A Snow White retelling set in 1920s Germany
One Day, You’ll Know All the Paths
Ingeborg brushed her wavy bob in front of the mirror her father gifted her. She had placed the gas lamp on the vanity and her face had a strange, ghostly look in the dark mirror. The conversation in the library had upset her more than she cared to admit. Not Grete’s sensible plan, but her own inexplicable hesitation.
The brush lingered at the shoulder. She should have agreed with Grete right away. That was the thing to do. She was never going to live at Schneezwerg again. It was unthinkable. Her life and her future were in Berlin, in her university studies, possibly in a future as an associate in Grete’s business. Which, even now, was what kept Schneezwerg afloat.
Why did she care whether the maze was there or not?
She put the brush down on the vanity and peered at herself in the darkness of the mirror. She searched the lights and shadows on her face, but she found no answer. She sighed, her shoulders drooped.
She turned toward the window and the faint, pale light filtering in. The moon must have come out after all.
She stood and walked there. The meadow shimmered in the moonlight. The maze was a dark, barely visible ribbon on the far side.
The images of the two mazes fought in Ingeborg’s mind. The sunny, lively maze of her childhood and the withering, dead-looking maze she had found today.
She shivered, standing so close to the window in just her nightgown. She had never thought to the maze or Schneezwerg in the eight years she had live in Berlin. It was her father her mind always drifted to. Her heart shrunk. How badly she wished that he could see what she had achieved, what she was achieving. But though she thought about him constantly, she seldom shared those thoughts. No one in her circle of friends had known him. Grete never talked about him.
Dad had loved to walk the maze with her in all seasons, but in the summer most than ever and that was the time of the year she remembered the best. Oh, it was beautiful. Birds would sing unseen in the boxwoods. Their feet would make such a soft, lovely rustle on the soft grass, where Ingeborg had loved to walk barefooted as a child. And the smell. The maze always smelled sweet and grassy under the sun.
She rose a hand to her mouth. Her fingers trembled.
That was the heart of her home. That was home when she thought about it. Dad and the maze.
But they were gone. They were both gone, now, and she should look ahead like Grete did. She should just agree with her plan and give this place a new life.
Julian would never agree.
Ingeborg clasped her hands in front of her mouth. That was true. She knew it as Dagmar did. And Grete must know as well.
But she was taking a different path. A new, unthreaded path. A new world had emerged from the ashes of the Great War. There was no reason to cling to the past.
But Dad would fight for the maze.
She looked at the distant, dark ribbon and heard Dad laughing. So clearly that she started, his voice clear and present is if she had never been in Berlin.
Come, Inge. You need to be a good girl.
And she was back in the summer maze, a kid in the warmth of the sun and the smell of the boxwood.
Dad held her hands as she dangled from them, as if on a swing.
Hold me, Dad! Hold me!
She was five. She was probably too old and too big to ask Dad for that treat, but Dad didn’t complain and laughed instead as he tried to resist as long as possible and then let her fall on the soft ground.
“You’re too big, Inge. You’re such a big girl now.”
Ingeborg hugged her dad’s waist. “Take me up!”
“Come on, dad, take me up.”
“No, Inge.” There was no harshness in Dad’s refusal. “You’re big enough to walk on your own legs now.” He offered his hand instead.THE FROZEN MAZE by Sarah Zama – Episode 10 – One Day, You’ll Know All the Paths – Grete's plan was sensible, Ingeborg knows she should go along. But Dad would have fought for the maze, she knew it very well #fairytaleretelling Click To Tweet
Ingeborg took it, and they walked in the maze in silence for a while, listening to the birds and the breeze playing in the trimmed bushes. They had passed by the first dwarf just minutes ago and would soon come to the second dwarf, the one with the stretched arm.
“One day the maze will be yours, Inge,” Dad said in the peace of the path, and Ingeborg felt a strange pang in her chest.
Dad looked down at her. “You’ll keep good care of it, won’t you?”
Now she was upset. “Where will you go?” Would he leave, like mum?
“I’ll be here with you. As long I’ll be able to.” Dad smiled. “But I’ll get old. And you’ll become a beautiful princess. Strong and wise. And so I’ll be happy to leave the maze to you.”
They had stopped, their hands still linked. Ingeborg was looking up at her dad and Dad was looking down at her. In spite of his smile, he had such a sad expression on his face.
“Will you go to meet mum?” She asked, and she saw Dad’s eyes moist suddenly. “I want to go too if you’re going.”
Dad crouched beside her and hugged her so tight he hurt her, but Ingeborg didn’t mind. She clung to her dad in return.
When he let her go, he brushed her cheek softly. “One day will all be together,” he said and tried to smile. “But we’ll have to wait a long time. And we have to do so many things in the meanwhile.”
She nodded because she sensed that was what Dad wanted of her.
He stood and took her hand again. They resumed walking. He was looking ahead, though she had a feeling he wasn’t really looking in front of him.
“One day you’ll walk this maze alone, Inge,” he said, his voice so strange that she got scared.
“Don’t leave me, Dad.” She clung to him, forcing him to stop.
He took her hands and held them tight. “I’ll stay as long as I can, Inge. I’ve told you and I mean it. But one day I won’t be here and I cannot help it.” He smiled, though. “But don’t worry, you’ll know how to walk the maze.”
She looked at him, begging him to change his mind. But she knew he probably couldn’t. Mum didn’t want to leave them either, but she could not help it. This was everything Ingeborg knew. Some things hurt horribly, but could not be helped. She wanted to cry because she hated the void mum had left. She was sure she could not bear to carry another hole in her chest if Dad left.
But it wouldn’t be soon, she thought. He said so, maybe he would change his mind.
That thought helped her push the tears back. Her hand was still in Dad’s hand. They had resumed walking peacefully. Soon they reached the second dwarf, the one who reached out with a hand as if welcoming them.
Ingeborg had the most peculiar sensation. She thought the dwarf was offering her his hand, in case her dad was not there. As if he was trying to comfort her, assure her she would not be along.
“Dad, will you teach me the way?” she asked. “All the ways? To the other end?”
Dad hesitated. Then, surprising her, he took her up and hold her tight as he walked to a bench in a niche of the paths.
He sat down and set her in his lap.
“I will teach you everything I can, Inge. But I can’t teach you the way to the other side.”
“Because your way will be different from mine.”
That didn’t have any sense. Dad knew everything. Why wouldn’t he be able to teach her such a simple thing?
“Then how will I know?”
“You’ll know, believe me. When the time comes, you’ll know it, and you’ll know the way. But you have to keep the road. Don’t stride too far. Never forget.”
She tried to wrap her head around those words. But it was too difficult.
“Will Mum be there when I cross the maze?” she asked.
Dad wrought his fingers with hers.
“She might be,” he said softly. So softly, that Ingeborg wondered whether he was truly answering her questions. “She might be. She loved it here. She knew it so well.”
Ingeborg curled up in dad’s lap and was content when he hugged her tight and lolled her. That was what she had hoped he would do.
And she could still feel it. The warm summer day. Dad’s strong, warm arms around her. She could still hear his voice, so deep and soft.
Her heart was beating slowly, painfully.
Dad’s memories were stronger here. And she wrapped them around her and let them lolled her as dad used to.
It was the past. A past that would never be back, but it was good. And she felt better, somehow stronger by remembering.
She sighed. She turned her back to the pearly window and walked to the bed.
What would she answer to Grete, she wondered as she sat there.
She turned to the pearly window.
The maze lay far away, at the edge of the meadow, quiet and dark in its slumber. Sleeping.
I’ll send out reminders to my tribe on Sundays. So if you’d like to keep updated, please join (you’ll get a gift, too!)
In the photo Château de Chenonceau photographer unknown (from Instagram @francefr)