Tag Archives: bedtime stories

Chapter 7: The Boy and the Seven Swans, Continued

Part 2

“That is a very big knife,” said his mother when Orion showed his parents his sword.

“I’m going to use it to find my sisters and bring them home,” he stated.

The worried king and queen wanted to know how he would do this. Orion raised the sword and sliced through one of the tapestries on the wall. “That is how,” he said.

Orion rode off in the direction the swans had flown. At night he was guided by the stars and during the day he was guided by the sun. He rode up mountains, around great lakes and through white, rushing rivers, all the while thanking Stella for her navigation lessons.

At last he came to a black castle that shone like obsidian. It was obviously the home of the Midnight Queen.

After the sun set, he snuck up to the castle, climbed the vine-strewn castle wall, and peeked in one of the windows. There he saw his sisters all in a room, wearing their nightgowns.

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Syrena Dyreng

“Orion!” they exclaimed. “What are you doing here?!”

“I’ve come to save you. See?” he said, wielding his sword. “I have found my true gift, and I am going to use it to kill this queen and take you all back home.”

The sisters looked hopeful for a moment, but then despaired. “How?” said Lyra. “She is not actually a queen at all, but a powerful witch, and she wants us to be her apprentices and carry on her wicked legacy.”

“We are only human at night, when she trains us. When the sun rises we turn back into swans, but we are so exhausted from our lessons that all we do is sleep,” said Luna.

“And we don’t even get to sleep in the castle,” said Cassiopeia. “We have to sleep in the moat, like ducks!”

“Why don’t you fly away?”

“She has clipped our wings,” said Nova with a sniff.

“Even if you kill the Midnight Queen, how will you turn us back into people? The enchantment is too strong. It comes from these gowns she gave us. They are impossible to remove,” said Andromeda.

“Yes, it is like trying to remove skin!” Venus added.

“I will find a way. I promise,” said Orion. He said good-bye to his sisters and stole away in the darkness, formulating a plan. First, he needed some wool.

Using animal speech, he talked to a local flock of sheep, explaining his predicament. The sheep were skeptical, but the young man seemed so desperate, and he asked so politely, that they decided to help anyway. With his sword he expertly sheered the sheep, gathered up the wool and began knitting.

Meanwhile, he visited his sisters as often as he could, reassuring them that they would be free soon. When Orion’s plan was complete and he strode up to the palace door and knocked.

“Who goes there?” asked the gatekeeper, narrowing his bright black eyes.

“It is I, the 8th child.”

“The 8th child of whom?”

“Just tell the queen that the 8th child is here. She’ll know who I am.”

A few moments later the doors opened and Orion was permitted to enter, as long as he surrendered his sword, which he expected. He was guided to a grand throne room where the Midnight Queen sat on an onyx throne.

“Why are you here, 8th child?”

“Ever since you came to our palace and I didn’t perform my talent for you, I have regretted it. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish that I, too, could become a swan and join my sisters in your palace.”

“So, you are finally willing to perform for me?”

“Yes, Your Majesty. All I need are some knives and some fruit.”

The queen smirked. “I’m not interested in you or your gift,” she said. “I have everything I ever wanted. All of my dreams have now come true and it is finally my turn to live happily ever after.”

“But how can you live happily ever after if you’ve never seen what I can do? You will always wonder.”

“Hmph,” she said. She was curious about this boy’s gift, but she was not stupid. “Perhaps. Unfortunately, I don’t trust you with knives.”

Once again, Orion expected this. “Then may I sing for you?”

“Very well,” she said.

Orion began to sing, and the queen tried to keep from wincing, for even evil queens try to be polite in all circumstances. But then he sang louder and the queen had had enough.

“SILENCE!” she said. “Please, please stop! Servants! Go and fetch this young

man some fruit and the smallest knives from the kitchen.”

A moment later a table was prepared before Orion with a paring knife and some grapes, which he fashioned into exquisite flowers.

“Very skillfully done, but not good enough,” she said.

“You should see what I can do with cantaloupes,” said Orion.

“Very well,” said the queen, as if she were bored. “Bring the boy some cantaloupes.”

“. . . and I’ll need some larger knives,” Orion added.

“And larger knives,” she said.

Out of the kitchen came slightly larger knives and several cantaloupes, which Orion made into beautiful birds, arranged in a cozy nest.

The queen nodded. “I must admit that is quite impressive.”

“That is nothing,” said Orion. “My watermelon carvings are by far the best.”

Servants produced larger knives and watermelons were rolled out, and Orion created three watermelon baskets, filled with carvings of exotic animals.

“You definitely have an unusual talent,” said the queen. “But can you make a replica of my castle?”

Orion stroked his chin. “I will need an even bigger knife and a bigger fruit.”

The cook shrugged. “We have no bigger knives, nor fruit Your Majesty.”

“Then send for a block of ice, you ninny!” commanded the queen, who forgot all about being polite.

The ice was wheeled in but Orion seemed uncertain. “I’m sorry,” said Orion. “I cannot carve the ice into a castle.”

“Why not?”

“Because for something so large I would need my sword.”

The queen snapped her fingers. “Guards! Give the boy his sword. I want to see my castle!” said the queen who was not totally stupid, but was slightly stupid.

Orion’s sword was brought into the room and he stuck it against the ice block, cutting and carving an exact replica of the Midnight Queen’s castle. When he was finished the queen applauded and Orion gave a sweeping bow.

“Excellent work,” said the queen who was much more impressed than she thought she’d be. “Very well, I shall make you my 8th swan. I shall train you to become a great wizard and together we shall be the most powerful family in the world!”

“No,” said Orion.

“No?” answered the queen. “I thought that is what you came here for.”

“I lied. I came to free my sisters. Release them to me now, unless—” he said as he flourished his sword, “—you want to see my greatest talent.”

The woman trembled in rage. “You stupid boy! You are just like all of the others! You shall never have my swans! You want to see a great talent? I’ll show you a great talent!”

The queen began to grow. Her face stretched into a snout and her ears grew to the size of dinner plates. Fur sprouted all over her body except for a long, hairless tail that snaked out from behind her. Before you could say the name “Yetzel” three times, the queen turned into a giant black rat. “How’s this, little boy?”

The rat towered over Orion. She spread her razor-sharp claws and gnashed her pointed yellow teeth. The servants cowered in the corners, under tables, and behind doors.

So this was Sir Spinach’s rat! Orion thought as he drew his sword. The rat swiped at Orion and he somersaulted backwards to avoid her sharp claws. Though his heart thundered inside of him, he could not stop the grin that spread across his face. This was exactly the challenge he had been dreaming of. The rat struck again at Orion, but he nimbly dodged the claws, slashing the rat’s wrist in the process. She howled in pain and pounced on Orion, her jaws open, but Orion scurried through her legs and chopped off the tip of her tail. Then he leaped onto her throne as the rat lunged again for him. He cut the cord of the drapery behind the throne and swung from danger, slicing off one of her ears as he flew by. She groaned in pain, but it only made her even more vicious. He landed on the ground and backed away from the rat until his back was against the wall.

The rat snarled. “You have no place to go now, little boy. I am only seconds away from tearing your pathetic little body apart. Why don’t we make a deal for your life?”

“I don’t make deals with rats,” said Orion.

“Then you leave me no choice,” and she raced toward him, jaws open wide for the kill, but Orion slashed a curtain with his sword and slung it over her head. The rat ripped at the fabric, trying to remove it from her face, and as she struggled Orion plunged his sword into her heart. The rat collapsed to the ground, where she trembled, uttered a final, ignominious squeak, and died.

All at once, the servants turned into mice and rats and scurried out of the castle, and the seven swans, who had been watching from a balcony, trumpeted in triumph. They glided down to Orion and nuzzled him with their beaks.

“Now it is time to turn you back into your human shape.” He led the swans out of the castle to a place where he had hidden a large bag. He pulled out seven sweaters. He helped each swan into a sweater and soon they turned back into humans.

“I knitted them myself,” said Orion.

“I can tell,” said Cassiopeia, still flapping a swan wing where the sleeve had unraveled.

“I’ll fix that when we get home,” said Orion.

They traveled back to their own kingdom and surprised their parents who were so overcome with happiness that they instantly looked ten years younger. In time, each child married a fine spouse from neighboring kingdoms and for the rest of their days they continued to use their gifts to spread joy throughout the land.

 

Dear Readers,   

I hope you enjoyed Fairy Tales for Boys. It was a fun project! I am interested to know what you thought, so please leave a comment below. Also, I would love to hear which story your kids enjoyed the most. Please share with others so they have something new to read during the quarantine. Spread good stories and not bad viruses!

Love, Chelsea

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Chapter 6: The Boy and His Wicked Stepbrothers

Part 1

Once upon a time in a grand country mansion lived a couple and their young son Douglas. The father was a studious man who had a large library filled with books that he’d collected from around the world. The three spent hours in the library together reading novels, biographies, travelogues and poetry. Before he left on his next journey, the father promised to bring back another book. But alas, he never returned, for his ship was dragged to the bottom of the ocean by a giant squid.

Life became very difficult for the mother after that. The mansion was large and required much maintenance to keep up. Soon there wasn’t enough money to pay the servants, and one by one they left. She tried to repair things that broke, but none of her repairs lasted long. Though Douglas was young, he did his best to help. Finally, as the estate began to fall into ruin, and she sunk further into debt, she realized she had only one choice left.

She woke early and put on her prettiest dress. She combed through her long hair until it was smooth and silky and then pinned it under an attractive hat. She rubbed rouge on her cheeks and cleaned her dirty fingernails. When she emerged from her chambers, Douglas thought she looked just as pretty as when his father was alive.

“Take care of the house while I am gone,” she said, giving him a big hug. “I am going to the city to find you another father.”

With a lump in his throat, the boy watched her ride away, hoping that she too wouldn’t disappear and leave him completely alone.

A few days later, a carriage pulled up to the mansion. Douglas stood outside to receive it. When the carriage door opened his mother stepped out, looking radiant and wearing a flattering new dress. She ran to her son and swung him around. “Things worked out even better than I imagined,” she said. “Come and meet your new father.”

A large man exited the carriage, and Doug’s mother introduced them. The man smiled and seemed kind enough. “And I have another surprise for you!” said Doug’s mother, beaming. From behind the man stepped two boys, both a year or two older than Douglas. “Now you have brothers! Isn’t this wonderful? Everything is going to be much better for us now, my sweet son. You shall see.”

The big man swept Doug’s mother into his arms and carried her into the house. Douglas looked at his two new stepbrothers. “Welcome to my home,” he said with a smile, even though he didn’t feel like smiling.

The older of the two sniffed, spit on the ground, and said, “You mean our home.” Then they shoved Douglas out of the way and walked inside.

****

Doug’s mother was right—everything was much better, at first. His new stepdad had money to get the house repaired and he was mostly kind. He hired new servants and bought new horses and a new carriage. All of them received new clothes. And although his new step-brothers teased him now and then, his step-father would always put a stop to it, and Douglas felt grateful for his fatherly protection. Best of all, he had not seen his mother so happy in a long time, and he and his mother spent the evenings in the library staying up late and reading the way they used to.

But after a few months Douglas noticed a change in his mother’s countenance. Her eyes, which were always filled with light, gradually filled with shadows. Bluish bruises appeared on her arms and sometimes her face. When Douglas asked her about it, she laughed and said she had fallen. She stopped eating at dinner and soon became so weak that she stayed in bed all day. One rainy night she called Douglas to her side. She looked so feeble that he hardly recognized her. She took Doug’s hand as tears welled in her eyes. “My son, I have made a grave mistake, and I don’t think your father will ever forgive me. I’m so very sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

“I am sorry that I have made things worse for you.”

He squeezed her hand. “No, you haven’t, mother.”

“Yes, I have. You will see.”

****

Two days later his mother died.

After the funeral Douglas went to his bedroom to be by himself, but the door was thrown open and his stepbrothers barged in.

“This is my room now,” said the eldest brother. “It doesn’t make sense for me and my brother to share rooms anymore.”

“No, this is my room,” said Douglas. “Just ask Father.”

The stepbrother scoffed. “My father is the one who told me I could have your room.”

Douglas didn’t believe this, and he went downstairs and told his stepfather what was happening.

The man shook his head and chuckled. “Oh Douglas, don’t be so sensitive. Can’t you see? You don’t need such a large room. The other boys are bigger. It is time for them to both have their own rooms.”

“But where will I sleep?”

“You can sleep in the barn. It will be warm in there, and you can have the place all to yourself.”

Douglas marched back upstairs, hurt, confused, and fuming.

“What are you doing back here, Dougie?” said the eldest stepbrother. “Get out. This is my room.”

“I’m just coming to get my things,” growled Douglas.

“These aren’t your things. They are my things.”

“No, they aren’t!”

“You want to fight about it? Hit me, little boy.”

Douglas was so mad that he didn’t really think about what he was doing. Making a fist, he pulled back and punched his stepbrother in the stomach. But his brothers just laughed. “That’s not a punch. You want to know what a real punch feels like?”

That evening Douglas stumbled into the barn and crawled into a bed of straw, every muscle aching with pain from the beating he’d received from his two stepbrothers. He pulled an old quilt over himself and wished he could die.

The next morning the barn door was thrown open and his stepfather shook him awake. “Get up, boy. We need wood chopped for the fire.” And from that time onward, Douglas was treated as the lowest servant at the mansion, emptying chamber pots, tending fires, and chopping wood.

As the years went by, the stepbrothers spent piles of money on fancy clothes, horses and carriages, and attended a different ball each week. It wasn’t long before men in black suits and grim faces came to the mansion, demanding money. Douglas recognized these men; they were creditors. The house again fell into disrepair and the servants left. But instead of making repairs and keeping the house clean as his mother had done, all was left to ruin. The rooms were never swept or kept in order, dust layered the shelves, cobwebs filled the corners, food was strewn about the house and bedrooms, for his stepbrothers never cleaned up after themselves, and rats and cockroaches roamed freely, night and day.

As each servant left, Douglas was forced to take on their duties. He tried to make the food (for his stepbrothers were ravenous eaters), and keep the kitchen somewhat clean, to wash the dishes and the windows and milk the cow, but as soon as he started a task, his stepbrothers demanded he work on something else, so nothing was ever completely finished. And when he didn’t do a task well enough his stepfather called him lazy and beat him.

He spent most of his time chopping wood. Every morning and every evening, in the sun, in the rain, and in the snow. Ironically, he always felt better after he chopped a pile of wood, for at least it gave him a way to release the frustration he wished he could inflict on his tormentors.

His only other respite was in the evenings after his stepbrothers retired or left for another ball. He would sit in the library and read from his father’s books until his stepfather banished him to the barn.

One day he noticed a row of books missing from the library. “What happened to these books?” he asked his stepfather.

“We sold them,” he said with a shrug. “How else am I to pay for all the food you eat?”

After that, each day Douglas took care to take one book from the library and hide it in the barn.

One day, while Douglas was outside chopping wood, a royal messenger rode up to the mansion and knocked on the door. When the stepfather answered, the messenger read a royal proclamation.

Hear ye, hear ye! An announcement to every household in the land. The princess has come of age and it is time for her to marry. To find the most suitable young man, the king is holding a tournament of stealth, strength and stamina. All men of good character are permitted to enter, but only one will win. The competition will be held one month from today, on the castle grounds.

“Well, boys, how would you like to become royalty?” asked the stepfather when the messenger had gone.

The eldest rolled his eyes. “I could win this tournament with both hands tied behind my back.”

The second brother laughed. “I’d like to see you try. I’ll take over once you’ve made a fool of yourself in front of the princess, and I will be the winner.”

The boys continued to bicker until one punched the other and it turned into a fist fight. Douglas shook his head and went back to chopping wood.

The stepbrothers spent the next few weeks getting ready for the tournament. They bought new clothes that they didn’t have money for, while Douglas washed their dirty ones. They practiced their archery skills with targets posted to trees and sent Douglas into the woods to shoot deer for their dinner. And each day, while they lay on the sofas, bragging to each other about who was the strongest, Douglas carried load after load of wood upstairs to their bedroom fireplaces.

Late one evening when Douglas was in the library reading the very last book, his brothers strutted in, wearing their new clothes. “Tomorrow is the tournament, Dougie. What do you think of my new clothes? Don’t you think the princess will swoon when she sees how handsome I am?”

The other brother rubbed his knuckles against Douglas’s head.  “I bet you wish you were going to the tournament, don’t you?”

“Not really,” said Douglas, his eyes still on his book.

“That’s good, because the princess wants someone strong and manly. Not a wimpy little bookworm like you.”

Douglas ignored them and turned a page.

Doug’s indifference angered the older stepbrother. He snatched Douglas’s book. “See how manly I am!” With a roar he ripped the book in half and tossed the pages around the room.

After they left, Douglas gathered the pages, placed the damaged book together, and carefully tied it with string. That night he took it to his secret book stash in the barn.

 

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Syrena Dyreng

Douglas woke early the next morning to get the horses and carriage ready for his stepfamily. They climbed in, and with a flick of the whip they were off, leaving Douglas in a cloud of dust. “Next time you see me, I’ll be a prince!” one of them called out before being whacked by his brother.

Douglas knew there was much to be done before his stepfamily returned, but instead of attending to his duties he walked into the house and sat in the quiet library, stared at the empty shelves, and scowled.

“Don’t you want to go to the tournament?” said a voice.

Douglas turned and saw a man with a white beard sitting in his father’s favorite chair.

“Who are you?”

“I am your hairy godfather.”

“My . . . hairy godfather?”

“Yes, and I have the power to make wishes come true. If you want to go to the tournament, I can make that happen. The only question is, do you want to go?”

“Yes, but for all the wrong reasons.”

The man leaned forward. “Please expound.”

“I want to go and see my brothers lose. I want to see them humiliated.”

“That isn’t very noble,” agreed the man. “T’would be more noble if you went for the purpose of winning the princess’s hand.”

“No, it wouldn’t,” said Douglas. “It would be more noble to court the princess in a way that gives her a choice.”

The hairy godfather scrunched up his lips. “Yes, that is actually more noble, you are correct. But perhaps the princess has more choice in the matter than you think. And perhaps she may need help knowing which suitors are real men and which are brutes. Perhaps she may need to be warned.”

Douglas lifted his head.

“Imagine if the princess ended up with one of your stepbrothers.” His voice grew quiet. “Imagine if your mother had someone who warned her.”

Douglas’s jaw tightened. He stood, filled with resolve and determination. “I will go, if only to warn the princess.” Then his shoulders dropped. “But I have no horse.”

The hairy godfather snapped his fingers at a passing rat, which immediately transformed into a black steed.

“I have no proper clothes.”

The hairy godfather snapped his fingers and Douglas was dressed in a clean muslin blouse, leather vest and riding pants with boots, belt, scabbard and sword.

“I have no . . .  idea what to say to her.”

“You won’t need to say anything,” said the hairy godfather. “All you have to do is be yourself. But with your stepbrothers there, you might have more luck with a disguise.” He snapped his fingers and a black mask appeared over Douglas’s eyes. He snapped his fingers again and a cunning mustache and goatee appeared around Douglas’s mouth. “That’s more like it. Even your sweet mother wouldn’t recognize you. I must warn you, however, that my magic will only last for the day and will vanish by midnight tonight. After that you will be dressed in rags and riding a rat.”

Douglas nodded. “Thank you so much. I hope to be worthy of your gifts.” Not wanting to waste any time, he led the horse outside and mounted.

“One more thing.” The hairy godfather said as he stood in the doorway. He snapped his fingers and a small book appeared in his hand.

“What is that?”

“This is a book of poetry, written by a fellow named Shakespeare.” He handed it up to Douglas. “You might find it useful. Did I not tell you I would bring you a book back from my travels?”

He snapped his fingers once more and was gone.

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

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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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