The Feathers: A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time. . .

a girl left her home as the morning moon shone through the tree branches and hummed a farewell song.


Before she began her daily chores, she wanted to enjoy the peace of the forest, to hear the birds sing, and to see the sun rise and gild the treetops in golden light. These moments of beauty both stirred and quieted her soul. Her village was expanding, but somehow the lives of all who lived there were shrinking. They parroted the words of the king and expected riches to follow, but life had not improved. Her parents had seen no reason for her to continue with her schooling. Other villagers felt the same way, and so the school closed. It stood empty on a hill, a silent beacon.

The girl walked, enjoying the feel of the cool morning air against her face. From above, the dawn star winked, startling her and causing her to stumble and fall on a small pile of feathers. They sparkled, iridescent, blue, silver, and red. She wondered what sort of bird could have dropped the brilliant plumes. As she stroked the silky quills, a door appeared in the forest. It shimmered in the air, and opened just a bit in silent invitation. The girl opened the door wider and walked through.

Inside was a land filled with light and color. Wisdom dripped from the trees, and animals licked it up. A deer came up to her, and shyly nuzzled her hand before sprinting off. Her hand tingled, and she was filled with joy. She learned the feathers came from the bird of knowledge, which was perpetually in motion. Its size and color constantly changed, and it looked different each time she caught a glimpse of it. Over time, the girl learned many things in this world from the trees and the animals, but eventually she wanted to go home.

She found the door and opened it–for it was never locked–and she stepped back into her forest. It looked sadder, smaller. Her parents were happy to see her, but they too, looked sadder and smaller. The villagers were disillusioned. The village had not prospered, and though many still dutifully echoed the king’s words, others were seeking something more. The girl joined these seekers, as they reestablished the school, and she shared an important message:

Ignorance brings fear; knowledge leads to hope.

The girl became a woman, and she remembered the lessons she had absorbed. She made time for books and nature, and when she had children, she read to them every night. She told them the story of the bird of knowledge, and showed them one brilliant blue, silver, and red feather that she had kept. Sometimes the dawn star looked down at them and winked.


William Llewellyn, “Girl with Pigtails,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is for a writing challenge that Jane Dougherty and Jeren of itsallaboutnothing concocted. You can read about it here.

Well, I suppose this is too long for flash fiction, and it doesn’t involved insects, and I guess it’s fairy tale, not a folk tale, but other than that it fits the challenge perfectly!

24 thoughts on “The Feathers: A Fairy Tale

  1. It’s a new folk tale and it fits every criterion perfectly. I’m glad nothing awful happened to her when she went back, like being burned as a witch, but she used her own experience to teach others. Lovely message 🙂

    • Oh gosh, I hadn’t even thought of a reverse Genesis. Yes, I like that, too. I never understood why having knowledge could be bad. Thanks, Kerfe!
      I thought of you and Jane with the door. 😉

  2. A beautiful and frighteningly portentous tale. I don’t think it can be a folk tale because folk tales originate usually from the oral tradition, but at least are passed on through time and are connected with a particular culture. This does seem a true fairy tale well done.

    • Thank you, Marian. I’m glad you enjoyed my “Once upon a time.” 🙂 The prompt was wings, which became feathers in my mind, and I simply used quills as a synonym–though I may have also thought of writing quills.

  3. I love the magical door and natural place to retreat from ignorance of closing the school. The irridescent feathers, one which is special, to show the children the young woman teaches. The forest holds truths, Merril. I once felt “trees give us peace” and wrote a post about this thought.

  4. Merril, I am all caught up and sadly, went back to July?! My goodness, I apologize for this.
    Two daughters moving days took whole weekends up and then, returned to work not refreshed. . . One (the oldest daughter) to a family house with Daniel (new hubby) and Skyler and Micah.
    The other last weekend, we packed her up (a guy friend, she and I alone! Yikes.) She went from a cozy part of a four apts- building to a high rise building with a famous restaurant Cap City Diner and a gym Mesh Fitness below her. Such an amazing life as a mother of three.
    My son’s been fairly settled but someday, his family may move into a newer house, too.
    I am in awe of how you also have such great daughters, their partners make you satisfied their lives are full and happy. 💞

    • Oh my goodness. There is no need to apologize. How kind you are to have gone back through all of these old posts of mine. That is truly so sweet, and I appreciate it so much! Best of luck to your daughter in her new apartment!
      And yes, I am so unimaginably lucky to have two such wonderful daughters, and so thrilled that they have both found caring partners who they love.

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