The Magic Circle by Donna Jo Napoli

The Magic Circle

"Don't you love it, Mother? We can shut our eyes and pretend we live in a candy house. All candy. Everywhere."

The Ugly One in The Magic Circle by Donna Jo Napoli remembered how her child loved sweets. Asa was beautiful, and her mother tried to give her all the beauty she could though they were poor.

She worked as a midwife in the village where she was accepted for her healing gifts. She took simple things in exchange for her services: some food, a bit of wool, or perhaps a lovely ribbon for Asa's hair.

The hunchbacked woman was simply good, happy knowing that her talents were used to help others. Yet her neighbor Bala knew they would be rich if she could persuade the Ugly One to drive the demons from the burgermeister's son. The Ugly One protested. She was a midwife, an herbal healer sometimes, nothing more than God wished her to be. But when she saw the boy, yellowed and dying from a tormenting demon, she believed that God had given her another path.

The Ugly One was wise. She knew that exorcising demons was a dangerous business, yet as time went on and her power grew the Ugly Sorceress, as she was now known, became a little careless, and the demons were ready to take advantage.

She traded herself to them out of love for another, but she fled the wicked voices in her head that told her to complete her fall into darkness by devouring innocent children. The house she built all by herself in the faraway forest was plain, but she boiled sugar syrup from her field of beets to create marvelous candies. She strung them all over the outside of her house. Their sweetness and beauty reminded her so much of Asa.

Time passed. Iron teeth and ice water in her veins did not prevent the Ugly One from being sensitive to the smallest sounds from woodland creatures, many sent by the devils to spy on her. One morning she was roused from her bed by the sound of voices:

"'Throw me down some gumdrops, Hansel,'" says a light, high voice. The sound is musical, but the words cut me as deeply as any sword. A child is outside my home. A human child!
....
"I am slightly giddy. I speak, but my voice is musical, not my old, rough peasant's voice. No, it is the gentle voice of a friend. I am saying, 'Nibble nibble like a mouse. Who is nibbling at my house?' My words are sweet as the candy the children eat."

Check out this compelling fantasy story today!