Once upon a time there was a fairy godmother who wasn’t like any other fairy godmother.
She was the “salt of the earth” kind of fairy godmother, and everybody thought her strong and wise—compassionate, competent and good.
She didn’t have a magic wand, because she didn’t need one. Goodness simply flowed through her.
One day, the fairy godmother found a small basket on her front step. The basket was wrapped in cloth, but almost without moving the cloth, she knew what the basket held.
She brought the precious parcel into her cottage, placed it on a table and, bending down very close to pull aside the coverlet, saw a beautiful baby boy—just as she had thought. He was plump and firm, his head turned to one side, each little fist raised above his shoulders as he slept a dreamless sleep and breathed a rhythmic breath of contentment.
Pinned to his shirt was a note:
He is mine, but mine not
a lowly chicken
was his mother and
her legs he has got.
My soul filled with horror
my body racked with shame
when first I saw her legacy
when first I knew her claim
His legs are weak and crippled
His feet, claws they be
I cannot bear to see him
He shall not be from me.
Take him and do what you will
For all your goodness
You may love him still.
I do not.
Just then, the child opened his eyes. Ah, what eyes indeed. Deep and luminous, wise and good like the fairy godmother’s own. He saw the fairy godmother and gave her the spontaneous smile of innocence, pulling her toward him by her very heart strings with his one perfect glance.
The fairy godmother, unafraid, did not move away from the baby boy, but rather moved closer to him.
Child of mine, she said.
Oh, child of mine.
And the love that passed between them lasted until he grew into a toddler, and then until he grew into a boy, and then until he grew into a young man.
One day, while packing his things to make his way in the world, the young man found a note that the fairy godmother had kept. He went to her and asked her what it was and when she told him he cried and railed against her.
Why had she kept it? He didn’t want to see it! He didn’t want to know!
When he cried, he looked at his legs and saw that they indeed looked like the legs of a chicken.
The fairy godmother understood and went over to him calmly.
“Don’t you understand my child? Everyone has something—the heart of a monkey or the belly of a cow or the legs of a chicken. Everyone. If you see those things only, then you must put the person in a basket, cover them up and push them away.
It is when you see that those things exist along with everything else,” she added, “that you see the full reality of who a person is—including yourself.”
The young man looked at his legs again, but this time, he looked at them through the same deep and luminous eyes he had used to pull the fairy godmother’s heart strings so many years ago.
This time, he looked and saw that his legs were not only the legs of a chicken, but also the strong and tall legs of a tree.
He felt calmed and assured and whole. As if he had looked into a different mirror—a mirror that showed not only his strengths, but also his weaknesses. He felt ready to face whatever came his way and started toward the cottage door with his knapsack on his back.
When he got to the threshold however, he turned to look back and say one final goodbye to his fairy godmother and saw something he had never before seen in his entire life.
In addition to his fairy godmother’s wrinkled, kindly face—in addition to her now-silver hair and pale eyes—he saw that his fairy godmother had the head of a goat.
Everyone has something—
either the heart of a monkey
or the belly of a cow
or the legs of a chicken.
When you see that those things exist
along with everything else
you see all of who a person is.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Hans Splinter/Flickr