Monthly Archives: March 2020

Chapter 2: The Boy Who Fell Asleep For 100 Years (more or less)

Once upon a time there was a king and queen who desperately wanted a child. After years of fertility spells by fairies and genetic testing by warlocks, the couple were finally approached by a rat, claiming to be a magical witch, who gave the queen a bubbly drink in exchange for a promise that if the baby was a girl the queen must surrender her child to the rat, but if it was a boy the queen could keep it. The queen was desperate, so she did as the rat said. Nine months later the queen had a baby boy, and the rat was never seen in that land again.

Their named their son Quinn, and planned to invite the 12 good fairies in the land to celebrate. At the last minute the king and queen decided they’d better invite Agatha, the evil 13th fairy as well, lest she be offended and put a curse on them. “If we make sure she has the best of everything at the celebration, and treat her with every kindness we can, she will have no need to become offended,” said the gracious and naïve queen.

When the fairies arrived they all ate off silver plates, except for Agatha who was given a gold one. The fairies drank from glass goblets, but Agatha’s was crystal. For every course, Agatha was served first, and for dessert she was given the largest piece of cake; the one with the most frosting and the sugar rosebud.

The other fairies pronounced wonderful gifts on the baby boy like bravery and charm, honesty and an extensive vocabulary. But when Agatha’s turn came, she gazed at the child with a frown and, waving her wand, proclaimed, “I bless you with a wheat allergy. If you ever eat anything made with wheat you will die.”

Everyone gasped.

“How could you?!” cried the king and queen. “We treated you better than any of our other guests!”

The fairy lifted her nose and sniffed. “The cake was too dry.”

Which just proves that no matter how well you treat someone, some people will always find some way to be offended.

The king and queen despaired. How could they keep their son from eating wheat? The staple crop of their kingdom?

But there was still one fairy left. “I cannot change Agatha’s curse,” she said earnestly, “but I can add a loophole.”

She waved her wand and stated that instead of dying, the boy would only get a very bad stomachache if he ate wheat. “However,” she added, “if he eats cake the consequences will be more serious. He will not die, but he will fall into a coma for 100 years and will only awake with love’s first kiss.”

This was not comforting to the king and queen, especially since the queen was very fond of cake, dry, moist, or otherwise. But they had no choice. The king sent out a decree, banishing all wheat from the land and making all the farmers sign a pledge to only grow corn, oats, and barely. Consequently, everyone in the kingdom became a lot healthier and had fewer digestive problems as they grew accustomed to their new gluten-free lifestyle.

Quinn grew up to be everything that the fairies had promised; brave, charming, verbose, etc., but he was never told about the evil fairy’s curse.

That is why, on his 16th birthday, his curiosity was piqued when an intriguing aroma drifted through the castle corridors. He followed the smell until he at last arrived at the very tippy-top castle turret. When he opened the door, he found an old woman removing something from an oven.

“Salutations, old woman,” said Quinn. “I followed an exquisite aroma circulating through the castle and have arrived at this vacant, isolated tower. Pray, tell me what are you concocting in yonder oven?”

The old woman turned and smiled sweetly. “Why young prince, have you not ever seen cupcakes before?”

“Cup-cakes?” Quinn mentally added the new word to his vocabulary.

“Yes, my son. And they taste even better than they smell.”

“For what purpose did you make them?”

“For your birthday, of course. That is what cake is for, Your Highness. It is an ancient custom.”

“Your graciousness is unexpected but very welcome. May I partake of one?”

“Certainly. But first we must add the icing and the sprinkles. Would you like to help?”

“I can’t imagine a more pleasurable pastime.” The prince helped the old woman decorate the cupcakes with blue frosting and rainbow sprinkles.

“May I eat one now?” he asked when they finished.

The old woman smiled sweetly. “Almost. There’s one more thing we must do.”

She took out a candle—

“How delightful! What a diminutive candle!” exclaimed Quinn.

—and placed it in the cupcake. Then she struck a match and lit the candle.

Quinn looked uncertain. “Am I to eat it while it is ablaze?”

“First you make a wish, dear, and you blow out the candle. Then you eat it.”


Naomi Dyreng

Quinn brightened. “A wish? Is this another ancient birthday custom? How you astonish me with your delightful revelations!”

“Yes, dear. A birthday wish. Birthday wishes are magical, and they always come true.” The old woman didn’t actually believe that birthday wishes come true, as she considered it pretend magic, imagined up by simpletons and peasants, but she said it anyway to keep the prince engaged.

“Hmm . . . Then I must be very thoughtful about my wishful intentions.”

“Yes, dear.”

“Especially as the desires of my heart are infinite.”

“Of course, ah, but you must think quickly before the candle goes out.”

The prince began pacing. “But choosing only one wish is a task of titanic proportions, as it must be absolutely infallible of unexpected repercussions. After all, I am a prince, and a prince must not wish for something that in the end might be his undoing.”

“You are correct, but in this case sooner is better than later.”

“A wish! Egads, woman! An opportunity like this may only occur once in 100 years!”

“Truer than you know,” grumbled the woman, “but if you could hurry, I would appreciate it, as I am a busy fairy and I haven’t got all day.”

“Did you say fairy?”

“Did I? I meant old hag.”

“Quite true . . . but remember, old hag, many a foul decision was made in haste. Perhaps I should make a list of possible wishes in order to determine the most superior, and which is most likely to provide the brightest possible future. Might you possess a parchment and a quill?”

“Perhaps I should have given you the gift of decisiveness instead of a curse,” the woman muttered.

“What did you say?”

“Nothing dear, MAKE YOUR WISH!”

“Very well. I’ve made it,” his said, his face aglow. “I am satisfied that it will provide the most positive outcome for my eternal happiness. Would you like to know what I wished for?”

“No, I don’t. Now blow out the candle.”

Quinn blew out the candle and felt quite satisfied.

“Well done. Now you may try the cake.”

“At this very instant? May I take a moment to savor its appearance? It is such a glorious and delicate confection, and once it is consumed it will be but a memory.”

“Look, child, I have eleven more—just EAT THE BLOOMING CAKE!”

Quinn, taken aback by the woman’s sudden impatience, did not wish to offend. He raised the cupcake to his lips and sunk his teeth into the perfectly moist cake.

The woman watched him closely as he chewed and swallowed. “. . . And?” she asked. “What do you think?”

The prince’s face was rapturous. For the first time in his life he struggled to find the precise words to describe his delight. “It is—it is—”

And then he collapsed.

The old woman cackled and changed herself into her true fairy form. “So much for you, silly, stupid prince!” and she flew out the window, without bothering to check Quinn’s pulse.


When the prince was found, comatose, with a half-eaten cupcake in his hand, it was clear to everyone what had transpired. His body was brought down to the courtyard where he was placed on a platform in a beautiful silken bed, littered with rose petals. He looked so lovely, with his face so relaxed and tragically handsome, that his parents planned to have him on display for the next 100 years as a warning to anyone who was tempted to invite undesirable guests to family celebrations.

All day people from around the kingdom filed past the bed to gaze on the unfortunate prince and weep. As the sun began to sink behind the castle towers, a young woman named Penelope came to see the sleeping prince. The rose colored glow of the setting sun lit his sleeping face so divinely, and his full, youthful lips looked so pitiful and tempting, that she could not control herself and she felt pulled by a magical force up, past the guards and to the bed of the prince where she leaned over and gently kissed him.

“Mmmm . . . frosting!” she said, and she kissed him again.

Quinn’s eyes fluttered open. “Exquisite!”

“Why, thank you,” said the girl.

“I was actually describing the delicious morsel of cupcake I experienced before my world turned to blackness, but after some reflection I must admit that your kisses were far superior.”

The maiden blushed.

“Please tell me, is it still my birthday?”

“Why, yes,” said Penelope.

Quinn sat up and took her hand. “Then my wish came true!”

“And what did you wish for, dear prince?”

“I wished to have my first kiss before the sun set on my 16th birthday. And you made my wish a reality!”

“And released you from the curse!” she added.

“What curse?” asked the prince.

The king and queen were so happy and relieved that their son didn’t have to sleep for 100 years. So much so, they decided to have a splendid birthday party that very night . . . complete with a very large and delicious cake.


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Chapter 1: The Boy Who Was Locked in a Tower

Once upon a time there was a woman named Yetzel who didn’t care much for children or men and definitely did not want to live with either. Instead she dedicated herself to the study of sorcery and became a powerful witch. She lived alone in a small cottage, brewing potions in her kitchen and growing illegal plants in her garden. Though her career kept her stimulated, fulfilled, and busy, she would sometimes feel a surge of loneliness and wonder if maybe it wouldn’t be so bad having a child after all. It might be nice to have an obedient, quiet little girl to share her knowledge with and to pass on her wicked legacy. By the time she warmed up to the idea of having a child she was much too old to have a baby, and though a witch can do many magical things, she cannot make herself pregnant. Eventually she decided that if she couldn’t have her own, she would have to steal someone else’s.

. . . And the couple next door happened to be expecting.

She picked some spinach from her garden, made a salad, and set a spell on it to make it delicious but unsatisfying, so that the person who ate it would want more and more. She placed the salad into a basket, put on her best shawl, and walked to her neighbor’s home.

“Hello! I’m Yetzel, your sweet, innocent neighbor,” said the witch to the young husband when he opened the door. “I heard your wife was expecting, so I brought her some of my prized spinach. I don’t have very much, but I made the sacrifice hoping it would bring her some good.”

The husband and wife were touched by the woman’s kindness, and when she left the wife devoured the salad as if she hadn’t eaten for days. As soon as she finished, she begged her husband for more.

“But it would be rude to ask for more. Remember what the woman said? It is her most prized plant and she doesn’t have very much.”

“But I must have more or I shall die!” wept the wife.

The poor man didn’t know what to do, but he couldn’t bear to see his wife in so much distress. So late that night he snuck into his neighbor’s garden and pulled some spinach. His wife was so grateful that the husband felt justified, so the next night, when she asked him to go again, he didn’t even hesitate.

This time, however, he was caught.

“Thief! How dare you steal from me after I was so generous!” said the witch.

The man trembled in fear and embarrassment. “Forgive me, Yetzel! But my wife says she must have it or she shall die.”

“Is that so? Then we shall have to make a deal,” said the witch, for this was all part of her plan. “If this spinach is so important that your wife will truly die without it, promise to give me your child when it is born, in exchange for your wife’s life.”

Now, the poor man, although he was devoted, was not the brightest husband. He truly was convinced that if he didn’t get the spinach his wife would die (which she wouldn’t have) and he didn’t know his neighbor was a witch (which he couldn’t have), so he decided to make the bargain without his wife’s consent (which he shouldn’t have).

The man promised.

After that, Yetzel gave him all the spinach his wife desired, and by and by the woman gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby, whom of course they named Spinach.

A few days later the witch came to claim the child. The husband was forced to explain to his wife the shameful arrangement he had made with the witch, and his wife was so overcome with sadness and betrayal that she died right there of a broken heart.

“Ha! Ha! Ha!” laughed the witch. “This makes it so much easier!” She scooped up the baby in her arms and stole away into the night.

Yetzel took the baby far away and began the task of raising it. As with all first-time parents, she encountered some things she hadn’t expected.

First of all, Spinach was a boy. No matter, she thought. If she couldn’t make him into a great witch, she would make him into a great wizard. But as the months went by Spinach turned out to be much louder, much messier, and much more trouble than she expected. He knocked over her potions, he soiled her spell books, played with her frogs and snakes and let them escape, and he was constantly interrupting her when she was in deep, meditative thought.

When Spinach turned five years old Yetzel couldn’t stand it any longer. “If only there was a way to skip this child stage and train him when he is more grown-up and mature!”

This spawned a dreadful plan.

She locked the little boy in a tall tower in the middle of a desert and bricked up the entrance. She would bring him food and water for a decade or so, and once he had grown to a more manageable age, she would let him out and he would be her apprentice and carry on her wicked legacy.

At first the boy didn’t mind being locked in the tower. At least he was away from Mama Yetzel who was always yelling at him for one thing or another. But as the weeks passed, the boy languished. He had plenty of food and water from the witch, (for she would send it up to him via rope and pulley with a basket and then take the rope away with her), but he had no toys or books or friends to play with. To pass time he would count bricks or birds or clouds, but most of the day he just leaned on the window and wished he had someone to talk to.

Back in his cottage, Spinach’s father was also lonely, and tormented with grief and regret. He couldn’t forgive himself for being duped by his neighbor, whom by now he realized was a witch. He vowed to not cut his beard until he found his son. He journeyed near and far, telling his story to everyone who would listen, and asking them if they knew anything about the witch who had taken his precious little boy.


Syrena Dyreng

One day, when the boy was looking out his window at the vast desert, he saw a bearded man crossing the dunes.

“Hello! Hello!” the boy shouted, and the man looked up.

“Hello, little boy! What are you doing way up in that tower?”

“My mother is hiding me here until I grow up.”

“That is a strange thing for a mother to do,” said the man. “What is your name?”


The man knew that there could only one child on the earth with a name like that. “Spinach! I am your father!” he shouted and started dancing around in the sand. Spinach didn’t know he had a father, and didn’t know if he even wanted one or not, but he liked this funny dancing desert man and he laughed so hard he almost fell out of the window.

“How can I get you down?” asked the funny man. “Is there a door?”

“There is no door,” said Spinach. “I can’t ever come down, nor can you come up.”

But this father didn’t travel all around the globe to be stopped by a mere tower. He started to climb. It took him all day, but finally, with bloody fingers and skinned knees he reached the top and dropped over the window sill.

“I’m glad you came, because I have been very lonely,” said the boy. “But now we are both stuck up here.”

“We’ll make do,” said his father. “We are together again, and that is all that matters.”

The father told Spinach the origin of his birth and Spinach was overjoyed to learn that the mean witch was not his real mother. This man was loads more fun than she was, and he never got mad at Spinach for making a mess or being too loud. Instead, they made messes together and were loud together. And every few days the witch would come and bring food and water which they always shared.

“Too bad we don’t have that rope,” said the father one day after the witch left, taking her rope with her.

“We have your beard,” said Spinach who was cleverer than his father. “If you don’t cut it, then someday we can use it as our rope.”

The father thought this was an excellent idea and was proud to have such an intelligent boy.

Over the course of the next few weeks the boy asked the witch for greater portions of food, and the witch obliged, knowing that if he was hungrier, he must be growing, and the sooner he grew the sooner she could use him as a proper apprentice. Meanwhile, the father told his son stories about his travels and the people he’d met. He taught his son to read and write and they sang songs together and created stories on the walls of the tower. On windy days they made kites and flew them out the window. They roasted marshmallows at the fireplace and told ghost stories. They had arm wrestling matches and jumping contests, and all the while the father’s beard grew and grew and grew.

On Spinach’s 15th birthday, they decided to make their escape. The father cut his beard and braided it into a strong rope. That night they tied the rope to the pully, climbed down, and silently slipped away under the desert stars.

The next day, when Yetzel came to bring food, she noticed a long rope coming down from the pulley. She climbed the rope and found the tower much different than when she left Spinach there 10 years before. There was a checkboard carved into the table. There were stories written on the walls. Most telling of all, there were pictures scrawled on the floor of a boy holding hands with a long-bearded man.

Yetzel was furious. Not because someone ran off with her boy that she didn’t particularly want, but because she had been fooled by a fool.

Spinach and his father located a nice place to live next to a blue lake where there was a good school that Spinach could attend. He was very bright and got along with his classmates well. He was so happy that he barely remembered the witch at all, and looked back at his time in the tower with his dad as a happy memory.

Then, one dark night there was a knock at the door. When they opened it, there stood Yetzel, holding a large staff, her bright black eyes blazing with anger.

“You rat!” she said, pointing to Spinach’s father. “How dare you steal away the child that I stole away from you! We made a deal, and you shall pay for this!” She pointed her staff at the man and it began to spark with magic blue light. But just as she began her incantation, Spinach grabbed a mirror from the wall to shield his father. The witch’s spell hit the mirror and bounced back at her. Spinach and his dad watched in astonishment as the witch’s body shriveled and shrank until all that was left of her was a large, black rat.

“Ahhh!” squeaked the rat. “You are more trouble than you are worth! Next time I shall steal a girl baby!!”

Spinach and his father lived happily together for a long time after that, and eventually Spinach got a good job working in the castle and married a lovely young woman. They had many children which made Spinach’s father a very joyful and content old man.

And they always had rat traps set.





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Coming Soon: Fairy Tales for Boys

SMP_5137If your family is like my family, you raided the town library as soon as you heard they were about to shut their doors. And, if your family is like my family, you’ve already read all of the books you checked out.

And we still have weeks to go.

Months, perhaps.

Whatever shall we do?

Well, I have a suprise for you.

First, some background: As much as I love all the girl-power movies and books, sometimes I feel like the boys are getting left behind. So a few weeks ago I wrote some fairy tales for my kids. I took stories like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Goldilocks, and I changed the main character from a girl to a boy.

You’ll be surprised how this small change can alter the entire plot of the story (no matter what people tell you, boys are different than girls). Each fairy tale hero uses the best of his masculine virtues to outwit foxes, outcompete wicked stepbrothers, outcast evil witches, and ultimately achieve his own happy ending . . . with as little kissing as possible.

Girls will love the stories, too, since there are plenty of strong female characters for them to identify with. (Psst: these make great bedtime stories.)

I will be publishing each story, serial-style, on my blog every other day, starting tomorrow. I hope they can be something you and your kiddos can look forward to during these strange and extrodinary times.

The first one is about a boy who was locked in a tower . . .





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A Little Child Shall Lead Them

A friend found this blog post and shared it with me. It captures so much of my heart as I treasure my newborn during these uncertain times of looming illness. What a gift is a baby. They are the embodiment of hope, resilience, and great things yet to be.

The Philosophy of Motherhood

“A century ago, men were following, with bated breath, the march of Napoleon, and waiting with feverish impatience for the latest news of the wars. And all the while, in their own homes, babies were being born. But who could think about babies? Everybody was thinking about battles.

Master Baby, Sir William Orchardson

“In one year, lying midway between Trafalgar and Waterloo, there stole into the world a host of heroes! During that one year, 1809, Gladstone was born at Liverpool; Alfred Tennyson was born at the Somersby rectory, and Oliver Wendell Holmes made his first appearance at Massachusetts. On the very self-same day of that self same year Charles Darwin made his debut at Shrewsbury, and Abraham Lincoln drew his first breath at Old Kentucky. Music was enriched by the advent of Frederic Chopin at Warsaw, and of Felix Mendelssohn at Hamburg, Samuel Morley, Edwin Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Barrett Browning…

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