Here Adam the forester earned his keep
and accounted to no one for his care of trees,
wayward goats and wandering cows whose bells
clanged high and low Belong! I belong to you!
He was like a pine at the peak of its strength, heard
and saw what many missed in their noise and hurry
through forest glades, either by moonlight
when the Guardians and Wardens danced, or in bright
sun when they took the guise of what they cared for.
Adam worked hard to build his own wood house
and win the love of a girl in the village below
who had made a childhood promise to be his bride.
And one spring day he brought Maria home
to their tall-roofed chalet in her long dress
embroidered with flowers of every season.
Flocks of valley farms rang their bells, and gentians
blessed the bride with their first blue. Well-
wishing and rejoicing rustled through the forest.
But even this wedding day was haunted by a shadow.
Beyond a high pass lurked Fængler. No one
knew how his malice began, why each day
his countless years gave him less joy,
or what powers he had over the soured spirits
imprisoned in his steep-sided dell. The sun
shunned it and the kindly alpenrose died out.
His bent body grew more shrivelled and his clothes
more threadbare. No taller than a small
pony, he hid his misery behind the beard
that hung below his knees, a frosty thorn bush
he shook in threatening rage. At the moon’s
dark he set out in boots that muffled and trebled
his stride over pathless ways to prowl round
farms and steal young cattle from their stalls.
He left his prints on moss and sandy fords.
Delicate flowers drooped and withered where he’d passed.
Though they hated and feared the haunter
for stealing goats and cows he did not need,
people envied his precious weapon, an ancient
silver chain of nine wonder-working stones.
Long-dead silversmiths took a hundred years
to make sure its wearer might realise every wish.
However it came his way, Fængler wore it day
and night. Out of spite he could spread disease,
make storms crush cattle under falling trees.
Or so everyone believed, and blamed him
for any misfortune that struck their lives.
No wonder there was a long-held hope
weak as it seemed to be, that someone strong
and cunning would be born to them, surprise
the evil coward and his miserable sentries,
seize that silver necklace and so remove all
power to do them harm. Every parent
dreamed of bringing a saviour to the valley.