Up in the north in a castle lived a baron who had everything he could wish for. His estate was so vast one had to ride well and hunt well in order to be at home. Baron Tally-ho was always on horseback joining in hunt with dogs or drinking with cronies after a vigorous workout. Baroness was no less behind him. They were very sportive and muscular, and in pleasure coarse and earthy. They were loved by all.
Their only sorrow was their son who had no interest in hunting nor the pleasures of outdoor life. Despairing for the boy who spent days curled up in some book, reading or in solving puzzles, his father thought it best to send him out to the world. Baron Tally-ho sent his son Johan to Switzerland to learn something new. One year later he returned with a certificate. A certificate signed by the Dean of the Basle University for Abstruse Languages. Baron Tally-ho received his son with great delight and asked how did he find life in the open. Johan replied but not a word he could understand. His language was dead and the idea he wanted to convey was very abstruse. ‘This will not do!” said the father with a shudder. He sent him to another university and this time to Paris. One year later he came with his body all carved up. “What came over you son?” his parents queried shocked to their core. The boy spoke in argot and also the language of cut-purses and drunkards. “How dare they carve their names or who branded you with the letter V on both shoulders?” The parents were aghast. The boy said, he spent the year, with some scapegraces, a hectic year under the shadow of gibbet. “”Our master was none other than Francois Villon.”
“This is disaster!” thought the parents. Next he was sent far far away crossing the sea to a strange continent. “Honest to God, if Silicon Valley cannot straighten you nothing will”.
One year later the young man came and said whatever was to be learned was in the strange device he brought along. Thus Johan introduced his parents to the wonderful world of computing.
Internet Age it was. Proud parents as soon as they mastered the language said it was abstruse through and through. ” but it is easier to understand than Johan.” After they learned to navigate through Silk Road they said, ” In cyberspace we meet the murderous crew just as our son did in Paris. Well into the age of 600 years they lived never for a moment concerned about outdoor life. Father, mother and the son with their iPads ever after lived cocooned.
(ack: adapted from Brothers Grimm tale, ‘The Three Languages.”)
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The universal soldier came back in the middle of winter. If you thought he was quite done with war you are mistaken. The fort he came to was as true to a castle complete with moat, donjon and turrets. From far it caught his eye and marched he as though he would even skewer the devil for his right of entry. He just stopped to see if his entry was contested or not. No he was no mouse nor carried milk in his veins to balk even before the gates of hell.
Battle scarred he was and the sword clanked with every step to warn the folks to make themselves scarce.
The castle was ajar. He could see a blazing fire burning in the hall as he turned to cross drawbridge. He did not have to wait. The doormat carried a superscription across the unspotted width, “Take Rest”
So went he in as lord of the manor from hunt. He plopped into the large divan and without bothering to remove his boots he slept. How long did he sleep he would not recall but he just heard his name spoken and he instantly obeyed. It was familiar voice. His major had demanded him to check out the mirror on the south wall for further orders.
He found the wall and there was a mirror. The Army was definite in its facts. Did it ever fail him? No he went closer to read the instructions.
He saw the wall and as instructed he addressed in code for instructions. The mirror was specific where his company was to join battle. Instantly he marched to the place. He came back all the more bloody. He saw winter had given over to spring and he came back to the fort every time for further instructions.
Once he was somewhat taken aback by the bed of snow drops around the moat was as red as blood. He shrugged his shoulders and said that all the blood spilled must show up some place. “It cannot be helped.” He did not give it another thought.
Just as before he straightaway went to the divan neither looking to the right or to left. He fell asleep. The major once again called him up to say that there were seven knights who were to be taken out by single combat. He was to check the mirror for details.
“Terror, terror on the wall, / who is the bravest of all?”
For all the blood the soldier could not see the mirror. He took it that there was some snafu and he went back to sleep.
When he opened his eyes he saw seven dwarves around his divan. One said in an accusative tone,” You didn’t wipe your feet of blood. ” another one said, “You left blood all over the parquet floor. The third dwarf said, “You ruined the western wall! So did three other dwarves carp at the drowsy soldier.” The seventh dwarf came forward and said “where is my mirror? I cannot see my face for all the blood you shed.”
“It cannot be helped.” said the universal soldier.
The seven dwarves deliberated and the leader stepped towards him and said, ” We are not flesh and blood and this is an enchanted castle.” One dwarf anticipating violence said, “No blood letting, please.” The third one explained they were immune to his rage, Another dwarf offered him bread and water till his service ended.
“Service? You demand of me amends?” the soldier cried. “Yes”, replied the fifth gnome, “the mirror must be set to its pristine condition”
“Is this a dungeon then?” the soldier screamed, “You said it.”
answered the sixth little creature.
“Don’t try to follow us” cried the last dwarf with a wink, “doors, gates,windows,transom, clerestory windows, fan-light are all doing their job. ”
In that womb of silence the seven dwarves melting into thin air was imperceptible.
The soldier sat on the divan. Looking about he saw a thin beam of light falling on the south wall. But for that the outside world had shut itself on him.
(Adapted from Brothers Grimm)
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“Presto! The Gingerbread Boy made a leap and said, ‘The world is my stage. It is time I made a run for it.’ ”
posted in the story ‘Gingerbread Man Retold’-benny
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Posted in art, illustrations, stories, tagged art, Benny Thomas, fairy tales, forest scene, fractured fairy tales, illustration, pen and ink, stories, the golden goose on April 8, 2012 |
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The Golden Goose ©
Simpleton was not expected to amount much so in the family he was least cared for. His father a woodcutter wanted his children to follow his footsteps. Dow the eldest was as sturdy as his father and Bo was of middling abilities but his brawn was as good as his elder brother. So they got special consideration from all.
Simpleton of course was a 95-pound weakling.
After a severe winter the woodcutter felt ill and took to bed. Since he could not go into the woods and meet his commitments he sent his eldest son instead. Next morning Dow went to the woods with his lunch. On his way he saw a fellow who said he had a hangover after drinking moonshine. ‘Gimme that bottle of milk so I may soothe my innards.’
‘No way,’ said Dow. He knew he would be hungry by mid-day he went to the woods, irritated. In a temper he directly got swinging his axe. Wildly wood chips burst about him. Because he didn’t check the axe that was idle for long he didn’t notice the blade was loose. In the middle of a swing it went flying. Going in search of it he fell into a trap set for bears. Poor Dow! He lay in agony till he was rescued next day by a team of villagers.
Next it was the turn of Bo who was superstitious. He took his axe and went by another route than his brother had taken. On the way he saw a black cat chasing a goose and he knew his day’s work was doomed. He had a hunch and was put out. Along came a man with heavy built frame to retrieve the cat.’Morning, mister’ he said. In response he glared at him.
The brute stood there with his mouth agape. He caught the eye of Bo and wheedled, ‘Gimme the ham from your sandwich for a poor cat.’ Bo wondered ‘How did he know that I had ham sandwiches in my knapsack?’ Looking how the black cat was staring at him he knew that it was devil’s work.
‘Be gone, you foul magician!’ Bo crossed himself and ran off.
Rest of the day he was shaking with dire forebodings and it was expected that he would get into scrape. Naturally his hunch was right. He injured himself. He limped that evening home.
Next morning the sick woodcutter called Simpleton and said, ‘I or your brothers cannot go into the woods.’ Much as he hated sending him to the woods he knew the job had to be done. So he said, ‘ If you can’t swing the axe find someone who will.’
Simpleton asked if he could hire someone. His mother stepped in to say, ‘Where is the money for it, son?’ His parents were sure that if he were to be led at every turn it was prudent to please those who could. ‘ Put your neck out for a leash if you want to be of use, son’ thus his father admonished him.
Simpleton left for the woods.
On the way he saw an old man who was sitting on a bole and said he was an out of work actor. Because of his age the company of actors left him there to starve, he said.
‘How cruel!’ muttered Simpleton.
‘Did they not leave at least something for you to live on?’ he asked.
‘Oh why should they?’ the old man said, ‘if one cannot lead the world then one has to expect to be led.’
Simpleton recalled his father’s words that morning. He felt pity and sat by the old man. ‘It is only fair then that we who are no good for leading the world care for each other.’ He held out half share of his lunch and the old man hungrily took and ate. ‘It really came no sooner.’ Said the old man as he sat up picking up the crumbs carefully. They exchanged news and the old man knew Simpleton was not appreciated, as he deserved. At that moment a black cat came out of nowhere and positioned itself facing Simpleton. The cat cried hungrily and Simpleton poured milk in a saucer and pushed it forward. The cat slurped it greedily while its owner came to the scene.
The man took off his battered hat and said he was so pleased with his kindness. He saw the axe that Simpleton had. ‘Isn’t that too heavy for you to carry about?’ Simpleton nodded. The heavyset man queried ‘What can I do for you?’ Simpleton told him that wood has to be cut and he was as he noticed too weak to wield an axe. ‘Oho, it is a very simple task and I shall help you.’ The cat’s owner saw a goose and pointed it to him. At that moment the cat got into some sort of fit and began running in circles as though it was possessed. The man in his battered hat cried in passion, ‘I am so confused by that silly bird. It has been following me for a week. Why I can’t tell. Only that it drives my cat completely crazy!’ Simpleton went out and picked the goose and the cat instantly became very quiet.’ There, there, it is strange’ the cat’s owner said. Asking him to keep an eye on his cat he went into the woods. By sundown he brought a heap of wood. Simpleton wondered how he was going to carry them home. The old actor who was asleep for good part of the day assured the boy that he would see to that. The old man said, ‘ Leave that axe and the wood’ He promised to see that they reached his father safely. Simpleton was grateful. ‘The old man said, ’It is time you took a chance with your fortunes.’
‘What with one goose that has no place to go?’
The old man cackled and said, ‘Yes if it cannot lead, all that remains is you gotta take the lead.’
The old man was gone on his errand and the man with the black cat said he had to get going. Thus simpleton was left alone with a goose.
‘Follow me to fame and fortune, as the old actor said,’ Simpleton
Thus Simpleton walked a good length with the goose by his side. He entered an inn for the night. The innkeeper had three daughters who could not help laughing seeing how serious he was. ‘How can I not be serious, with a golden goose?’ said he snapping out of his reverie. ‘A golden goose?’ they laughed all the more.
Simpleton fled them and shut the door in their faces. Next morning when he stepped out he carried the goose in the crook of his arm. Unknown to him the eldest came behind him and slapping his back she said Boo!’ She was stuck and she could not free herself. She gasped in fright and her two sisters quickly came to her rescue. But they were also held fast.
The innkeeper heard the commotion and came out to investigate. He chided Simpleton for his prank.
‘What prank, sir?’
‘’You think you can lead my daughters astray?’
Simpleton said, ‘I just want to be on my way and your daughters do not want me to.’
The inn-keeper tried to reason with his daughters but they cried, ‘We want to be led by none other than him.’ The innkeeper got furious and pulled the last daughter by her hair and he was also stuck.
Simpleton thought it was going too far. He pushed the goose away and said, ‘Can’t you see we are on our way to fame and fortune?’ Just as he let go the goose the file became loose and the innkeeper took charge. He herded his daughters back to the inn.
‘You lazy creatures, back to work!’ he cried.
But the youngest turned back and said, ‘No I shall not work among your pots and pans.’ She stood her ground and the innkeeper in the end had to let her go. She ran and caught up with Simpleton and said, ‘I am with you all the way.’
‘Agreed.’ Said Simpleton. They were so happy with one another and they laughed so much that the goose could not help but lay an egg. A golden egg!
It didn’t however stop their joy.
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Billy Beg and His Bull ©
Long, long ago there was a kingdom that spread about the valley of Cork in Ireland. It was so fertile that the beeves grazing there were fat, – it must have been the grass that fed on milk and honey, and they certainly made the king very wealthy. The palace as a result must have seemed more like a stall for cattle. They moved about in and out of the palace grounds, men and beasts alike, and were contented lot. The Queen looked after the buttery, and the larder well stocked with cheese, meat spoke well of her industry.
They had one son whose name was Billy Beg.
Billy Beg had a bull and they were inseparable.
When the Queen was laid with an incurable illness she begged her husband to see that he never separated them. The King wondered if placing a bull by the throne of the future king was a good idea. ‘The king should have his first counselor by his side and not a bull.’
The Queen pointed out his minister who, she said was a pig.
‘Lord Mountjoy, a pig!’ the king exclaimed, ‘no he is as much a man as I am.’ The king defended his first counselor.
The dying Queen hissed, ’only in form but in everything else a pig of the worst sort.’ The king got the idea. So after his wife died he saw to that Billy Beg remained as close to his bull as before and it did the boy a lot of good. But when the King remarried the new Queen who came from across the seas condemned everything she laid her eyes on. She thought the palace was a regular sty and the food unpalatable.
She got rid of Lord Mountjoy and instead she installed Lady Agatha, the hen woman, a witch brought from London. The latter had a rooster and it crowed daily and the king and the subjects were expected to keep regular hours.
The men were asked to grow potatoes than cattle and eat it daily. Thus she had changed everything that Billy Beg was used to. Whenever he ate bread and dipped it in mutton stew she grumbled that only oafs in her country ate thus.
From the king down to the varlet were required to eat potatoes and the king quietly fell to the new fare.
Scarcely had she got her hands on the controls she knew a bull roaming in and around the palace halls was a disgrace. She insisted that the King had the bull, the inseparable companion of Billy Beg, slaughtered.
Rather than face the displeasure of the Queen the King one evening sent for his son.
The king took him privately aside and with many a tear in his eye confided that he was inconsolable. ‘But son, this throne shall be yours by birthright. So come back when you have made a name for yourself.’
Billy Beg loved his father and comforted him, ‘Cheer up father, At least you spared me from seeing my friend butchered.’ He promised to come back. Without any delay he took his bull and went out into the darkness.
After couple of years one day he heard the hateful stepmother was dead and he returned home. His bull also accompanied him.
Much had happened to the King. He was older and worn out. However he warmly welcomed his son.
Billy Beg was surprised to see the cock and the King smiled sheepishly,’ My late wife left me this in her remembrance.’ Billy Beg pointed to his bull and pulled out a napkin out of his ear.
‘Spread it out and we shall sup grandly!’ crowed the rooster,
The king looked at the cock in awe. Billy Beg in excitement said, ’Father the cock said it truly!’ The royal jaw dropped and Billy Beg said he would retrieve a piece of stick from his right ear.
Next moment Billy Beg produced the stick and the bull said, ‘Wind it over your head three times, Billy!’
Before he could do it he saw his father falling down heavily.
The King was lathering his mouth in foam and rolling his eyes as though he could not believe his eyes any more.
Billy told the Bull that his father could not take it any more.’
Billy Beg went to his aid and made him sit up and told him soothingly,’ Forget what the cock said. Also of the bull’
By and by the king came around. ‘ I will be all right, Son. It just happens that I had too much of this cock and bull story.’(Old Irish Tale)
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Posted in stories, tagged Benny Thomas, Bremen, cat, dog, donkey, fractured fairy tales, German folk tales, humor, rooster on March 29, 2012 |
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Shmuck had always thought he was the most likely to succeed in his class. When he graduated with distinction he went to work for a gnome in Zurich. He slaved like a donkey to make the House of Black Friars the biggest bank. But one day he was shown the door. When he went out the portier feeling sad asked if he had thought of singing for his supper. Shmuck was an expert at it and he said, ‘Show me the color of money I will make my guitar weep.’ Finally he said, ‘I shall go to Bremen that lies at the end of the rainbow.’
That was how Shmuck hit the road. With a song in his heart and without a care except his severance pay and it weighed heavily in his pocket. Before long he met a fellow who sang only one tune and his imitation of Elvis Presley was fantastic. When he sang the number ‘Hound Dog’ even late king turned in his grave to say in sepulchral tone, ‘I am stoned, man!’. Poor ‘Bulldog’ Drummond was a private eye but the Eye in the Sky made his position redundant. ‘Technology stepped on my blue suede shoes.’ he confided in his new friend. ‘I am done in, friend.’
‘No you are not.’ said Shmuck.
Mr. Shmuck added, ‘We shall conquer Bremen!” Mr. Drummond didn’t know what was special about Bremen but the way Shmuck, the donkey described it,’ It was Graceland prim and proper’.
A little further the two came across a drag queen. ‘I am Meeow’ and asked them to follow the rules if they expected to conquer Bremen.’I am It to you but Alley Cat to others.’
The two were surprised that there were such rules for one who played coy and played like a jerk in next. ‘Meeow likes to purr!’ said It cheerily.
‘Can you sing?’
‘O I sing flat like no other!’ replied It coyly.
‘Just me and my Jewish harp!’
‘You will do’ said the other two.
In the town they came next was a popinjay and he strutted while they were supping in a roadside diner. They saw his outlandish dress and exaggerated manners and asked him to join them.’ I came to this town hoping to buy a suit most sober for an undertaker.’ He said, ‘I wanted this gray suit that I saw hanging in a shop window. Since buying it I got a funeral parlor as if I had pressed some magic button.’ He added how it got into his head to strut about like a rooster since every wish began coming true. He ended saying,’ I lost it all since townsfolk thought a high kicking undertaker who had a joke for every wake was giving death a bad name.’
‘Call Me Dude, the rooster.’ Dude wasn’t in the least bothered by his losses. As he said he intended to make his loss add to his personality. ‘But can you sing? They anxiously asked him. He said he was a rapper.
‘Some times I am adenoidal, but mostly I prefer off-key’ replied he.
‘I take the rap/ for the sick/ that so-ciety yiee yiee is,/Of course I am the sim-simp-tom!’
The three immediately took him. They didn’t know what he meant but it sounded very musical to them.
Thus the four went to a town and they said they should sleep early since they would be wowing the folks of Bremen next morning.
“All the more reason we should paint the town red.’ insisted Dude the rooster.
So they let Dude to arrange a card party. The inn-keeper said ‘you play but I take my cut’.
They agreed. Ten thalers a point they played for high stakes. The four musicians were losing like a roller coaster that had missed rail some hours earlier. The donkey whispered in between to ask Meeow if It knew what was going on. The drag queen threw Its hand and said,’ Even the folks from Bremen have come pouring to take us on.’ It was true. The news went around about four musicians who were hell bent to lose. ‘Ah this is the lowest form of self-advertisement,’ one worthy gent observed,’ they are bent on making the city of Bremen to sit and take note.’
The game was in full swing. He directly put a duffel bag full of money to play against the four.
The fellows of Bremen took turns to play against these four and in the end the four owed the city of Bremen 6 million thalers not counting the sundry losses the four had incurred in playing against other guests in the inn. Only the innkeeper seemed to be pleased. He had his cut while the four musicians played a losing game.
The Mayor after a week’s game stood up and demanded the four musicians to make good of their losses. ‘We won good and proper.’
Mr. Dude the rooster let out a cry ‘cock a doodle doo.’
When asked what he meant he said, ‘Nothing’ that will stand up in a court of law.’
The other three pointed to each other and said, ‘We shall sing for your suppers, considering you shall be kicked out of the City Hall for gambling away the reputation and assets’.
The folks of Bremen looked at each other angrily while the four musicians smiled. They knew all along they gambled for nothing. The good folks of Bremen were disappointed and angry.’ They surrounded the Mayor and their councilors saying, ‘You all are a bunch of crooks!’
In the end the four musicians of Bremen formed an association of sorts. They would help those who were thrown out of their office. They sang for their suppers at inns and the customers invariably paid up before they warmed up before tables. One thought their heart was in the right place but their sounds caterwauling.
The Four musicians survived in spite of this.
Years later they became the stuff legends are made of, but somewhat altered in the real facts. There is a famous statue commemorating the four in the city of Bremen.( based on an old German Tale)
(Posted here earlier-and in Elves Bells.)
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Once upon a time Chicken Little was walking along the village lane and saw a gaggle of geese going in a file. He crossed the lane in order to see them better. One goose stepped smartly and stepped on his little toe and it hurt. He flapped his tiny wings and was all astir. ‘This must be war!’ Chicken Little was certain. He ran to tell his Mama. But Mother Hen said geese were not on warpath. Chicken Little didn’t like to be proved wrong. So he asked, ‘How can you be sure of what I have seen, Mama?’ Mother Hen knew that she had to come up with a better answer to silence him. ‘It is common knowledge, Chicken Little,’ Mother Hen giving him an indulgent look said, ‘Had you laid as many eggs as I have, you will know you have been shooting your mouth.’ Chicken Little stood his ground and said, ‘But I felt its brutal thrust, yes I did.’ Chicken Little still staring at the scratch said,’ The goose-stepping marauders are on the war path.’ Mother Hen shooed him to attend to his supper and sleep off. Chicken Little did as he was told.
Later in the evening when the rooster came home Mother Hen lost no time in telling the news. ‘Order for mobilization has gone out. Geese have been given their marching orders.’
The Rooster said, ‘Is my comb all in order, Dearie?’
‘You are not getting mixed up in any of this?’
‘Sure I am,’ The Rooster crowed, ‘A war comes and I cannot let it go by.’
The rooster already saw himself as a Field Marshall. Mother Hen cackled in frustration. But Mr. Cock-a-lock said firmly, ‘I do not ask why I was given such colors when I cut a figure in a fight.’ Without so much as a good bye he preened himself and made a right about turn to face his imaginary enemies. Mother Hen ran a little behind him telling, ‘Go There shall be drumbeats and trumpets blaring as you march off. But when you return there shall be none.’
The rooster stopped dead in his tracks and looking at Mother Hen he said, ‘Lay your eggs if that cheer you up but leave the war to me.’ Without waiting to hear reason the Rooster merely marched on promising not to come back without covering himself in glory. On the way he met Porky who just had wallowed in mud and was feeling frisky. Porky saw Rooster and hollered, ‘What is the tearing hurry, Mr. Cock-a-lock? The Rooster mentioned a war had been declared. ‘How do you know that?’ Porky was not taking things at their face value. He countered it by asking, ‘ Tell me in a way I can understand: why would geese march in formation, goose-stepping across the country if not for war?’
Porky took time to digest this and the Rooster made a turn as though he had his baton already, ‘It is time to cover myself in glory.’ Porky didn’t buy this talk about glory. He grunted to admit,’ I covered myself in mud and let me tell you, and I feel great.’ The Rooster went off all spruced up. On the way he saw a Turkey who said war never appealed to him. The Rooster suggested he could prove his mettle. ‘Only war can take us to the top.’
The Rooster was sure war always ended in great rejoicing. ‘Don’t you wish when the President reads out recipients for Medal for Valor and you are among them?’
Mr. Turkey excused his lack of enthusiasm and said, ‘A war always ends badly for us. There will be thanksgiving and invariably we end on the occasion stuffed with sage. ’
The rooster thought the trouble with the world was they had no stomach for war. ‘There is a war and Mr. Turkey is already reaching wrong conclusions.’ He was certain he would not like to spend company with such fearful fowls.
On the way the rooster saw a fox and asked where the recruiting office was. The Red Fox saw the plump cockerel and said, ‘What a magnificent get up!’ Mr. Cock-a lock felt pleased. He returned the compliment, ‘You look no bad yourself‘
Yes Mr. Fox had his whiskers neatly drawn to a point and his thick tail fluttered, ‘’But are you dressed for the occasion?’
‘I hope I am,’ the rooster said somewhat shaken by the commanding presence of the fox.
‘Mr. Fox,’ the rooster stuttered,’ I ho-ho-hope you don’t think I will shy away when war has been declared?’
‘No, no’ the fox was certain, ‘ but you could do with more medals.’
The rooster crowed, ‘Cock-a doodle doo! That is why I am here to enlist.’
The rooster reminded again the fox where he was to enlist. The fox led him to his den where he asked the rooster to be bound over. ‘Why?’
‘Discipline, discipline. Think of it when your comrade’s life is in your hand. If you don’t have it you put your comrade’s life in danger. Think where this lack of discipline will lead to?’
Mr. Fox was very convincing and the cockerel was sure that the nation’s life was safe in his hands. Thus the cock let himself tied and taken to deeper recesses where he saw heaps of bones chewed clean. Shrugging at the mess the fox observed they were recruits who had no stomach for discipline.
Brightening up Mr. Fox looked at the trussed up cock and said, ‘Have no fear. But I have discipline that is far greater than all they had.’
(reprinted from Elves Bells of Nov.9-’10)
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