When I was a kid, I read quite a lot: endless stacks of books from the school library and the city library, books given, books borrowed, books in the bookstore! Many of these stories went in my head and stayed there; it seems they’re pretty fertile compost for the ol’ imagination.
I loved one story I’d read so well, I recall telling it to kids I babysat while in high school, and I’ve occasionally told it since then. Last summer, I unpacked a box of my old books from back then, and found out I maybe hadn’t remembered a few things quite right, especially the five other stories between these two stories I’d been telling as one! I want to tell my version anyway. This is a mix-up of two stories by Isabel Wyatt. Please see the complete citation after the story.
The Tree That Bears a Star
There is an Archer, who dwells among the stars, and whose arrows bring not wounds but a love for all things good and beautiful. One day, long ago, he loosed an arrow which fell to Earth on a cold and naked mountainside, where no plant had ever grown. And the arrow’s feathers turned into roots, and the arrow grew into a tree. And this tree was the first fir-tree.
The tree grew straight and upright, pointing to the stars. And as the tree looked up at the stars, she loved them, because they were good and beautiful. So every day she grew taller, for always she longed to reach them. Now the stones of that desolate place had rejoiced when the green-fir-tree came to live among them; but when they saw her yearning always towards the stars, they feared she would grow right away from them. So the stones cried to her: “Do not forget us altogether, dear fir-tree. It is right that you should love the stars; but love Earth a little too.”
And the fir-tree listened, and looked down, and felt love for the stones and the ground on which she grew, and she sent her roots down deeper to embrace them. And she began to love the stones and the soil more, along with the sky and stars.
She grew to love Earth more and more, and to take more and more soil into her sap, until presently she was wrapped in bark, and her wood grew to have less and less the softness of a plant, and more and more the hardness of a stone. But still the fir-tree yearned for the stars, and every night she longed to be able to share her own joy in the goodness and beauty of the stars with the stones and the soil and the other plants and the small creatures of the mountainside that had begun to live in her shelter. And then one night she had a dream.
In this dream she spoke aloud a magic spell, which called strongly upon a star to come to Earth. And a star came curving out of the sky, and entered her sap. And presently, out through the bark of one of her branches the star broke, enfolded in a bud; and the bud opened into an exquisite, delicately tinted flower with tender petals. And that flower was the most beautiful thing which had yet been born upon the Earth.
For all this happened long, long ago, when the Earth was still very young, and there had never yet been any flowers at all; so the fir-tree’s dream was the first dream of the first flower. Now, when the fir-tree woke, she remembered her dream; and she remembered also the magic spell that she had spoken aloud in her dream. And she said to herself: “Is this then the way to bring down a star to gladden the Earth? Can I make my dream come true?”
So she spoke aloud again the magic spell of her dream, calling strongly upon a star to come to Earth. And the mosses, and the small creatures, and the other plants that had grown up near the shelter of the tall fir-tree heard her speak aloud the magic spell. And, just as in her dream, a star came curving out of the sky, and entered the fir-tree’s sap. And presently, again as in her dream, out through the bark of one of her branches broke the star, enfolded in a bud. And the fir-tree trembled in happiness.
But what happened next was different from the dream. For the strength and stiffness of the fir-tree’s wood entered into the bud, so that this became woody, too. It sat on her branch like a stone, the color of a stone; and when it opened, it had not the tender delicately tinted petals of the exquisite flower of her dream, but thick, hard scales. It was not a real flower; it was a fir cone.
The fir-tree was so sorrowful at her failure that she began to weep, but through her weeping she heard a voice, speaking words of comfort to her in her sorrow. It was a smaller tree which bore small, green, sour fruit that hung upon its branches in the chill of autumn. The tree did not reach for the stars as the fir-tree did, but had wide, open branches. The leaves would wither and fall off while the fir-tree stayed green, and the fruit was sour, and anyone who ate it was ill forever after.
This tree had heard the fir-tree speak the spell, and seen the star come down. The small tree said: “Do not weep, dear fir-tree, for you have done a new and wonderful thing. You have taught the stars the way to become flowers; and by your leave, I can still make your dream come true.”
And the fir-tree dried her tears and said: “With all my heart.”
So the smaller tree spoke aloud the magic spell which she had heard the fir-tree speak, calling strongly on a star to come to Earth. And a star came curving out of the sky, and entered the smaller tree’s sap. And because the star was a five-pointed one, the flower that opened from the bud on this tree had five petals.
But this flower was something more; the smaller tree had not the height or upright sturdiness of the fir-tree, nor was her sap so filled with soil. The flower that grew was tender, and delicately tinted, but for protection it became enfolded in the tree’s fruit; and the fruit became firm and rosy and sweet and nourishing, and those who ate the fruit became strong and wise. And leaf and needle, root and branch, stone and stars all rejoiced.
And to this day if you cut a thin strip crossways from an apple and hold it to the light, you will see in the center of it a five-pointed star within a flower.
I need to acknowledge the source here: about the first two-thirds of this was lifted from “The Story of the Tree That Dreamt a Flower” and the last third was lifted from “The Story of the Apple-Tree That Bore a Star”. Both are from The Seven-Year-Old Wonder-Book, by Isabel Wyatt.