• HEATHER LEE BIRDSONG
    STORIES FROM THE STONE HOUSE
    SELECTED PRINTS: 2009-2018

     

    Image credit: Craig Sietsma
  • Artist's statement

    Heather Lee Birdsong

         "While creating my work, I recurrently think about this quote from William H. Whyte: 'The great enemy of communication, we find, is the illusion of it. We have talked enough; but we have not listened. And by not listening we have failed to concede the immense complexity of our society — and thus the great gaps between ourselves and those with whom we seek understanding.'

         Our innate desire to connect is often thwarted by misunderstanding, owing to the imperfect nature of communication, inherent prejudices, and differences in our lived experiences. This failure of empathy is where the power dynamics that underlie the relationship are revealed: whether systemic like patriarchy and white supremacy, or personal like familial abuse, power imbalances play out on this intimate scale everyday, as micro-aggressions and seemingly benign social norms. Small gestures (of ignorance, accident, and iniquity) accumulate into a baseline anxiety that colors our experiences and behaviors, stymieing our ability to connect. This feels even more true and fraught when we are denied physical presence and contact, our relationships mediated through technologies that create the semblance of connection without the psychological reality."

  • SELECTED PRINTS: 2009–2014

    Click images to learn more or enquire
    • Heather Lee Birdsong, They Wore Their Mothers’ Bones Like Scarlet Letters, 2009
      Heather Lee Birdsong, They Wore Their Mothers’ Bones Like Scarlet Letters, 2009
    • Heather Lee Birdsong, Medusa Talisman, 2012
      Heather Lee Birdsong, Medusa Talisman, 2012
      $ 150.00
    • Heather Lee Birdsong, Untitled (Triangle), 2014
      Heather Lee Birdsong, Untitled (Triangle), 2014
      $ 150.00
    • Heather Lee Birdsong, Magna Mater (text overlay for Untitled (Triangle)), 2010
      Heather Lee Birdsong, Magna Mater (text overlay for Untitled (Triangle)), 2010
      $ 150.00
    • Heather Lee Birdsong, Absit Omen, 2012
      Heather Lee Birdsong, Absit Omen, 2012


  • "One of the things I enjoy about printmaking is the idiosyncratic methods printmakers develop over time, and chine-collé - the process of simultaneously printing an image and adhering a fine, lightweight paper to a heavier one - enjoys a lot of variations. The chine-collé process I used to create Stories From the Stone House I learned from master printer Paul Mullowney. Roughly, I took an inked etching plate, covered it with a dry piece of collé paper (in this case, kitakata), dampened the paper with a fine mist, cut it to the edge of the plate with a sharp blade, lightly coated the damp paper with nori paste, then moved the covered plate to the press bed. From there, I laid a sheet of dampened Rives BRK printmaking paper over the whole, and ran it through the press. When I peeled the heavier Rives paper from the press bed, the collé paper was printed with the image and adhered in place. I repeated that whole process sixty more times (plus however many didn't work out and were subsequently destroyed). It's a finicky process, but I love the results." 

    – Heather Lee Birdsong

    Learn more on the artist's blog: Preparing a plate | Applying liquid ground | Applying rosin for aquatint

  • Stories from the Stone House

    Stories from the Stone House

    "Stories from the Stone House is a series of five intaglio prints in a folio with a title page and no index: unbound, the images may be arranged in any order. Consciously making space for individual interpretation felt important for this project. I have long been fascinated with myths and folk lore, drawn to the darkness that lurks under the heroic veneer of these magical tales. They express unpleasant truths about human nature without resorting to the brutal facts of history or personal pain, and are widely enough known that their symbols and tropes are familiar for many.

     

    The visual language here is borrowed and comprised from many different stories and traditions, meant to imply narrative (or, rather, help the viewer imagine their own) without requiring a specific tale to go with it. I did write a story for each image. Initially, and for some years after printing the plates, the written stories remained incomplete. I thought of them as a kind of mental sketching to help me flesh out the imagery, and never intended to share them. I did periodically return to them, however, and finally finished them in 2020. The narratives, never before shared, make their debut in this exhibition. The 'correct' order of the images and their stories remains fluid."

     

    — Heather Lee Birdsong

  • The Beast That Ate Dreams

    The Beast That Ate Dreams

         Once upon a time there was a small family that lived on top of a hill in a little stone house: a husband, a wife, and their two young children. The hill was surrounded by a dark woodland, and even though there was a pretty little stream nearby, it was a place where few animals would visit. This was because a strange and terrible beast lived in the hill. The family didn’t know this, of course; and they were happy enough together in their little stone house — until one day, tragedy struck. The father suffered a terrible fall by the bank of the stream and died. The wife, now a widow, gathered her children near, and they wept together... 

    Complete story at end of exhibition

    Click anywhere for more information on artwork

  • The Eater of Stones

    The Eater of Stones

         There once was a girl whose mother locked her away in a tower, saying it was to protect the child from her new stepfather. In truth, the mother saw how her new husband looked at her daughter and feared what she saw in his eyes. The daughter, obedient and afraid of her stepfather despite believing she had no reason to be, went to the tower gladly enough. Her father had built it many years ago and used it as a library. It was still full of books and odds and ends that had belonged to him, so she settled in nicely, delighting in having her own special place...

    Complete story at end of exhibition

    Click anywhere for more information on artwork

  • The Memory Bones

    The Memory Bones

         There once was a girl who grew up hungry, tired and unfulfilled, but unaware of these things because she could not remember being any other way. Her father died when she was quite young, and her mother soon married another man who had himself been married before. He was cruel to his wife’s child and careless of his own, concerned only that his second wife look after his children well enough that he did not have to concern himself with them. The second wife, obedient and afraid of being alone in the world, did as she was bid, even at the cost to her own daughter...

    Complete story at end of exhibition

    Click anywhere for more information on artwork

  • The Fox and the Bell-Ringer

    The Fox and the Bell-Ringer

         Once upon a time there was a widow who remarried because she wished for her son and daughter to know a father of some kind. Upon bringing his new wife and children to his home, the husband revealed himself to be an evil warlock, enspelling his new family to do his bidding. For whatever reason of chance or fate, however, he could not enspell the daughter. He cast her out into a dark woodland, shouting a curse at her heel as she fled... 

    Complete story at end of exhibition

    Click anywhere for more information on artwork

  • The Silent Maiden

    The Silent Maiden

         Once upon a time a widow remarried and brought her few belongings and her daughter to her new husband’s home. He was a tall and imposing sort of man, and told the mother gravely that she could go where she would in her new home, save one room at the end of a long, dark hallway. “There,” he warned, “you must never go, or you will know my wrath.”

         With such a stricture hanging over them, it could not be said to be a comfortable home, but the woman and her daughter did their best to find contentment. The very air seemed brittle with the unspoken and unknown. After several years, the man announced that he was going on a long trip, leaving the woman and her daughter alone for the first time...

    Complete story at end of exhibition

    Click anywhere for more information on artwork

  • HEATHER LEE BIRDSONG HEATHER LEE BIRDSONG

    HEATHER LEE BIRDSONG





    Heather Lee Birdsong (b. Spring Valley, Nevada) has lived in Portland, Oregon since 2005. Her particular interests are books, printmaking, painting, and the effects of technology. Influenced by geometric abstraction and fairy tales, Birdsong’s work describes narratives and social interactions using carefully orchestrated color palettes and precise forms. “I’m always pulling back in my work, trying to evoke complexity in understated ways,” Birdsong says.

     

    Collections housing her artwork include the Visual Chronicle of Portland, Oregon; Ella Strong Denison Library, Scripps College; Albert Solheim Library, Pacific Northwest College of Art; the University of Nevada Las Vegas; and Southern Graphics Council International. Birdsong is recipient of a Project Grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council (2014) and was an artist-in-residence in Print Arts Northwest's Emerging Printmakers Program (2012).

     

    In addition to her fine art practice, she works as a graphic designer and arts administrator: she was gallery manager at UPFOR from its inception in 2013 through the closure of its retail space in 2020, and at Chambers@916 from 2010 to 2013. She holds a BFA in Intermedia from the Pacific Northwest College of Art (2011). She currently serves on the board of the Northwest Art Council at the Portland Art Museum.




     

  • STORIES FROM THE STONE HOUSE: THE COMPLETE TEXTS

    Copyright 2021 Heather Lee Birdsong. No use or distribution
    without permission of the author.

     

  • The Beast That Ate Dreams

         Once upon a time there was a small family that lived on top of a hill in a little stone house: a husband, a wife, and their two young children. The hill was surrounded by a dark woodland, and even though there was a pretty little stream nearby, it was a place where few animals would visit. This was because a strange and terrible beast lived in the hill. The family didn't know this, of course; and they were happy enough together in their little stone house - until one day, tragedy struck. The father suffered a terrible fall by the bank of the stream and died. The wife, now a widow, gathered her children near, and they wept together.

         The widow and her two children, who were very close in age, now had to fend for themselves. Despite her husband's accident, the widow felt safe enough where they were, for they could see far into the woodland from their place on top of the hill, and so they remained. Pretty soon they were plagued by terrible nightmares full of animals fleeing from fire, flood, and felling trees. The strange beast that lived under the hill had been asleep for a very long time, but it woke up with the keening of the family and found its way into the house through a chink in the hearth.

         Now, this beast looked rather like a serpent, limbless and with a long, darting body, though it was unlike any kind ever seen. It was small from so many years spent alone and asleep, so it went unnoticed for some time, creeping out only during the darkest hour of night to feast on the family's dreams. The dreams, realizing that they could do nothing to benefit the family, attempted at least to save themselves. They took shape and tried to flee; they became birds and beasts, cats and dogs, caterpillars and even flies, to no avail. No matter their size or speed, the not-quite-serpent ate them all, and used their remains to fashion limbs with fingers and toes to better grasp at them. He became more beast than serpent, covered as he was in patchwork skins and bones from murdered dreams. 

         It could not go on forever; though still he lived only in shadows, hiding even from the dull reflection of the moon, the beast inevitably grew too large to go entirely unnoticed. The family could hear his breathing, and they grew afraid as well as tired. When the children began to cry, unwilling to sleep, the widow tucked them in tighter and kissed their brows. One night when they drifted off, comforted by her presence, the widow remained awake, only half believing that there was anything more tangible to fear than nightmares.

         Then, nearing the edge of sleep herself, the widow heard a whispering sound like a husky sigh. Jumping up, she threw open the curtain to let in the moonlight, and saw this serpentine beast, a terrible thing that seemed as much made of absence as presence. Her children turned restlessly but did not awaken.

         "Get out of my house!" she cried.

         The beast looked at her and flicked his tongue. "If you wish to be rid of me, you must go out from my house, widow, for this was my hill long before you came. I am King of this place." He had grown in vanity as well as size and strength.

         "My husband made this our home. I will not leave it," she declared, brave despite her fear.

         The serpent laughed a laugh that was a rumbling feeling more than a sound. "Good; I would not wish you to leave. I have grown strong again from eating your dreams and the dreams of your children. I wish you to stay. I only come out at night, after all, and I hurt you and your children far less than the cruel world might." This felt too true for contradiction, though it was less because it was true, and more because the beast worked a strange and mesmeric magic upon the widow. "Go back to sleep," he said. "Forget you ever saw me, and we will live in peace enough together. You have nowhere else to go."

         Soon after, the widow did forget, and imagined that the beast she saw was merely a nightmare of her own invention. When her children complained and shook in fear, she tucked them in tighter and kissed their brows a little longer, believing their nightmares to be the natural fantasies of fatherless children. So the children too learned to forget: they forgot that life had ever been any other way. Unable to talk about the dreamless nights, or the haunting presence that crept into their house at night, they also forgot how to speak to one another about anything; and they lived so far apart that they could not stretch their fingers close enough to meet, though their house was very small indeed.

         The children left as soon as they were old enough to seek their fortunes in the world. They found it a less terrible place than their mother prepared them for; and after many adventures, they settled in their separate homes, though they could never convince their mother to leave the little stone house. I hear she still lives there, ragged with fatigue, afraid of everyone except the beast that eats her dreams.

  • The Eater of Stones

         There once was a girl whose mother locked her away in a tower, saying it was to protect the child from her new stepfather. In truth, the mother saw how her new husband looked at her daughter and feared what she saw in his eyes. The daughter, obedient and afraid of her stepfather despite believing she had no reason to be, went to the tower gladly enough. Her father had built it many years ago and used it as a library. It was still full of books and odds and ends that had belonged to him, so she settled in nicely, delighting in having her own special place.

         Children are not meant to be so much alone, however, and she grew very unhappy. Even her mother visited less and less often as the years went by, occupied by new children and other responsibilities. But the girl, now almost a woman, remembered being loved by her father and mother, before her father's death and her mother's remarriage. She remembered warmth and laughter and love, and she knew it must still be somewhere around her. She became determined to find where it might be hidden.

         She tried to find love beneath the furniture but saw only shadows and cobwebs. She looked in the soft, gray ashes of the stove; but if it had been there, it left. She searched in the closet, but found only clothes and dried lavender to keep the moths away. She went through the cupboard and peered into the cups and bowls, but merely discovered fine cracks and chips in her scant dishes from years of use. She had looked endlessly through the books, and while she found stories enough of love, she found none for herself. She pressed her face against the warm window panes in despair, fearing that love had escaped.

         Then, when she was sitting on the sill, glumly plucking the petals from flowers in the window box, she felt a gentle wind stir her hair. She heard the wind whisper that it lived in the stones of the tower, for her father invested his love for his family in the building of it. He never imagined it would someday be used to shut his daughter away, of course.

         Noticing a loose stone in the wall beside the window, she pried it away with her fingers. Picking up a little hammer, one of her father's old tools, she struck the stone and split it open. The wind carried the little wisp of love away, without meaning to; it was too delicate of a thing to exist all on its own.

         So the girl, sad and lonely and feeling quite forgotten, began swallowing the small stones that she could pick off the walls with her fingers, trying to get to the love stored inside. She ate and ate, but never was nourished, for no one can get love from stones.

  • The Memory Bones

       There once was a girl who grew up hungry, tired and unfulfilled, but unaware of these things because she could not remember being any other way. Her father died when she was quite young, and her mother soon married another man who had himself been married before. He was cruel to his wife’s child and careless of his own, concerned only that his second wife look after his children well enough that he did not have to concern himself with them. The second wife, obedient and afraid of being alone in the world, did as she was bid, even at the cost to her own daughter.

         One day, the daughter, now a young woman, was sitting by her window and heard a bird call out. She was charmed by its bright and friendly warble, and it seemed to say, “Come out, come out and see me!”

         She laughed, which she had not done for a long time, and ran outside. She followed the bird until it disappeared into the leafy branches of a tree. “Where did you go?” she said, more to herself than otherwise, for she knew that birds cannot speak as humans do. Nevertheless, she very clearly heard, “I am here!”

         She watched, startled, as the little yellow bird hopped out onto a branch and shook its plumes at her. It leaned close and said, “You are a sad little thing! I have watched you for many years from this tree, and I cannot see you so sad any longer.”

         The young woman, not believing herself to be so very sad, wrinkled her nose and replied, “Why do you say that? I belong to a family and live in a comfortable home. Surely that is enough for anyone.” But even as she spoke the words, she felt how hollow they were. The bird only cocked its head, blinking a round, dark eye at her. “Well,” the young woman went on, “how do you propose to make me happy?”

         The bird drew back, fluffing his feathers. “Oh, I cannot make you happy; you must do that yourself. All I can do is help you take the first steps. You must remember all that you have forgotten, and go on a long journey. It will not be easy.”

         “How can I leave? I have nothing of my own and nowhere to go,” the young woman replied.

         The bird fluttered to the ground and scratched at the dirt between some gnarled tree roots. “What you need is hidden here. Dig it up.” There was something hard in the ground, and when the young woman pulled it out, it was a small, iron box. Inside was a set of human teeth tied along a string.

         “What is this?” she cried, a little afraid.

         “Your father loved you, as your mother does, though she has forgotten. These are his teeth, and they will help you remember what you must, if you wear them.” With that, the bird flew away. Warily, the young woman tied the string around her neck and tucked the teeth beneath her collar, for she knew that talking animals ought to be heeded.

         As she touched the teeth, she remembered with a shock, though also feeling that she had always known, what life had been before her mother remarried: that there had been laughter and warmth in her mother, and that the young woman had indeed been deeply loved by both of her parents, who also loved each other. Remembering this cast a different light on the hurts, many small but some very great, of the years since her stepfather arrived — and she knew she could no longer stay where she was. She packed a bag and set out, thinking that any direction would do.

         As she walked on her adventures, which were many, the magic in her father’s teeth reminded her of things she once knew: how to start a warming fire, how to read the direction by the sun and tree moss, how to barter for a fairer price when arriving in a new town. Her father had loved adventuring. But as she went on, more and more of the memories that came up were not only those from her brief childhood with her parents, but her father’s alone: a lifetime of aches and triumphs, arguments and forgiveness. The necklace began to feel heavier and heavier, each memory seeming to weigh her down until she needed to use a sturdy branch as a cane and her shoulders stooped, making her appear far beyond her years. Finally, she could go no farther, and collapsed.

         A kindly old woman saw her and stopped, surprised to see that the person lying on the roadside was in fact quite young. “Whatever is the matter, dear?” she asked.

         “This necklace of my father’s teeth has grown so heavy, I can no longer walk with it,” she said, and a tear rolled down her face. She felt that she had failed.

         “Why, you must take it off, then!” said the old woman. She was very practical and proud of it.

         “Oh no!” cried the girl. “A bird told me I must wear my father’s teeth and remember all that I might if I am to be happy.”

         The old woman laughed. “Well, and what does a bird know of carrying around so much? They are simple and stay light so they may fly. You have perhaps remembered all that you can, probably more than you ought, and must now look to your future instead of your past.”

         The girl nodded, unable to do much more, and the old woman took her sewing scissors from her pocket and snipped the cord. The necklace of teeth fell away, and the young woman stood up. She buried the necklace in a stand of birch trees, and indeed found her own way to happiness several times over.

  • The Fox and the Bell-Ringer

    The Fox and the Bell-Ringer

         Once upon a time there was a widow who remarried because she wished for her son and daughter to know a father of some kind. Upon bringing his new wife and children to his home, the husband revealed himself to be an evil warlock, enspelling his new family to do his bidding. For whatever reason of chance or fate, however, he could not enspell the daughter. He cast her out into a dark woodland, shouting a curse at her heel as she fled.

         She made her way through the trees as she could, aiming only to get away, until she heard a roll of thunder that promised rain. Looking about her, she saw two green eyes glowing in the twilight. A great crack of lighting revealed a little red fox. "Oh little fox, you must know these woods," the daughter sighed. "If only you could help me!" 

         "Are you lost?" asked the fox.

         "How could I be lost when I have nowhere to go?" the girl responded sharply, startled.

         "Well! No need for that tone, but I see how it is. Come with me and we'll wait out this rain in the hollow of that old yew tree," the fox said, pointing a soot-black paw. The hollow was just big enough, and the fox curled about her feet. The girl slept fitfully, waking at dawn stiff and aching from so uncomfortable a night, with an itchy bug bite on her arm.

         "I thought a good night's rest would set you right, but I see that's not enough," observed the fox wryly. "Some food will help, I'm sure! This farmer leaves out nice meat pies for me from time to time," said the fox, leading her to a neat farmhouse just beyond the woods. The girl was very hungry. There were indeed three warm hand pies on the open window sill: as she reached out, she heard a yell and felt the sharp tap of a broom handle on her head.

         "Thief! How dare you!" hollered the farmer, beating the girl soundly about the shoulders as she ran back into the woods. The little fox padded up behind her. "You tricked me!" she exclaimed. "You knew that the farmer would be angry!"

         "It's not my fault you were so slow," the fox replied, looking smug as it licked pastry crumbs from its snout. It saved nothing for her. "Well, look, I know a path through the woods that will lead you to a village. Maybe other humans are what you need."

         Not knowing what else to do and feeling very alone in the world, the girl agreed. They came to a path less traveled than a road, but wider than a deer track. "It has some twists and forks, so stay close," the fox warned. As they walked, the fox began to go faster, forcing the girl to go faster too. She asked to slow down, for she was sore and hungry, but it did not heed her. Faster it went, until she was running, and pretty soon they came upon a great ditch in the path. The fox jumped lightly over, but the girl was not so lucky: she leaped too late and twisted her ankle, grabbing the fox's tail as she fell.

         "Well, you've done it now!" the fox cried. "Let go of my tail and I'll get help for you."

         "No," said the girl, "You'll run off and leave me to get eaten by a bear." The fox said nothing, for she was right. There they sat in the ditch, the girl gripping the fox's tail, until twilight began to fall. They heard heavy footsteps coming closer, and the fox began to tremble.

         "We'll both get eaten if you don't let me go!" cried the fox, but that was hardly an argument to win her over. The girl looked grim and said, "So be it."

         What came toward them was large and hairy like a bear, and walked upright like humans. It had a huge head crowned with twisting horns. Its eyes rolled and darted around, giving it an air of madness. The strange beast stopped at the edge of the ditch, opening its mouth to reveal many large, sharp teeth, its eyes ceasing their rolling to look at them. The girl was terrified into silence, tightening her grip on the fox's tail. The fox began to wriggle and scream, and then began to glow like foxfire in a rotting tree. Bending over the frightened girl and the glowing, wriggling fox, the beast gleefully rang an iron bell it wore about its waist - once, twice, thrice! The fox screamed, and disappeared into a puff of smoke.

         The beast turned its mad eyes on the girl. "That was no fox, but a demon attached to your heel by a curse," it growled in a surprisingly kind voice. "Whither are you going, now that you are free?" Swallowing her fear, the girl explained her plight; the beast grew thoughtful. "If you come with me, I will teach you how to ring the bells. They can break spells, and perhaps even the warlock himself." She agreed, and the beast picked her up and carried her off.

         She spent a year, perhaps more, in the village of beasts learning to make their heavy iron bells ring true, among other wondrous things. When she felt ready, she dressed in animal skins, belted three iron bells around her waist, and set off for the warlock's house. Standing before it, she rang the first bell, and her brother came running out. She rang the second, and her mother followed. The girl then rang the final bell - once, twice, thrice! The warlock's house belched red smoke and burst into flames. They warlock howled in anguish, and that was the last anyone ever heard of him.

         The widow and son turned wondering eyes on the daughter, and soon became angry. Remembering nothing of their enspellment, they saw only the destruction the girl had wrought with the ringing bells, dressed in her strange clothing.

         "Ungrateful daughter! How could you do this!" shouted her mother. When the girl tried to explain, her mother admonished her for telling wicked tales. Unable to bear this reception, the daughter returned to the village of bell-ringing beasts. She went on to have more adventures and break many terrible spells, though no one ever quite believed her.

  • THE SILENT MAIDEN

         Once upon a time a widow remarried and brought her few belongings and her daughter to her new husband's home. He was a tall and imposing sort of man, and told the mother gravely that she could go where she would in her new home, save one room at the end of a long, dark hallway. "There," he warned, "you must never go, or you will know my wrath."

         With such a stricture hanging over them, it could not be said to be a comfortable home, but the woman and her daughter did their best to find contentment. The very air seemed brittle with the unspoken and unknown. After several years, the man announced that he was going on a long trip, leaving the woman and her daughter alone for the first time.

         The daughter, now older, was concerned about the arrangement her mother agreed to, and so went to see this forbidden door. The hallway was very long, longer than seemed possible. When she finally reached the door, she put out a trembling hand and thrust it open to see the room beyond. She gasped in horror: it was full of cruel-looking tools and several corpses at various stages of decay. A skeleton dressed only in rags turned its empty eyes to her, and she heard a whisper in her ear: "Will you set us free?"

         "Oh, I must tell my mother!" The daughter shrieked. But when when she got to her mother, she could not make a sound - she was struck mute. Still she made her mother understand that something was very wrong indeed, and brought her mother to the forbidden door.

         "Your stepfather, though strange, has been kind enough, and I'm sure it can't be so very bad," the mother reasoned. When they entered the room together, however, they both saw the awful scene and heard the terrible whisper: "Will you set us free?"

         "No!" cried the mother, slamming the door. "We must forget this place, and my husband must never know we came here. Oh! That I had never seen it!" The mother was then struck blind.

         The man returned, and he knew they had seen the room. The wife wept and cried that it was all her daughter's doing. Frightened and betrayed, the daughter ran as far and as quickly as her legs could take her. When she finally halted, she found herself near a pretty little spring-fed lake, surrounded by mossy trees and bushes heavy with ripe berries.

         As she dipped her hand into the lake to drink, a woman with green skin, thrashing eels for legs, and wickedly clawed fingers burst from the water and darted toward the girl. The girl was frozen in fear and could make no sound: the monstrous woman mistook this silence for bravery and halted just before her claws would have pierced the girl's neck. Though soon realizing that the girl was merely mute, the monstrous woman said: "If you would have your voice back, go to the dragon's lair and win my golden comb. You must stand true and silent, just as you did for me."

         So the girl went to the dragon's cave, and when it saw her, it bellowed ferociously and lunged, halting when she made no sound. "I am surprised to find a human so stouthearted," it hissed, used to knights a-clatter in shining armor, yelling battle-cries. "I vouchsafe you a treasure from my stock: what shall you possess?" She peered carefully through the worked metal chests, shining goblets and other fine things, and pointed at the golden comb. The dragon growled with displeasure, but they are honorable creatures, and so handed it over.

         When she returned, the monstrous woman clapped and placed the comb in her own wet hair. Suddenly she was a fine lady with warm skin and elegant human legs. "Ah! Thank you!" she cried, throwing her arms around the girl, who could say nothing in return. "Now, you must go claim a pearl from the raven in the old poplar tree. You must offer something shiny in trade," she said, and pressed a bright coin into the girl's palm.

         The girl went to the old poplar tree and caught the raven's eye. "What do you want? Begone!" it cawed, and flapped its wings irritably. She held up the bright coin, turning it until it caught a shaft of light and seemed to twinkle. "Oh ho! That's fine!" said the raven, dancing eagerly from foot to foot. "As you do not nettle me with noises as other humans do, I will tolerate you. Will you trade that fine, bright thing for one of my little treasures?"

         The girl nodded, so the raven laid out its small collection: gleaming metal buttons, a polished dome of moonstone, precious gems in many colors, a brass key that hummed of mystery - and one slightly lumpy pearl tucked almost out of sight. She pointed at the pearl and made her trade. "Hu hu hu!" The raven chortled, delighting in his new treasure.

         Returning to the lake, the fine lady placed the pearl beneath the girl's tongue. As she did, the pearl dissolved like candy floss, leaving the flavor of the ocean in her mouth. Given back her voice, the girl told the strange woman her story, the words spilling out like a great flood.

         "Let me see this house," the woman said. "Perhaps there is something we can do, and I should like to repay you the help you gave me. I played you a pretty trick to get back my comb, though you don't complain." So they went to the house that had been the girl's home. As they stood before it, they felt a brittle chill even from the road.

         “I would save those poor souls and stop anyone from suffering that fate ever again, whatever it may cost me,” the girl declared, feeling brave after her strange adventures, though she spoke truthfully. As the words left her lips, the house heaved and moaned, and collapsed in on itself with a great, relieved sigh. No one ever knew what became of the man and his wife, but the place where the house once stood grew into a garden. The air was always warm and fresh, and the garden full of butterflies.