The Old Burrow


There once was a woman who loved the stars and deep within her chest lived the Sorrow Bird. It sang the most beautiful music from a cage of intricate gold but the song was never heard aloud and remained trapped in the dark only to be felt within the being of the woman who loved the stars.


The days passed and the woman wandered amidst the trees and the animals and the people, un-noticed, silent and mute. The nights crossed the sky and as the stars came out the sorrow bird would sing its beautiful song inside her chest for no one to hear. So painful it was for the woman to feel this beautiful song within and never be able to set it free that she began to grow weak and tired and ill. And, the Sorrow bird sang louder.


The weaker she got the stronger the Sorrow birds voice. The more tired she became the more the Sorrow bird danced in its cage. And, the more the illness took hold the more the Sorrow bird grew vibrant and alive.


One night when sleep would not come the woman summoned the last of her strength and went outside to stand in the cold starry night.

She stood up tall and yelled to the sky. 

“Why do you torment me so , that I have such a beautiful gift within that I cannot set free! How would you feel if your stars were not allowed to shine?”

The sky in all her midnight  majesty felt the womans pain and began whispering green and pink mutterings  to herself. She whispered and muttered a kaliedescope of colour all night until just before dawn she spoke.


“You must find the key to the Sorrow birds cage. A key that has been hidden for many hundreds of years in a place far beyond the reach of clumbsy, tiny human hands but I will give it to you if you can find its home.”


“You must pack a bag and walk to the North and there you will find a small cottage amongst the trees with snow on its roof and blue smoke billowing from its chimney.

Inside this cottage lives the key keeper and she will give it to you willingly.”


So the woman packed her bag and wearily set out along the  road to the North.


The snow was thick on the ground and it was not long before the weak and tired woman could not walk any further. She sat by the side of the road with the sorrow bird singing in her chest and all was silent without.


A gentle deer stepped out of the forest and came close to the woman whos head hung low in her hands.


“Why are you so sad said the deer? What is your sorrow?”


I have a beautiful song trapped in a golden cage in my chest that no one can hear, not even myself. I have called to the Sky and she said I must travel North to a cottage in the woods where the key has been kept safe for hundreds of years. But I am so weak and tired and ill I just cannot walk any further.


So the deer put his sensitive ears to the womans chest and listened.

“I can hear your song.” he said. “And you are right it is beautiful indeed. I will help you find the cottage in the North.”


So the woman put her belongings on the deers back and her arms around the deers neck and together they walked along the road to the North.


Three days and nights they walked until one dawn just as the birds began to sing their chorus, the woman who was beyond exhaustion, collapsed. 


The deer listened to the woman’s chest. Her breath was shallow and her heart was weak but the song of the sorrow bird choraled a  in her breast. As pure as the snow and as bright as the stars, the Sorrow bird sang so loud that all the other birds were silenced and flew nearer to bathe in its beauty.


Until a wise old blackbird perched himslef upon the deers antlers and whispered in his ear. “Where is this beautiful song coming from?”


“It is coming from a Sorrow bird that is locked in an intricate golden cage, deep in her chest. The Sky has told us that the key to the cage lies in a cottage far to the North and that we must go there to retrieve it from its hiding place of hundreds of years. But she is to weak and to ill to travel and I just don’t know what to do.”


“I will fly there.” said the wise old black bird.


So the old black bird flew up high into the sky and followed his inner compass, over field and river, forest and mountain until he came to a little cottage in the woods with snow on its roof and blue smoke puffing from its chimney.


The blackbird perched on a branch by the window and peered inside.


Inside, by the fire, sat an old and crooked witch who rocked in her chair while the bones of small children cooked a pot.


“This is no place of safe keeping.” said the black bird.


So he flew up to the highest branch of the tallest tree and yelled and the Sky


“This is no place of safe keeping!” he cried. “Why would you send such a weak and feeble woman with such a heart of gold into the home of such wickedness. How would you like it if your stars were made of thorns?”


The sky heard the blackbirds rage and felt sorry for her lies.


She whispered green and pink mutterings to herself before she spoke.

“I am truly sorry dear Blackbird but I feared that if I told the truth of where the key lay hidden that no one would be brave enough to retrieve it. If you are brave enough dear blackbird I will help you.”


And so the blackbird sang to the sky and the sky whispered green and pink mutterings and together they made a plan.


The plan grew and the Sky rumbled and danced and the Blackbird bellowed a battle cry worthy of the Northern Winter darkness, and soon, the Wind began to blow.


Arched branches that hung low as they cradled their burden of snow began to creak and sway as they rocked back and forth in the wavering, lurching, gusts of  glittering air.


The sky thundered and darkened as she gathered her clouds. The Wind moaned as he began to rock whole trees in their roots and the shutters on the witches house began to clatter and bang.


Knock, knock, SMASH!


“What clamour is this?” the Witch croaked through bitter lips to the boiling bones in the pot.


Knock, knock, SHATTER!


The mighty WInd broke through the window and stood before the old Witch tall and regal in his glorious battle gown.


He howled before the Witch “Your wickedness and bitterness has spread far enough, crushing  goodness with ill health and silencing beauty with your ugliness! Give back the key to the golden cage within your daughters heart!” .


The old witch cackled. I have fought bigger monsters than  old wind. You’re nothing but a puff of air.


The wind raged and shook the roof of the old cottage, The sky thundered and cracked as she threw lighting spears at the walls and the black bird clung tight to the branch in the tree by the window.


The old witch unfolded her crooked fingers and began spitting malicious incantaions to the floor until it burst into flame.


 The flames grew tall.  A forest of dragon tongues  that, licking the air, sucked out all breath from the Wind until he had to retreat into the trees.


“Ha!” sreeched the Witch. “You cannot threaten me. Indignant and self satisfied she returned to the chair by the fire and began to poke the bones in the pot.




But the Sky had not finished with her yet.


Pitter, patter…

Pitter, patter, began the rain on the roof as the Sky gathered her black mares around the Witches cottage.


The dark clouds whinnied and thundered as the herd gathered.  The Wind heaved and galed as the Sky cracked an almighty scar of lightning across her breast. And together they sent the battalion of  storm horses stampeding across the Witches  roof.


The ridge tiles broke and the rain poured in until the cottage was soaked inside and out.


Bedraggled and sodden the Witch was all but defeated and yet still furiously she clung to her wickedness as she bent herself into the wind and battled  her way towards the key that she had hidden. Her beady grey eyes focused on a barred door in a corner of the cottage, the key to which hung from cord around her waist.  


With his keen eyes, this, the blackbird saw.


Now the old fir tree that had stood by the house for longer than he cared to remember unfurled his longest branch. Gathering up the black bird he reached into the Witches cottage through the broken window placeing/putting the blackbird within wings reach of  the Witch and  the key to the barred room.


The wind held back the witch from the dark chamber and the tree held his branch firm in the wind so that the blackbird could steal the key from within the folds of the skirt of the Witch.


Glorious and triumphant the blackbird clasped the key in his mouth and flew beneath the wind to the iron barred door.. The key twisted in the lock and he flew into the darkness.


Blackness upon blackness and nothing else.


In the corner of the room lay a small child whose eyes had grown used to the dark.


“It is here sweet blackbird” he cried “Here on a chain around my neck. Let me sing you a song so that you can find me.”


So the child sang a lullaby and the blackbird fluttered in the darkness while the wind and the storm horses thundered outside.




The blackbird freed the key from the child and freed the child from her irons and both flew to the open doorway where before them the gnarled and furious face of the Witch was steadily getting closer and closer.


“Run!” screeched the blackbird with the key still in his mouth. “ I will hold back the witch. Run, run!”


So the child ran and the blackbird battered the witches face with his wings  and the witch snatched at the key in the blackbirds mouth until the child was long gone.


The wise old blackbird darted high and darted low and then full of bravery and cunning he flew into the blackness of the chamber that was once the childs prison. The Witch launched herself into the room and the wind slammed the door shut. Then, he turned the key. 




All was quiet save the fluttering of blackbird wings in the darkness.


The wind stopped blowing and the storm clouds ceased their thundering hooves and the sky prayed a silent green and pink  prayer.


Then from the dark came the sounds of snatching fingers and fearful wings and the malicious croakings of the Witch in all her blackened fury.


“I will catch you!” she taunted.


Drip, spatter, drip,  shivered the branch of the old tree as he reached a little closer towards the door. Groan ached his bark as he reached a little further enough to grasp at a bar and bend an opening just big enough for a blackbird.


The witch cackled “Burn blackbird burn” as she conjured her flames in the darknes.


But the blackbird who was too good and too brave and too loved to be snared by evil,as all such warm heartened creatures are, slipped through the bars with the key to the golden cage in his mouth.  And the Witch remains captive in a prison of her own making to this day with nothing but the flames of her own anger to keep her warm.


Far to the South the woman with the Sorrow bird still singing in her chest lay motionless in the snow with the deer curled next to her for warmth.  This, the sky could see.


We must hurry said the Sky. 


I will carry you said the wind.  He lifted the black bird into his arms  and blew across mountain, forest, river and field.  


They came to a valley far below  where they saw a lifeless figure collapsed in the snow with a deer by her side and a flock of birds all around her and the beautiful song of the Sorrow bird rising from her breast.


From this great height the Black bird dived deep and fast.  His beak pointed sharp he plummeted groundwards and with his eyes wide opened he pierced the chest of the woman and dissapeared within.


Silence upon silence and nothing else.


Not a breath of air puffed nor a leaf twitched. The deer did not blink and the birds sat small in their branches. The Sorrow bird had stopped singing.


Days and weeks passed and nothing moved.  As if the world had stopped living,  all that was left was white silence and waiting.


When waiting was forgotten and all the world was quieter than quiet the woman heaved a huge breath.  She sighed a cloud into the  diamond air and out  flew the sorrow bird, the black bird and three little fledglings.


The sorrow bird flew to the highest branch on the tallest tree and she sang to the vast sky the most beautiful song. A song for the heavens  full of starlight and wonder, made of wind and fire and feathers and fur. A song for all the worlds to hear.


The woman danced her arms flung wide to the sky and the Witch put her hands over her ears.







orrow Bird

all words and pics copyright cathy van hoppe unless otherwise stated 2008 -2021

Here is just one tale of many. It appears that it may only be viewable on large screen devices, my apologies for this technical glitch.

I will attend to it when Time permits...and as we all know Time can be a bit of a bugger when he's in a bad mood!