Fable of the Yellow-Eyed Witch Myth in Amanor | World Anvil

Fable of the Yellow-Eyed Witch

The Fable of the Yellow-Eyed Witch is a prominent fairytale in the folklore Heartlands. It serves not only as a spine-chilling bedtime story for children, but also as a stark warning against the deceptive allure of Loviatar, the Goddess of Secrets and Goddess of Evil. As befits the darkest deity of the Empyreal Faith, it is a dark fable indeed, and a violent one, with a tendency to make younglings afraid of candles, wicks and tapers.   In its most popular iteration, the fable tells the tale of four siblings who, tempted by the delicious smells wafting from an old cabin in the woods, find themselves face-to-face with a black-robed witch. This witch, a representation of Loviatar herself, is known for her fatal gaze, her eyes glowing an eerie yellow. The witch is deadly, but will only kill those that look upon her face. Her house contains endless amounts of delicious treats, and anyone is free to enter, free to feast, so long as they do not break that one rule -- so long as they do not look into the witch's yellow eyes.   The children in the fable, each drawn into the witch's house by their desires, are subjected to a series of cleverly crafted deceptions. The witch attempts to make them look into her eyes, knowing that this would be their undoing. The story serves as an allegorical portrayal of the dangers of succumbing to Loviatar's tempting offers of power and knowledge, which ultimately lead only to ruin. Every child in the fable uses different tactics to survive the house and the witch's deceptions, but the witch ultimately tricks them all.   One dark fairytale amongst many, the fable has been passed down through generations in the Heartlands, shared by parents and grandparents alike, as a means of instilling a healthy fear and respect for the treacherous Loviatar. The Goddess of Secrets, as depicted in the fable, is a cunning figure who uses temptation and deception to lure unsuspecting victims into her web of lies, promising power and wealth. Foolish are those who seek to gain even the tiniest fraction of her gifts, for no one can outsmart her. No one can deceive her. No matter how cunning you think you are, the Mother of All Evil will always be more cunning. And once she has her eye on you, she will never look away.   The enduring popularity of the fable has inspired countless literary works, from epic poems to children's stories, and has even found its way into the visual arts. Paintings and sculptures depicting the witch and the ill-fated siblings can be found throughout the Heartlands, a testament to the tale's lasting cultural impact.   Various versions of this fable have been passed down through generations across the Heartlands, each with its distinct flavor. Some versions feature additional siblings, each representing different virtues or vices. Some versions change the witch's delicious foods into golden treasure, others into lost loved ones, or wishes like those that a djinn grants in other fables. Some tellings of the story place more emphasis on the individual cunning or folly of each child, while others give each child a different task and different challenges to overcome. Some variations have happy endings, others don't. Some feature different ways in which the children perish, while in some the children do not perish at all.   Regardless of the variation, the story's warning remains the same: beware the beguiling gaze of Loviatar.
Date of First Recording
Earliest recording ca. 211 ER
Date of Setting
Not specified.
Related Ethnicities
Related People

Evil undying

Some of the oldest, more obscure recordings of the fable feature an additional ending, in which the townsfolk go seeking for the lost children, led by a seasoned woodsman -- the father of the fable's children, sometimes a mayor or wizard instead. They find the witch's house and the bodies of countless children within, and they burn the house down with the witch inside. However, the witch returns from death to slay the father, and then departs to new lands, building a new cabin in a new forest.   This largely forgotten addition to the story alludes to the undying nature of the Archbetrayer, of the inevitability of evil. The burning of the witch is linked to Loviatar's title as Goddess of the Pyre and the grim punishment she received after Fimbulwinter at the hands of the other Empyreal Gods.

The Story

Once upon a time, in a small and sleepy village, nestled at the edge of a vast forest, lived four children with their old grandmother. The siblings were brave Edmund, wise Clara, gentle Peter, and little Lily. Life was simple, and they were content, except for one nagging temptation. The forest near their home held a dreadful secret – an old and dreary cabin, its chimney puffing with sweet-smelling smoke. It was the house of the witch of the forest, an old crone whose eyes held a fatal curse.   Rumors about the witch had circulated for generations. Delicious aromas always wafted through the forest around her cabin, and the tale went that the witch filled her home with tasty food and sweets. It was said that any child who dared enter her house could feast to their heart's content, but only if they never looked at the witch’s face -- for even a glance into her eyes meant certain death. Many foolish children had entered the house over the years, but no child had ever returned.   The four children, brave Edmund, wise Clara, gentle Peter, and little Lily, had grown up with these tales. The warnings were etched into their minds, but one day – after having some exceptionally tasteless porridge from their grandmother – the sweet smells of the forest lured the children to the cabin. Their mouths watered at the thought of the delicious treats that lay just beyond their reach.   The children argued for a moment, and the forest grew dark around them. Brave Edmund, who was the oldest, was not afraid of the witch. Wise Clara, who was the second oldest, wanted everyone to go home. Gentle Peter, who was shy but clever, was very hungry. And Little Lily, who was the smartest of them all, was so fond of his big brother Edmund, that she wanted to follow him everywhere. The children made a pact. They would venture into the witch's house, feast on her food, but always – always! – avoid her gaze. Hand in hand, they stepped from below the foreboding trees to stand before the witch’s front door. Their hearts pounded in their chests, for they knew not what awaited them, but their yearning for the witch's treats drove them on...  
  Edmund, being the oldest and bravest, decided to go in first. The others, overwhelmed with a sudden wave of fear, agreed readily, stepping back into the shadow of the forest. Edmund took a deep breath, pushed the door open, and stepped inside. The scent of baked goods and roasted meats was even more tantalizing up close. It filled his nostrils and made his stomach growl with anticipation. The witch appeared from the shadows, her figure tall and spindly, cloaked in black. She held a candle high to her face, casting yellow light into the darkness of the house. Edmund kept his eyes low, determined not to meet her gaze. He looked at the witch's feet, her long black robes, and the pale arms that held the candle, but not higher. The witch led him through the house into a large kitchen. The room was filled with food. There were pies of every kind, a large roasted boar, fruits glistening with sugar, and the most delicious sweetmeats Edmund had ever seen. It was more than he'd dreamed.   As Edmund filled his plate, the witch began to chat. Edmund could tell by her tone that she was trying to be friendly. She asked him about his siblings, his village, his favorite foods. He answered her questions politely, keeping his eyes averted from her face, focusing on the food in front of him.   After a while, the witch said, "Edmund, it's rude to speak to someone without looking at them. Won't you look at me?"   Edmund remembered the pact he made with his siblings. "No, ma'am, I can't," he replied, not the least bit afraid of the witch’s tricks.   The witch fell silent for a moment. Then, she turned towards the window. "Isn't that your sister standing there with a lantern?" she asked, her voice filled with surprise.   Startled, Edmund turned to look outside the window. A yellow light flickered in the darkness of the forest. But it wasn't his sister. It wasn't a lantern. It was the witch standing outside, her yellow eye staring back at him. Edmund felt a cold shiver run down his spine as he realized he had broken the one rule he was supposed to follow – but he couldn’t turn away from that yellow eye. He blinked, and the witch stood right before him, inside the kitchen and not outside at all.   "Now you see me, Edmund," said the witch’s voice. “AND I SEE YOU!”   There was a glint of light, and the witch’s long, sharp claws flashed out, severing his neck. Then, the witch opened a trap door, and dropped poor, brave Edmund into the cellar, severed head and all.  
  Having waited for what seemed like an eternity, gentle Peter decided to venture into the witch's cabin. His stomach grumbled, and the aroma of delicious food was too much to resist. Wise Clara tried to stop him, but to no avail. He took a deep breath and pushed open the creaky door, stepping inside. The witch appeared from the shadows, a yellow light shining from somewhere around her face. Must be a candle she’s holding, Peter thought. It really is dark in here. He kept his eyes low, not looking at the witch, not even above her knees. The witch’s long cloak hissed against the floorboards as she moved, leading Peter to the kitchen.   The sight of the food made Peter's mouth water. He lunged at the food, not even taking the time to sit down. As Peter indulged in the feast, the witch tried to strike up a conversation. She asked about his village, his favorite games, and about his siblings. Peter, however, remained mostly quiet, answering only in short replies, always keeping his eyes averted from the witch.   "Peter, it's impolite to speak to someone without looking at them," she said, "Won't you look at me?"   "No, ma'am, I can't," he replied, his voice steady.   "Isn't that your sister out there with a lantern?" she asked, turning towards the window.   Peter tensed but didn't turn his head. From the corner of his eye, he saw a faint yellow glow in the darkness outside the window. "My sister doesn’t have a lantern," he said firmly.   The witch fell silent at that. Peter was hungry still, so he ate and ate, polishing off nearly every plate and platter on the table. Yet, his craving for sweets was not fully satisfied.   "You've eaten everything I cooked for you, Peter," came the witch’s voice, "Is there anything else you'd like? Perhaps some dessert?"   "Yes, please,” Peter said, and his stomach made a small growling noise.   "There's a jar of cookies in my larder,” said the witch.   Peter’s face lit up – cookies were his favorite. “Yes, please, ma’am!” he said.   “Of course, my dear,” she said. “But you'll have to get them yourself..."   Peter nodded and walked towards the larder. The door creaked open to reveal a dimly lit room. He squinted, trying to make out the shapes in the darkness.   "I can't see the jar, ma'am," Peter called out.   "Just behind that sack of flour, dear," came the witch's voice from behind him.   Peter moved the sack of flour aside, and there it was. Not a jar of cookies, but a candle – or so he thought at first. The flame was flickering, but there was no candle stick. In fact, there wasn’t even a flame, only a hovering orb of light. Peter froze as he realized it wasn't a candle at all. It was an eye. A yellow eye.   Before he could pull his gaze away, the witch stepped forth from the darkness of the larder, her cackling laughter echoing in the room. Peter was trapped, his eyes locked onto the witch's yellow eye...   "Now you see me, Peter," said the witch’s voice. “AND I SEE YOU!”   There was a glint of light, and the witch’s long, sharp claws flashed out, severing his neck. Then, the witch opened a trap door, and dropped poor, hungry Peter into the cellar, severed head and all.  
  Next to go inside the cabin was little Lily, hoping to find her beloved big brother Edmund. As she stepped inside, the witch appeared from the shadows, but Lily kept her eyes low, her heart pounding in her chest. The witch led her to the kitchen, where the delicious food was laid out. The sight of the feast made Lily’s stomach growl, and he seemed to forget all about brave Edmund.   Lily began to fill her plate. But being the cleverest of them all, she decided to take a precautionary measure. She took a napkin from the table and tied it around her eyes as a blindfold. Then she ate, guided only by the delicious smells and her sense of touch.   “Why do you cover your eyes so, little Lily?” asked the witch.   “It’s a game,” Lily said quickly. “I want to guess the food I’m eating without seeing it.” She did not want to let the witch know that she knew the danger she was in.   “I see,” said the witch. Then she struck conversation, asking Lily question after question about her family snd their village. Lily answered only with lies, not wanting to tell the witch anything that she might use against her or her siblings.   "Little Lily, it's impolite to speak to someone without looking at them,” said the witch. “Won't you remove that napkin and look at me?"   "No, ma'am, I can't," Lily replied from beneath her blindfold, her voice steady. “I haven’t finished my game yet.”   “Isn't that your sister out there with a lantern?" asked the witch.   “Out where?” asked Lily.   “Just there outside the window, dear,” said the witch.   “My sister doesn’t have a lantern,” said Lily.   Lily was allowed to finish her meal in silence. However, she was a picky eater and found none of the desserts to her liking. The witch noticed this. "There's a jar of cookies in the larder, dear," she said, "But you'll have to get them yourself..."   With her blindfold still in place, Lily found her way to the larder. But of course, she couldn't see anything.   "Where is it?" Lily asked.   "It's behind that sack of flour," the witch said, "Take off your blindfold and you'll see it."   Lily did not dare remove her blindfold in front of the witch. She felt around, found the sack of flour the witch had mentioned, and moved it aside. Her hand fumbled around, touching something cool and smooth. A glass jar. She opened it to find it full of cookies. She ate them with delight, her blindfold still in place.   Finally, the witch dismissed Lily from the kitchen. "You have eaten everything I have," she said in a defeated voice, "You may leave now."   As Lily stepped into the dark corridor, a familiar voice called her.   "Lily, it's me, Edmund," the voice said.   "Edmund!" she cried, her heart swelling with relief. Then she felt a pang of guilt. In her excitement over the food, she had forgotten about her beloved brother.   Edmund’s feet thumped on the floorboards as he came closer. “We need to leave now, Lily. The witch is dangerous,” he said, panting.   “Okay,” she said. “Lead the way, Edmund.”   As Edmund drew closer, the light from a candle seeped through Lily's blindfold and her eyelids, turning her vision yellow. Edmund's voice pleaded, "We need to move quickly now, Lily. Remove your blindfold so we can run."   Lily reached up to untie her blindfold, ready to follow her brave brother and escape from the witch's cabin. As the fabric fell away from her eyes, she looked up to see her brother's comforting face. But it was not Edmund standing before her. And it was not a candle that had lit up the corridor. Instead, she found herself staring directly into a haunting yellow eye, the witch's deadly gaze piercing the the darkness...   "Now you see me, Lily," said the witch’s voice. “AND I SEE YOU!”   There was a glint of light, and the witch’s long, sharp claws flashed out, severing her neck. Then, the witch opened a trap door, and dropped poor, little Lily into the cellar, severed head and all.  
  The last child outside was Clara. The eldest sister, the wise one, finally mustered the courage to step into the witch's cabin. As the witch appeared from the shadows, Clara locked her gaze downwards.   “Where are my siblings?” Clara demanded as she shouldered her way past the witch.   “Oh, my dear child, I have seen no siblings of yours,” said the witch.   “You liar!” shouted Clara over her shoulder. “They all came in here. Where are they?” She ventured into the dark house on her own, storming down corridors, throwing open doors, and calling her siblings by name. “Edmund! Peter! Little Lily! Let’s go home, now!”   The witch followed close behind, her flickering candle-glow always trailing at Clara’s back, casting eerie shadows on the walls. The witch yelled and questioned her, but Clara remained steadfast.   "Where are my siblings?" Clara demanded.   But the witch evaded her questions, feigning ignorance and making conversation, all cordial and friendly. “Clara, dear, there’s no need for all this fuss. Won’t you just stop, and we can talk this out? Just stop and look at me!”   But Clara wouldn’t look at the witch; she knew what the witch was trying to do.   The witch walked up to a window and cried out in surprise. “Look, Clara! Is that your brother Edmund there, standing outside with a lantern?”   But Clara wouldn’t look outside; she knew it could not be Edmund.   Eventually, Clara arrived in the kitchen. The mouth-watering smells did nothing to sway her. She did not touch the food.   “Ooh”, cood the witch behind Clara’s back, “Maybe your siblings are hiding in the larder, afraid to come out.”   But Clara wouldn't look in the larder; she knew her siblings wouldn't hide there, especially after hearing her call out for them.   Finally, the witch relented. "Oh fine. I see you are a wise and determined child," she said, her voice bitter with defeat. “Your siblings await you in the dining room. They were all so very hungry.”   The witch pointed out a door in the corridor, and Clara threw it open. As she stepped in, the door slammed shut behind her. There was no one in the room. She was alone.   In the dim light, Clara could see a long dining table with a red tablecloth. On it were three silver platters, each covered with a dome. She approached the table, her heart pounding in her chest. She reached out for the nearest platter and lifted the dome.   Beneath it was a severed head, long hair falling over the face. Black hair, just like Edmund's...   With trembling hands, Clara pushed the hair aside, revealing half of the face underneath – revealing an eye. But as she looked closer, she realised it wasn't Edmund. The eye was yellow, flickering in the dim light like a candle flame... And it looked straight at Clara.   "Now you see me, Clara," said the witch’s voice, slithering into Clara’s ear. “And I... SEE. YOU!”  
The End.
This article is an entry in the Fable May contest. Big thanks to Jester% for the inspiration!  
Fable May: A Contest of Tales from Childhood
Generic article | Jun 2, 2023

A challenge for anyone that has a tale to tell and a childhood to relive.

Cover image: Banner - Yellow-Eyed Witch by CraniumBeaver (Midjourney)


Author's Notes

I loved writing this. I read the contest article in the evening, and then the ideas kept me up half the night. After eight hours at work I rushed home to write this. It's 10 pm now.   I'm of the Disney cartoon generation, but when thinking of "fables" I think of the stuff my mother and father read to me from dusty, old books. Brothers Grimm, most notably. I don't recall any single story, but I think I loved them all for being so dark and scary. I remember only vague bits.   There's a motif stuck in the back of my mind about a witch that disposes of children's corpses in her cellar, so I incorporated that here. I also recall that everyone always lost their heads in the stories of my childhood, so I had to make that the M.O. of the witch. Thirdly, I remember there was a man working at my kindergarten that seemingly improvised a new scary story for us each time he put us to bed at naptime. His stories always had happy endings, but they made my skin crawl before he got there... The scariest of all of them was a story about red, yellow and green lights that shone in the middle of the forest like eyes that stared at some children that had gotten lost (at the end of his story, the lights turned out to be harmless traffic lights).   The fourth box I wanted to tick with this was a lasting feeling of dread; the most horrible stories left me traumatized for long periods of time, making me scared of mundane things in the dark. Not a pleasant feeling for a young child to have, but I wanted to recreate that dread for the fictional children of my fictional world by trying to make this story into one that associates a scary monster (and a violent death) with something as mundane as a candle-flame. What could be more horrible for a little kid in a medieval world than being afraid of not only the dark but also of the simplest source of light?

Please Login in order to comment!
Jacqueline Yang
12 May, 2023 19:44

Dude, this chilled me to the bone. Good job with the keeping that fairy tale feeling consistent, and the constant motif of the yellow eye is great, adds so much more impact whenever it's mentioned.

13 May, 2023 04:04

Thank you very much! I'm glad you liked it :)