Out on the fens, one morning chilled,
Where fog trailed fingers low,
Upon wood walkways men did build
A young maid she did go.
She tripped along, to berries seek,
This maiden known as Nancy.
For she knew this landscape bleak
Had nibbles for her fancy.
Not long she’d followed that straight road
‘Til heard she a strange sound…
A sucking squelch… and so she slowed
And cautious, turned around.
A sight of horror met her eyes –
A monster of the bog!
A man of mud did steady rise
All dripping in the fog.
She screamed and turned, this frightened lass,
To run fast from the beast.
But ‘ere she did, she heard: ‘Alas!
I’ll never be released!’
The woeful pain within the voice
Made Nancy stop and look.
The mud man stood, all brown and moist –
His head forlornly shook.
She tentatively took a pace
Towards the muddy mess.
He sadly raised his sloppy face
And sobs did he suppress.
‘Dear miss,’ said he, ‘I doesn’t try
Ta frighten merry folk.
I only wants ‘em ta come by
And friendly talk an’ joke.’
Young Nancy listened to him moan
And muttered ‘Ye poor fellow…’
And he explained an aged crone
(with skin all wrinkly yellow)
Had told him he could twist his fate
If he could find a maid
Who’d not look upon him in hate
But kiss him, unafraid.
He’d transform to a strapping male,
All handsome, kind and smart.
Nancy listened to his tale
And felt it in her heart…
She said: ‘I’ll grant ye a true kiss,
Not gave in fear, but free.’
The mud man cried, ‘Oh bless ye miss!
Ye’s filled this beast wi’ glee!’
So stood she up, upon toe-tips,
To kiss the mud man’s face.
She grimaced as she suffered sips
O’ mud and earthy taste.
And as she felt she needed air
Amid the runny slop
She found her lips were glued fast there:
She found she could not stop…
She screamed out muffled as her head
Was getting sucked in too…
She wriggled, kicked as the monster fed
All gulping without chew.
And in due time, she was all ate…
Her legs and feet and toes.
The monster cackled at her fate
‘That’s ‘ow the maids all goes!’
‘Fool they be but feast for me,
All falls fer my smart trick!’
They’s all soft-heart an’ nah does see
Or uses wit so quick!’
And so he slopped along the planks
All built by men in’t fog.
Heavy with lunch, he crossed the banks
And sank into the bog.
(Illustration – Nøkken by Theodor Kittelsen)