There is a story I once heard, about a woman who could weave gold and silver cloth without materials or tools. She was the plain second daughter of a shopkeeper, so she needed such skill more than most. Her talent was discovered the morning of her twentieth birthday, when the family awoke to find silver curtains, woven with golden sunflowers, hung at the window of the girl’s room. After this, tablecloths and cushion covers and gowns would appear every few weeks. The girl soon had the most wonderfully furnished room in the town, and the most beautiful outfits to match.

Her parents were, naturally, pleased, and hoped she might make a good marriage. She did not. Instead, her heart fell like a lump of coal at the feet of a young painter, rather ambitious, rather grand and more than rather talented. He was intrigued by her gift, and married her. She was ecstatic at his condescension. He proved an unenthusiastic lover, exploring her body only briefly by moonlight, barely aroused by her naked adoration. In the mornings, though, he would wake to startling coverlets of interweaving threads which revealed glimmering shapes of forest and flowers, and he would kiss his wife.

In those first few weeks of her marriage, she produced more gold and silver than ever before, and the patterns of the cloth she wove became ever more subtly beautiful, making her worshiped husband proud. The girls in the town joked that her husband must be very affectionate, and very energetic: she seemed always exhausted. In addition, her skin would glow rosy at every word of his praise, and she had lost weight rapidly with, it was supposed, the greedy fires of love.

But before they had been married a month, he was invited to the wedding of a girl who he had once loved, who was marrying a wealthy man, several towns away. He looked at his wife, then, and saw that she was slow and not witty, clumsy and not graceful, plain and not beautiful. He told her that he hoped, if she wished accompany him to the wedding, that she would have an outfit that would make her fit to be seen. She nodded and smiled as they undressed that night, and he kissed her cheek before he rolled over to sleep.

When he woke, there hung above him an almost-finished dress, which seemed to have been made of the wings of angels and of dragonflies. His wife was nowhere to be seen, although all her clothes remained.

  Site by Sian Hogan. Last updated on 1st June by Sian.