The little boy was ready to move on. He was missing his sister and wanted to find her. Early next morning he bid the innkeeper and his children goodbye and left for the forest. The innkeeper had packed a generous lunch bag for the boy’s onward journey.
The forest was cool and misty. Bravely the boy decided to keep going as long as there was light. As the evening shadows lengthened and the dappled sunlight played hide and seek with the tree boughs, the boy decided to find a cozy spot to lie down for the night. He was of slight built and a dry hollow tree would easily do for him. He gave a sweeping glance all around when suddenly the ground under his feet caved in and he was dragged underground. Wildly he tried to hang on to the undergrowth but was sucked into the earth and the ground closed up after him.
The boy came to after what seemed an eon. He found himself resting on a soft bed and his sister lovingly hovering over him with eyes full of love. His eyes opened wide and then his heart stopped. His sister’s eyes were sorrowful. He hugged her tight and asked about her sadness. She replied that she missed him terribly and even though she longed to be with him she had been given another task on the other side of the world. There was another orphan baby who needed her. She had been allowed one night with him before leaving. The boy requested his sister to tell him another story. The sister agreed and said listen:
There was a small family consisting of a young doctor Sam Souza and his wife Mona who was a busy interior designer. They had a seven year old son Robin. They loved him dearly and as they were busy career people, they had asked the boy’s maternal grandmother to come and stay with them. This way the boy would not be lonely and they would not be worried either. They also bought a small dog, a beagle named “Goofy” for their son Robin. Robin loved his granny dearly and the pet dog put him on seventh heaven. Both the dog and child were inseparable. They did everything together. Only when the boy was in school, “Goofy’ kept vigil by the window and bounded out even when Robin was a mile away from home.
One day, while playing in the schoolyard, a bully pushed Robin hard and he fell and suffered concussion. At once the principal called Dr. Souza to come and get him. In the meantime, the school nurse did her best to look after Robin who was as white as a sheet. The bully too was feeling bad for a change. Also the principal had made him do 200 sit ups holding both his ears in front of the school. Everyone had jeered at him but he finished his punishment full of regret.
Robin stayed home for two days. Now boys will be boys and he was a bundle of energy and asked granny if he could play outside with Goofy. Granny agreed and both went out with a ball. They played catch for a while and then the next ball went further than intended and Robin asked Goofy to fetch. Goofy loped off quickly. Robin waited for him to come back but he only heard a tiny squeal and then there was silence. He ran towards the trees where the ball had landed and to his horror he saw a python slithering away and by the lump in its body, it appeared that it had swallowed poor Goofy. Robin was horrified, scared and then tearful. He ran home shouting granny grannyyyyy! Granny came running out with his dad Sam who had just come home to check on his son. Tearfully between sobs Robin told them that a python had eaten his beloved Goofy. They had no reason not to believe the boy who was above average in intelligence. Also he could identify animals from a very young age. Dr. Sam called the forest department and reported the incident. He was informed that indeed a python had escaped from its enclosure from the nearby zoo and they had been searching for it whole morning.
Robin was sad and missed Goofy terribly. His parents wanted to get him another puppy but he was not ready. They decided to leave him alone with his grief. In the evenings after school Robin would play alone with the ball hitting it on the back wall of the house and catching it. He was missing “goofy” and in a fit of anger he hit the ball hard and it went farther then he had intended down the road. He ran to fetch it when suddenly all hell broke lose. A car came swerving and would have hit the boy but for the dog that came flying out of nowhere and pushed Robin out of harm’s way! As Robin got up and dusted himself he saw “Goofy’ vanishing into thin air. His heart leapt in joy. Goofy had saved him. In the meantime the angry car driver came to him and shook him. He told him to never do that in future. He advised that Robin should always look in both directions before crossing the road. If the dog had not saved him, he would’ve lost his life today. Then he enquired about Dr. Souza. He had important documents for him. Robin took the stranger home who told all present the miraculous escape of Robin and the wonder dog.
Everyone was stunned. They informed the insurance agent that the dog had died a month ago! He was shocked to learn this bit of news.
He described the dog in detail and now they were certain that Goofy had returned from dead to save Robin’s life.
Note: Animal ghosts — or phantimals — even those of dinosaurs can be seen at certain locations that have a terrible history, it seems as though there may be a sort of “warp” or portal where apparitions can more easily materialize
The little boy was happy at the inn and as the innkeepers’ children were clamoring for one more fairytale, he decided to stay for one more night before resuming his quest for his sister.
Next morning after day school, the innkeeper’s eight kids formed a semi circle once again around their young storyteller. Their faces were all eager in happy anticipation. They had finished their homework and ate lunch in record time and were ready for another story. The innkeeper’s face was beaming in delight. He was happy that his kids had their own bits of words streams in their treasure chest now. The boy began:
In a distant land east of here over vast plains of Europe and Asia, the mighty Gobi desert of Mongolia and the snow capped Himalaya Mountains there was a small kingdom nestled in the Ganges plain. It was in the country called Hindustan. The kingdom’s name was Sonakpore and the king had a beautiful daughter named Suvarna whom he adored. She had recently come of age and the king wanted to find a suitable groom for his daughter. He sent out an open invitation to all the young men in his kingdom. Caste, status, religious belief did not matter. All the suitors had to do was answer three questions to the King’s satisfaction and if their answers satisfied him, then he would gladly give his beloved daughter’s hand to the winner.
Princess Suvarna was beautiful. She had large almond shaped eyes. They were intensely dark like liquid black crystal. Their beauty was further intensified by long curly eyelashes that fanned her rosy cheeks. Her face had chiseled features. She always wore a smile and constantly daydreamed and clapped her hands. She was like a happy go lucky child and everyone broke into a smile on seeing her. Her happiness was very contagious. She spoke with her expressive eyes and even before she opened her mouth her wish was fulfilled. Hence she hardly ever got a chance to speak. Everything was served to her on a golden platter. She had been brought up lovingly by a father who spoiled her and a mother who wisely instilled caution, respect for elders, proper conduct, kindness, humility and other qualities that would give her respect and dignity in life. Above all her mother taught her to have faith in God.
The whole kingdom was in a festive mood. Aspiring young men from far and near, princes, wealthy merchants, handsome paupers, even the town idlers all made their way to the palace. One by one they entered the palace gates enthusiastically and then as quickly they would be seen leaving the palace with downcast eyes, defeated. In this manner, many days passed by but the king was not satisfied by even a single suitor. He was in a state of despair. He would tell himself, “is there not a single young man in my kingdom who can make my darling princess happy and I can rest in peace knowing that she is in capable hands”! The king started getting sleepless nights. The queen on the other hand was a noble lady and had complete faith in god. She knew there was an appointed time and place for everything and was not worried. She slept soundly.
The three questions were simple and those which any loving father would ask of any young man who wished to marry his daughter:
1) How will you take care of my daughter?
2). How will you keep her happy?
3). How will you keep her from harm?
So far the answers had been like this:
Rich suitors: I will have my whole country at her beck and call, guard her night and day, be with her all the time and appoint personal maids who stayed with the princess full time. Have official food tasters taste all food before she ate, keep a physician available close by and so on and on.
Handsome but Poor suitors and the rest:
After marriage, I would move into the palace to be with your daughter. Thus you would continue caring for her to your own satisfaction and peace of mind. When in due course of time, you pass away, I can take over the reins of the country and this way there will be no disruption in caring for your daughter or the kingdom.
The king so far was not happy with any answers.
Gopal was a simple cowherd. He was also an obedient loving son. Daily after meeting the needs of his aged parents, he would leave with the family cows herding them towards the green pastures in the Ganges plains and lower grassy parts of the mountains. Gopal was dark skinned yet very attractive. His face had a serenity that attracted and held spellbound all those who saw him. He was hard working and never idled except whilst grazing his cows. Then, he would sit under the shade of a clump of trees and pull out his precious flute and immerse himself in music. The sweet tones of his flute would echo in the plains and valleys and for a moment all the listeners would halt and drink in this sweet nectar of wafting notes. They felt an intoxicating languor and a sudden burst of vigor. All their troubles seemed to melt away. Everyone looked forward to Gopal’s mesmerizing flute playing. His midday meal was simple. He carried two flat round pieces of unleavened bread, a pickle, a hot green chilly and a small onion. In a small can he carried buttermilk to drink with his food. He was simple and uncomplicated as was his life.
One day as he was getting ready to play his flute, one of his friends from the village who was the merchant’s son stopped by and told him about the king’s search for a suitable husband for his princess. He also informed him that he too had tried but had been sent packing by the king. He suggested to Gopal that he should try for the princess’s hand too as it was an open invitation to all. Gopal knew his mother had been after him to get married and was looking for a suitable bride. He thought let me try and surprise mother.
Next morning he got ready very early and wore his favorite lucky jacket. When his parents questioned him about this, he said he had been invited by his friend Neelkanth for lunch in the town. He had arranged for his cows to be grazed by another friend. He was ready for the palace. He was confident and fearless.
The king was told about the arrival of yet another suitor for his beloved daughter. His face brightened and suddenly he felt hopeful inside. Eagerly he made his way towards the Public Hall where he held all important meetings and conducted the state business. This hall had a comfortable throne made of gold and studded with precious stones. The seat was made of the finest soft velvet and was royal purple in color. All the numerous gateways had long flowing sheer curtains that billowed in tune with the cross currents of the air that passed through in cross ventilation. The palace was constructed in such a way by an able master architect that it remained cool even in the hot summer months.
Trumpets heralded the arrival of the king and the royal session began. Gopal was presented to the king. The king was impressed by the bearing of this cowherd. He carried himself with confidence. The king put forth the three questions to him:
How will you take care of my daughter? Gopal said, “Your highness I will care for your daughter in the same way as I care for my parents whom I love dearly”.
How will you keep her happy? “I will try my best to keep her happy, your highness. That is all I can promise”.
How will you keep her from harm? Gopal replied, “Birth and death are in the hands of God. I will try my utmost to care for her. I cannot promise more than that. Rest is in God’s hands”.
The king was very happy with Gopal’s answers and decided to marry his daughter to him. After ensuring that he was not offending Gopal’s parents, he had a nice home built where Gopal had his old home so that his daughter could be comfortable. Gopal and his parents accepted all this grudgingly as they were proud people and mindful of their self respect and dignity. As per Gopal’s wishes, the king had a simple marriage celebration and bid a tearful farewell to his daughter. The queen was happy as she had fallen under the spell of Gopal. She knew her daughter was in good hands.
Gopal saw his wife Survarna for the first time on his wedding night and was mesmerized by her great beauty and childlike simplicity. He fell in love with her. Suvarna too liked this simple cowherd and was crazy about his flute. She would begin to sway to his music as though under a spell. There was only one problem in their happy married life. Suvarna could not talk!! Try as she might no words would emerge from her lovely mouth. All her life she had been given everything on a platter even before she uttered a word. Gopal was grief stricken. He decided to find a cure for his beloved wife.
Exactly a year ago this day.
Gopal was as usual lost in his flute playing and was unaware of his surroundings. Suddenly, an old monk had appeared out of nowhere and asked for food. Gopal had emerged from his reverie and had offered his lunch pack with due respect. The holy man ate the simple fare with great enjoyment. After he had enjoyed the last morsel and drunk the buttermilk, he had suddenly changed in appearance. He transformed himself to the Indian god Shiva. He now had a tiger skin around his torso, a snake around his neck, matted hair, and a trident in one hand. He was astride a magnificent bull. Gopal was wonderstruck and quickly lay down flat on the ground to pay his respects in the Hindu way. The lord was very pleased with his simplicity and had asked Gopal if he desired anything from him. Gopal said Lord I have everything I need. All I need is your blessings for my friends and family. The lord was very pleased with this answer and had then given him a holy chant of seven words. He said, “every time you chant these words, a gold pot would appear out of thin air with whatever food you desire and it would not empty until you have fed your family. Then it would disappear”. Lord Shiva next said, “ Gopal you have to make a solemn promise to never reveal the secret about this divine boon”. Gopal had promised the lord accordingly. As Gopal had fed the lord with his lunch selflessly God had rewarded his act of kindness. Gopal’s family had never slept hungry from that day onwards.
Gopal had only one thought in mind. He wanted to gift his lovely wife with a stream of words. His mind was in a whirl. Suddenly he had a brilliant idea. He went to a secluded spot on the nearby hill and prayed to Lord Shiva fervently. He asked for the lord’s blessing in his efforts to make his wife speak and sing. Next he chanted the sacred words and the golden pot appeared. He wished the pot to be full of sweet fragrant words. He opened his eyes and found the magical gold pot full of alphabet soup with all kinds of glorious words floating in it. It appeared to be a healthy vegetable broth. He quickly took it home and made Suvarna drink it to the last drop. When the soup was finished, the golden pot disappeared and she fell into a deep sleep.
Next morning, Survarna woke up with a lot of excitement. She felt on top of the world and wanted to sing. She opened her mouth and out came a beautiful melody never heard before. The old parents and Gopal himself were enchanted. They quietly they let Suvarna sing to her heart’s content and rejoiced. Their cup of happiness overflowed.
Gopal sent a letter to the King and requested him to hold a musical competition in exactly a week’s time. He next prepared Suvarna with all the songs he knew. He played the flute and she sang the songs in accompaniment. Together they created magic. They were ready.
The following week, Gopal and his family donned their best clothes and boarded the horse drawn carriage which the king had gifted his daughter. It was pulled by a pair of finest Arabian horses this side of the mountains. They were at the palace gates in no time. The king and queen were waiting at the entrance and with great fanfare and pomp escorted them to the main hall. The nobles and citizens of Sonakpore were already seated. Gopal, Suvarna and his parents were seated next to the king and queen and the evening began. All the known artists, maestros, singers, musicians presented their items. The hall echoed with “bravo” and thundering claps in appreciation. Now it was Gopal’s turn. Gently he helped Suvarna to her feet and together they stood in front of the audience.
Gopal removed his flute from his belt and started playing. Suvarna soon opened her lips and sang along. Her voice was crystal clear and pure. She poured her all into it and the king and queen were beside themselves with joy. They had been as much in the dark about this miracle as the townspeople. Everyone was on their feet clapping and weeping in happiness. There was no question about the winner. The king named his daughter
The Nightingale of Sonakpur. He kissed Gopal on his forehead in gratitude. The queen always knew things would turn out well in the end as she had implicit faith in god.
A loving heart always knows
The little boy yawned and rubbed his eyes. It was morning already. He pushed back the warm quilt and got out of bed. He washed his face, combed his unruly mop and brushed his teeth. His brain was working furiously. He knew he had to tell a story if he has to stay another night in this inn. That was his payment instead of money.
There were eight eager faces seated in a circle near the fireplace. Their eyes were
shining in anticipation. They were the motherless children of the innkeeper who lacked their own treasure trove of tales. The word streams had passed them by as they had no mother. Thus the innkeeper valued stories more than money. There was pin drop silence. The little boy began…
In the forest lived the happy family Cloude. They were seven brothers and one sister. They had made the forest their home after the death of their parents in the tiny German hamlet at the edge of the forest. They built a beautiful gingerbread house made of wood and lovingly carved each piece with memories of their parents and their old picturesque home town in the Alps. Thus they basked in the love of their friends and family as captured in the etchings carved in the wood. The seven brothers were named after the seven colors of the rainbow violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow orange, red as per their nature. The fearful one was yellow, the envious one green, the princely one (violet)purple, the blue one was always pining and indigo loved the ocean and the orange one had a quick temper and the red one was the bravest. Together they formed a brotherly rainbow of love and swung their baby sister in this and cherished her like a precious pearl. They adored her and she adored them in turn. Her name was Rose.
“I am going to make the best bread pudding ever and surprise my colorful ones! Ha! Rose exclaimed to herself pushing back the golden curl that kept caressing her lovely brow.
She was indeed lovely with cherry red lips, rosy cheeks, curly gold spun hair and a pert nose. She had perfect tiny ears from which hung two shiny diamonds which glistened in the sunlight. She made a lovely picture in her crisp white apron, ruffled dress and pink hat. Suddenly she felt warm on the nape of her neck. She turned and saw the most handsome man she had ever seen in her young life. She blushed and fell headlong in love.
“Oh my god” exclaimed Aldo as he sharply reined in his horse. “I have never seen such beauty! I am in love!” Smartly getting off the horse Aldo goes on his knee and gallantly bows to Rose. “Fraulein, please be kind and do tell me your name and allow me to court you as I have fallen madly in love.” Rose says softly, “I am Rose and I too have fallen for you!” and lets Aldo kiss her hand. Soon they are deeply in love and wish to marry.
Brothers Cloude are both happy and miserable. They are happy as their beloved Rose is on cloud nine in joy but they are sad as they cannot bear to live without her. Aldo is a prince and will bear her away to his palace and they will never be able to see her again. They agree to do something. They decide to consult the oracle.
Early morning they set forth deep into the forest. The oracle is as ancient as time itself. He has a long flowing beard and cape and fingers like talons with long nails. He has a crystal ball which reveals many secrets and goings on in the world. Suddenly he tilts his head and hears the sound of galloping horses. Someone is coming to visit. He closes his eyes and knows who they are and what they want.
One by one the brothers troop inside. The oracle puts a long finger on his lips to quieten them and gestures them to come close. He consults the crystal ball and then nods and says.” Bring me a lock of Aldo’s hair and I will make an amulet which your sister will wear. This will make Aldo forget his past and you can all live happily ever after.” Then with a shaking finger he thunders, “If your sister loses this amulet, you will lose her forever.” Brother Purple rushes home stealthily and clips a lock of Aldo’s hair and brings it to the oracle. Then they return home happily with the amulet.
Rose is very happy as she is getting married today. She claps and dances a jig.
She starts singing on the top of her voice. It is sweet like the tinkle of a wind chime. Her yodeling is echoed in the mountains surrounding the forest. The fir trees clap in unison.
The forest, mountains and valleys all rejoice with Rose. The brothers knock and enter and lovingly tie the amulet on her right arm and tell her that this will keep her safe. Rose promises to wear it always.
Time flies on wings and Aldo and Rose have a bonny son. They name him Hans Aldo. There is rejoicing in the forest. The brothers throw a big party and all the forest people come to bless and rejoice with them. It is seven years since Rose and Aldo got married. The elves, goblins all gather dressed in Sunday best. The forest animals are made welcome too. They all live like a happy family. The tree boughs are in a happy trance and the flowers sway rhythmically to the beat of the drums. The full moon smiles benevolently and a silver fairy alights from its moonbeam. The evening star sends his twinkling fairy also. The whole air is bursting with fun and frolic.
Rose and Aldo are dancing one last German Polka when the amulet falls off and is lost in the dirt kicked up by all the dancing. Aldo stops suddenly and shakes his head. He is as though in a trance. He forgets the present and only remembers the past. Abruptly he leaves the forest on his horse at a gallop. Rose swoons in a dead faint. The party is over.
The brothers are greatly disturbed and sad. They feel guilty that due to their own selfish love they had kept Aldo from his loved ones and now even their beloved Rose was sad.
They seek the oracle once again.
The oracle consults the crystal ball and tells them that during these seven years, Aldo’s father the king had passed away in grief and his subjects had been searching for their prince high and low. Now that Aldo has returned, he has been crowned the King and the Queen mother wants him to marry a princess. But Aldo is sad and is always touching his chain which has a cameo of Rose. He wants to find his beloved. But he has no memory of the past seven years. The oracle gives them a magic potion that when sprinkled will help Aldo regain his memory fully and his past and present will merge
Next morning the Cloude family leave on a string of horses with Rose seated on her favorite horse with baby Hans. They travel high and low but cannot find Aldo. Rose is pining away and they are very sad. Dispirited they travel deeper into the forest when suddenly the ground gives way and they find themselves in a strange cave.
The cave is very dark and mysterious. A flapping sound makes their horses jump. They are jumpy themselves. Then they see two glowing sharp eyes zeroing in on them. They belong to a man dressed in a long brown cape, a bowler hat with a pipe in his mouth. His nose is hawk-like and his square chin makes him look like a man of determination. He introduced himself as “Sherlock Holmes’. He is the world famous detective from Baker Street, London, England. From behind emerges a chunky gentleman who extends his hand saying “I am Dr. Watson” Then Holmes asks them if he they needed his help. Eldest brother then tells the whole sorry tale and begs for help in finding Aldo as Rose was slowing dying in grief. Holmes says “Aha! It is elementary my dear Purple Cloude. Just blindfold Rose and her loving heart will direct you to its other half that is waiting to join it. You see the heart always knows” Then the cave vanishes in thin air and the brothers find themselves back in the forest.
Next morning they decide to follow Sherlock Holmes’s advice and blindfold Rose. In a very short time they reach Aldo’s kingdom. They tether their horses nearby and make their way towards the palace. Meanwhile Aldo is already headed in their direction propelled by his grieving heart. Soon he comes close to them but as his memory is lost he does not recognize them. Quickly the brothers sprinkle the magic potion and Aldo comes to his senses. His past and present join up just like Rose and his heart come together in love. He carries his son now Crown Prince Hans in his arms and joyously gallops towards the Queen mother. Happiness reigns thereafter.
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