorie, trashadi shom!”, rovelias i Yelena, tha tugnes rovelias li bute asvai. „I paramisi – phendias li menge ne lasa kekenes e devleske veshester – o Maliro hokhadias mende! Adovo phuro mursh, hokhadias mende – misto nai, jungelo se lo! Butevar mare phure phendie menge te kon lena kàsht nekana n’avena pàle jide, soske i magla ka nakhevela len tha i kindi-phuv ka hàla len!”
I Sabrina ne phendias pàle kekenes, ni shunelias li peskri dai – yekores e panieski bàri gudli.
Tha, akha mulie le ava divès. I len shuladias len avre e barender, tha lelias len sigo, sigo dre i hori kindi-phuv: i phureni paramisi sos la o tachipen.
Tala, pàlunes, pengre zia kethaneradie e vaverensar, kon angleder perdie dre o pani, tha pàruvdie pen kè bara save beshena dre i len. Tha, pàshal len, e kàlore muia e bàre oprune barenge rovena avre sàrkovar opral o Dartmoor…
Romachavale, te bisterena e paramisia phende tumare phurender, tumen vai shai avena lele avre jungele dukhender, chivde dre len, marade… doleske, kàndata tumare phurenge!
The Story of Wistman’s Wood
Sabrina and Yelena were two Roma girls, sisters. I say “were” because they lived many years ago, when England was still a wooded land, full of rivers which twist and turn along their deep valleys. Our story takes place on Dartmoor, where above the wild hills, where the wind always blew, the huge, dark rocks which look just like faces watched over our ancestors – just as, today, they watch over us.
Sabrina was 12, and Yelena was 8, and each summer they made camp with their family on one of the hills of Dartmoor. Naturally, Sabrina had to look after her sister and teach her the proper way to live in camp, and both had to help their parents with their work. Just like all Roma girls, every day they had to go and collect wood, so that they could build a fire to cook food and keep warm.
Many centuries ago, Dartmoor had many trees – but the ancient gàdje had cut them down and left a huge empty landscape where no trees grew, and where the weather could suddenly change: fearsome heat, or killing cold, or howling wind, or violent rain. Life wasn’t easy there!
Just like every Roma family, each evening the girls’ family sat around the fire, sang together and listened to stories told by their elders. Their stories told of the fairies and spirits who lived in the woods on Dartmoor.
By now, not many trees remained on the hills – but still one special group of trees remained. However, no-one was allowed either to go there or to take wood from there because everyone believed that it was sacred and occupied by spirits and fairies – and so it was the last surviving piece of woodland from all of Dartmoor that no-one had cut down.
Named Wistman’s Wood, it lay across the river, on the other side of the valley, not far away from the family’s camp. There, the trees were not like any other trees in the valleys, or anywhere else. They had twisted branches, which looked like strange animals, covered in mosses, ferns and other vegetation: truly it was a rare sight, and further into the wood, it seemed very dark and mysterious.
In summer, the family often bathed in one of the bigger pools in the river, which was full of lovely pure water which finally flowed into a bog further down the river, and there was also a group of little stepping-stones there, by which to cross the river and get to the other side of the valley.
Every afternoon, the girls’ parents sent them off to fetch wood to build a fire. Their parents always watched the girls and smiled as they went down the valley, across the stepping-stones, and got safely to the other side – then walked towards Wistman’s Wood, then further and further down the valley. Their laughter slowly faded out, and was finally lost from hearing, blending in with the sound of the river.
Along their journey, every day the girls would sing to each other, and told themslves stories which even their parents’ parents had told their children, many years ago.
But, although their songs and stories would often make them happy as they went to the woods, there were still days when their journey would be hard, and often they wished there was wood nearer their camp, so it would be easier to collect, especially when it was cold, or when it suddenly turned foggy, or rained, and they got soaked.
That day, their mother stayed at the camp, and their father had gone on a long journey to sell the pots and kettles that he had made and to buy food for the family’s next journey.
Before they went on the road, the family always performed a ritual to thank the Deities and the natural Spirits for giving them their kindness and their gifts. That time was approaching now – the end of summer – and everywhere there were lovely berries.
As the girls were setting off to get wood, their mother was making a big berry pie, and said to them that the pie would be done, and they could eat it, when they came back with wood – and also, that their father would be back that evening.
And so off they went, singing a gentle song about the river. Down the valley, and across the stepping-stones, beyond the bog, where they shouted out to their mother that they were safely on the other side of the river.
The two girls walked and walked, and finally came to the far side of Wistman’s Wood, where there were many huge rocks. Here, Yelena stopped singing, and cried, tiredly, “I need to sit down for a while, because today my legs are very tired, and our journey to get wood is long”. Sabrina, knowing that her sister was still young and not strong, never got angry with her – but sometimes, wondered whether Yelena was simply being lazy and would prefer to sit down and watch, rather than work.
So they sat there, on a flat rock where they often sat – it was the right height and wide enough to be comfortable for both of them. They sat there for a short while, watching the wind blowing softly among the reeds, and a bird with lovely colours flew by them, just as if it wanted to make friends with them, before it flew off down the valley to search for worms to eat, or a tree where it could roost.
The sun warmed the girls and again Yelena began to sing her song quietly. She felt very happy just to sit there, with the sound of the river, among the small rocks. More time passed – and she wanted to stay there all day.
Now, part of the sky became cloudy, as often happens on Dartmoor. The sun was hidden by cloud and the wind began to blow. Quickly, the delightful peacefulness vanished, and the girls got up off their rock.
“Come on, come on, sister!”, said Sabrina, “Let’s go further towards the woods down the valley, because the day is getting shorter and we have a lot of work ahead of us! We must collect wood, and our journey won’t be nice if the weather suddenly changes!”. She looked up at the sky, which seemed to be getting cloudier – she had been hoping that the wind would have cleared the sky. “Oh, I wish that would get blown away and the sun would come back”, she said, “but really, it doesn’t look good now!”
Then Yelena became sad, and her face looked just like one of the gloomy faces that appear on the rocks nearby; a face that seemed to have been there for centuries, through rain and fierce winds. Sabrina laughed at her younger sister, who often made her laugh, and together they began to laugh louder as they got ready to set out on their journey again.
Then, they saw and heard something behind them. They turned around, a little scared, to see what it was – maybe some animal? A deer, a rabbit, a bird? But they were surprised to see a little fellow sitting not far from them, on one of the other rocks. He was a very little person, just like a child, but looked old, like a mother or father, maybe even older than a grandfather. They looked at him, and tried to understand what they were seeing. He wore a coat made from reeds, and shoes sewn out of leather, and carried a staff carved out of oak.
He cried out to them, “Don’t be afraid! I was working in the woods when I heard your lovely song and your laughter, and they made me happy. My name is Maliro, and I live not far from here. I have often seen you going down to the woods in the valley to fetch wood and bring it back to your camp, to your parents, to build a fire and to make pies out of berries. You’re Sabrina and Yelena, aren’t you?”
As he spoke, his old face started to change and to appear younger, happier, more trustworthy; the girls told themselves that they could trust him, happy because they knew that someone liked their songs and their laughter, but also they wanted to know how he knew their names.
As they watched him, his face changed more and more, and seemed very happy, but also somehow… strange. His hair, his beard, seemed aged, inhuman, just like the moss and vegetation that covered the branches of the ancient trees in Wistman’s Wood itself! In the end, his face even looked like one of the faces which could be seen, if you are imaginative, among the rocks of Dartmoor.
Sabrina spoke first, because she was the elder, and watched out for her younger sister. “What? You know us? And our parents too?”
“Yes, of course!”, replied Maliro, “For many years I’ve lived nearby, so many years, in fact, that I watched your parents when they were children, growing up. They often passed by this wood, on the way to the woods in the valley to collect wood for their parents! In truth, I’ve lived here for so many, many years that I often saw even their parents when they were children, and they went to fetch wood from the woods too!”
“By the name of the Goddess!”, cried Yelena, her eyes wide open and her mouth open in surprise. By now, she had forgotten how her afternoon had begun, how she had to collect wood, then her tired legs, how she sat on a rock with her sister, the beautiful bird and the cloudy sky. “You must be so old, and so wise, to have seen all of these things, and to know so much about the Roma families who come here year after year!”
“You’re right”, replied Maliro, “and I’ll tell you something else: when I’m working here, in the wood, I also collect the biggest, loveliest berries to eat. I swear to you, I know the fairies who watch over this wood make them grow, and truly they’re the very best! But, every year, I can smell the pies that your mother cooks, but I don’t know the proper way to make a pie myself. I’ve often told stories to people who pass by, but no-one has ever come back to bring me a piece of pie!”
Sabrina, even though Maliro seemed to her to be friendly and wise, remained a little worried for her sister’s safety. And even though the day had become very interesting, she still knew that all of this was keeping them from their work, which was to go down to the woods in the valley and collect wood, as their parents had bid them. And, when they looked up, it was obvious that the sky was becoming cloudier and the weather was becoming worse.
Sabrina looked back towards Maliro, then towards Yelena, then back towards Maliro. Her happiness fled away, and she said, “We thank you for your kind words, and we’re happy that our songs and our laughter brightened your day. When we don’t have too much work, maybe we can come back and hear more of your wise stories and bring you a piece of berry pie, but now we must go and collect wood, as you know, because the day is passing quickly – and, I think, the weather is changing.”
And Yelena too looked up at the sky and said, tiredly, “Ahh, I don’t like the look of that! I wish we didn’t have to walk so far down the valley to fetch wood, because we’ll get tired, and our journey back to our camp in the rain will make us suffer.”
Once again, Maliro’s face changed, took on a look of kindness. “My dear girls”, he said, “You are right, bad weather is coming, and it’s not wise to go very far to get your wood. But, don’t worry – because today I’ve been working here, among the ancient trees, collecting wood as I’ve always done. Your songs and your laughter brightened my day and I would be happy to give you plenty of wood. You don’t need to get tired. I’ll even give you a load of these lovely berries – they really are the very best in Wistman’s Wood!”
Yelena cried out, “Oh, thank you!” – this was much easier for them, and Maliro really did seem friendly and good, and now they didn’t need to walk too far in the rain – which was quickly becoming heavier and heavier.
“Nooo!”, cried Sabrina, “Err… I meant to say, it was very kind of you to offer us those things, but our parents, and their parents, told us that this wood is sacred, occupied by the fairies and spirits, and it is taboo to collect wood here – and terrible harm will come to anyone who makes them angry!”
Yelena said nothing. Yes, she knew the stories, but she didn’t want to reject such a gift, nor to walk far in the rain. She looked towards both her sister and Maliro with a sad face.
“Come, come!”, said Maliro, “I told you that I live nearby, and for many years I’ve collected wood here, and never has any harm come to me. Didn’t I tell you that I watched your parents, when they were growing up, and also their parents, year after year?”
And so, off into the wood with Maliro they went. They were happy to stay out of the rain, and happy that Maliro gave them wood, and that they had met such a kind friend who would tell them stories when they came back to the wood. He even gave them berries – and they really were lovely.
The two girls stayed with Maliro until the rain stopped, listening to more of his stories, and laughed a lot. Finally, the sun was shining again, with a light mist, and with happy hearts they set out from the wood, along the valley, towards the stepping-stones – and again they were singing.
Night was coming soon, but they knew that they would soon be back at their camp, where their family would be waiting, with a warm fire and berry pie. They could already smell the fire and the cooked pie, across the river, and they smiled as they thought about Maliro – and their promise to bring him a piece of pie when they went back to his wood.
“Dad, Mum – we’re back!”, they shouted.
“Thanks be to the Gods!”, their mother yelled back from far away, on the other side of the river. “I was worried about you, since you left hours ago and the weather has been dreadful – we’ve had so much rain and now the fog is coming in fast!”
The girls reached the stepping-stones, and although by now the fog was getting very thick, their journey to the campsite wasn’t long. One behind the other, carrying their wood, they began to cross the river.
“One… two stones… and here’s the third!”, cried Sabrina. It was easier for her to count out loud as she went, since both girls knew how many stones there were, and, somehow, her younger sister felt safe when she knew how many stones she had to cross before she came to the other side of the river.
Then, Yelena cried, “I’m scared!”. Now, very heavy fog was all around them, and they couldn’t see anything. The river had risen because of the rain and was running very, very fast, and was starting to cover the stones, so they couldn’t see them. They both became very frightened… soon, even their feet were covered by the water. If they remained there, they’d soon die – they knew they must do something – very quickly, but also carefully!
“I’m scared, I’m scared!”, cried Yelena, as she stood in the fog and tried to find the next stone with her feet. But the water was very powerful and her little legs couldn’t find the stone. Sabrina too became scared, and shouted to her, “Forget the wood! Leave it! Get down, on your hands and knees, try and grab onto the stones – it’s the only way, otherwise you’ll probably fall into the water! You remember the story, don’t you?”
“Sister, I’m frightened! Mum, I’m frightened!”, cried Yelena, and wept sadly. “The story – it told us not to take anything from the sacred wood – Maliro tricked us! That old man, he tricked us – he isn’t kind, he’s evil! Our parents often told us that anyone who takes wood never comes back alive, because the fog will swallow them and the bog will eat them up!”
Sabrina said nothing at all in reply, nor did she hear her mother – only the loud noise of the water.
And that’s how they died that day. The river swept them away off the stepping-stones, and took them quickly, quickly, deep into the bog: the ancient story was true.
And, finally, their spirits joined the others who had previously fallen into the water, and changed into the rocks that lie in the river. And, nearby, the dark faces of the huge high rocks cry out forever above Dartmoor…
Roma children, if you forget the stories told to you by your elders, you too may be taken away by evil spirits, thrown into a river, killed… so, pay attention to your elders!
(sursa foto: pixabay.com)