Telling Tales 51
The Promise of a Great Gray Wolf
Try as she might, Marya could no longer become human. Mother Holle had given her a list of the animals she would need to become in order to escape this world that Marya had once called “Death,” and the gray wolf was the last of them. She could turn as easily to a hare as to an eagle, but no matter what she did, she could not turn to her old self any longer. “Koschey has had his revenge upon me,” she grieved. “I could go home now, but to what? My mother and sister would not recognize me. They would not understand me and they would either try to kill me or tame me.”
The castle and its grounds comforted her. They danced around her to lift her spirits. To some extent, they succeeded, but never for long. She knew what they were trying to do and she loved them for it all the more. She traveled far afield as a wolf, but always returned to the castle. She grew to know the lands far beyond the iron hedges, places that she had only taken in once while traveling on her way to what had then been Koschey’s castle. It was there, one day, that she was nearly crushed by a house.
“Who’s there?” called an angry voice. “Oh, it’s you, is it?” The great gray wolf looked up into the scowling face of Baba Yaga that became the smiling Mother Holle. “I didn’t expect to find you here again. Didn’t quite go according to plan, I take it?”
“No,” said the wolf. “And yes. I can go home now, but I can’t turn into myself any more. I am now and will always be a beast.”
“Don’t you want to ask me how to change back?” asked Mother Holle, the creases of Baba Yaga seaming her face.
“There are few things I want and many that I wish,” answered the wolf. “I have friends here, and responsibilities to them. My wants and desires are not so great that I can abandon them.”
“Come inside and we’ll go and see your friends,” said the friendly old woman. She patted the house and said, “Let’s go, love,” and on its ungainly, powerful legs, the house staggered across hill and dale.
“You might want to set down outside the hedge,” suggested the wolf. “There are creatures in the moat and I wouldn’t want your house to fall for any of them.” Mother Holle only laughed. They went inside the castle while the hut played outside with the monstrous beasts and the great gray wolf showed Mother Holle everything her friends had done in all of the terrible beauty of the castle.
“That Koschey,” Mother Holle said with a shake of her head, “that Koschey. I’ll tell you what. I’ll tell you how to kill him – just so you know. I’ll even tell you how to turn back into your old self, but it won’t be pleasant and it won’t be easy and it won’t be quick.”
“I couldn’t leave my friends,” the wolf protested.
“They wouldn’t be your friends if they demanded that you stay,” Mother Holle said, and it was true. Everything in the castle and the grounds swore they would wait for her.
The great gray wolf wept grateful tears. “Thank you, friends. I shall return, I swear. And someday, I promise, we will have Koschey the Deathleass hanging in our dungeon for what he has done to us.”
And after once last dance, she ran off.