Once upon a time there was a wolf. He lived deep in the forest. His favorite time in the forest was when all the flowers were in full bloom. The forest floor never looked so lovely nor smelled so wonderful. Over time, people came to pass through the forest, creating paths. The visitors never stayed within the forest. They followed the paths until they were out again. This didn’t bother the wolf. The travelers never stayed in the forest and they all got to see the flowers. One of the paths went straight through the middle of the biggest patch of flowers. He always thought the people who traveled this path the luckiest.
The flower path started at a small town outside of the forest. The path ended within the forest where an old woman had settled in a small house and lived alone. She was the only human who stayed in the forest. She seldom left the area around her house and took visitors even less. The path remained imprinted into the forest floor, though it rarely saw any travellers. The old woman kept to herself. She tended her garden, eating the plants she grew. She left the animals alone, save for the fence she built to protect her vegetables. She did not cut down any trees surrounding her garden after her house was built.The old woman lived peacefully in the woods and the animals living there left her alone too, including the wolf.
The old woman lived in the forest for many years, making an occasional trip into town to fill her cart with supplies. She too admired the flowers as she passed through them each time she travelled. She watched the birds and rabbits and deer and was not bothered one bit by the many animals that surrounded her. The animals, likewise, were not bothered by her. Sometimes they ventured over to the woman’s home to watched her do her chores and tend to her garden. The animals left her vegetables alone, even the ones who were able to make it past the fencing. They were wary of the other travellers that passed through the forest, but the old woman did not trouble them at all.
One day, the wolf was travelling through a familiar part of the forest. As he stepped through some long grass his foot landed on something cold and hard. The thing shut up tight on his leg and, as hard as he tried, he could not get the thing to release him. The object held on to the wolf’s leg as well as the earth, keeping the wolf painfully held in place. He yelped and cried and tugged until he finally gave up and lay down on the ground. The thing hurt his leg too much to stand and fight it. There was no way out. When the wolf had just about given up hope, the old woman appeared. She was carrying a basket filled with flowers.
The wolf watched as the woman approached him. She moved slowly and carefully. Though they had lived among one another for years, they had always kept their distance. She placed her basket on the ground beside him and examined his trapped leg.
“Oh, you poor thing,” she said gently. “I wish those hunters wouldn’t lay such awful things in the forest. They never catch what they’re meant to.”
She looked him in the eyes, her expression almost as hurt as his. The wolf could see how much she cared for the forest and all the creatures living in it.
“This is probably going to hurt a great deal, but you’ll feel much better after getting out of this thing.”
The old woman put on a determined face and grabbed the device with both hands, then pulled the trap apart with all her might. The wolf quickly pulled his leg out of the trap. His leg was bleeding and throbbing terribly, but he was free. The trap snapped shut again as the woman released it. The sound startled the wolf and the woman jumped a bit, too. She was unharmed. The wolf was relieved.
The wolf stared at the woman as she looked from the disabled trap to him and his wound. Without a thought she untied the scarf that held her hair away from her face. She slowed her movements again as she approached the wolf, easing him with her words.
“It’s alright now. I’m just going to wrap that up until the bleeding stops. Then you’ll just have to keep it clean on your own after that.”
The wolf stayed frozen in place as he watched the woman wrap her scarf carefully around his leg. She gently covered the wound and backed away when she was finished. The wolf looked down at her work. He looked back up at her. A smile grew across her face as she placed her hands in her lap. The wolf could think of no way he could properly thank her. She had surely saved his life. He would have been trapped there until the hunters came back. The wolf picked up the basket of flowers and placed it in front of the woman. He gave it a slight nudge before limping away into the forest, leaving the woman and her flowers behind.
The wolf stayed hidden until the following day. He lay in his den and paced around carefully in the forest nearby, testing his injured leg. Finally, as the sun began its descent into the trees, the wolf returned to his den and pulled the scarf off of his leg. He had a rough, red mark around his leg that hurt terribly, but the bleeding had stopped. He cleaned it and left to find food, then cleaned it again as soon as he was finished eating. He kept the wound clean until it fully healed and kept the woman’s scarf in his den.
After some time, the wolf’s leg was without a wound and fur had mostly filled in the area around it. When his leg was healed, he followed the path to the old woman’s house. She was working in her garden when he arrived. She moved slower than he remembered. She took more breaks than she used to. The wolf felt that something was wrong. He wanted to help the woman return to the way she used to be, but he wasn’t sure how.
He returned every day, watching the old woman from a distance. He watched her plant seeds and pull the weeds out of her garden. He watched her water her plants and pick vegetables from them. He watched her wash her clothes in the stream and hang them up to dry. He sat outside and smelled the food she cooked in the evening. He waited for some way to repay her for her kindness that saved his life.
Eventually, the old woman stopped coming out of her house. She stopped tending to her garden and bringing in firewood. Days went by where she did not go outside. The wolf grew worried and moved closer to the house to investigate. He stood on his hind legs to peer into her window. Inside, he saw the old woman lying still in her bed, the covers pulled up to her chin. The color had gone from her face. The wolf nudged her front door open and carefully walked through the house and approached the woman.
The wolf sat beside the woman’s bed. She opened her eyes slowly and noticed him. When she finally recognized him, she pulled an arm out from under the covers and draped it around his neck. As they sat there together, she fell back into a peaceful slumber. The wolf knew he would not have a chance to properly pay her back after this. He worked up the courage to use his voice in front of the old woman.
“Thank you,” he said softly.
The woman’s arm slid down his back as her body settled further into the bed and her breathing stopped. The wolf bowed his head for a moment, giving respect to the old woman. He pushed her arm back under the covers before he went into the yard and began to dig. He dug and dug and dug until he had made a hole large enough to fit the old woman in. As he was digging, some of the other animals in the forest came out to watch. They realized what he was doing and went into the house with him to retrieve the old woman. Together, they brought her out into the garden and placed her in the ground. They filled the hole back up with dirt. The wolf went down the path and pulled flowers from the ground and put them where the old woman was buried.
As the wolf traveled back to his den, he saw a young girl travelling alone on the path. The girl wore a red cloak and carried a woven basket. She sang as she walked about how she would get to her grandmother’s house. The wolf knew the old woman had a family outside of the forest and worried that this girl was her family, on her way to visit. He worried that this girl would arrive at the old woman’s house to find that she was no longer there. He was never able to repay the old woman for saving him, so he would save this girl from the heartbreak of learning her grandmother had passed away before she could visit. He went to the path in front of her.
The little girl stopped suddenly when she saw the wolf, her eyes wide with fear.
“Hello, little girl,” the wolf said charmingly, trying not to frighten her.
“H-hello,” the girl replied.
“Where are you going?” the wolf asked.
“My mother sent me to bring this basket of food to my grandmother,” the girl explained.
“Your grandmother lives in the forest?”
“Yes. She has a cottage,” the girl said.
“I know her.”
“She is a very kind woman. She loves the flowers that grow up ahead.”
“I’m sure your grandmother would love it if you brought her some of those flowers.”
“That seems like a nice idea, but I’m not supposed to leave the path.”
“You won’t have to. This path goes through the middle of a flower field. You could pick plenty without ever stepping off of this path.”
“Well in that case I think I will.”
“I should be going. Safe travels.”
The wolf returned to the woods as the girl continued her way merrily down the path. The wolf sped ahead to the woman’s home while the girl stopped to pick flowers. He did not want to disappoint the girl, so he went into the house and put on a nightgown he found in the closet. He put on a cap to cover his head and as much of his face as he could. He climbed into the bed and waited for the girl to arrive. He would let the girl believe her grandmother to still be alive. She should find out the truth from her mother, surrounded by the rest of her family.
After some time a knock came upon the door.
“Who is it?” the wolf called in his most grandmotherly voice.
“It’s me, grandmother. I’ve brought you some food. And flowers.”
“Come in, dear. The door is open.”
The door opened and the girl entered the house. She had her basket in one hand and a large bouquet of flowers in the other. She had picked so many flowers that she could barely hold them all.
“What lovely flowers,” the wolf said.
“Yes, I picked them on the way here for you. We don’t have any quite so nice in town.”
“I like them very much.”
“I’ve also brought you some food. Mother packed a whole basket for you.”
“How sweet of her. Set it down in the kitchen, dear.”
The girl placed the basket on a table in the kitchen and carefully put the flowers in a vase. After she set the vase on the table, she made her way over to the bed where the wolf lay. The girl slowed as she approached, as if she could tell something was off.
“Grandmother,” the girl said hesitantly, “what large eyes you have.”
“Yes,” the wolf said nervously, “the better to see you with my dear.”
“Grandmother,” the girl inched closer, “what large ears you have.”
“All the better to hear you with my dear.”
“Grandmother,” the girl stopped. “What large teeth you have.”
“All the better to eat the vegetables I grow in the garden,” the wolf said.
Recognition struck the girl as her eyes grew wide. Panic set in for both of them. The girl had figured out he was not her grandmother at all. The wolf did not know what to say to the girl to calm her. Before he could figure something out, the girl screamed and ran from the house. The wolf jumped from the bed, but decided that chasing after her would only make matters worse. He stayed in the house, hoping she would come back when she had calmed down so he could explain about her grandmother.
As the wolf looked out the window at the spot where the old woman was buried, the door slammed open behind him. A hunter stood in the doorway. The wolf panicked as he saw the look in the hunter’s eyes. The wolf turned and ran to the back of the house as the hunter stormed into the room. The wolf opened the back door to the garden and ran, leaping over the fence and running through the forest.
The wolf ran and ran as fast as he could through the forest. The little girl must have been warned against wolves as many people were. She must have gone to fetch the hunter when she realized he was not her grandmother. She must have thought he was the reason she was gone. The wolf was only trying to help the girl. He wanted to protect her from the truth. At least until she could return home to the rest of her family.
The wolf knew of some pigs who lived not far into the forest from the old woman’s house. He ran as quickly as his legs would carry him toward their houses, hoping that the hunter would not catch up to him. Finally, he reached the first house, a small hut made of straw.
“Little pig, little pig, please let me come in,” the wolf cried desperately. He needed shelter until the hunter gave up the chase and returned home.
“Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin,” the little pig replied.
Dark clouds had rolled in overhead as the wolf ran through the forest. With the clouds came strong winds. The winds blew as the wolf stood nervously outside. The wind blew so strong that they took the straw from the walls of the pig’s home with them. The house fell apart as the wind blew and the pig inside ran away down the path.
The wolf ran down the path after him. The next house was up ahead. Perhaps he could seek shelter from the hunter there. He ran down the path and he saw the first pig enter the second house as he ran toward it.
“Little pigs, little pigs,” the wolf called from outside, the wind still blowing, “please let me come in.”
“Not by the hair of our chinny chin chins,” the two pigs called back to him from the house made of sticks.
The wind was pulling the door to the house open and the two pigs pulled it shut. They pulled as hard as they could and the wind pulled back even harder. As the wind died down, the pigs were still pulling the open door. When the wind stopped blowing, the door slammed shut from the pigs pulling on it and the house collapsed around them.
The wolf stood there and stared at the remains of the house. The two pigs stood in the middle of a pile of sticks. The pigs ran off down the path away from the wolf. The wolf, still desperate for shelter from the hunter, ran after them. There was another pig who lived further down the path. Perhaps he would help.
The wolf approached the third house quickly, just in time to see the door close as the first two pigs went inside. He stopped outside.
“Little pigs, little pigs,” the wolf cried, now more desperate than ever. “Please let me come in.”
“Not by the hair of our chinny chin chins,” the three pigs called back to him.
The wolf had nowhere left to run. The hunter was running through the forest behind him. The pigs were locked away safely in the third house, made solidly of bricks. The wind blew around all of them, but the house stood and the pigs would not let the wolf in. The wolf thought of the old woman’s scarf in his den. He wished to be there, safe with it now. He ran off the path and into the woods. He ran as fast as he could toward his den. He wanted to get back there and hold the scarf, hoping the old woman would keep him safe once more.
The wolf ran through the woods, ducking around low hanging tree limbs and dodging around shrubs and rocks. He leapt over cracks in the ground and roots that had lifted up from the earth. He slipped on some moss and rolled down a hill. He wasted no time getting back on his feet and did not look back to see how close the hunter was. He could hear the snapping of twigs behind him. The hunter was still on his trail. The wolf was afraid he wouldn’t be fast enough. Up ahead, the wolf finally saw the entrance to his den. He sprinted towards it as fast as he could.
A loud noise pierced the air and the wolf jumped and when he landed again he could barely hold himself up. His side hurt more than his leg had when it was caught in the trap. He felt something warm spreading over his body, yet he felt colder than he knew he should have in the warm air after running so much. He kept pulling himself forward, sinking lower to the ground as he went. He crawled slowly, dragging his aching body across the ground, inching closer to his den. At the entrance, he collapsed. He couldn’t move forward any more. His head fell in the entrance and, inside the den, he could see the old woman’s scarf lying on the ground. He stared at it until his eyes were too heavy to keep open. As his eyes closed, he knew he would finally be able to see the old woman again and thank her properly.