Lewis Carroll’s “Horrors”

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Methought I walked a dismal place

Dim horrors all around;

The air was thick with many a face,

And black as night the ground.

 

I saw a monster come with speed,

Its face of grimmliest green,

On human beings used to feed,

Most dreadful to be seen.

 

I could not speak, I could not fly,

I fell down in that place,

I saw the monster’s horrid eye

Come leering in my face!

 

Amidst my scarcely-stifled groans,

Amidst my moanings deep,

I heard a voice, “Wake! Mr. Jones,

You’re screaming in your sleep!”

 

I hope you all enjoyed tonight’s poem–I thought it was appropriate for the time of year! The scary artwork is by Midorieyes on deviantart. If you want to see more of her work, come check out her page

If you like fantasy/adventure books, there’s a sale going on on my publishing website right now. Get 15% off paperback and hardcover versions of The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined from now until November 1st! Hurry in and get your copy while these spooky-awesome deals are still going on!

For new fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

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Writer’s Corner: Book Launch Parties on a Budget

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Your book’s written and nearly ready to publish, so what now? Many authors choose to have a book launch party to celebrate the happy occasion and let people know that their book is available for purchase. However, for indie authors, book launch parties can be quite costly. Many independent authors decide to skip their book launch parties all together because of the sheer cost it. This is a mistake, mainly because book launch parties are a great promotional tool for any author.

I’m here to tell you that anyone can have an amazing and unforgettable book launch party without breaking the bank. With a little time and effort, you can throw an awesome party that your guests will be talking about for months to come—and if they remember the party, they’ll remember your book.

 

VENUE

The first step to throwing a book launch party is choosing a venue—you should probably decide this a few months prior to the party in order to better prepare. Community club houses, indie bookstores, and libraries, are great places to host your party if you plan on inviting the general public to your book launch.

However, if you only intend on extending invitations to family, friends, and friends of friends, I recommend saving yourself a little extra cash and hosting it at your house/family member’s house/friend’s house. A house is ideal if your guest list is between 20-50 people—this is the route I took when I hosted my first book launch party for The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined.

 

REFRESHMENTS

You’ve got two choices here: 1.) strictly appetizers, or 2.) dinner. I’ve learned from personal experience that although offering dinner is a great way to get people to your party, it takes the attention away from you and your book. Once everyone’s sat down for dinner, you’ve lost your audience to food. It’s sad, but true. Full bellies make people sleepy, and when people are sleepy they leave early. Save yourself some grief and stick to appetizers (preferably relating to your book) to keep your guests minds on what’s important: your newly published novel.

If, however, you do decide to serve dinner at your party and you’ve got some extra money and not a lot of time, hiring a food truck is a great way to keep your guests fed and is often cheaper than getting your party catered. If, on the other hand, you’ve got a lot of time and want to save some money, make dinner yourself! Make dishes that can easily and inexpensively be made in bulk and, if you can, have the food you serve relate to your book (for instance, my book, The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined, takes place in Germany so I served German food at my launch party).

If most of your invitees are 21 and over, novelty cocktails are a fun way to engage your guests. For my book launch party I had three novelty cocktails: Wilhelm’s Poisoned Watermelon (midori sour), Finn’s Bravery in a Cup (rum and vanilla coke), and Isole’s Kiss of Ice (non-alcoholic mint julep). The specialty drinks were a huge hit, and got people asking about the characters they were named after.

 

DECORATIONS

I know it might be tempting to go out and buy lots of decorations to impress your guests with; however, the costs of snazzy decorations adds up quickly. To save your money for the things that matter (like buying books and merchandise to sell/give away at your party), gather some creative friends and make the decorations yourselves.

I, for instance, employed one of my artist friends to draw a few of my characters. I printed those characters out and stuck them on the gift bags, the center pieces for the tables, and the labels for the appetizers. Since my book pays homage to The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, I also cut out some snowflakes and strung them up beside a poster of my book (which I had printed at Staples).

Bottom line: be creative and employ all free resources at your disposal—you probably have more of those than you realize.

 

FAVORS

Everyone likes free stuff! Handing out gift bags with things relating to your book is a great way promote your new novel.

For my book launch party I bought laminated bookmarks, customized pens (99 Cent store pens which I wrapped with stickers of my book’s cover), and German candy to put in the gift bags. If you’ve got a bit more money on hand, buy customizable tote bags in bulk and put your book cover on them or your publishing logo (if you have one).

Sticking your business card in the gift bags is another great way for your guests to remember you and your book. When you order business cards from places like vistaprint.com they offer the option of putting tipping percentages and other useful charts on the back of your business card. If you do this, the chances of your guests keeping your business card are much higher.

Make sure most of the favors you hand out are useful things that your guests can utilize every day such as: pens, bookmarks, tote bags, USB drives, notepads, can coolers, bottle openers, letter openers, keychain flashlights, mouse pads, shirts, etc.

 

ACTIVITIES

 Keeping your guests interested and engaged is a major part of orchestrating a memorable book launch party. Have games ready for your guests to play, and encourage participation with prizes like merchandise, candy, or even the chance to win a free copy of your book.

At my book launch party we played a couple of games. The first was a fairy tale themed “Who Am I?” game (my book has to do with fairy tales, so it made sense) in which I wrote a bunch of fairy tale names on sticky labels and stuck them on my guests’ backs. My guests then had to ask each other yes or no questions in regards to which fairy tale character they were. The first person to correctly guess who they were received a German chocolate bar.

I also set up a fairy tale trivia game, in which the winner won a German chocolate bar, a key chain of my main character (Destan), and a free paperback copy of the second book in the series (The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed, launching this December). Finally, I raffled off a copy of Destined—if you’re going to do this, I recommend drawing a winner before your guests arrive.

It really doesn’t matter what games or activities you have at your party, just so long as you make it fun and engaging for your guests. The more fun they have, the more interested they’ll be in purchasing your book!

 

BOOKS

What is the most important thing to have at your book launch party? Your books, of course! Order as many copies as you can to sell at your launch party—trust me, if they’re available to your guests, your guests will buy them. If you don’t have a lot of money to purchase physical copies of your books, you can also set up a laptop pay station, where your launch party attendees can purchase your book online. As an added incentive to buy your book at the launch party, give your guests a discounted price on your novel and offer to sign it for them.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have at least some physical copies of your book at the launch party. Never assume someone is going to buy your book at a later date, even if they said they will—that’s like counting your chickens before they hatch. If you’re able, buy enough copies for everyone at the party—your guests are more likely to buy the book if it’s physically available to them.

Buying your own books will probably be one of the more expensive parts of your party no matter what you decide to do; however, they are crucial to your party’s success. Cut back where you can in the other areas mentioned above so you can have physical copies of your books on hand—I guarantee you won’t regret it.

 

Well, there you have it, a basic overview of a book launch party on the cheap. Start your planning in advance—the sooner you do, the less stress you’ll have to deal with when you get closer to the big day. Happy planning!

If you have any more tips, questions, or comments about book launch parties on a budget, please leave them in the comments! For new writer tidbits and fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Rudyard Kipling’s “Toomai of the Elephants”

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I will remember what I was, I am sick of rope and chain--
  I will remember my old strength and all my forest affairs.
I will not sell my back to man for a bundle of sugar-cane:
  I will go out to my own kind, and the wood-folk in their lairs.
I will go out until the day, until the morning break--
  Out to the wind's untainted kiss, the water's clean caress;
I will forget my ankle-ring and snap my picket stake.
  I will revisit my lost loves, and playmates masterless!

Kala Nag, which means Black Snake, had served the Indian Government in every way that an elephant could serve it for forty-seven years, and as he was fully twenty years old when he was caught, that makes him nearly seventy–a ripe age for an elephant. He remembered pushing, with a big leather pad on his forehead, at a gun stuck in deep mud, and that was before the Afghan War of 1842, and he had not then come to his full strength.

His mother Radha Pyari,–Radha the darling,–who had been caught in the same drive with Kala Nag, told him, before his little milk tusks had dropped out, that elephants who were afraid always got hurt. Kala Nag knew that that advice was good, for the first time that he saw a shell burst he backed, screaming, into a stand of piled rifles, and the bayonets pricked him in all his softest places. So, before he was twenty-five, he gave up being afraid, and so he was the best-loved and the best-looked-after elephant in the service of the Government of India. He had carried tents, twelve hundred pounds’ weight of tents, on the march in Upper India. He had been hoisted into a ship at the end of a steam crane and taken for days across the water, and made to carry a mortar on his back in a strange and rocky country very far from India, and had seen the Emperor Theodore lying dead in Magdala, and had come back again in the steamer entitled, so the soldiers said, to the Abyssinian War medal. He had seen his fellow elephants die of cold and epilepsy and starvation and sunstroke up at a place called Ali Musjid, ten years later; and afterward he had been sent down thousands of miles south to haul and pile big balks of teak in the timberyards at Moulmein. There he had half killed an insubordinate young elephant who was shirking his fair share of work.

After that he was taken off timber-hauling, and employed, with a few score other elephants who were trained to the business, in helping to catch wild elephants among the Garo hills. Elephants are very strictly preserved by the Indian Government. There is one whole department which does nothing else but hunt them, and catch them, and break them in, and send them up and down the country as they are needed for work.

Kala Nag stood ten fair feet at the shoulders, and his tusks had been cut off short at five feet, and bound round the ends, to prevent them splitting, with bands of copper; but he could do more with those stumps than any untrained elephant could do with the real sharpened ones. When, after weeks and weeks of cautious driving of scattered elephants across the hills, the forty or fifty wild monsters were driven into the last stockade, and the big drop gate, made of tree trunks lashed together, jarred down behind them, Kala Nag, at the word of command, would go into that flaring, trumpeting pandemonium (generally at night, when the flicker of the torches made it difficult to judge distances), and, picking out the biggest and wildest tusker of the mob, would hammer him and hustle him into quiet while the men on the backs of the other elephants roped and tied the smaller ones.

There was nothing in the way of fighting that Kala Nag, the old wise Black Snake, did not know, for he had stood up more than once in his time to the charge of the wounded tiger, and, curling up his soft trunk to be out of harm’s way, had knocked the springing brute sideways in mid-air with a quick sickle cut of his head, that he had invented all by himself; had knocked him over, and kneeled upon him with his huge knees till the life went out with a gasp and a howl, and there was only a fluffy striped thing on the ground for Kala Nag to pull by the tail.

“Yes,” said Big Toomai, his driver, the son of Black Toomai who had taken him to Abyssinia, and grandson of Toomai of the Elephants who had seen him caught, “there is nothing that the Black Snake fears except me. He has seen three generations of us feed him and groom him, and he will live to see four.”

“He is afraid of me also,” said Little Toomai, standing up to his full height of four feet, with only one rag upon him. He was ten years old, the eldest son of Big Toomai, and, according to custom, he would take his father’s place on Kala Nag’s neck when he grew up, and would handle the heavy iron ankus, the elephant goad, that had been worn smooth by his father, and his grandfather, and his great-grandfather.

He knew what he was talking of; for he had been born under Kala Nag’s shadow, had played with the end of his trunk before he could walk, had taken him down to water as soon as he could walk, and Kala Nag would no more have dreamed of disobeying his shrill little orders than he would have dreamed of killing him on that day when Big Toomai carried the little brown baby under Kala Nag’s tusks, and told him to salute his master that was to be.

“Yes,” said Little Toomai, “he is afraid of me,” and he took long strides up to Kala Nag, called him a fat old pig, and made him lift up his feet one after the other.

“Wah!” said Little Toomai, “thou art a big elephant,” and he wagged his fluffy head, quoting his father. “The Government may pay for elephants, but they belong to us mahouts. When thou art old, Kala Nag, there will come some rich rajah, and he will buy thee from the Government, on account of thy size and thy manners, and then thou wilt have nothing to do but to carry gold earrings in thy ears, and a gold howdah on thy back, and a red cloth covered with gold on thy sides, and walk at the head of the processions of the King. Then I shall sit on thy neck, O Kala Nag, with a silver ankus, and men will run before us with golden sticks, crying, `Room for the King’s elephant!’ That will be good, Kala Nag, but not so good as this hunting in the jungles.”

“Umph!” said Big Toomai. “Thou art a boy, and as wild as a buffalo-calf. This running up and down among the hills is not the best Government service. I am getting old, and I do not love wild elephants. Give me brick elephant lines, one stall to each elephant, and big stumps to tie them to safely, and flat, broad roads to exercise upon, instead of this come-and-go camping. Aha, the Cawnpore barracks were good. There was a bazaar close by, and only three hours’ work a day.”

Little Toomai remembered the Cawnpore elephant-lines and said nothing. He very much preferred the camp life, and hated those broad, flat roads, with the daily grubbing for grass in the forage reserve, and the long hours when there was nothing to do except to watch Kala Nag fidgeting in his pickets.

What Little Toomai liked was to scramble up bridle paths that only an elephant could take; the dip into the valley below; the glimpses of the wild elephants browsing miles away; the rush of the frightened pig and peacock under Kala Nag’s feet; the blinding warm rains, when all the hills and valleys smoked; the beautiful misty mornings when nobody knew where they would camp that night; the steady, cautious drive of the wild elephants, and the mad rush and blaze and hullabaloo of the last night’s drive, when the elephants poured into the stockade like boulders in a landslide, found that they could not get out, and flung themselves at the heavy posts only to be driven back by yells and flaring torches and volleys of blank cartridge.

Even a little boy could be of use there, and Toomai was as useful as three boys. He would get his torch and wave it, and yell with the best. But the really good time came when the driving out began, and the Keddah–that is, the stockade– looked like a picture of the end of the world, and men had to make signs to one another, because they could not hear themselves speak. Then Little Toomai would climb up to the top of one of the quivering stockade posts, his sun-bleached brown hair flying loose all over his shoulders, and he looking like a goblin in the torch-light. And as soon as there was a lull you could hear his high-pitched yells of encouragement to Kala Nag, above the trumpeting and crashing, and snapping of ropes, and groans of the tethered elephants. “Mael, mael, Kala Nag! (Go on, go on, Black Snake!) Dant do! (Give him the tusk!) Somalo! Somalo! (Careful, careful!) Maro! Mar! (Hit him, hit him!) Mind the post! Arre! Arre! Hai! Yai! Kya-a-ah!” he would shout, and the big fight between Kala Nag and the wild elephant would sway to and fro across the Keddah, and the old elephant catchers would wipe the sweat out of their eyes, and find time to nod to Little Toomai wriggling with joy on the top of the posts.

He did more than wriggle. One night he slid down from the post and slipped in between the elephants and threw up the loose end of a rope, which had dropped, to a driver who was trying to get a purchase on the leg of a kicking young calf (calves always give more trouble than full-grown animals). Kala Nag saw him, caught him in his trunk, and handed him up to Big Toomai, who slapped him then and there, and put him back on the post.

Next morning he gave him a scolding and said, “Are not good brick elephant lines and a little tent carrying enough, that thou must needs go elephant catching on thy own account, little worthless? Now those foolish hunters, whose pay is less than my pay, have spoken to Petersen Sahib of the matter.” Little Toomai was frightened. He did not know much of white men, but Petersen Sahib was the greatest white man in the world to him. He was the head of all the Keddah operations–the man who caught all the elephants for the Government of India, and who knew more about the ways of elephants than any living man.

“What–what will happen?” said Little Toomai.

“Happen! The worst that can happen. Petersen Sahib is a madman. Else why should he go hunting these wild devils? He may even require thee to be an elephant catcher, to sleep anywhere in these fever-filled jungles, and at last to be trampled to death in the Keddah. It is well that this nonsense ends safely. Next week the catching is over, and we of the plains are sent back to our stations. Then we will march on smooth roads, and forget all this hunting. But, son, I am angry that thou shouldst meddle in the business that belongs to these dirty Assamese jungle folk. Kala Nag will obey none but me, so I must go with him into the Keddah, but he is only a fighting elephant, and he does not help to rope them. So I sit at my ease, as befits a mahout,–not a mere hunter,–a mahout, I say, and a man who gets a pension at the end of his service. Is the family of Toomai of the Elephants to be trodden underfoot in the dirt of a Keddah? Bad one! Wicked one! Worthless son! Go and wash Kala Nag and attend to his ears, and see that there are no thorns in his feet. Or else Petersen Sahib will surely catch thee and make thee a wild hunter–a follower of elephant’s foot tracks, a jungle bear. Bah! Shame! Go!”

Little Toomai went off without saying a word, but he told Kala Nag all his grievances while he was examining his feet. “No matter,” said Little Toomai, turning up the fringe of Kala Nag’s huge right ear. “They have said my name to Petersen Sahib, and perhaps–and perhaps–and perhaps–who knows? Hai! That is a big thorn that I have pulled out!”

The next few days were spent in getting the elephants together, in walking the newly caught wild elephants up and down between a couple of tame ones to prevent them giving too much trouble on the downward march to the plains, and in taking stock of the blankets and ropes and things that had been worn out or lost in the forest.

Petersen Sahib came in on his clever she-elephant Pudmini; he had been paying off other camps among the hills, for the season was coming to an end, and there was a native clerk sitting at a table under a tree, to pay the drivers their wages. As each man was paid he went back to his elephant, and joined the line that stood ready to start. The catchers, and hunters, and beaters, the men of the regular Keddah, who stayed in the jungle year in and year out, sat on the backs of the elephants that belonged to Petersen Sahib’s permanent force, or leaned against the trees with their guns across their arms, and made fun of the drivers who were going away, and laughed when the newly caught elephants broke the line and ran about.

Big Toomai went up to the clerk with Little Toomai behind him, and Machua Appa, the head tracker, said in an undertone to a friend of his, “There goes one piece of good elephant stuff at least. ‘Tis a pity to send that young jungle-cock to molt in the plains.”

Now Petersen Sahib had ears all over him, as a man must have who listens to the most silent of all living things–the wild elephant. He turned where he was lying all along on Pudmini’s back and said, “What is that? I did not know of a man among the plains-drivers who had wit enough to rope even a dead elephant.”

“This is not a man, but a boy. He went into the Keddah at the last drive, and threw Barmao there the rope, when we were trying to get that young calf with the blotch on his shoulder away from his mother.”

Machua Appa pointed at Little Toomai, and Petersen Sahib looked, and Little Toomai bowed to the earth.

“He throw a rope? He is smaller than a picket-pin. Little one, what is thy name?” said Petersen Sahib.

Little Toomai was too frightened to speak, but Kala Nag was behind him, and Toomai made a sign with his hand, and the elephant caught him up in his trunk and held him level with Pudmini’s forehead, in front of the great Petersen Sahib. Then Little Toomai covered his face with his hands, for he was only a child, and except where elephants were concerned, he was just as bashful as a child could be.

“Oho!” said Petersen Sahib, smiling underneath his mustache, “and why didst thou teach thy elephant that trick? Was it to help thee steal green corn from the roofs of the houses when the ears are put out to dry?”

“Not green corn, Protector of the Poor,–melons,” said Little Toomai, and all the men sitting about broke into a roar of laughter. Most of them had taught their elephants that trick when they were boys. Little Toomai was hanging eight feet up in the air, and he wished very much that he were eight feet underground.

“He is Toomai, my son, Sahib,” said Big Toomai, scowling. “He is a very bad boy, and he will end in a jail, Sahib.”

“Of that I have my doubts,” said Petersen Sahib. “A boy who can face a full Keddah at his age does not end in jails. See, little one, here are four annas to spend in sweetmeats because thou hast a little head under that great thatch of hair. In time thou mayest become a hunter too.” Big Toomai scowled more than ever. “Remember, though, that Keddahs are not good for children to play in,” Petersen Sahib went on.

“Must I never go there, Sahib?” asked Little Toomai with a big gasp.

“Yes.” Petersen Sahib smiled again. “When thou hast seen the elephants dance. That is the proper time. Come to me when thou hast seen the elephants dance, and then I will let thee go into all the Keddahs.”

There was another roar of laughter, for that is an old joke among elephant-catchers, and it means just never. There are great cleared flat places hidden away in the forests that are called elephants’ ball-rooms, but even these are only found by accident, and no man has ever seen the elephants dance. When a driver boasts of his skill and bravery the other drivers say, “And when didst thou see the elephants dance?”

Kala Nag put Little Toomai down, and he bowed to the earth again and went away with his father, and gave the silver four-anna piece to his mother, who was nursing his baby brother, and they all were put up on Kala Nag’s back, and the line of grunting, squealing elephants rolled down the hill path to the plains. It was a very lively march on account of the new elephants, who gave trouble at every ford, and needed coaxing or beating every other minute.

Big Toomai prodded Kala Nag spitefully, for he was very angry, but Little Toomai was too happy to speak. Petersen Sahib had noticed him, and given him money, so he felt as a private soldier would feel if he had been called out of the ranks and praised by his commander-in-chief.

“What did Petersen Sahib mean by the elephant dance?” he said, at last, softly to his mother.

Big Toomai heard him and grunted. “That thou shouldst never be one of these hill buffaloes of trackers. That was what he meant. Oh, you in front, what is blocking the way?”

An Assamese driver, two or three elephants ahead, turned round angrily, crying: “Bring up Kala Nag, and knock this youngster of mine into good behavior. Why should Petersen Sahib have chosen me to go down with you donkeys of the rice fields? Lay your beast alongside, Toomai, and let him prod with his tusks. By all the Gods of the Hills, these new elephants are possessed, or else they can smell their companions in the jungle.” Kala Nag hit the new elephant in the ribs and knocked the wind out of him, as Big Toomai said, “We have swept the hills of wild elephants at the last catch. It is only your carelessness in driving. Must I keep order along the whole line?”

“Hear him!” said the other driver. “We have swept the hills! Ho! Ho! You are very wise, you plains people. Anyone but a mud-head who never saw the jungle would know that they know that the drives are ended for the season. Therefore all the wild elephants to-night will–but why should I waste wisdom on a river-turtle?”

“What will they do?” Little Toomai called out.

“Ohe, little one. Art thou there? Well, I will tell thee, for thou hast a cool head. They will dance, and it behooves thy father, who has swept all the hills of all the elephants, to double-chain his pickets to-night.”

“What talk is this?” said Big Toomai. “For forty years, father and son, we have tended elephants, and we have never heard such moonshine about dances.”

“Yes; but a plainsman who lives in a hut knows only the four walls of his hut. Well, leave thy elephants unshackled tonight and see what comes. As for their dancing, I have seen the place where–Bapree-bap! How many windings has the Dihang River? Here is another ford, and we must swim the calves. Stop still, you behind there.”

And in this way, talking and wrangling and splashing through the rivers, they made their first march to a sort of receiving camp for the new elephants. But they lost their tempers long before they got there.

Then the elephants were chained by their hind legs to their big stumps of pickets, and extra ropes were fitted to the new elephants, and the fodder was piled before them, and the hill drivers went back to Petersen Sahib through the afternoon light, telling the plains drivers to be extra careful that night, and laughing when the plains drivers asked the reason.

Little Toomai attended to Kala Nag’s supper, and as evening fell, wandered through the camp, unspeakably happy, in search of a tom-tom. When an Indian child’s heart is full, he does not run about and make a noise in an irregular fashion. He sits down to a sort of revel all by himself. And Little Toomai had been spoken to by Petersen Sahib! If he had not found what he wanted, I believe he would have been ill. But the sweetmeat seller in the camp lent him a little tom-tom–a drum beaten with the flat of the hand–and he sat down, cross-legged, before Kala Nag as the stars began to come out, the tom-tom in his lap, and he thumped and he thumped and he thumped, and the more he thought of the great honor that had been done to him, the more he thumped, all alone among the elephant fodder. There was no tune and no words, but the thumping made him happy.

The new elephants strained at their ropes, and squealed and trumpeted from time to time, and he could hear his mother in the camp hut putting his small brother to sleep with an old, old song about the great God Shiv, who once told all the animals what they should eat. It is a very soothing lullaby, and the first verse says:

     Shiv, who poured the harvest and made the winds to blow,
     Sitting at the doorways of a day of long ago,
     Gave to each his portion, food and toil and fate,
     From the King upon the guddee to the Beggar at the gate.
       All things made he--Shiva the Preserver.
     Mahadeo!  Mahadeo!  He made all--
     Thorn for the camel, fodder for the kine,
     And mother's heart for sleepy head, O little son of mine!

Little Toomai came in with a joyous tunk-a-tunk at the end of each verse, till he felt sleepy and stretched himself on the fodder at Kala Nag’s side. At last the elephants began to lie down one after another as is their custom, till only Kala Nag at the right of the line was left standing up; and he rocked slowly from side to side, his ears put forward to listen to the night wind as it blew very slowly across the hills. The air was full of all the night noises that, taken together, make one big silence– the click of one bamboo stem against the other, the rustle of something alive in the undergrowth, the scratch and squawk of a half-waked bird (birds are awake in the night much more often than we imagine), and the fall of water ever so far away. Little Toomai slept for some time, and when he waked it was brilliant moonlight, and Kala Nag was still standing up with his ears cocked. Little Toomai turned, rustling in the fodder, and watched the curve of his big back against half the stars in heaven, and while he watched he heard, so far away that it sounded no more than a pinhole of noise pricked through the stillness, the “hoot-toot” of a wild elephant.

All the elephants in the lines jumped up as if they had been shot, and their grunts at last waked the sleeping mahouts, and they came out and drove in the picket pegs with big mallets, and tightened this rope and knotted that till all was quiet. One new elephant had nearly grubbed up his picket, and Big Toomai took off Kala Nag’s leg chain and shackled that elephant fore-foot to hind-foot, but slipped a loop of grass string round Kala Nag’s leg, and told him to remember that he was tied fast. He knew that he and his father and his grandfather had done the very same thing hundreds of times before. Kala Nag did not answer to the order by gurgling, as he usually did. He stood still, looking out across the moonlight, his head a little raised and his ears spread like fans, up to the great folds of the Garo hills.

“Tend to him if he grows restless in the night,” said Big Toomai to Little Toomai, and he went into the hut and slept. Little Toomai was just going to sleep, too, when he heard the coir string snap with a little “tang,” and Kala Nag rolled out of his pickets as slowly and as silently as a cloud rolls out of the mouth of a valley. Little Toomai pattered after him, barefooted, down the road in the moonlight, calling under his breath, “Kala Nag! Kala Nag! Take me with you, O Kala Nag!” The elephant turned, without a sound, took three strides back to the boy in the moonlight, put down his trunk, swung him up to his neck, and almost before Little Toomai had settled his knees, slipped into the forest.

There was one blast of furious trumpeting from the lines, and then the silence shut down on everything, and Kala Nag began to move. Sometimes a tuft of high grass washed along his sides as a wave washes along the sides of a ship, and sometimes a cluster of wild-pepper vines would scrape along his back, or a bamboo would creak where his shoulder touched it. But between those times he moved absolutely without any sound, drifting through the thick Garo forest as though it had been smoke. He was going uphill, but though Little Toomai watched the stars in the rifts of the trees, he could not tell in what direction.

Then Kala Nag reached the crest of the ascent and stopped for a minute, and Little Toomai could see the tops of the trees lying all speckled and furry under the moonlight for miles and miles, and the blue-white mist over the river in the hollow. Toomai leaned forward and looked, and he felt that the forest was awake below him–awake and alive and crowded. A big brown fruit-eating bat brushed past his ear; a porcupine’s quills rattled in the thicket; and in the darkness between the tree stems he heard a hog-bear digging hard in the moist warm earth, and snuffing as it digged.

Then the branches closed over his head again, and Kala Nag began to go down into the valley–not quietly this time, but as a runaway gun goes down a steep bank–in one rush. The huge limbs moved as steadily as pistons, eight feet to each stride, and the wrinkled skin of the elbow points rustled. The undergrowth on either side of him ripped with a noise like torn canvas, and the saplings that he heaved away right and left with his shoulders sprang back again and banged him on the flank, and great trails of creepers, all matted together, hung from his tusks as he threw his head from side to side and plowed out his pathway. Then Little Toomai laid himself down close to the great neck lest a swinging bough should sweep him to the ground, and he wished that he were back in the lines again.

The grass began to get squashy, and Kala Nag’s feet sucked and squelched as he put them down, and the night mist at the bottom of the valley chilled Little Toomai. There was a splash and a trample, and the rush of running water, and Kala Nag strode through the bed of a river, feeling his way at each step. Above the noise of the water, as it swirled round the elephant’s legs, Little Toomai could hear more splashing and some trumpeting both upstream and down–great grunts and angry snortings, and all the mist about him seemed to be full of rolling, wavy shadows.

“Ai!” he said, half aloud, his teeth chattering. “The elephant-folk are out tonight. It is the dance, then!”

Kala Nag swashed out of the water, blew his trunk clear, and began another climb. But this time he was not alone, and he had not to make his path. That was made already, six feet wide, in front of him, where the bent jungle-grass was trying to recover itself and stand up. Many elephants must have gone that way only a few minutes before. Little Toomai looked back, and behind him a great wild tusker with his little pig’s eyes glowing like hot coals was just lifting himself out of the misty river. Then the trees closed up again, and they went on and up, with trumpetings and crashings, and the sound of breaking branches on every side of them.

At last Kala Nag stood still between two tree-trunks at the very top of the hill. They were part of a circle of trees that grew round an irregular space of some three or four acres, and in all that space, as Little Toomai could see, the ground had been trampled down as hard as a brick floor. Some trees grew in the center of the clearing, but their bark was rubbed away, and the white wood beneath showed all shiny and polished in the patches of moonlight. There were creepers hanging from the upper branches, and the bells of the flowers of the creepers, great waxy white things like convolvuluses, hung down fast asleep. But within the limits of the clearing there was not a single blade of green– nothing but the trampled earth.

The moonlight showed it all iron gray, except where some elephants stood upon it, and their shadows were inky black. Little Toomai looked, holding his breath, with his eyes starting out of his head, and as he looked, more and more and more elephants swung out into the open from between the tree trunks. Little Toomai could only count up to ten, and he counted again and again on his fingers till he lost count of the tens, and his head began to swim. Outside the clearing he could hear them crashing in the undergrowth as they worked their way up the hillside, but as soon as they were within the circle of the tree trunks they moved like ghosts.

There were white-tusked wild males, with fallen leaves and nuts and twigs lying in the wrinkles of their necks and the folds of their ears; fat, slow-footed she-elephants, with restless, little pinky black calves only three or four feet high running under their stomachs; young elephants with their tusks just beginning to show, and very proud of them; lanky, scraggy old-maid elephants, with their hollow anxious faces, and trunks like rough bark; savage old bull elephants, scarred from shoulder to flank with great weals and cuts of bygone fights, and the caked dirt of their solitary mud baths dropping from their shoulders; and there was one with a broken tusk and the marks of the full-stroke, the terrible drawing scrape, of a tiger’s claws on his side.

They were standing head to head, or walking to and fro across the ground in couples, or rocking and swaying all by themselves– scores and scores of elephants.

Toomai knew that so long as he lay still on Kala Nag’s neck nothing would happen to him, for even in the rush and scramble of a Keddah drive a wild elephant does not reach up with his trunk and drag a man off the neck of a tame elephant. And these elephants were not thinking of men that night. Once they started and put their ears forward when they heard the chinking of a leg iron in the forest, but it was Pudmini, Petersen Sahib’s pet elephant, her chain snapped short off, grunting, snuffling up the hillside. She must have broken her pickets and come straight from Petersen Sahib’s camp; and Little Toomai saw another elephant, one that he did not know, with deep rope galls on his back and breast. He, too, must have run away from some camp in the hills about.

At last there was no sound of any more elephants moving in the forest, and Kala Nag rolled out from his station between the trees and went into the middle of the crowd, clucking and gurgling, and all the elephants began to talk in their own tongue, and to move about.

Still lying down, Little Toomai looked down upon scores and scores of broad backs, and wagging ears, and tossing trunks, and little rolling eyes. He heard the click of tusks as they crossed other tusks by accident, and the dry rustle of trunks twined together, and the chafing of enormous sides and shoulders in the crowd, and the incessant flick and hissh of the great tails. Then a cloud came over the moon, and he sat in black darkness. But the quiet, steady hustling and pushing and gurgling went on just the same. He knew that there were elephants all round Kala Nag, and that there was no chance of backing him out of the assembly; so he set his teeth and shivered. In a Keddah at least there was torchlight and shouting, but here he was all alone in the dark, and once a trunk came up and touched him on the knee.

Then an elephant trumpeted, and they all took it up for five or ten terrible seconds. The dew from the trees above spattered down like rain on the unseen backs, and a dull booming noise began, not very loud at first, and Little Toomai could not tell what it was. But it grew and grew, and Kala Nag lifted up one forefoot and then the other, and brought them down on the ground –one-two, one-two, as steadily as trip-hammers. The elephants were stamping all together now, and it sounded like a war drum beaten at the mouth of a cave. The dew fell from the trees till there was no more left to fall, and the booming went on, and the ground rocked and shivered, and Little Toomai put his hands up to his ears to shut out the sound. But it was all one gigantic jar that ran through him–this stamp of hundreds of heavy feet on the raw earth. Once or twice he could feel Kala Nag and all the others surge forward a few strides, and the thumping would change to the crushing sound of juicy green things being bruised, but in a minute or two the boom of feet on hard earth began again. A tree was creaking and groaning somewhere near him. He put out his arm and felt the bark, but Kala Nag moved forward, still tramping, and he could not tell where he was in the clearing. There was no sound from the elephants, except once, when two or three little calves squeaked together. Then he heard a thump and a shuffle, and the booming went on. It must have lasted fully two hours, and Little Toomai ached in every nerve, but he knew by the smell of the night air that the dawn was coming.

The morning broke in one sheet of pale yellow behind the green hills, and the booming stopped with the first ray, as though the light had been an order. Before Little Toomai had got the ringing out of his head, before even he had shifted his position, there was not an elephant in sight except Kala Nag, Pudmini, and the elephant with the rope-galls, and there was neither sign nor rustle nor whisper down the hillsides to show where the others had gone.

Little Toomai stared again and again. The clearing, as he remembered it, had grown in the night. More trees stood in the middle of it, but the undergrowth and the jungle grass at the sides had been rolled back. Little Toomai stared once more. Now he understood the trampling. The elephants had stamped out more room–had stamped the thick grass and juicy cane to trash, the trash into slivers, the slivers into tiny fibers, and the fibers into hard earth.

“Wah!” said Little Toomai, and his eyes were very heavy. “Kala Nag, my lord, let us keep by Pudmini and go to Petersen Sahib’s camp, or I shall drop from thy neck.”

The third elephant watched the two go away, snorted, wheeled round, and took his own path. He may have belonged to some little native king’s establishment, fifty or sixty or a hundred miles away.

Two hours later, as Petersen Sahib was eating early breakfast, his elephants, who had been double chained that night, began to trumpet, and Pudmini, mired to the shoulders, with Kala Nag, very footsore, shambled into the camp. Little Toomai’s face was gray and pinched, and his hair was full of leaves and drenched with dew, but he tried to salute Petersen Sahib, and cried faintly: “The dance–the elephant dance! I have seen it, and–I die!” As Kala Nag sat down, he slid off his neck in a dead faint.

But, since native children have no nerves worth speaking of, in two hours he was lying very contentedly in Petersen Sahib’s hammock with Petersen Sahib’s shooting-coat under his head, and a glass of warm milk, a little brandy, with a dash of quinine, inside of him, and while the old hairy, scarred hunters of the jungles sat three deep before him, looking at him as though he were a spirit, he told his tale in short words, as a child will, and wound up with:

“Now, if I lie in one word, send men to see, and they will find that the elephant folk have trampled down more room in their dance-room, and they will find ten and ten, and many times ten, tracks leading to that dance-room. They made more room with their feet. I have seen it. Kala Nag took me, and I saw. Also Kala Nag is very leg-weary!”

Little Toomai lay back and slept all through the long afternoon and into the twilight, and while he slept Petersen Sahib and Machua Appa followed the track of the two elephants for fifteen miles across the hills. Petersen Sahib had spent eighteen years in catching elephants, and he had only once before found such a dance-place. Machua Appa had no need to look twice at the clearing to see what had been done there, or to scratch with his toe in the packed, rammed earth.

“The child speaks truth,” said he. “All this was done last night, and I have counted seventy tracks crossing the river. See, Sahib, where Pudmini’s leg-iron cut the bark of that tree! Yes; she was there too.”

They looked at one another and up and down, and they wondered. For the ways of elephants are beyond the wit of any man, black or white, to fathom.

“Forty years and five,” said Machua Appa, “have I followed my lord, the elephant, but never have I heard that any child of man had seen what this child has seen. By all the Gods of the Hills, it is–what can we say?” and he shook his head.

When they got back to camp it was time for the evening meal. Petersen Sahib ate alone in his tent, but he gave orders that the camp should have two sheep and some fowls, as well as a double ration of flour and rice and salt, for he knew that there would be a feast.

Big Toomai had come up hotfoot from the camp in the plains to search for his son and his elephant, and now that he had found them he looked at them as though he were afraid of them both. And there was a feast by the blazing campfires in front of the lines of picketed elephants, and Little Toomai was the hero of it all. And the big brown elephant catchers, the trackers and drivers and ropers, and the men who know all the secrets of breaking the wildest elephants, passed him from one to the other, and they marked his forehead with blood from the breast of a newly killed jungle-cock, to show that he was a forester, initiated and free of all the jungles.

And at last, when the flames died down, and the red light of the logs made the elephants look as though they had been dipped in blood too, Machua Appa, the head of all the drivers of all the Keddahs–Machua Appa, Petersen Sahib’s other self, who had never seen a made road in forty years: Machua Appa, who was so great that he had no other name than Machua Appa,–leaped to his feet, with Little Toomai held high in the air above his head, and shouted: “Listen, my brothers. Listen, too, you my lords in the lines there, for I, Machua Appa, am speaking! This little one shall no more be called Little Toomai, but Toomai of the Elephants, as his great-grandfather was called before him. What never man has seen he has seen through the long night, and the favor of the elephant-folk and of the Gods of the Jungles is with him. He shall become a great tracker. He shall become greater than I, even I, Machua Appa! He shall follow the new trail, and the stale trail, and the mixed trail, with a clear eye! He shall take no harm in the Keddah when he runs under their bellies to rope the wild tuskers; and if he slips before the feet of the charging bull elephant, the bull elephant shall know who he is and shall not crush him. Aihai! my lords in the chains,”–he whirled up the line of pickets–“here is the little one that has seen your dances in your hidden places,–the sight that never man saw! Give him honor, my lords! Salaam karo, my children. Make your salute to Toomai of the Elephants! Gunga Pershad, ahaa! Hira Guj, Birchi Guj, Kuttar Guj, ahaa! Pudmini,–thou hast seen him at the dance, and thou too, Kala Nag, my pearl among elephants!–ahaa! Together! To Toomai of the Elephants. Barrao!”

And at that last wild yell the whole line flung up their trunks till the tips touched their foreheads, and broke out into the full salute–the crashing trumpet-peal that only the Viceroy of India hears, the Salaamut of the Keddah.

But it was all for the sake of Little Toomai, who had seen what never man had seen before–the dance of the elephants at night and alone in the heart of the Garo hills!

 

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Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s “Maid Maleen

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There was once a King who had a son who asked in marriage the daughter of a mighty King; she was called Maid Maleen, and was very beautiful. As her father wished to give her to another, the prince was rejected; but as they both loved each other with all their hearts, they would not give each other up, and Maid Maleen said to her father, “I can and will take no other for my husband.” Then the King flew into a passion, and ordered a dark tower to be built, into which no ray of sunlight or moonlight should enter. When it was finished, he said, “Therein shalt thou be imprisoned for seven years, and then I will come and see if thy perverse spirit is broken.” Meat and drink for the seven years were carried into the tower, and then she and her waiting-woman were led into it and walled up, and thus cut off from the sky and from the earth. There they sat in the darkness, and knew not when day or night began. The King’s son often went round and round the tower, and called their names, but no sound from without pierced through the thick walls. What else could they do but lament and complain? Meanwhile the time passed, and by the diminution of the food and drink they knew that the seven years were coming to an end. They thought the moment of their deliverance was come; but no stroke of the hammer was heard, no stone fell out of the wall, and it seemed to Maid Maleen that her father had forgotten her. As they only had food for a short time longer, and saw a miserable death awaiting them, Maid Maleen said, “We must try our last chance, and see if we can break through the wall.” She took the bread-knife, and picked and bored at the mortar of a stone, and when she was tired, the waiting-maid took her turn. With great labour they succeeded in getting out one stone, and then a second, and a third, and when three days were over the first ray of light fell on their darkness, and at last the opening was so large that they could look out. The sky was blue, and a fresh breeze played on their faces; but how melancholy everything looked all around! Her father’s castle lay in ruins, the town and the villages were, so far as could be seen, destroyed by fire, the fields far and wide laid to waste, and no human being was visible. When the opening in the wall was large enough for them to slip through, the waiting-maid sprang down first, and then Maid Maleen followed. But where were they to go? The enemy had ravaged the whole kingdom, driven away the King, and slain all the inhabitants. They wandered forth to seek another country, but nowhere did they find a shelter, or a human being to give them a mouthful of bread, and their need was so great that they were forced to appease their hunger with nettles. When, after long journeying, they came into another country, they tried to get work everywhere; but wherever they knocked they were turned away, and no one would have pity on them. At last they arrived in a large city and went to the royal palace. There also they were ordered to go away, but at last the cook said that they might stay in the kitchen and be scullions.

The son of the King in whose kingdom they were, was, however, the very man who had been betrothed to Maid Maleen. His father had chosen another bride for him, whose face was as ugly as her heart was wicked. The wedding was fixed, and the maiden had already arrived; but because of her great ugliness, however, she shut herself in her room, and allowed no one to see her, and Maid Maleen had to take her her meals from the kitchen. When the day came for the bride and the bridegroom to go to church, she was ashamed of her ugliness, and afraid that if she showed herself in the streets, she would be mocked and laughed at by the people. Then said she to Maid Maleen, “A great piece of luck has befallen thee. I have sprained my foot, and cannot well walk through the streets; thou shalt put on my wedding-clothes and take my place; a greater honour than that thou canst not have!” Maid Maleen, however, refused it, and said, “I wish for no honour which is not suitable for me.” It was in vain, too, that the bride offered her gold. At last she said angrily, “If thou dost not obey me, it shall cost thee thy life. I have but to speak the word, and thy head will lie at thy feet.” Then she was forced to obey, and put on the bride’s magnificent clothes and all her jewels. When she entered the royal hall, every one was amazed at her great beauty, and the King said to his son, “This is the bride whom I have chosen for thee, and whom thou must lead to church.” The bridegroom was astonished, and thought, “She is like my Maid Maleen, and I should believe that it was she herself, but she has long been shut up in the tower, or dead.” He took her by the hand and led her to church. On the way was a nettle-plant, and she said,

“Oh, nettle-plant, Little nettle-plant, What dost thou here alone? I have known the time When I ate thee unboiled, When I ate thee unroasted.”

“What art thou saying?” asked the King’s son. “Nothing,” she replied, “I was only thinking of Maid Maleen.” He was surprised that she knew about her, but kept silence. When they came to the foot-plank into the churchyard, she said,

“Foot-bridge, do not break, I am not the true bride.”

“What art thou saying there?” asked the King’s son. “Nothing,” she replied, “I was only thinking of Maid Maleen.” “Dost thou know Maid Maleen?” “No,” she answered, “how should I know her; I have only heard of her.” When they came to the church-door, she said once more,

“Church-door, break not, I am not the true bride.”

“What art thou saying there?” asked he. “Ah,” she answered, “I was only thinking of Maid Maleen.” Then he took out a precious chain, put it round her neck, and fastened the clasp. Thereupon they entered the church, and the priest joined their hands together before the altar, and married them. He led her home, but she did not speak a single word the whole way. When they got back to the royal palace, she hurried into the bride’s chamber, put off the magnificent clothes and the jewels, dressed herself in her gray gown, and kept nothing but the jewel on her neck, which she had received from the bridegroom.

When the night came, and the bride was to be led into the prince’s apartment, she let her veil fall over her face, that he might not observe the deception. As soon as every one had gone away, he said to her, “What didst thou say to the nettle-plant which was growing by the wayside?”

“To which nettle-plant?” asked she; “I don’t talk to nettle-plants.” “If thou didst not do it, then thou art not the true bride,” said he. So she bethought herself, and said,

“I must go out unto my maid, Who keeps my thoughts for me.”

She went out and sought Maid Maleen. “Girl, what hast thou been saying to the nettle?” “I said nothing but,

“Oh, nettle-plant, Little nettle-plant, What dost thou here alone? I have known the time When I ate thee unboiled, When I ate thee unroasted.”

The bride ran back into the chamber, and said, “I know now what I said to the nettle,” and she repeated the words which she had just heard. “But what didst thou say to the foot-bridge when we went over it?” asked the King’s son. “To the foot-bridge?” she answered. “I don’t talk to foot-bridges.” “Then thou art not the true bride.”

She again said,

“I must go out unto my maid, Who keeps my thoughts for me,”

And ran out and found Maid Maleen, “Girl, what didst thou say to the foot — bridge?”

“I said nothing but,

“Foot-bridge, do not break, I am not the true bride.”

“That costs thee thy life!” cried the bride, but she hurried into the room, and said, “I know now what I said to the foot-bridge,” and she repeated the words. “But what didst thou say to the church-door?” “To the church-door?” she replied; “I don’t talk to church-doors.” “Then thou art not the true bride.”

She went out and found Maid Maleen, and said, “Girl, what didst thou say to the church-door?”

“I said nothing but,

“Church-door, break not, I am not the true bride.”

“That will break thy neck for thee!” cried the bride, and flew into a terrible passion, but she hastened back into the room, and said, “I know now what I said to the church-door,” and she repeated the words. “But where hast thou the jewel which I gave thee at the church-door?” “What jewel?” she answered; “thou didst not give me any jewel.” “I myself put it round thy neck, and I myself fastened it; if thou dost not know that, thou art not the true bride.” He drew the veil from her face, and when he saw her immeasurable ugliness, he sprang back terrified, and said, “How comest thou here? Who art thou?” “I am thy betrothed bride, but because I feared lest the people should mock me when they saw me out of doors, I commanded the scullery-maid to dress herself in my clothes, and to go to church instead of me.” “Where is the girl?” said he; “I want to see her, go and bring her here.” She went out and told the servants that the scullery-maid was an impostor, and that they must take her out into the court-yard and strike off her head. The servants laid hold of Maid Maleen and wanted to drag her out, but she screamed so loudly for help, that the King’s son heard her voice, hurried out of his chamber and ordered them to set the maiden free instantly. Lights were brought, and then he saw on her neck the gold chain which he had given her at the church-door. “Thou art the true bride, said he, “who went with me to the church; come with me now to my room.” When they were both alone, he said, “On the way to church thou didst name Maid Maleen, who was my betrothed bride; if I could believe it possible, I should think she was standing before me thou art like her in every respect.” She answered, “I am Maid Maleen, who for thy sake was imprisoned seven years in the darkness, who suffered hunger and thirst, and has lived so long in want and poverty. To-day, however, the sun is shining on me once more. I was married to thee in the church, and I am thy lawful wife.” Then they kissed each other, and were happy all the days of their lives. The false bride was rewarded for what she had done by having her head cut off.

The tower in which Maid Maleen had been imprisoned remained standing for a long time, and when the children passed by it they sang,

“Kling, klang, gloria. Who sits within this tower? A King’s daughter, she sits within, A sight of her I cannot win, The wall it will not break, The stone cannot be pierced. Little Hans, with your coat so gay, Follow me, follow me, fast as you may.”

 

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Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Wild Swans”

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Far, far away where the swallows fly when we have winter, there lived a King who had eleven sons and one daughter, Elisa. The eleven brothers, Princes all, each went to school with a star at his breast and a sword at his side. They wrote with pencils of diamond upon golden slates, and could say their lesson by heart just as easily as they could read it from the book. You could tell at a glance how princely they were. Their sister, Elisa, sat on a little footstool of flawless glass. She had a picture book that had cost half a kingdom. Oh, the children had a very fine time, but it did not last forever.

Their father, who was King over the whole country, married a wicked Queen, who did not treat his poor children at all well. They found that out the very first day. There was feasting throughout the palace, and the children played at entertaining guests. But instead of letting them have all the cakes and baked apples that they used to get, their new step mother gave them only some sand in a teacup, and told them to make believe that it was a special treat.

The following week the Queen sent little Elisa to live in the country with some peasants. And before long she had made the King believe so many falsehoods about the poor Princes that he took no further interest in them.

“Fly out into the world and make your own living,” the wicked Queen told them. “Fly away like big birds without a voice.”

But she did not harm the Princes as much as she meant to, for they turned into eleven magnificent white swans. With a weird cry, they flew out of the palace window, across the park into the woods.

It was so early in the morning that their sister, Elisa, was still asleep when they flew over the peasant hut where she was staying. They hovered over the roofs, craning and twisting their long necks and flapping their wings, but nobody saw them or heard them. They were forced to fly on, high up near the clouds and far away into the wide world. They came down in a vast, dark forest that stretched down to the shores of the sea.

Poor little Elisa stayed in the peasant hut, and played b 00 with a green leaf, for she had no other toy. She made a little hole in the leaf and looked through it at the sun. Through it she seemed to see her brothers’ bright eyes, and whenever the warm sunlight touched her cheek it reminded her of all their kisses.

One day passed like all the others. When the wind stirred the hedge roses outside the hut, it whispered to them, could be prettier than you?” But the roses shook their heads and answered, “Elisa!” And on Sunday, when the old woman sat in the doorway reading the psalms, the wind fluttered through the pages and said to the book, “Who could be more saintly than you?” “Elisa,” the book testified. What it and the roses said was perfectly true.

Elisa was to go back home when she became fifteen but, as soon as the Queen saw what a beautiful Princess she was, the Queen felt spiteful and full of hatred toward her. She would not have hesitated to turn her into a wild swan, like her brothers, but she did not dare to do it just yet, because the King wanted to see his daughter.

In the early morning, the Queen went to the bathing place, which was made of white marble, furnished with soft cushions and carpeted with the most splendid rugs. She took three toads, kissed them, and said to the first:

“Squat on Elisa’s head, when she bathes, so that she will become as torpid as you are.” To the second she said, “Squat on her forehead, so that she will become as ugly as you are, and her father won’t recognize her.” And to the third, she whispered, “Lie against her heart, so that she will be cursed and tormented by evil desires.

Thereupon the Queen dropped the three toads into the clear water, which at once turned a greenish color. She called Elisa, made her undress, and told her to enter the bath. When Elisa went down into the water, one toad fastened himself to her hair, another to her forehead, and the third against her heart. But she did not seem to be aware of them, and when she stood up three red poppies floated on the water. If the toads had not been poisonous, and had not been kissed by the witch, they would have been turned into red roses. But at least they had been turned into flowers, by the mere touch of her head and heart. She was too innocent and good for witchcraft to have power over her.

When the evil Queen realized this, she rubbed Elisa with walnut stain that turned her dark brown, smeared her beautiful face with a vile ointment, and tousled her lovely hair. No one could have recognized the beautiful Elisa, and when her father saw her he was shocked. He said that this could not be his daughter. No one knew her except the watchdog and the swallows, and they were humble creatures who had nothing to say.

Poor Elisa cried and thought of her eleven brothers, who were all away. Heavy-hearted, she stole away from the palace and wandered all day long over fields and marshes, till she came to the vast forest. She had no idea where to turn. All she felt was her sorrow and her longing to be with her brothers. Like herseIf, they must have been driven out into the world, and she set her heart upon finding them. She had been in the forest only a little while when night came on, and as she had strayed from any sign of a path she said her prayers and lay down on the soft moss, with her head pillowed against a stump. All was quiet, the air was so mild, and hundreds of fireflies glittered like a green fire in the grass and moss. When she lightly brushed against a single branch, the shining insects showered about her like falling stars.

She dreamed of her brothers all night long. They were children again, playing together, writing with their diamond pencils on their golden slates, and looking at her wonderful picture book that had cost half a kingdom. But they no longer scribbled sums and exercises as they used to do. No, they set down their bold deeds and all that they had seen or heard. Everything in the picture book came alive. The birds sang, and the people strolled out of the book to talk with Elisa and her brothers, but whenever she turned a page they immediately jumped back into place, to keep the pictures in order.

When she awoke, the sun was already high. She could not see it plainly, for the tall trees spread their tangled branches above her, but the rays played above like a shimmering golden gauze. There was a delightful fragrance of green foliage, and the birds came near enough to have perched on her shoulder. She heard the water splashing from many large springs, which all flowed into a pool with the most beautiful sandy bottom. Although it was hemmed in by a wall of thick bushes, there was one place where the deer had made a path wide enough for Elisa to reach the water. The pool was so clear that, if the wind had not stirred the limbs and bushes, she might have supposed they were painted on the bottom of the pool. For each leaf was clearly reflected, whether the sun shone upon it or whether it grew in the shade.

When Elisa saw her own face she was horrified to find it so brown and ugly. But as soon as she wet her slender hand, and rubbed her brow and her eyes, her fair skin showed again. Then she laid aside her clothes and plunged into the fresh water. In all the world there was no King’s daughter as lovely as Elisa. When she had dressed herself and plaited her long hair, she went to the sparkling spring and drank from the hollow of her hand. She wandered deeper into the woods without knowing whither she went. She thought of her brothers, and she thought of the good Lord, who she knew would not forsake her. He lets the wild crab apples grow to feed the hungry, and he led her footsteps to a tree with its branches bent down by the weight of their fruit. Here she had her lunch. After she put props under the heavy limbs, she went on into the depths of the forest. It was so quiet that she heard her own footsteps and every dry leaf that rustled underfoot. Not a bird was in sight, not a ray of the sun could get through the big heavy branches, and the tall trees grew so close together that when she looked straight ahead it seemed as if a solid fence of lofty palings imprisoned her. She had never known such solitude.

The night came on, pitch black. Not one firefly glittered among the leaves as she despondently lay down to sleep. Then it seemed to her that the branches parted overhead and the Lord looked kindly down upon her, and little angels peeped out from above His head and behind Him.

When she awoke the next morning she did not know whether she had dreamed this, or whether it had really happened.

A few steps farther on she met an old woman who had a basket of berries and gave some of them to her. Elisa asked if she had seen eleven Princes riding through the forest.

“No,” the old woman said. “But yesterday I saw eleven swans who wore golden crowns. They were swimming in the river not far from here.”

She led Elisa a little way to the top of a hill which sloped down to a winding river. The trees on either bank stretched their long leafy branches toward each other, and where the stream was too wide for them to grow across it they had torn their roots from the earth and leaned out over the water until their branches met. Elisa told the old woman good-by, and followed the river down to where it flowed into the great open sea.

Before the young girl lay the whole beautiful sea, but not a sail nor a single boat was in sight. How could she go on? She looked at the countless pebbles on the beach, and saw how round the water had worn them. Glass, iron ore, stones, all that had been washed up, had been shaped by the water that was so much softer than even her tender hand.

“It rolls on tirelessly, and that is the way it makes such hard things smooth,” she said. “I shall be just as untiring. Thank you for your lesson, you clear rolling waves. My heart tells me that some day you will carry me to my beloved brothers.”

Among the wet seaweed she found eleven white swan feathers, which she collected in a sheaf. There were still drops of water on them, but whether these were spray or tears no one could say. It was very lonely along the shore but she did not mind, for the sea was constantly changing. Indeed it showed more changes in a few hours than an inland lake does in a whole year. When the sky was black with threatening clouds, it was as if the sea seemed to say, ‘I can look threatening too.” Then the wind would blow and the waves would raise their white crests. But when the wind died down and the clouds were red, the sea would look like a rose petal.

Sometimes it showed white, and sometimes green, but however calm it might seem there was always a gentle lapping along the shore, where the waters rose and fell like the chest of a child asleep.

Just at sunset, Elisa saw eleven white swans, with golden crowns on their heads, fly toward the shore. As they flew, one behind another, they looked like a white ribbon floating in the air. Elisa climbed up and hid behind a bush on the steep bank. The swans came down near her and flapped their magnificent white wings.

As soon as the sun went down beyond the sea, the swans threw off their feathers and there stood eleven handsome Princes. They were her brothers, and, although they were greatly altered, she knew in her heart that she could not be mistaken. She cried aloud, and rushed into their arms, calling them each by name. The Princes were so happy to see their little sister. And they knew her at once, for all that she had grown tall and lovely. They laughed, and they cried, and they soon realized how cruelly their stepmother had treated them all.

“We brothers,” said the eldest, “are forced to fly about disguised as wild swans as long as the sun is in the heavens, but when it goes down we take back our human form. So at sunset we must always look about us for some firm foothold, because if ever we were flying among the clouds at sunset we would be dashed down to the earth.

“We do not live on this coast. Beyond the sea there is another land as fair as this, but it lies far away and we must cross the vast ocean to reach it. Along our course there is not one island where we can pass the night, except one little rock that rises from the middle of the sea. It is barely big enough to hold us, however close together we stand, and if there is a rough sea the waves wash over us. But still we thank God for it.

“In our human forms we rest there during the night, and without it we could never come back to our own dear homeland. It takes two of the longest days of the year for our journey. We are allowed to come back to our native land only once a year, and we do not dare to stay longer than eleven days. As we fly over this forest we can see the palace where our father lives and where we were born. We can see the high tower of the church where our mother lies buried. And here we feel that even the trees and bushes are akin to us. Here the wild horses gallop across the moors as we saw them in our childhood, and the charcoal-burner sings the same old songs to which we used to dance when we were children. Tbis is our homeland. It draws us to it, and here, dear sister, we have found you again. We may stay two days longer, and then we must fly across the sea to a land which is fair enough, but not our own. How shall we take you with us? For we have neither ship nor boat.”

“How shall I set you free?” their sister asked, and they talked on for most of the night, sparing only a few hours for sleep.

In the morning Elisa was awakened by the rustling of swans’ wings overhead. Her brothers, once more enchanted, wheeled above her in great circles until they were out of sight. One of them, her youngest brother, stayed with her and rested his head on her breast while she stroked his wings. They spent the whole day together, and toward evening the others returned. As soon as the sun went down they resumed their own shape.

“Tomorrow,” said one of her brothers, we must fly away, and we dare not return until a whole year has passed. But we cannot leave you like this. Have you courage enough to come with us? My arm is strong enough to carry you through the forest, so surely the wings of us all should be strong enough to bear you across the sea.” “Yes, take me with you,” said Elisa.

They spent the entire night making a net of pliant willow bark and tough rushes. They made it large and strong. Elisa lay down upon it and, when the sun rose and her brothers again became wild swans, they lifted the net in their bills and flew high up toward the clouds with their beloved sister, who still was fast asleep. As the sun shone straight into her face, one of the swans flew over her head so as to shade her with his wide wings.

They were far from the shore when she awoke. Elisa thought she must still be dreaming, so strange did it seem to be carried through the air, high over the sea. Beside her lay a branch full of beautiful ripe berries, and a bundle of sweet-tasting roots. Her youngest brother had gathered them and put them there for her. She gave him a grateful smile. She knew he must be the one who flew over her head to protect her eyes from the sun.

They were so high that the first ship they sighted looked like a gull floating on the water. A cloud rolled up behind them, as big as a mountain. Upon it Elisa saw gigantic shadows of herself and of the eleven swans. It was the most splendid picture she had ever seen, but as the sun rose higher the clouds grew small, and the shadow picture of their flight disappeared.

All day they flew like arrows whipping through the air, yet, because they had their sister to carry, they flew more slowly than on their former journeys. Night was drawing near, and a storm was rising. In terror, Elisa watched the sinking sun, for the lonely rock was nowhere in sight. It seemed to her that the swans beat their wings in the air more desperately. Alas it was because of her that they could not fly fast enough. So soon as the sun went down they would turn into men, and all of them would pitch down into the sea and drown. She prayed to God from the depths of her heart, but still no rock could be seen. Black clouds gathered and great gusts told of the storm to come. The threatening clouds came on as one tremendous wave that rolled down toward them like a mass of lead, and flash upon flash of lightning followed them. Then the sun touched the rim of the sea. Elisa’s heart beat madly as the swans shot down so fast that she thought they were falling, but they checked their downward swoop. Half of the sun was below the sea when she first saw the little rock below them. It looked no larger than the head of a seal jutting out of the water. The sun sank very fast. Now it was no bigger than a star, but her foot touched solid ground. Then the sun went out like the last spark on a piece of burning paper. She saw her brothers stand about her, arm in arm, and there was only just room enough for all of them. The waves beat upon the rock and washed over them in a shower of spray. The heavens were lit by constant flashes, and bolt upon bolt of thunder crashed. But the sister and brothers clasped each other’s hands and sang a psalm, which comforted them and gave them courage.

At dawn the air was clear and still. As soon as the sun came up, the swans flew off with Elisa and they left the rock behind. The waves still tossed, and from the height where they soared it looked as if the white flecks of foam against the dark green waves were millions of white swans swimming upon the waters.

When the sun rose higher, Elisa saw before her a mountainous land, half floating in the air. Its peaks were capped with sparkling ice, and in the middle rose a castle that was a mile long, with one bold colonnade perched upon another. Down below, palm trees swayed and brilliant flowers bloomed as big as mill wheels. She asked if this was the land for which they were bound, but the swans shook their heads. What she saw was the gorgeous and ever changing palace of Fata Morgana. No mortal being could venture to enter it. As Elisa stared at it, before her eyes the mountains, palms, and palace faded away, and in their place rose twenty splendid churches, all alike, with lofty towers and pointed windows. She thought she heard the organ peal, but it was the roll of the ocean she heard. When she came close to the churches they turned into a fleet of ships sailing beneath her, but when she looked down it was only a sea mist drifting over the water.

Scene after scene shifted before her eyes until she saw at last the real country whither they went. Mountains rose before her beautifully blue, wooded with cedars, and studded with cities and palaces. Long before sunset she was sitting on a mountainside, in front of a large cave carpeted over with green creepers so delicate that they looked like embroidery.

“We shall see what you’ll dream of here tonight,” her youngest brother said, as he showed her where she was to sleep.

“I only wish I could dream how to set you free,” she said.

This thought so completely absorbed her, and she prayed so earnestly for the Lord to help her that even in her sleep she kept on praying. It seemed to her that she was flying aloft to the Fata Morgana palace of clouds. The fairy who came out to meet her was fair and shining, yet she closely resembled the old woman who gave her the berries in the forest and told her of the swans who wore golden crowns on their heads.

“Your brothers can be set free,” she said, “but have you the courage and tenacity to do it? The sea water that changes the shape of rough stones is indeed softer than your delicate hands, but it cannot feel the pain that your fingers will feel. It has no heart, so it cannot suffer the anguish and heartache that you will have to endure. Do you see this stinging nettle in my hand? Many such nettles grow around the cave where you sleep. Only those and the ones that grow upon graves in the churchyards may be used – remember that! Those you must gather, although they will burn your hands to blisters. Crush the nettles with your feet and you will have flax, which you must spin and weave into eleven shirts of mail with long sleeves. Once you throw these over the eleven wild swans, the spell over them is broken. But keep this well in mind! From the moment you undertake this task until it is done, even though it lasts for years, you must not speak. The first word you say will strike your brothers’ hearts like a deadly knife. Their lives are at the mercy of your tongue. Now, remember what I told you!”

She touched Elisa’s hand with nettles that burned like fire and awakened her. It was broad daylight, and close at hand where she had been sleeping grew a nettle like those of which she had dreamed. She thanked God upon her knees, and left the cave to begin her task.

With her soft hands she took hold of the dreadful nettles that seared like fire. Great blisters rose on her hands and arms, but she endured it gladly in the hope that she could free her beloved brothers. She crushed each nettle with her bare feet, and spun the green flax.

When her brothers returned at sunset, it alarmed them that she did not speak. They feared this was some new spell cast by their wicked stepmother, but when they saw her hands they understood that she laboured to save them. The youngest one wept, and wherever his tears touched Elisa she felt no more pain, and the burning blisters healed.

She toiled throughout the night, for she could not rest until she had delivered her beloved brothers from the enchantment. Throughout the next day, while the swans were gone she sat all alone, but never had the time sped so quickly. One shirt was made, and she set to work on the second one.

Then she heard the blast of a hunting horn on the mountainside. It frightened her, for the sound came nearer until she could hear the hounds bark. Terror-stricken, she ran into the cave, bundled together the nettles she had gathered and woven, and sat down on this bundle.

Immediately a big dog came bounding from the thicket, followed by another, and still another, all barking loudly as they ran to and fro. In a very few minutes all the huntsmen stood in front of the cave. The most handsome of these was the King of the land, and he came up to Elisa. Never before had he seen a girl so beautiful. “My lovely child,” he said, “how do you come to be here?”

Elisa shook her head, for she did not dare to speak. Her brothers’ deliverance and their very lives depended upon it, and she hid her hands under her apron to keep the King from seeing how much she suffered.

“Come with me,” he told her. “You cannot stay here. If you are as good as you are fair I shall clothe you in silk and velvet, set a golden crown upon your head, and give you my finest palace to live in.” Then he lifted her up on his horse. When she wept and wrung her hands, the King told her, “My only wish is to make you happy. Some day you will thank me for doing this.” Off through the mountains he spurred, holding her before him on his horse as his huntsmen galloped behind them.

At sundown, his splendid city with all its towers and domes lay before them. The King led her into his palace, where great fountains played in the high marble halls, and where both walls and ceilings were adorned with paintings. But she took no notice of any of these things. She could only weep and grieve. Indifferently, she let the women dress her in royal garments, weave strings of pearls in her hair, and draw soft gloves over her blistered fingers.

She was so dazzlingly beautiful in all this splendor that the whole court bowed even deeper than before. And the King chose her for his bride, although the archbishop shook his head and whispered that this lovely maid of the woods must be a witch, who had blinded their eyes and stolen the King’s heart.

But the King would not listen to him. He commanded that music be played, the costliest dishes be served, and the prettiest girls dance for her. She was shown through sweet-scented gardens, and into magnificent halls, but nothing could make her lips smile or her eyes sparkle. Sorrow had set its seal upon them. At length the King opened the door to a little chamber adjoining her bedroom. It was covered with splendid green embroideries, and looked just like the cave in which he had found her. On the floor lay the bundle of flax she had spun from the nettles, and from the ceiling hung the shirt she had already finished. One of the huntsmen had brought these with him as curiosities.

“Here you may dream that you are back in your old home,” the King told her. Here is the work that you were doing there, and surrounded by all your splendor here it may amuse you to think of those times.”

When Elisa saw these things that were so precious to her, a smile trembled on her lips, and the blood rushed back to her cheeks. The hope that she could free her brothers returned to her, and she kissed the King’s hand. He pressed her to his heart and commanded that all the church bells peal to announce their wedding. The beautiful mute girl from the forest was to be the country’s Queen.

The archbishop whispered evil words in the King’s ear, but they did not reach his heart. The wedding was to take place. The archbishop himself had to place the crown on her head. Out of spite, he forced the tight circlet so low on her forehead that it hurt her. But a heavier band encircled her heart, and; the sorrow she felt for her brothers kept her from feeling any hurt of the flesh. Her lips were mute, for one single word would mean death to her brothers, but her eyes shone with love for the kind and handsome King who did his best to please her. Every day she grew fonder and fonder of him in her heart. Oh, if only she could confide in him, and tell him what grieved her. But mute she must remain, and finish her task in silence. So at night she would steal away from his side into her little chamber which resembled the cave, and there she wove one shirt after another, but when she set to work on the seventh there was not enough flax left to finish it.

She knew that the nettles she must use grew in the churchyard, but she had to gather them herself. How could she go there?

“Oh, what is the pain in my fingers compared with the anguish I feel in my heart!” she thought. “I must take the risk, and the good Lord will not desert me.”

As terrified as if she were doing some evil thing, she tiptoed down into the moonlit garden, through the long alleys and down the deserted streets to the churchyard. There she saw a group of vampires sitting in a circle on one of the large gravestones. These hideous ghouls took off their ragged clothes as they were about to bathe. With skinny fingers they clawed open the new graves. Greedily they snatched out the bodies and ate the flesh from them. Elisa had to pass close to them, and they fixed their vile eyes upon her, but she said a prayer, picked the stinging nettles, and carried them back to the palace.

Only one man saw her-the archbishop. He was awake while others slept. Now he had proof of what he had suspected. There was something wrong with the Queen. She was a witch, and that was how she had duped the King and all his people.

In the confessional, he told the King what he had seen and what he feared. As the bitter words spewed from his mouth, the images of the saints shook their heads, as much as to say, He lies. Elisa is innocent.” The archbishop, however, had a different explanation for this. He said they were testifying against her, and shaking their heads at her wickedness.

Two big tears rolled down the King’s cheeks as he went home with suspicion in his heart. That night he pretended to be asleep, but no restful sleep touched his eyes. He watched Elisa get out of bed. Every night he watched her get up and each time he followed her quietly and saw her disappear into her private little room. Day after day his frown deepened. Elisa saw it, and could not understand why this should be, but it made her anxious and added to the grief her heart already felt for her brothers. Her hot tears fell down upon her queenly robes of purple velvet. There they flashed like diamonds, and all who saw this splendor wished that they were Queen.

Meanwhile she had almost completed her task. Only one shirt was lacking, but again she ran out of flax. Not a single nettle was left. Once more, for the last time, she must go to the churchyard and pluck a few more handfuls. She thought with fear of the lonely walk and the ghastly vampires, but her will was as strong as her faith in God.

She went upon her mission, but the King and his archbishop followed her. They saw her disappear through the iron gates of the churchyard, and when they came in after her they saw vampires sitting on a gravestone, just as Elisa had seen them.

The King turned away, for he thought Elisa was among them -Elisa whose head had rested against his heart that very evening.

“Let the people judge her,” he said. And the people did judge her. They condemned her to die by fire.

She was led from her splendid royal halls to a dungeon, dark and damp, where the wind whistled in between the window bars. Instead of silks and velvets they gave her for a pillow the bundle of nettles she had gathered, and for her coverlet the harsh, burning shirts of mail she had woven. But they could have given her nothing that pleased her more.

She set to work again, and prayed. Outside, the boys in the street sang jeering songs about her, and not one soul came to comfort her with a kind word.

But toward evening she heard the rustle of a swan’s wings close to her window. It was her youngest brother who had found her at last. She sobbed for joy. Though she knew that this night was all too apt to be her last, the task was almost done and her brothers were near her.

The archbishop came to stay with her during her last hours on earth, for this much he had promised the King. But she shook her head, and by her expression and gestures begged him to leave. This was the last night she had to finish her task, or it would all go for naught-all her pain, and her tears, and her sleepless nights. The archbishop went away, saying cruel things against her. But poor Elisa knew her own innocence, and she kept on with her task.

The little mice ran about the floor, and brought nettles to her feet, trying to help her all they could. And a thrush perched near the bars of her window to sing the whole night through, as merrily as he could, so that she would keep up her courage.

It was still in the early dawn, an hour before sunrise, when the eleven brothers reached the palace gates and demanded to see the King. This, they were told, was impossible. It was still night. The King was asleep and could not be disturbed. They begged and threatened so loudly that the guard turned out, and even the King came running to find what the trouble was. But at that instant the sun rose, and the eleven brothers vanished. Eleven swans were seen flying over the palace.

All the townsmen went flocking out through the town gates, for they wanted to see the witch burned. A decrepit old horse pulled the cart in which Elisa sat. They had dressed her in coarse sackcloth, and all her lovely long hair hung loose around her beautiful head. Her cheeks were deathly pale, and her lips moved in silent prayer as her fingers twisted the green flax. Even on her way to death she did not stop her still un-finished work. Ten shirts lay at her feet and she worked away on the eleventh. “See how the witch mumbles,” the mob scoffed at her. “That’s no psalm book in her hands. No, there she sits, nursing her filthy sorcery. Snatch it away from her, and tear it to bits!”

The crowd of people closed in to destroy all her work, but before they could reach her, eleven white swans flew down and made a ring around the cart with their flapping wings. The mob drew back in terror.

“It is a sign from Heaven. She must be innocent,” many people whispered. But no one dared say it aloud.

As the executioner seized her arm, she made haste to throw the eleven shirts over the swans, who instantly became eleven handsome Princes. But the youngest brother still had a swan’s wing in place of one arm, where a sleeve was missing from his shirt. Elisa had not quite been able to finish it.

“Now,” she cried, “I may speak! I am innocent.”

All the people who saw what had happened bowed down to her as they would before a saint. But the strain, the anguish, and the suffering had been too much for her to bear, and she fell into her brothers’ arms as if all life had gone out of her.

“She is innocent indeed!” said her eldest brother, and he told them all that had happened. And while he spoke, the scent of a million roses filled the air, for every piece of wood that they had piled up to burn her had taken root and grown branches. There stood a great high hedge, covered with red and fragrant roses. At the very top a single pure white flower shone like a star. The King plucked it and put it on Elisa’s breast. And she awoke, with peace and happiness in her heart.

All the church bells began to ring of their own accord, and the air was filled with birds. Back to the palace went a bridal procession such as no King had ever enjoyed before.

 

Another beautiful Story by Hans Christian Andersen. I hope you all enjoyed reading The Wild Swans as much as I did! For new fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Lewis Carroll’s “Rules and Regulations”

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A short direction
To avoid dejection,
By variations
In occupations,
And prolongation
Of relaxation,
And combinations
Of recreations,
And disputation
On the state of the nation
In adaptation
To your station,
By invitations
To friends and relations,
By evitation
Of amputation,
By permutation
In conversation,
And deep reflection
You’ll avoid dejection.

Learn well your grammar,
And never stammer,
Write well and neatly,
And sing most sweetly,
Be enterprising,
Love early rising,
Go walk of six miles,
Have ready quick smiles,
With lightsome laughter,
Soft flowing after.
Drink tea, not coffee;
Never eat toffy.
Eat bread with butter.
Once more, don’t stutter.

Don’t waste your money,
Abstain from honey.
Shut doors behind you,
(Don’t slam them, mind you.)
Drink beer, not porter.
Don’t enter the water
Till to swim you are able.
Sit close to the table.
Take care of a candle.
Shut a door by the handle,
Don’t push with your shoulder
Until you are older.
Lose not a button.
Refuse cold mutton.
Starve your canaries.
Believe in fairies.
If you are able,
Don’t have a stable
With any mangers.
Be rude to strangers.

Moral: Behave.

 

I really like this poem, and I hope you enjoyed it too! For new fairy tale/poem updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Rudyard Kipling’s “Darzee’s Chant”

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Sung in honor of Rikki-tikki-tavi

                Singer and tailor am I--
                  Doubled the joys that I know--
                Proud of my lilt to the sky,
                  Proud of the house that I sew--
                Over and under, so weave I my music--so weave I the house that I sew.
   
                Sing to your fledglings again,
                  Mother, oh lift up your head!
                Evil that plagued us is slain,
                  Death in the garden lies dead.
                Terror that hid in the roses is impotent--flung on the dung-hill and dead!
  
                Who has delivered us, who?
                  Tell me his nest and his name.
                Rikki, the valiant, the true,
                  Tikki, with eyeballs of flame,
                Rikki-tikki-tikki, the ivory-fanged, the hunter with eyeballs of flame!
   
                Give him the Thanks of the Birds,
                  Bowing with tail feathers spread!
                Praise him with nightingale words--
                  Nay, I will praise him instead.
                Hear!  I will sing you the praise of the bottle-tailed Rikki, with eyeballs of Red!
   

(Here Rikki-tikki interrupted, and the rest of the song is lost.)

 

For new fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s “The Singing Bone”

The_Singing_Bone_by_projectGRIMM

Once upon a time in a certain country there was great concern about a wild boar that was destroying the peasants’ fields, killing the cattle, and ripping people apart with its tusks. The king promised a large reward to anyone who could free the land from this plague, but the beast was so large and strong that no one dared to go near the woods where it lived. Finally the king proclaimed that whoever could capture or kill the wild boar should have his only daughter in marriage.

Now in this country there lived two brothers, sons of a poor man. They declared that they dared to attempt the task. The older one, who was crafty and shrewd, did so out of pride. The younger one, who was innocent and simple, did so because of his kind heart.

The king said, “In order to be more sure of finding the beast, you should enter the woods from opposite sides.”

Thus the older one entered the woods from the west, and the younger one from the east.

After the younger one had walked a little while, a little dwarf stepped up to him. He held a black spear in his hand and said, “I am giving you this spear because your heart is innocent and good. With it you can confidently attack the wild boar. It will do you no harm.”

He thanked the dwarf, put the spear on his shoulder, and walked on fearlessly.

Before long he saw the beast. It attacked him, but he held the spear toward it, and in its blind fury it ran into the spear with such force that its heart was slashed in two.

Then he put the monster on his back and turned towards home, intending to take it to the king.

Emerging from the other side of the woods, he came to a house where people were making merry drinking wine and dancing. His older brother was there too. Thinking that the boar would not run away from him any time soon, he had decided to drink himself some real courage. When he saw his younger brother coming out of the woods with his booty, his envious and evil heart gave him no peace.

He called out to him, “Come in, dear brother. Rest and refresh yourself with a beaker of wine.”

The younger brother, suspecting no evil, went in and told him about the good dwarf who had given him the spear with which he had killed the boar.

The older brother kept him there until evening, and then they set forth together. After dark they came to a bridge over a brook, and the older brother let the younger one go first. When the younger brother reached the middle above the water, the older one gave him such a blow from behind that he fell down dead.

He buried him beneath the bridge, took the boar, and delivered it to the king, pretending that he had killed it. With this he received the king’s daughter in marriage.

When his younger brother did not return he said, “The boar must have ripped him apart,” and every one believed it.

But as nothing remains hidden from God, this black deed was also to come to light.

After many long years a shepherd was driving his herd across the bridge and saw a little snow-white bone lying in the sand below. Thinking that it would make a good mouthpiece, he climbed down, picked it up, and then carved out of it a mouthpiece for his horn. When he blew into it for the first time, to his great astonishment the bone began to sing by itself:

Oh, my dear shepherd,
You are blowing on my little bone.
My brother killed me,
And buried me beneath the bridge,
To get the wild boar
For the daughter of the king.

“What a wonderful horn,” said the shepherd. “It sings by itself. I must take it to the king.”

When he brought it before the king, the horn again began to sing its little song. The king understood it well, and had the earth beneath the bridge dug up. Then the whole skeleton of the murdered man came to light.

The wicked brother could not deny the deed. He was sewn into a sack and drowned alive. The murdered man’s bones were laid to rest in a beautiful grave in the churchyard.

 

This week’s artwork by projectGRIMM! For new fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!

Right on Track

Today I got the first preliminary sketches for The Prince of Prophecy Vol. II: Cursed, and already my characters are looking fantastic! I can’t wait to see the end product! I’m considering contracting another couple of beta readers, so if anyone is interested in getting a free paperback book, please leave a comment below (that will probably begin in November).

As for the sixth and final installment in the Prince of Prophecy series, I’m almost to the end (I’ve been saying that for about a month and a half now, I know). I hope to have the final book finished by the end of this month *crosses fingers*.

In other Prince of Prophecy news, I just finished the final update for the paperback and hardcover versions of The Prince of Prophecy Vol. I: Destined (the eBook versions will have to wait a bit longer for their last update). Here’s a what the new cover looks like:

KDP september cover

Yeah, I know, It’s not all that different, but the text clouds aren’t so “in your face” anymore, which I like.

For new Prince of Prophecy and fairy tale updates every Wednesday and Saturday, follow this blog!