The Young Miller

By: Nathan Wellman

There once was a young miller. He was a lonely sort, for he had never been in love before in all his life, though he had indeed been searching for a long time. He let his life go by, never really having the fortune of having anything happen to him that these kind of stories are known for.

One day however, the young miller had to move to another town, for business was not well where he lived. So he packed up all his things and journeyed through the woods. Along the way he encountered a young woman so beautiful that even the birds themselves are unable to sing in her presence, so in awe of her they are.

They spoke of many things and the young miller quickly realized he was in love with her. The woman was perfect in every way and he knew he must have her. Suddenly, he was overcome with a desire to kiss her right there and on impulse took her in his arms and said with certainty, "I love you."

The young woman stared in surprise and then looked sad. "I love you too, but I am already promised to be married to a wealthy Count. He has a house here in these woods and I was on my way to be married to him right now." With great regret, she freed herself from the broken hearted young miller's arms and started to head towards the Count's house.

Dejected, the young miller slumped down and began to weep with sorrow. He made an oath then that he would never love anyone else again and determined that he must stop the wedding.

At about this time, a misshapen old man who's hideous face was shrouded in a cloak walked by. He saw the young miller's sadness and inquired as to what was the matter. The young miller merely cried out, "Oh disfigured old man! Though the world may shun thee you do not know even a drop of my sorrow!" Intrigued, the mysterious old man inquired further.

"I am in love with a woman who is presently engaged to another and they are to be wed today!" the devastated young miller explained. The old man chuckled and merely said, "Is that all? I can assist you if you want."

Now normally he would never accept help from such a cunning sort of fellow, but so desperate was his situation that he readily agreed without question. The old man produced a yellow blindfold and instructed the young miller to put this on the Count and throw him into the lake, and when he surfaces, he will have turned into a small animal incapable of marrying anybody, much less the woman the young miller loved. The young miller thanked the old man and hurried off, the tricky old fellow's silent chuckling completely lost upon him.

He arrived at the wedding right as the ceremonies began. He saw his love standing beside the Count and she looked visibly upset. The Count was a hideous, screechy sort of fellow with the sort of shifty eyes that always seem to be wondering what they can get out of you or how much you're worth. Horrified, the young miller quickly seized the Count. Ignoring his protests, the young miller wrapped the blindfold around him and tossed him into the lake, which happened to be the site of the ceremony.

All the guests rushed to the edge of the lake to see what had become of their Count. For a long time the water stayed smooth and nothing happened until the young miller thought he may have killed the Count. Finally, a small duck popped out of the water and began to swim about. The guests began to laugh, for they had not really liked the Count very much. Merriment was all around and the young miller grabbed his love in his arms and said, "I love you."

But then something strange happened. The young woman looked in his face and found she suddenly could not find anything attractive about him in the least bit. She pulled away from him and stammered an apology. She did not understand! Just one hour ago she had wanted nothing more than to run away with him, and now she seemed to be drained of all desire to do anything of the sort with him.

The young miller was heartbroken and didn't understand. Something must be wrong! He suddenly made an oath to be her constant companion, never leaving her side until he earned her love. Many months went by until an entire year had passed and still no sign that she returned his love. Every day he would be forced to look upon that smile that he so longed to kiss, those eyes that seemed to sparkle in the sunlight. He would lie awake every night, wondering what was wrong with him and what he could do to make her understand how much he loved her.

Meanwhile, the young woman was not unaware of his efforts. She felt horribly for him but try as she might, she could not find it in herself to love him. After a year had passed, she told him to leave and never return, for she hated to torture him so. So the two lovers that never were finally parted, each one filled with sadness and regret.

Now a dear friend of the young miller tried to cheer him up, and pointed out that there would be plenty of other maidens who would love him, for he was a dashing sort of fellow, and was well known in the town. His friend even offered to introduce him to his wife's sister. The young miller refused to see anyone however, for he remembered his oath. "What kind of love do I have?" he thought, "That I can just throw it away for some passing damsel?" He also did not mention to his friend the girl with the coal black hair he knew his friend was meeting in the grove on the outskirts of the town without the knowledge of his wife.

One night however, his friend's sister-in-law sought him out and begged him to walk her across the forest to the next town, for she had errands to run and was afraid of the woods. Being a gentleman of noble heart, the young miller reluctantly agreed. As they walked through the forest, the young miller began to feel a strange attraction to the maiden. Indeed, with every new step he felt more and more inclined to be with her for the rest of his days, and by the time they exited the forest, they were walking hand in hand. For the young miller didn't know that the maiden's mother was a fairy, and had the ability to enchant any man the longer they were in her presence.

Two months went by, and he never let her out of her sight, until the time came that he wanted to ask her hand in marriage. He took her to a secluded place, got down on one knee, when suddenly a great and terrible conflict overtook his conscience. A small, minuscule part of him had momentarily freed itself from her spell, such was the young miller's strength of heart. It cried out to him to remember the oath he had sworn so long ago: that he would always be there for the one he loved and nobody else.

Suddenly he rose and informed her that he could not and would never love her. The maiden became furious, for she had never had any man stand up to her seductions before. She began to scream, and such was her rage that all her magical powers left her, for no magic of that kind can be in the presence of such hatred. The young miller hastily apologized and escaped, leaving her powerless and alone.

He ran back to his love and appeared at her front door and called out to her. She peeked out the window and demanded to know his reasons for coming so unexpectedly to her home. The torn young miller could only plead for her to come down and she consented, opening the front door warily. The young miller for the third time took her in his arms. "My lady," he began, "I have saved you from a horrible marriage, served you selflessly for a year, suffered without you for yet another, and survived the enchantments of a fairy. All for you." He drew in a deep breath. "I love you." he said yet again.

This time the young woman's eyes filled with tears. For she had thought of him often and had wished fervently that she could love him, but no matter how she tried, she could no longer find anything in his visage that she desired. Confused and ashamed, she tore herself out of his arms for a third time and ran into the woods in her sorrow.

The young miller followed her from afar, for he worried about what might befall her. He found her lying prostrate on the earth, sobbing for what could never be. Suddenly, the mysterious old man from two years before passed by, practically dancing, muttering to himself, "The hour is near! I am almost free!" He stopped and noticed the beautiful young woman crying by herself and inquired as to what was the matter. He was astonished at her beauty and seemed to chuckle to himself when he realized that it was the young miller that she could not love.

The hour struck seven, and he proclaimed, "The hour is at hand! Come, gaze upon your king! Marry me, for thou art more beautiful than any other maiden in the four corners of the earth!" And he threw off his cloak and there stood a strong, handsome king more dashing than any other man in all the land. The young woman was overcome with his charm and consented, even though her heart told her that something seemed wrong, and that she did indeed belong to the young miller, despite her horrible and unexplainable feelings.

The young miller was torn apart with rage and jealousy, and for awhile lost himself in self pity and melancholy. But then he remembered his oath: to love her and protect her, even when she did not love him. With that in mind, he set out for one final confrontation at the king's castle.

The subjects in the king's lands did not seem happy at his return. Indeed they seemed to be downright frightened, the young miller noticed. Great injustices had been performed in his reign it seemed, and his dark and mysterious powers were greatly feared by all who had heard his name. Nevertheless, the brave young miller held to his oath and approached his castle and demanded an audience with the king.

He was led to the throne room, where the king sat with a large sword closed in it's sheath hanging on the wall above him. He demanded to know where the future queen was. The handsome king laughed heartily. "Why do you want to know? She can't love you. I saw to that."

The young miller's eyes widened and he demanded to know what he meant by that. The king merely laughed again. "Well what was I supposed to do in my years of atonement and isolation? I took great pleasure in playing tricks on unwitting travelers, offering them assistance while I was in fact only compounding their misfortune. I put a spell on the handkerchief that kept the one you were destined to be with from loving you, though I never imagined the jest would benefit me so well. She is a rare beauty. Such loveliness cannot be equaled in the entire world. But perhaps you're right. I could use a little fun. Let's see who she chooses, shall we?"

The king clapped his hands and the servants quickly rushed to the young woman's chambers, where she was planning her wedding to the king with great apprehension. When she entered the room, the young miller's already aching heart burned all the more, and he gazed at her with hopeless, defeated eyes.

"Choose," said the king, hardly able to contain himself. The young woman gaze shifted from the king, whose bright blue eyes and sharp wits could not be matched by any; to the poor, pining young miller. He merely looked at her, with a look that seemed as if he would never feel joy again. She took a deep breath, and though she very much did not desire to, she slowly walked towards the young miller. They stood face to face and she said that though she could not love him, he had done more for her than any other man and that she would always stand by his side in times of trouble from this day until the end of them all.

The king cried out with rage. Suddenly, his eyes grew red and he grew to the size of half the hall, turning into a mighty dragon. The young miller quickly rushed at it, trying to distract the beast while his love got away. He was hit in the chest by the dragon's mighty tail and was sent flying into the wall, knocking down the sheathed sword that had been hanging previously.

The dragon heaved in a deadly breath and exhaled, spitting out red hot flames that could melt the very bones of a man's body. Seeing death rush upon him, the young miller desperately grabbed the sword and pulled.

A loud triumphant noise resounded through the hall as the sword was freed from the sheath, and a powerful magic emanated from the blade, warding off the deadly blaze. Flowing with new power, the young miller faced down the dragon and cut off his head, slaying him.

A loud cry ran through the halls as all the servants bowed before him, declaring "My King! My King!" For decades ago, the rightful king had been betrayed by a cunning sorcerer. The sorcerer declared himself king, and ruled with an iron fist for many years, plunging the land into darkness. For all of his power, many still did not recognize him as the true king, for it was written only the rightful heir to the crown could pull the sword the young miller now held from it's sheath. The Evil King had searched the land until he found it, but when his treacherous hand closed upon the noble hilt, he was transformed into a nasty old hunchback, and was forced to disappear until the spell wore off.

The young King was overwhelmed at this new development, but he still could not be happy. Only one person could make him so, and he ran to his love, sword in hand, and stood before her.

Finally, when she looked upon him she was filled with such an intense and wild love that she was unable to believe she had lived without him for so long, for the power of the blade had disbanded the sorcerer's evil spell, and she ran to him and he held her in his arms. She looked up at him and said, "I love you."

But the young King found he could no longer wait long enough to even return the words and finally drew her tight and brought his lips to hers. In that passionate moment, the King was filled with an intense and blissful contentment. Finally, all would be well. They were quickly married and ruled for many years under what was undoubtedly the most prosperous rule of the entire kingdom. They ruled well and they lived happily ever after. They never stopped loving each other until the day they died, where their souls were met in heaven, finally together for all eternity.

The End.