PREFACE TO NEW EDITION
[iii] Years and years ago there lived, in a certain town a poor
old blind woman. All her friends and neighbours pitied her
because she was poor and blind.
But if they had only known it there was no need for pity.
They might well have envied her instead, for this old woman
had the gift of magic, and because of her magic her blind
eyes could see farther and clearer than any other pair of
eyes in all the town. She could see hidden things; the
things of fairyland, and of the world beyond this.
As to her being poor, that mattered little to her. Why
should she care for money or lands, or fine coaches to ride
in, when all she had to do was to wish it, and away she
could go into fairyland. There she could wander at will over
shining meadows, through shadowy forests, and by
softly-flowing streams, and never weary with the travelling
[iv] however far she went. Or she could enter great palaces and
see about her everything that was magnificent, and know that
all of it belonged to her for as long as she cared to stay
there. And the best of it all was that these fairy riches
would never waste away; the gold would never tarnish, nor
could the years dim the sight of her enchanted eyes.
The old woman never hoarded away what she possessed. She was
always ready to share her magic with others, and the
children used to come to her as they might to a fairy
godmother. They quickly learned to know what a wonder-worker
she was. Then, if they were good little children, she
would take them by the hand and lead them away with her into
the enchanted lands. They had no need for shoes to their
feet nor hats for their heads, and however far away they
went their mothers had only to call to them and the old
woman could have them back home again in a twinkling.
Do you wish you could have known that old blind woman, and
have gone with her into fairyland?
[v] Years and years ago it was that she spun her magic, but the
magic is not all gone yet.
Open the covers of this book and let your thoughts step
inside as though through an open door. Now open your mind's
eyes and look about you.
Why here sits the very old woman herself. With blind but
seeing eyes she spins her shining threads as of old from a
magic distaff that is always full.
If you like she will take you by the hand and lead you away
into the enchanted country whither she led other little
children years ago when your parents and your grandparents
were young. There you will find the same people they found,
and see the same sights they saw.
The wonderful carved chair they followed over hill and dale
still moves as fast as ever on its magic rollers. The
cushion is still in it, and the velvet cover has neither
worn nor faded.
Little Snowflower is not a day older for all the years that
have passed by since then. The Princess Greedalind, alas!
has not grown one whit
[vi] gentler or less selfish. She still sits there on her
throne like an ugly toad bedecked with jewels, demanding
everything, and quarrelling with everyone who will not give
her what she wants.
Merrymind and Fairyfoot, Childe Charity and the old Shepherd
who piped his sheep into wolves and back again at will; they
are all there in that enchanted country of the book.
And it is not fields and forests and castles only that the
old woman can show you. She can take you down under the
depths of the ocean, too, if you like.
Then all is still and strange and muffled by the deep waters
overhead. Out from a hidden cave steps the merman trailing
his heavy, fishy feet. His garments rustle like the rustle
of snakes twisting upon each other, and his hands and arms
are crusted with rings and bracelets. His daughters are
beautiful, but their eyes are pale and green, and they have
but little more warmth or feeling than the fishes that move
about them. Such a wealth of treasures as the merman has
stored away in his coral caves if you care to look. But
[vii] they are only to look at and not to touch or you will be in
his power for ever.
All the sights of earth and sea, and many other wonders,
too, the old blind woman can show you.
And now she has laid
aside her distaff and she holds out her hand to you. Are you
ready? Do you care to go? Then take hold of her
fingers and let us be off into the world of magic and