Once upon a time there was an imp who settled in the forest near a village. People called him that because he was a small and ugly. He built himself a hut with only one cramped room. There was no stove, just a hearth in the middle. Instead of the chimney there was a hole in the thatched roof. The imp liked to cook on the fire. In the morning, he would go to pick mushrooms in the woods, and in the afternoon, the villagers could see his humped figure collecting herbs in the meadows.
“I’m telling you, he’s a sorcerer,” the women would whisper to each other, so that the imp didn’t hear them or, god forbid, even hex them. Men didn’t pay him much mind, but they didn’t let their children to play near the forest just in case either.
One spring, the came to the village and swept away a few houses. In summer, the sun scorched farmers’ crops. It rained so much in autumn that all the harvest rotted away. And in winter... Oh, well... The villagers thought it was all the imp’s fault.
“We have to chase him away,” the men agreed. But no one willed to go to the woods. They took the plunge of going there only when in need: to collect wood or to pick wild berries and mushrooms. And they always kept to the edges of the forest.
The imp never ventured inside the village either. He grew everything he needed in a small field behind his hut.
But fate had it that one day. Early in the morning, a father with his daughter went into the forest to pick mushrooms. Not having found any more mushrooms at the edge of the woods, they decided to risk going…