Once upon a
time an old woman named Wedi lived alone high atop a mountain. She was a small,
hunched creature clad in a thick black robe and a plain black peaked hat. Bare
patches showed that this hat had been brushed too many times. Most of its magic
had faded away, too, drained of its power from so many years of use.
Wedi and her hat had been
constant companions, keeping each other company from childhood through
elderhood. They’d shared adventures and told stories, brewed tea together and
enjoyed afternoon naps. Just the two of them, always.
From her front
porch, Wedi could see, if the sunlight was just so in the sky, the little
village that lay far below. At
nighttime, the lights of the village were a mirror image of the star-filled sky,
which made Wedi being feel cocooned between two light-filled realms.
One day, curiosity about
the inhabitants below caused a yearning to venture down the mountain to see
what she could see. Wedi packed some bread and water for the journey. Night had
fallen by the time she arrived. She saw that the stars of the village illuminated
cozy little homes with hearths around which people gathered to eat, laugh, and
Peeking through the
window, Wedi perceived a familiar feeling. These people felt the same way about
each other as she did for her hat. They were rich with companionship. She felt
a longing for more, too.
Afraid to make the trek
home at night, she found a comfortable nook under a cedar hedge, and fell into
a fitful slumber, her hat softly snoring on the ground next to her, blissfully
unaware of the new desire in her companion.
Wedi awoke to the sounds
of villagers. As they greeted one another with a hearty hello, the hats on
their heads also tipped themselves in a good morning gesture. Ignoring
the growling in her stomach, Wedi followed the crowd into the centre of town. No
one paid her much mind.
The villagers were making
their daily pilgrimage to the most magical hat shop of all the hat shops. This
shop was brimming with hats of all shapes, sizes, and colours. Hats with
feathers. Hats with buttons, bits, and bobs. Hats that sang and hats that danced.
Hats that tucked themselves away at the end of the day and hats that calmed
even the fussiest of babies.
The most mysterious hat of
all was one that sat alone on the highest shelf at the back of the shop. It was
here where its home had been made many years ago. So long ago that no one alive
at the time could recall its age. This hat alone was not for sale. It was far
too precious for just anyone to wear on their head. No one knew why. It had
always been thus.
Young children and
grown-ups jostled for the best viewing position. Late-comers were disappointed
to find no place for them close to the front. Some of them allowed their more
modern hats to hover over the crowd and report back. No one noticed the old
woman whose nose was pressed curiously against the window.
At precisely one minute
before opening time the proprietor of the hat shop ceremoniously flipped the
switch on a powerful spotlight, illuminating the extraordinary hat in its
solitary position high up on a shelf. The light hit it at just the right angle
to showcase its marvellousness. From outside the otherwise darkened shop, a
collective gasp escaped the mouths of the spectators, even those who had seen
this many times before.
The colours of deep purple
and golden yellow were adorned with glittering gems and multi-coloured ribbons.
Its peak stood as straight and proud as an arrow. Its wide brim tipped sideways
at a just-so angle for optimum flattery. Everyone in the crowd imagined themselves
with this magnificent hat atop their own head.
Including the old woman. Wedi
stood mesmerized by the hat’s magnificence. She’d never seen anything like it. In
that moment, she felt shame for her own plain hat. She saw how the Hat of Ages delighted
the villagers. If she wore that hat, would they be delighted with her? Perhaps
invite her to stay in this cozy village populated with lively people and
That night, when the shops
were closed and the villagers had retired to their homes, Wedi snuck around the
back of the hat shop. When she encountered a heavy lock she murmured, “Kindly open
the lock,” and her hat happily did, spending the little magic it had left.
Remembering the fun of their past adventures, the hat began to feel giddy with
Stealthily, Wedi entered
the darkened store and made her way to where the Hat of Ages sat high above
her. She used a nearby footstool to help her reach the hat that she hoped would
change everything for her. In the darkness, the hat no longer glittered. It no
longer seemed extraordinary. No matter, she thought, in the light of day I
shall look splendid with it atop my head.
She took the Hat of Ages
in one hand and placed her own plain black hat in its stead. Stepping off the
stool, she placed the hat on her head and felt … bereft. At the same time, the
spotlight magically turned on and illuminated Wedi’s black hat. It seemed to twinkle
with the light of countless stars, even more stars than either above or below
her mountain home.
This Hat of Ages was a
mere imposter. She removed it and reached for her friend, her constant
companion, her plain black hat that she now saw had not only its own beauty,
but the love and belonging she mistakenly thought she’d been lacking. Blanketed by stars above, comforted by stars
below, Wedi and her hat returned to their cabin on the mountain.
has been writing off and on for most of her life but has only begun to
find her stride in the last year and a half. You can subscribe to her
observational blog at www.danawebster.com
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