Okay, so there's a little white fawn who's got a bum leg. In a forest. Colin calls it a "taiga," a crossword-puzzle word that is awesome and sounds like "tiger" spoken with a Boston accent.
So Margaret, one of fifteen girls, fourteen of which seem to have found more wholesome vocations, finds the fawn, and as she tends to its owie, the fawn somehow morphs into William. And Margaret and William do what comes naturally. In the taiga.
Soon after, we find that Margaret is, you know, swelling. Baby-wise.
Soon after that, we find that William has an evil mother who keeps him captive as a fawn. Or something. Then William misses Margaret. Or in Colin-speak, "the wanting comes in waves." This is cool, not only because it is alliterative, but because the waves come in handy later on in the story. Or concept. Or album.
At this time, we meet "The Rake." A total bad guy. A history of infanticide. William's mom, the evil queen, hires The Rake to steal Margaret away in order to keep this Margaret-waif from her William-fawn. So he whisks her across the river to do with her what he will (ooh, is it the Columbia? Is Vancouver the Place Across the River Where Bad Things Happen? Sooo plausible).
Upon hearing of these evil doings, William, the fawn-boy, makes a deal with the river (or the fates? I'm not clear on this concept), that if he could just get across the scary river and save his Margaret, then the river may have its way with him on the way back. As you know, if you make a deal with a river, the river will stick to the deal. No backsies.
Burble, burble, burble. William and Margaret, on their way back from the "wrong side of the river," drown sweetly and melodically in said river. (The Columbia! Make it the Columbia!)
The end. Fittingly enough for a Decemberists album.
Although I am still enjoying the clever wordplay and melody, I think I prefer Colin Meloy's "short stories." You know, 3 or so minutes of story wrapped in melody, harmony, wit and humor. Not 45 minutes of the same story, missing the humor.
Ah, well. Now that he's got this opus out of his system, maybe Colin will go back to the fun stuff. With any luck.
And for non-locals, here's a quick link that briefly explains the "Snowball" reference.