Mosey Dawdle's Lesson

Mosey Dawdle Tortoise was miserable. It had been a lovely day, but now it was raining. He was pulled inside his shell and trying to shelter under a tree. The tree had wide branches and small leaves and didn’t help at all. The rain wasn’t heavy, but it pitter-pattered on the ground and splashed inside his shell.

“Oh, I am so miserable,” moaned Mosey Dawdle, clamping his eyes shut and hoping it would all go away.

But the gentle rain didn’t go away. It kept on raining.

“How I hate the rain,” groaned Mosey Dawdle, pulling himself further into his shell. “I was having such a grand time—now there is no one as miserable as me. Oh no! Not even the One Who made the universe and bears it as a shell upon His back could be as miserable as myself!”

Hardly were these words out of Mosey Dawdle’s mouth when a thunderclap exploded over his head. A bolt of lightning ripped through the tree and split it in two. Branches clattered and crashed around him as his ears rang, his eyes dazzled and his toenails smelled as if they’d been scorched. The floodgates of heaven opened and a rain poured down such as Mosey Dawdle had never seen. It got worse. The rain turned icy cold. All around him water began to rise. It rose and flooded into his shell. It flooded and began to flow. It flowed and ran in muddy rivers. The rivers ran in rapids and Mosey Dawdle floated away into the darkness of the coming night. He was swept along, the growl of rocks grinding in the flood echoing around him. He was tossed, twisted, twirled, bumped, banged, plunged and flung into the air. He was flung so high that he landed on a boulder. Luckily, the water didn’t come back to fetch him! All night he shivered and froze as he listened to the water surging past.

In morning Mosey Dawdle found himself stranded. The boulder he’d landed on was ten feet high. All about lay a brown, muddy lake stretching as far as his eyes could see.

“Oh dear,” thought Mosey Dawdle. “Oh dear, oh dear.”

The sun came out and slowly rose higher in the sky. Mosey Dawdle couldn’t get off the boulder and the sun baked him mercilessly. The sun dried the lake and turned it into a sea of mud. Mosey Dawdle couldn’t stay on the boulder any longer—he was roasting alive! He tried to climb down but fell. He tumbled and landed on his back with a PLOP in soft mud. He wasn’t hurt, but the mud held him firmly upside down.

“Help! Help!” cried Mosey Dawdle, waving his scaly legs and stubby tail.

No one heard. All through the scorching day Mosey Dawdle lay on his back. All through the freezing night he lay on his back. The next morning the sun dried the mud some more. Finally Mosey Dawdle was able to turn over. Off he lumbered across the sea of mud. For hours he labored until he was covered from head to toe in muck. He looked like a crawling mud pie.

At last he came to a rise. It was a small hill with a tree growing on top. He struggled up and found himself on a meadow of fresh green grass and flowers. He stopped in the shade of the tree. Just then it began to rain. The rain was gentle and it washed the mud from Mosey Dawdle’s shell. It cleaned his face. It pitter-pattered on the ground and rinsed the dirt from inside his shell.

Mosey Dawdle breathed a sigh of relief. “How I love the rain,” he cried, closing his eyes and holding his face to the heavens. “I love rain so very much!”

And the gentle rain kept on raining, as if it knew what Mosey Dawdle was learning.


Hopalot and Hungry Fox

Hopalot was unhappy. He was terribly hungry. It had been raining for five days and he was stuck in his burrow, hunched up on his straw bed, trying to keep warm. Hopalot didn’t like rain. That was why he hadn’t gone out. He hopped to the entrance, hoping the rain had stopped. He stuck his twitching nose out. Instantly it was wet. He wiped it with his paw and went back to bed to wait some more as his stomach growled ever louder.

The reason why Hopalot didn’t like rain was his ears. When he was outside, every few minutes he had to sit on his hind legs and raise his ears high. He’d turn his head this way and that, listening for Hungry Fox. That’s what his mother had taught him.

“If you don’t look and listen for Hungry Fox,” she said, wagging her paw at him. “then Hungry Fox won’t be Hungry Fox. He’ll be Full Fox! And we don’t want that, do we?”

Hopalot nodded and did what he was told. But this is where the rain came in, and why Hopalot didn’t like to nibble grass on rainy days. As soon as he sat up and raised his long and furry ears the rain ran into his ear holes. Hopalot didn’t like this one bit. He didn’t like the feeling of cold water trickling into his head. He didn’t like the way the world suddenly seemed quieter and far away. That was not good. No, it wasn’t. So Hopalot didn’t feed on grass and dandelions when it was raining. No, he didn’t. Not if he could help it.

The other rabbits thought he was silly. “Just shake your head and the water is gone,” they told him. But Hopalot didn’t like to shake his head. When he was small his little sister warned him about shaking his head. “Be careful, Hopalot. Shake your head too hard and your floppy ears will fall off and fly away like butterflies!” That’s what his sister had said, and that’s why he didn’t.

But Hopalot was hungry. Very hungry. He hopped to the entrance for the hundredth time. Just then his stomach growled. It growled louder than ever before. Hopalot poked his head out and cautiously looked around. Already his head was wet, but there was no one to be seen. Not even the crows or wild geese were waddling on the meadow. Hopalot went outside and nibbled grass ravenously. He kept his ears flat and didn’t let in the rain. Bit by bit he wandered further from his burrow.

Suddenly he felt the ground tremble under his feet. Instantly he sprung into the air and spun around. Hungry Fox was running towards him! He was almost at Hopalot’s burrow, blocking his way home. Off Hopalot raced across the meadow, his white tail bobbing up and down and Hungry Fox hard on his heels. He dodged left, he dodged right, he zipped under a fence, but the fox kept up with him and flew over the fence with ease. Hopalot plunged into a hedgerow, fleeing through the bushes and branches—but the fox stayed on his fluffy tail. Back into the meadow Hopalot raced, making a beeline for his burrow. He could hear Hungry Fox breathing heavily behind him. Closer and closer the fox came, gnashing his teeth. Hopalot leaped and dove head first into his burrow just as Hungry Fox snapped his jaws shut—SNAP!!!

Hopalot was safe. He collapsed panting onto the floor in the darkness, his heart pounding as he thanked his lucky stars. After he caught his breath he noticed that the burrow was dark, much darker than normal.

“I wonder why it’s so dark?” thought Hopalot, hopping towards the entrance. “I can’t see a thing.”

He ran straight into Hungry Fox’s snout. Hopalot leaped back in fear.

“Help!” mumbled Hungry Fox.

Hopalot fled as fast as his hoppety legs could carry him to his bedroom at the far end of the burrow. He stayed there for a long time. Finally his heart settled down.

“What did Hungry Fox mean when he cried for help?” wondered Hopalot. “That’s a strange thing for a fox to say.”

He waited some more, just to be sure that the fox had left, and retraced his steps to the entrance. There was still no glimmer of light and no breath of fresh air. The smell of fox was strong as Hopalot crept forward, peering into the dark.

“Help!” mumbled Hungry Fox miserably.

“Help who?” asked Hopalot, staying a safe distance back.

“Help me,” said Hungry Fox through clenched teeth. “I’m stuck.”

“You? Stuck?” said Hopalot.

“Yes,” whined Hungry Fox.

Suddenly the fox struggled fiercely and Hopalot fled back to his room. He waited. Patiently he waited.

“It must be nighttime by now,” thought Hopalot at last. “Hungry Fox is surely gone.”

Cautiously he crept back to the entrance. Hungry Fox was still blocking the doorway.

“You really are stuck, aren’t you?” said Hopalot.

“Yes,” said Hungry Fox. “I was playing tag with your tail, but you cheated and ran for your burrow.”

“I’m supposed to run away from you,” said Hopalot. “You’re Hungry Fox!”

“Oh no,” said Hungry Fox. “We were playing tail tag. When my nose touches your tail then it’s your turn to chase me! You cheated and fled down here just as I was leaping towards you. My nose followed your tail, and my head followed my nose, and now I’m stuck in your burrow and can’t get free. See, I can hardly open my mouth because my jaw is jammed shut.”

Hungry Fox struggled and struggled again, whining pitifully. “Help me, Hopalot,” he whimpered. “Help.”

Hopalot felt sorry for Hungry Fox. He rushed forward and pushed on his nose. He pushed and pushed, but the fox’s head stayed stuck.

“Ouch,” said Hungry Fox. “Your nails are scratchy on my delicate nose, Master Hopalot. Here, let me grin and you can push on my white teeth—they are hard and firm.”

So Hopalot pushed and pushed on Hungry Fox’s front teeth, but the fox stayed stuck.

“It’s no use,” said Hopalot. “I am not strong enough.”

“What are we going to do?” asked Hungry Fox, sounding even more miserable.

“I don’t know,” said Hopalot, scratching an ear with his hind leg.

Hungry Fox and Hopalot pondered a while.

“Perhaps you can pull my tail,” said Hungry Fox at last.

“I can’t get outside,” said Hopalot. “My burrow is new and I only have one doorway.”

“Then dig another!” snarled Hungry Fox.

Hopalot leaped back in shock.

“I mean, please dig another doorway, dear Hopalot,” said Hungry Fox sweetly. “I’m in such a fluster and annoyed with myself.”

So Hopalot went down the burrow a ways and began to dig another passage. It was slow going.

“Hurry up,” said Hungry Fox. “My tail is soaked with rain and freezing cold.”

Hopalot hurried as fast as he could. He scratched and dug until his paws ached. Finally he came to grass roots and knew he was close.

“Almost there,” he shouted to Hungry Fox. “Just a few minutes more.”

“Lovely,” said Hungry Fox. “You are such a sweetheart for helping your playmate.”

Hopalot dug the last few inches and broke through. It was morning and the sun was low and red in the sky. The rain had stopped but the grass was cold and wet. Hopalot stepped outside and looked around. Six feet away was the fox, his head and neck completely down the burrow. Hopalot went over.

“I’m going to pull your tail,” he said, putting his hand on the fox’s shoulder.

“What?” said Hungry Fox. “I can’t hear you.”

“I’m going to pull your tail,” shouted Hopalot.

“Okay,” said Hungry Fox from inside the earth. “You pull and I’ll push with my legs.”

So Hopalot grabbed Hungry Fox’s tail and pulled. He pulled and pulled while the fox pushed and pushed—but his head wouldn’t come out of the hole.

“Now what?” asked Hopalot.

“I don’t know,” moaned Hungry Fox. “Please stay close, dear Hopalot. You are my only friend.”

Hopalot sat a while. Now and then he nibbled grass because he was hungry—but he felt so sorry for poor Hungry Fox that he stopped for guilt. By and by another rabbit appeared at the bottom of the meadow. Soon two more joined him. They were Hopalot’s neighbors who lived in an old quarry.

“What are you doing, Hopalot?” they shouted. “Are you crazy? That body and tail belong to Hungry Fox. He’s got his head down your burrow.”

“He’s stuck,” said Hopalot, running to them. “We were playing tail tag and I cheated by diving down my burrow. Hungry Fox dove after me and now he can’t get his head out. I’m trying to help him.”

“Help Hungry Fox!” cried the other rabbits.

“Yes,” said Hopalot. “I pushed his nose, and when that didn’t work I pushed his sharp and glistening teeth. Finally I had to dig another doorway and pull on his tail—but that didn’t help either.”

More rabbits emerged out of the quarry to see what all the fuss was about. Hopalot had to repeat his story. The rabbits stared at Hopalot in wonder and awe.

“Come help me pull him free,” begged Hopalot, but the other rabbits shook their heads.

Hopalot went back to Hungry Fox.

“I’m going to pull your tail again,” said Hopalot. “I want to show my rabbity friends that you are harmless. Perhaps they’ll come to help.”

“Good idea,” said Hungry Fox. “You are such a clever rabbit.”

So Hopalot pulled and pulled and Hungry Fox pushed and pushed—but still he stayed stuck.

Meanwhile, the other rabbits hopped closer and closer out of curiosity. They began to believe that Hungry Fox really was stuck and that they were safe from him.

“See,” said Hopalot, patting Hungry Fox’s flank. “He’s quite tame and won’t hurt you. Come pull.”

So all the rabbits grabbed Hungry Fox’s tail and pulled. They pulled and pulled and pulled—but Hungry Fox stayed stuck. They stood around him in a circle and scratched their heads, not knowing what to do.

“How about I fetch Rover, the farmer’s dog,” shouted Hopalot at last.

“Oh! Oh!” cried Hungry Fox. “Why would you do that?”

“I’ve seen Rover play tail tag with you, just like you play tail tag with me,” said Hopalot. “Rover is much stronger than us. He has a huge mouth and strong jaws. He’ll grab your tail and pull you out in a jiffy.”

“Oh no, I don’t think so,” said Hungry Fox quickly. “Rover is so dimwitted that he does not play tail tag properly. He always chases me but never lets me chase him.”

“But you never let me chase you,” said Hopalot. “What’s the difference?”

“That’s because you have never let me catch you,” said Hungry Fox. “You are too sneeky. I’ll tell you what: you can chase me all you want as soon as I am free. How about that?”

“Okay,” agreed Hopalot. “But what are we going to do to set you free?”

“Dig me out,” said Hungry Fox. “It’s the only way. Get your wonderful friends to help.”

So Hopalot started digging away the dirt around Hungry Fox’s neck. “Come on,” he called to his neighbors. “Come help!”

Soon the rabbits were digging around the fox’s neck. Bit by bit they dug deeper and deeper. Now and then Hungry Fox wiggled and pulled.

“I think it’s working,” shouted Hungry Fox. “Keep digging, my tasty friends.”

“Tasty!” cried the rabbits, jumping back.

“No, no,” said Hungry Fox. “I said hasty, not tasty. I’m impressed that you folk are digging so hastily. Keep digging!”

So Hopalot and his friends kept digging. Soon they saw the tips of Hungry Fox’s ears.

“Almost done, Friend Fox,” they shouted. “We can see your ears. You’ll soon be free.”

“Oh, yummy! I can’t wait to eat,” said Hungry Fox.

“Yummy!” cried the rabbits, leaping back again. “What do you mean?”

“I didn’t say yummy,” said Hungry Fox quickly. “I said: Oh, bunnies, I can’t wait to be free!”

But the rabbits didn’t hear Hungry Fox. They were listening to Rover running across the meadow towards them. “Bow-wow! Bow-wow!” he barked.

The quarry rabbits scattered back to their warren. But Hopalot stayed. He wasn’t afraid of foxes and dogs any more. He knew that they only played the game of tail tag.

“What’s that I hear?” cried Hungry Fox anxiously.

“It’s Rover the farmer’s dog come to play tail tag,” said Hopalot. “He’ll be here in a second.”

Hungry Fox whimpered and pulled mightily. He struggled and shook. With a painful yelp his head popped out of the hole.

“You’re it!” shouted Hopalot as Hungry Fox took off like a rocket. Hopalot chased after him as quick as lightning and Rover chased after both of them. Round and round the meadow they raced, the fox yelping, the dog barking and Hopalot flying between them. Hungry Fox must have been weak from spending the night with his head in the burrow for Hopalot caught up to him easily. He leaped forward and bit Hungry Fox’s bushy tail.

“Ouch!” yelped Hungry Fox, thinking it was the dog.

“Gotcha!” shouted Hopalot, running away. “I’m it—come and get me!”

But Hungry Fox ignored Hopalot and kept on his way. Over the fence he leaped and through the hedgerow with Rover hot on his heels. Soon they had vanished from sight.

“Spoil sports and party poopers!” shouted Hopalot after them, shaking his fist angrily.

The next day, when Hungry Fox came by to play tail tag, Hopalot refused to play any games. He wouldn’t even come out of his burrow to talk in a civilized manner as Hungry Fox suggested.

“You don’t play by the rules of the game,” said Hopalot, moping in his room. “I’m not playing with you anymore.”

And he didn’t.


Mosey Dawdle's Secret

Mosey Dawdle Tortoise had a secret. At first he didn’t know the secret. He was too sleepy. He trundled here, he trundled there, eating leaves and not a care, and all the while he had no idea that he had a secret.

One day he woke up and knew. “Aha!” said Mosey Dawdle, very proud of himself for knowing. “This is most interesting. I shall chew on this secret,” which is exactly what he did in his slow, cumbersome way.

Now, Mosey Dawdle’s secret was this: every night, when he went to sleep, he left his shell and flew about. He flapped around meeting the strangest characters and hearing the loveliest music, but the main thing he did was look for his true shell. Not the old, bumpy shell he’d left behind, but a new, eternal one that would last until the end of the earth. Every night he flew hither and thither seeking and seeking, seeking his eternal home.

One night Mosey Dawdle was flying along when he came to a thicket. It was made of living thorn trees with interlacing branches. He tried to fly through the trees but the branches quickly locked together and shut him out. He flew over the trees, but they formed a roof and wouldn’t let him see what was inside. Mosey Dawdle scratched his ancient head. He felt in his heart what was inside—it was his new home that would last until the ends of the earth—and the ends of the earth, even for the ancient Mosey Dawdle, was a long, long time.

Mosey Dawdle grew unhappy. For years on end he flew every night to the thorn thicket and every night the thicket wouldn’t let him in. Finally he couldn’t take it anymore. He went to Speedy Weedy Hare and whispered the secret into his long and furry ear.

“Oh-ho-ho!” laughed Speedy Weedy, falling onto his back and kicking his legs in the air. “Oh-ho-ho! You are such a fool, Mosey Dawdle. No tortoise can fly out of his shell!” and off he raced to tell the other animals.

“Ah-ha-ha!” laughed the animals, falling onto their sides and kicking their legs. “Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha! Mosey Dawdle thinks he can fly!”

Mosey Dawdle was disappointed, but tried to be philosophical. “Oh, what a fool I am,” he said to himself. “I should never have told anyone my secret, least of all Speedy Weedy.”

For days and weeks on end everyone made fun of Mosey Dawdle when they met him.

“Ha-ha-ha!” laughed Coyote, wagging his tail furiously. “What’s this I hear? Flap your scaly paddles and let me see you fly,”—but Mosey Dawdle couldn’t do anything except hide inside his shell till Coyote went on his way.

“Ha-ha! Hiss-hiss-hissssss!” laughed Snake, tangling herself into a ball at the thought of such a funny creature as Mosey Dawdle flying. “What’s this I hear? Let me see you fly and I will show you the long legs I use for running.”

Mosey Dawdle went and hid in the sandstone hills. Not many lived in those hills because there was so little to eat. He found himself a cave and crawled in. He sat and sat and sat, his head pulled inside his shell as he pondered. By and by he felt someone running up his back and sitting on top. He stretched out his head and looked up. It was Desert Mouse eating a nut.

“Oh, it’s you, Mosey Dawdle,” said Desert Mouse. “It’s so dim in here—I thought you were a rock.”

“Oh no,” said Mosey Dawdle with a sigh. “It’s me. I was having a think.”

Desert Mouse went on eating his nut, sending small crumbs rolling down the shell. Mosey Dawdle wondered why Desert Mouse was not laughing at him.

“Haven’t you heard my secret?” asked Mosey Dawdle at last. “All the animals are laughing at me.”

“Not I,” said Desert Mouse, running down and jumping off the shell. “I go flying at night too! I was far too shy to tell anyone and never found the courage to speak.”

“Where do you go flying?” asked Mosey Dawdle.

“I seek my new, eternal burrow,” said Desert Mouse. “My forever house and home.”

“Have you found it?” asked Mosey Dawdle.

“No,” said Desert Mouse, “but I keep on looking.”

“Let us meet tonight,” said Mosey Dawdle. “I will show you what I have found.”

That night Mosey Dawdle and Desert Mouse flew out of the cave together. Away they went through the colored air, around the strange and oddsome creatures, through the singing music till they came to the thorn thicket. Desert Mouse was so small that he began to climb through the branches at once. Instead of shutting the mouse off they opened up and let Mosey Dawdle follow. They went a little ways, full of wonder, for they felt their new, eternal home deep inside the thicket. But suddenly the branches and thorns stopped moving out of the way and their path was blocked. No matter how hard they tried they couldn’t go further and had to fly back to the cave.

Night after night Mosey Dawdle and Desert Mouse returned to the thicket, but always and always they couldn’t go further. One day they were sitting in the brush outside the cave discussing what to do. Suddenly they heard a dry rattling and Yikes Spikes! the Porcupine appeared. He’d been snoozing in the brush and they’d never noticed him.

“I couldn’t help overhearing what you were talking about,” he said. “I laughed when Mosey Dawdle told his secret to Speedy Weedy, but now I know he’s telling the truth. Teach me how to fly at night and I will join you.”

Mosey Dawdle taught Yikes Spikes! how to fly and they all met at the thicket.

“I am not afraid of thorns,” said Yikes Spikes! and he scurried into the trees. The branches pulled back and Mosey Dawdle and Desert Mouse followed. This time they went much further into the thicket, but again they found their way blocked.

“At least we got further,” said Mosey Dawdle. “Perhaps we need more people. Then we might get through.”

“Yes, yes,” agreed Yikes Spikes! and Desert Mouse. “Let us get more people. We will invite them to go flying at night.”

“Ha-ha-ha!” and “Ho-ho-ho!” laughed Silver Fox and Skunk at Desert Mouse and Yikes Spikes! when they were asked if they wanted to fly at night. “You’re not following that old fool Mosey Dawdle are you?”

“We are,” said Yikes Spikes! “He’s telling the truth.”

Silver Fox and Skunk rolled over and over in the dirt, howling with mirth. And so it went with many animals: birds fell chuckling off their branches, deer tumbled down the hillsides giggling wildly, and buffalo stuck their horns into the ground and waved their hooves in the air. That’s what the animals did when Mosey Dawdle and his friends talked of flying at night—that’s how funny they found the idea.

But some didn’t laugh. They searched their hearts to see if it could be true. And so, slowly, one by one, nine more animals joined the three friends. There was Beaver, Praying Mantis, Cougar, Squirrel, Dolphin, Ant, Tiny Wren, Honey Bee and Butterfly. They gathered in the sandstone hills and Mosey Dawdle taught them how to fly at night.

When he was done, they waited outside the cave and watched the red sun sink in the west. The stars came out in the darkening sky—first the big stars, then the small, then the whole Milky Way spread across the heavens. One by one they went into the cave and fell asleep. Soon they were winging their way towards the magic thicket. But imagine Mosey Dawdle’s surprise when they found the thorn trees in bloom and the branches opened wide. They gathered around the thicket in a large circle as a great building rose majestically out of the earth and stood upon a hill.

They went inside and saw that the building was made for all of them. It was a place where each one could call their true home. The roof was domed and strong like a tortoise shell, the ceiling was painted as beautifully as a butterfly’s wings, the pillars were perfect for climbing squirrels and the honey bee had abundant flowers for nectar and a safe place to make a hive.

But as beautiful as the building was, it also felt unfinished. The twelve kept asking  others to join them, and as the years passed more and more came. Every time a new person joined their circle the building changed its shape and form so that the new one would feel at home. And so the eternal house and home that Mosey Dawdle had found kept growing and changing until all the people of the world could live inside. Then the house was perfect, and even Snake, the last to join, was amazed and hissed no longer.


The Butterfly King

A butterfly came to live in a castle. He was a red butterfly and the castle was small when he first arrived. Every morning he appeared out of the sky and fluttered around the growing walls. The workers willingly accepted the butterfly as the king of the castle and gladly obeyed him. He never told them what stone or wood to use—that they knew best—but the king did show them the shapes and sizes of the rooms to be built.

Bit by bit the castle rose upward and took it’s final form. Only when it was finished did the butterfly king go inside the highest room of the tallest tower and stay there all day long looking out over his kingdom until the sun set. That was also the day the worm dragon crawled into the castle from underneath and began to gnaw at the foundations. Every day the dragon gnawed the stonework, and every night the workers repaired the damage. But no matter how hard they worked, when the sun rose over the horizon and the king arrived out of the sky, there was one more stone missing from the castle walls.

Years passed and the butterfly king waxed in wisdom. But as his wisdom grew, his strength failed. Every day he was a bit weaker—but such a little bit weaker that no one noticed from one month to the next. At the end of a year, however, at the end of two or three years, people did notice. One of them who noticed was a maid. She was extraordinarily beautiful and wise, but also extremely shy. She hardly spoke to anyone. She was only truly comfortable with the animals, especially the lions and birds, and understood their language. The butterfly king hardly ever saw the maid, for she worked in the rooms below his tall tower. But she certainly saw him, as did everyone else, when he left to fly into the sky in the evening and return again in the morning.

One day she was going about her work when she stopped by a stairwell to gaze out a window. The stairs spiraled round and round into the basement. She heard voices coming from far below, but could hear them as clear as day.

“What are we going to do about the worm dragon?” said one voice. “By day he gnaws at the walls and we are powerless to stop him.”

“Aye, and by night we slave to keep up with his destruction,” said another. “Every morning finds us one stone short of fixing. Then we are forced to flee.”

“Something must be done,” said the first. “If nothing happens, stone by stone, the walls will be weakened until the whole castle comes crashing down.”

The maid pondered these words in her heart. She saw the butterfly king weakening and understood. She became determined to act.

Now the butterfly king had his food brought to him in his tower. His food was pure nectar which he sipped from a silver cup held by a knight. The maid gathered herbs and flowers and made a potion. Every day she slipped one drop of her potion into the king’s cup. She watched the king closely as his health and energy blossomed. Not only that, the worm dragon no longer came into the castle during the day and the years of damage he had done was being repaired.

But the maid also saw the butterfly king losing his wisdom. He began to act like a child, refusing to take his responsibilities seriously. Finally he spent the whole day flitting around the countryside and ignoring his kingdom entirely. By now, the only time he came to the castle was to take his meals.

The maid stopped putting her potion into the king’s drink. Within days the king returned to his tower and resumed his duties. The dragon returned too—and with a vengeance. He undid all the repairs that had been made—and more. The night workers despaired—not only was there more work to do than ever before, but the dragon’s breath, always foul, was now poisonous. The stale gas crept all over the castle, spreading illness and death for the unwary. Soon the king was far weaker than before, his beautiful wings becoming lame and tired.

The maid knew what must happen. She slipped into the throne room and sat by a window, never moving a muscle. She sat so still that even when people were in the room they didn’t notice or see her. Slowly she transformed into a large, leafy plant. There she stayed, basking in the sunlight during the day and closing her leaves at night. But deep within her leaves a bud was forming, with petals swirled round as if in prayer. Before long the castle workers noticed that the throne room was free of the smell of the deadly dragon’s fumes.

“It’s a breath of fresh air just to be in here,” said the knights, perking up—and the ladies agreed.

The king, too, noticed the changed atmosphere in the room. Often he came to sit on his throne or to spend time there. His health improved and he grew strong, but without losing his wisdom or becoming childish and wayward.

As the weeks passed the foul dragon’s breath disappeared from room after room. The dragon himself become less wild and destructive. Eventually he was calm and deliberate. He stopped tearing at the castle walls, and the workers repaired the foundations.

One day the dragon lay round the castle in a ring and bit his tail. At the same time the plant in the throne room unfurled its flower bud. It was white, and held itself up to the sun. Within the flower lay tears, glistening and sparkling like gems. A heavenly aroma spread throughout the castle and the butterfly king flew down from his tall tower. He circled the white flower, his red wings changing to the color of peach blossoms. When he landed on the petals the castle was filled with music, as at a wedding, and the people wept and sang for joy.

From that day on the butterfly king was changed. No longer did he spend all his time in the tower, but lived in the throne room. He grew ever more delicate and light filled, his presence spreading far and wide throughout the land. The castle, too, changed. Its walls and windows, it ramparts and roofs grew transparent and glistened like diamonds. The windows transformed into precious stones with delicate shades of blue, amethyst, rose and sapphire green. But the biggest change of all was that the castle and all within it became an indestructible, living being that radiated light even in the darkest of nights.


The telling Tale of the Cup

There was a cup. It was nothing special but it did have a handle. It had lived in a family for years. One day it was sitting on the kitchen table and weeping.

“Why are you weeping?” asked the saucer lying underneath.

“Oh, oh, oh, I am only wanted for my shape,” sobbed the cup, filling with tears.

“And what of that?” said the saucer. “I too am wanted because of my shape. See, you can sit upon me and I can catch the spills those messy humans make.”

“But I want to be special just for me and not for my shape,” said the cup.

“And how do you suppose you are going to do that?” asked the saucer.

“I shall jump off the table and break myself. Then the humans will see me for what I truly am,” and with that the cup ran off the edge of the table and broke into pieces.

“Are you okay?” asked the saucer.

“Yes,” said the cup. “I am still here, just not in one place.”

The mistress of the house walked in. “Oh!” she exclaimed, surprised to see the cup shattered on the floor. She fetched the broom and dustpan, swept the cup up and threw him into the garbage pail.

“Oh, woe,” cried the cup.

“Thought so,” said the saucer.

“Serves you right,” said the broom and dustpan.

“Thank you,” said the garbage pail. “I was beginning to agree with you, but now I know why I’m wanted.”