By a Hair

~ A Short Story by Andre Norton


Synopsis ~

During World War II, the old Count was shot, and his wife was sent to a concentration camp ~ and Ivor and his men took to the hills to fight. After the war, Ivor married a woman in the mold of la belle dame sans merci ~ beautiful, ambitious, and cold-hearted; she married him because in the immediate wake of World War II, he was a hero, with the highest status in the valley. The countess came home ~ her body so twisted and broken from the Nazis' tortures that few remembered that she was still a young woman. It seemed that life would go on...then the last, crushing blow fell. The Russians came, and this time, the little valley was left to fight alone, without the world's help. The Russians killed any authority figures they could catch that the Nazis hadn't killed already ~ except Ivor, who took what fighting men were left and headed into the hills again, and the countess, who also faded into hiding. Among those killed was the priest ~ and in their despair, the valley folk began to seek help from other sources.


Write-up from a fan ~

A small mountain village suffered under the Nazis, who executed the Count and three other family headmen who might have resisted the German occupation and took away the young Countess Ana to an extermination camp. Only one man, Ivor Kark, could and did take the leadership and conducted guerilla raids on the Nazis.  After the war was over, the Russians were in control of the territory of the valley, but did not interfere, so Ivor and his men came down from the hills and the countess Ana managed to return, though horribly maimed.  Ivor is a hero to the locals.  This attracts Dagmar, who is the village beauty.  They marry, and at first this satisfies Dagmar.  Then the Russians come in to build a station to spy on the outer world; their commandant executes any potential leaders left.  Except Ivor and his men had enough warning to escape.  Dagmar stayed behind, not being one to suffer under the hardships of guerilla camps.  The village priest had been one of the first executed, so the people of the village revert to the old worship, which Countess Ana seems to lead.  Dagmar has already betrayed Ivor by breaking her marriage vows, now she betrays him to capture and death.  Then she asks--demands--that Ana and her maid help her to give the Russian what he desires most--a son.  The spell is cast, and a year after Ivor's death, Dagmar gives birth to a boy--who looks just like Ivor. ~ SL


Bibliography of English Editions ~

  • Phantom Magazine (July 1958), (UK), pgs. 32-40
  • High Sorcery (1970) Published by ACE, PB, 0-441-33701-, $0.60, 156pg ~ cover by Gray Morrow
  • Wizards’ Worlds (1989) Edited by Ingrid Zierhut, Published by TOR, HC, 0-312-93191-3, $17.95, 500pg ~ cover by Lucy Synk
  • High Sorcery (2012) Published by Premier Digital Publishing, E-Book
  • Wizards’ Worlds (2012) Published by Premier Digital Publishing, E-Book


Non-English Editions ~

  • As Per i capelli [For the hair] (1979) Published in Bologna, Italy; by Libra Editrice, Saturno. Collana di fantascienza n. 19, 2.500 lir, 186pg ~ translated by Roberta Rambelli ~ cover by Allison ~ Italian book title Le terre degli incantesimi [The lands of spells]



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