A long time ago, when people still believed in sorcery, this story took place. It began on the outskirts of a big city, that didn’t differ very much from Utrecht, Carcassonne or Nottingham. There lived a boy (his name is unknown to me, let’s call him Adrianus) who was still in his teenage years and lived for some while in some sort of orphanage. Besides him, there were about five other boys, who had no parents or other relatives they could live with. The caretakers of the orphanage were a middle-aged couple, whose children already left the home and had their own families. The woman, also called Mimoe, worked as a seamstress and mender for various women in town. The man, who everybody called Papoe, was a carpenter that occupied himself mostly with furniture. But when there was time and the muses paid him a visit with inspiration, he also made music boxes that he gave as gifts on birth celebrations and parties. Together Mimoe and Papoe were very blissful and they always made sure that “their boys” had something to eat and could follow an education. Once a week they earned some pocket-money by doing chores in town at the blacksmith, baker or fishermen.
Adrianus just finished helping the greengrocer and wanted to stash his money in his secret hiding place. But it was a beautiful, sunny Spring middaylight and he knew that the other boys were also done. Because they were all free the next day, he wanted something fun to do. So with a copper piece, he walked through the market, he looked at different stands and asked some prices. Then he saw a cart with a tent behind that he had never seen at the market, it was all coloured yellow-green with a purple curtain against the rain. Curious as he was, he walked over there and knocked carefully on the support post. It took a while before a big man came out that looked like he just sad seen the most laughable thing in the entire city!
“Haha, hey little boy and welcome to the tent of Earnest Esahyah! You’re probably very curious what I have to offer here, ey? Come inside and look for yourself, hahaha!”
Adrianus thought him a weird man but still went inside. At the back-end of the cart was a big board covered with pieces of paper, which were empty except for a small corner. Besides that, there was only a stool and some water and feed for the donkeys.
“Come, have a wee look at my Wall of Weird. Yes, I saw your face. Surely you don’t believe in sorcery anymore? Too old, aren’t you? Well, trust Earnest Esahyah: on every page is a price and each page is worth 1 spell. The only thing you have to do is write your wish on it and whim-wham-weird: your wish will appear!”
He looked at the weird, big man again and then showed him his copper piece, carefully because he could be a thief.
“Hm, a copper piece, ey? That isn’t much. But because you seem an Earnest boy to me, just like Esahyah, I’ll see what I’ve got for you. Hmmm no, this isn’t it…this is just for women…aha! This is what I was looking for! It actually costs more than a copper piece, but today I’m in a merry mood”, he winked at the boy. It was a small piece of paper, with only two words on it: I wish… and for the rest it was empty. Adrianus looked at Earnest Esahyah again and then handed him the copper piece. Together they walked out the tent and then said Esahyah: “So, I’ve done good business today. Happy to have you as a customer, but ‘member this: you only paid a copper piece for it, so it can’t be a big wish. Have fun with your wish!” The boy walked towards the marketplace and heard a thud behind him. He turned around, to wave to the weird fellow, but he saw nothing. It looked like Earnest Esahyah flew away, faster than you could blink your eyes! Adrianus wondered by himself if the tent had actually been really here, but he did have the wishing-paper in his hand. He shrugged and went home, to his desk to grab his duck feather-quill. Nobody was home yet, so he had all the time to think about his wish. It took him some time, after two sandglasses he finally thought of something. Just in time, because the other boys just came home. I wish…for a leather ball to play with my brothers. Tick, tick, tick the sand went in the glass…nothing happened yet. He asked himself if he had understood it correctly. Then he heard his name and walked towards the door. It was time to eat something and Mimoe, Papoe and the boys went around the table. Afterward, they were free to play.
“So boys, why don’t you go outside, so I can clean here. You can play outside until sunset, but be back inside before the evening bell rings.” Delighted they ran outside, but Adrianus wanted to look at his wish first. To his great surprise, the piece of paper was no more on the table, but instead, there lay a beautiful, leather ball. He looked around, but no one has entered the room. Then he looked with a smile at the ball and was glad that it worked.
“Look, look what I’ve got! Now we can also play with a ball, just like the big city kids!”
“Ow wow, what a beautiful ball and how sturdy!”, “Yeah great, now we can play kickball and throw-over!”
The rest of the day couldn’t be better for them; they had the most fun with the beautiful, leather ball. They tried who can kick it the highest, who can throw it the farthest and played a game against each other. They played with the ball until dark, but they didn’t notice. When the first evening bell rang, they rushed home because they didn’t feel like getting pushed. In their haste, they left the leather ball in the grass. Remember what Earnest Esahyah said? That it was just a small wish? I didn’t see it myself, but one has told me that when the ball was left there it turned into a piece of paper again with the words I wish… on it.
The next morning the piece of paper was already blown away to another part of the city. Nearby was a young man, named Barbaros, on a wall with a sad face. In his hand, he held an invitation from a nobleman that read: Hat Required Otherwise No Entry! Unfortunately, Barbaros didn’t find a hat he could afford and matched with his clothes. It wasn’t just any invitation; it was a big tea party with all kinds of merchants, traders, comrades of his and the loveliest ladies in the environs. If he would miss it, he wouldn’t be very successful as a trader in the future. And now, it was too late for him.
Puff! He almost fell off the wall shocked when the piece of paper came in his face. It fluttered on the ground and lay still before him. He thought it a bit weird and then saw what was on it: I wish…
Is this a joke, he thought by himself, or is it a chain letter to pass on? He considered for a moment, took out his goose feather-quill from his pouch and wrote I wish…a gorgeous hat with a green feather that fits my costume. Wondering what was supposed to happen; he jumped off the wall and then slipped on the cobblestones.
“Ouch, whew…and now I also lost my wish. How am I supposed to pass it on?”
But when he got up and dusted himself off, he noticed that there on the head of his horse was a gorgeous, yellow hat with a green feather! The horse looked at him like it was thinking: this hat looks good on me too. Barbaros put on the hat, too happy to think where it came from, got on his horse and rode to the nobleman’s tea party.
“My dear sir, may I have your invitation? Ah, thank you kindly. Lord van Pechelen, I present hereby Barbaros from Uitmundo!”
“My dear Barbaros, you’ve made it: I was afraid I wouldn’t see you anymore. You remember my niece, do you? Last daylight she said that she hoped you would come”. Barbaros was now a satisfied man; he noticed that people were looking at his gorgeous, new hat. He felt proud and now finally he could enjoy the party and arrange some contacts. It was a sunny daylight, but later the wind grew stronger and it became chillier. For a few sands the wind dropped…and then suddenly she started to blow hard again! For the many people in the big garden, it was okay, seeing there was a fence of plants and hedges all around. But for the hats of the ladies and gentlemen it was less comfortable; one by one they got picked up, blown into the air and they streamed on the wind stream to all sides.
Also our charmer Barbaros lost his hat, but he didn’t notice because he finally was in conversation with cousin Odfelia. Well, conversation; it looked more like a game of staring.
“Oh Odfelia, those wonderful eyes of yours…I could write a poem about them”
“Oh, Barbaros…shall we go someplace else? I’m curious to hear what other pretty words you have.”
I will tell you that poem some other time. I think we can guess which way it went with those two, but where did that hat of his fly off to?
It was a strong wind and high in the sky the hat flew. When it descended slowly, it changed back into paper. And just before a young woman could close her shutters, it flew inside and landed between piles of cloth. This lady, Coraline, just arrived her some moons ago with her husband and daughter. Her husband worked ship-building in the harbour and she just opened a new store out of her home. For little girls, elderly women, spoiled young ladies, and puppeteers she wanted to make all kinds and sizes of dolls. And not just girly dolls in pink dresses or princesses, no she had bigger plans: bears and harlequin talking dolls, zoo animals as souvenirs for circuses, exotic birds for enthusiastic and big fluffy animals for sleepy children.
But her family has travelled far to arrive in this city and they knew only a few people. Getting the house in order and making sure her daughter could go to school, took some time. In this city, it was important to know people, their most important watchword was: Knowledge Is Power, Character Is More, But With Acquaintances, You Achieve More! In this short time, she didn’t even get a chance to get to know her neighbours and because of that, she couldn’t draw any attention to her products. That’s why this daylight she was making room in her atelier: sorted all the colours, wooden materials in the closet, and metal materials in boxes on the ground and glass stuff in drawers.
“Hey, what’s this paper? It must be something of Caro.”
She had found the piece of paper with the text I wish… on it and thought that her daughter wanted to be nice for her mom. She took her goose feather-quill and thought a minute before she wrote down: I wish…a pretty sign board so that people would come to my atelier. She put down her feather and then went on sweeping the floor. About half a sandglass later she was satisfied with the big cleaning and put away the broom, floor cloth and bucket back in the corner. She walked towards the shutters, opened it and suddenly there was a fierce shimmering in her face!
“Wow, where is that light coming from? There isn’t any fire or something?” She stepped towards it and then saw what it was: a big, wooden plate with two metal bars on it. It was dark green and it said: Coraline’s atelier: for all your cuddly dolls, hand dolls, play dolls and collectible dolls! When she looked at it more closely in the light, she saw that the letters were beautifully painted with silver. For a moment she stood there, flabbergasted, wondering if someone had heard her and gave it as a present. Radiant as a child on the Celebration of Whit Sunday-flower she didn’t think of it anymore and walked outside. Proudly she hung it up and heard: “Hello, madame Coraline isn’t it? I just read what you have put on your sign and you came as a miracle fairy godmother on a wedding. I was looking for a present for my niece and I was hoping that you had a beautiful Coocatha with purple feathers.”, “Oh hello, and yes. If you will come inside you can see if there is something you like, or else I can make a gorgeous one within two daylights. Do you wish a specific pattern and size?” Our femfriend was so cheerful that she got right to work. The coming two septers she got busier and she needed to worry less about her future and could make more time for her family. A somewhat elder lady, who used to be the only puppet maker in the city, saw her patronage decline. But she thought by herself: ah well, the youth will continue my work. And yes, on rest-daylight of the septer Coraline approached her and asked her for advice. The old woman needed to think about it and said then: “If lady Coraline wants me as her teacher, then she needs to help me sell my old house and let me live in her attic. And an old woman like me can’t live alone anymore and it looks much more gregarious with your family.” Coraline knew that the elder lady always lived alone because making puppets was more than work for her: it was her calling. So she accepted and a few daylights later the old woman taught Coraline her secrets, helped Caro recognize medicinal herbs and taught Father the secret of a good brew. That way Father could stop with his heavy work at the harbour and sell his own concoctions to dinings in the city.
The night that came was dark and cloudy. Coraline and her family were cosy in bed, the whole neighbourhood was quiet. The entire neighbourhood? No, if you listened closely you could hear tap-tap-tap. It was sneaking in the dark, a man who didn’t look to kind. He was about to cross the street to a dark corner when the moonlight came through the clouds. One shimmer and he stood still, looked up and saw the beautiful sign board from the puppet maker. The silver sparkled and our thief (that he was) started lurching greedily if no one else was around. When he saw that there was nobody, he took the board of the wall. And fast he went on his big feet. It was a tall, gangling man with a not-so ugly mug. But he was anything but trustworthy, not someone you would loan a few ochre’s to. Swiftly he walked beside the water to the big bridge, once on the other side he could hide with ease. But lanky as he was, unhandy was his middle name: an exposed tree root folded his plot and threw him in the water with a loud splash! Before he could climb the wall, he was already surrounded by guards with burning stakes and cudgels. No other choice, but to surrender. And that sign board? While falling, it changed back again to that familiar piece of paper and floated steadily under the bridge.
While morning red and after the first morning bell, a poor fisherman walked towards the quay. Armed with nothing more than two rods, a jar filled with worms, a stick-net and a bucket he sat beside the water: hoping to catch more today so he can feed his wife and three children. With a deep sigh, he put the rods in the water and took a bite of his bread. At that moment he saw a piece of paper floating in the water and fished it up with his stick-net. Miraculously the paper was dry immediately so he could read the text: I wish…
What a weird piece of paper, the credulous fisherman thought by himself. Maybe it is a gift from the water nymphs for me and he took his duck feather-quill: I wish…a fishing boat with a big net in it, thank you. Lord Denzel! He folded the paper neatly and let it float back in the water, waiting for a miracle. When it didn’t come, Denzel lay on his back: staring at the sun, waiting for a fish.
“Hey you, is that your vessel?”. Denzel looked up and saw two pairs of leather boots in front of his nose. Then he looked where they were pointing and saw surprisingly a fishing boat in the water.
“Eeuhm…yes lord guard! That is my boat, is something the matter?”, he said still disoriented.
“Nothing the matter, sir, but you know you can’t stand here very long. And if I were you I would take the west-wind quickly, before the others beat you to it.”, the guard said with a wink.
“Thank you, lord, I will go right away. Have a nice daylight yourself.”
Denzel gathered his stuff quickly, stepped in the boat and headed east. He first thanked the water nymphs (do they really exist, you think?) and looked at the boat. It wasn’t that big, but it could fit just two men or woman and in the back, there was a somewhat deeper space with round holes on the outside. He thought for a minute and then concluded it was for the fish: that way they stayed alive and there was getting too much water in the boat anyhow. Many sandglasses later he had his fish basket pretty full and floated quietly for a while. He went more to the shallows, so he could rest and enjoy the surroundings. Boink!
“What was that?”, he said startled. Denzel looked around and then in the water, he saw that he bumped a big chest. He dropped anchor to be sure and dove into the water. With a lot of effort, he got the chest up, but he succeeded. There was just enough space for the both of them. He bounded a couple of fishhooks, straighten them and put them in the lock of the chest. Click and the lock opened. Inside were mostly old clothes, some trading papers, and another chest. This one had three locks, but they were open swiftly as well: the saltwater had affected it. When he looked inside, he almost dropped it back in the water. They were various colours of pearls! Purple, orange, yellow and even a rare green one! The fisherman couldn’t believe his eyes and thought: this must have been the stolen chest of Baron Merwe. What a luck that I found it, because of the water-law it is mine now! He was right: everything you find at sea and when the owner has passed is yours to keep. He hid the pearls in his jacket, threw the little chest back in the big chest and locked it again. Then he went as fast as a swordfish back to the harbour, tied up the boat and traded the fish for a cart. With the big chest, he went home, to his family. Years later they still spoke of him: about how old Denzel had fished up his fortune thanks to the water nymphs. A laughable story, if you don’t know the truth, my friend.
But what about that old wishing paper from Earnest Esahyah? That changed back again after Denzel left it in the harbour and flew towards the vibrant centre of the city.
>Sigh<, >grumble<, “Doesn’t she really not get that money is most important? She is always complaining that I’m not romantic and that we’re not doing anything “cosy” anymore. What does one know of the live of a rulor? Laws, scot, rights, values & norms! But those who have the money, make the rules! A job to be proud of.” Who could this old grouser be? He sounded like someone who had a lot of ochre’s, had an influence on the rule of the city and still wasn’t blissful. A real Scrooge McDuck (who that was, I’ll tell you some other time)! This old rulor was lord Eustace. Born as the son of a small trader and had worked him up as rulor of the city. Along the way, he met not the most beautiful, but the greatest and kindest woman. Both didn’t desire any children, but they did a lot for orphanages (yes, also that of Mimoe and Papoe). Now that he got older, he only thought of his wealth and the romance between him and his wife was not just yet an extinguished candle. His wife loved him but was afraid that he wasn’t happy anymore.
“Bah, blissfulness! Blissful can also be expressed in worth and then are we the most blissful people in this city.” Don’t understand me wrong, dear reader: Eustace did really love her, but he had no idea how he could express it. He walked over to the city-park, to the statue of the founder, as always to think. The park was always clean, but now there lay a piece of paper. He picked it up and wanted to throw it away when he saw what it said: I wish…
“I wish…? What’s this now? I don’t do chain-letters, maybe my dear wants to do it.”
He took the paper home, told his wife and said that she could write something on it. She took her swan feather-quill and didn’t need much time to think: I wish…that my sweet, sour husband will find the romance in his heart again. She folded it, put it down and went to the market. When she came back she saw that the note disappeared and instead there was an amazingly beautiful bouquet of flowers on the table!
“Eustace, dear: did you by me these flowers?”, “Flowers? What flowers?” and he walked in the room. To his surprise, he saw that his wife was indeed holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers…and what he also saw was that the sun fell through the window inside. Suddenly he remembered why he was married to this lady! She looked at him with lovely eyes, he looked back and said: “Dear, those flowers are for you but they almost pale in comparison with your beauty!” From that moment on Eustace was once again a friendly man, one who took his work as rulor still seriously but with more pleasure. To celebrate their rediscovered blissfulness, he invited all the people of the four orphanages that he had helped grow to celebrate together their anniversary. The people in the city now told different stories about the old man and now came by with joy for advice.
And, what do you think? Will Adrianus, Barbaros, Coraline, Denzel, and Eustace live happily ever after? I think so. And the old wishing paper of the weird old man, whatever happened to it? Well, it was a wish for a copper piece and it died along with the bouquet of flowers. But it took care of those that needed it. How would I know? Well, my name isn’t Earnest Esahyah for nothing! And the most laughable thing I saw in that tent? That was my reflection!
Volo quod quilibet potest ridere