Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Trick or Treat?

A Halloween tale for the little ones

The Old Witch

by The Brothers Grimm

There was once a little girl who was very wilful and who never obeyed when her elders spoke to her - so how could she be happy?
One day she said to her parents, "I have heard so much of the old witch that I will go and see her. People say she is a wonderful old woman, and has many marvellous things in her house, and I am very curious to see them."'
But her parents forbade her going, saying, "The witch is a wicked old woman, who performs many godless deeds - and if you go near her, you are no longer a child of ours."
The girl, however, would not turn back at her parents' command, but went to the witch's house. When she arrived there the old woman asked her:
"Why are you so pale?"
"Ah," she replied, trembling all over, "I have frightened myself so with what I have just seen."
"And what did you see?" inquired the old witch.
"I saw a black man on your steps."
"That was a collier," replied she.
"Then I saw a grey man."
"That was a sportsman," said the old woman.
"After him I saw a blood-red man."
"That was a butcher," replied the old woman.
"But, oh, I was most terrified," continued the girl, "when I peeped through your window, and saw not you, but a creature with a fiery head."
"Then you have seen the witch in her proper dress," said the old woman. "For you I have long waited, and now you shall give me light."
So saying the witch changed the little girl into a block of wood, and then threw it on the fire. When it was fully alight, she sat down on the hearth and warmed herself, saying:
"How good I feel! The fire has not burned like this for a long time!"

Halloween: a more adult tale

The Black Cat
A short story for Halloween

FOR the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not - and very surely do I not dream. But tomorrow I die, and today I would unburden my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified - have tortured - have destroyed me. Yet I will not attempt to expound them. To me, they have presented little but horror - to many they will seem less terrible than baroque. Hereafter, perhaps, some intellect may be found which will reduce my phantasm to the commonplace - some intellect more calm, more logical, and far less excitable than my own, which will perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.
From my infancy I was noted for the docility and humanity of my disposition. My tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond of animals, and was indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With these I spent most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing them. This peculiarity of character grew with my growth, and in my manhood, I derived from it one of my principal sources of pleasure. To those who have cherished an affection for a faithful and sagacious dog, I need hardly be at the trouble of explaining the nature or the intensity of the gratification thus derivable. There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere man .
I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition not uncongenial with my own. Observing my partiality for domestic pets, she lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most agreeable kind. We had birds, goldfish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat .
This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise. Not that she was ever serious upon this point - and I mention the matter at all for no better reason than that it happens, just now, to be remembered.
Pluto - this was the cat's name - was my favourite pet and playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went about the house. It was even with difficulty that I could prevent him from following me through the streets.
Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years, during which my general temperament and character - through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance - had (I blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse. I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others. I suffered myself to use intemperate language to my wife. At length, I even offered her personal violence. My pets, of course, were made to feel the change in my disposition. I not only neglected, but ill-used them. For Pluto, however, I still retained sufficient regard to restrain myself from maltreating him, as I made no scruple of maltreating the rabbits, the monkey, or even the dog, when by accident, or through affection, they got in my way. But my disease grew upon me - for what disease is like alcohol?  And at length even Pluto, who was now becoming old, and consequently somewhat peevish - even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill temper.
One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity.
When reason returned with the morning - when I had slept off the fumes of the night's debauch - I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty; but it was, at best, a feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul remained untouched. I again plunged into excess, and soon drowned in wine all memory of the deed.
In the meantime the cat slowly recovered. The socket of the lost eye presented, it is true, a frightful appearance, but he no longer appeared to suffer any pain. He went about the house as usual, but, as might be expected, fled in extreme terror at my approach. I had so much of my old heart left, as to be at first grieved by this evident dislike on the part of a creature which had once so loved me. But this feeling soon gave place to irritation. And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSENESS. Of this spirit philosophy takes no account. Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart - one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of man. Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which is Law , merely because we understand it to be such? This spirit of perverseness, I say, came to my final overthrow. It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself - to offer violence to its own nature - to do wrong for the wrong's sake only - that urged me to continue and finally to consummate the injury I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute. One morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree; - hung it with the tears streaming from my eyes, and with the bitterest remorse at my heart; - hung it because I knew that it had loved me, and because I felt it had given me no reason of offence; - hung it because I knew that in so doing I was committing a sin - a deadly sin that would so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it - if such a thing wore possible - even beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God.
On the night of the day on which this cruel deed was done, I was aroused from sleep by the cry of fire. The curtains of my bed were in flames. The whole house was blazing. It was with great difficulty that my wife, a servant, and myself, made our escape from the conflagration. The destruction was complete. My entire worldly wealth was swallowed up, and I resigned myself thenceforward to despair.
I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of cause and effect, between the disaster and the atrocity. But I am detailing a chain of facts - and wish not to leave even a possible link imperfect. On the day succeeding the fire, I visited the ruins. The walls, with one exception, had fallen in. This exception was found in a compartment wall, not very thick, which stood about the middle of the house, and against which had rested the head of my bed. The plastering had here, in great measure, resisted the action of the fire - a fact which I attributed to its having been recently spread. About this wall a dense crowd were collected, and many persons seemed to be examining a particular portion of it with very minute and eager attention. The words "strange!" "singular!" and other similar expressions, excited my curiosity. I approached and saw, as if graven in bas relief upon the white surface, the figure of a gigantic cat. The impression was given with an accuracy truly marvellous. There was a rope about the animal's neck.
When I first beheld this apparition - for I could scarcely regard it as less - my wonder and my terror were extreme. But at length reflection came to my aid. The cat, I remembered, had been hung in a garden adjacent to the house. Upon the alarm of fire, this garden had been immediately filled by the crowd - by some one of whom the animal must have been cut from the tree and thrown, through an open window, into my chamber. This had probably been done with the view of arousing me from sleep. The falling of other walls had compressed the victim of my cruelty into the substance of the freshly-spread plaster; the lime of which, with the flames, and the ammonia from the carcass, had then accomplished the portraiture as I saw it.
Although I thus readily accounted to my reason, if not altogether to my conscience, for the startling fact just detailed, it did not the less fail to make a deep impression upon my fancy. For months I could not rid myself of the phantasm of the cat; and, during this period, there came back into my spirit a half-sentiment that seemed, but was not, remorse. I went so far as to regret the loss of the animal, and to look about me, among the vile haunts which I now habitually frequented, for another pet of the same species, and of somewhat similar appearance, with which to supply its place.
One night as I sat, half stupified, in a den of more than infamy, my attention was suddenly drawn to some black object, reposing upon the head of one of the immense hogsheads of Gin, or of Rum, which constituted the chief furniture of the apartment. I had been looking steadily at the top of this hogshead for some minutes, and what now caused me surprise was the fact that I had not sooner perceived the object thereupon. I approached it, and touched it with my hand. It was a black cat - a very large one - fully as large as Pluto, and closely resembling him in every respect but one. Pluto had not a white hair upon any portion of his body; but this cat had a large, although indefinite splotch of white, covering nearly the whole region of the breast. Upon my touching him, he immediately arose, purred loudly, rubbed against my hand, and appeared delighted with my notice. This, then, was the very creature of which I was in search. I at once offered to purchase it of the landlord; but this person made no claim to it - knew nothing of it - had never seen it before.
I continued my caresses, and, when I prepared to go home, the animal evinced a disposition to accompany me. I permitted it to do so; occasionally stooping and patting it as I proceeded. When it reached the house it domesticated itself at once, and became immediately a great favorite with my wife.
For my own part, I soon found a dislike to it arising within me. This was just the reverse of what I had anticipated; but - I know not how or why it was - its evident fondness for myself rather disgusted and annoyed. By slow degrees, these feelings of disgust and annoyance rose into the bitterness of hatred. I avoided the creature; a certain sense of shame, and the remembrance of my former deed of cruelty, preventing me from physically abusing it. I did not, for some weeks, strike, or otherwise violently ill use it; but gradually - very gradually - I came to look upon it with unutterable loathing, and to flee silently from its odious presence, as from the breath of a pestilence.
What added, no doubt, to my hatred of the beast, was the discovery, on the morning after I brought it home, that, like Pluto, it also had been deprived of one of its eyes. This circumstance, however, only endeared it to my wife, who, as I have already said, possessed, in a high degree, that humanity of feeling which had once been my distinguishing trait, and the source of many of my simplest and purest pleasures.
With my aversion to this cat, however, its partiality for myself seemed to increase. It followed my footsteps with a pertinacity which it would be difficult to make the reader comprehend. Whenever I sat, it would crouch beneath my chair, or spring upon my knees, covering me with its loathsome caresses. If I arose to walk it would get between my feet and thus nearly throw me down, or, fastening its long and sharp claws in my dress, clamber, in this manner, to my breast. At such times, although I longed to destroy it with a blow, I was yet withheld from so doing, partly by a memory of my former crime, but chiefly - let me confess it at once - by absolute dread of the beast.
This dread was not exactly a dread of physical evil - and yet I should be at a loss how otherwise to define it. I am almost ashamed to own - yes, even in this felon's cell, I am almost ashamed to own - that the terror and horror with which the animal inspired me, had been heightened by one of the merest chimaeras it would be possible to conceive. My wife had called my attention, more than once, to the character of the mark of white hair, of which I have spoken, and which constituted the sole visible difference between the strange beast and the one I had destroyed. The reader will remember that this mark, although large, had been originally very indefinite; but, by slow degrees - degrees nearly imperceptible, and which for a long time my Reason struggled to reject as fanciful - it had, at length, assumed a rigorous distinctness of outline. It was now the representation of an object that I shudder to name - and for this, above all, I loathed, and dreaded, and would have rid myself of the monster had I dared - it was now, I say, the image of a hideous - of a ghastly thing - of the GALLOWS ! - oh, mournful and terrible engine of Horror and of Crime - of Agony and of Death!
And now was I indeed wretched beyond the wretchedness of mere humanity. And a brute beast - whose fellow I had contemptuously destroyed - a brute beast to work out for me - for me a man, fashioned in the image of the High God - so much of insufferable woe! Alas! neither by day nor by night knew I the blessing of rest any more! During the former the creature left me no moment alone; and, in the latter, I started, hourly, from dreams of unutterable fear, to find the hot breath of the thing upon my face, and its vast weight - an incarnate Night-Mare that I had no power to shake off - incumbent eternally upon my heart !
Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble remnant of the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole intimates - the darkest and most evil of thoughts. The moodiness of my usual temper increased to hatred of all things and of all mankind; while, from the sudden, frequent, and ungovernable outbursts of a fury to which I now blindly abandoned myself, my uncomplaining wife, alas! was the most usual and the most patient of sufferers.
One day she accompanied me, upon some household errand, into the cellar of the old building which our poverty compelled us to inhabit. The cat followed me down the steep stairs, and, nearly throwing me headlong, exasperated me to madness. Uplifting an axe, and forgetting, in my wrath, the childish dread which had hitherto stayed my hand, I aimed a blow at the animal which, of course, would have proved instantly fatal had it descended as I wished. But this blow was arrested by the hand of my wife. Goaded, by the interference, into a rage more than demoniacal, I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain. She fell dead upon the spot, without a groan.
This hideous murder accomplished, I set myself forthwith, and with entire deliberation, to the task of concealing the body. I knew that I could not remove it from the house, either by day or by night, without the risk of being observed by the neighbors. Many projects entered my mind. At one period I thought of cutting the corpse into minute fragments, and destroying them by fire. At another, I resolved to dig a grave for it in the floor of the cellar. Again, I deliberated about casting it in the well in the yard - about packing it in a box, as if merchandize, with the usual arrangements, and so getting a porter to take it from the house. Finally I hit upon what I considered a far better expedient than either of these. I determined to wall it up in the cellar - as the monks of the middle ages are recorded to have walled up their victims.
For a purpose such as this the cellar was well adapted. Its walls were loosely constructed, and had lately been plastered throughout with a rough plaster, which the dampness of the atmosphere had prevented from hardening. Moreover, in one of the walls was a projection, caused by a false chimney, or fireplace, that had been filled up, and made to resemble the red of the cellar. I made no doubt that I could readily displace the bricks at this point, insert the corpse, and wall the whole up as before, so that no eye could detect anything suspicious. And in this calculation I was not deceived. By means of a crow-bar I easily dislodged the bricks, and, having carefully deposited the body against the inner wall, I propped it in that position, while, with little trouble, I re-laid the whole structure as it originally stood. Having procured mortar, sand, and hair, with every possible precaution, I prepared a plaster which could not be distinguished from the old, and with this I very carefully went over the new brickwork. When I had finished, I felt satisfied that all was right. The wall did not present the slightest appearance of having been disturbed. The rubbish on the floor was picked up with the minutest care. I looked around triumphantly, and said to myself - "Here at least, then, my labor has not been in vain."
My next step was to look for the beast which had been the cause of so much wretchedness; for I had, at length, firmly resolved to put it to death. Had I been able to meet with it, at the moment, there could have been no doubt of its fate; but it appeared that the crafty animal had been alarmed at the violence of my previous anger, and forebore to present itself in my present mood. It is impossible to describe, or to imagine, the deep, the blissful sense of relief which the absence of the detested creature occasioned in my bosom. It did not make its appearance during the night - and thus for one night at least, since its introduction into the house, I soundly and tranquilly slept; aye, slept even with the burden of murder upon my soul!
The second and the third day passed, and still my tormentor came not. Once again I breathed as a freeman. The monster, in terror, had fled the premises forever! I should behold it no more! My happiness was supreme! The guilt of my dark deed disturbed me but little. Some few inquiries had been made, but these had been readily answered. Even a search had been instituted - but of course nothing was to be discovered. I looked upon my future felicity as secured.
Upon the fourth day of the assassination, a party of the police came, very unexpectedly, into the house, and proceeded again to make rigorous investigation of the premises. Secure, however, in the inscrutability of my place of concealment, I felt no embarrassment whatever. The officers bade me accompany them in their search. They left no nook or corner unexplored. At length, for the third or fourth time, they descended into the cellar. I quivered not in a muscle. My heart beat calmly as that of one who slumbers in innocence. I walked the cellar from end to end. I folded my arms upon my bosom, and roamed easily to and fro. The police were thoroughly satisfied and prepared to depart. The glee at my heart was too strong to be restrained. I burned to say if but one word, by way of triumph, and to render doubly sure their assurance of my guiltlessness.
"Gentlemen," I said at last, as the party ascended the steps, "I delight to have allayed your suspicions. I wish you all health, and a little more courtesy. By the bye, gentlemen, this - this is a very well constructed house." [In the rabid desire to say something easily, I scarcely knew what I uttered at all.] - "I may say an excellently well constructed house. These walls - Are you going, gentlemen? - these walls are solidly put together;" and here, through the mere phrenzy of bravado, I rapped heavily, with a cane which I held in my hand, upon that very portion of the brick-work behind which stood the corpse of the wife of my bosom.
But may God shield and deliver me from the fangs of the Arch-Fiend ! No sooner had the reverberation of my blows sunk into silence, than I was answered by a voice from within the tomb! - by a cry, at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and continuous scream, utterly anomalous and inhuman - a howl - a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats of the dammed in their agony and of the demons that exult in the damnation.
Of my own thoughts it is folly to speak. Swooning, I staggered to the opposite wall. For one instant the party upon the stairs remained motionless, through extremity of terror and of awe. In the next, a dozen stout arms were toiling at the wall. It fell bodily. The corpse, already greatly decayed and clotted with gore, stood erect before the eyes of the spectators. Upon its head, with red extended mouth and solitary eye of fire, sat the hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder, and whose informing voice had consigned me to the hangman. I had walled the monster up within the tomb!

A Halloween Tale?

Off to find one for you!

Don't confuse your path

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Peter Pan

Peter Pan
James Matthew Barry

Wendy, John, and Michael Darling lived in London. One night, Wendy woke to find a strange boy sitting on the floor who was crying.

"My name is Wendy," she said. "Who are you? Why are you crying?"

"I'm Peter Pan," the boy replied. "I'm crying because my shadow won't stick to me."

"Don't cry," Wendy said. "We can fix that." And she sewed Peter's shadow to the tips of his shoes. Peter was delighted.

"Fly back to Neverland with me and my fairy, Tinker Bell," Peter begged. "You could be our mother and take care of us."

"Can you teach me to fly?" Wendy asked. Peter nodded.

"Let's wake John and Michael," Wendy said. "You can teach us all to fly and then we will leave for Neverland!"

The children were soon flying around the room. Then—Swoosh! Out the window they all flew.

Wendy, John, and Michael flew behind Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, following the golden arrows that pointed the way to Neverland. Finally, they were flying over the island.

"The lost boys live with me and Tinker Bell. I'm their captain," Peter said. "The Indians live over there, and the mermaids live in the lagoon. And there are pirates too, led by Captain Hook."

"Pirates?" exclaimed Wendy, John, and Michael, all in the same breath. Wendy was frightened, but Michael and John wanted to see the pirates right away.

"Hook's the meanest pirate ever," Peter warned. "But he's afraid of the crocodile. The crocodile bit off Hook's hand and liked the taste so much that it follows him, hoping for more. Luckily for Hook, the crocodile swallowed a clock. It goes 'Tick, Mock, and warns Hook when the crocodile is nearby."

"Oh, my God!" cried Wendy, not sure if she really wanted to stay in Neverland after all.

Peter led Wendy, John, and Michael to his house under the woods. They entered through a door hidden in an old tree stump. When the lost boys saw Wendy, they shouted, "Hooray! Will you be our mother?"

"I'm only a little girl," Wendy answered. "I have no experience." But the lost boys looked so sad that she said, "I'll do my best."

That night Wendy tucked the boys into bed and told them the tale of Cinderella.

Life was pleasant in the cosy house under the woods.

Wendy took care of the boys, who explored the island during the day. At night, they gathered for meals, played make-believe games, and listened while Wendy told them stories.

One day, Peter and the children went exploring near the mermaids' lagoon. Suddenly Peter yelled, "Pirates! Take cover." The boys ran away, and Peter and Peter and Wendy hid.

Peter and Wendy could see that the pirates had tied up Tiger Lily, the Indian princess. The pirates had left her on a rock in the lagoon.

Peter was afraid that Tiger Lily would drown when the tide came in. He had to save her! In a voice that sounded just like Captain Hook's, he shouted, "Set her free!”

"But, Captain," the pirates yelled, "you ordered us to bring her here!”

"Let her go!” Peter roared, still sounding like Hook. "Aye, aye," the pirates said, and set Tiger Lily free. She swam quickly back to the Indian camp.

When Captain Hook found out what had happened, he knew Peter had tricked his pirates. Hook became furious!

That night, Wendy told the boys a story about three children who left their parents and flew to Neverland. Their mother and father missed them very much. The children loved Neverland, but they never forgot their home.

"Did they ever go back?" the lost boys asked.

"Oh, yes," Wendy replied. "They flew home to their mummy and daddy, and everyone was happy."

The story made Wendy, John, and Michael homesick. They decided to fly home the next morning. "If you come back with us," Wendy told the lost boys, I'm sure our mother and father would adopt you."

"Hooray!" shouted the boys, jumping with joy.

Wendy asked Peter if he and Tinker Bell would come home with them too. But Peter didn't want to live where grown-ups could tell him what to do.

Peter was sad that his friends were leaving. Still, he wanted the children to arrive home safely, so he asked Tinker Bell to guide them on their trip.

Early the next morning, Tinker Bell and the children left the house under the woods. But Captain Hook's pirates were hiding nearby. They captured all the children, tied them up, and marched them towards the pirate's ship.

Tinker Bell escaped, and hurried back to tell Peter what had happened.

"It's Hook or me this time!" yelled Peter to Tinker Bell as they flew off to save Wendy and the boys.

On the pirate's ship, Captain Hook demanded, "Who wants to become a pirate?" The boys shook their heads.

"Then make them walk the plank!" Hook roared. The boys tried to look brave, but they were afraid.

Suddenly, they heard the "Tick, Tock" of the crocodile. Now it was Captain Hook's turn to be afraid.

But the "Tick, Tock" was only Peter, imitating the crocodile-. He flew onto the deck and shouted, "I've got you now, Hook !" Captain Hook jumped up and swung at Peter with his sword. Peter was quick, and stepped away. He slashed at Hook with his own sword until they came close to the edge of the ship.

Peter lunged with his sword, and Hook fell into the sea, where the crocodile was waiting for him. And that was the end of Captain. 

When Peter was certain that Hook was gone forever, he and Tinker Bell set off for London with Wendy and the boys.

Wendy's parents were happy to see their children again. Mr and Mrs Darling hugged Wendy, John, and Michael, and agreed to adopt the lost boys. They asked Peter to stay with them also, but he said, "I'm going to stay in Neverland where I never have to grow up."

"Goodbye then, Peter. We'll miss you," everyone called. Peter Pan and Tinker Bell waved goodbye and flew home to Neverland.

As promised...

Another fairy tale...up next!


Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen

There is a legend that, once upon a time, a beautiful fairy, the Snow Queen, lived on the highest, most solitary peaks of the Alps. The mountain folk and shepherds climbed to the summits to admire her, and everyone fell head over heels in love with her.

Every man would have given anything, including his life, to marry her. Indeed, their lives are just what they did give, for Fate had decided that no mortal would ever marry the Snow Queen. But in spite of that, many brave souls did their best to approach her, hoping always to persuade her.

Each suitor was allowed to enter the great ice palace with the crystal roof, where the Queen’s throne stood. But the second he declared his love and asked for her hand, thousands of goblins appeared to grasp him and push him over the rocks, down into bottomless abysses.

Without the slightest emotion, the Queen would watch the scene, her heart of ice unable to feel anything at all. The legend of the crystal palace and the beautiful heartless Queen spread as far as the most distant alpine valley, the home of a fearless chamois hunter. Fascinated by the tale, he decided to set out and try his luck. Leaving his valley, he journeyed for days on end, climbing the snow-clad mountain faces, scaling icebound peaks and defying the bitterly cold wind that swept through the alpine gullies.

More than once he felt all was lost, but the thought of the lovely Snow Queen gave him new strength and kept him moving onwards. At last, after many days climbing, he saw glinting in the sunshine before him, the tall transparent spires of the ice palace.
Summoning all his courage, the young man entered the Throne Room. But he was so struck by the Snow Queen’s beauty that he could not utter a word. Shy and timid, he did not dare speak. So he knelt in admiration before the Queen for hours on end, without opening his mouth. The Queen looked at him silently, thinking all the while that, provided he did not ask her hand in marriage, there was no need to call the goblins.

Then, to her great surprise, she discovered that his behaviour touched her heart. She realised she was becoming quite fond of this hunter, much younger and more handsome than her other suitors. Time passed and the Snow Queen dared not admit, not even to herself, that she would actually like to marry the young man.

In the meantime, the goblins kept watch over their mistress; first they were astonished, then they became more and more upset. For they rightly feared that their Queen might be on the point of breaking the Law and bringing down on the heads of all the Mountain People the fury of Fate.

Seeing that the Queen was slow to give the order to get rid of her suitor, the goblins decided to take matters into their own hands. One night, as dusk fell, they slipped out of the cracks in the rock and clustered round the young chamois hunter. Then they hurled him into the abyss. The Snow Queen watched the whole scene from the window, but there was nothing she could do to stop them. However, her icy heart melted, and the beautiful cruel fairy suddenly became a woman.

A tear dropped from her eye, the first she had ever shed. And the Snow Queen’s tear fell on to a stone where it turned into a little silvery star.

This was the first edelweiss … the flower that grows only on the highest, most inaccessible peaks in the Alps, on the edge of the abyss and precipice . . .

Relax with a tale...

Coming up next!'s Sunday!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Tongues of glass



This story takes place once upon a time, a very long time ago, deep in the forest. Now you remember what a forest is, don't you? Right, it is a place where there are lots of trees. OK, so in just one tiny part of a forest, a baby deer was born (a baby deer is called a "fawn"). Oh my, there was so much excitement that day. All the animals wanted to come and see the new fawn. Do you know why? It is because this was a special fawn. He was a young Prince. That means that one day, this tiny baby, would be all grown up and become the leader of all the deer in the forest. The birds sang the happiest song. "Drip drip drop little April showers."  What a beautiful, beautiful Spring day it was.

Thumper, he was a cute little rabbit, asked the mama deer what she was going to call her baby. She smiled and looked down at her son and then at Thumper. “I am going to call him Bambi," she said. Thumper stood there for a moment, thumping his foot. "That's a funny name", he said at last. Thumper's mommy scolded him, very gently, "Thumper", she said, "What did you father tell you this morning?" Thumper hung his head down, just a bit, and replied, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all!" And you know, that is really what we should all remember. We should always remember to say nice things about each other.

It was a happy time for Bambi. He soon learned to do many things. Thumper was his very best friend; they did all kinds of fun stuff together. Why, in no time at all Bambi was standing up. Oh yes he was really wobbly at first. Thumper just had to laugh at him. But that was ok because it was a nice kind of laughter, and Bambi did not mind it a bit. Of course he could not understand why Thumper laughed so hard when another animal popped up out of the flowers, and Bambi called him "Flower". It really was funny though, because you see, Flower was a skunk. And skunks are not the sweetest smelling of animals, especially not when they get excited. Oh my, most certainly not when they get excited.

Then one morning, real early, Bambi's mother took him to a wonderful place. It was called "the meadow". What a nice place that was for a young fawn to romp around and have fun. It was there that Bambi met Faline. Faline was very cute to be sure. At first Bambi was a little afraid of her, well, maybe not so much afraid as he was shy. But soon they were racing around and having a grand time chasing one another. When, all of a sudden, there was a horrible, loud noise. Like thunder! Only louder!  All the animals were running very swiftly. They were being led by "The Prince of the Forest". He was very old, and very strong. But he was also very, very wise. He knew he had to lead all the animals in the forest to safety. The one word that would do that was "MAN". Oh yes, all the animals knew that word. They knew it meant there was danger close by. So they did not waste any time, they ran as fast as they could. When it was safe, they all returned to their homes, and Bambi lay comfortably, safe and protected by his mother.

Winter soon came to the forest. At first Bambi had lots of fun. Thumper tried teaching him to slide on the ice. And as Bambi learned, Thumper just watched and laughed till he was rolling on his tummy. Poor Bambi, his four thin legs just went every which way, and down he would go again. Even though it was fun, it was also a hard time for Bambi and all the other animals, because the cold had rid the ground of its soft green, tender carpet of grass, and sweet tasting flowers. There was little to eat, except tree bark. "BAM" there it was again. The same deafening sound Bambi had heard before. His mother yelled for him to run for the thicket. "Quick!" she yelled. Bambi reached the thicket. But...but where was his mother. She had been right behind him, and now... she was not there.

Once again Bambi saw the Great Prince of the Forest. "Your mother can no longer be with you. You must learn to walk alone." What did that mean? What was the Great Prince telling him? Did he mean Bambi would never see his mother again? Yes, he knew that was what the Great Prince was saying. Bambi was alone.

At last winter left, and spring returned. Everything was green again. Bambi had grown much bigger. He was no longer a fawn, now he was a "Buck". A buck is a male deer, much older than a fawn. As the spring went on to summer, Bambi roamed the forest and the meadow.  Until one day he met Faline again. She had grown into a very beautiful graceful doe. Yes, that is what a grown up girl deer is called, a "doe". Just as they were beginning to enjoy being friends again, another buck came charging between them. He did not want Feline to stay with Bambi; he wanted Feline to stay with him. A terrible fight began. They kept charging at each other, bumping their foreheads against the other real hard. Until finally, the mean old bully was hurt and limped off all alone. Bambi and Feline walked off into the forest together.

As spring and summer had gone. Autumn arrived in the forest. The trees took on a breathtaking array of colours. And the air had a very special crispness to it. But sadly, all this beauty did not last. For one day Bambi began to smell something. And as he ran to find Feline, The Great Prince came. He told them to run very quickly, for the forest was on fire. Feline raced for protection, as Bambi and the Great Prince ran to warn all the other animals. At last the fire was over. Bambi, Feline, and the Great Prince looked on at the terrible thing that the fire had done. All the colours were gone. There was a terrible smell of burned wood, and blackened trees. A fire is a terrible thing, it destroys everything it touches. As they stood there, gazing at what remained of the smouldering forest, it was then that the Great Prince told Bambi, that when the forest was green again, he would be very old, and Bambi would have to take his place.

At last Spring arrived again. Green leaves, green grass, and wild flowers began to cover up some of the damage the fire had done. And now, do you know what was happening? All the animals were running to see. Not one new fawn, but two of them. They were cuddled next to their mother, Faline. And where was Bambi? Why, he was high on a hillside, looking down. His chest was puffed out, and he was standing there as proud as he could be. For not only was he a new father, but now Bambi was the new Prince of the Forest.

Time now for a tale!

No, not this one! 
I'm thinking green and sweet...what will it be?
What will it be????


Old Abe's famous quote

Friday, 26 October 2012



Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl called Cinderella and she had two ugly step sisters who were very unkind, who made her do all the hard work. She had to sweep the floors, do all the dishes, while they dressed up in fine clothes and went to lots of parties.

One day a special invitation arrived at Cinderella’s house. It was from the royal palace. The king’s only son was a truly handsome prince was going to have a grand ball. Three girls were invited to come. Cinderella knew she wouldn't be allowed to go to the ball. But the ugly sisters, ho ho ho, they were excited. They couldn't talk about anything else.

When the day of the ball came, they made such a fuss. Poor Cinderella had to rush about upstairs and downstairs. She fixed their hair in fancy waves and curls. She helped them put on their expensive new dresses. And she arranged their jewels just so. As soon as they had gone, Cinderella sat down by the fire and she said: “Oh I do wish I could go to the ball."

The next moment, standing beside her was a lovely old lady with a silver wand in here hand. “Cinderella," she said, "I am your fairy godmother and you shall go to the ball. But first you must go into the garden and pick a golden pumpkin, then bring me six mice from the mousetraps, a whiskered rat from the rat trap, and six lizards. You’ll find the lizards behind the watering can."

So Cinderella fetched a golden pumpkin, six grey mice, a whiskered rate, six lizards. The fairy godmother touched them with her wand and the pumpkin became a golden coach, the mice became six grey horses, the rat became a coachman with the most enormous moustache, and the lizards became six footmen dressed in green and yellow, then the fairy godmother touched Cinderella with the wand and her old dress became a golden dress sparkling with jewels while on her feet was the prettiest pair of glass slippers ever seen.

"Remember," said the fairy godmother, "you must leave the ball before the clock strikes twelve, because at midnight the magic ends." “Thank you fairy godmother,” said Cinderella and she climbed into the coach. 

When Cinderella arrived at the ball she looked so beautiful that everyone wondered who she was! Even the ugly sisters. The Prince of course asked her to dance with him and they danced all evening. He would not dance with anyone else. Now Cinderella was enjoying the ball so much that she forgot her fairy godmother's warning until it was almost midnight and the clock began to strike. One. Two. Three. She hurried out of the ballroom. Four. Five. Six. As she ran down the palace steps one of her glass slippers fell off. Seven. Eight. Nine. She ran on toward the golden coach. Ten Eleven Twelve. Then there was Cinderella in her old dress. The golden pumpkin lay in her feet. And scampering down off down the road were six grey mice, a whiskered rat and six green lizards.. So Cinderella had to walk home and by the time the ugly sisters returned home was sitting quietly by the fire.

Now when Cinderella ran from the palace, the prince tried to follow her and he found the glass slipper. He said, “I shall marry the beautiful girl whose foot fits this slipper and only her." In the morning the prince went from house to house with the glass slipper and every young lady tried to squeeze her foot into it. But it didn't  fit any of them.

At last the prince came to Cinderella’s house. First one ugly sister tried to squash her foot into the slipper. But her foot was too wide and fat. Then the other ugly sister tried but her foot was too long and thin. "Please," said Cinderella, "let me try." “The slipper won’t fit you”, said the ugly sisters. “You didn't go to the ball!” But Cinderella slipped her foot into the glass slipper and it fit perfectly. The next moment standing beside her was the fairy godmother. She touched Cinderella with the wand and there she was in a golden dress sparkling with jewels and on her feet was the prettiest pair of glass slippers ever seen. The ugly sisters were so surprised that, for once, they couldn't think of anything to say. But the Prince knew what to say. He asked Cinderella to marry him.

And then there was a happy wedding. Everyone who had gone to the ball was invited, even the ugly sisters. There was wonderful food, lots of music and dancing. And the Prince of course danced every dance with Cinderella. He would not dance with anyone else.