Once upon a time a young woman lived with her mother in a small village. A hunter lived nearby and loved her, but the young woman lost her heart to a stranger, a peasant named Loys. Loys returned her love, and they promised to marry each other. He gave her a locket and a small bouquet of daisies as tokens of his affection. She tried to play “he loves me, he loves me not” with the daisies, but each one came up “he loves me not.”
Her mother cautioned her to be careful of her heart, for the young woman’s health was fragile. She warned her daughter of the Wilis, the spirits of young women who die after their love’s betrayal and who are doomed to haunt their graves, preying upon the faithless men who wronged them.
The village was celebrating the harvest, and Loys and Giselle (for that was the young woman’s name) joined in the festivities. They danced together amongst the villagers, though Giselle tired easily and had to lean on his arm.
A group of noblemen and ladies arrived to crown the king and queen of the harvest and to celebrate with the villagers. Giselle was crowned queen, but Loys had hurried away when he’d seen the nobles approach. An elegant noblewoman named Bathilde congratulated Giselle and admired her locket, and Giselle told her of her love and happiness.
At that moment the hunter who loved Giselle arrived at the festival with a startling discovery: Loys, the “peasant,” had a servant and a fine sword hidden away in one of the cottages. Loys was, in fact, no peasant, but a wealthy nobleman named Albrecht. Bathilde, bewildered, revealed that Albrecht was her fiance. Giselle was heartbroken at this betrayal, and she went mad with grief. Albrecht, his identity revealed, returned and tried to comfort her, but Giselle’s frail heart gave out, and she died in his arms.
Three nights later Albrecht visited Giselle’s grave to mourn, bearing in his arms a vast bouquet of mourning lilies. As the night darkened and mist filled the forest, spirits began to rise in the shadows. Ghostly women appeared one after the other, until their imperious queen, Myrtha, finally summoned Giselle to rise from her grave. No longer a frail girl, Giselle had become a powerful spirit.
The Wilis trapped Albrecht, and Myrtha commanded that he should be made to dance until his heart failed and he dropped dead. Giselle begged her to spare him, but the queen was resolute. Albrecht could only obey the Wilis’ commands, and he would have collapsed in exhaustion had Giselle not danced with him, sustaining him with her presence and the force of her love, faithful even in death.
Albrecht’s strength was about to fail when suddenly the cock crowed, the church bells rang, and dawn’s light appeared at the edge of the forest. One by one the Wilis disappeared, fading away in the sunlight. Giselle stayed with him until the last possible minute, until she too vanished with the mist.
* * * * *
Bra and brief: Mai by All Undone (c/o). Available in sizes 28-34 DD-GG (UK) and XS-L.
Gown: Katherine Boudoir Gown by Lulu and Kath (c/o). Available in sizes XS-XL.
Photos: Lydia Hudgens
Flowers: Mimosa Floral Design