In this original fairy tale by Trenton James Stephenson, the cocky Miss Mousy learns that true bravery comes from knowing Whose you are. Look out for a surprise voice guest!Support the show
Bonus Episode E.3:
The Haven Tree
Welcome to Lost in the Woods Fairy Tales ™. I’m your host, Autumn Woods, and I’m so excited you’re here. Season 5 is just around the corner, and while we’re waiting, as promised, I’m bringing you a new, original fairy tale courtesy of Trenton James Stephenson. I’ve even convinced him to voice a role in it. As many of you remember, my amazing husband, Trent, is a storyteller in his own right, and is writing an original collection of fairytales. Many of them have a Biblical slant; this one especially. Before we begin, I want to address a few concerns that some may have as we go along. This story is not meant to cause confusion. We believe in a triune God who exists perpetually as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As my longtime listeners know, I do not shy away from tales featuring a female character symbolic of any member of the Trinity. There are many Biblical images of God highlighting characteristics that He has chosen to imbue in His daughters. One of those characteristics is the fiercely protective love we have for those in our charge, like a mama bear has for her cubs, as shown in Hosea 13:8. Our story highlights the boldness that blossoms in God’s children as we spend more and more time under the shadow of His protective wings learning His word, becoming confident in Christ, and operating unabashedly in spiritual warfare under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
So, let’s get lost, as we read the story of
(The Haven Tree by Trenton James Stephenson).
Miss Mousy had always been an independent soul. Never a thought of danger ever steered her actions. She went where she wanted to go, when she wanted to go, and there was no getting in her way once that decision had been made. As a young runaway, her parents warned her time after time of the varying and sundry perils around, but she never received these forebodings with the gravity with which they were given. She scoffed at the threat of a creeping reptile, and guffawed at the looming of a winged enemy. Nothing could harm her as far as she knew. She was swift in her step and more so in her mind. She knew where the serpents congregated and simply stayed away. And she always knew when to utilize the underbrush as camouflage from stalking birds-of-prey.
Nothing frightened or hindered the young Miss Mousy in her daily outings. That is, until a threat she had never seen before revealed itself. This thing was not swift, but despite its slow and lumbering pace, it could always catch Miss Mousy no matter how much she tried. She first noticed it when the sunny days grew colder, and gave way to gray shadows. The green which she loved to play in, turned brown and thin, so she could not hide anymore. The wood on the trees grew brittle and began falling around her. This frightened her. Soon, the cold grew even colder, and the white precipitation from the sky wafted down and covered her forest floor with an intolerable blanket of wet. Winter had arrived, and she did not know what to do.
It was at this time of bitter uncertainty that she finally and quite begrudgingly asked her parents for advice. They smiled. At last, there was something to rein-in their daughter’s antics. They held her close, and Mother Mousy said to her, “Don’t you worry my little truant. We know of a place where this horrid winter can’t touch us.” For it should be known that the cold was especially bitter that year, so much so that the hole in which they usually huddled did not supply adequate warmth.
They left their home and skittered across the frigid earth. Father Mousy led, occasionally pausing to look and sniff. “Dad,” Miss Mousy complained, “there aren’t any snakes or birds, why are you stopping so much?”
Mother Mousy answered for him, “He isn’t checking for snakes and birds my dear. They are all huddled together as well. He is looking for the Haven tree.”
“Haven tree? What is that?” Miss Mousy inquired, shivering and impatient.
“The Haven tree is where we will find her.” Mother Mousy answered.
“It’s this way.” Father Mousy called back. And off they continued between mounds of snow until they found a large trunk with a grand canopy overhead of copper and brown; one of the only trees with leaves still on it. Then Father Mousy began to climb, so followed Mother Mousy and Miss Mousy after. Up they went. Further and further. The climb should have felt horrendous. The air should have been thin. Their arms and legs should have ached, but to Miss Mousy’s delight it had become the easiest part of the journey so far. At nearly a vertical climb, they continued as if walking through the grass in the Spring.
Then, Father Mousy veered off onto a large and sturdy branch that seemed to extend for miles. They walked out and as they proceeded, Miss Mousy began to notice something forming in the distance. At first, it seemed just like a brown mound of leaves collected in a nest of small twigs and branches, but when they had arrived at the base of the twigs, the mound turned and two large eyes opened. It was an owl. A large frightening bird of prey. Miss Mousy immediately ran the other way, “Run. It’s an owl.”
But Mother Mousy turned and yelled after her, “Darling, do not be afraid. This is Mother Owl. The greatest and kindest of all her kind.”
“Welcome.” Mother Owl said. Her voice, though loud, seemed so gentle and soft, that when it reached Miss Mousy’s little ears it felt almost like a caress.
Miss Mousy stopped. She returned to her mother’s side, showing a meekness quite contrary to her character. “Hello.” She was able to squeak out.
“Hello my dear.” Mother Owl returned. “Oh, but good heavens, you must be shivering to death. Please come inside, and get warm.”
“What does she mean mom?” But before Mother Mousy could answer, Mother Owl rose and spread her magnificent wings out revealing a collection of other small woodland creatures beneath her. Father Mousy did not hesitate, and climbed into the nest. Mother and Miss Mousy followed into the community of mice, squirrels, and other insignificant creatures. Miss Mousy even recognized a few. “What is this place, momma? Who is Mother Owl?”
As Mother Mousy started her response, Mother Owl lowered herself again, and enveloped her guests in her glorious wings bringing a warmth that Miss Mousy had not felt in weeks. “Mother Owl is an old friend of the forest. She has been around longer than anybody knows, and is well known as a protector for many of us. When the winter comes, she is always here to provide warmth for those who cannot provide it themselves.”
“But what about her?” Miss Mousy asked. “Isn’t she cold?”
“I asked her that once, when I was younger, but she simply said, ‘You needn’t worry about me, my dear.’”
Miss Mousy remembered all those that were with them, then asked her mother, “There aren’t a lot of us here, though. Not enough for the whole forest. If she’s so well known, then why aren’t there more?”
Mother Mousy sighed, “There are many that don’t truly believe in Mother Owl. They think she is a fairy tale to make people feel safe, so even though many have heard of her and her Haven tree, not very many will seek her out. Now, my sweet child, it is time to go to sleep. When you wake up, it will be Spring.” With that order from her mother, Miss Mousy curled and embraced the warmth of Mother Owl. She closed her eyes, and fell into one of the deepest slumbers of her life.
When Miss Mousy awoke, she was back in her home with her parents as if nothing had transpired. She yawned wide and long, and proceeded out of their hole with caution as to what weather might be awaiting her. To her wonderful surprise, she found the sun shining, the grass green, and the flowers blooming. It was Spring! Every bit of nature confirmed its arrival, but Miss Mousy stood perplexed. Was Winter just a dream? Was there no such thing as Winter? Or did they actually visit Mother Owl?
She turned back in to ask her parents, and they gladly answered her. “Yes dear,” Mother Mousy replied, “Mother Owl protected us during the cold. When the warmer temperature returned, she flew everybody back to their homes.”
“But is she okay?” Miss Mousy asked in earnest.
Mother Mousy smiled, “As she told me, I will tell you. You needn’t worry about her. However, if you want to check on her, I am sure she wouldn’t mind.”
Miss Mousy nodded her head excitedly. Her mother then led her out of their hole, and through the forest back to the Haven tree. It was much simpler to find this time around. The harshness of Winter always makes it difficult for animals to find their way, but in the Spring, the way to the Haven Tree almost felt unveiled somehow. However, though the seasonal obstacles were removed, it made way for many other natural predators to seek out prey on their way. Mother Mousy told Miss Mousy to stay near as hisses and growls could be heard all around them. “Stay on the path, and do not veer. As long as we keep straight, then they will not bother us.”
“What makes you say that?” Miss Mousy asked her mother.
“Look above us.” Mother Mousy replied. Miss Mousy did so, and when her eyes tilted to the sky, she saw Mother Owl circling above them ready to dive at anything that meant the wee travelers harm. That did not mean that some more arrogant species would not try to sway them into harm’s way. As they continued on, a sly fox came out of the tree line and walked on the side of the path along with them.
“Good day, dear little ones.” The fox said with slick voice. “Where are you headed this fine morning?”
“We’re going to the Haven Tree to see Mother Owl.” Miss Mousy replied unashamedly. “Do you know Mother Owl?”
“Oh, sure.” The fox answered. “I’ve known her for a long time. Great pals, we are. Say, why are you heading all the way over to the Haven Tree to see her, anyway? She’s just up there. Why don’t you just call her down?”
Mother Mousy jumped in, “Because there is the decorum to maintain, and you know that all too well. Now leave us be.” Mother Mousy then nipped at her child to continue on the path.
This show of bravado sent the smooth fox into a rage. He jumped out in front of them, snarling, “You insignificant little mite. Let me show you what decorum looks like when you address your superiors in such an insolent tone.” He bore his teeth and growled stepping closer to them. Then, as he was about to lunge, a screech was heard from above and down Mother Owl came with her talons splayed out. She gripped the skin and fur at the fox’s back and lifted him off the ground back to the tree line. He dropped with a yelp then rebounded to his feet as fast as he could.
“These two belong to me, you wretched beast. Keep to your dark corners where you belong.” Mother Owl yelled.
“Hehehe.” The Fox snickered. “You and I both know you won’t be around forever. What happens to them when you’re gone?”
Mother Owl glared. “I would worry about my own friends if I were you.” She gestured down the path behind them to where several birds of prey were attacking and carrying off snakes and other carnivorous creatures in the distance.
The Fox growled once more and turned towards his den. “You’ll be seeing me again, soon.” After his final threat he bound towards his brood to fend off the attack.
Mother Owl turned her head down to the two awe-struck mice. “It is okay my little ones. You are safe. Your mother was right, little Miss.” She continued, addressing Miss Mousy. “As long as you stay on the path, you will be safe. If anything like that big blow-hard tries to attack while you are on it, then I will be there.”
Miss Mousy thanked her but couldn’t contain her questions. “I was worried about. How are you?”
Mother Owl smiled with her eyes. “I am fine my little one. You needn’t worry about me. As you can plainly see, I can take care of myself quite well.”
“Mother Owl?” Miss Mousy squeaked.
“What did that Fox mean, that you wouldn’t be around forever?”
Mother Owl’s eyes sank. She did not want such a fledgling to be frightened, but she also did not want to lie. She sighed and responded, “There will come a time where I will no longer be around. I cannot tell you when, but the important thing is that you will not have to worry. Even if I am not here in person, I will always protect you.”
Miss Mousy did not understand exactly what Mother Owl meant, but her words were so sweet that they quelled her inquisitions for the moment. Mother Owl then bent down and nuzzled her crown on Miss Mousy and Mother Mousy as well before bidding them a fond farewell.
As Spring carried on into an exhausting Summer and into a tranquil Fall, Miss Mousy continued to explore as she had previously, but with a new-found appreciation for boundaries. She saw them no longer as things that bound her, but instead as tools to protect her. And she knew as long she honored them and the words of Mother Owl she would be safe.
During this time, Miss Mousy paid many visits to the Haven Tree, sometimes with her parents, and sometimes by herself. She would talk with Mother Owl for hours and listen to her history and explanations of why things were as they were. She loved visiting Mother Owl, and felt a new type of boldness build in her after every talk. It wasn’t the boldness of a brazen child who broke the rules, but of somebody who understood the world around them more clearly and felt the fear of unknown things melt away.
Fall then fell deep into Miss Mousy’s most hated of seasons. The air embittered the forest with stillness and worry, and the ground became white as death itself. Once again, it was time to go to the Haven Tree. This time, however, Miss Mousy led her parents excited to see Mother Owl again. She bound at first, like a little girl off to see grandmother, but her bound soon became a trudge. The cold was even colder this year, and a heaviness weighed them down.
“Something feels wrong.” Mother Mousy said.
“I know,” Father Mousy agreed huddled close to her, “but I can’t quite figure what it is.”
“Hehehehe.” The familiar chuckle came from behind the trees. Miss Mousy ran back to her parents and guarded them behind her. “She’s gone.” The Fox said coming into the little light there was. “The big bird is done for.”
“What are you talking about?” Miss Mousy yelled.
“You’re precious Mother Owl is no longer around.” The Fox said with a hideous smile. “The time has come for me and my kind to roam free.” He stepped haughtily onto the path emphasizing every step with the snow crunching beneath his paws. “And now, nobody is here to protect you.”
Mother and Father Mousy shivered behind their daughter, but Miss Mousy held her stance. She knew she should be afraid, but something in her, that same boldness she felt after an evening at the Haven Tree, flared within, and she could not be bothered with fear. A wind picked up between them, an unusually warm wind, which set the Fox off guard. “Leave us alone. You have no claim to us. We are going to the Haven Tree, and we are protected by Mother Owl.”
The Fox, though thrown by such bravery, still snickered derisively. “I think I will eat you first.”
But before the wicked Fox could take another step another curious wind picked up and a cloud of blue jays flying together in sweeping formations dove upon the predator pecking and flapping. They screeched and bit at him until he was chased away back to the trees with fresh bloody holes in his pelt.
The swarm of blue birds then flittered in unison down the path, showing the way to the Haven Tree. The Mousy’s, though shaken by their encounter, hurried down the path and up the bark to see if what the Fox said was true. When they reached the branch with Mother Owl’s nest all they saw was the collection of twigs. They scurried over and peeked inside to see who might be there. There were some familiar faces, but much fewer than before. “Where is everybody?” Miss Mousy asked.
A squirrel chittering from the cold answered. “When news came that Mother Owl was no longer here, many abandoned the nest. We are the only ones left. We have nowhere else to go, and it didn’t feel right to leave.”
Miss Mousy turned to her parents and cried. What was going to happen? How were they going to make it through Winter? What were they going to do without their Mother Owl? Then, a gust of wind blew passed them, and purely on instinct, all of the woodland creatures that came to the nest, huddled together for warmth in the center. The powerful gusts blew about them shaking the branches and loosening the leaves that hung above them. Then, as the wind began to subside, the brittle pieces of canopy began to fall, and covered the inhabitants of the nest. One by one, each leaf piled on top of another, and as they did, the warmth that Mother Owl once gave with her feathers surrounded the frightened creatures and they felt the same peace they once had in their protector’s embrace. Miss Mousy continued to cry, but now out of joy because she felt Mother Owl all around her. The animals then fell into their slumber to dream of warmer days.
When Miss Mousy awoke, it was Spring yet again. The miracle of the Haven Tree had not died with Mother Owl. And though she was not there in body, Miss Mousy knew that she had not really left at all. As Miss Mousy grew, she spent many of her days telling other woodland creatures about Mother Owl and the Haven Tree, and even though some did not listen and said claimed it as a fairy tale, others found comfort in her stories, and found their own way to the Haven Tree to feel the warmth and comfort of Mother Owl themselves.
The first time I read this—after crying a lot—I kept thinking about the early church and what the members of the body would have gone through in the terrible times of waiting. Waiting to know what would happen after Christ went to the cross. Waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit when Jesus ascended into heaven. And now, how we wait for the promise of the triumphant return of the King. Like the animals in the story, we gather with others who know Him and seek to do His will. We tell others about Him and the miracle of His death and resurrection. We cherish what He has done and cling to the hope of what He will do. Before ascending to Heaven to sit down in victory at the right hand of God, Jesus promised us that He would be “with [us] always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). And so He is and will be. In this world, we will have trouble; but take heart, He has overcome the world (John 16:33 paraphrased). His victory equips us to live boldly for Him in this world with our eyes on the next. Happy Pesach and Happy Resurrection Sunday. I’m Autumn Woods, and I can’t wait to see you in Season 5 the next time you get, Lost in the Woods.