This is a slightly modernized retelling of a folktale I heard growing up. If you are familiar with Scandinavian folktales, you should recognize the common themes in what is basically a story about proper behavior. The supernatural element is minimal and serves as a means of moving the story towards the conclusion rather than as the focus of the story. In an earlier form, the story doesn’t contrast rural life with urban life but I felt it was necessary to put a bit of the dichotomy into the story as a means of explaining the dangers of the cornfield to people who likely never grew up near them. The change in behavior at the conclusion of the story is also typical of Scandinavian behavior tales that have a happy ending. Others can be quite gruesome and off-putting to modern sensibilities. Please feel free to share this story or even tell it to your own kids! I hope you enjoy it.
The Girl Who Got Lost in the Corn Field
There’s plenty that city folk know nothing about and one of those things is how dangerous a corn field can be. You see, for corn to grow tall and full, the roots need to grow down deep into the earth. This means that the soil needs to be tilled up quite deep for planting and that makes the ground hard to walk on. Not that you want to go walking in a corn field after it gets over your head because you’re bound to get lost in it and wander off and never be seen or heard from again. Anyone who grows up around corn knows this but some folks just don’t have an ounce of sense in their heads and every season someone gets themselves lost in the corn.
Well, that’s what happened to a little girl who came to visit her aunt and uncle on their farm one summer. This little girl spent her whole life living in the city and her parents thought it was time for her to spend some time on the family farm, so they sent her off for a visit. Now, she was none too happy about this. She’d been looking forward to a summer playing with her friends and generally doing nothing now that school was out. The last thing she wanted to do was spend the summer working on a smelly old farm with stinky cows, ugly pigs, and just downright mean hens clucking at her when she brought the feed pale around. It was a lot of hard, hot work and it was no fun at all!
One day she was feeding the pigs and slipped in the mud near the pen, getting herself mighty dirty. It didn’t help any that her cousins saw her and laughed at her. After all, it was a pretty funny thing to watch her land on her backside in the mud. Well, this got her riled up and she started just screaming and screaming at her cousins. Before anyone knew what was going on, the girl ran as fast as her legs could carry her. She ran past the pigs and their mud hole. She ran past the hen house. She ran right past the milking barn and right out into the corn field. She ran and she ran and didn’t stop until she was completely exhausted. She was so tired she just sat right down and took a nap, right there in the corn field.
When she woke up it was very late. The sun had gone down and the moon had come up. The stars were in the sky and there wasn’t a cloud to be found anywhere. At first the girl was amazed at what she saw. You just don’t see things like that in the city, what with all its street lights and bright signs. After a few minutes of marveling at just how amazing the night sky was the girl started to realize that she was lost. She didn’t know how far into the corn field she had run and she didn’t even know which way would lead her back to the farmhouse. She tried finding her way back but she kept tripping over churned up old cornstalks and stepping in gopher holes. The sharp leaves of the growing corn kept cutting at her arms and cheeks. Soon she was just a sad sight and she sat down and began to cry. She cried harder than she’d ever cried before in her life. Through choking sobs she cried and she promised that she’d never misbehave like that again. She swore she’d do her chores and make the very best out of her time on the farm and no one would ever say she was lazy again.
Another thing that city folks don’t know is that out in the corn fields live the Hidden Folk. Sometimes the Hidden Folk like to cause trouble and sometimes they like to help out. Well, it must have been that her tears and her promises fell on friendly ears because one of the Hidden Folk conjured up a troll-lantern to help the girl find her way home. A troll-lantern is a kind of light that floats in the air and can go where it pleases. The Hidden Folk use them for all sorts of things but this time it was meant to help the girl get home safely. The troll-lantern danced and shook and cast a bright light over the entire row of corn so the girl could see the ground very well. She followed the troll-lantern for a long time as it led her through the rows upon rows of corn all the way to the edge of the field. When the girl was safely back on the farm she ran right to the old farm house where her aunt, uncle, and cousins welcomed her home. She told them everything that had happened and that she was sorry for getting angry with her cousins and she promised to be more helpful the rest of the summer. The next morning, and every morning for the rest of the summer, she worked harder than anyone else on the farm and was as good as her word.