A Snow White retelling set in 1920s Germany
After breakfast, Ingeborg went out on the terrace. Alone. She needed to think. She needed to sort out her feelings. She couldn’t decide who was right, if Dagmar or Grete, and had the unsettling feeling that both were.
The fog had disappeared and the temperature had dropped. The sky was that icy grey colour that heralds snow. Frost had formed on the meadow during the night.
Maybe a walk would clear her mind. She wrapped her coat tight around herself and went down on the meadow. Old frozen grass and fallen leaves crackled under her feet. She walked ahead, slowly, looking at her city booths moving on the frosty ground.
Would she even be able to, now?
This was her home. It would always be her home. But her life was in Berlin.
She liked the silence, but how long would she be able to bear it?
She bit at her lower lip. Was this what Grete had to decide once? When she married dad and decided to live here forever?
Only it wasn’t forever. Ingeborg felt a pang in her chest.
And what about Dagmar? She had to make a decision too when mum died. She lived in Berlin back then, seeking the life of an artist. But she dropped everything and ran back to Schneezwerg, to help her brother raise his daughter.
A shadow fell over her. Raising her gaze, Ingeborg saw she had reached the maze.
She stood unmoving for a long while, wrapping the coat tight around her shoulder, while cold crept up her feet and her lips started to ache in the cold air.
“Everything would be easier without you,” she said to the maze in a dark, gloomy voice.
One day, you’ll walk the maze alone, he had said.
But he had also said she wouldn’t be alone.
“Why aren’t you here, dad?” she whispered and the maze blurred in the warmth of tears prickling at her eyes.
I will always be here for you.
She pushed the tears back and stepped to the entrance. It was still obscured by overgrown twigs and branches, and dark leaves she couldn’t tell whether were dead or still alive. But she could also see the gap she had made the day before. It wasn’t gone yet.
Careful, because she wore no gloves today, she pushed the branches aside and squeezed in.
The first leg of the path into the maze was still dark. It was still cold. The frost on the ground was thicker than out on the meadow and crackled with a loud, ominous sound under Ingeborg’s boots in the silence between the walls of boxwood. She stood motionless just inside the threshold, weighting the gloomy path ahead that ended with a bend. There was a bluish, almost unearthly light inside as if the mist that had disappeared from the meadow were still trapped inside here.
Ingeborg turned up the collar of her coat.
Why had she entered? What did she hope to do?
One day, you’ll walk the maze alone.
She thought she would go maybe as far as the first bend. Then she may turn back. It was getting very cold. But when she reached the bend, she looked ahead and she saw a long corridor with openings on the left side.
She furrowed her brow. Which way had she gone yesterday? She couldn’t quite remember. Wasn’t that funny? Where did Weise stand? She couldn’t envision the route in her head. And still, yesterday she found him quite easily.
She walked on. At the first intersection, she stopped, unsure. Then decided, for whatever reason, to walk still ahead, and turn at the next intersection.
You know what? You’re getting lost, just like Grete said.
Still, she wasn’t scared and kept walking.
Nonsense. Yesterday you found Weise easily enough and then found the way out at once.
Which was what puzzled her the most. It took her just a couple of minutes to run back to Dagmar when she heard her calling yesterday. She had already walked for twice that time, now, and she had no idea where she was.
Her breath had quickened because her heart had quickened. She breathed warm clouds of breath into the cold air.
“Weise,” she called. And a part of her felt ashamed for that childish, stupid reaction. But another would persist, and she was, in fact, to call again when she became aware of something.
Some kind of current running under her feet. Like a warm vein of water that flew just under the surface of the maze. It was moving, so Ingeborg moved too.
Swiftly, she walked down a few pathways, turned twice without hesitation and finally stood still just behind a bend.
Her mouth curled in a smile. Weise waited for her on the cusp of another bend.
She paced to him, chuckling.
“Are you making jokes on me?” she asked.
Silence was the only answer.
The warm current that she had followed pooled around Weise. She could still feel the warmth, but not the movement.
Like yesterday, she put a hand on the dwarf’s head. It was faintly warm as if the stone had been under the sun for the entire day, and now it gave that warmth off.
She tried to remember whether that was a phenomenon that she had known as a child, but hard as she tried, she could only remember the maze in the glorious days of spring and summer, and then, the stone would of course be warm.
It was nice to stand in its warmth, with that cutting cold all around them.
Ingeborg crouched in front of Weise and rose her face to look into the dwarf’s weathered one.
“Dad said he would always be here for me,” she whispered. And swallowed down the lump in her throat. She stretched her lips in what was intended as a smile. “But you are here. Were you waiting for me?” She looked into the stony face, almost as if she really expected an answer. “Will you help me?”
The cold was less intense, now. Here, by the stone that shouldn’t be warm, but was, the cold of winter was somehow kept at bay. A cosy babble enclosed and protected her.
“I need advice,” she said. “Will you give it? I don’t know what to do. What should I do?”
She waited a long while, but of course no answer came. She was alone. She had to decide all by herself. And she knew Grete was right, but now that she was here in the maze, inside the warm babble of the stone dwarf, she was especially unable to make a decision.
She sat on the ground, drawing her legs up to herself, and leaned her back against Weise.
“I should have refused to come,” she said. “It would be so much easier to make a decision back in Berlin.”
And maybe never see the maze again? Never have the opportunity to walk it alone, as her father hoped for?
She snagged against the warm stone.
“I don’t know what to do,” she whispered. And closed her eyes.THE FROZEN MAZE by Sarah Zama – Episode 13 – Dreams – In the cold of the dying maze, Ingeborg finds a babble of warth, and dreams come to her #Fairytaleretelling #FreeReads Click To Tweet
She was there, still in the maze. But it was summer. Dad was with her. It had been a long time since last he visited her dreams. The path they were walking was green and lush, and the yellow light of the sun danced on the grass blades.
“How do you like it being back home, Inge?” he asked her with a smile.
But instead of answering, she looked at him, puzzled. She could not decide in the dream whether she was a child or a young woman. “You’re home, too!” she blurted out.
Dad stopped and stood in the centre of a crossroad. The sun shone directly on his fair hair. “I’ve never left,” he said.
Ingeborg knew tears were welling in her dream eyes.
“But you left. You left for the war and you’ve never come back.”
Dad took her hands and held them tight. “Is that what you really think, Inge? Do you think I’ve abandoned you all to go playing heroes in the battlefields?” His eyes were sad. So very sad.
She shook her head no. Tears ran down her face. Was that why Dad went out of focus and then started to smoke away? Like a drift of smoke blown away by the wind. She tried to keep him. To keep hold of his hand, but they too turned into smoke and dissolved.
She was in a room now. A very luxurious room, she knew it even if she could see very little of it. The room was dominated by a big mirror with a very elaborate frame.
A woman was in front of the mirror. Lotte Grünwald, Ingeborg recognise one of Grete’s most recent acquaintances and wondered why this woman should enter her dreams together with her father.
But was it really Lotte? Now Ingeborg wasn’t sure. This woman was too young. Or maybe she was too old, though she was beautiful. Almost unearthly beautiful.
A shadow stood behind her, an ethereal presence that slowly revealed itself as a man. A young man elegantly dressed in smoking. Maybe they were preparing to go out to a party. The woman wore a gorgeous dress that left her shoulder naked, and the man was caressing her shoulders and her neck.
“Are you sure?” the woman asked with a husky voice.
“Of course. Of course, I’m sure.”
His voice trailed away as he lowered his gaze, in a gesture of shame, almost, and his hands rested on the woman’s shoulders.
The woman smiled a crooked smile that twisted her beautiful features, but never enough to ruin her beauty. She never looked at the man, but always at her own reflection in the mirror. Slowly, she covered one of the man’s hands with hers.
The darkness thickened and engulfed both of them. Then a great light shone in the dark and turned the night into day, and Ingeborg saw an elegant café in a big city. Maybe even Berlin.
So many people sat at the café tables in the sun, the women wearing hats with big rims, some of them even held parasols.
The dream brought her at one particular table where a couple sat. The man was the one she had just seen in the room, but the woman was someone else. She was a plainer beauty with a crown of chestnut hair and locks framing her gentle face.
She inched her hand on the table toward that of the man.
“You are not like that, Florian,” she said. “I know your heart.”
He didn’t answer. He didn’t look at her. Ingeborg leaned in to listen but found herself in the dark once more. A wet, rotting dark, and soon she saw she was in a forest which was dying under her very eyes. The trees withered, rotted while still standing, and then collapsed on themselves or crushed onto the ground with a horrible sound.
But was that the sound of the falling trees? It was a bang. A strong wheeze and a bang that made the earth quake.
Ingeborg turned in the dream to try and reach the battlefield, but instead, she found herself in another room. A small, plain room, probably in a village cottage.
A woman slowly emerged from the dark. She bent over a table and Ingeborg saw she was putting away chisels and spatulas, the tools Dagmar had once used to mould clay.
The woman was Dagmar.
She was putting away her tools quickly, an earnest expression on her face.
A hand touched her shoulder. A man’s hand. When Dagmar turn, Ingeborg saw the kind face of a stranger who leaned on a cane. Dagmar pause long enough to put her hand on his, then finished putting her tools away.
The dream whirled and it turned into night and she opened her eyes and she was curling against the stone dwarf.
Ingeborg sat upright. She stretched her arms and breathed hard, pushing the hair off her face.
“Got,” she whispered. “Got, I fell asleep.”
She stood. Her body was stiffened by the uncomfortable position. How had she possibly fallen asleep there?
She looked down at the dwarf, her hand again on his head.
She remembered Dad smiling at her, telling her, I’ve never left. But she also remembered the noise and the feel and the smell of the shelling on the battlefield, though she wondered how she could.
She straightened her back. Absentmindedly, she rubbed the top of the dwarf’s head.
“You’re really trying to help me, aren’t you?”
No, of course not. This was only a stone and dreams were only dreams.
For a moment, she stood still by the stone dwarf, then she stepped away. Weise’s warm babble shattered and she was back in the cold and the darkness of the dying maze.
In the photo Château de Chenonceau photographer unknown (from Instagram @francefr)