Monday, January 21, 2013

The Tumbledown Fairies Tumble Down

The King of Tumbleby had many naughty subjects, but there was no naughtiness in the kingdom to match the fairies of Tumbledown Wood.  It was the fairies no less who tickled poor Humpty as he sat upon his wall, and it was the fairies too who laughed when he had his great fall, his large round head sinking deep into the prickles of a thick, green hedge.
This wicked deed, a king’s hedge shaking with the wobbles of an egg, and all the king’s men woken at the noisy cries, served only to encourage the naughty fairies; no sooner indeed had poor Humpty been lifted unto his uneven seat, hammered and glued and boarded with wood, two fat goose-feathers where his ears had been, than the wicked fairies were skipping off for some further fun.
They found their fun that afternoon in the very wood by which they earned their name.  Tumbledown Wood grew right outside the castle wall, its trees so tall they could peep down at the king, and its timber so plentiful they gave heat to the great royal fire all winter long.  Such heat was exactly what an important king should need, and it was this need that gave voice to his most important royal proclamation.
            “No subject shall enter Tumbledown Wood,” the king announced, his royal personage standing upon the royal steps, and his royal nose shivering with the winter’s cold; “none at all from this day forth, except the wood-cutter and I.”
And yet, though the Seven Sleepers awoke and hurried from their beds, and even the spring grass plucked up its roots and galloped off beneath the cover of snow in search of some new lush meadow, the fairies gave not a care to the orders of their king.  They were too naughty to heed his words, and so they skipped and danced, each naughty voice competing to repeat the royal declaration.
            “By order of Me”, they laughed, puffing out their stick chests and creasing their eyebrows in wicked imitation of royal frowns.
            “And Me!”
            “And Me!”
When they had done with this sport, their tummies quite empty now from the efforts of their mischief, they soon forgot what had been said, and thinking only of the wood-cutter with his long, sharp axe, they tipped and toed beneath the new royal fence and off into the forbidden wood, the tunics of their many-coloured petals marching across the snow like an army of ants busy at work. 
These fairies were too tiny for the royal eyes, and those eyes were too sleepy from royal work to search the ground below the castle walls; and so, even as the royal toes warmed before the royal heat, the tumbledowns went deeper and deeper into the forbidden royal wood, their large brown feet sinking deep into the snow, right up to the hairy knobbles of their knees.
So cold were the tumbledowns as they marched that even Flora’s teeth began to chatter, giving off the sound of a sleeping cricket, and Dente too froze, his nose the colour of a dark blue berry.  Only Galant remained fearless that day, his thoughts upon the snow-drops in the clearings of the trees, and his lips already tasting the sweet pollen of their six yellow anthers.
It was Galant then who first spotted the clusters of bell-shaped flowers, and it was Galant too who leapt unto the tall, green stalk, his long stick fingers, climbing faster than his chasing feet.  Galant took no rest upon the pedicel from which the white flower hung, and he was deep within the green, pleated skirt of the delicate tepals whilst his friends continued their climb.
He might have stayed there too, feeding upon the rich food, his tummy swelling from the feast, but he was soon too rounded for the space in which he hid and he tumbled down into the snow.  There his friends joined him, one by one, tumbling plip, plop, plup, their tummies full, and when they had done with laughing at the sport, Flora stood up to begin a new game.
            “My name is Flora,” she announced, standing tall and reaching high into the air, “and I love snow-drops.”
            “My name is Dente,” said her friend, standing also and rubbing his fat, round belly, “and I eat flowers.”
“My name is Ferkel,” said the tiniest of the fairies, still busy within the tepals of his flower, “and I.............”
“Tumble down”, chimed all the fairies together, as Ferkel fell to the earth.
The inconvenience to his play, an anther still uneaten in his hand, did nothing to upset the little Ferkel; he sank his teeth without another word, whilst the others skipped about with their jest.  Their play was soon so noisy the sound carried to the wood-cutter nearby, but he need not have stomped his boots to where they were, for they were gone, cosy in their petal beds and dreaming of the naughty days ahead.

©2011 Padraig De Brún

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