A wild slim alien

The heron maiden


Even aged eight she was the kind to seize chances when they came her way.

You couldn’t miss her.  Her face was framed by a mass of red curls; her skin, a pale reflection of her hair.  She had often wished she didn’t stand out so, but now she was beginning to warm to the notion that it just might be a blessing rather than a curse to be so marked, so visible.  She didn’t want to slip through life unnoticed.  Instinctively she wanted to touch life and it to touch her.

This particular chance came in the form of heron’s legs, not quite fully returned to their usual trailing horizontal.  Or perhaps deliberately not returned; held out, for an adventurous girl such as herself to catch.

She was standing at the centre of the bridge in the middle of her home town, watching the river eddy round its piers, an endless fascination.  Because she was so rapt, the bird had escaped her attention, standing motionless on the edge of the bank upstream as it watched for fish beneath the refracting surface of the water.  Spooked by a movement close to, it opened its great wingspan and breasted the river.

What happened next happened by instinct – that of the bird coinciding with that of the girl.  Looking up from the eddies, she saw the bird looming.  The heron flew low over the bridge, and dipped its legs to her at the very same moment that she stretched her arms upwards.  She was small for her age and the bird was large for his type.  The bird’s legs hit her palms square and she closed her hands about their strong stems and was whisked into the air, just clearing the wall on the far side of the bridge.  Folk drinking in the sun on either side of it gasped as they saw her rise into the air, although an amateur ornithologist among them was more excited on spotting that the heron was an unlikely Great Blue than he was about it taking a small girl into the sky.

The heron’s wingspan was broad and sweeping and even under the weight of the girl he was able to keep rising.  She held on tight, her hands ringing the bird’s legs just above its feet.  She had swung herself around enough trees to have developed strong arms but after a while she found she could relax, and without trying too hard maintain her grasp of the heron’s legs.  Whether that was magic on the part of the bird, the support of thermals, or some quality that she herself unwittingly possessed, she wasn’t sure.

Those folk who saw her disappear into the sky that day often wonder what became of her.  Perhaps after a long time circumnavigating the globe, she lost the will to hold on and slipped from the heron’s legs over the deepest and most invitingly blue depths of the Pacific Ocean.  Or perhaps she came gently back down to earth not much further from home than she left it.  The watchers who saw her go never knew, and always wondered.

Photo of great blue heron by mauricholas via Wikipedia.

The inkbrain on The heron maiden: a Japanese folk-tale.

Author: awildslimalien

Writing on music at A jumped-up pantry boy (https://pantry.wordpress.com/). Just writing at A wild slim alien (https://awildslimalien.wordpress.com/).

4 thoughts on “The heron maiden

  1. Very nice to read. Particularly just now, after the odd disappointment of the flying guy turning out to be a hoax.

    I like the amateur ornithologist being more interested in the heron than its cargo. Some of them are That Way.

    Have you read Herbert Read’s The Green Child?

    • Glad you liked it. I hadn’t heard about the flying guy, or that he turned out (somewhat inevitably!) to be a hoax, and I’m afraid I haven’t read ‘The green child’, though from the sound of it I must, particularly as I used to visit and live near Woolpit, the village at the heart of the legend on which the novel is based.

  2. Thank you for the sad story and also the link, which reminds me of how much I enjoyed my Chinese history classes and is inspiring a paper I have to write about metaphor and absence at the dawn of the literate age in Greek civilization. You might also like Some of The Kinder Planets, by Tim Wynne Jones.

    • Thanks Wrenna. I wrote the story and then found out about the Japanese folk tale via theinkbrain’s excellent account of it, and cheekily or otherwise decided to appropriate the title for my own heron legend.

      ‘Some of the kinder planets’ sounds like awildslimalien’s kind of book too.

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