In the deep crevice of a valley, an old farmer with a body like the twisted vines of a vegetable worked his patch. He had only three pumpkins. One was the size of your head and a bright yellow. Another was the size of a large man and a mild sunburst color. And the third was the size of a wagon, a deep titian orange.
The farmer lived alone in his dank valley. Only the black, angry clouds, chafing winds, and vast empty plains above kept him company. Every day he ate a bit of pumpkin stew. All he ever ate was pumpkin stew. But his pumpkins were running out, and he was becoming quite mad.
His house was a crumpled mess. It was coated with ivy which was caving in the corner of the roof. The entire thing was brown. Inside there was only a creaky rocking chair, an ill-used fireplace, a plain cot, and a dented black cooking pot. In this he cooked his stews, the water for which he brought each day from a dwindling stream nearby.
The farmer continued his life of pumpkin stews and rocking chair rocking without consideration. Soon he had only two pumpkins. Then he began to eat the sunburst pumpkin, and at last he had only one.
Such was the farmer's desperation to keep his final pumpkin that he did not cut off pieces as usual. Instead, he made a little hole large enough for his wizened body to fit through, and he scooped the pulp out from the inside. He continued with this as the pumpkin rotted, scooping out its innards and making a soup, until at last there was only a great dry, blackened shell where the living fruit had lay.
The night after his last soup, the farmer climbed into his cot and considered. His mad old mind was working out how he was to continue without starving. Why ought he continue, anyway? He had neither wife nor friends. He ought to have got a wife by this time, thought the farmer.
This was how a very terrible thing began.
The next morning the farmer decided to travel to find a wife. It was the first time he had traveled in years. He climbed out of the valley and stooped across the bare plains, eating vultures he caught with wicked little traps set by pools of water. He walked and walked until he reached a small town, and there he bought a shiny new gun for hunting. And there he went on patrol for a suitable woman.
This town had within it one woman who far outshone the others. She had long golden-brown hair and speckled blue eyes. Her frame was slight but well-curved. She was only sixteen years of age.
The farmer spotted her within a few hours of his arrival. She was standing by a well, wearing a pretty blue dress and pulling out a bucket of water. Her cheeks were flushed and one sleeve had fallen aside, exposing her pretty freckled shoulder.
The farmer was mad but he was not a complete fool. He knew the young maiden would never accept him for a husband. As he watched her from a way, he made a plan to capture her in the night. He followed her home and took note of her room. Only her mother lived there with her.
When night fell, the man crept to the house, casting his long, skinny shadow wherever he stalked, like a scarecrow come to life. He picked the lock on the door, swept into her room on bony legs, and after gazing at her beautiful face, gave her a swift knock on the skull with the butt of his gun. The maiden fell from slumber to unconsciousness, and he carried her away in a sack.
Inci awoke with a splitting skull. She soon was terrified to realize she was crushed up inside of a sack, being carried by something that took long, quick strides. She screamed and fussed, clawing at the sides, but the person carrying her took no notice. Her head still ached and soon her throat was sore. It was hot inside the sack, and hard to breathe. She fainted despite her fear.
Inci's conditions when she again awoke were enough to make even the bravest girl afraid. For she found herself in the stinking shell of a giant pumpkin, with bars fitted over the only opening. Through them she could see a disgusting little overgrown cottage and a dim, damp valley. She tried her might against the shell. It was not so thick, but it was thick enough, and clawing at it also did no good. It had dried hard and sticky.
She noticed there had been a chunk of bread and a bowl of water set upon a towel on the prison's floor. Inci was thirsty enough she drank the water, slurping it from the bowl in an undignified manner. She ate the bread as well, recognizing the taste. It was from town. The familiar flavor made her cry, but she ignored the tears.
As she finished she spotted a wretched person coming about the side of the house, carrying a bucket of water. He was the ugliest man she had even seen. He seemed to be made all of bones or twisted stems. He had tiny, glittering eyes that jabbed from side to side and a pointed nose. Everything about him was filthy.
He started when he saw her, and set down the water. "So you're awake," he said. His voice was thin and grating. She stared back fearfully. Her hair was completely in disarray and it gave her an even more frightened air.
The old farmer came up to her prison bars. "You are my wife now." He appraised her gleefully. "You shall live in this pumpkin cage until I die, for I know you would run from me. And when I die so shall you, and we will meet together in the afterlife where you will love me as you ought." Then he turned and took up his water, and slammed the door of his little house behind him.
Inci could not help crying again. Some time later he brought her dinner, which was more bread, and took her bowl for fresh water. Then it became dark and Inci stayed awoke most the night, jumping at the strange sounds around her. The wind rushed inside her bars and made her shiver. She wrapped the towel over her shoulders, thinking of her sweet mother and warm bed. She will come and save me, she thought, and fell asleep.
The next day the farmer brought out his creaky rocking chair and set it on the ground in front of Inci's bars, and simply watched her. He peered at her for hours and hours. Then it was dinner again.
Nobody came for Inci. They looked for days and days, but the damp little valley hidden in the dark side of the plains was not found and they gave up. Inci's mother was grief-striken and the whole town was quite upset. They went out looking one more time. But they did not find the farmer and his pumpkin bride.
Inci's dinner was soon vulture stew instead of bread. Every few days the farmer would come and simply stare at Inci. There was a flat tray for her to relieve herself in and in such conditions she soon became sickly and filthy. Her hair was never cut and it hung down to her knees in a draggled mess. They lived that way for years, and Inci became rather mad herself.
After many years had passed, a brave warrior on his horse came riding through. He was twenty and five years of age, with a deep tan and muscled body that shone. He had a bow across his uncovered back and his horse was a beautiful beige fellow with dark brown mane and tail. They were on a rush to deliver a message, but the warrior had foolishly neglected to purchase food at the town, thinking there would be another soon. It was several days' ride back, and so he looked about for some sort of stream that might attract animals he could hunt, and have grass for his steed. It was in this way they came across the cottage of the old man.
The descent to the valley was quickly made and the warrior dismounted to ask the man for directions or assistance. He tried to ignore the giant old pumpkin, the ugly house, the dim surroundings. Things were surely tough in the valley, he thought kindly.
The warrior began to knock on the door, but he noticed a quiet sound and turned to find the most horrific sight of his young life. A girl stood within the pumpkin, matted and filthy with sickly skin and wide, frightened eyes. The warrior could at first say nothing. His mouth moved in the air without sound. The girl seemed uncertain whether to speak.
Getting his head, the boy pulled a knife from his boot and rushed to the cage. "You poor girl! You poor, poor thing!" he cried, cutting away the door. "I'll save you. Don't worry! You'll be alright!" The bars fell away and an opening was made. "Come on out," he said gently. "It's safe now. I'll save you."
Like a wild animal, the girl made a decision and rushed out all at once, nearly running the boy over. She stood to the side of him, chest heaving.
"There now," he said. "It'll be o-"
An awful, explosive sound interrupted the boy's words. He clutched his chest and stared, then fell. By the door of the cottage stood the old man, grimacing with gun in hand. The girl shrieked like a furious little bird. Her voice sounded as if she had not used it in a very long time.
"You get back in," he ordered, scowling.
"No!" Inci howled, taking up the warrior's knife. She rushed at the old farmer and stabbed him directly in the heart. She stabbed again and again, shrieking curses like a wildcat. There was blood all around as she fell away.
Inci cut away her messed hair so that it was just to her ears. She went to the stream and washed all the filth of the years. And at last she came to the dead warrior's horse. It pawed the ground and looked at her understandingly.
She climbed onto its back. He accepted her bravely. They climbed out of the valley and rode away with great vigor, racing the night. Never were they seen again.