This story was told to me by my mother, who passed it down from her mother and her mother’s mother. To my knowledge, this story is generations old.
It’s is the way the women in my family explained the change of seasons. The legend of the passage of time, the harshness of winter and the glories return of summer. It is a magical story of love, war, and balance.
Here it goes…
A long, long time ago lived two brothers. Twin Princes named Holly and Oak. Holly was handsome but dark. He loved the cold and the animals of the winter months: the fat fur-coated bear and the cunning winter wolf. Holly was intelligent and quick to study. He was generous with the creatures in the forest and gave them food during those harsh months.
However, Oak was equally handsome, and Oak enjoyed the light. He loved the coolness of water in the summer months — the heat of the sunlight on his skin. He too was gentle with the woodland creatures.
In the summer he helped the deer find water to drink and berries for the chipmunks to stuff in his cheeks. Because he enjoyed the outdoors so much, the Oak prince was stronger than his brother.
One day the brothers realized that as they grow, only one of them could be King. The Queen told them that they would have to battle for the throne. This realization hurt the Queen, but it was necessary.
The brothers fought, the battle lasted days. Their breaths were heated and hot like the summer winds. Their swords clashed like thunder and lightning. In the Oak beat his brother and Holly fled.
As the Oak King reigned, he took the Queen for his own. She mourned the son she had lost, Holly, not seen for a very long time. As the queen mourned her lose the earth began to wither and died, and with it, the Oak King himself grew old.
Holly, however, was not done with his brother yet. Intelligent as he was he waited for his brother to grow old and weak. You see because Holly had not been King he had not aged with the Earth, he was still young and sharp.
So in the darkness of autumn when the night was cold and wet. Holly snuck into the King’s chambers and slew his brother, taking the crown for himself. He reigned over the winter months, but he too would begin to age and in time would pass away as all things do.
The Holly King searched for his mother but could not find her for she was hidden away, pregnant with twins whom she would once again name Holly and Oak.