Image Credit: Parna Sil
Down the valley in the south of Riverdale, there was a small, merry town named Lockweed. The people there were friendly and happy. Throughout the day, they chatted and sang while working and laughed loudly at each other’s jokes. The children were rarely unruly. They went to school in the mornings and played in the evenings. After dusk, they would return home to dinner and the warm hugs of their parents. And this was how the humdrum life continued, day after day. Lockweed was quiet and peaceful.
Now, in this town lived three little friends – Maegan, Reena and Amy. Every evening, they would come together to play Frisbee and hopscotch. One day, while playing the Frisbee flew too far. It landed near the bank of a shallow stream. The girls ran to retrieve it. On reaching the stream, the friends were amazed at the sight. Bright yellow sunflowers swayed on the other end of the stream, beckoning them with their brilliance.
“Those sunflowers are beautiful!” cried Amy, “Let us cross the stream and pluck some flowers. The water isn’t too deep. So, it won’t do us any harm.”
“Well,” Maegan said, “Are you sure it’s a good idea? There are woods on the other side. Who knows whether some animal is on the prowl?”
“Oh, don’t worry so much,” chipped in Reena. “We will pluck only a few flowers and be back before anyone misses us. Come on, it’ll be fun!”
“Alright,” Maegan said, as she did not want to be a spoilsport. And so the three girls waded into the water together, hand in hand. They had only crossed a few steps when there was a loud hiss. The friends noticed a slimy, green snake on a lotus leaf nearby. Its body shone with a yellow light. The girls could have sworn that the snake was not there a few minutes ago, when they had stepped into the stream. They were scared.
Seeing their anxious faces, the snake hissed again before speaking.
“Do not be scared, my friends. I am the King of the stream. Actually, it’s been a long time since anyone has crossed this stream. So, I would like to give each of you a present.”
The snake swirled its head in the air and there appeared three bundles of cloth tied with ribbons. One was golden, another blue while the third was red. Maegan, Reena and Amy stared in astonishment.
“One has gold coins, another has precious stones while the third has a collection of stories,” continued the snake. “Each of you can choose any one and you shall have it.”
The girls looked at each other and decided to make their choices. “I would like to have gold coins,” said Reena. “I love precious stones,” quipped Amy.
“And I,” said Maegan, “am fond of listening to stories. So, it would be great if I could get the bundle of stories.”
“So be it!” said the snake, and each bundle magically appeared in the hands of the respective girls.
The friends thanked the snake.
“There’s something I need to say about the bundle of stories, though,” said the King of the stream. “Each of the stories is folded in a piece of paper. When you unfold each chit, the story will start reading out on its own and eventually put the one who took it out to sleep. Keep that in mind.”
“Yes,” smiled Maegan. “I will.”
And saying so, the girls bid goodbye to the snake and moved ahead. Soon, they were on the other side, next to the beautiful sunflowers. But Amy spotted even bigger flowers farther on, and so they went deeper into the woods to get them. Then, just as Amy was about to pluck the most magnificent sunflower she had ever seen, they heard a loud noise. Boom! There was a puff of thick smoke and when it cleared, the girls saw a big red giant glowering at them. He had a pair of horns on his head and a stone necklace around his neck.
Image Credit: Parna Sil
“These are my sunflowers!” The giant thundered. “How dare you come over and try to pluck them? As a punishment, I will make you my prisoners!”
The three friends were terrified. They pleaded with the giant to let them go and promised not to come near the sunflowers ever again.
However, the giant was adamant. “What can you offer me so that I let you free?”
“I have a bundle of gold coins,” said Reena, “You can keep it.”
“Pshaw!” laughed the giant. “I have no use for gold coins here in the woods. So, I don’t want them!”
“You could have my bundle of precious stones,” said Amy.
“I like the stone necklace that I’m wearing. So, I have no need for precious stones!”
Now, it was Maegan’s turn.
“I have a bundle of stories, Mr. Giant. Would you like to have these? They will keep you entertained.”
The giant looked curiously at the little red bundle that was stretched out to him.
“It’s lonely out here in the woods…I could listen to stories to spend the time,” he said at length, and took the bundle.
“Why don’t you open the bag and take out a paper right now? The story will start reading by itself,” said clever little Maegan.
“Alright,” the giant boomed, and he picked out one of the folded papers from the bag. The paper flew and spread out in the air. And then, a voice began reading out the story. It was a tale about a poor fisherman and how one day, he had an extraordinary adventure. The giant listened, rapt in attention. But his eyes gradually grew droopy. He slouched on the grass and held his face with his hands. The girls could see that he was feeling sleepy. Finally, the giant’s eyes closed and he began snoring loudly. The story had not reached its end and was still being read by the invisible voice.
Maegan, Reena and Amy saw their chance to escape. Maegan stepped over cautiously and picked the red bundle lying near the giant. He was fast asleep. Then the girls, holding their bundles tightly, ran as fast as their legs could carry them. They crossed the stream, passed the fields and roads, and did not stop running till they reached their usual place of play. Then, catching their breath, they looked at the bundles. Each of them was beautiful but it was Maegan’s bag of stories that had ultimately saved them. Amy and Reena thanked her and the three of them returned home.
Image Credit: Parna Sil
As the days passed, Reena and Amy sold the gold coins and precious stones to buy luxurious items for themselves. As for Maegan, she treasured her bundle. Every other night, she would take a chit out of the bag at bedtime and fall asleep while listening to the story. As there were lots of papers in the bundle, she had plenty of stories to choose from and rotate. And to tell you the truth, it was the best among the three gifts.