Once upon on a time, deep in the forest lived a Bog. It was ancient, and vast, and treacherous, a trap for the unwary, and contained many secrets. It had even a kind of awareness, born perhaps of all it had consumed over the ages. In the spring it was made beautiful with flowers and bright green grasses which grew over and around its dark pools and peat-brown surface, and while these things enticed its victims, they also in their innocent loveliness awakened feelings in the heart of the Bog, strange and un-boglike yearnings for a world of life and beauty.
It so happened that one day a King's daughter traveled into the woods with her maidens, gathering flowers for the May Day celebrations that were shortly to come. Near to the edge of the Bog they wandered, all unknowing, and the Bog , perceiving them, chuckled to itself, and showed its choicest blooms, to try as so often before to tempt these living things into its embrace. And the Princess was enchanted at the loveliness and rarity of the flowers, but her Women, older and it may have been wiser, dissuaded her, saying, "No my Lady, it is not safe to gather such flowers, lovely as they are, for they only grow on the surface of a treacherous Bog, which will draw you down to your death." And thus the Princess was warned and dissuaded.
But, later in the day, wandering in the warm sunlight, the Princess became separated from her companions and found herself alone, with only the birds and wild flowers for company. And she was on the point of calling out, when of a sudden she saw a flower, more beautiful and more rare than all the others she had gathered, shining innocently in the sunlight, and she bethought herself of her Ladies' warnings concerning the Bog, but then , seeing that the ground about seemed firm and safe to walk upon, thought that she could safely pluck just this one. Thus she did so, and the ground underfoot was firm and sustained her. Then appeared another, somewhat further off, one even more rare and beautiful, and she must needs have it as well, and the ground upheld her and she did not sink into the Bog.
Thus on she went, deeper and deeper into the Forest, lured onward by the beauty and rarity of the flowers, till finally, grown hot and sleepy by her labors, she spied a little thatched hut on a low hill, that promised shade and soft grass to rest upon. And the sounds of the birds and insects round about combined to sing a soft seductive melody that spoke of rest, and the perfume of the flowers she had gathered was round about her like the bouquet of some soothing sweet wine, and she made her way to the little hut and laid herself down to rest; only for a moment, she told herself, as she drifted off into slumber.
Then the Bog deep under the ground laughed at this new game it had devised, and as the Princess slept it rose up around the little hill until the tiny thatched hut became as it were a castle ringed all about as by the most impassable moat with the green and brown vastness of the Bog.
When the Princess awoke and found herself surrounded on all sides by the Bog, with no firm footing remaining, she wept bitterly. "Why did I not heed my Ladies, and leave off searching for these perilous blooms? Now I am trapped here, and how shall I ever find my home again?
And the Bog, perceiving her loveliness that was greater by far than all the flowers that had ever grown upon it, ceased rising, and said to itself, why should I drown such beauty in the clinging muds and slime of my being? Would it not be better to keep this one here for my pleasure?
Thus the Princess became a captive. At first she feared lest thirst and hunger should speedily make an end of her; but nearby at the rear of the little hut was a spring that bubbled out of a little hollow of clean sand,so that she might wash and quench her thirst. And food there was, albeit not perhaps in the sumptuous style of the Castle, being but mushrooms and edible roots to be washed in the spring, yet it was nourishing after a fashion. No, by far the worst trial was the loneliness, for day followed day with no company but the song of birds and insects by day and the cries of night creatures after dark. Yet as she slept, the Princess gradually became aware of sounds, as if they were words, soft and insinuating , that spoke in gurgles and liquid sounds from deep under the ground, and this was the voice of the Bog. And it spoke of the love it had for her, that she was fairer than all the flowers of spring, and brighter than the sunlight dancing on the water, and she must stay forever , and never leave, and save only for that , any wish of hers would be granted.
The Princess feared the voice greatly, knowing well the power of the Bog to overwhelm her in an instant if she rebelled, but gradually as the days passed she took courage, and determined to test the mind of her captor.
So one day she innocently said, "It is wondrous fair in your realm , yet I miss the gold and jewels that were mine in my home that never shall I see again."
On the instant there came a great belch from deep within the Bog, and a chest all covered with mud and slime was cast upon the grass in front of the Princess. She started back in fear, but the voice of the Bog spoke to her, saying, "Open. It is Yours." Then she did so, and found yet more mud clinging to the contents which stank mightily. Yet the voice spoke again, saying, "Wash in the spring, and see." So the Princess took one of the objects in the chest, a circular thing dripping with slime, and did so and behold! It was a mirror of diamond and gold which shone like the sun. And with the other things in the chest she did likewise, and the sun sparkled upon a greater treasure than in all the vaults of her Castle , objects of gold, and silver, set with precious stones, and rich jewels that might have graced an Empress without shame.
Then the Princess feigned delight, and hung the humble thatched cottage within and without with rich jewels and precious things, so that it was transformed into a glittering fairy castle amid the sombre browns and greens of the Bog. And the Bog was pleased, for it thought its captive well content.
Then after a time the Princess said again , "It is wondrous fair in your realm, and your gifts are truly beautiful, yet I have been many days away from my own people. If I promise to return here, may I not visit my dear Father and Mother for just three days?"
Now there came a rumble deep in the ground, and the voice of the Bog was like thunder. "Ungrateful wretch, am I such a fool as to believe that? Here you are and here you stay, until I tire of you, and then..." and up from the clinging depths came the bodies of the Dead , horses, men and beasts, all black with the slime and weed, up from the depths of the Bog they came, and sightlessly stared at her with a dreadful look of warning and then sank back with an unwholesome belch into the mire. And the Princess covered her face and she wept in despair.
After a time as she wept she became aware that the Bog was speaking again, more softly, and it was saying, "Do not weep for your Mother, do not weep for your Father, or for all your own people. In time you will come to love only me, as I love you...in time..."
Then the Princess was enraged, and forgetting her stratagem she leaped to her feet and cried, "Never in a thousand years could I love you, for you are cruel and a murderer, foul creature that you are! Drown me if you will , for I say that I could only ever love one of my own kind, and not some stinking Bog!"
Then all was silence, save for the hushed song of the birds and insects, and the Princess feared for what she had said, but the Bog spoke not. Night came, and still there was no voice save the sounds of wind and water. Morning came, and the rising sun smote the forest round about with the pure gold of heaven, that was mirrored in dazzling reflections from the rich treasure hung on the walls of the humble thatched hut.
Suddenly a voice did come, and lo, it was but a human voice calling from over by a stand of trees, and it said, "Fair Maiden, will you not answer me?"
And the Princess emerged from her bed of grasses in the hut and beheld a young man comely in appearance, dressed in the brown and green of a Forester, who yet hailed her from the trees at the edge of the Bog. "I spied the gleam of precious things from afar and have come to discover what might be the cause," he said gaily , "and behold! Now I see that which outshines the Sun, let alone mere golden treasure. Who art thou, Maiden, and how do you come to be here?"
So the Princess related all that had happened,and then she said, "But approach no nearer, fair youth, for the Bog is treacherous and jealous, and you shall surely be swallowed up as were the others."
But the youth laughed gaily and said, " I do not fear. For love of you will I dare it, and perhaps the Bog will bear me." And before the Princess could protest, he walked over the surface of the Bog as it were dry land to stand smiling before her, and behold! She looked down on the instant and found the surface of the Bog was grown dry and cracked and lifeless, and the voice from under the ground was stilled forever.
And she looked more closely at the fair young man, and his dress was the green and brown of a Forester in truth, but also those same colors of coarse reeds and clinging mud that were the hues of the Bog. And his eyes were the bright green of moss that grows on sunken tree boles in the heart of the Bog, and his gay laugh had something in it , deep in his throat as it came, of a certain voice from under the ground. So then the Princess knew, but made no sign, only wondering in her heart at the sacrifices that may be made in the name of Love. And so the two departed from that place,and the Princess returned with the fair young man to her own people, and in time they were married...but that is another tale.