Writing to Heal
One of the suggestions for healing I came across in an abuse survivor’s guide was to write a fairy story and in that way to get in touch with your feelings through symbols. That was when I met Ogre. I found myself writing a horror story. A gothic, children’s fright story. It wasn’t until I was in the hospital that I saw what Ogre looked like when I drew his picture and wood-carved it. Eventually I wrote I second part to the story. I will put them both below.
OGRE—A FAIRY STORY
Once upon a time there was a small girl named Urs. `Urs’ was short for Ursula, but Ursula was too pretty a name for her, or so Ogre said. Ogre knew lots of things, especially whether a child was pretty or ugly. He had a particular fondness for pretty children; they tasted the most tender, he said, and he should know—he had eaten hundreds. It followed, therefore, that if Ogre said Urs was ugly he must be right. And so Urs had believed she was ugly for as long as she could remember remembering anything at all.
Sometimes it seemed to Urs that she had lived a thousand years, but then she would look at her reflection in one of Ogre’s enormous serving spoons and she would look so small. She knew that she was no bigger than a normal human child because on the mornings after a successful hunt she would have to clear away the clothes belonging to the children Ogre had eaten. Ogre always took off their clothes before he ate them. He said it was because the clothes got stuck between his teeth, yet the sneer on his face when he told Urs that made her suspect that there was another more important reason.
Even though she was the size of a child, she knew that she was not like these other children. She had a terrible secret: she was deformed. You see, recently she had begun growing lumps on her chest, and Ogre had noticed and had started to make fun of her, saying that he had never seen anything like them and how lucky for her that her parents had abandoned her when they did, so they would not have to know her shame. It didn’t help that the clothes Urs found did not seem to be made to accommodate such lumps. So again she believed Ogre and felt the shame. Her parents were indeed better off without her, she thought.
The truth of the Matter was that Urs was not ugly at all. Ogre needed her to believe in her ugliness so she would not be tempted to run away. That would not suit Ogre. He had become quite accustomed to the help around the castle. So whenever Urs asked about her family and how she came to be with him, Ogre would tell her this story:
When she was born, she was so ugly that her parents were ashamed, and so they decided to kill her. They took her to the woods and abandoned her there for the wild animals to devour. No one would ever know she had been born, and no one would know shame at having created her. Luckily for her, Ogre had been going home later that evening, after a successful boar hunt, and had heard her pitiful cries. When he saw how small and ugly she was, he felt sorry for her and decided to take her home and raise her. He knew that she could never be raised in a human family because her ugliness would scare other children. He knew he was the only one who would be willing to take care of her, being so ugly himself his stomach was not easily upset by her looks. Or so his story went.
Urs always felt deeply sad after hearing this story. She wanted to find her parents and try to make them love her. She thought that if she offered to stay hidden in their home that perhaps they would let her live with them. She longed to be with other people. She had never felt a human touch, and sometimes her body would ache with loneliness. She had dreams, sometimes, of a woman’s voice singing and a kind face with smiling eyes looking lovingly into hers. Then she would wake up with a hollow feeling in the pit of her stomach as if she had lost something precious. But her dream was just a fantasy; no‑one had ever loved her, and no‑one would. She was gross. Deformed. Her family did not want her. Ogre said she should be thankful that he had found her. He would never throw her out to the wild boar—as long as she did what she was told.
Ursula’s days were spent fetching and carrying for Ogre, cleaning up his foul‑smelling castle and cooking small animals to satisfy his insatiable appetite, especially on days when the hunt went badly. It was hard work because Ogre was three times the size of a man, and everything he used was big and heavy. Yet Urs had grown accustomed to hard work. It was all she knew. And so the days passed by in unrelenting drudgery. But the nights were even worse than the days. Urs hated the nights. Every evening just before night would fall and the castle would descend into menacing darkness, Ogre would call her to him and list his complaints about her work and then explain her duties for the following day. Then before dismissing her he would warn her not to think about running away. She was just too ugly to be accepted by any human family, he would remind her, and she would not survive the woods, for the boar would cut her to pieces the first night. And, just to make his point, he would force her to look at her distorted reflection in a piece of misshapen metal and then laugh to see her cringe. However, that was not the worst of it.
Before letting her run to her room and escape—as she so dearly wanted to do before the corridors became filled with night—he would give her his last warning. Lowering his voice and placing his face down close to hers, so close she could smell his rancid breath, he would smile a leering smile and hiss,
“Remember to lock your door, Urssss, because who knows what my night will bring. I may come home so hungry that in the dark even you might smell tempting. Ha, ha, haaaaagghh.”
A cold shudder would run through Urs from the roots of her hair to the tips of her toes. She would look in his burning, red eyes and at his drooling lips and slowly back away to the door. It always felt as if she were moving in slow motion as if her legs were weighted down to the floor. She wanted to run, to run and run. As soon as her hands felt the door behind her, she would turn and, stretching up on her toes, lift the latch and stagger into the corridor, hoping that he was not behind her. Running, she would hear Ogre’s voice echoing in the empty stone hallways. An evil sound, a half‑crazed laugh that would turn into a roar as Ogre worked himself into a hunting frenzy. Reaching her room, her heart pounding in her throat, Urs would quickly reach up and bar her door. Then, while some light still allowed, she would search under her bed and behind her drapes looking for any sign that Ogre had built a secret entrance without her knowledge. There were many such passages in the castle from which he would spring on unsuspecting guests lured to his home to be his dinner. And so every night she would check.
Finally, exhausted, she would lie down fully clothed under her meager covers, too tired and too ashamed to undress, even in the dark. But she would not sleep right away. She would listen for noises along the hall as Ogre went on his nocturnal hunt. Would he come tonight? Would she wake to feel his hands on her and see his burning eyes? After what seemed like hours of fearful anticipation, she would sleep. Yet even in her dreams Ogre pursued her, and the silence would be pierced by her screams.
So passed each night.
Ogre Part II
Ursula eventually managed to escape from Ogre’s castle. She got big enough to climb out of the window and into the tree and down.
The forest was scary but she ran and ran. When the sun started coming up she felt safer and stopped to rest. But knowing how widely his influence was felt, she trusted no one. She stole a little food and found water and slept hidden during the day. She always ran at night. Nights were not safe to sleep in; she had to always be on the lookout for Ogre or one of his spies. After days of travel she reached a town by the sea and asked for passage. The captain was a woman so she felt safe; all the deckhands were women too. It was hard work but she sailed away to a different country.
Years passed and Urs married and raised two sons. As they grew up her own childhood came back to haunt her in her dreams. She began to feel crazy because she kept having thoughts and images about her parents with Ogre. How could that be?
Her peace of mind became very fragile so she determined to track down her parents, if she could, and find out what really happened to bring her into Ogre’s care. Urs travelled back to her homeland and visited any place that she could recall from her escape, thereby retracing her steps.
When she came to the woods she began to ask directions to the Ogre’s castle. She was old now and no longer afraid. And she had collected magic powers to ward off evil…just in case! But no one could recall an Ogre or a castle. In fact they laughed.
She eventually tracked down her own family. Her parents were still alive, although feeble now and bent with age. She re-discovered older brothers she had not seen since childhood and had only misty memories of.
She stayed in the village with her family members, but rented her own cottage. She didn’t feel comfortable or safe staying with her family, but she assumed it was because they were practically strangers to her now.
Not wanting to upset her feeble parents with unpleasant memories she chose her time carefully and gently enquired about the events which led to her being lost in the woods. She asked if they had searched for her or not, and for how long. Her mother tearfully admitted that they hadn’t searched because they had always known where she was. This revelation stunned Ursula so much she was speechless, unable to continue her questions. So she sat, and sat. Her mother grew increasingly agitated.
“You have to understand, Urs, your father was abused by the Ogre himself when he was a young lad. But he never thought Ogre would hurt you. How could he have known? So when Ogre offered to raise you and give you an education for free, and when he also gave us the contract to serve the castle kitchens – well, it was such a good deal.”
“A deal? You made a deal? He abused dad and you made a deal? I was never lost in the woods was I? You just brought me there and left me for him to collect.”
“We thought that if you believed we had lost you, and not given you up willingly, it would be easier for you – you wouldn’t expect to be rescued if you thought we didn’t know where you were.”
“So Ogre was actually telling the truth about you abandoning me in the woods – although he omitted the part about it being pre-arranged. And you thought I would be safe with him! Really?”
Ursula’s mother broke down, “We didn’t know at the time that he liked to eat children. We thought his tastes were for older people – adolescents, adults – and boys not girls. We figured you’d be safe for both those reasons.”
Later on in a conversation with her brothers, Ursula learned that they had also been offered up to Ogre as young boys, but they hadn’t had to sleep there in the castle.
When Ursula confronted her father he cried and said, “I didn’t have a happy childhood. My father beat me. I had to run away at 15. Ogre was sexually abusive to me, but he also helped me. We got our house because of him.”
“He gave you a house?”
“Well he paid the down payment.”
“And what did you give him in return? You gave him your children!”
“I didn’t know he like children. And anyway I thought children, young children, didn’t remember stuff that happened to them. It’s not like it was for me, I remember everything. I was a teenager when he started on me.”
“Show me his castle,” she demanded.
They walked there the next day.
On closer inspection it wasn’t really a castle at all, just a big house with stained glass windows and a huge front door, like a large church.
She entered the abandoned building. Her father busied himself in turning over the debris – scavenging. It looked like he had done it many times before. Suddenly his eyes sparkled as he triumphantly held up a serving spoon. It was large – of the college hall serving spoon size, maybe, but not as big as Ursula remembered. In fact everything was smaller than she remembered.
“How big was he, dad? Big? Was he a giant? “
Her dad laughed. “No. He looked imposing because he always wore black and a hat. And when he spoke publically his voice boomed.”
“How small was I then, dad? What age? I must have been very young when you left me in the woods. Because to me he looked like an Ogre, a giant.”
“And the parties, dad, those late nights? The drinking. You were there with him, weren’t you!”
“We got together sometimes.”
“And the footsteps in the hall at night coming to my room? The hand on the door handle, the breath? The smell of semen? The hands? Who was that, dad? Was that Ogre?”
Her father turned and walked away – pocketing the solid silver serving spoon.