The Heart of Wood (story)

“This is shot. Totally dead,” the man in the mint green coat confirms. “Nothing I can do.”

The woman shakes her head sadly and pokes with a finger at the shards of glass glittering on the table.

“What did you do to it?” he asks her.

“I did nothing.”

“You can’t trust anyone with a heart nowadays,” he agrees, “you should get one of steel this time. Glass looks pretty, but it gets broken too easily.”

“A heart of steel?” the women sighs. “That’s like a locked door, nobody gets in and nothing gets out. What would be the point?”

“Well, that’s true, but it works for me,” he hits his chest and the woman can hear a clanging sound.

“Does it make you happy?” she wonders.

“I am content enough, content enough… no big highs, but definitely no big lows like that either,” he replies pointing at the glittering ruby mess on the table.

She sniffs, “I don’t want to live like that. What’s life for then?”

“There are other alternatives…”, he suggests.


“There’s your heart of stone, but you won’t want that, it’s safe but a bit boring,” he rubs his nose before he continues, “you could get a heart of gold, they’re very popular, but a bit soft and too shiny for my taste…”

“Anything else?” she wonders, “Neither of those are what I am looking for.”

“There are thousands of alternatives, there’s the enamelled heart, the plushie heart, the woven heart, the mirror heart…,” he stops and considers, “I think what you want is a wooden heart.”

“A wooden heart?”

“Yes, it’s a growing thing, made to measure from the tree of your choice. It takes a few more knocks than the glass heart but it’s not as unforgivable as the steel or stone hearts.”

“Where can I get one like that?” she wants to know.

“Just ask Geppetto two doors down. He’ll make you what you need. That man can carve anything from a bit of wood,” he explains. “He’s quite cheap, too, says he does it for the love of it. He is a bit odd…”

“Thanks for all the advice, I’ll try him then. Third time lucky and all that.” She picks up the shards of red glass and puts them in the bag she used to carry the broken heart to the surgeon.

“All right then. When you’re ready for the heart of steel, just come back,” he replies. “See you soon.”

The woman shakes her head, “I hope not. I’ll try and make this the last one. There’s only so much a person can take.”

“Ah, you should have started with the heart of steel and you’d still be on the first one,” he chuckles as he watches her leave his surgery.


The woman walks into the tiny shop two doors down from the surgeon, bowing her head through the low door. Inside it is crowded with guitars, violins, dolls and their little houses; a myriad of toys, some colourful, some plain; chairs, stools, and anything else wooden that can be imagined and some that is difficult to put a use to.

Right by the door is a shelf holding spindles and toy soldiers side by side.

At the counter sits an old man, bearded, with bushy eyebrows and deep set eyes, sanding a doll’s delicate face to a smooth shine.

She lays the bag with the shards of her glass heart on the table and greets him.

“What can I do for you?” he asks her.

She opens the bag and lets the red glass nuggets slide onto the counter. “This was my heart, it’s broken beyond repair now.”

He touches one of the shards gently with a worn finger and nods sadly. “Hearts of glass break easily.”

“The surgeon two doors up the street sent me to you for a wooden heart. Can you make me one?” she asks him.

He nods, “Can do, can do.”

“Will it cost me much?”

“No, I don’t think so, only what it’s worth.”

“It’s worth a great deal to me, because this one has to last for a long time. It’s the third one, and I am not sure I could cope with another one after that.”

“You’ll want one of the specials then, made of Rowan. Best wood there is for hearts.”

She looks at him questioningly, “Why?”

“Rowan is magical, that’s why. Holds back evil and keeps you safe.”

“Is that so?” the woman asks with doubt in her voice.

The old man nods. “Yes, that’s why a wizard’s staff is made of Rowan.”

“I didn’t know about that. What about my old heart? Should I bury it?”

“No, no, that will do no good. We’ll put it inside the new one, so you’ll remember to be careful who you trust.”

“Won’t it rattle?” the woman wants to know.

“We’ll pad it out nicely with some Meadowsweet, Myrtle and Mistletoe. That should do the trick.”

“Are those herbs special too?”

He nods, “they’ll keep your heart safe and attract only the right kind of person. Can’t get better than that.”

The woman looks at him, hope almost rising in her chest, “That sounds just right.”

Geppetto smiles at her and puts the shards of glass back into the drawstring bag.

“How long will it take? It feels odd without a heart,” she says, pointing at the gaping hole in her chest.

“Not long, not long at all. Come back tomorrow after midday, and we’ll see what we have then.”

“That’s quick! How much will it be?”, she asks him again.

“I’d like a few of your tears, just enough to fill one of those little bottles. They’re useful to shine the eyes of dolls.” He shows her a blue bottle made from thick glass and about the length of her little finger with a stopper at one end. “You won’t have to pay until you’ve got your new heart, though.”

She nods thoughtfully, “I couldn’t pay you just yet. The tears have gone with the heart.”

“I know how it is, so don’t worry about it.”

“I couldn’t, even if I wanted to. It’s very odd living without a heart,” she tells him.

The old man nods and goes back to polishing the dolls face. “I’ll see you tomorrow then. After midday, mind you.”

“Yes, after midday. I’ll be here.” With a last glance at the drawstring bag on the counter and Geppetto, she leaves the shop.


The next day, the woman enters the shop again, the now almost familiar smell of wood welcoming her.

“Hello there,” Geppetto greets her. “Back for your new heart?”

The woman nods, “Is it ready?”

The old man nods and reaches under the counter. “Here it is”, he says and lays the heart on top.

“It’s beautiful”, the woman breathes. Gently, carefully she traces the carvings on the smooth, soft brown heart. There’s a little door at the front with a delicate hinge and a heart shaped key hole. The key is in the lock and when the woman turns it, it opens easily. The herbs tucked inside scent the air and she can just make out some of the red glass shards nestled among the herbs.

Geppetto smiles when he sees her rapt expression.

“Can I try it on?” she asks him.

“Sure, that’s what it’s for. It’s yours, won’t do anyone else any good,” he chuckles and pushes the heart towards her.

Carefully, she locks the little door and puts the key back onto the table before she inserts the heart into the hole in her chest.

For the first time since her glass heart broke she smiles. It lights up her face and transforms her.

“It’s nice to see when a heart and its new owner come together like that,” Geppetto says with pride.

“It feels good. Just right. I still remember what it felt to have my heart broken, but I also feel hope,” Her gaze is full of wonder and her eyes sparkle.

“Let’s have the bottle then. I think, I owe you payment.”

Geppetto laughs, “Are you sure you’ll be able to deliver? You look too happy for tears.”

“Do they have to be sad tears or can they be happy ones?” she asks him.

“Happy or sad, tears are powerful magic.” the old man grins and hands her the little blue bottle.

With a thoughtful glance the woman takes it and removes the stopper. After a brief pause a tear rolls down her cheek and she scoops it with great care into the bottle. “Another one is needed, I think,” she says looking at the half full bottle. Her gaze turns inwards and a tear slides down the other cheek. “Now you have one of each, a sad and a happy tear.” She puts the stopper back into the bottle and gives it to Geppetto.

“Payment in full”, the old man acknowledges.

At his words the woman feels the hole in her chest knit together smoothly. She holds out her hand to Geppetto. “Thank you. You’ve done a wonderful job. The heart is perfect.”

“How does it feel? Not too tight, not too heavy?” he asks her whilst holding her hand in his.

“It’s just right. A little heavy with the glass tucked inside it, but we all need a reminder now and again, don’t we?”

He nods, “So we do, so we do.” He hands her the key and the drawstring bag, “look after it,” he reminds her, “I don’t want to see you again anytime soon.”

She laughs at this, then turns to leave the shop. “I’ll be sure to recommend you,” she tells him, then walks out the door.

The End

© Sybille Sterk
Do not copy or publish this story in any way, shape or form without my written permission.

The Heart of Wood (story)

Sybille Sterk

Cambridge, United Kingdom

  • Artist
  • Artwork Comments 24

Artist's Description

Story I was going to write, then I decided to experiment with a poem instead and ended up writing the story anyway. LOL

Here’s the poem

One of my modern fairy tales… Hope you like


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