Once there was a couple who lived in a cottage in the woods. For years they had longed for a baby. They had tried herbal remedies from the witch down the road. They had tried magic talismans from the travelling merchant. They had tried praying to all the Gods they knew. But they were never successful, and every night the woman cried and cried and cried.
But the woman had hear stories from her mother of the elven court in the woods behind their cottage. They were supposed to have strange and beautiful magic, and if asked, they would grant any wishes. But all wishes come with a price.
To find the elven, you must go to the oldest oak tree in the woods, and knock three times, for three days, and you will be transported into the elven realm.
So one night, while her husband was sleeping, the woman left the house alone. She strode through the dark woods, and arrived at the largest oak tree in the wood. She knocked three times on the trunk and returned home.
She repeated this the next night, and the night after that. On the third night, a door appeared in the bark of the tree.
She stepped through the door and entered the Elven Kingdom. The elves were tall and beautiful creatures, as thin as willow trees and had hollow backs.
The Elven Queen listened to the woman’s plea.
“I will help you have a child,” the Queen said. “But you must be willing to pay the price.”
“Anything,” the woman agreed.
“I ask for nothing in return for this task,” the Queen surprised the woman by saying. “Instead, you must suffer the consequences of your decision all on your own.”
The woman, pleased to have no sacrifice in return for her wish, agreed to the terms. She made her way home, and settled into a content sleep next to her husband.
The next day, she awoke, hoping to find herself magically with child. Instead, she found a beautiful baby girl in a crib lying next to the bed. Even under the unusual circumstances, the couple were overjoyed with the sudden arrival of their promised baby.
On the first day, they barely left the baby’s side, as if she might disappear into thin air if they glance away.
But on the second day, they heard of a witch in the next village who had gone mad. She had recently given birth herself, but now she swore that the baby in her crib was not hers, but an imposter. The couple took pity on the witch, but their happiness was not dampened by the other mother’s sorrow.
On the third day, they heard that the witch had tested the baby to see if it was a changeling. Elves were often stealing human babies and replacing them with their own. But the elf babies could be distinguished from human by their severe allergy to iron. And so, the witch had dripped blood onto the imposer baby’s forehead, and watched to see if the iron in human blood burned it. Alas, it was a changeling, and had died. The witch had disappeared into the woods in search of her real baby.
And it was that evening that the witch appeared at the couples’ house. The husband, that morning, had finally been persuaded to leave the baby to go to work, so the house was empty bar the woman and her baby.
The witch forced her way into the house, and demanded the baby back, once, twice, three times, before striking the woman dead. The witch was reunited with her beloved baby girl, and disappeared into the woods.
The husband came home after a long day of work to find his wife dead and his baby missing. It seemed that he was the one who suffered from the woman’s folly of ever trusting an elf.