A little bit of Christmas from the fairy tale forest! My husband, Trenton James Stephenson, is a wonderful writer of original fairy tales, and we thought it would be fun to share two of his Christmas stories with everyone. No analysis in this episode, just some holiday fun to brighten your spirits and celebrate God's love this holiday season.Support the show
Christmas Bonus E.1
“The Dirty Snowflake” and “The Hedgehog’s Song”
Welcome to Lost in the Woods: Finding Your Way as God’s Daughter Through Fairy Tales ™. I’m your host, Autumn Woods, and I’m so excited you’re here. We’ll be taking a break for the holidays, but I’ll be back with the rest of our Shield Maiden stories starting mid-January. To tide you over until then, I want to share a little bit of Christmas from the fairy tale cottage with you. Normally, I save bonus stories for the Lost in the Woods Buy Me a Coffee Members, but I’m making an exception this time, because these fairy tales are too good not to share.
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 and several of them are Christmas stories. We read these together every year as part of our Christmas traditions. Even though the lead characters in the two I am reading for you today are both male, I think women can also easily identify with the trials and lessons the characters face: the struggle to hold on to hope when our circumstances show only devastation and despair; the frustration of wanting to do the best we can for God and our loved ones when we don’t think we have anything worthwhile to give. There won’t be any analysis in this episode. I just want us to get lost in the wonder and hope of these two stories and walk away ready to bring some joy back into our lives and our families this holiday season.
Our first story is called “The Dirty Snowflake.” Stop laughing! Yes, this story is appropriate for children! He’s only called dirty because—well you’ll just have to listen to find out.
So, let’s get lost, as we read the story of (The Dirty Snowflake by Trenton James Stephenson).
There once was a dirty snowflake, though it does seem a bit incongruous to say so, as he is not always a snowflake depending on the time of year, but for the sake of this story and the season in which the purpose of this story resides, we will refer to him as a snowflake. The first time this little bit of precipitation fell from the sky as a raindrop, he was wonderfully excited to see the Earth, and hoped that he would land on something lovely like a newly budded rose, a child’s cheek, or some other majestic place that he had heard of. However, when the time came, he was unfortunate enough to land in a pile of pig excrement. The smelly terrible place filled him with such despair that he had at first resolved to wallow in his misery, but he then heard another raindrop that landed with him say that this was a normal occurrence. Sometimes they, as raindrops, would land in terrible places like this, but very often they would land in wondrous ones as well. The raindrop told our snowflake to keep hope, and reminded him that soon enough he would land in a much more desirable location. The snowflake, encouraged by what was said to him, regained his vigor and hope, and he knew that someday soon he would land in a beautiful place.
The next day, the sun rose and dried all the moisture in the air and on the ground, and the snowflake was lifted back up into the sky where he was once again rejuvenated, but with him came very scant traces of the pig filth within in his molecules. He waited in the sky until he once again felt heavy enough to fall to the Earth, this time with hopes of possibly landing in a meadow. However, the next time he did fall, it was during a terrible storm at sea, and though he was content with the thought of falling into the waves, he instead landed directly into the mouth of a shouting sailor, who carried a wad of tobacco nestled in his cheek. The poor snowflake mixed and mingled with the saliva and juice of the tobacco-riddled cavern, and then was spat onto the deck of the ship to dry up once again when the sun returned the next day.
The snowflake’s luck continued as such even in the winter-time when he floated to the ground. The wind would somehow consistently find a way to have him land in the most disgraceful of places: troughs, chamber pots, gutters, and so on. Not once in all the times he fell to the Earth had he been able to experience landing in a place that was serene or at least a place that did not dirty up his molecules. Eventually the dirt, germs, and other such nastiness that he carried up with him turned him a very ugly shade of brown. With time, as his hue grew increasingly opaque, his countenance also darkened and he grew bitter towards all the other snowflakes and rain molecules he knew. Every time they fell to the Earth together he wished ill will on their trips to the ground, but to his dismay, his unkind wishes were always revisited upon him instead.
Now to the purpose and the season mentioned hitherto. It was Christmas Eve, and the air waxed heavy, allowing for a gentle snowfall over a considerable portion of the mid-west. Within this mild tempest the dirty snowflake wafted down with many others, and as they fell he overheard them discussing where they hoped to arrive. As they conversed he only grumbled to himself, and hoped that they would land in terrible places. As he wafted and swayed down he continued to mumble, “Oh I wonder what dirty place I will visit today…Oh I wonder what dirty place I will visit today…” And as he approached, but had not yet arrived at the ground, he was halted in his fall. He looked about him, and saw that he had landed on the edge of a bird’s nest; a bird’s nest nestled in a tree, a tree planted in a yard, a yard that belonged to a church. The snowflake maintained his bitterness deciding to focus on the negative. He thought surely a bird would return, swallow him, and he would have to be digested. It wouldn’t be the first time that that had happened. Though he waited for a considerable amount of time no bird came, so while he waited in the nest he looked down at the church, the inside of which was illuminated by candles held by a singing congregation. He thought to himself, it is probably a stupid song they are singing; wretched people. I know what filth you live in, and what you produce, you terrible things! Then, the doors were opened to the front of the building, and a faint sound filled the air. The snowflake could barely hear it, and resolved to scoff at it ever the more.
Then a wind picked up and lifted the snowflake from his current location, and carried him round and round until it landed on the top step of the church in front of the open doors. The song could now be heard more clearly as it resonated about him. He did not much understand the lyrics, something about a silent evening with a virgin, and a baby, however the snowflake did quite enjoy the melody. It encompassed him, and as he watched the congregation sing louder and raise their candles higher, he felt something that he had not felt in a very long time. He was filled with hope; a hope that reminded him of his long-lost dream of landing in a meadow, a rose bud, or child’s cheek. He felt a true peace laying on the step of that church, but sadly the feeling was not to last. For as the song came to an end, he saw the congregation begin to exit their pews and make their way to the doors. “Oh no”, he said, “they are going to step on me and track me through mud.” He then prepared himself for another filthy Christmas covered in muck and grime, but as soon as the first person began to step out of the church another wind picked up and the snowflake lifted high into the air.
He flew through the night a somber victim of the wind ready to land somewhere horrible. The wind tussled and rocked him about as he had never been before. At one moment he was pushed back, and at another he was thrust forward. Around and around he swirled to meet his unforeseen fate. Then, just as before, he found himself suddenly stopped clinging to some iron object. He looked about him and he could still see the yard of the church. He saw the tree that he had resided in previously, and he could see the light of the chapel spilling outside on the ground as weary and joyful people made their way to their vehicles. It was plain to see that he now hung on top of the church, but more than that, he hung on the cross of the steeple on top of the church. He could feel and hear the wind roaring about him, but surprisingly it did not vex him. It felt as though no force of nature could shake him from where he was. He examined his location further, and saw other snowflakes gripping the iron beacon of grace, and it gladdened him to see that, like him, these snowflakes were also discolored. All of them equally unfazed by the torrent of wind surrounding them, they rested against the symbol of redemption, enjoying respite and contentedness.
The next morning, the sun came out, as it tended to do, and due to their higher altitude, the snowflakes on the cross melted and evaporated first to be raised again in the air. Our snowflake lifted with the others as he had always done, but this time he felt different. He felt, somehow, lighter. He looked at the other evaporated molecules surrounding him, and could not see any impurities. He then examined his own molecules, and happily, they were the same. When he arrived at the apex of his journey, he found that he was filled with joy once more, and waited gladly to fall to the Earth again, with a familiar hope for where he might land.
I think a lot of us feel like the snowflake this year. With everything that’s been thrown at us or taken from us, it isn’t easy to find good things to treasure that don’t disappear. We may have said or done things we’re not proud of in our anger and hurt. But even in the middle of the muck, God is there, waiting for us with open arms. He longs to renew us and wash us clean, sending us out into the world with rejuvenated hearts, ready to overcome everything through Christ who strengthens us. Don’t wander away from the campfire. I’ll be right back with another story after a brief message.
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And we’re back. Our second story is called “The Hedgehog’s Song.” The title character is inspired by the hedgehog from T.H. White’s novels, The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlin. White gives his hedgehog a peculiar way of speaking and he is written in a dialect that is not easy for American eyes and ears to pick up. When Trent and I took turns reading the novel out loud together a few years ago, I came up with this silly, cutesy voice to work through the hedgehog’s dialect without hurting the author’s intent or the spirit of the character. And it stuck. It became a sweet inside joke, and when Trent wrote his story, he wrote the hedgehog in that voice. We’re taken on the journey with him as he battles doubt and insecurity to come up with the perfect Christmas gift for the king of the beasts.
So, let’s get lost, as we read the story of (The Hedgehog’s Song).
Beneath the quiet loveliness of every forest beats a savage heart. No matter the temperature of the air nor the dress of the trees, species is pitted against species for their own survival. The owl diligently seeks out the rodent to grasp in his talons. The wolf pack prowls for any source of blood and tissue they might sink their teeth into. The deer search for greenery to nibble while remaining vigilant for predators both near and far. So, remaining in constant fear, hunger, and desperation, all animals carry on with nary a thought of the wellbeing of any other. Such is the state of all forests, but more importantly the forest that homes the characters in the following narrative. It is important to understand the grisly nature of nature at its most natural, or else nothing that follows could then be considered wonderful or worth mentioning.
One day many years ago, it is not known when exactly by animal or man, a plains beast well known for its own gruesome attributes strode into the middle of the forest and roared a thunderous roar to capture the attention of all within a hundred-meter radius. The inhabitants of the area gathered to see the cause of the commotion. None of the forest creatures knew who this stranger was, or how he could presumably sway all of them by a simple roar to gather near him, yet there they collected, fixed and waiting to hear what he had to say.
“Greetings, my fellow beasts of the wild.” the plains animal began, “I bring you good tidings, as I am here to institute a day of rest and tranquility among you.”
Many of the animals continued to grumble and question, “What did he say? Who is this beast? How can he just say something like that?”
“Be still my friends,” the plains animal continued, “It is winter-time. Food is scarce. Some are hibernating. There are few leaves to hide under. And in this, the most difficult of seasons, it is more important to concentrate on ideas such as hope, joy, and comradery. My fellow beasts of the untamed wild, today I institute a feast; not of each other, but with each other. On this day, you will remember that you are all equal in the eyes of at least one being; you will remember that you are fellow creatures fighting for survival, and you will give thanks for all that has been provided for you. Hunted and hunter, we will feast together as one.”
The glorious plains animal finished his declaration and all those around cheered. The animals then dispersed and gathered what they could for the feast. Some brought berries and twigs, others brought greenery and herbs, and after the bears were roused and informed of the intended feast, they lumbered down to the stream and caught a marvelous amount of salmon for all of the carnivorous species that would be in attendance.
All were gathered and dined and laughed as if they had been old friends and family members. They paid homage to their lost, requested forgiveness for past actions, and forgave those who had once been their enemies. All was well and joyful.
At the end of the day, when the plains animal prepared to leave, he offered one more proclamation, “Remember this meal, and try to carry the spirit of the day with you throughout all seasons. Whatever the time of year, remember who you are, and try to treat each other with dignity and love as you have on this day.” With that said, the plains animal left espousing his return every year on the same date to celebrate and feast with those in the forest.
But after the plains animal had gone, so did this new sense of decorum, so the forest animals returned to their normal state of savagery and carried on as they knew how. That is, until the very next year when they all gathered together again for the same feast. They dined, laughed, forgave and forgot all over again allowing for a day of full rest and enjoyment.
The years passed as such; the raw animalistic fear gripping every one of them throughout the winter, spring, summer, and fall then allowing for the feast to cover all their past transgressions. And at every feast, the plains animal would return to greet old friends and new, and to enjoy the company of the forest dwellers he did not see, but once a year. The feast became such a wonderful and exciting time for everyone that, in order to show their thanks and appreciation for what the plains animal had done, all the forest animals began to bring gifts to bestow upon their stranger host. Many of the fowls would pluck their most beautiful plumage for him. The animals that gathered the nuts, berries, and twigs would offer their best to him; some would even arrange their gatherings in ornate compositions. Even the larger beasts would provide some of their best catches of fish for him as gifts.
The only animal in all the forest that could not provide a gift was the hedgehog. What was he to do? He was not fast enough to gather the best of anything. Anytime he attempted to gather nuts, berries, or twigs, all of the best were taken before he could reach them. He was far too small to provide any sort of meat. After all, he was primarily a defensive animal. He simply was not built to provide. Every year though, the hedgehog wished to give something to their friend, and remained distraught and perplexed on what to give. On a few occasions, he attempted to share in a gift provided by another species.
One year, he approached an owl. The little hedgehog meandered up to the fowl sore afraid, and before he commenced his inquiry, he curled into a ball and spoke into his belly, “Please be excusing me meester owl. So quick and fierce ye are, and me being so meek and small, could me be so bold as to ask ye a favor?”
The owl swiveled his head and looked at the little ball of spikes at his side. An immediate sense of admiration filled the feathered predator, and he addressed the hedgehog gingerly, “My meager friend, on this day and for such a brave soul as you, I would be delighted. What would you have of me?”
The hedgehog heard the gentleness in the owl’s voice, but remained in his defensive state, “Meester owl. Could me be so bold to ask ye for one of yer feathers? Me being so slow and small, cannot collect a gift fitting for yon roaring friend, and me is wanting much to gift him.”
Overwhelming pity swelled within the owl, but he still had to refuse the tiny mammal his request. “I am sorry my friend,” he said, “but I cannot. We only pluck one feather each for our own gifts. And besides, if you presented one of our feathers, the plains animal would know that the gift was not truly from you.”
The hedgehog continued despondently, “Well me be thanking ye very much for yer consideration on the matter meester owl.” The tiny fellow then unfurled, turned, and scuttled away saying, “And thank ye very much for ye not eating me this past year.”
Upon the following year, the hedgehog attempted to persuade a squirrel if he might share in some of his nuts and berries, but this proved to be yet another practice in futility. He waddled up to the scurrying bunch of bushy-tailed critters, and again in a shy state curled up into a ball and spoke into his belly, “Please be excusing me meester squirrel, so fast and twitchy ye are and me so slow and stubby, could me be asking ye a favor?”
The squirrel examined the nervous little ball, and responded with a speed and determination which mirrored his movements, “Positively. Absolutely. Emphatically. What do you need? What do you desire? Are you alright? Why are you curled as you are? Are you ill?” The squirrel bombarded the poor hedgehog with these questions while continuing to work on his own collection of nuts and twigs to give to the plains animal.
The hedgehog remained curled, “Meester squirrel, me is not feeling ill, but only shy and meek. Thank ye for inquiring about me health though.”
“No problem. Absolutely.” The squirrel hurried along, “Today is the feast. Need to be well for the feast. What is it that you are wanting?”
“Meester squirrel,” the little ball continued, “Me being slow and stubby cannot collect gifts for yon roaring friend, and me desperately want to show him me thanks. Could me be so bold as to ask for a portion of yer collection to give to him meself?”
The squirrel was not unfeeling towards the hedgehog’s plight, but did not have the capacity to see past his own needs. “No. No. Apologies.” Began the squirrel’s refusal, “Only have enough for me. Far too much to do. Sorry. No.” The squirrel still attended to his own collection as he spoke, “A gift needs to be yours. You cannot gift what you did not work for. It is not a gift otherwise. No. No. No.”
The hedgehog removed his nose from his abdomen and turned about saying, “Well me be thanking ye very much for yer consideration on the matter meester squirrel.”
The squirrel continued to work, as the hedgehog crawled away, saying, “Okay. Be well. Must prepare for the feast. Almost time for the feast.”
Upon the next year, the hedgehog decided to face his greatest would-be-benefactor yet and attempted to persuade a bear if he might borrow some salmon as a gift. The hedgehog waddled down by the riverbank where the large brown behemoths were hard at work collecting the red fish in the cold water. Again, the tiny mammal rolled into a ball purely upon instinct and addressed the nearest bear to him. His first attempt at communication, however, was thwarted by his relatively insignificant stature and the sound of the rushing river discouraging his voice from being heard. The hedgehog then unfurled and address the giant muscular mounds of fur head on. He whimpered slightly at first and could not force a recognizable sound out of his mouth, but with courage building and his task firmly set in his mind, he mustered the greatest shout that he could to garner the bear’s attention. “Meester Bear!” He yelled.
The bear turned and saw the little creature standing on the bank of the river, so he stepped with large thundering steps over to the tiny inquirer. “Well, what have got here then?” Mumbled the bear, “Is this a hibernation dream, or could this be the bravest little animal I have ever seen? Pray, little fellow, what do you need of me?”
The hedgehog shook furiously in response to the size of the big brown beast before him, but would not be deterred from his duty. “Please be pardoning me meester bear. Me be, but a meager little scrap, and be requesting a favor of ye. If ye don’t mind?”
The bear smiled. He liked bravery and enjoyed boldness, and this little animal contained both in spades. He responded, “Ask what you want little fellow, and it shall be given to you.”
“Meester bear,” the hedgehog started, “Me be weak and tiny and don’t have the strength to provide a gift for yon roaring friend, and me want to ever so much. Please might me be worthy to share in gifting yer fish.”
The bear felt such sympathy for the little creature, but also had to refuse, “I am sorry my brave little lad, but only the large animals can give the plains animal fish. If you tried to, considering your size, he would know it wasn’t truly from you. That and let’s not forget, how would you give it to him? These fish match your size three times over. You wouldn’t even be able to lift the blasted thing. I am awfully sorry I cannot help you.”
The little hedgehog then left the bear, extremely disheartened, saying, “Thank ye for yer kindness sir, and thank ye for not eating me up as well.” When he was alone, the little hedgehog cried bitterly. What could he do? He wanted so desperately to bestow a wonderful gift for the plains animal, but after so many years of trying, it seemed as though there was nothing at all that he could do. He wept into his belly and listened to the wind singing across his little ears. The leaves, trees, and other sounds of nature almost created a melody around him. He stopped crying for a moment and listened to the music being played all around him. He opened his ears to all the wonderful tones, and as if a stone had struck him on his miniature head, the greatest gift idea he ever had, came forth in an instant.
The feast began, and all the animals took their usual seats relative to the plains animal. The hedgehog along with many of the other smaller mammals sat furthest from him while still maintaining visibility of the proceedings. All of the animals who held gifts for the stranger host took their customary turns in presenting them. The fowls presented the beautiful feathers, the large animals presented their fish, and the gatherers such as the squirrels and deer presented their assorted nuts, berries, and twigs. The plains animal looked on all of them thankfully, and was about to make his normal speech, when he noticed a small thing waddling up to him. “Well, hello,” The plains animal greeted the hedgehog, “Do you wish to present a gift as well?”
The hedgehog did not curl up and hide in his belly, as had been his custom. Instead, he faced his host with boldness and said, “Me does, yer grace. Me be wanting to gift ye for many years now, and couldn’t. Me be meek and small. Me be weak and slow. Me couldn’t gather, catch, nor pluck me a gift for ye, but me hope ye enjoy it none the less.”
The hedgehog then took a deep breath and commenced to singing a song. All those around listened to the little fellow lift his voice high above the trees in a wonderful melody. Every one of the animals sat entranced, listening to the hedgehog’s beautiful voice, including the one he was singing for. The plains animal watched with a grand smile and tears forming at his eyes. The squirrel stopped twitching, the owl’s eyes grew as wide as they could, and the bear wept for the brave lad. No song composed before or after could match the beauty of what the hedgehog sang that day for the plains animal whom he truly wanted to thank.
When the tiny singer finished his song, none applauded; only awestruck silence followed. The plains animal then rose and approached the hedgehog and said, “My dearest of companions, thank you ever so much for that song. Of all the gifts given to me today, I can say that I treasure yours most. It is because you, a creature so poor in stature and status, but so magnanimous in spirit, sought to give the only thing that you were able. Your fervent desire to give is what I hold in highest regard. Thank you.” With that said, the plains animal scooped the little hedgehog in his paw and held him close to his heart. He then placed the small thing to his right and declared that to be his seat from thence forth. From that day forward, every year on the date of the feast, the hedgehog sat next to the plains animal and entertained him and all the forest with his song.
I love this story. It’s a good reminder that no matter how different you are or how insignificant you feel, you have something to share that blesses God and the people around you. It might seem small. It might be unexpected. But sometimes, those are the things that make the biggest difference. In fact, our eternal salvation was secured through a covert rescue plan, which took a form that was small and unexpected. So, go out this holiday season in whatever way you can, and share the gifts you’ve been given with the people around you. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year from the fairy tale forest. I’m Autumn Woods, and I can’t wait to see you on the path in 2021 the next time you get, Lost in the Woods.