The carpenter’s reputation had travelled far beyond the forest in which her little cottage stood.
One day, it brought a Duke to her door, and with him a piece of blackwood and a bag full of coin.
Waving a gloved hand in the air, gems gleaming at his throat, the Duke commanded that the carpenter carve his likeness. The finest blackwood for the finest face.
But the carpenter knew this was not how it works. Her skill was not in replicating, but in excavating. Each carving was already there, buried beneath the bark. She merely had to remove anything unnecessary, exposing the very heart of each piece of wood. Finding the true essence of its story.
Still, money was money.
The carpenter began to cut. Time passed, the minutes falling to the floor alongside the spent wood. The Duke cursed and complained. Hurry up. Make me handsome. Quicker.
Shavings accumulated at her feet. It was curious how they too looked like little carvings. That curve of wood has the shape of a horse. And that! Is it not a set of jewels on a chain? A perfectly miniature glove and – slice, cut – here is its partner. All cut away. All unnecessary.
So distracted was she by the pile of inadvertent carvings accumulating at her feet, it came as some surprise to find she had finished.
In her hands she held a tiny man. No moustaches on his face, nor stones around his neck; his face whittled into a wooden scowl. Shorn of all that had adorned his life there was little left.
Was it really a surprise to find the chair opposite her empty?
She placed the little man on a shelf and quietly closed her cottage door.
Probably best if she didn’t mention this to anyone.