Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Good Rhymes of Tumbleby

There are many ways to upset a king, and King Tumble was no exception.  He felt his mood to be most upset indeed as he lifted the lid upon the latest fairy mischief and found a thin crust of bread served for that day’s lunch.  A Chief Adviser sat on either side of the throne, their hungry eyes upon the crust as though it was a slice of pie, and their plates already raised as the king cut the bread into three even pieces.
The king gave a piece of crust to each man; the jolly, round gaoler swallowed his crust in one, and the thin, Royal Bard pursed his lips and nibbled daintily at his own.  Only the king had a knife and fork; these he used with the greatest of care, carving his bread and chewing slowly on each morsel.  When he was done he returned the knife and fork to his breast pocket before hiding the plates within his coat.
            “This cannot continue,” the king said, addressing the bard; the man returned his look from behind the pince-nez that pinched his nose.
            “I agree, your Highness.”
            “The royal plate has not been so empty in many years.”
            “Nor the royal stomach,” joined the gaoler.
            “Then you must make a law,” said the bard, “that the royal bread must be fresh and thickly sliced.  And served with butter.”
            “And honey”, offered the gaoler.
            “Agreed”, responded the king, who had no care for honey, and was content indeed to have nothing but butter upon the royal slice of bread.
            “I will write out the order this day.”
            “In ink”, the bard continued, pleased that his advice had been so well received.
            “In ink.”
And yet, though the king emphasised the words as he agreed, and though, as a wise man, he knew that ink was the best way to prevent fairies from rubbing out what he had written, it was a pencil that he took from his pocket to begin his work.
            “You said ink, your Highness”, the bard repeated, clearing his throat as though he had a cough.
            “Yet, you have a pencil in your hand, your Highness.”
At this second ‘indeed’ the king removed the empty royal purse from the pocket where the knife and fork were hid.  He shook it once for his own attention; then he held it out for his advisers to see.
            “It is a matter of coins, Bard”, he explained, addressing this adviser once more; “ink costs coins, and the royal mint will give me no coins until I pay the royal bill.  So it is no coins that I have.”
The king lifted the pencil when he had said these words; he scowled at the device as though it was unworthy of his hands.
            “A pencil it will be then,” he concluded.
            “Have you tried the lining, your Royalness?” piped the gaoler; “I knew a man once, had so many coins hidden in the lining of his coat, that you could hear the coat rattle from Tumbletown to Tumblet.”
Though the king’s purse was perfectly silent, this suggestion was immediately welcomed.  He smiled as he gave the purse a last, hopeful shake; then he handed it over to the gaoler.  The gaoler too shook the purse, holding it close to his ear.  When nothing was revealed he turned it outside in and inside out, studying its emptiness until no further thought presented itself.  Then he passed the purse to the bard.
The bard was by far the wisest of advisers in the whole of the land.  He had watched the gaoler poke and prod the lining of the purse until it was clear that nothing could be found in that way; and so, holding the purse towards the light of the tall, royal window, he focused his sharp eyes upon the different shadows formed between the joins of the material.  This study convinced him that the purse was empty.
            “Empty,” he announced, returning the purse to the king.
            “Indeed, Bard.”
This disappointment, though it might have been expected, put the king out of sorts once more.
            “I am not a man”, the king continued, taking control of his upset, “who is unable to tell the emptiness of his own purse.”
            “No, your Highness,” the others agreed.
            “And so I declare this purse to be empty.  And I shall write my laws in pencil.”
            “You’re right, your Royalness,” said the gaoler.
The bard said nothing at first, his eyes upon the royal hand as it formed each letter with the greatest of care.  When it paused, hesitating over the spelling of a difficult word, then moving quickly to insert an ‘a’ to make ‘bread’, the wise adviser had a further thought.
            “Your Highness!”
            “Yes, Bard; though you can see that I am working.”
            “Yes, your Highness; but I have a new idea.”
            “Indeed.  Continue Bard.”
            “You have, your Highness, a knife and fork in your breast pocket.”
            “Yes, Bard.”
            “I say you take the knife and fork to the market in Tumbletown.  There you will get a good price; the knife and fork are indeed much favoured by the king.  You can buy some ink with the coins you receive.”
            “Indeed, Bard”, agreed the king.
But the king did not remove the knife and fork from his pocket as he had the purse.  So many knives and forks had run away with dishes once the spoons were all gone that the king found his cupboards quite bare.  The cutlery, as with the plates within his coat, were the last such in the whole of the castle, so the king had no thought to sell them
            “And what of the royal guests, Bard?”
            “Your Highness?”
            “I will not have it said by royal guests that in the Castle of Tumbleby we eat with our fingers.”
The bard and the gaoler who had not only eaten with their fingers, but had eaten so little that they wondered why any royal guest might choose to call, said nothing to this; they could see that the royal mind was decided in the matter, and would not consider it further.
            “Then”, said the gaoler, chuckling at the sudden wisdom of his thoughts; “your subjects must be good.  If they were a little better in their ways we would have no need for so many laws upon the castle walls.”
            “I agree,” responded the king, delighted with this advice; “this is the wisest of advice I have had all day.  And I shall take it.  From this day forth the subjects of Tumbleby will be good.  And no new laws will need to be written, in pencil or ink.  What say you, Bard?”
            “I say that you are both right”, the bard responded after a deliberate pause; “if the subjects were good there would be no need for laws.”
            “But there are so many laws hanging upon the castle walls, your Highness, that we must conclude that the subjects are not good.”
            “And so long as the laws are written in pencil, the fairies will be able to rub them out, or jumble them up as they wish. And we will be left to eat crusts.”
            “We need a better plan, your Highness, if we are to eat, and to have good subjects in your kingdom.”
The king, forced to accept the wickedness of the land, picked up his pencil again, and began, despite the bard’s words, to form the letters of the word ‘butter’, a wishful smile appearing upon his face.  The bard too smiled at the thought of food, and the gaoler, his stomach rumbling noisily, watched on.  All hoped that somehow the new decree might work.
            “I have it,” the king said, jumping up as he finished his writing; “I will ask the goblin.”
            “Your Highness?”
            “The subjects are naughty.”
“Yes, your Highness,”
“And the goblin reads naughty rhymes each day upon the steps of Tumblehall in Tumbletown.”
“Yes, your Highness.”
“So I shall ask him to read some good rhymes.”
            “And your subjects will be good.” the bard answered.
            “Yes, Bard.”
            “Or you could throw him in gaol,” offered the gaoler.
            “For reading naughty rhymes.”
            “They do make me laugh,” the king defended.
            “But they are naughty, your Highness”.
            “I see, Gaoler.”
            “And they give wicked thoughts to your subjects.”
            “And with the goblin in gaol I could write good rhymes”, the bard encouraged; “I know some already.”
            “Continue, Bard.”
            “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.  Humpty Dumpty let out a great call.  ‘All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, can stay at home, ‘cause I’m well again.”
This rhyme was so good that none of the men showed any reaction at all.  The bard, encouraged by this response, continued.
            “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.  The fairies were a lot of help, and went to bed straight after.”
The thought of sleeping fairies was enough for the king.  King Tumble, already standing, jumped where he stood.  Then he straightened his proclamation, ordered that it should be hung high on the castle wall and sent the gaoler to arrest the goblin of Tumbletown.  Then he took his rest before the fire as the bard composed.  The king dreamed of a land with bread and butter, where fairies slept and young ladies could sit upon tuffets without any fear of spiders.

©2011 Padraig De Brún

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Tumbledown Fairies Visit the Sun

The subjects of Tumbleby were known far and wide for the wicked tricks they played, but there was no mischief more wicked in all of the land than the tricks of the Tumbledown Fairies.  It was the fairies, no less, who stole the tarts the Queen of Hearts had made, and it was the fairies too who fed them to the knave though his tummy soon complained.
This wicked trick, the tummy of an unfortunate prince complaining from summer fruits, and a queen without any treats for tea, did nothing to improve their fairy ways; no sooner indeed had the knave been sent up to his bed, his tummy jiggling and wiggling beneath the confines of his shirt, than the band of fairies were skipping off upon some new, wicked quest.
It took them that afternoon right into the garden of the King.  All fairies knew that this garden had been forbidden by the sternest of decrees, and none could doubt the severity of the King if he was to find them there; and so it was with the hushest of fairy giggles and the quietest of scampering feet and hands that Flora led the fairies over the high wall and onto the bed that was forbidden.
The pride of this forbidden, royal bed was the sunflower that grew in its sunniest of centres.  This flower was watered by royal command, and so great was this royal care, that the golden head upon the thick, green stalk rose high above the dark, brown earth.  So tall was it indeed, that the King’s own boots tipped to their tops as he made the royal measures.  He read these aloud each day.
 “The royal sunflower”, he had announced that day, standing upon the highest step of his royal castle, the royal ruler grasped in his royal hand, “is ten feet tall this day; ten feet and seven inches.”
And yet, though this royal measure was followed by another of the sternest royal prohibitions, the royal voice making it known that this flower was for the royal eye alone, such prohibitions served only to encourage the wicked fairies.  Their fairy feet skipped with the merriest of skippings, their petal tunics dancing upon the royal earth, even as the King wrote out the latest of the royal proclamations.
His royal eye was so busy with this important work that it did not turn to the fairy faces beneath the watchful royal window, and the many coloured petals of the fairy tunics might have been no more than leaves upon an autumn breeze; and so the fairies skipped in play, whilst the royal words sounded from the window above: None shall enter, they proclaimed, none at all shall enter except the water-bearer and  I.
            “And I,” called the naughty Flora as she hid beneath a leaf.
            “And I”, called Galant, following close behind.
            “And I”, called Schmetter, stepping boldly forth, her brightly coloured tunic fluttering as she danced for all to see.
It was Schmetter no less, still dancing with her naughty play, who was the first to skip unto the forbidden flower.  Her strong, knobbled hands reached high up to the thin, white fibres of the stalk, and so quickly did her her fingers climb that her large, brown feet were left chasing the knobbles of her knees.  Schmetter climbed lightly in the bright autumn sun and she was soon out of sight among the thick, green leaves.
There Schmetter rested, her merry, round head supported by her long, knobbled fingers, and her thick, green leaf rocking gently as the flower head followed the sun.  She was joined soon after by the rest of the sleepy band, their stick arms stiff now from their many, long stretchings, and their tiny stick tummies growing as full as can be of the hungriest of spaces. 
            “I can dance in the sun”, called Schmetter, when the cranky band stepped unto the leaf, “like a butterfly on the breeze.”  She gave an energetic skip to demonstrate.
            “I can dance in the sun”, said Flora, not wishing to be outdone, “like a noisy swarm of bees”; she too skipped.
            “I can dance in the sun”, said Ferkel, his words much quicker than his thoughts, “ like the knobbles of my knees.”
Fairy knobbles, as any tumbledown knew, did not dance.  It was their fairy feet that skipped, their fairy hands that climbed and their merry, fairy lips that giggled; their knobbles were just knobbles.  And so the fairies laughed at the silly words; then they frowned at the foolish Ferkel, and Ferkel might indeed have wished himself at home in bed, were it not for Dente and the feast ahead.
Dente, with his long, sharp teeth, had not paused to play the game that day, and as the fairies laughed the hungry Dente continued on his climb, Schmetter and Galant behind. The fairies did not wait to hurry after, climbing to the yellow petals of the flower’s head.  There upon the golden disk they joined their friends, skipping and dancing among the many thousand florets, and having the merriest of fairy feasts. 
Such merriment did the fairies have, and so sweet was the pollen from the golden sun, that they were soon the noisiest of fairy bands, skipping in the evening air; but the royal ear need not have bothered with the giddy sound, nor the royal head have leaned from the tall royal window, for even as he reached for the royal swat the fairies were asleep once more among the tallest of the tumbledown trees.

©2011 Padraig De Brún

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Tumbledown Fairies Tumble Down

The King of Tumbleby had many naughty subjects, but there was no naughtiness in the kingdom to match the fairies of Tumbledown Wood.  It was the fairies no less who tickled poor Humpty as he sat upon his wall, and it was the fairies too who laughed when he had his great fall, his large round head sinking deep into the prickles of a thick, green hedge.
This wicked deed, a king’s hedge shaking with the wobbles of an egg, and all the king’s men woken at the noisy cries, served only to encourage the naughty fairies; no sooner indeed had poor Humpty been lifted unto his uneven seat, hammered and glued and boarded with wood, two fat goose-feathers where his ears had been, than the wicked fairies were skipping off for some further fun.
They found their fun that afternoon in the very wood by which they earned their name.  Tumbledown Wood grew right outside the castle wall, its trees so tall they could peep down at the king, and its timber so plentiful they gave heat to the great royal fire all winter long.  Such heat was exactly what an important king should need, and it was this need that gave voice to his most important royal proclamation.
            “No subject shall enter Tumbledown Wood,” the king announced, his royal personage standing upon the royal steps, and his royal nose shivering with the winter’s cold; “none at all from this day forth, except the wood-cutter and I.”
And yet, though the Seven Sleepers awoke and hurried from their beds, and even the spring grass plucked up its roots and galloped off beneath the cover of snow in search of some new lush meadow, the fairies gave not a care to the orders of their king.  They were too naughty to heed his words, and so they skipped and danced, each naughty voice competing to repeat the royal declaration.
            “By order of Me”, they laughed, puffing out their stick chests and creasing their eyebrows in wicked imitation of royal frowns.
            “And Me!”
            “And Me!”
When they had done with this sport, their tummies quite empty now from the efforts of their mischief, they soon forgot what had been said, and thinking only of the wood-cutter with his long, sharp axe, they tipped and toed beneath the new royal fence and off into the forbidden wood, the tunics of their many-coloured petals marching across the snow like an army of ants busy at work. 
These fairies were too tiny for the royal eyes, and those eyes were too sleepy from royal work to search the ground below the castle walls; and so, even as the royal toes warmed before the royal heat, the tumbledowns went deeper and deeper into the forbidden royal wood, their large brown feet sinking deep into the snow, right up to the hairy knobbles of their knees.
So cold were the tumbledowns as they marched that even Flora’s teeth began to chatter, giving off the sound of a sleeping cricket, and Dente too froze, his nose the colour of a dark blue berry.  Only Galant remained fearless that day, his thoughts upon the snow-drops in the clearings of the trees, and his lips already tasting the sweet pollen of their six yellow anthers.
It was Galant then who first spotted the clusters of bell-shaped flowers, and it was Galant too who leapt unto the tall, green stalk, his long stick fingers, climbing faster than his chasing feet.  Galant took no rest upon the pedicel from which the white flower hung, and he was deep within the green, pleated skirt of the delicate tepals whilst his friends continued their climb.
He might have stayed there too, feeding upon the rich food, his tummy swelling from the feast, but he was soon too rounded for the space in which he hid and he tumbled down into the snow.  There his friends joined him, one by one, tumbling plip, plop, plup, their tummies full, and when they had done with laughing at the sport, Flora stood up to begin a new game.
            “My name is Flora,” she announced, standing tall and reaching high into the air, “and I love snow-drops.”
            “My name is Dente,” said her friend, standing also and rubbing his fat, round belly, “and I eat flowers.”
“My name is Ferkel,” said the tiniest of the fairies, still busy within the tepals of his flower, “and I.............”
“Tumble down”, chimed all the fairies together, as Ferkel fell to the earth.
The inconvenience to his play, an anther still uneaten in his hand, did nothing to upset the little Ferkel; he sank his teeth without another word, whilst the others skipped about with their jest.  Their play was soon so noisy the sound carried to the wood-cutter nearby, but he need not have stomped his boots to where they were, for they were gone, cosy in their petal beds and dreaming of the naughty days ahead.

©2011 Padraig De Brún

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Tumbledown Fairies Grow Tall

The tumbledown fairies loved mischief, and it was this mischief, more than anything that earned them their reputation as the king’s naughtiest subjects.  It was the fairies no less who baked the blackbirds that they might sing from the pie and it was they too who tickled the forlorn maid, causing her to squeal with delight as her pecked nose came to rest beneath the large, warm seat of an old mother swan.
The indignity of this deed, a poor maid laughing at the loss of her very own nose, did nothing to interrupt the fairies’ afternoon sport.  No sooner indeed had the dear old bird settled with grace upon her unexpected care, the sound of its sneezes causing her to look uncertainly about, than the round-faced tumbledowns were skipping off in search of some new naughty quest.
It was to be found on the evening of that long summer’s day in the square of garden beneath the splendid gold casing of the ever watchful royal window.  No fairy in all the land, could doubt the greatness of the king’s displeasure, if he were to catch them there.  And so it was with the quietest of giggles, and the gentlest of skippings that Flora Tumbleden climbed over the garden wall.
The royal gaze, occupied at that very moment with the most serious of stately matters, the counting of the few remaining gold pieces, did not notice Flora’s stick-like form, despite the large knobbles of her nose, feet and hands.  Nor did the ever vigilant royal eye catch the flutter of the many-coloured petal-rags in which Flora’s friends were dressed.
The sound indeed that travelled to the royal ear was no louder than that of a common cabbage butterfly, and the hushed giggles of the tumbledowns might have been a mere whisper from the many flowers the king dressed his garden in.  And so the royal thought remained upon the shortages of the royal mint as the king counted out his holdings once again.
“One, two, three, four, five.”
Flora and her friends cared little for such important business, intent as they were upon matters of a mischievous sort.  Their eyes fixed firmly upon the purple petals of an aster, they climbed slowly up the long green stem, their sharp white teeth already imagining the golden crunch of the stamen, just as their bellies, stretched now and empty of food, longed for the rich sweetness of the aster’s pollen.
It was this, the most treasured of the garden’s delights that kept the fairies climbing on and on, past the thin green leaves, their tiny knobbled fingers stretching high above their heads and pulling their long, thin bodies upwards, causing their tired, brown feet to scrabble among the plant’s many fibres as they gave chase to their very own legs.
It might have been bedtime when they arrived on to the golden platform, so long was their climb, and the thought of the cosy petal hammocks in which they nightly slept made them cranky for their homes.  Only Flora, the naughtiest tumbledown of all, could still think of any wickedness.  She stepped forward on to the king’s flower, bowed low before her watching friends and spoke without a care.
            “I’m tall”, she announced in her most important, grown-up voice, “so tall I could eat a horseleech.”
The fairies laughed loud at these mischievous words, the thought of the slimy, black leeches wriggling down into their tummies, making them squirm and skip in delight.
            “I’m tall”, said Dente, taking up the fun and stepping forward to join his friend, “so tall I could eat a horse mushroom.”
This food, a favourite of the fairies, brought more laughter, and as they danced and skipped, not caring for the noise they made, Ferkel now joined the game.  Ferkel was the smallest of the tiny fairies, with a black tuft of hair on his round head.  He wore a bright red tulip tunic over his stick frame, and he stretched up on his toes as he spoke, his dark eyes glistening with naughty delight.
            “I’m tall,” he said, his voice as loud and important as the other two, “so tall I could eat a horseslip.”
This strange slip, better known for its attachment to a cow, brought no response at all from the waiting fairies.  The tumbledowns liked their silliness to make sense and so they looked on and waited, and as they did Ferkel’s eyes started to glisten now with sadness.  If it had not been for Flora’s wicked behaviour he would indeed have told them that he wished he had not come on the silly adventure at all.
But Flora knew that the best way to cure a fairy from his cranky words was to fill his belly with delicious food.  And so she broke the tallest stamen of them all, its yellow needle reddened from the rich juice it contained, and without any care for the king whose royal flowers she was proposing to eat she began the feast with a noisy, hungry chomp.
There was no need for sadness now, nor cranky thoughts of bed.  The fairies all were friends again and they danced and skipped and laughed as they fed, soon turning the tidy aster into a fairy mess.  It was to this mess that the king’s eye was drawn, but even as he reached for the spray it was sleep-time and they were gone, cosy in their hammocks, dreaming of the wicked deeds that would surely come when they awoke.

©2011 Padraig De Brún