Autumn in the Shire

Dear Dairy,

I got up at dawn as I always do. Brewing myself a hot cup of coffee and lighting the oil lamps around the house. I let the lampposts along the walk-up to the house burn all night now. We are in the depths of Autumn and darkness dominates our days as well as our nights.

Yesterday Rosie and I went into the Hobbiton forest to look for chestnuts. We need them for our Christmas baking. They also look lovely in the windowsill and on the mantle above the fireplace. Golden brown and toasty.

We walked a long way, but we didn’t mind because the forest was so beautiful and peaceful. All the leaves were still burning bright in reds and orange even though it’s almost winter. There was not a breath of wind, the only noise was squirrels playing in the trees and rabbits digging their holes. We decided to stop and picnic by the little river. I had prepared honey cakes and Rosie had brought oat biscuits and jam. We used water from the river to make blueberry tea.

When we finally came to Chestnut Grove all the chestnuts were gone! “It must be those darn squirrels!” said Rosie. But I disagreed because there were a lot hazelnuts on the ground still. “I think some of the other hobbits have been here before us,” I told Rosie. But she claimed that her husband, Samwise Gamgee, had talked to Radagast only a few days ago and he had just passed this place and seen the ground covered in chestnuts. Just then we heard a loud noise from the forest. It sounded like thumping! Rosie and I held on to each other tightly! We couldn’t even move, we just kept staring into the shadowy forest. Then a huge branch cracked and out walked a troll! Yes, a troll! I have never heard of trolls in the Shire before! But to our amazement the troll was quite small, just a little bit taller than us and it was crying! Or at least it made a sound similar to crying. “Why, it’s a baby!” said Rosie. And I think she must have been right because the troll just kept crying and reaching its arms out as though it wanted to be held. Rosie and I felt a little braver so we approached the troll carefully just to see what it would do, and you will never believe this, but the troll stumbled up to Rosie and put its arms around her! Rosie shook a little bit at first, but then she seemed to calm down (she has a bunch of children herself) and started patting the troll on its back saying “there, there,” very gently. I took out what we had left of the picnic and offered it to the baby troll and it started munching greedily. It was quite clear that that was not enough to still its hunger so I tried feeding it a handful of hazelnuts, but the troll wrinkled its nose and spat it out in disgust. “So that is why only the hazelnuts are left,” I said to Rosie. “So what do we do with it?” said Rosie. “We can’t just leave it here.” “ And neither can we bring it with us to Hobbiton,” I said. So what we ended up doing was singing it to sleep and while I remained babysitting, Rosie ran back to fetch her husband. Sam Gamgee had once been quite the hero after all.

When Sam and Rosie came back, Sam was absolutely delighted to see the troll! Reminded him of one of his adventures, he said. “Too bad mr. Frodo left with the Elves,” he mused, “he would have loved this!”. “Yes, yes, but what do we do with it?” said Rosie impatiently. “Well, someone needs to take it back to its mother of course,” said Sam, with a distinct twinkle in his eyes. “And that is sure to be some adventure…most trolls live far from here up in the mountains. How in the world this little guy has managed to wander off and not be burned up by the sun is a mystery to me…” Rosie poked him in the arm angrily. “ It might be an adventure, mr. Gamgee, but it is most certainly not your adventure. You are living quite a different adventure now.” Sam looked sadly at his wife and then glanced longingly at the sleeping troll. “ I guess you are right, my dear.” He shrugged as though he was trying to shake the whole thing off. “Best leave it to Radagast then, seeing that Gandalf has left middle earth.”

Sam used a special whistle to call on a rabbit, not just any rabbit but a Rhosgobel rabbit. Then he scribbled a message on a small piece of paper and tied it around the rabbit’s neck with a piece of string. As soon as the message had been fastened the rabbit set off in an enormous speed. “Well, all we have to do now is wait,” said Sam. “ Wait?” I asked. “ For how long? It could be days!” “Oh no,” said Sam, “not days. Not at all. You don’t know about Rhosgobel rabbits, you see…” He smiled mysteriously. I didn’t have any other choice but to trust him. He had once saved the world after all. Surely he knew how to save one little lost troll.

After a couple of hours we heard a sound in the forest. It was like something was swishing rather swiftly in the grass, and then in a formidable speed Radagast, standing on a kind of sleigh drawn by oversized rabbits, flew out of the forest. “Someone wrote about a troll…?” he said. “That would be me,” answered Sam cheerfully. He pointed in the direction of the sleeping baby troll. “Oh my!” exclaimed Radagast. “That really is a troll!” “Yes, it rather is,” replied Sam. “Do you think you can take it to its mother before the sun turns it into stone?” “Sure, sure,” said, Radagast, “these clouds should not break until the coming morning.” He looked thoughtfully up at the overcast sky. “Should be fine.” Radagast and Sam lifted the troll on to the sleigh and with a small wave and a lift of his green hat Radagast was off.

Rosie, Sam and I walked back home without chestnuts and we forgot all about the hazelnuts, but Rosie and I have decided to bake apple pies instead, it is not quite Christmassy, but it will do. Sam peaked quite up when he heard. I suspect he ate too many nuts on his adventure.

Oh, there I see Rosie on the path right now. She is early just like me. I better brew another cup of coffee. I will write more in you tomorrow, dear Diary.

Cheerio!
Yours truthfully,
Miss Daisy.

*The first illustration is a by the amazing John Howe and the other is by Fairytale artist John Bauer. The photos are mine.

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The most beautiful Christmas Tree

It was a few days before Christmas and the school holidays had begun. The streets and the trees were covered in snow and the whole world seemed ready for Christmas. In one red and white house two children, a little girl about seven and a boy three years older, were eagerly anticipating Christmas. They were so eagerly anticipating that their father was losing his mind and to get them out of the house he told them that they could go into the forest and find one small Christmas tree each to have in their rooms. The two children were ecstatic! They had never before been allowed to have their own tree! The boy was given a small ax and a saw and was sternly told to be careful. He nodded obediently and took his little sister’s hand and together they disappeared into the white and green forest. They walked for a while hand in hand before the little girl exclaimed: Look! Look, there is the perfect tree right there! She pointed to a tall spruce with dense branches covered in snow. Her brother shook his head. “No, no that is too big.” But the little girl wouldn’t take no for an answer so he gave in like he always did when his sister really wanted something. The tree was heavy to carry, but between them they managed. Now it was the boy’s turn to pick one. He didn’t want to let his sister outcompete him so he chose a tree slightly bigger than hers. This tree was even heavier to carry, and the two little children really struggled to get home. The snow seemed to have gotten even deeper since they left their house and they kicked and breathed hard up the hill to their home.

When they finally made it home their father was waiting for them, but when he saw the trees they were carrying his face changed from anticipation to anger. “ I told you to find a small tree each for your rooms! These trees are even too big to fit in our living room!” he shouted angrily. The children’s faces fell. “ But daddy, these were the best trees in the forest!” said the little girl. But when they tried to fit the trees in their rooms they saw that their father had been right. They were much too big. “ Okay, this is what we will do,” said the father after he had calmed down a bit, “We will cut a bit off the bottom of the smallest tree and keep it in the living room as our family tree, the other one will become firewood.”

The boy hung his head a bit, he was disappointed to see his beautiful tree becoming firewood, but his sister smiled from ear to ear knowing that it was her tree that would adorn the living room on Christmas Eve beautifully decorated for all the guests to see. When Christmas Eve finally came the little girl proudly told her grandparents, her cousins and all her uncles and aunts that it was she who had fetched this year’s tree in the forest. Her father, a bit embarrassed, confirmed her story, and they all agreed that that year’s Christmas tree was the most beautiful tree they had ever seen.

This is a true story about my brother and I and one of our childhood Christmases in Norway.

All the illustrations are by the magical Lisi Martin.

A Child’s Life at Sea Part 4

I slowly reach my hand out for my brother. It is so dark I can’t even see where my hand is. Then suddenly I feel something on my foot. ‘There is something on the ground,’ I whisper to my brother. ‘I felt it.’ Then I hear a splash and a croak and several other small splashes. ‘It’s just a frog, dummy,’ laughs my brother. ‘Perhaps you should try kissing it. Maybe it will turn into a prince.’ ‘Yuck!’ I say. ‘You kiss it yourself if you dare.’ But my brother doesn’t fall for that. He just keeps teasing me. I still am not able to find his arm in the dark, but hearing his familiar teasing is kind of reassuring. Then suddenly we hear footsteps behind us.

The sound is heavy and thudding, like it belongs to something really big. I hold my breath. My heart is pounding and I close my eyes, even though it doesn’t make a difference, it is just as dark in the tunnel as it is when I close my eyes. Then suddenly it is quiet again. My brother has stopped his teasing. He must be just as scared as me. I am completely frozen, I can’t even run. Then all of a sudden I feel a big hand on my shoulder and a voice whispers in my ear: ‘Got you!’

‘Daaaaad!’ Complains my brother. ‘I knew it was you!’ A flashlight lights up and I see my father laughing in front of us. My brother looks pale, but he starts laughing too. ‘Good one, dad!’ I want to laugh, but I can’t, my heart is still kind of racing around inside of me. ‘Come on,’ says my father and takes my hand in his. ‘ Let’s go see the canon.’ And we do, and just like that, with my hand in my father’s, I feel safe again, and everything is right in the world.

A Child’s Life at Sea Part 3

‘Did the soldiers really hide in here, daddy?’ ‘Sure did, honey. They used these tunnels to move unseen underground when there was an attack. If you follow the tunnel to the end you will find a lookout post with a canon pointed to the horizon.’ ‘Did they really shoot the bad guys, daddy.’ ‘They had to, honey, there was a war and if they didn’t protect our country, innocent people would die.’ I stare at my father. ‘Did you fight in the war, daddy?’ My father laughs. ‘No, sweetie, the war was long before I was born.’ I feel a little disappointed, I really wanted my dad to be a hero. ‘Come on!’ complains my brother, ‘let’s go inside!’

We are on a small island on the south coast, known to be one of the many military bases during the Second World War. Our boat is docked by the stone pier, and my father has taken me and my brother up to see the tunnels carved deep into the mountain. They go on for kilometers and have no natural, or any other form, of light. But my father has brought a flashlight. My brother is already on his way into the pitch black tunnel. I take my father’s hand and we follow him.

There is water dripping from the ceiling of the tunnel and it makes an eerie drip-drop sound that echoes far into the deep. My father switches on the flashlight, but all we can see is black wet slippery stone walls, uneven and bumpy. The ground is also wet. Our plip-plop footsteps bounce off the wall and disappear into the deep, only to return as a hollow mimic of themselves ten seconds later. The sound makes me think of ghosts dragging their skeleton feet on the ground. My brother seems to think the same because he whispers in my ear: ‘I bet it’s haunted! Soldiers must have died in here, you know.’ I shiver and all of a sudden I feel very cold. I grip my father’s hand tighter. We walk further and further in.

‘If the tunnel collapses now, we’ll be dead,’ whispers my brother. And even though I am sure my father can’t hear him, he just adds to the horror be saying out loud: ‘well kids, we have reached the point of no return. We are further from the entrance than we are from the exist.’ I swallow hard. The flashlight flashes a couple of times, and both my brother and I jump. ‘Hold on, let me just…’ My father lets go off my hand to adjust the batteries in the flashlight. Then all of a sudden it goes completely dark. I want to scream, but for some reason I seem to have lost my voice. My brother on the other hand has not. He lets out a roar, fit for a lion. ‘Daaaaaaaad, what’s going on?’ There is no answer. I desperately reach out for my father’s hand, but it is not there. He is gone. My father is gone, and with him: the flashlight.

To be continued…

Granny’s House – Memories of a Norwegian Childhood

Mormor hus

My grandfather and great grandfather built a house for my grandmother as a wedding gift. The house had, as per my grandmother’s request, a big garden with apple – and plum trees, a strawberry bed, a patch of potatoes, and, my granny’s favorite, a lush Lilac tree filled with soft lavender blossoms.

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Granny’s Garden at the peak of Summer.

The house was fenced in by shrubs and hedge, so that my granny could tan in her shorts and bra, like she was used to do on the secluded island she grew up on. The underground basement had a laundry room, a carpentry workshop, and a small toilet in which my great grandfather decorated the walls with calendar hangings from national romantic artists depicting scenes from the island life my granny came from. The basement later became the place of ghosts in our, the grandchildren’s, imagination. The attic, with its slanted roof attic window, housed the girls’ bedrooms, the girls being my mother and her two sisters. This attic later became the grandchildren’s’ haunt, a lair for spy headquarters and secret meetings. But the best part of the house was the hidden tunnels, snaking around the interior of the house. They were so narrow that even as children we had to crawl to get through them, and so deep (around 10-15 meters) that no grown-up had the will or the elasticity to crawl into the very end. My grandfather made them for storage purpose, and they were filled with delightful olden-days treasures, like antique toys, sleds, clothes, books and postcards dating back to wartime. We grandchildren built ghost lookout posts in every single one of the tunnels, without our grandfather’s permission of course, but with granny’s blessings in the form of a wink and crossed fingers behind her back.

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One of the many toys found in the “tunnels”. This particular doll is over 100 years old!

The house, my mother’s childhood home, never changed. It remained the same from my mother’s girlhood up to the arrival of the six grandchildren and beyond. It became a place for the girls to drop off their children when they needed a much deserved break. And the girls needed lots of breaks because my cousins and I spent almost every other weekend in granny’s house, and two weeks of summer holiday. In bad weather my grandfather rented a VCR player and let us grandchildren choose one movie on video cassette each (these were the glorious 90s!). There was no restriction on which films we could rent, and we watched Jaws and James Bond, Gremlins and Police Academy, and other highly inappropriate movies, while munching store-bought pastel-colored candy and drinking liters of mixed soda into the wee pre-dawn hours.

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All us grandchildren eating sweets and watching a movie at Granny’s House.

When the sun was out we loved playing horse. Well, it was mostly us three girls who enjoyed this game; the three boys did not participate. All us girls had inherited the original three girls’ love for horses and horse riding, but it was only Annie, the oldest, who were big enough to actually take riding lessons, so Cecily and I, pretended to be horses while Annie instructed us to run and run and run around grandfather’s meticulously mowed lawn. Well, let us just say, there was not much lawn left after a three days visit, but granny just winked and crossed her fingers behind her back, and we took no heed of grandfather’s angry warnings.

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My grandfather desperately trying to arrange us to pose for a photo. The only one who is really listening is my brother, here about 14 years old.

Ghosts and Witches were welcome inhabitants of granny’s house. One weekend, after watching the movie “Witches” based on the book by Roald Dahl with the same title, we went looking for hidden witches inside grandfather’s old paintings of traditional Norwegian farm life. Of course, we discovered that every painted milk maiden was a witch in disguise, and if we tapped her with our fingers she moved! Cecily, the youngest of us girls, were not a bit fond of these frightening games, and today’s date she will narrate nightmarish childhood memories of being forced to enter a haunted basement to listen to a ghost playing the piano, or look for witches in wardrobes with old smelly fur coats.

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Cecily as an adult dressed up in one of Granny’s favorite dresses from the 80s. For some reason my granny loved the 80s and never modernized her wardrobe after that beloved era.

Of course, after reading Nancy Drew and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five we had to establish our own Spy Club. My brother, the oldest and most adored of the grandchildren, became the boss, or the Chief as we called him, I was the planner, Annie was the accountant and secretary and Cecily was the assistant. The two youngest boys were too small to be appointed any specific role, so we decided that they could be door guards (standing outside the door while we held meetings, making sure no adults were allowed to enter). The Spy Club’s main concern was environmental issues, such as car engines being left on while the designated driver was grocery shopping. We made our own tickets to put on the wind shields, warning the driver of a fine if he did not improve on his environmental protection awareness. We even made our own monthly newspaper with crossword puzzles and short stories, mostly edited by myself and printed in my mother’s office. I proudly distributed these newspapers to all my classmates in school, and even convinced some of them to sign up for subscriptions.

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Here I am at school 😀 Perhaps 11 years old.

My grandmother was a lover of all animals and wildlife. This was an issue of constant annoyance for my grandfather who hated flies in particular. My grandmother would hide his Fly smacker, and try in her sweetest voice to coax the flies to fly out the open window. Spiders were much loved by granny, she would name every single one she saw inside the house, and referred to them fondly as spinning ladies. But it was cats that she loved the most. There must have been around 10-15 homeless (both by choice and not) cats living in granny’s garden at the most. Of course they all had babies, and soon my grandfather had to put his foot down and set out to find the cats’ owners, while my granny secretly let them sleep on her sofa and eat biscuits from a silver plate. We grandchildren loved the wildlife in granny’s garden of course. Cecily and I had a particular fondness for the hedgehogs, and one night we hid under a huge blanket spying on the nocturnal animals drinking milk from a rosy saucer.

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One of the many cats who roam Granny’s Garden.

My grandfather was a huge book worm, he read every book he could find, including our pony books, fairy tale books and school ABCs, but his favorite was 1001 Arabian nights. He had a beautiful hardback copy of the book given to him by his grandfather when he was little, and from that book he read us stories of Aladdin and Alibaba and enchanted caves and robbers being chopped into pieces. This all went over our heads, and I cannot remember feeling any particular fear or dread from these fantastical but grotesque stories. Fairy tales, by H.C Anderson, the Brothers Grimm and the Norwegian folktales, were popular, but our favorite was a book about children growing up in the olden days in Norway called “The Kids on the Block”.

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My brother making a funny face to get me to smile. My grandfather at the end of the table, and my grandmother in between us.

I was particularly enchanted by the olden-days, and I would beg granny to tell me stories about her childhood on the island, and she never disappointed. I listened, completely enthralled, to wartime stories about German soldiers trying to eat paper Christmas apples, or looking for the secret radio my great grandfather hid under the floor boards, or other stories about a vindictive Sunday school God sending little girls to hell for stealing carrots or for dipping their chewing gum in the neighbor’s sugar sack.

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This is the house my granny grew up in. Built by her father.

Summers at granny’s were magical. We would run free the whole day (and night) without anyone telling us what to do (well, my grandfather tried to, but he was overruled by my granny. It ended with him going to bed at 10 pm and leaving us up to fend for ourselves). My favorite summer game was to play Christmas. Playing Christmas meant taking down all of granny’s stored-away Christmas decorations and adorning the whole house with santas and angels. Granny would play Christmas CD’s, and let us make Christmas cakes by sandwiching jam and nutella between marigold biscuits. There was something so magical about seeing all those forbidden decorations in July. When summer ended, we children had often prepared songs and plays we would perform for our parents when they came to collect us. These were most of the time authored by yours truly and was of varying quality, but all of them typed neatly on grandfather’s typewriter, to be taken out and laughed over at later teenage years.

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My brother and I enjoying a juice box on the way home from Granny.

After the summer was over and we drove away, passengered in three cars behind three sets of parents, granny would always stand in the kitchen window and wave goodbye with a sweet smile on her face, while my grandfather was nowhere to be seen. And we waved eagerly back, reassuring our parents that of course we had been good and listened to grandfather and gone to bed when told so, while we crossed our fingers behind our backs and winked happily to each other.

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Granny in her garden, relaxing after a weekend of grandchildren bonanza! 😀

The Great Fairy Rescue

pauline-bayne

It was the first day of December and it was snowing. It had started early in the morning when no one was awake. The soft powdery specks had fallen so quietly not even the winter birds had stirred in their sleep. Now a white-washed sheet of tiny fairy diamonds covered the garden gnomes and the bronze-fashioned forest nymph, giving the town garden a touch of Wonderland splendor. There was hardly any engine sounds, only a faint twitter of frosted early birds muffled by the gentle stillness of water being transfigured into ice. A lamp from a window cast a warm yellow shadow on the sparkling china rug, followed by ringlets of brightness and the fluttering of wings. A little figure could be seen in the window. It was a girl, perhaps about eight years old. She was wearing a silver-colored crown on her head, and she kept waving a starry wand back and forth, but nothing seemed to happen. The window sill was lined with porcelain Christmas Angels wearing red frocks and sporting a halo above their golden-haired heads. “Why don’t you just try flying?” said the girl. She opened the window and a cold wind blew the tiniest angel unto the floor. The little girl sighed. “Vieeennnaaaa!! What are you doing? close that window!” Vienna closed the window before her mother had even started to climb the stairs. She gave another little sigh and headed down for breakfast. So you see, she couldn’t see the tiny flutter behind the snowed-in clay pot in the garden. She couldn’t hear the bell-like whispering like falling silver. “See, Marciana, I told you she believed! Nothing is lost yet.”

“Oh, there you are, Sabine.” Marciana tip-toed out from her hiding place, dusting her feathers and tucking her scarf tighter around her little body. “You missed her, Marcy! Why are you always so timid?” “Who did I miss, Sabine?” “The human of course!” Marciana chuckled and rolled her eyes. Sabine was always going on about humans. “Come on, let’s go home while it is still snowing.” Sabine sighed. Nobody ever listened to her! The Snow Queen had said that they needed a human, and this girl, with her little winged figurines, was just perfect! “We have to hurry, Sabine, the sun is going to peak at any minute.” Marciana took hold of a snow flake and tapped it with her pinky, and the snow flake grew until it was big enough to carry the little fairy. “Why can’t we just use our own wings?” complained Sabine. “You know the magic only works with snow, Sabine.” Sabine knew that that was what the Snow Queen said, but she had never quite believed it. But nevertheless, she did as she was told, and joined Marciana on her own snow flake, and together the two little fairies ascended, and vanished into the white flutter of shimmering winter crystals.

Vienna liked her school, but she wished the lessons could have been taught outside. Even now, in the biting cold, she longed to be outside. The assignment the teacher had given them today was an essay assignment, they were to write about their dreams. Of course, Vienna’s essay was all about fairies. Vienna always had strange dreams, vivid and magical. Her favorite dreams were the ones in which she could fly. “Vienna! Vienna! The bell rung, didn’t you hear?” Elisabeth was pulling Vienna’s arm, trying to make her get up. Vienna hurriedly flung her books and pencils into her pink backpack and followed Elisabeth outside. It was a beautiful afternoon, all quiet and yellow, just like Vienna liked them. Afternoons like this always reminded Vienna of angels. Elisabeth and Vienna usually walked home together after school, but today Elisabeth had choir practice, so Vienna had to go through the woods alone. She didn’t mind though, trees were her favorite kind of beings. “See you tomorrow!” Elisabeth waved and ran for the after-school building. “See you!” replied Vienna and took a right turn on to the forest path. She was alone on the path, and the only company she seemed to have were birds twittering happily about. The snow was soft and pliant and made that delicious squishy sound under her boots. When she came to the little stream she stopped abruptly. Wasn’t there someone there? Someone…ice skating awfully fast on the frozen water? Vienna squinted her eyes, and looked closer. Yes, yes! Someone was definitely there! But, it looked like….Vienna had to look twice, yes, it looked exactly like a garden gnome!

“Oh, there you are!” said the little gnome and looked straight at Vienna. Vienna startled and had to hold on to a drooping branch, she felt quite dizzy. “But…I can…see you!” she stuttered. “Of course you can see me, silly girl, you believe, right? I mean that is what the Snow Queen said anyway.” “Yes, yes of course I believe, but I have never been able to see you before,” replied Vienna. The gnome sighed and looked at her as though she was completely clueless. “Well, that is because we have never showed ourselves to you before of course!” “But then, why are you letting me see you now?” Vienna had let go of the branch and dropped to her knees so that she could see the tiny gnome better. She had always wanted to see a gnome! Any fairy creature really, she had, up till now, only seen them in her dreams. “The Snow Queen has sent me to fetch you,” said the gnome resolutely. “Fetch me? Fetch me where?” “To her Queendom of course! Come on let’s go, there is no time to spare.” Vienna shook her head, “but that is impossible, I am much to big to go anywhere with you.” The gnome chuckled, “well, that can be fixed.” He reached into his messenger bag and took out a piece of red mushroom and offered it to Vienna. “But,” protested Vienna, “our biology teacher has told us that red mushrooms are poisonous!” The gnome snorted in annoyance. “Of course they are! The Queen made it so, she wouldn’t want just any human to wander into her land, that would be stupid, don’t you think?” Vienna nodded her head, she knew well enough what her class mates thought about fairies. “So will you take it or not?” Vienna reached out for the tiny mushroom, swallowed hard, and popped it into her mouth.

As soon as Vienna felt the bitter taste of the mushroom on her tongue, a peculiar sensation arose in her feet, it traveled up her body and turned into a tingling behind her ears. Then suddenly she was falling, but no, she wasn’t falling at all, she was…shrinking! She shrank and shrank until she was just about the same size as the gnome, perhaps even a bit tinier.
Vienna was relieved to see that her clothes had shrunk too. “There,” said the gnome, “now you are just about perfect. Put on these.” He handed her a pair of ice skates. “We are going that way,” the gnome pointed down the frozen stream. Vienna nodded and put on the skates. Together they skated down the stream, past the hoarfroadted sieve and withered straw, the abandoned ant mount, and the drooping gigantic snow clad firs. The gnome stopped abruptly when they arrived at a wind blown tree, turned over so that the roots were twisted against the sky. Vienna bumped into his back and excused herself shyly. “Pay attention to where you are going, silly girl!” Scolded the gnome. “It’s this way!” He beckoned Vienna to follow him. They both removed their skates and continued on foot towards the muddy root. The gnome tapped his pinky a couple of times on a tiny pebble and then suddenly, a tiny door appeared. Vienna stared in amazement at the door. “Well, come along! We haven’t got all day!” Said the gnome and opened the door.

Elisabeth finished Choir practice early that day, and she hurried home to play with her dog Frances. Frances was a snowy white golden retriever and he was Elisabeth’s best friend in the whole wide world. Of course Vienna was also her friend, but she couldn’t quite measure up to Frances. Maybe because Elisabeth had known Frances since he was a puppy, and Vienna she had only known for two years. “Frances! Frances! Come and play!” Elisabeth flung open the door and dumped her school bag on the floor. She expected Frances to come running and jump on her and lick her face. But he didn’t. “Frances! Come here boy!” Elisabeth was getting a bit worried. But this time Frances came trotting lazily towards her. He gave a small woof and licked Elisabeth’s foot. “Hey boy, what’s the matter with you today, why are you looking so sleepy?” She patted Frances and fetched his leash, but Frances turned on his heel and went back into the house. “Frances? Don’t you want to play?” Frances woofed again, apologetically, and went to sleep in his basket.

Vienna blinked her eyes twice. Could this really be happening to her? All her life she had dreamed of finding a secret door and visit Fairyland. And now, she was actually here! All Fairyland was bathed in a soft yellow light, and a surprisingly cold wind went swooshing by. Vienna could hear chiming sounds all over, like a thousand wind chimes or silvery sleigh bells. And right in front of her, troops of red-robed elves hastened by. Vienna realized that the music was coming from them, even though they didn’t appear to be playing any instruments. “Welcome to Cinderwood!” announced the gnome and flung his arms out lavishly. “Cinderwood?” questioned Vienna and wrinkled her nose at the strange name. “Well yes, it is the name of this place, of course!” “But I thought we were in Fairyland,” protested Vienna. The gnome snorted. “Fairyland! What nonsense! This is one of the many Fey realms, the one ruled by her majesty the Snow Queen.” “Oh, there are many?” asked Vienna excitedly. The gnome looked at her sternly and sighed. “We don’t have time for a geography lesson, lass. The Snow Queen is expecting you!” The gnome marched after the Elf troop, and Vienna felt she had no choice but to follow him. She did want to see the Snow Queen!

The Snow Queen was the most beautiful lady Vienna had ever seen! She was everything she had ever dreamed a fairy to be! Her wings were perfect sheer gossamer lace, her hair was long and silvery and her eyes full of stars. Vienna couldn’t help herself, she had to curtsy in front of this divine queen. The Queen smiled at the gesture and said in a very sweet sing-song voice: “Please, dear child, arise, I want to look at you properly.” Vienna rose and stared into the Snow Queen’s lovely eyes. “Aah, there you are, little girl. Our most faithful believer. We have been waiting for you, little one.” “Waiting for me?” asked Vienna curiously. The Snow Queen nodded and smiled. “Your majesty,” stuttered Vienna, ” Why am I really here?”. The Queen came to stand next to Vienna, she patted her head gently and, out of thin air, conjured a cup of hot chocolate topped with pink mini marshmallows, Vienna’s favorite. She gave the cup to Vienna and beckoned for her to drink. The cup was a perfect white china tea cup with little pink roses painted on the sides. It was just the kind of cup Vienna had always dreamed of drinking from. She took a sip and relished the sweet taste of the deliciously hot chocolate. The Snow Queen smiled, and then she wrapped Vienna in her delicate arms and chuckled, “Why Child, you have come to slay the dragon of course.”

Elisabeth woke up even before the sun had started rising that morning. The dark blue sky was full of white stars and there was a tiny silvery moon glittering melancholically against the sapphire backdrop. She tried to go back to sleep, but somehow she just couldn’t, so she decided to get up and take Frances for a walk. She quickly got dressed and fitted her feet into some chunky snow boots. “Frances! Frances! Let’s go boy!” Elisabeth heard a faint woofing somewhere. “Frances! Frances, where are you?” Woof! The sound was so muffled Elisabeth didn’t understand where it came from. Then she heard someone scratching at the door. Woof! “Frances, are you outside?” Elisabeth hurried over to the door and unlocked it, Frances jumped up on her and started licking her face frantically. His fur was so cold, he must have waited outside for a long time. But Elisabeth remembered saying goodnight to him and watching him go to sleep in his wicker basket the night before. “Frances, where have you been? Who let you out in the middle of the night?” Woof! said Frances and trotted over to his bowl. Elisabeth sighed, and started filling the bowl with dog food.

“But…but,” stuttered Vienna. “I am just a little girl! I don’t know anything about slaying dragons!” The Snow Queen flashed her one of her most endearing smiles. ” But you are wrong, dear, you are not so very little. You are human.” Vienna shook her head, ” No, I am not anymore! You made me tiny!” ” well, that is a mere trifle, we will get you back to your own size in no time, and then the dragon will not even be tall enough to lick your cheek.” The Snow Queen sighed when she saw Vienna’s terrified face. ” I am sorry my dear, that I have to ask you to do this. But when that Snow Dragon came down from the North and started developing a taste for fairy puppies, I just knew that we needed help from a human, and well, there aren’t many believers left in the world, so when Sabine told me about you, I just knew you were our champion. ” Sabine, who had been hiding behind a pink fairy tree, stepped out and waved to Vienna. Vienna waved back, she didn’t really feel like it, but she thought it was too rude not to. ” So,” she said and looked the Snow Queen straight in the eye, ” you expect me to go out there and slay a dragon all by myself?”. “Oh, no!” Answered the Snow Queen, ” Sabine here has volunteered to go with you.” Vienna looked distrustfully at the tiny fairy, and somehow she didn’t feel very comforted.

The Snow Queen’s magician arrived in a hurry to brew the potion that would restore Vienna to her normal height again. The potion was a simple one involving brown mushrooms and juniper berries . “And then I’ll be needing some of your hair, human girl,” said the magician and reached out to pluck one of Vienna’s hairs. “Ouch! What was that for?” Demanded Vienna. ” That was for me you silly girl,” said Sabine, and in 1-2-3 she gulped down the potion containing Vienna’s hair. Then suddenly something odd started to happen, the tiny Sabine started growing! She grew and grew until she was so tall Vienna looked like a caterpillar in comparison. ” But…but, ” protested Vienna, ” I thought the potion was for me!” ” of course we have one for you as well,” snorted the magician, ” bottoms up!” He placed a little golden tumbler in Vienna’s hand, and she obediently tipped it down her throat, and just like Sabine had done, she started growing too, until the two girls were just about the same size. Sabine smiled to Vienna and took hold of her hand. ” Hurry up, girls!” Called the now tiny Snow Queen, ” and remember, Sabine, the spell breaks at midnight, and then you will go back to being your regular fairy size again.” Sabine nodded. ” Good luck!” Said all the fairies in unison, and Sabine and Vienna, still holding hands, turned, and started their journey north to where a puppy-eating Dragon was waiting for them.

The coming evening Elisabeth decided to stay up and watch over Frances. She didn’t want him to get trapped outside in the cold again. They played for a little while, then Frances ate his evening meal and went to sleep in his basket. Elisabeth must have dozed off too, because when she abruptly woke up a little later the room was completely dark. She looked around, curious to see what had startled her, and then she discovered that Frances’ Basket was empty. “Frances! Franceees!” Elisabeth got up and started searching the room, then suddenly she heard Frances whimpering in the hall. She found him standing by the front door, clearly wanting to go out. “What is it, boy?” Elisabeth scratched Frances behind his ear. She didn’t want to let him out, but then, what if he needed to go to the toilet or something? Elisabeth sighed, she got the leash from the hat shelf and attached it to Frances’ collar. It was freezing outside, the whole lawn was covered in hoarfrost and the sky was so clear Elisabeth could see at least a million white stars up there. Frances pulled at the leash, wanting her to let him loose. ” Hold on a minute,boy,” said Elisabeth and went to make sure the garden gate was closed, then she let Frances off the leash, and he immediately trotted over to the bushes to do his business. Just then it started snowing. Elisabeth shivered in her thin sweater and looked miserably up at the bleak winter sky. ” Come on, boy, let’s go back inside!” But when she looked towards the bushes, where Frances had been just seconds ago, he was gone.

The Northgoing path was a tricky one, with slippery rocks, big enough to even challenge the two human-sized girls. It was slowly getting dark and the snow was pouring down like a vicious rain shower. “This would have been so much easier with wings!” Sighed the wing-deprived Sabine. Vienna squeezed her hand, but offered no words of comfort. It really would have been easier with wings! The snowy track was difficult to follow and became more and more so by the minute as it got darker and darker. But the two girls braved through the weather and found comfort in each other. Suddenly there was a cracking sound, and a swooshing and then something heavy landed somewhere in the snow. “What was that?” Squirmed Vienna and clung a little tighter to Sabine’s hand. ” Quickly,” urged Sabine, “get behind that tree!” Vienna and Sabine hurried over to a huge fir tree, with snow-drenched thick branches. ” Look!” Whispered Vienna and pointed to a huge white animal appearing on the same path the girls had just vacated. ” What is that thing?” Vienna tugged nervously at Sabine’s hand. ” That,” said Sabine, ” is a Fairy Werebear.”

“W-w-what is a Fairy Werebear?” stuttered Vienna. it certainly didn’t look like anything particularly friendly. “A Fairy Werebear,” whispered Sabine, “is a Snow Fairy who turns into a Polar Bear at night.” “Are they dangerous?” Vienna could not hide the terror in her voice. “Well, when they are fairies they are just as nice or naughty as any other fairy, but when they take the form of a bear….well let’s just say, they are not always reasonable.” Vienna swallowed hard. “So what do we do?” “We wait here, and hope it will go away soon.” But just as Sabine said that, the bear roared loudly and stood up on his hind legs. At first Vienna thought that it had seen them, but then she heard the flapping sound in the sky, and she looked up to see what the Fairy Werebear was roaring at, and that is when she saw it: the dragon.

The Fairy Werebear kept roaring at the dragon, and the dragon, to Vienna’s utter astonishment, looked almost scared, but then it was as though he remembered that he was a dragon and snorted out, not dancing red flames but white icy whirlwinds of thick freezing snow! The bear sneezed, fell down on his front paws and gave a last half-whimpering roar before he turned around and trotted hastily away. The dragon kept an eye on him until he was gone, and then he made a swift side-flip and headed North. “Come on,” urged Sabine, “Let’s follow him!” “But, is that wise? he might freeze us!” Sabine looked sternly at Vienna, “don’t you understand anything? That is the dragon, the snow dragon, you are supposed to slay!” Vienna gave Sabine a sharp look, “but he wasn’t that small! He was in fact quite big!” “Well, the Snow Queen might have exaggerated a little, besides, he is much smaller than the fire-breathing dragons!” There was nothing Vienna could do, she sighed and followed Sabine as they headed after the dragon. It didn’t take long before the dragon started descending and landed in front of a huge black cave. Sabine pulled Vienna out of sight, as the dragon entered his cave. “Listen!” said Sabine suddenly, “do you hear that?” Vienna pulled off her cap and listened intently, and then she heard it too, someone, or something, was yapping madly in there, in fact, it sounded just like a chorus of puppies!!

“The Fairy puppies!!” exclaimed Vienna, “They are alive!” “But for how much longer,” interrupted Sabine, “We’ve got to get them out of there now!” “But how, Sabine? The Dragon is right there!.” Sabine gave her one of her stern looks and shook her head in frustration, “but that is why we are here, Vienna. That is why you are here. To slay the dragon. How many times do I have to keep reminding you!?” Vienna’s whole body shook with suppressed anger and fear “And what, if I may ask, had you all planned I was going to slay the dragon with?” Sabine looked up at her, and then she looked at both of their empty hands. She didn’t seem to have any answers to that. “Let’s get the puppies out first, and worry about the snow dragon later,” suggested Sabine. And Vienna did not object, she couldn’t think of any ideas herself. The two girls cautiously approached the cave, and when they were just at the entrance, Sabine started calling out softly: “Come, little ones, come here! Here puppies, come to Sabine now!” “They must be tied up,” whispered Vienna, but to her astonishment a tiny fairy puppy revealed itself just outside the darkness of the cave entrance, and soon another joined in, and then another, and not long after a whole bunch of fairy puppies were trotting happily over to Sabine’s outstretched hands, but then suddenly another shape appeared out of the shadows, a much bigger shape, making an awful angry snorting sound. “Draaagooon!!!” shouted Vienna.

Sabine had just managed to get the last Fairy puppy to safety when the big white dragon wobbled out of the cave. She looked helplessly at Vienna, but Vienna had no idea whatsoever what to do. The snow Dragon came closer and closer and soon they would both turn to ice, but just as the dragon took a deep breath Vienna caught a glimpse of a broken over branch on the ground, she reached for it and started fencing back and forth with it, as though it was a perfectly sharp sword, but this seemed to just anger the dragon more. It lifted its front paw and aimed to strike Vienna, but just then Sabine shot forward with a warrior cry like nothing Vienna had ever heard before. But just as the dragon started backing away, shocked and unraveled by Sabine’s awful scream, the worst possible thing happened, Sabine started shrinking! She shrank and shrank and shrank….

…and shrank until she was back to her normal fairy size again. “Oh no!” Exclaimed Vienna, ” it must be midnight, and the spell is over! Now what do I do?” The snow Dragon stepped forward and lifted his paw, and Vienna was sure it was all over, but then she saw something, something familiar…it was a collar around the dragon’s neck…Vienna knew she had seen that collar before somewhere, but how?… where?

And then she remembered it…Frances! It was Frances’ collar, Elisabeth’s dog! “What did you do to Frances?” Vienna screamed at the Dragon, more fiercely than she had ever screamed at anyone ever before. But then something weird happened, the dragon seemed startled and started backing away, until he was sitting, hunched down on his derriere, whimpering pathetically. Vienna approached him cautiously. “What did you do to Frances?” she said again, a bit milder this time. The moment she said “Frances”, the dragon started howling. He sounded like….like….a dog crying. “What happened?” asked Sabine who had come flying on her fairy wings as fast she could to assist her friend. “I don’t know,” muttered Vienna, “he just kind of gave up and started crying.” Sabine approached the dragon, she tried pulling at the dragon’s collar, but it wouldn’t budge. “There is no way he could have put this on himself,” she stated, “it is enchanted, he seems to be under some kind of spell.” Then suddenly a mad idea came to Vienna. “Sit!” she said firmly to the dragon, and the dragon sat up abruptly. Vienna looked into the Snow Dragon’s golden eyes. “Frances?” “Frances, is that you?” “Woof!” said the dragon.

As soon as they heard the dragon woofing, the fairy puppies came wobbling on their chubby legs over to the dragon. They lay down by his side and started licking his paws. “Oh, look!” said Sabine, “they are comforting him! So they were never in any real danger after all! But, Vienna, who is Frances?” “Frances,” answered Vienna, “is my best friend, Elisabeth’s dog. But don’t ask how he can be a dragon here in Fairyland, because I have no idea about that!”
“Hmmm,” said Sabine, “maybe he ate the magic mushrooms in the forest, they work differently on animals. I have heard of it before, it is like with the Fairy Werebear, they turn into something differently at night.” “But that means,” said Vienna, “that as soon as the sun goes up, he will turn back into a dog and go home?” “Yes, that is how the spell works, but we can’t let that happen! What if the people of Cinderwood don’t believe us, and continue to hunt the dragon tomorrow night! We have to bring him back to the Snow Queen before the sun rises, I am sure the court magician have something that can break the spell entirely.” But just as Sabine said that, the sky went from pitch black to dark blue, and on the far away horizon, a golden light appeared.

“We will never get there in time!” exclaimed Vienna, “the sun is almost rising!” “We will never get there walking, but we could make it if we were all flying,” said Sabine mischievously. She fluttered her own delicate fairy wings, then looked over at Vienna and pointed at Frances. “You will have to let him carry you, it is the only way.” Vienna shook her head violently. No way was she going to fly on a dragon who was really just a dog! “You have to!” insisted Sabine sternly. “Look, the fairy puppies and I will go ahead and lead the way, Frances will just have to follow.” Vienna looked nervously over at Frances. He seemed harmless enough, now that she knew who he really was, but flying on his back! That was really asking too much trust in a dog, even though he was supposed to be man’s best friend. “Come on!” called Sabine encouragingly. She was already in the air, followed by the fairy puppies. Reluctantly Vienna got up and climbed on to Frances’ back, and as soon as she wrapped her arms securely around the dragon’s neck, he took off and leaped up in the cold pre-dawn air.

It was a race against time like none other. Vienna felt that she had never seen the sun rise so fast before. Sabine was flying like a hurricane, tightly followed by the fairy puppies, flapping and panting and trying their level best to keep up with their leader. The Dragon did not seem to have any problem at all with the speed, he only wobbled a bit now and then in the strongest gusts of wind. “See!” shouted Sabine from the front troops, “There it is! It is Cinderwood!” The sun was almost up, it seemed like they were just going to make it, but then Vienna spotted something they had not been expecting: The Snow Queen’s Archers!! And they were pointing their arrows straight at Frances!!

” Noooooo, stoooop!!” Cried Sabine, ” He isn’t dangerous! He is enchanted! Please don’t shoot!” The Snow Queen listened intently, and made a move with her hand, and then, to Vienna’s great relief, the Archers put down their weapons. Sabine was the first to land, followed by the fairy puppies, and then shyly and carefully, Frances landed, with Vienna on his back. Sabine sprang forth and hurriedly explained the circumstances. The sun was just finishing her dip behind the mountains when the Snow Queen, in a high shrill voice, called for her royal magician.

Frances landed softly on the snowy ground and Vienna hurried over to the Snow Queen. ” He is not a mean puppy-eating Snow Dragon, your majesty, he is my best friend’s dog! And he must have been lonely, that is why he took the fairy puppies.” The Snow Queen nodded thoughtfully. ” My magician is working on a cure, a counter spell of sorts, it will only take a minute.” ” But your majesty, we don’t have a minute!” And just as Vienna said that, the sun rose above the trees and Frances disappeared. ” oh no!” Cried Sabine, “we were too late!! ” The magician came running just then with the counter spell in hand. ” Quickly, Sabine take the spell,” said the Snow Queen, ” You must go with Vienna to her world through the snow portal, it will be quicker, give the spell to Frances immediately. I don’t know if it will work but we have to try!” The gnome who had escorted Vienna to Cinderwood approached Vienna and gave her a piece of mushroom. ” Eat this, and you will shrink to fairy-size again.” Vienna didn’t hesitate this time, she quickly swallowed the mushroom and felt herself shrinking until she and Sabine were the same size again. Sabine took Vienna’s hand and hurriedly grabbed on to a snow flake, and together they drifted off into space. It didn’t take long until they landed in Elisabeth’s garden, and there was Frances standing helplessly and forlorn shivering in front of the door to Elisabeth’s house. Sabine handed Vienna the spell to make her big again and Vienna gulped it down, then she ran over to Frances and shoved the magician’s cure into his mouth. Frances yelped and barked and that woke up Elisabeth who came out to see what the noise was all about. ” Vienna? What are you doing here? And what’s wrong with Frances?” ” It’s a long story,” replied Vienna, ” I’ll tell you later.” Just then Elisabeth spotted Sabine hiding behind a garden bush. ” A fairy!” She exclaimed, ” A real fairy!”. Sabine came out of hiding and did a deep curtesy. ” Did it work?”asked Vienna. ” I don’t know,” replied Sabine, ” I guess we will see tonight. But Vienna, I have to go back now. I’m not supposed to be seen.” Vienna nodded, and the two girls gave each other a heartfelt hug. ” will I ever see you again?” Whispered Vienna into the tiny fairy’s ear. “sure you will,” replied Sabine and gave a little wink, and then just like that, she was gone. That day, Vienna and Elisabeth had a lot to talk about. Vienna told Elisabeth everything that had happened, but if it hadn’t been for the fact that Elisabeth had actually seen Sabine with her own eyes, she would not have believed the extraordinary story. That night, while the two friends were sleeping, it started snowing, and one little dog, sleeping happily in his wicker Basket felt an itch on his back, and when he woke up to scratch it, he discovered, to his astonishment, that he had grown a beautiful pair of snow white wings.

The End

How to catch a Fairy

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It happened on the night that the fairies were busy bathing in the stream. She had been visiting her godmother in the North, and on her way through the moonlit woodland path she spotted them. They were quite naked, except for one, she was sitting on a throne on the bank bossing a couple of pixies around. A rabbit laughed by accident, and the queen scolded him until he ran away into the forest, mumbling something about a watch and a waistcoat that needed mending. But he was obviously just embarrassed to have been caught laughing at the naked fairies. Emberly crouched down between the brambles to have a better look. Her godmother had given her a glass jar to catch fireflies in for light, but now Emberly thought better of it. She was going to catch a fairy! But she had to be real clever about it.

“I don’t need a bath,” protested a small fairy baby, or to Emberly it just sounded like a faint squeaking sound, but that is just because she was too big to understand fairy language. The little fairy baby was sitting on a pebble with a leaf over his head. He was trying his best to appear invisible. The grown-up fairies didn’t seem to notice him at all, so maybe he really was invisible to them. “That is the one I will catch!” said Emberly to herself. The queen of the fairies had ordered the crickets to play music and some of the pixies began a funny dance, jumping and sprinting around the lavishly decorated throne. The pixies were wearing suits woven with pine needles and snake grass, and hats made of hazelnut shells. All the bathing fairies were watching the funny pixies now, and Emberly saw her chance. She crawled on her arms and legs closer to the stream and held her open glass jar out in front of her. She had put a piece of her godmother’s strawberry cream cake inside the jar and was hoping the fairy baby would smell it and willingly climb into the jar. She pushed the jar so that it was quite close to the fairy baby, and she had been right. The little creature wiggled his nose, turned his head and sniffed. He smiled when he saw the white and pink little cake, and threw the leaf he had been hiding under to the side and staggered on his little fairy legs into the glass. As soon as he was inside, Emberly quickly tipped the jar so that it stood upright again and closed the lid. She had done it! She had caught a fairy!

“It is a nice dance,” said the queen from her throne, “but something is missing.” She got up and looked ponderingly around. Her eyes went to the pebble where the fairy baby had been sitting just minutes ago, and she gasped. “Where is the little prince!? Where is he!?” she shouted as loudly as a fairy can shout, but to Emberly it just sounded like a little tingle of teaspoons of sugar being dipped into a small cup. Emberly peeked into the jar to have a better look, but when she tilted the jar to give the fairy a bit more space to move around, she saw to her astonishment that there was no fairy in there anymore, just a very small green frog with big yellow frightened eyes. “What happened to the little fairy?” she said out loud and shook the glass until the frog became so dizzy he almost fainted. The pixies had begun to dance again, but the queen stopped them and commanded rather sternly: “Stop! Stop! What is the matter with you? The prince is missing and the only thing you can think of is dancing and being funny!” The pixies stopped dancing and looked at each other, rather ashamed of themselves. “Your majesty,” said the oldest pixie, “what do you want us to do?” “Find the prince of course!” said the Fairy Queen. The pixies nodded and started looking around the banks of the stream, under pebbles, behind rocks, in between the snake grass and dandelions, but the prince was nowhere to be found. Suddenly a tiny blue fairy appeared before the queen. She had finished her bathing and was wearing a lovely frock made of bluebell petals. “I will find the prince for you, your majesty.” The queen was very pleased to hear this and asked the blue fairy to get started right away. The little blue fairy, whose name was Minoria, flew up in the tallest tree, a white slim birch, and from there she could see the entire forest.

Emberly was sure the ugly green frog must somehow have gotten into the jar before the fairy baby and eaten him up, and she was very much disappointed in her catch. A frog was a very common thing, and nothing really to brag about. So she opened the lid of the jar and the frog hopped happily back into the green grass and headed for the stream. When the bathing fairies saw the frog coming at them, they screamed in fright and disgust and swam to the shore as fast as they could. And as soon as their wings had dried they flew away from the stream. The Fairy Queen did not much like frogs herself, and she called for her firefly horses to pull her carriage home. Emberly saw the fairies leave and so she lost her interest in the forest and headed home. The only one who was left on the scene was the little green frog. He did not really like the stream, even though he was a frog, so he climbed into a walnut shell, left behind by the fairies, and fell asleep.

Minoria saw the frog from the tree, and thought to herself that he must not be much more than a baby, and she felt so sorry for him that she flew down from the tree, and covered his green ugly body with violet leaves. Feeling rather tired herself, she climbed into a marigold and settled herself in between the soft delicate petals and fell fast asleep. The next morning, when the frog woke up, he found the sleeping blue fairy beside him and woke her with a lick of his long tongue. Minoria was startled by the unfamiliar awakening, but she did not get scared. She actually laughed and started playing with the little frog. It was a rather charming sight to see, and the squirrels came down from the trees to watch. “Maybe he can help me to find the prince…” said Minoria to herself and she beckoned the frog to follow her.

For hours they walked around in the forest, sometimes Minoria took little flights into the trees to see a bit further on, but there was no sign of the prince. “You should ask the witch,” chirped a blackbird from its nest. “But how do I find the witch?” asked Minoria. “Oh, she lives here and there. Try under that root over there,” replied the blackbird and pointed towards a fallen over tree with its wing. The root looked rather abandoned and forlorn, but Minoria found a small piece of solid wood that perhaps looked a little bit like a door and knocked it three times. “Who’s there?” said an old hoarse voice. “It is Minoria, the blue fairy, and a little green frog; we have come to see you on urgent business.” Minoria could hear the sound of something being pulled and pushed and kicked, and then slowly the piece of wood, that was indeed a door, opened.

The witch was old and wrinkly with a toothless smile and a round, rather red nose. “What is it you want? I have a cold and a fever and I am not up to any spells today,” said the witch and coughed noisily. “I am so sorry to hear about your cold, Madam Witch, I will not keep you, but please we need help urgently!” The witch reluctantly let them inside. The root-home was dark and damp( a very bad place for colds, thought Minoria to herself), and there were only a few cones for furniture, and a big black cauldron made of a broken crow egg sooted black with coal. “Now, hurry,” said the witch impatiently, “tell me why you have come.” The little green frog huddled close to Minoria and stared at the witch with his frightened yellow eyes. “It is the Fairy Prince,” said Minoria, “he is missing. We have looked everywhere, but we cannot find him.” The witch looked from Minoria to the frog and cackled. “Oh, I think you have,” she said, and laughed even louder. Minoria looked at her puzzled. Perhaps the witch was mad with fever. “Take this seed,” said the witch and held out a little yellow and brown object, “and plant it tonight, when the moon comes out, in the garden of the white and blue cottage just at the border of this forest. By next morning a tree will grow from that seed, and you must pick the first berry that ripens on the tree and feed it to the little green frog.” “And then what will happen,” asked Minoria. She didn’t understand what the white and blue cottage and the frog had to do with finding the prince, but she was scared to disobey the witch. “Then you will see,” said the witch and cackled even louder.

Minoria knew the white and blue cottage well; she had flown there many times to look at the enormous golden haired girl who lived there. Fairies were not allowed to interact with, or be seen by humans, but Minoria had always been careful. The cottage garden was beautiful this time of year, all ripe and lush with roses, periwinkles, jasmines and forget-me-nots. Minoria chose a barren spot right next to the white strawberry flowers to plant the seed, and once it was done, she and the frog went to sleep amongst the sweet smelling flowers.

They were awakened next morning by a bumblebee who had mistaken Minoria for a bluebell. “Shooosh with you,” hooted Minoria and the startled bumblebee buzzed hurriedly on to the bed of roses. “Look!” called Minoria, “the seed has grown into a tree! Just like the witch said!” She kicked off and flew up to the crown of the tree to examine it closer, and there, just on the top branch, she spotted a little red berry. She picked it and gave it to the little green frog who hungrily gobbled it up in one bite (breakfast was his favorite meal). Then something funny happened, the frog started to grow! He grew and grew until he was almost as tall as the tree! His face changed too! His big yellow eyes became blue and small, and his green frog-skin turned white and pink. “You are a boy!” exclaimed Minoria. “A human boy!”

The frog, who indeed had turned into a human boy, looked at himself and smiled. Unfortunately he didn’t have any clothes on, and this seemed to bother him immensely, so Minoria helped him to gather some maple leaves to fashion into a suit. When it was done, he smiled happily and took a few dance steps in the garden. “Who are you?” called out a voice. Minoria, who could tell that the voice was human, quickly hid under a rose petal. The frog-boy turned around and saw the most beautiful girl he had even seen stand before him. She had golden hair and pink cheeks and lovely brown eyes. “I am a prince,” said the frog-boy, who discovered to his great delight that he could talk like a human. Emberly, yes it was indeed Emberly who lived in the white and blue cottage, looked at the boy and smiled, “then I should very much like to kiss you,” she said. The frog-boy smiled back at her and lifted his face up to hers. Emberly planted a big wet kiss on his mouth, but then as she did so, something strange happened. Emberly started shrinking, she shrank and shrank, and something else happened too, her white and pink skin turned green and her lovely brown eyes became large and yellow. She had turned into a frog! Frightened out of her wits, Emberly started hopping around frantically. The frog-boy hurried to catch her, and he put her into a glass jar that stood nearby. “I will keep you forever and ever,” he said to frog-Emberly inside the jar, and kissed the glass wall tenderly.

Minoria, who had witnessed the whole scene, was now beside herself with worry. What was she now to do? She still had no fairy prince, only a frog turned into a live boy, and a human girl turned into a frog! She sighed in frustration. “I better take both of you to the witch,” she said. But neither the frog nor the boy could hear her. But she motioned desperately with her wings, and soon they understood that they were to follow her. The frog-boy carried frog-Emberly in the jar, and Minoria flew a few feet ahead. When the witch she saw them, she laughed and laughed, even more than she had done before. Her whole face twisted in involuntarily grimaces and she held her stomach hard as she threw back her head and heaved for breath. Minoria looked at her a bit sternly and gave a little cough. “I am sure you find this all very amusing, but I need to find the fairy prince and your advice did not help at all!” “Oh, you think so, do you?” said the witch and smiled mischievously. “But what am I to do with these two?” asked Minoria and threw up her wings in resigned frustration. “You are to take the frog in the jar to the fairy queen. Tell her to keep it there for three days and three nights. She is not to open the jar. The boy has to go back to the cottage and live there for the same amount of days and nights. On the third day you will return to him, and take him back with you to the fairies, but before you go, pick all the ripe berries from the tree you planted, and mix them into a juice. When the sun sets that same day, give one cup of the juice to the boy, and one cup to the frog, they should drink it just as the last rays of the sun disappear.” “And then what will happen,” asked Minoria, rather confusedly. “Oh, you will see,” said the witch. And Minoria could do nothing else but take her advice.

The boy, who now had to live in the white and blue cottage, soon became very lonely, there was no one to play with, and no funny things to look at. The frog on the other hand, was thoroughly amused. Frog-Emberly had no idea how much fun it was to be a fairy! They painted nutshells purple, and danced along leafy paths, they flew and twirled in breezes, and slept in petal hats, they dried the tears of squirrel babes and hung their firs to dry, they sat and read on mushrooms and never did she see them cry! On the third day, Minoria flew to the little cottage as she had been told to do by the witch. She found a very sad boy sitting on a rock outside the door, waiting for her. He lit up when he saw her, and wanted to leave right away, but Minoria remembered the berries and motioned to the boy to pick them and keep them in his pocket. They boy understood and did as he was told. The Fairy Queen was not at all glad to see the boy walking into her little queendom. She had been reluctant enough to let the frog live with them for the past three days, and she had only agreed because it had been locked up in a glass jar. Now, however, she was to entertain a fully grown human! She stamped her foot so hard her daffodil slipper came off, and the youngest pixie had to run after it as it was caught in the wind.

Minoria lead the boy into the meadow where he was made to sit down on a log-stool next to the frog, then she started pounding the little red berries into a juice, just as the witch had told her to do, and poured the liquid into two cups, one big and one quite small and flat for the frog. Then the she told the pixies to open the lid of the jar. The frightened pixies were clumsy, but after a few attempts they managed to open the lid just enough for the cup to be brought to the captured frog, and just as the last rays of the sun disappeared behind the trees, the boy and the frog drank the sweet juice. The first thing that happened was that the jar broke. The fairies shrieked and leapt up, some of them even hid under leaves and behind dandelions. Then the boy disappeared, and in his place stood a tiny naked fairy baby, and next to the fairy baby, an enormous golden haired girl. “Who are you!?” demanded the astonished Fairy Queen. But only the fairy baby understood what she said. “I am the fairy prince,” he said, and the queen saw to her delight that he was in fact the missing fairy prince. Emberly said something too, but no one understood her. But she reached out her little finger, and the fairy queen touched it with her hand, and then she left, and to everyone’s surprise the fairy prince started crying. “Fairy babies don’t cry,” said the fairy queen sternly. “Perhaps there is a little bit of boy in him still,” offered Minoria, and all the fairies nodded their heads in agreement and stared at the fairy prince rather worriedly.

The fairy prince grew up to be a handsome fairy king, and Emberly grew up to be an author. She wrote many books about the fairies and how lovely they were, but how one should never try to catch them because if you do, they might just turn into a frog. The fairy king and Emberly met again one day, when they were both grown-ups. The fairy king was the ruler of his own kingdom then, and needn’t bother too much about rules and such. Emberly was so delighted to see him, she wanted to make him something special to drink, and then she thought of the witch’s tree in the garden. She picked all the ripe berries and pounded them into a juice. She offered one glass to the fairy king and took one herself. The fairy king did not want to be rude, but ever since he was a baby he had hated the taste of juice, so he just pretended to drink, and poured the juice discretely in the flowerbed. Emberly however loved juice, and it was a hot summer day and she drank thirstily. But as she drank she started shrinking, and shrinking, and shrinking, and suddenly something light and feathery poked out from her back. She turned around to see, and to her delight discovered that they were wings, and when she looked up at the fairy king she could see that they were the same size! Emberly had become a fairy!

The fairy king, who had always had a secret crush on the enormous girl, fell in love all over again, and asked her then and there to marry him. Emberly, who remembered being a frog inside the jar and seeing how much fun it was to be a fairy, said yes of course. . They married shortly after, and ruled the fairy kingdom as fairy queen and fairy king for many many years to come.

THE END