Hen&inkblots: A Literary Blog

Of Bards and Black Hens: Ringing in the New Year

January 2, 2012 by Sandra Guy

New Year’s day. My life is in tatters and what remains is grey and full of rain. I’m looking for a miracle. A mighty Goddess to strip away the old and inspire a whole lot of new.

I close my eyes, and a fat black hen comes clucking. She wears wattles and a comb of scarlet.


This is your story, she says. It is the story of becoming.

It begins with a boy and a blind man being stolen by a witch to tend a magical brew that they must neither touch nor taste. But, on the very last day, as the boy reaches in to remove a dead fly three drops splash on his hand. He sucks his finger to cool it, and in an avalanche of sound — the screams of sky and stone, of wind and water, of bird and every beast — he hears the entire world telling him to run!

The fabulously powerful and now furious witch is enraged by his tasting of her potion.

The boy wishes for the speed of a hare, and in no time he is hare, leaping across the fields. But the witch takes the form of a greyhound and chases him.

The hare reaches a stream where he wishes for fins. The boy is suddenly salmon, swimming against the current and the witch, a starving otter diving after him.

He sees her coming and wishes for wings. He becomes a swallow shooting through clear skies. But the witch has turned hunting hawk.

The swallow sees a farm and on that farm, a barn. He drops from the sky as a single grain of wheat and hides himself amongst a thousand others. But the witch will not be fooled. She becomes a black hen and with her strong sharp beak, she pecks her way through the grain until she finds him and consumes him, husk and all.

This is my story? I ask.

The black hen glares, You have yet to hear the end!

In her fat stomach, the boy thrashes about his way and that until his husk is broken and he can move no more. In the nine months that follow he dreams of characters and settings, of words and plots. Understands the conflict of sun and shadow, the tension of lover and loved. He is fed by fools, led astray by heroes and sung to by imagination and dreams. After nine months he is full, and she spits him into the world as a baby she will not keep.

Wrapping him in the thin stomach of a cow, she sets him in a river where he floats gently into the arms of the man she has chosen to foster him.

The boy grows up to become Taliesin, the greatest bard of Britain.

He brings his foster father wealth and fame, but is better remembered for his songs, long passed down through bloodlines, and craft lines and lines linked to the lay of the land. Songs telling the power of revision and change, and the unexpected journeys such work takes us on.

The greatest bard of Britain I do not dream to be, but a bard on a bestsellers list would be good.

Cerridwen, are you there?

Mighty Goddess of inspiration, transformation and rebirth, send me a sign telling me how to make it happen!

I see a small black hen with a scarlet crest, a three feathered tail, and “Hen & ink” spilling from her side.

I feel a greyhound on my tail, an otter at my toes and a hunting hawk not far behind. I start to work and work fast and well.

With courage in my hands and hope in my heart, I follow the trail of grain to the home of the fat black hen, and hammering at her door (in the south of France), I ask her to thrash my words about, this way and that, so they find the form to win the perfect heart of the editor who will foster them into fully-grown books.

With two black hens and this growing sun I seek:

The house of becoming.

The editor who will.

And the birth of a brand new bard.