This still doesn’t have a title. “Birdie” is still a placeholder. In the tradition of fairy tales, it’s the main character’s name, but I don’t like it. Anyway, this was written for my Fall 2011 class on Reading and Writing Children’s Literature. It’s a story I started writing when I was in fifth grade, actually, and it just got a teensy tiny bit modified for the fairy tale assignment in an undergraduate class.
Across the wide blue ocean and over the tall white mountains, deep in the land of Maihem, was a small village called Meisur. The people of Meisur lived simple, peaceful lives. On the very edge of the village, in a tiny, run-down shack, lived three sisters.
The oldest one was always angry, always insisting that things be done her way, always wanting the best of everything. That was a problem, because the sisters were so poor that they could hardly afford the worst of anything, let alone the best. The second sister was quiet and refined, always wanting to do the right thing but so scared of doing the wrong thing that she mostly did nothing.
The youngest sister was the one who took care of the family, since her two older sisters couldn’t or wouldn’t. But since they were so poor, the sisters couldn’t buy anything from the village’s market, and the oldest sister forced the youngest sister to look for food in the forest. At first, the youngest sister was afraid to go into the big forest on the edge of the village, but soon the birds began to guide her to all the best spots to gather berries and nuts, and they steered her away from the plants that weren’t good for eating. When her sisters found out about this, they called her “Bird Whisperer,” or Birdie for short.
Now, the people of Meisur lived in the shadow of the huge house on the hill, where a giant was rumored to live. No one in Meisur had ever seen the giant, until one day, a gremlin flew into the village of Meisur, beating its leathery wings and baring its fanged teeth. Everyone scrambled to get out of its way as it flew right over to the big oak in the village square and tacked up a sign reading “My birthday is next week, and I want presents. Every one of you must give me three gold coins, including the babies. Make sure you pay me by the end of the week. You don’t want me to have to come down there. Signed, the giant.”
So a giant really did live in that big house up on the hill. But most of the people of Meisur were not rich, and they wondered how they were going to afford three gold coins each.
But then Pinch, the richest man in the village, got up in the center of the village square and said, “I have a solution! Last week, I found a pile of gold coins in the forest. I will give you all the coins you need to pay the giant. Line up outside my house.”
Now, everyone was really shocked that Pinch would offer this because though he was the richest man in the village, living in a fancy mansion, Pinch never, ever helped anyone else. He used all his money for himself and charged the highest amount he could for the things he sold. He loved money, and he never parted with a cent if he could help it.
But now, when he offered to give everyone the coins they needed to pay the giant, the villagers thought he had a change of heart and wanted to give his money to help others. So everyone applauded him and lined up outside Pinch’s mansion, where he started giving out the coins. When Birdie and her sisters came up to the door, Pinch looked at them and laughed.
“You!” he said. “You won’t get any of this money. When do you ever contribute to the village? Why should we help you when you just spend time away from everyone else in your sorry little shack at the edge of the village?”
“But we are a part of the village!” Birdie’s oldest sister shouted. “The giant will expect gold coins from us too, and we have no way of paying! Why shouldn’t we get what everyone else gets?”
“Why is that my problem?” Pinch looked down his nose at them. “You’re not getting anything from me. Now get out of my house!”
“Come on,” the second sister said timidly, pulling her older sister away. “He doesn’t have any obligation to us. He’s right – we have to provide for ourselves. It’s our responsibility, not his.”
The oldest sister stomped back to their shack and began pacing up and down, gesticulating wildly and yelling about how they deserved the gold just as much as everyone else, and they needed to get the gold, and they wanted to get it from Pinch, and how else would they pay for it!
And the second sister kept pulling at her older sister’s sleeve and trying to calm her down, frightened of the noise she was making and afraid of what the whole village would think when they heard the raging noise from their shack.
Birdie sat and watched her sisters storm and plead, thinking and thinking. Then, “I’ve got it!” Birdie yelled. “If Pinch found the coins in the forest, maybe there’s more gold there! We should go look for it!”
Her sisters stopped and looked at her. “Yes,” said the oldest. “You should go look for it.”
“Me?” asked Birdie. “Can’t we all go together?”
“It’s freezing outside,” said the second sister. “There’s no point in all of us going. And you know the forest best. It only makes sense for you to go.”
So Birdie slipped out and began to walk in the forest. A blanket of snow covered the ground and crunched under Birdie’s feet. She shivered and wrapped her thin cloak more tightly around her shoulders. She combed every inch of the forest floor, sweeping away snow and turning over rocks, but she found nothing. The birds flew onto her shoulders and twittered at her, then flew away, leading her to their best hiding places, but all she found there were berries and nuts. These were the birds’ treasures, but not the treasure she was looking for.
Soon she was deeper into the forest than she had ever gone. She continued walking until she came across a wall of rock with an opening. Freezing now, and sniffling with the cold, she ducked into the cave for a bit of warmth.
As soon as she stepped in, a blast of fire shot out at her. She gasped, and inhaled smoke, and coughed and coughed. “What was that?” she demanded.
“That was me,” a deep voice resounded from within the cave. “And who are you?”
“I’m Birdie,” Birdie replied. “Who are you?”
“I,” the voice said, and Birdie saw shadows moving on the wall, “am a dragon.” And the dragon moved into the thin light beaming in from the entrance of the cave.
“A dragon!” Birdie gasped. “I’m sorry for disturbing you, but I was looking for – for – atchoo!” And she sneezed so loud that it reverberated in the cave until her eardrums hurt.
“Are you cold?” the dragon asked curiously.
“Yes, I’m cold. I’ve been walking in the snow with nothing but this old rag, and I haven’t eaten, and I have to find nine gold coins by the end of the week, and I looked all over the forest, and I don’t know what else to do, and –”
The dragon sighed. Birdie felt the warmth of its breath rush over her.
“Could you do that again?” she asked. “That warms me up.”
“Seriously?” the dragon said. “You barge into my den, and then you tell me all your troubles, and then you ask a favor without apologizing? What kind of manners is that?” But it breathed out a bit of fire, and Birdie felt her bones loosen up with warmth.
“Atchoo!” Birdie sneezed again and the fire went out.
“Don’t sneeze on me,” the dragon said in an annoyed tone. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you nine gold coins, and then will you leave me alone?”
“Oh!” Birdie said. “Do you have nine gold coins?”
“Do I have – do I have –” the dragon spluttered. “What kind of dragon do you think I am? Of course I have gold! Come look at my treasures!” And it led Birdie into the back of the cave, where piles and piles of gold and silver gleamed in the light of the dragon’s fire.
“Oh, dragon!” Birdie exclaimed. “How lucky I am that I found your cave!”
“Yeah, you’re lucky,” the dragon grumbled. “Me, not so much. Here,” and it pushed a pile of gold coins to Birdie’s feet. “Take nine.”
So Birdie did, and with lots and lots of thanks, she left the cave and started walking back to the village. A stream of fire shot after her as she left. “And don’t come back!” the dragon yelled.
Birdie’s sisters looked at the nine gold coins that Birdie brought home with satisfaction. They put the coins into a threadbare bag with their names on it, and along with all the other bags from the rest of the village, they gave it to the gremlin who returned at the end of the week to collect the gifts.
After the excitement of that week, Meisur settled back into its normal routine. But the routine was again interrupted when the gremlin flew back into town, and, cackling evilly, tacked another notice onto the big oak. It read, “You all thought you would trick me, but I’m a lot smarter than you think. You gave me magic gold coins, and they disappeared, and now I have to punish you. I will come down to your village and punish you, except Birdie and her sisters, who gave real gold coins. Signed, the giant.”
“Magic gold coins?” said the first man to read the sign. “Magic gold coins? Pinch, what did you do?!”
Pinch cackled as evilly as the gremlin had. “You’ll all pay for it now! I didn’t find those coins in the forest! I made them with magic! They all disappeared after ten days, and you’re so greedy that you took them and now you’ll pay! That’ll teach you to want to take my money!”
“Pinch,” said a woman quietly. “The notice says Birdie and her sisters gave real gold coins, but not you. You’re included in the punishment.”
“What? What?” Pinch pushed his way to the front of the crowd and read the notice. “Oh no! I must have taken my coins from the wrong pile! What will I do now?”
“Well,” said another man harshly, “you’ll have to pay along with the rest of us, won’t you?”
“No. No, I’ll run away.” And Pinch dashed into his mansion and came back put with a bag over his shoulder and a canteen of water in his hand. “I’ll get away before the giant can catch me.”
“It’s no use,” a woman called out. “The giant will find you wherever you go.”
But Pinch ignored her and walked quickly out of the village and down the road.
The whole village stood in the square. It was completely silent as they all thought about what would happen. Then they heard loud sounds of thunder. They looked up at the sky, but there were no clouds in sight.
“Quick! Everyone into Pinch’s mansion!” someone screamed, and they all ran to get inside. They looked out the windows fearfully. The sky grew dark, and the thunder grew louder. Suddenly the thunder stopped, but no light came into the house.
And then there was a roar so loud it made the ceiling tremble.
“Come out of there!” a voice bellowed. “I know you’re in there, and I’ll break down the house if I have to!”
The villagers timidly opened the door and saw two huge legs standing right in front of the mansion. “Get on out here!” the giant boomed again. “You can’t get away from me! One of you tried, but I already caught him!” And the giant patted his stomach.
“Pinch!” the villagers gasped. “He ate Pinch!”
The villagers all trembled, and they were too terrified to leave the safety of the house. They slammed the door shut and huddled together inside.
The giant sighed. “You don’t want to make me have to do this. Just come out.”
But the villagers couldn’t. The next thing they knew, the roof began to cave in.
“I’m going to keep pushing down until you’re all crushed if you don’t come out right now!”
And the roof kept getting lower and lower. And then it hit the head of the tallest man in the room.
Birdie’s older sister was the first to push her way to the door and run out.
“I’m out! I’m out!” she screamed. Don’t crush me!”
The giant looked down at her. “Are you Birdie?”
“No, but I’m her sister! I’m the one who sent her to get the real gold coins! It’s not my fault that everyone else gave magic coins! You can’t hurt me!”
“I don’t want to hurt you. I want Birdie and your other sister to come out here also.” And the giant turned back to the mansion and put his huge hand back on the roof and bellowed, “Birdie! Get out here!”
So Birdie and her other sister timidly came out of the mansion and looked way way up at the giant.
“Please don’t hurt them,” Birdie begged. “They didn’t mean to do anything wrong.”
“But they did,” whispered the second sister. “Even though they didn’t mean to, they did do something wrong.”
Birdie ignored her and looked at the giant. “Please.”
“NO!” roared the giant. “I wanted gold and I didn’t get it! Someone has to pay! And if you don’t get out of my way, I’ll eat you too!”
And the giant stretched out a hand to Birdie. Birdie jumped back, but not before the giant’s hand grabbed a handful of her hair. Birdie bit her lip at the pain of it as the giant lifted her up by the roots of her long brown hair.
“I want what I want, and I get what I want!” the giant yelled directly into Birdie’s ear. “You stay out of my way!” And he dropped Birdie down on the ground. She scrambled to her feet and stumbled out of the giant’s reach where her sisters stood.
The giant put his hand back on the roof. “I really will crush you if you don’t come out now!”
So the villagers all came out of the mansion, and the giant tied them together with a long rope. Birdie and her sisters stood at the side, watching helplessly as the giant led the long line of villagers out of the village and up the road toward the huge house on the hill.
When they were gone, Birdie turned to her sisters. “We have to do something!” she said urgently.
“Why?” asked her oldest sister. “They didn’t help us, why should we help them?”
But Birdie didn’t listen. “What could we do? What could we do?” she worried, pacing back and forth. Then she stopped. “I’ve got it! What is strong enough to fight a giant? A dragon is!”
“A dragon!” gasped the second sister. “But a dragon will hurt all the villagers as well as the giant! We can’t trust the dragon!”
“Let them get hurt,” sniffed the oldest sister. “None of them stood up for us when we needed them, so why are you standing up for them now?”
But Birdie was determined to help the villagers, and she trusted the dragon not to harm them. So she sped off through the woods to the cave of the dragon.
She knocked on the cave wall. “Dragon?” she called.
“Go away,” came a faint voice from inside the cave. “I told you not to come back.”
“But we need your help,” Birdie said. “A giant took away all the villagers, and I thought maybe you could burn him up –”
“I can’t,” said the dragon, and it came to the opening of the cave. Birdie gasped. Its eyes were red and swollen, and its nose was dripping. “Look what you did to me,” it said. “You gave me a cold, and now I can’t even keep myself warm.”
“But you’re our only hope! Please, please help us!”
“I’m sick,” the dragon said plaintively. “I’m the one who needs help.”
“I’ll cook you up a hot bowl of chicken soup when we get back, but I can’t do it now because we need to hurry! The giant already ate one person!”
The dragon turned its head to look at Birdie with one eye. “Chicken soup? That sounds good. Will that help my cold?”
“It always helps me – when we have chickens to cook, which hasn’t been very often lately.”
“That’s not a problem,” the dragon said, heaving itself to its feet. “I can give you chickens if you’ll cook the soup for me.”
“I will,” Birdie promised, “but only if you come help us now.”
“But I told you, I don’t have any fire. This cold wiped it all out.”
“I think the giant will be scared of you anyway. Just come!”
“All right,” the dragon grumbled. “I’ll come, but don’t expect anything great to happen.”
So Birdie led the dragon through the forest, into the village, and onto the road leading up to the giant’s house. The line of villagers was still making its way up the road, but now there were three empty spots at the back of the line.
“Oh no!” Birdie said. “The giant ate three more people!”
“What do you want me to do?” muttered the dragon.
“Just – just be fierce or something,” Birdie said.
So the dragon ran over to the giant and opened its mouth. Nothing came out. No fire, no smoke.
The giant looked at the dragon. “Who are you?” it asked. “Do you have presents for me?”
“Presents!” yelled the dragon. “No, I have something else for you if you don’t let these people go!”
The giant laughed. “Make me!”
The dragon looked at Birdie with an accusatory look that plainly said “I told you so.”
Birdie stepped forward bravely. “Giant, please listen to us. We – ”
But with a gasp of pain, Birdie stopped speaking as the giant once again grasped her hair and lifted her to its eye level.
“I told you to stay out of my way! I will do what I want to do, and if you try to stop me, it’s your fault that you get hurt.”
“Now listen,” Birdie said sternly, eyes watering from the pain. “You can’t just get upset with everyone who – ”
She broke off as the giant shook her, so hard that her teeth rattled in her head.
“Put her down!” the dragon said, coming nearer to the giant.
The giant laughed. “Make me!”
“Well,” said the dragon to the giant, “I would if I could, but I – I – atchoo!” And it sneezed a great big sneeze right on the giant.
The giant started with surprise and dropped Birdie. Then it began to laugh.
“Hahaha! Is that all you can do? You’re just a pathetic little dragon who can’t even – can’t even – atchoo!” And it sneezed a great big sneeze. “What did you do to me?” it yelled.
The dragon laughed, and a bit of smoke twirled out of its nose. “Birdie gave me this cold, and now you have one, too!” it said. “Wait for it –” And it sneezed again, right onto the giant. “Atchoo!”
“Nooo!” wailed the giant, and it leaned back its head, sniffling. “Ah – ah – atchoo!” And as it sneezed, a little boy flew out of the giant’s nose and landed on the ground. “Atchoo!” And a man flew out to join the boy. “Atchoo!” And a woman flew out to join them, too. The three of them hugged each other and cried, and all the villagers clapped.
“We’re free! We’re free!” said the woman.
“He can’t eat us now!” said the little boy.
But the giant was leaning his head back, trying and trying not to sneeze. But he couldn’t help it. “ATCHOO!!” he sneezed, the biggest sneeze of all. And he exploded from the force of the sneeze, bits of his body scattering to every end of the hill.
The villagers all cheered and yelled, “Hurray for the dragon!”
The dragon smiled and preened. But then it said, “Well, really you should thank Birdie. She was crazy enough to ask a dragon for help, and crazy enough to think that a sick dragon could help.”
“Hurray for Birdie!” the villagers all yelled.
When the dust settled, the villagers saw something stirring in the bits of the giant. A head appeared then. It was Pinch. He was covered in slime and stomach juices. He climbed slowly out of the mess as everyone else watched.
“Help me,” he said.
“Help yourself,” said the villagers, and they turned back to Meisur, carrying Birdie on their shoulders as the dragon flew overhead back to its cave.
Pinch slunk back to the village, but the villagers all banded together against him once and for all. They seized his mansion and gave it to Birdie, who fixed the roof and then invited her sisters to join her there. And Pinch was forced to live in the tiny shack at the edge of the village. But Birdie gave him a large stack of gold from the treasure that was once his, so he didn’t have to forage in the forest for food.
And Birdie cooked chicken soup for the dragon even though it was all better.