One of the benefits I appreciate most about the internet is the way it has helped me track down a number of half-remembered songs, old movies and commercials, magazine articles, and snippets of poetry I'd long since given up on finding.
Today was one of those red-letter days as I found the original text to a haunting little story I've loved since I was a young girl of about eight or nine years old, but could not remember clearly.
We used to have an old textbook that I would pull off the shelf and leaf through from time to time. The language was antiquated and the plain black and white illustrations very old fashioned; it was sprinkled with moral tales and maxims designed to build good character in impressionable young people. I didn't find much of it very appealing, but there were a few tales in it I remember being drawn to: one was a story of a poor woman entitled "A Friend in Need", and there was one very beautiful tale which has stuck with me ever since and which I always find myself recalling as summer wanes and autumn begins. I remembered its title as "Goldenrod and Purple Asters", and this afternoon I decided to see if I could track it down.
It turns out the story is on the internet, in both the original text and a simpler revised version, and I had the pleasure of rereading this old tale today and finding out a bit more of its background.
Originally it was published as one of the stories in a book entitled Nature Myths and Stories for Little Children by Flora J. Cooke in 1895. The textbook I remember probably belonged to either my paternal grandmother or grandfather, and had been passed along to my dad. "Goldenrod and Aster" was an excerpt from Ms. Cooke's book.
I share the story here for your enjoyment.
Golden-Rod and Aster
Golden Hair and Blue Eyes lived at the foot of a great hill. On the top of this hill in a little hut lived a strange, wise woman.
It was said that she could change people into anything she wished. She looked so grim and severe that people were afraid to go near her.
One summer day the two little girls at the foot of the hill thought they would like to do something to make everybody happy.
"I know," said Golden Hair, "Let us go and ask the woman on the hill about it. She is very wise and can surely tell us just what to do."
"Oh, yes," said Blue Eyes, and away they started at once.
It was a warm day and a long walk to the top of the hill. The little girls stopped many times to rest under the oak trees which shaded their pathway.
They could find no flowers, but they made a basket of oak leaves and filled it with berries for the wise woman. They fed the fish in the brook and talked to the squirrels and the birds.
They walked on and on in the rocky path. After awhile the sun went down. The birds stopped singing. The squirrels went to bed. The trees fell asleep. Even the wind was resting.
Oh, how still and cool it was on the hillside! The moon and stars came out. The frogs and toads awoke. The night music began. The beetles and fireflies flew away to a party. But the tired little children climbed on towards the hilltop.
At last they reached it. There at the gate was the strange, old woman, looking even more stern than usual.
The little girls were frightened. They clung close together while brave Golden Hair said, "We know you are wise and we came to see if you would tell us how to make everyone happy."
"Please let us stay together," said timid Blue Eyes.
As she opened the gate for the children, the wise woman was seen to smile in the moonlight.
The two little girls were never seen again at the foot of the hill. The next morning all over the hillside people saw beautiful, waving golden-rod and purple asters growing.
It has been said that these two bright flowers, which grow side by side, could tell the secret, if they would, of what became of the two little girls on that moon light summer night.
A simpler version of the story is online here: