Fable of Richard and the Moon Elf (Pandlechron Supplement)

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Richard and the Moon Elf[edit]

Once upon a time there was a poor widow who lived in a little cottage with her only son Richard.

Richard was a giddy, thoughtless boy, but very kind-hearted and affectionate. There had been a particularly hot dry season, and after it the poor woman had suffered from fever and ague. Richard did no work as yet, and by degrees they grew dreadfully poor. The widow saw that there was no means of keeping Richard and herself from starvation but by selling her goat; so one morning she said to her son, 'I am too weak to go myself, Richard, so you must take the goat to market for me, and sell her.'

Richard liked going to market to sell the goat very much; but as he was on the way, he met a Lizardfolk shaman who had some beautiful seeds in his hand. Richard stopped to look at them, and the shaman told the boy that they were of great value, and persuaded the silly lad to sell the goat for these seeds.

When he brought them home to his mother instead of the money she expected for her nice goat, she was very vexed and shed many tears, scolding Richard for his folly. He was very sorry, and mother and son went to bed very sadly that night; their last hope seemed gone.

At daybreak Richard rose and went out into the garden.

'At least,' he thought, 'I will sow the wonderful seeds. Mother says that they are just common beets, and nothing else; but I may as well sow them.'

So he took a piece of stick, and made some holes in the ground, and put in the seeds.

That day they had very little dinner, and went sadly to bed, knowing that for the next day there would be none and Richard, unable to sleep from grief and vexation, got up at day-dawn and went out into the garden.

What was his amazement to find that the seeds had grown up in the night, and climbed up and up till they covered the high cliff that sheltered the cottage, and disappeared above it! The stalks had twined and twisted themselves together till they formed quite a ladder.

'It would be easy to climb it,' thought Richard.

And, having thought of the experiment, he at once resolved to carry it out, for Richard was a good climber. However, after his late mistake about the goat, he thought he had better consult his mother first.

So Richard called his mother, and they both gazed in silent wonder at the towering ladder entwined with flowers, which was not only of great height, but was thick enough to bear Richard's weight.

'I wonder where it ends,' said Richard to his mother; 'I think I will climb up and see.'

His mother wished him not to venture up this strange ladder, but Richard coaxed her to give her consent to the attempt, for he was certain there must be something wonderful at the top; so at last she yielded to his wishes.

Richard instantly began to climb, and went up and up on the ladder- till everything he had left behind him -- the cottage, the village, and even the tall church tower -- looked quite little, and still he could not see the top of the ladder.

Richard felt a little tired, and thought for a moment that he would go back again; but he was a very persevering boy, and he knew that the way to succeed in anything is not to give up. So after resting for a moment he went on.

After climbing higher and higher, till he grew afraid to look down for fear he should be giddy, Richard at last reached the top of the ladder, and found himself in a beautiful country, finely wooded, with beautiful meadows covered with sheep. A crystal stream ran through the pastures; not far from the place where he had got off the ladder stood a fine, strong castle.

Richard wondered very much that he had never heard of or seen this castle before; but when he reflected on the subject, he saw that it was as much separated from the village by the perpendicular rock on which it stood as if it were in another land.

While Richard was standing looking at the castle, a very strange- looking woman came out of the wood, and advanced towards him. She wore a pointed cap of quilted red satin turned up with ermine, her hair streamed loose curling round her pointed ears and over her shoulders, and she walked with a staff. Richard took off his cap and made her a bow.

'If you please, ma'am,' said he, 'is this your house?'

'No,' said the old lady. 'Listen, and I will tell you the story of that castle.

'Once upon a time there was a noble knight, who lived in this castle, which is on the borders of Fairyland. He had a fair and beloved wife and several lovely children: and as his neighbours, the little people, were very friendly towards him, they bestowed on him many excellent and precious gifts.

'Rumour whispered of these treasures; and a monstrous Moon Elf, who lived at no great distance, and who was a very wicked being, resolved to obtain possession of them.

'So he bribed a false servant to let him inside the castle, when the knight was in bed and asleep, and he killed him as he lay. Then he went to the part of the castle which was the nursery, and also killed all the poor little ones he found there.

'Happily for her, the lady was not to be found. She had gone with her infant son, who was only two or three months old, to visit her old nurse, who lived in the valley; and she had been detained all night there by a storm.

'The next morning, as soon as it was light, one of the servants at the castle, who had managed to escape, came to tell the poor lady of the sad fate of her husband and her pretty babes. She could scarcely believe him at first, and was eager at once to go back and share the fate of her dear ones; but the old nurse, with many tears, besought her to remember that she had still a child, and that it was her duty to preserve her life for the sake of the poor innocent.

'The lady yielded to this reasoning, and consented to remain at her nurse's house as the best place of concealment; for the servant told her that the Moon Elf had vowed, if he could find her, he would kill both her and her baby. Years rolled on. The old nurse died, leaving her cottage and the few articles of furniture it contained to her poor lady, who dwelt in it, working as a peasant for her daily bread. Her spinning-wheel and the milk of a goat, which she had purchased with the little money she had with her, sufficed for the scanty subsistence of herself and her little son. There was a nice little garden attached to the cottage, in which they cultivated peas, beans, and cabbages, and the lady was not ashamed to go out at harvest time, and glean in the fields to supply her little son's wants.

'Richard, that poor lady is your mother. This castle was once your father's, and must again be yours.'

Richard uttered a cry of surprise.

'My mother! oh, madam, what ought I to do? My poor father! My dear mother!'

'Your duty requires you to win it back for your mother. But the task is a very difficult one, and full of peril, Richard. Have you courage to undertake it?'

'I fear nothing when I am doing right,' said Richard.

'Then,' said the lady in the red cap, 'you are one of those who slay Moon Elves. You must get into the castle, and if possible possess yourself of a hen that lays golden eggs, and a harp that talks. Remember, all the Moon Elf possesses is really yours.' As she ceased speaking, the lady of the red hat suddenly disappeared, and of course Richard knew she was a fairy.

Richard determined at once to attempt the adventure; so he advanced, and blew the horn which hung at the castle portal. The door was opened in a minute or two by a frightful Moon Elf woman.

As soon as Richard saw her he turned to run away, but she caught him, and dragged him into the castle.

'Ha, ha!' she laughed terribly. 'You didn't expect to see me here, that is clear! No, I shan't let you go again. I am weary of my life. I am so overworked, and I don't see why I should not have a page as well as other ladies. And you shall be my boy. You shall clean the knives, and black the boots, and make the fires, and help me generally when the lord is out. When he is at home I must hide you, for he has killed all my pages hitherto, and you would hardly be a challenge, my little lad. He enjoys combat against Humans so much.'

While she spoke she dragged Richard right into the castle. The poor boy was very much frightened, as I am sure you and I would have been in his place. But he remembered that fear disgraces a man; so he struggled to be brave and make the best of things.

'I am quite ready to help you, and do all I can to serve you, madam,' he said, 'only I beg you will be good enough to hide me from your husband, for I should not like to be challenged yet.'

'That's a good boy,' said the Moon Elf woman, nodding her head; 'it is lucky for you that you did not scream out when you saw me, as the other boys who have been here did, for if you had done so my husband would have awakened and have fought you, as he did them. Come here, child; go into my wardrobe: he never ventures to open that; you will be safe there.'

And she opened a huge wardrobe which stood in the great hall, and shut him into it. But the keyhole was so large that it admitted plenty of air, and he could see everything that took place through it. By-and-by he heard a heavy tramp on the stairs, like the lumbering along of a great cannon, and then a voice like thunder cried out:

'Fe, fa, fi-fo-fum, I smell the breath of a Human. Let him be alive or let him be dead, I'll grind his bones and sever his head.'

'Wife,' cried the Moon Elf, 'there is a man in the castle. Let me kill him.'

'You are grown old and stupid,' cried the lady in her loud tones. 'It is only a nice fresh steak off an elephant, that I have cooked for you, which you smell. There, sit down and make a good breakfast.'

And she placed a huge dish before him of savoury steaming meat, which greatly pleased him, and made him forget his idea of an Englishman being in the castle. When he had breakfasted he went out for a walk; and then the Moon Elf woman opened the door, and made Richard come out to help her. He helped her all day. She fed him well, and when evening came put him back in the wardrobe.

The Moon Elf came in to supper. Richard watched him through the keyhole, and was amazed to see him kill a hydra for sport.

When the battle was over he bade his wife bring him his hen that laid the golden eggs.

'It lays as well as it did when it belonged to that paltry knight,' he said; 'indeed I think the eggs are heavier than ever.'

The Moon Elf woman went away, and soon returned with a little brown hen, which she placed on the table before her husband. 'And now, my dear,' she said, 'I am going for a walk, if you don't want me any longer.'

'Go,' said the Moon Elf; 'I shall be glad to have a nap by-and-by.'

Then he took up the brown hen and said to her:

'Lay!' And she instantly laid a golden egg.

'Lay!' said the Moon Elf again. And she laid another.

'Lay!' he repeated the third time. And again a golden egg lay on the table.

Now Richard was sure this hen was that of which the fairy had spoken.

By-and-by the Moon Elf put the hen down on the floor, and soon after went fast asleep, snoring so loud that it sounded like thunder.

Directly Richard perceived that the Moon Elf was fast asleep, he pushed open the door of the wardrobe and crept out; very softly he stole across the room, and, picking up the hen, made haste to quit the apartment. He knew the way to the kitchen, the door of which he found was left ajar; he opened it, shut and locked it after him, and flew back to the ladder, which he descended as fast as his feet would move.

When his mother saw him enter the house she wept for joy, for she had feared that the fairies had carried him away, or that the Moon Elf had found him. But Richard put the brown hen down before her, and told her how he had been in the Moon Elf's castle, and all his adventures. She was very glad to see the hen, which would make them rich once more.

Richard made another journey up the ladder to the Moon Elf's castle one day while his mother had gone to market; but first he dyed his hair and disguised himself. The old woman did not know him again, and dragged him in as she had done before, to help her to do the work; but she heard her husband coming, and hid him in the wardrobe, not thinking that it was the same boy who had stolen the hen. She bade him stay quite still there, or the Moon Elf would kill him.

Then the Moon Elf came in saying:

'Fe, fa, fi-fo-fum, I smell the breath of a Human. Let him be alive or let him be dead, I'll grind his bones and sever his head.'

'Nonsense!' said the wife, 'it is only a roasted bullock that I thought would be a tit-bit for your supper; sit down and I will bring it up at once.' The Moon Elf sat down, and soon his wife brought up a roasted bullock on a large dish, and they began their supper. Richard was amazed to see them pick the bones of the bullock as if it had been a lark. As soon as they had finished their meal, the Moon Elf woman rose and said:

'Now, my dear, with your leave I am going up to my room to finish the story I am reading. If you want me call for me.'

'First,' answered the Moon Elf, 'bring me my money bags, that I may count my golden pieces before I sleep.' The Moon Elf woman obeyed. She went and soon returned with two large bags over her shoulders, which she put down by her husband.

'There,' she said; 'that is all that is left of the knight's money. When you have spent it you must go and take another baron's castle.'

'That he shan't, if I can help it,' thought Richard.

The Moon Elf, when his wife was gone, took out heaps and heaps of golden pieces, and counted them, and put them in piles, till he was tired of the amusement. Then he swept them all back into their bags, and leaning back in his chair fell fast asleep, snoring so loud that no other sound was audible.

Richard stole softly out of the wardrobe, and taking up the bags of money (which were his very own, because the Moon Elf had stolen them from his father), he ran off, and with great difficulty descending the ladder, laid the bags of gold on his mother's table. She had just returned from town, and was crying at not finding Richard.

'There, mother, I have brought you the gold that my father lost.'

'Oh, Richard! you are a very good boy, but I wish you would not risk your precious life in the Moon Elf's castle. Tell me how you came to go there again.'

And Richard told her all about it.

Richard's mother was very glad to get the money, but she did not like him to run any risk for her.

But after a time Richard made up his mind to go again to the Moon Elf's castle.

So he climbed the ladder once more, and blew the horn at the Moon Elf's gate. The Moon Elf woman soon opened the door; she was very stupid, and did not know him again, but she stopped a minute before she took him in. She feared another robbery; but Richard's fresh face looked so innocent that she could not resist him, and so she bade him come in, and again hid him away in the wardrobe.

By-and-by the Moon Elf came home, and as soon as he had crossed the threshold he roared out:

'Fe, fa, fi-fo-fum, I smell the breath of a Human. Let him be alive or let him be dead, I'll grind his bones and sever his head.'

'You stupid old Moon Elf,' said his wife, 'you only smell a nice sheep, which I have grilled for your dinner.'

And the Moon Elf sat down, and his wife brought up a whole sheep for his dinner. When he had eaten it all up, he said: 'Now bring me my harp, and I will have a little music while you take your walk.'

The Moon Elf woman obeyed, and returned with a beautiful harp. The framework was all sparkling with diamonds and rubies, and the strings were all of gold.

'This is one of the nicest things I took from the knight,' said the Moon Elf. 'I am very fond of music, and my harp is a faithful servant.'

So he drew the harp towards him, and said:

'Play!'

And the harp played a very soft, sad air.

'Play something merrier!' said the Moon Elf.

And the harp played a merry tune.

'Now play me a lullaby,' roared the Moon Elf; and the harp played a sweet lullaby, to the sound of which its master fell asleep.

Then Richard stole softly out of the wardrobe, and went into the huge kitchen to see if the Moon Elf woman had gone out; he found no one there, so he went to the door and opened it softly, for he thought he could not do so with the harp in his hand.

Then he entered the Moon Elf's room and seized the harp and ran away with it; but as he jumped over the threshold the harp called out:

'MASTER! MASTER!'

And the Moon Elf woke up. With a tremendous roar he sprang from his seat, and in two strides had reached the door.

But Richard was very nimble. He fled like lightning with the harp, talking to it as he went (for he saw it was a fairy), and telling it he was the son of its old master, the knight.

Still the Moon Elf came on so fast that he was quite close to poor Richard, and had stretched out his hand to catch him. But, luckily, just at that moment he stepped upon a loose stone, stumbled, and fell flat on the ground, where he lay at his full length.

This accident gave Richard time to get on the ladder and hasten down it; but just as he reached their own garden he beheld the Moon Elf descending after him.

'Mother I mother!' cried Richard, 'make haste and give me the axe.'

His mother ran to him with a hatchet in her hand, and Richard with one tremendous blow cut through all the ladders except one.

'Now, mother, stand out of the way!' said he. Richard's mother shrank back, and it was well she did so, for just as the Moon Elf took hold of the last branch of the ladder, Richard cut the stem quite through and darted from the spot.

Down came the Moon Elf with a terrible crash, and as he fell on his head, he broke his neck, and lay dead at the feet of the woman he had so much injured.

Before Richard and his mother had recovered from their alarm and agitation, a beautiful lady stood before them. 'Richard,' said she, 'you have acted like a brave knight's son, and deserve to have your inheritance restored to you. Dig a grave and bury the Moon Elf, and then go and kill the Moon Elf woman.'

'But,' said Richard, 'I could not kill anyone unless I were fighting with him; and I could not draw my sword upon a woman. Moreover, the Moon Elf woman was very kind to me.'

The Fairy smiled on Richard.

'I am very much pleased with your generous feeling,' she said. 'Nevertheless, return to the castle, and act as you will find needful.'

Richard asked the Fairy if she would show him the way to the castle, as the ladder was now down. She told him that she would drive him there in her chariot, which was drawn by two peacocks. Richard thanked her, and sat down in the chariot with her.

The Fairy drove him a long distance round, till they reached a village which lay at the bottom of the hill. Here they found a number of miserable-looking men assembled. The Fairy stopped her carriage and addressed them:

'My friends,' said she, 'the cruel Moon Elf who oppressed you and stole all your flocks and herds is dead, and this young gentleman was the means of your being delivered from him, and is the son of your kind old master, the knight.'

The men gave a loud cheer at these words, and pressed forward to say that they would serve Richard as faithfully as they had served his father. The Fairy bade them follow her to the castle, and they marched thither in a body, and Richard blew the horn and demanded admittance.

The old Moon Elf woman saw them coming from the turret loop-hole. She was very much frightened, for she guessed that something had happened to her husband; and as she came downstairs very fast she caught her foot in her dress, and fell from the top to the bottom and broke her neck.

When the people outside found that the door was not opened to them, they took crowbars and forced the portal. Nobody was to be seen, but on leaving the hall they found the body of the Moon Elf woman at the foot of the stairs.

Thus Richard took possession of the castle. The Fairy went and brought his mother to him, with the hen and the harp. He had the Moon Elf woman buried, and endeavoured as much as lay in his power to do right to those whom the Moon Elf had robbed.

Before her departure for fairyland, the Fairy explained to Richard that she had sent the shaman to meet him with the seeds, in order to try what sort of lad he was.

If you had looked at the gigantic ladder and only stupidly wondered about it,' she said, 'I should have left you where misfortune had placed you, only restoring her goat to your mother. But you showed an inquiring mind, and great courage and enterprise, therefore you deserve to rise; and when you mounted the ladder you climbed the Ladder of Fortune.'

She then took her leave of Richard and his mother.

Significance[edit]

This story is ancient, but underlies several values that exist in the culture of Sapparizan. The Moon Elf (though existent elsewhere in Pandlechron) is largely considered to be a myth in Sapparizan. The story teaches a fear of the unknown and a level of racism towards other races. The Lizardfolk shaman is used because trading with Lizardfolk is commonly regarded as a foolish thing to do (even if this conception is untrue).

Note[edit]

Yes I know, it parallels Jack and the Beanstalk [1]. It is basically copied and pasted from the version by Andrew Lang [2]. I do intend to modify it. The basic story will be the same, however.



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The extent I care to think about when it comes to Elves is how funny they look in clouds of Chlorine. I was glad to make them extinct in Sapparizan. Maybe some day I will finish the job.
Ophion
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