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Great Horned Owl

The Legend of the Owl Witch

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There was a small village near the Witch's dwelling, and the tribal elders had given warning to the people not to go near her, for solitude was her only request of them. The villagers heeded this caution and made no venture near the Witch's home. But children sometime neglect the will of their parents and do dangerous acts. One morning, a group of children were playing together near the edge of the woods. A few of the older boys had decided to test their bravery by seeing how close they could get to that restricted dwelling in the dark shadows of the trees. Quietly, they crept within several yards of the Witch's hut. One of the more courageous of the assembly took a stone and hurdled it toward the entry. It smashed noisily against the wooden plank. The door slowly began to open. The cluster of children bolted from the scene and ran as quickly as they could back to the village. Laughing and congratulating each other on their gallantry, they returned to their normal playtime activities. 

Just as the sun sank below the silhouetted trees on the hills, a shadowy figure soundlessly approached the village and turned toward the direction of the elders' lodge. Within, the elders of the village were discussing tribal matters as the ethereal figure of the Owl Witch appeared before them. They listened with unease as the creature told of the earlier intrusion by the children and asked for the respect and privacy they had promised her. As quickly as she appeared to the council, she was gone—the sound of her words still reverberating in their ears.

The memory of the visit dissipated after a few weeks and the village had all but forgotten the Witch's admonition. The children began anew to display their courage and defiance to the caution of the elders. Again, they found themselves in those dark hemlocks of the Witch's lair.
Standing behind tall trees as if they provided protection, the children jeered and called out names to the creature inside the hut. The Witch's shrieks and scolds flew from behind the closed door as the laughing children ran back toward the village, emboldened by their act.

Once again as the shadows of night approached, the Witch repeated her visit to the tribal council and emphatically denounced the trespass. This would be her last warning—keep the children away from her and allow her the solitude she demanded. After the Witch's departure, the elders called all of the village together to inform them of the seriousness of the threat. The Owl Witch was not to be taken lightly, for she possessed great power and could be a formidable adversary. Her sanctuary in the hemlock forest was not to be disturbed.

Several days later, the same youthful group assembled together and decided this would be their final great display of courage. They would ignore the elders and torment the Witch one more time. Would this not show everyone that they were the bravest of them all? After all, what could that old hag really do to them. They were young and fast. She could not catch them. Stealthfully, they returned to the lair and began slapping the side of the hut with their hands and shouting insults to the Witch inside. As the taunting continued, the children became aware of a tingling sensation enveloping their bodies as they became unable to move. The cabin door flew open and the Owl Witch stood before them, her arms outstretched like great wings. Her huge round eyes glowed eerily and a terrible grimace enveloped her face. The horrified children stood frozen as their clothing begin to fall from their shrinking bodies, revealing gray fur where skin had been. Their cries turned to tiny squeaks as the transformation progressed. Confused and terrified, they began to run in circles. Above them in the thick branches, several owls were perched and watching. The Owl Witch looked up toward them, smiled, then nodded toward the scurrying rodents attempting to flee. One by one, the owls took to flight and swooped down toward the ground.


—Written by Padraic Brady


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