The Enchanted Saddle
Once upon a time there was a witch. She had a pretty good witchy life, witchy food on the table, witchy friends and she got up to her witchy business without much interference from busybodies. One day, however, a young man rode by on his horse. He was dressed in fine fabrics and trinkets hung from him like ornaments on a tree. As he passed the witch’s hunt, he spotted her tending to her hedges and he shouted at her. I won’t repeat what he shouted because it was rude and does not bear repeating. But needless to say, the witch did not take kindly to be shouted at. She did not take kindly to rude people with too much authority and too much entitlement.
But she did not shout back at him, no, no. She quickly spoke a charm that halted the horse right where it stood. She giggled as she watched the man try to goad his horse into moving, to no avail, and then she slowly walked into her house. By the time she emerged, the man had dismounted and was looking anxiously around his horse for some small clue as to what prevented them from proceeding. The witch made her slow way toward him and chortled as she went – inwardly, of course, she knew how threatening such men found a laughing woman. She was a witch, she knew how to be careful. As she approached, the man looked up and saw her.
“Damned horse,” he said. “Won’t go for no reason at all.”
“I think it’s the saddle,” said the witch.
“Yes,” said the witch. “I took the liberty of bringing you an extra one that I happened to have lying around, taking up space. I wonder if you’d like to have it.”
“I don’t have any small change,” said the man.
“Oh no,” said the witch. “You misunderstand. It’s a present. I will give you this saddle on only one condition.”
“What condition is that?” asked the man, suspiciously.
“That you shout no more at the women that you see. Young or old. Fair or foul. If you take this saddle from me, you agree to such a bargain.”
“Fine,” said the man, who had gotten a look at the saddle and found it to be quite remarkably well made upon inspection.
“Do you promise?” asked the witch.
“Yes, yes,” agreed the man.
“Then it’s a bargain,” said the witch, as she watched him remove the old saddle.
With the new saddle in place, the man hopped astride his horse and the witch whispered her counter charm to get the horse moving again.
The man rode along, quite satisfied with his new saddle and pleased to have gotten it so cheaply. He had not gone far when he noticed a young woman picking flowers by the side of the road. He shouted his approbation of her body as he passed and she blushed in a way that he found very appealing. She seemed to speed up her task and he thought to himself, “I’d like to catch hold of that girl,” so he stopped his horse and began to dismount. He pulled his foot from the stirrup and began to swing his leg around but found that he could not. He tried with the other leg but that too failed to clear the horse.
“No matter,” he thought to himself, “I’ll just hop up and off.”
But when he pushed with his arms, he found he could not raise himself up from the saddle.
The girl had long since hurried away and still he remained, trying ever more desperately to unseat himself from his saddle. When he looked down, he could see that his body had begun to lose its edges, such that he and the saddle were one thing. He cursed and shouted but the more he shouted, the more firmly attached he became.
Finally, he gave up and turned his horse to return to that old woman’s house. The horse, however, had other ideas and the man was no longer its master. The witch, having burdened the horse with a man grown into his saddle, had also charmed the horse to understand its freedom as soon as the man set the enchantment into action.
And for the rest of their days, the horse went where it chose and the man just had to follow.