Part 5

Blodeuwedd the Owl

As the little otter made her way to the furthest sculpture, she could feel panic rising in her chest. Because her journey around the park had taken her so long that now, there was a pink line of morning light rising in the east. Dawn was nearly upon her. She knew she only had a few minutes left! Was it her imagination, or were her paws starting to feel heavier? Were her whiskers feeling stiff? Was she already turning to stone?

There before her, as before you, was a great tree trunk all gnarled and rotten, but it didn’t look like anything much to the otter. What was it? How was a tree supposed to help her?

Like the otter-girl, why don’t you walk around the tree? See what creatures start to appear from the wood. Can you see it? There at the top of the tree – the wings of an owl.

As the otter looked closer, the wings of the owl began to move. Began to flap. Then suddenly it was no longer an owl made of wood but a barn owl, pure white, with a big round face, who took off from the tree and swooped around her once, twice, three times before coming to land before her on the ground.

“So,” the owl said, “you have until the dawn.”

“Yes,” the little otter said in desperation. “But I don’t know how to break the spell. And dawn is nearly here and soon I will be a stone otter forever. Please, can you help me? The other creatures sent me here. They said you were the oldest and wisest of them all, and you would know what to do.”

The owl took off once more and flapped into the sky. The otter-girl watched her go, her heart sinking. It didn’t seem like the owl was willing to help her at all. Was it her imagination, or was the sky turning pale blue in the east? Dawn was nearly here. She was going to be a stone otter forever.

She watched as the owl landed not far away in the centre of lawn. And then something incredible happened. The owl was no longer an owl but a woman, nearly as tall as the trees all about. The woman wore a dress as green as the grass and a soft scent of flowers clung to her. She seemed to be made of flowers.

The strangest thing about her was that she seemed familiar. The little otter stared and stared at her. What was it about her that she recognised? She whiffled her otter nose again. And there it was – the scent of flowers.

The otter-girl felt fear in her heart and she backed away suddenly.

“You!” she said. “It was you who cast the spell on me! You’re the witch!”

“Sometimes,” said the woman made from flowers. “Sometimes I’m a witch. Sometimes I’m an owl. Sometimes I’m just a woman.”

The little otter felt tears trickling down her whiskers and splashing onto her paws. It was too late. She had tried her hardest, but the witch’s spell would remain unbroken and she was to be a stone otter forever.

The woman made from flowers walked closer. Gently, she touched the little otter on her head.

“As night falls I am a witch,” she said, “but as day breaks I become the woman I once was. And I am kind again. Don’t worry, child. You did well tonight. You were clever. You followed your nose. You shall not be an otter on the wall. The wall can wait for another to wander into the park at night.”

The otter-girl sniffed and felt her heart rising.

“There is one more thing left for you to do,” said the woman. “Go to the sculpture of the upturned hands and sit beneath the arch of leaves. Speak these words after me three times and the spell will be broken and you will be a girl once again.”

does dim pwer gyda ti, does dim pwer gyda ti, does dim pwer gyda ti

“And leave me a little gift before you go – something for the park to remember you by.”

Walk with the little otter-girl now to the arch of leaves. This is her final moment as an otter before she becomes a human girl once more. She enjoys the feel of the morning dew under her otter paws. Very soon, she’ll be human again.

Far off, across the lawn, a giant is slowly lying down to sleep through the day, the grass curling over his head to hide him as he dreams. A wild boar snuffles his way to bed, an eagle rider returns to his frozen place in the centre of the lawn. But you know the secrets of the park now. You know these creatures for who they truly are. And you also know, if ever you find yourself in the park at night, how to break the witch’s spell.

Bute park trail: part 5