by Jonathan Lewis Duckworth
It began with sparrows, finches, and swallows. Little dead birds Magritte would find littering her lawn. It didn’t trouble her at first, for songbirds died all the time. But then in successive weeks she’d wake to find entire flocks of birds littered on her property, under the shady sycamores and in her rose garden, their flight feathers plucked and their delicate necks broken. These birds had menaced her garden in the past, but still she’d cry to see them killed, so pretty they were. She didn’t know what to make of it all, whether it was the work of cats or a man with a disturbed mind and brutish hands. Four years after her husband died at the Battle of the Somme, Magritte may have felt like an old woman, but with her golden hair and bright green eyes, she was still young and pretty enough to attract that sort of attention.
She was on the verge of contacting the local police when early one morning she found a huge magpie left outside her bedroom window. There was a patch of semi-firm mud there, where she’d emptied her chamber pot the night before. Crisscrossing the muddy patch were prints—humanlike footprints no bigger than postage stamps. Seeing the prints, Magritte recalled her grandmother’s stories of the lutins, the little people of the forest. They were mischievous imps who played tricks on people, and especially loved tying women’s hair into knots as they slept. Even as a child she’d never believed the stories, despite the gravity with which Grandmother described them.
“Never chase a lutin into the forest,” Grandmother, a crooked old woman with a frightening mole on her elbow, had said. “No matter how peeved he makes you.” (Continue Reading…)