The Nymph and the Oak

Once upon a time there was a forest that was inhabited by nymphs. The nymphs took pleasure in hopping from tree to brook, from plant to fungus, from animal to insect, bringing inspiration and vitality to each and every thing. We could say that these nymphs were the soul of the forest, and their shape-swapping dance somehow seemed to play a part in its fragile balance.

Now, whilst most nymphs found joy in their hopping about, it would sometimes happen that a nymph would tire of his dance, preferring instead to to choose a suitable form in which to come to rest. It is with one such wearisome traveller that our story will concern itself ...

Our hero had for a long time played his part, hopping from one thing to another. He had come to notice, however, that he was never more comfortable then when within the sturdy frame of an old oak tree. And so it was that one day he decided to quit his jumping about, choosing the oak as his resting place, his "form of forms." He grew close to the tree, and began to understand its rustling and creaking, its slow and steady breath, its silence. As time passed the two grew ever closer, and our hero began to forget where the tree started and he ended. "I am a proud oak," he thought, "these branches are my branches, these roots my roots." He forgot what it was like to have been a nymph, to have hopped from one form to another. His tree seemed to him his natural form, and any thought of dancing and hopping had long since vanished from his mind.

There were many things that our hero liked about being a tree. His sturdy trunk was immune to the strongest of winds, and provided a stable resting place for the weary back of many a traveller. His thick canopy provided shelter from storms, and his strong branches a home to birds and insects. His bark was rough and durable, and his roots reached deep into the earth. Yes, it was a fine thing to be a tree, especially one as proud and powerful as he!

Yet, as time passed, the inhabitants of the forest began to notice a change in the old oak tree. Where once its branches had reached far into the sky, rustling and chattering along with the other trees, they were now cast downwards, and had become gnarled and rigid, indifferent to the breeze that flowed through them. Any birds that had once made their home here had long since disappeared. Not only that, the bark of the tree seemed rougher, full of jagged edges, and no travellers dared risk their backs against its trunk. Where once the oak had seemed at the centre of things, it now stood alone, the life and energy of the forest passing it by.

It so happened that one day a pre-occupied young nymph, reveling in the newly discovered joys of bird-form, alighted upon the twisted branches of our oak. No sooner had he landed than his thoughts were back with flying, and he readied himself to take off. As he spread his wings, he heard a strange noise coming from beneath him that stopped him in his tracks. He cocked his bird head and listened intently. Sure enough he heard the sound again - it seemed to be coming from the tree that he was perched on. Bringing his head even closer to the tree he began to make out the very faint sound of weeping. Someone was weeping within the tree!

He hurried off and quickly convened a group of his young nymph friends. "I think someone is trapped in that old oak tree! Its branches are so twisted and rigid that it cannot talk when there is a breeze, like the other trees! Its bark is too thick for hopping through, and its trunk is so sturdy and its roots so deep that we can't possibly move it! What is there to do?!"

Another of the group spoke up. "I've heard tales that there is a nymph within that tree, and he's been there for many an age."

"Perhaps he has been there so long that he has grown tired of being a tree," spoke another.

"Perhaps he is lonely," spoke a fourth, "And that is why he is weeping."

"We must do something," said the bird-nymph. "We can't leave him in there, sad and alone".

And so it was that our young nymphs formed a plan. The bird nymph flew off, collecting the seeds from as many trees as he could find. Upon finding one he would fly back and drop it near the lonely old oak. Another of the nymphs would hop into the seed, and within no time a shoot would break through the soil. After a while a fine collection of young trees had began to appear around the oak, their energetic rustling and chattering filling the air. Whenever a breeze came by, they would bend their flexible trunks, reaching their branches toward the oak and caressing its rough surface.

Other nymphs hopped into the brook, and when the sun shone down upon them they travelled up within the water droplets toward the clouds. In no time they were raining down upon the oak, drop after drop, soaking its leaves and branches, tracing the furrows of its trunk, and tickling its roots.

It was in this way that life was brought back to the oak. Having made his nest within its branches - not the most comfy of spots, but nest-worthy none-the-less - our bird nymph listened carefully day after day. To his relief he could no longer hear any weeping. Only silence.

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