The White Deer– a Tuesday Tale

From More Easy to Tell Tales.

Years ago there was a young married couple who lived in Ireland. Though they often wished for a child, in the five years they’d been married none had been born to them. The husband’s parents lived with them, and the older couple had a sorrow of their own, for the wife had been blind for 15 years.

They were quite poor together, but managed to scrape by until the potato crop failed; then starvation came to their door.

The young man knew it was up to him to save his family. So, taking up his axe (it was the only weapon he possessed), he crept over the wall that surrounded the landlord’s estate, hoping to find some game.

Now, this landlord was one of the cruel ones. He’d made it known that anyone caught hunting on his lands would be hanged, as a poacher. The young man knew the risk he was taking but felt he had no choice.

After seeking the entire day and finding nothing, the young man finally managed to corner a beautiful white deer at sunset. As he raised his axe to strike the killing blow, the deer spoke.

“Spare me!” it said, “And I will grant you one wish.”

The young man paused and shook himself, certain starvation had attacked his senses. He raised his axe again, and again the deer spoke.

“Listen,” it said. “If you kill me, you’ll be hanged as a poacher, but if you spare me your wish could save your whole family.”

And when the man still hesitated, the deer added, “You don’t have to decide right away. Go home, sleep on it, and come back at dawn. I will still be here if you want to kill me.”

In a daze, the young man climbed back over the landlord’s wall and headed for home. The first person he met was his old dad, so he stopped and told his father the whole story.

Without hesitation his father said, “Wish for gold! Gold will solve all our problems.”

The young man couldn’t really disagree, but he wanted to hear what his mother had to say as well. He found her next, and shared his story.

Without hesitation his mother said, “Wish for my sight to be restored! Surely that is more precious than gold!”

Again, the young man couldn’t quite disagree, but he’d been married long enough to remember also to seek out his wife’s opinion and counsel.

When he had found her and she’d heard the story and his parents’ responses, she said at once, “Husband, you know I love your mother, and your father, too. But all these years we have prayed for a child. Surely that is the most important wish of all!”

So the young man didn’t sleep at all that night. He could think only of the wish. How should he use it? He only had the one.

Finally, with the first light of day, he crept back over the landlord’s wall and went to the place where he had caught the deer. It was there, waiting for him.

“Have you chosen your wish?” it asked him.

“Indeed, I have.”

“Then speak it, and I will give it to you.”

The young man took a deep breath, then said, carefully and slowly, “I wish for my mother to see my wife rocking our child in its golden cradle.”

And his one wish was granted, and the family lived in contentment for many years.

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