The Man with Two Hands Called Warmth and Strength

Once upon a time, there was a man with two extraordinary hands and one was called Warmth and the other Strength. The man lived in a house in a village on the side of a mountain and he spent his time looking after everyone who lived there. When a person was cold he would warm them and when they were unwell he would strengthen them, all with a touch of one of his miraculous hands.

By the man's house was a spring which spilled over with cold, clear water that burbled down the mountain to join with the vast river at its base. Around this spring all the winds of the world met.Sometimes the land winds would ask the man to warm them so they could encourage plants and crops to grow and sometimes the sea breezes would ask him to strengthen them so they should never leave a sailor becalmed, and the man willingly obliged.

One mild summer, when none of the villagers were ill or chilled and the man had nothing to do but sit and listen to the tales the winds told, a little zephyr came to the spring and delivered to the man a sigh that had gotten tangled in its gamboling gusts. The sigh was little more than a breath but it broke the man's heart for caught in it were tears of bleakest despair. Quickly, the man packed his belongings, apologised to the villagers and left to seek the owner of the heart-wrenching sigh.

He set off down the mountain, following the spring stream to where its gushing waters mingled with the lazy swirl of the river that carved a path through the surrounding hills to the wide open plains and the far off sea. In the shallows, the man saw a sparrow splashing furiously.

"Sparrow," he asked "are you bathing or in trouble?"

The sparrow made no reply but continued to thrash against the river's current. The man scooped the little bird out of the water and held it in his hands called Warmth and Strength until its shivers stopped and its feathers were soft and dry.

"Thank you," said the sparrow. "You have saved my life. If ever you are in need, call for me and I will come." And with that, it hopped to the air and disappeared into the blue skies of the North.

The man followed the river for two days and on the third it entered a deep, shadow-lit forest. Under the shade of a large tree sat an old woman on a rock, like patience on a monument, waiting for the man to arrive.

"Young man!" she called to him. "Would you kindly carry me across this river."

"Do you wish to die, grandmother?" he asked.

The old woman gave him a look as sharp as needles and the man hurriedly explained, holding out his two marvellous hands, "If I touch you, warmth will return to your bones and strength to your flesh. You will be beyond the reach of Death for a good many years to come."

Without hesitation, the old woman grasped his hands with her own. Before his very eyes, the man saw the ravishes of time reversed. Beneath his very hands, the old woman grew young and beautiful and lithe. The girl shook out her shining, golden hair and told the man, "Continue along the river and then the brook that breaks away from it and you shall find a princess who needs your help though she will not -cannot- admit it." Then she tucked the bottom of her skirts up and waded across the river herself without a word of farewell.

The man did as he was told and soon came to a clearing where a princess had laid her clothing while she bathed in the stream. As he gazed at the princess, the man realised he had found the owner of the sigh for his heart was once again whole.

The princess looked up and saw the man staring. Her heart was pierced with icy disdain. She slowly emerged from the stream and covered herself, saying, "Why is it that all men are the same? Hideous, slathering creatures full of lust. Leave now, there is nothing for you here."

"No, princess," replied the man, for he had remembered the girl's warning. "You need my help though you cannot admit it. Please, just take hold of my hands, that is all you need do."

He held out his hands but the princess shied away from them and the words that burst from her heart were "Noli me tangere!" which means 'do not touch me' or 'do not hold onto me'. For the princess had a shard from an evil mirror trapped in her heart which feared the power of the man and his two extraordinary hands.

Then the princess said more calmly, "I would not allow one such as you to lay hands on me. Prove yourself and I will consider your offer." However, the deceptive evil was sneaky and sly, and planning a task that none could accomplish.

"Whatever you ask I will do, princess," the man promised.

So the princess led the man to a tower that stood next to the wide, lazy river. "This is my home," she said. "And I wish it to be on the other side of the river. If you move every brick and stone by night fall perhaps I will let you help me, and if not it will mean your death."

The man looked up and up at the tall, tall tower and almost despaired because midday had been and gone, and the base of the tower was surrounded in deep, thick thorns that defied his efforts to reach even one stone. Then he had a sudden thought and shouted, "Little zephyr, call your brothers the sea winds and the land winds, the North winds and the South winds, the winds from the West and the winds from the East. I have helped them before, now they might help me."

A breath of air swept past his cheek and all was still. But in less than five minutes a strong wind swept over the man and the princess, and before two hours had passed the tower and the surrounding trees were shuddering under the violent gusts of all the winds of the world. Swiftly, they wrapped around and around the tower, pulling it to pieces and in one tumultuous burst tossed it over the river. The bricks and stones fell all over the ground, covering most of the river bank, but not a single one was on the side where the man and the princess still stood.

"What have you done to my home?" shrieked the princess.

"That was not your home, it was a prison where you hid from the world," the man replied. "And you did not say the tower had to look like one, just that it had to be moved. Now, please–"

"No!" interrupted the princess. "How could I let one so cunning and crafty touch me?"

"Then set me another task, let me try again," the man pleaded.

"My mother gave me a ring before she died and I loved it until I realised cold metal means nothing and hated it." She pointed at the wild mess of windswept brambles where the tower had once stood. "So I threw it out the window and it landed somewhere in there. I give you until sunset to find it; or sure as you stand here now, then it shall mean your death."

This time, the man did not hesitate but called out, "Little bird, little bird, I am in need of your help, please quickly come."

With a shrill little cry, the bird dove out of the sky and into the brambles. In no time at all, it hopped onto the man's shoulder and dropped a small, golden ring into his outstretched hands.

"Thank you," said the man and the bird nodded gravely in return.

The man inspected the ring carefully; around the inside was the inscription To my Dearest. He looked up at the princess and saw that she had turned very pale and her heart was beating wildly. So he took her wrist and slipped the ring onto her finger.

"Now, princess," he said very seriously and laid his hand called Warmth to her cheek and the evil glass in her heart melted. The princess trembled with shock so the man cupped her other cheek in his hand called Strength.

Then he kissed her, and his lips should have been called Love.

The end.