The Girl Who Drew Gold from the Sun – a fairy tale

Once, there was a girl. In all outward ways, she was an ordinary girl, her face simple as the hills. Her parents were ordinary folk, scratching a living from the dirt of the fields, like most people in their ordinary town.

The year that the girl turned eleven, there was a terrible winter. The land froze hard as stone and the crops died in the fields. The girl’s parents became too sick to work, and they barely had the food to see them through to spring. By the time winter ended, the cupboards were bare and the girl’s rib showed through the rough wool of her dress.

On the first day of spring, the sun broke through the clouds. The girl, desperate for comfort, reached out a hand. The clouds tore apart and the sun shone brighter, casting its light across the land. Where it fell on the girl, gold appeared in her hand.

Wide-eyed, the girl walked into town. The people were filled with the joy that the sun had come at last. They laughed and sang and slapped each other on their backs. They paid no mind to the girl as she bought food for her parents. The storekeeper gave her a poor deal for her gold, but at least she wouldn’t starve.

For the next seven days, the girl stepped outside her house every morning and held out her hand. The sun shone brighter for her and gold appeared in her palm. She was only eleven and didn’t know how much gold was worth, but she filled her kitchen cupboards and her parents’ bellies, even as the storekeepers rubbed their hands at the profits she gave them.

On the eighth day, the sun didn’t shine, and an icy wind blew in. The first tentative shoots of spring had sprouted in the fields, and the girl worried as she watched them wilt. She held up her hand and called on the sun. The clouds parted, light beamed down, and the shoots raised their heads as gold appeared in the girl’s hand.

A farmer in a nearby field also raised his head, watching her in excitement. He ran into town and told the people what he had seen.

The next morning, a great crowd appeared outside the girl’s house, demanding that she make the sun shine. She was happy to do as they asked, for the crops needed light. When she was done, the people brought her food and took away her gold, rubbing their hands as they told her what a good girl she was and what a good deal it had been.

For seven days, the crowds grew larger. Each day, the girl parted the clouds, the sun shone, and the gold appeared. On the eighth day, there were no clouds. The sun shone, and the girl decided to rest. But the people shook their heads. They wanted more gold, more warmth, more sunlight. Reluctantly, the girl raised her hand, and the sun beamed more brightly.

On this went, all through the spring. The town basked in glorious heat and the people were happy. It didn’t matter to them if the crops, which had grown so fast, now looked brittle and dry; gold could pay for everything they needed.

On the first day of summer, the dry ground cracked. The girl looked at her sunburned skin and the heat blisters on her hand, and she decided that it was enough. She went into town to tell the people that she would not call upon the sun.

The people, basking like lizards in the heat, would not listen to what she said. The gold she conjured was all the wealth they had, now that the crops were dead. Without her powers, they must give up their glorious summer.

Once again, the people came to the girl’s house every day, to make sure that she kept calling on the sun. They watched her with the eyes of eagles and with skin as cracked as the sun-baked fields.

The girl, who had once loved the light of the sun, now came to love the night. Its cool darkness soothed her sunburned skin and, for a few hours, the townspeople didn’t watch her. She sat awake, watching the velvet dark.

At last, one moonless night, the girl roused her parents from their bed. She led them into the field and held up a hand to the sky, calling down the black of night. She wrapped its folds around herself and her parents, and they disappeared.

The next morning, the townspeople woke to find that the girl was gone. Desperate for the gold that she had given them, they gathered in the town square and all reached for the sun. They stood for hours, trying to grasp its gold, while its terrible heat burned their flesh. Like the crops, they withered and died in the heat that had once nurtured them.

The following dawn, the darkness unfolded and the girl emerged with her parents. As the sun was rising, she held up her hand. This time she didn’t call the golden light down, but dismissed the power she had held, setting the world back in balance.

The sun rose. Clouds passed on a soft breeze. Rain fell lightly. In their fields, the girl and her parents set about planting crops. Over their heads, a rainbow shone.


The cover of the novella Ashes of the Ancestors

If you enjoyed this story, then you might want to check out my new novella, Ashes of the Ancestors, a story of magic, history and tradition:

“Fantasy is often said to be a perfect metaphor to speak about our societies. Ashes of the Ancestors does it in a remarkable way, with a world that is very much its own and characters we could all recognise. Knighton has written a perfect story for our times and it’d be a pity to miss this mirror he holds up to us in such a successful manner.” – The Middle Shelf.

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