This is a fairy tale that I wrote for a class assignment in my literature class. A class assignment to write a fairy tale, in my literature class on fairy tales. I don’t know if I did this well, but I know that I am fondly attached to it, and I think that it has the emotional notes I was aiming for? So here it is, illustrations also by me.
Once upon a time, when it was darker and more quiet than now, though not by much, there was a lonely little boy. He lived in a small village on the edge of a river. A fog hovered over the river, such that no one else in the little boy’s village knew how wide it was, or what lay on the other side.
The little boy was allowed to walk along the river quite a ways, or to splash about in the shallowest water when it was warm enough, which was rare, but never to cross it. His parents encouraged him to play in the meadow with the other children of the village, who liked to play tag or catch amongst themselves, but the little boy was not overly fond of catch. Besides, none of the other children were his friends.
Instead, the little boy would walk along the bank until he reached a small tree. He would climb into the lower branches and sit among them and sing. The little boy would sing about his parents, and his house, and his pet cat. He would sing about the meadow, and the river, and the tree he sat on. I am a little boy, he would sing, I live in a little village. I like the river, I like this tree, I like to sing. Other times he sang about nothing at all, just to hear his voice echo nicely on the water.
One day in the summer, when it was warmer but no less quiet or dark, the boy cast his voice over the water and began to sing…
And he heard someone singing back!
At first the little boy was sure that he was imagining it. It must just be the echo, he told himself! But he would sing for several minutes and then listen for several minutes, and when he listened he was sure that he heard a new voice, another child singing back to him.
The little boy tried to introduce himself to the river voice. I am a little boy, he sang, I live in a little village. I like the river, I like this tree, I like to sing.
I like to sing! replied the voice from across the river, I like to sing and I like the river and I like trees. I like fish and flowers. I have a little village, but I can never leave it.
In this manner, the little boy and the voice from across the river told each other many things about themselves. The little boy sang about his parents, and his chores, and all the other children in the village who were not his friends. The river voice sang about the weather, and the plants, and the birds who flew overhead.
They spent all summer talking in this way, and singing with one another. The little boy thought that this might be what it was like to have a friend.
On the first night of autumn, the little boy’s friend did not answer him from across the river. At first, the little boy thought that the river voice could not hear him. He sang a bit louder. I am a little boy! I live in a little village, I like the river, I like the tree, I like my friend! Where are you?
No answer reached him from beyond the fog.
The little boy was worried about his friend. He would have to cross the river.
The water of the river was cold and swift, but not strong enough to yank the little boy away. He clenched his fists and took small, determined steps against the current. The river chilled his skin, and the little boy began to shiver, but he refused to turn back. He had to find his friend.
Eventually the little boy splashed onto the unfamiliar river bank, the fog dissipating around him as he trudged up the sandy shore. On this side of the river there were trees, just like where he had come from, only a little bit taller. In the midst of the tall trees was a little path leading away from the river. The little boy figured that this path must lead to the river voice’s village, and so he set off along it. The trees thinned, and opened onto a meadow with the little path weaving through it. On the other side of the meadow, the land dipped down in a valley, and finally the little boy was able to see a village.
He skipped down the hill, suddenly very excited that his friend might be so near, and began to sing again. I am a little boy! This is a new little village, and I have never been here before! I like the river between our villages, I like the trees on both sides, I like the path that is leading me to you!
He hoped that his friend would hear him and respond, but still the little boy heard no reply.
The little boy got closer and closer to the new village, until he could pick out each and every roof top of the little stone houses, but he could not see a single person. No adults were walking in the streets and no children were playing in the meadow. Instead, the streets were occupied by statues. Statues of men and women and children stood in doorways and leaned over in gardens and walked on the roads, all motionless.
The little boy ran up to the first statue he could reach, a statue of an old woman, and asked her what had happened to all the people of the village, but she was a statue and statues cannot move their lips. The old woman statue could not answer the little boy!
The little boy ran up to the second statue he could find, a statue of a little girl, and asked her where all the statues had had come from, but she was a statue, and statues cannot move their tongues. The little girl could not answer the little boy!
The little boy ran up to a third statue, a statue of a young man standing in the road, and asked him if everyone in the village was made of stone, but he was a statue, and statues cannot move their mouths. The young man could not answer the little boy!
The little boy was very upset, now, and he despaired of ever finding his friend or knowing what had happened to him. He began to walk up and down every street of the statue village, crying and singing. I am a little boy, he sang, I am a little boy and I cannot find my friend…
…and then the little boy heard a noise. At first he was sure that he was imagining it. It must be a bird, he thought, or a strange echo. But when he listened closer, the little boy was sure that he heard someone humming. His eyes widened and he kept singing, following the sound of humming. He walked down winding streets and wove around huddled statues, singing and listening as best he could, until he arrived in front of a statue of another boy, sitting in a garden.
The little boy sat in front of the statue and leaned in close to hear better, and sure enough, he could tell that the statue was humming. He now knew for sure that he recognized the voice of the humming – it was his friend! Somehow, his friend from across the river had become this statue. The little boy put his hand on one of the boy statue’s hands.
Hello! he sang to the statue, hello, I am a little boy! You are the voice from across the river, you are my friend. We are friends! You were able to talk before – I will wait until you can talk again, we can sing together. We can sing about the river and the trees and our two villages…
The little boy sat there, by his friend, for many days. The sun would rise and set, and the little boy would sing day in and day out. He sang to his friend about all the statues he had seen. He sang to his friend about all the people in the little boy’s own village, who were not statues. He sang to his friend about the river that they could go visit if the boy statue ever took a break from being a statue. The boy statue hummed back to him, but could never speak.
And then one morning, the sun rose on the first day of spring, and the boy statue could speak again.
“Hello,” said the statue to the boy. “I am a little statue, and I am your friend! I’m afraid I cannot take a break from being a statue, but that is okay! It is spring now and the weather is warmer; all statues may speak and move about in spring.”
“You are a little statue?” repeated the little boy. “Well, I am a little boy! I cannot take a break from being a boy either, but I am still going to be your friend! Can you walk to the river?”
“No,” replied the statue, “I cannot leave the village. But I can see the river from here! All statues have very good eyesight. Why don’t you walk to the river, and I will be able to see you and the river from here, and we can both sing and hear each other?”
“Yes!” said the little boy, “Yes, I will do that! I like to sing, I like the river. I will go there now!”
And so every day during the spring and summer the little boy went down to the river, and his friend the statue could see him, and they would sing to one another. And every day during fall and winter, the little boy kept his friend the statue company, and sung to him so that he could know what was going on in the cold season. The little boy was very patient, and didn’t mind that his friend could not talk to him, because he knew that his friend was listening. In the warm season, the statue would laugh and thank him and ask questions about his stories, and then they would sing together. The statue and the little boy loved each other very much for the rest of each their lives, and they were friends happily ever after.