This is a rather long post, and it tells a sad story. Also, the song below caused BR to cry. As in, tears running down her face. So ye be forewarned.
Where does a story begin? Where does it come from? Every Harry Potter that comes along can be traced back to an earlier story. Isn't it always a young person on a journey of self-discovery, with his or her destiny to bring down the evil of the world - like Katniss Everdeen or Luke Skywalker or innumerable heroes of fairy tales who rescued princesses and slayed dragons? Back and back and back.
All stories, even fairy tales, come from somewhere. Sometimes the stories that we thought were just that - stories - may have come from something true. A famous line spoken in the film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is: "History became legend. Legend became myth." This does not just happen in fantasy fiction.
A man, two of his sons, and their dog go for a walk in the woods. It is an unseasonably warm day - perhaps the father thinks they will return before the forecasted storm comes? Perhaps he thinks only that it is a nice day, and his boys love to go hiking in the woods.
The worst happens. The temperature drops dramatically. Heavy, chilling cold rain begins falling. The sky is dark gray, and in the lengthening afternoon, there is no hope of any sun. The light the father carries with him goes dark. Calling for help is futile. The rain continues to pour down.
The next day, the father is found dead. The boys are alive, but only just. They die a short time later. Only the dog survives. It is assumed by those who found them that they missed the path back home in the dark and the rain.
It is January 2013, in the middle of America.
Eastern Kentucky, 1989
They crowd close to each other on the carpeted floor. Their father sits before them, his voice low, mysterious.
"...And the three children were seen wandering in the woods, in the direction of the haunted house." He pauses, watching their faces. If they are too frightened, he will finish with something silly to make them laugh. But not tonight. They are watching him, tense with anticipation. His twins, eyes huge, lean closer. His little boy rocks back and forth, waiting for the end of the story. He finishes.
"No one ever saw them again."
"Daddy, can you sing the song again? The one about the babes in the woods?"
She likes hearing him sing. Something in his quiet tenor voice soothes her, even when the song is sad. Like the song his grandmother - her great-grandmother - taught him.
"I'll tell you a story, of a long time ago
There were two little babes, their names I don't know
They went strolling away, on a bright summer's day
Got lost in the woods, I heard people say
Well, they sighed and they cried
And they bitterly cried
And the two little babes, they laid down and died
And when they were dead, a robin so red
Took strawberry leaves and over them spread
He sang them a song the whole summer long
Poor babes in the woods, poor babes in the woods." *
Where do stories come from? An old song, that seems to come from legend, may seem to have no foundation on which to stand. Except every old song based on a story has to come from somewhere. Right? There is probably little, if any connection, between an old family song and a provincial legend in Pennsylvania.
The song written by Julie Lee and John Pennell, "Jacob's Dream" is so hauntingly brought to life that the first time I listened to it, I agreed with Alison Krauss. I didn't want to hear it again. That I heard it the same week David, Dominic and Grant Decareaux died only made its impact hurt worse. The thought of the same thing happening to my nephews was agony. Before Dominic and Grant, there were George and Joseph Cox. All lost babes in the woods.
What brought me back to the song was some of the lyrics, in particular one during the refrain. The children are crying for their parents, promising if they are found, that they will behave. "We promise not to stray again from our cabin door." It sounded eerily familiar.
"In the beginning..." Of course, it is where all stories come from. Some are heartbreaking. We don't want to hear them because we can't imagine the pain others are going through. We don't want to imagine what WE would do if children dear to us were lost in the woods. But perhaps we don't want to hear the sad story because in our heart of hearts, we know that we are the ones lost, trying to find the way home.
* These are the words that I remember. If any one of my relatives (Dad in particular) wants to chime in and correct me in the comments, please do. Oh, and Alison Krauss is a living legend and is Awesome.