The Silver Screw

This is an old tale that I have seen in various forms. It recently appeared on the groaners listserv. As a shaggy tale, it should be much longer, but we will let it pass for now.

Once upon a time there dwelt in Fairy Land, a particularly beauteous young man. He was kind of heart and fair of face and form. But, woe and dismay, he also felt accursed, because he had, protruding from his navel, a silver screw.

Verily, he could conceal it by adjustment of doublet and hose, yet it did sorely trouble him, so that each day he would go into the deep dark woods and sit in a glade, staring sadly at the silver screw.

Then one day an old crone came through the woods carrying a bundle of firewood. The kindly youth adjusted his clothing to conceal his shame and said to her, ‘Old crone, that bundle is too heavy for you to carry. Let me lift thy burden.’

The crone was grateful and took him through the woods to her gingerbread cottage where she revealed that she was, in fact, a witch. ‘But you have been so kind to me that I will grant you a wish.’

The youth didn’t need to consider the wish for a moment. ‘Please, please, rid me of this silver screw in my navel.’

The crone bade him go to a distant mountain and to climb to a rocky ledge. There he was to exhort the heavens using a magic spell that she provided. The youth followed her instructions and, struggling through the cruel and stinging woods, came to the ledge. There he began to exhort the heavens using the crone’s magic spell.

Suddenly, the blue skies vanished and dark somber clouds appeared. A great wind sprang up and he heard a sound like angels singing. And from the black clouds came a great shaft of light that focused on him. And down that shaft of light came a giant golden screwdriver.

As the singing reached a crescendo, the screwdriver reached the silver screw, fitting into the groove on its head. The giant golden screwdriver turned once, twice, thrice, then retreated up the shaft of light which in turn disappeared, as did the dark boiling clouds and celestial chorus.

The young man looked down at the silver screw and tentatively touched it with trembling fingers. Yes, it was loose! So he turned the screw once, twice, thrice! And his butt fell off.

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