The children have grown tired of your stories.
How can you say this? The children love my stories.
Do you not hear them groan when you announce it is story time?
And do you not hear them gasp in amazement and wonder when I tell my stories?
I do hear them, but you have mistaken their open mouths for what they are; loud yawning.
Enough! I shall tell them one more story and leave it to them to decide whether or not I should continue telling stories.
Children for this story I shall require your assistance. Along the way I will ask you for details that will shape the story to your liking. And no matter how you turn it, the story will end just as I planned. Now, if you’re game enough, we shall begin.
Once there was a Wild Man who lived on the fringes of the kingdom. He slept by day and by night he would wander into the fields and flatten the corn and wheat crops, or steal pigs and cows, and occasionally would foul the drinking wells with his garbage. Finally the King sent his men out to find the Wild Man but none could. Then one day came a…
A Blind Huntress!
A Blind Huntress then, and she promised to catch the Wild Man and bring him back to the King. The King scoffed, after all how could a Blind Huntress do what even his best knights, guards, and huntsman could not? Yet the King was at his wit’s end and agreed to give the Blind Huntress whatever she asked for if she succeeded. Her keen sense of smell allowed her to guide her horse to a river on the far edges of the kingdom. There she set down a bottle of bourbon, a bottle of whisky, and a bottle of beer, then went to lay in wait behind some nearby bushes. The Wild Man came and in quick succession drank the contents of all the bottles so fast that he almost instantaneously passed out cold. The Blind Huntress then casually was able to bind his hands and feet together and bring him to the King.
You thought that by making the Huntress blind that you could throw off my story, didn’t you children? In truth, there is nothing you could say or add that would alter the path this story takes, try as you might.
Is that it then? The Wild Man is caught?
Do you believe he would be so easily caught?
Very well. Let us see what comes next. So the Blind Huntress asks for her reward and leaves just as mysteriously as she came. The Wild Man in the meantime is locked up in a cage in the dungeon until the King can decide what to do with him. As it happens one of the King’s sons goes down into the dungeon to gawk at the prisoners and is so startled by the Wild Man that he drops his…
Drops his yo-yo and it rolls into the cage. The Boy demands the Wild Man return the yo-yo but the Wild Man insists the Boy come and get it himself. Thinking this frail old man is no serious threat the boy opens the cage and–
No, he shouldn’t open the cage? But he does! So now what happens?
It’s a trick! The Wild Man will escape!
He does? And what about the Boy?
He should… take the boy with him!
A kidnapping then! Very well. So the Wild Man uses the yo-yo string to hog tie the Boy and wedges the yo-yo into the Boy’s mouth to keep his quite while he steals away. He knows he will be hunted down again so the Wild Man carries the Boy to a far away kingdom where he is…
Forced to roll around in the mud!
And is then left in the care of…
The Emperor’s Gardener!
Are you sure you haven’t heard this story before, because that is precisely what happens next. The Gardener finds the Boy and asks him where he came from the Boy, fearing what the Wild Man might do to him, claims not to know how he got there. Every time the boy considered running away he would catch a glimpse of the Wild Man hiding behind a tree or a bush watching him. That night the Gardener set him up to sleep in a hay bin when the Wild Man visited in the night. He told the Boy to rise before the sun came up, wash himself and comb his hair, then put on some better clothes the Wild Man provided and he would find his life greatly changed for the better. The Boy did as he was told and in the morning found that the part of the garden where the Boy worked the day before had been transformed overnight into a lush landscape that even the Gardner could not have managed. Everyone was impressed, but especially the Emperor’s Daughter who gave the boy a gift of…
Stuffed with gold!
That’s quite a sum! So the Gardener set the Boy up in a different part of the palace grounds to work and see if he could reproduce his magic. And that night when the Wild Man visited the Boy gave him the gold and together they roasted the chicken and ate. It was clear to the Boy that the Wild Man had enchanted powers and began to feel he was better off not asking too many questions. The next morning the Boy awoke, and again that part of the royal grounds had transformed into a lush paradise in miniature. The Emperor’s Daughter rewarded him this time with…
A duck filled with silver!
Again with the bird, eh? So I suppose that when this happened a third time she gave him a…
A goose filled with diamonds!
Now that is a handsome reward, and as before the Boy handed over the prize to the Wild Man and they again feasted on the roasted meat. That night though the Wild Man warned the boy that come the morning he would need to prepare to accept whatever he was instructed to do and to trust that no harm would come to him. The next morning the Emperor himself came and found the Boy and told him his services were required. A neighboring country was on the verge of declaring war and the Boy would need to retrieve a message. When asked what he required the Boy requested…
A three-legged horse.
You would send a messenger into hostile territory on a three-legged horse?
Very well. As we know, the Wild Man was prepared for this and brought the boy to a mountain made of clay. The Wild Man cut a groove into the clay and opened the mountain like split beast until out came an army of soldiers. The WIld Man explained that the Boy had been sent on a suicide mission, that if he went alone he would be slaughtered and thus give the Emperor cause to start the war, as both sides were waiting for the other to strike first. Sure enough, the Boy arrived at the edge of the country and was met by a hostile army ready to slaughter him. Only the Wild Man’s army put down the invaders quickly. The Boy knew they would send for reinforcements and returned to warn the Emperor. He left the Wild Man’s army in the clay mountain along the way, as instructed, and when he told the Emperor that he’d held off the attack the Emperor’s court was both amused and confused.
Certainly they didn’t expect the boy to return – for that was the plan all along, to remove the boy who was clearly winning the heart of the Emperor’s Daughter – but they also could not believe he held off an army all alone on a three-legged horse. So the boy was sent back with a message of warning, and again he went with the Wild Man’s army, and again he won the battle and returned to the Emperor. After he was sent a third time the Boy returned with a note of unconditional surrender which granted the Emperor control over the newly acquired land. As there was nothing left but to admit the Boy had succeeded, the Emperor allowed his Daughter to reward the boy with a goat full of–
No? Should it be a bird of some kind? A turkey perhaps?
No! The Daughter and the Boy are married! That’s his reward.
Ah, but you see, the Daughter thinks the Boy is wealthy because of all the gold and silver and diamonds he’s been given, and when she learns that the Boy has given it all away and that they are dirt poor she leaves him. Heartbroken, the Boy returns to the Wild Man’s clay mountain and asks that he be buried with all the soldiers for the rest of his days. The end.
No! That’s not what happened.
It can’t be.
There has to be more to it. What of the Wild Man?
What of him?
And the Boy. It can’t end with him just like that.
So what happened then?
What really happened was that the Wild Man brought the Boy back home to his father the King. During the Boy’s time away the King had grown weak and frail with age, but seeing his son was now a young man with an Emperor’s Daughter for a wife he was overjoyed to hand over his kingdom to him. Seeing that it had all been for the better, the King forgave the Wild Man of his crimes.
Then the Boy and the Emperor’s Daughter returned to her father where they explained that the Boy was really a Prince and that he had inherited his kingdom. The Emperor was so ashamed at having thrice tried to send the Boy to his death that he begged forgiveness and his Daughter insisted that his Empire be handed over to the Boy, for he had rightly protected an won it. And it was done, and at that moment the curse that had been put on the Wild Man was lifted and he was revealed to be…
Shall I tell you?
The Wild Man was me.
When your mother was pregnant with you two she had a hankering for a salad made with kale, and I found some for her but it was in the garden of a witch, who was so mad at me for trampling in her garden that she placed the entire kingdom under a spell that sealed it in a mountain of clay…
But that’s a story for another night.