The Tale of the Good-Hearted Witch by Robyn Neilsen

There once was a witch who lived deep in the forest of a faraway kingdom, helping the heartbroken find peace. She was good at magic that mended the soul, for she, herself, understood the inside of a lonely heart. The woodland creatures she called her companions were fine company as were the villagers who sought comfort in her spells. But her days were filled with solitude during which she would dream of her one true wish—a daughter with whom she could share in the joys of life.

For months, she left baby’s breath on her windowsill infused with her hopes and dreams. Each night the pile grew bigger and bigger, until the morning after the harvest moon, the witch awoke to find her offering was gone.

Overnight, the wind had taken the baby’s breath, filled with her longings, across the sea. Longings that travel across the sea are the most powerful, for they have become one with the wind. But the wind is fickle and possesses the strength to give or take away. Having seen the good deeds of the witch to the villagers, the wind was happy to grant her heart’s desire.

The baby’s breath returned to the witch on the back of the wind, forming roots in the soil of her garden. She made a tea of its buds mixed with sage and peppermint. A cloud of white smoke billowed from the cauldron and escaped through the window, out into the night sky where it formed a path amongst the stars.

The witch poured the liquid into a teacup and drank, listening to the wind as it whispered, “Be well. For good hearts reap good harvests.”

The next morning, as the witch worked in her garden, a young girl covered in baby’s breath stumbled up the path that led to her yard. The girl walked like a newborn fawn, and her eyes revealed a curiosity of one to whom the world was new.

The witch abandoned her basket and rushed to help the young girl, putting her arm around the girl’s shoulders, and ushering her into the house. She laid the girl in bed, tucking her beneath a soft blanket, under which she fell asleep.

The girl awoke at suppertime, and the witch, happy to have company, fixed her a plate.

“Where have you come from?” the witch asked, but the young girl remained silent.

“Do you have a family?”

Again, the girl did not reply.

“Do you need a place to stay?”

At this the girl nodded.

“Then the matter is settled. You will live here with me,” the witch said.

Over their years together, the young girl blossomed into a beautiful woman. She was witty and charming, and the witch delighted in her company. The girl even showed talent in the art of magic. The witch spent every day teaching her all that she knew, until finally she had become more powerful than her teacher. The witch held great pride in knowing her legacy would live on in her daughter. For in the eyes of the witch, that’s who the girl had always been from the day she arrived.

Word of the girl’s abilities spread through the kingdom, and soon, the king himself rode through the forest in search of the magic maiden. The witch welcomed the king into her home, and when he asked for the girl’s hand in marriage, the witch gave her blessing, although it broke her heart to do so. Upon their farewell, the girl promised she would visit often. However, once she arrived at the castle, the king forbade her to ever see the witch or practice magic again.

Day after day, the witch waited for the girl to appear, but she never came. With the witch’s grief arose a light rain that showered the kingdom. And over many months, as the witch’s sorrow grew, the rain turned into storms that destroyed the city.

The distressed king searched for answers but found none. Only the girl knew the cause of the destruction, for her heart was made from magic.

She begged the king to let her visit the witch, but he would not grant her request. She could only watch as the rain devastated the kingdom. The girl would sit by the open window in her bedroom every day, letting the raindrops spill upon her hands, feeling the utter sadness in the witch’s heart.

Distraught, the girl devised a plan to escape. In the cloak of midnight, she quietly left the castle and entered the rain-soaked forest, running as fast as she could to the witch’s cottage. Guards pursued her on horseback along her journey. But she whispered a spell that rendered her invisible to the naked eye, throwing the guards off course.

Upon arriving at the witch’s door, the girl knocked but received no answer. She let herself in and found the witch lying in bed, near death.

The girl ran to the witch’s side and laid her head in her lap. “What have I done by leaving you? Without you, I am only half a heart,” the girl said as her teardrop fell onto the witch’s hand.

The teardrop shone luminously as it soaked into the witch’s skin. She took a breath and opened her eyes slowly, smiling as she touched the girl’s cheek. “Good hearts reap good harvests,” she said.

The witch and the girl embraced, reconnecting their hearts to form one whole. And the clouds parted to reveal blue sky and radiant sunshine.

The girl never returned to the castle, as her home was with the witch. For one can never deny the true nature of joy as it lives in one’s heart. And the witch delighted in the return of her daughter—her one true love. The witch and the girl practiced magic together deep in the forest of the faraway kingdom. And when the witch passed, she left all she had to the girl, who lived happily ever after, helping the heartbroken find peace.


Robyn Neilsen lives in New Jersey. She is a staff writer for an educational enrichment company, where she publishes classroom resources for students and parents. Her flash fiction, "The Midnight Diamond" and "The Witch's Lair", placed in the top fifteen stories for the 2021 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Competition, and her non-fiction essays can be found on Thought Catalog, Vocal, and Mogul.

Author's note

My love affair with fairy tales and mythology is lifelong, and the fairy tale voice is one I come back to again and again. I wanted to write a story that examined what it means to follow one's heart and live an authentic life, and I kept coming back to this idea that it is impossible to ignore the truth of who we really are. But if we do ignore the call, that's when problems arise. The fairy tale format lent itself well to this subject as lessons or morals are at the core of traditional fairy tales and fables.