Today is World Storytelling Day. Here is a story to celebrate the day! If you like it, use it. Read it out to children. Make them imagine and colour – spread the joy of storytelling!
Alka sat down on the floor to tie her shoelaces. Weekends were fun. She could meet everyone, play Lock and Key and Polo and Crocodile-Crocodile and Zoop and…
“It’s time to throw away this terrible pair,” said Alka’s mother, looking down at Alka’s blue shoes – her favourite pair for running.
“No, Mamma, please!” said Alka, looking up, alarmed. “Please, Mamma, it’s my favourite pair, really! I’ll never ever get a pair like this again! How will I play?”
Her mother smiled. “But look at the state they’re in, Alka, they’re falling to bits. You can barely see that they were once blue, and the sole is completely torn!”
“But they’re my favourite pair …”
“All right, baby, I’ll tell you what,” said her mother, squatting before Alka. “We’ll go shopping this evening and we’ll see. If we find something nice, we’ll get it. We won’t throw this pair away immediately, okay?”
“May I keep this pair anyway, even if we find a nice pair?” asked Alka, hopefully.
“Lets see. I won’t throw them away until you tell me I may, okay?”
“Promise,” said her mother getting up with a smile.
Alka went down to play a little consoled, but still afraid her mother wouldn’t keep her promise. She loved her shoes, why did all beautiful clothes and shoes have to be thrown away? Just when they became soft and comfortable and loveable… It wasn’t fair!
That afternoon, they did go shopping and there was nothing perfect, just as Alka expected, nothing that Alka loved at first sight. It was only about ten shops later that finally Alka did find a pair she somewhat liked. They were bright yellow, with shiny silver buckles. They were beautifully soft and velvety on the inside.
“Happy?” asked her mother, sighing with relief.
Alka nodded. “But don’t throw away my favourite pair; it’s still better than this pair!”
Her mother smiled and took out her purse to pay before Alka changed her mind yet again. Just then, the second shopkeeper – the assistant – called Alka aside. Alka was scared and didn’t go to him, so he came towards her and sat on the floor next to her.
“Have you heard the story of the elves and the shoemaker?” he whispered.
Alka shook her head, clutching her mother’s hand.
“It’s a story about how a shopkeeper has no time at all to make shoes, so there are little elves who help him at night and make the shoes for him! And you know what? The story is about this shop!”
“Wow!” breathed Alka. “Really?”
“Yes, really! Why do you think they look so beautiful! No human being or machine can make shoes like this!”
Alka saw her yellow shoes being put into the box with new wonder.
“And you know something about the pair you’ve chosen? It’s particularly magical! Look around, no other shoes in the shop have buckles like that!”
“How is it magical, Uncle?” whispered Alka. “How?”
“You’ll see!” replied the shopkeeper, with a wink. “Put them on when you play in the evening and you’ll see!”
Alka couldn’t wait till evening, just to try her new shoes. “I don’t love you any less,” she told her old shoes affectionately as she put on the yellow shoes. “I promise. But I just want to try…”
When she put them on the first day, she didn’t notice anything that different, except that she could run faster than anyone else that day. She was a little disappointed, but thought she would give her shoes a second chance – at the school picnic the next day.
And then, she discovered how magical they really were.
The picnic was at an old fort nearby, and by the time they got there, Alka had forgotten that she was wearing her new shoes. There were too many other more interesting things to look at outside the bus window, why would she think of her shoes?
When they finally got there, the teacher told them the history of the fort, but she didn’t find it very interesting. It was all about old dead kings and battles and how one man defeated another… There was all sorts of stuff printed all over on notice-boards as well, but she guessed that all that was for big people. If it was not, why did they put the boards so high up?
And then, as she was walking through the fort, she saw an old, old man coming towards her, dressed in an old costume that seemed unreal.
“Who are you?” she whispered.
“I should ask you that first,” said the old man. “Where did you find the shoes?”
Alka drew back.
“No, child, don’t be afraid! I’m just curious!”
“I bought them,” said Alka, lifting her chin. “My name is Alka.”
“My name is Jayant,” said the old man. “Though very few people call me that. I was the king of this fort.”
“I don’t believe you. If you’re a king, where’s your crown?”
“It’s too heavy for me,” said Jayant, slowly. “But I can prove I’m a king. Look at one of the boards and try and find the sixth king on the list, you’ll see!”
“But that means you’re dead!” said Alka, her eyes widening.
“Do I look dead?” asked Jayant, reasonably.
“No…” Alka frowned. “But I don’t know how dead people look!”
“So it doesn’t really matter then whether or not I am dead, does it?”
“I guess not.” Alka paused. “But what do my shoes have to do with you?”
“What do you mean?” asked Jayant, surprised. “Don’t you know they’re made by elves?”
“I knew that, but so what?”
“That connects us… It’s magic, connecting two worlds, the world of history and the world of now!”
“So you are dead!” said Alka, triumphantly. “I knew it!”
Jayant laughed. “Yes, yes, I am…”
“Can I talk to all dead people then?” asked Alka, looking down at her little shoes. “What else can I do?”
“Anything you want,” said Jayant, very softly. “You can see history and people…”
“And elves?” asked Alka, hopefully.
“No,” said Jayant, apologetically. “You can see elves only if they want you to see them.”
“Then what’s the point?” asked Alka, disappointed.
“But think about it,” said Jayant, his eyes shining. “You can see things people have never seen before!”
“Like me! And you can even peek into the world of the sun and the moon and the wind, who are all real people, you know!”
“Like in the stories!” said Alka, excited.
“Yes, just like in the stories! Where do you think the stories came from? And who knows? You might even see the elves too! See, even with people like me, we choose whether you see us or not, which is why you see me and none of the others!”
“Wow!” whispered Alka. She looked around her and she could see others too, though a little more distant, all smiling at her. Some of them looked scary, with huge moustaches and long swords that glinted. They wore long red robes and lots and lots of jewellery – even the men. “I do see others,” she said.
“Ah! So they did decide to show themselves to you,” said Jayant, shrugging. “They were scared earlier.”
“Scared?” asked Alka, surprised. “Of me?”
“Well, you were scared when you thought I was dead. They’re scared because you’re alive!”
Alka giggled at the idea.
“Look!” cried the king. “Look there!”
Alka turned to the wall at which Jayant was pointing and saw the sunlight on the green moss. She knew she didn’t imagine it – it wasn’t just shadows. She could see a beautiful young woman sitting there, shining like the sun itself. Her smile was like the sunlight and the green moss formed her dress that fell gracefully around her.
“Yes,” the lady whispered. “I’m Sunlight…”
Alka turned to Jayant, excited, only to realise he had disappeared. “Ey! That’s cheating!” said Alka, frowning. “You can’t go away like that!”
“Your group is moving away,” Sunlight said, softly. “Go, go with them.”
Alka turned around and realised that none of her friends had noticed anything. “How? Why?”
Sunlight smiled gently and looked at Alka’s shoes. The buckles gleamed in the sunshine and Alka smiled back. She waved to Sunlight, who was fading away too. Running behind the rest of the group, she heard the teacher’s voice.
“And after him came the sixth king. His real name was Jayant, but very few people really called him that…”