The Gift of the Quiltmaker

There once was a quiltmaker who kept a house in the blue misty mountains up high. Even the oldest great, great grandfather could not recall a time when she was not up there, sewing away day after day.

Here and there and wherever the sun warmed the earth, it was said she made the prettiest quilts anyone had ever seen.

The blues seemed to come from the deepest part of the ocean, the whites from the northernmost snows, the greens and purples from the abundant wildflowers, the reds, oranges, and pinks from the most wonderful sunsets.

Some said there was magic in her fingers. Some whispered that her needles and cloth were gifts from the bewitched. And still others said the quilts fell to the Earth from the shoulders of passing angels.

Many people climbed her mountain, pockets bursting with gold, hoping to buy one of her wonderful quilts. But the woman would not sell them.

"I give my quilts to those who are poor or homeless," she told all who knocked on her door. "They are not for the rich."

On the darkest and coldest nights, the woman would make her way down the mountain to the town below. There she would wander the cobblestone streets until she came upon someone sleeping outside in the chill. She would then take a newly finished quilt from her bag, wrap it around their shivering shoulders, tuck them in tight, and tiptoe away.

Then the very next morning, with a steaming cup of blackberry tea, she would begin a new quilt.

Now at this time there also lived a very powerful and greedy king who liked nothing better than to receive gifts. The hundreds of thousands of beautiful presents he got for Christmas and his birthday were never enough. So a law was passed that the king would celebrate his birthday twice a year.

When that still wasn't enough, he ordered his soldiers to search the kingdom for those few people who had not yet given him a gift.

Over the years, the king had come to own almost all the prettiest things in the world. Throughout the castle, from top to bottom, in drawers and shelves, in boxes and trunks and closets and sacks, all the king's countless items were stored.

Things that shimmered and glittered and glowed.

Things whimsical and practical.

Things mysterious and magical.

So many, many things that the king kept a list of all the things he owned.

And yet with all these marvelous treasures to enjoy, the king was never smiled. He was not happy at all. "Somewhere there must be one beautiful thing that will finally make me happy," he was often heard to say. "And I will have it!"

One day a soldier rushed into the palace with news about a magical quiltmaker who lived in the mountains. The king stamped his foot. "And how is it that this person has never given me one of her quilts as a gift?" he demanded.

"She only makes them for the poor, Your Majesty," the soldier replied. "And she will not sell them for any amount of money."

"Well, we shall see about that!" the king roared. "Bring me a horse and a thousand soldiers." And they set off in search of the quiltmaker.

But when they arrived at her house, the quiltmaker merely laughed. "My quilts are for the poor and needy, and I can easily see that you are neither."

"I want one of those quilts!" the king demanded. "It might be the one thing that will finally make me happy."