Freda’s Dad was to be dubbed a knight. For his first tournament he made careful preparations: he wound the curving armour plates round himself, sewed up his cloak and fastened on his sword. All he was missing was a squire.
“You’ll have to make do with the bicycle,” Mama said pitilessly. “And you’ll take Freda as your page.”
Freda jumped for joy. She threw an old towel over her shoulders and thrust the ladle in under her belt.
“Now off to the tournament at a gallop!” Dad commanded.
Freda clambered up onto the carrier and Dad pressed on the pedals. In his heavy armour he made his way forward as slowly as a snail. When the road began slanting upwards towards the hill, Dad puffed: “We’ll make a shortcut.”
At a crossroads there was a warning sign: DANGER OF MAGNETISM! ENTRY FORBIDDEN TO KNIGHTS!
Dad never noticed it, and clattering and rattling he took the side-path straight into the scrapyard.
The evil giant machines jolted awake. Grinning from ear to ear, they came forward to hurl themselves upon knights.
“I’ll get you, you pieth of thweet cake!” one of the evil machines lisped, and it sucked the iron Dad, bicycle and page and all, into its magnetic gob.
Dad flew into a rage: he just simply couldn’t be late for his knightly dubbing! He pedalled so furiously that the magnet slipped out of the monster’s jaws. However, it remained stuck to the iron shirt, and since it attracted scrap metal like the moonlight draws nightmares, in a little while Dad too looked like a gigantic metal spectre.
The scrapmetal dad came whizzing in to the lists, with Freda on the carrier behind him looking like his waving pennant. They had such a frightful appearance that all the knights began squealing and ran away.
Freda fell on her knees imploringly: “We have come in peace! I am Freda the page and there is the future knight Sir Dad. In an enchanted swamp we were attacked by a magnetic monster.”
The knights stopped their squeaking, but for safety’s sake they kept a sufficient distance from Freda’s dad. They were afraid of the magnet. Only after the scrap merchant had taken it away on his lorry did they finally dub Dad a knight.
As a reward for her gallantry Freda received a wooden horse, on which she proudly galloped home that evening. Sir Dad came panting behind her, toiling on his bicycle.
Every Spring Alice and Mama used to pack their bags. They’d go off to the mountains and they wouldn’t leave until their soles were worn. Mama’s Mountain Rule Number One was to respect the peace of the forest, and she taught it to Alice too.
But once Mama went a bit mad:
“Oh-oh-oh, what a big hollow tree!” she whooped, and clambered up on it.
“Mama, don’t! It could be someone’s little house!” Alice cried, gesticulating.
“Exactly, my little house,” Mama said, pinching her face like a squirrel. Suddenly, all that could be seen of her was her astonished face. Then she disappeared completely.
Alice peeped into the tree-trunk, but she couldn’t see either Mama or the bottom. A deep tunnel gaped in the trunk.
Mountain Rule Number Two says: never stray from your companion. Alice took a deep breath and leaped into the hole.
The tunnel was as slippery as a bobsleigh track and as winding as a tangled cable. Alice whizzed through the mountain like a shot, spun about like a top, did cartwheels and double somersaults and whizzed along head-first on her tummy with waving arms as if she wanted to fly. Finally she fell on something soft and springy.
“I’m not a trampoline, and this is the emergency exit from my home, not a mountain ski-track. I said the same to the one before you,” grumbled a bear. “Now she’s groaning in front of the cave and I can’t sleep.”
Mama had a broken leg.
“Ouch, it hurts. But that was exciting. Ow-ow, what a laugh, oh-oh-ouch!” she whooped, and she howled.
Alice urged her to be silent:
“Sssh! You’re waking the whole forest! Autumn’s beginning and Nature is settling down for the winter sleep.”
Alice threw Mama on her back and began descending into the valley.
“Wouldn’t it be easier to climb upwards? We could slide again,” Mama suggested.
“I’m a gazelle, I leap from rock to rock, and I’m not going to let myself go like a log in a stream,” Alice said. “When your leg heals I’ll take you to the lunapark.”
And she did too. The mountain ski-track in the lunapark wasn’t nearly as wild as the genuine mountain track, but Mama was crazy about it. When she returned to the mountains with Alice in Spring, it never even crossed her mind to disturb the forest’s peace.
Janka and Majko lived in a gingerbread cottage in the middle of a thousand-year-old forest, where no one ever set foot. One day, however, strange giants appeared. They circled around the children’s cottage performing suspicious acts.
“They’re eating our home,” Majko gasped incredulously.
And they were indeed: all that was left of the cottage was half a wall and the fireplace with its crooked chimney.
“Excuse me… Certainly you don’t mean to, but you’re eating our little house,” Janka pointed out to them politely.
The ravenous creatures didn’t even look at her.
“We’re going to erect an ivory tower on this thistle-patch,” they chuckled. “We’ll cut away the thicket and we’ll build a marble plaza and a golden road here.”
The children looked at each other in horror – the greedy guzzlers were planning to destroy the whole forest. They must be got rid of. But how? Obviously they could push them into the oven, but what were they going to do then with an oven full of giants? It simply wouldn’t be possible to bake anything. They needed to send the devourers somewhere very, very far away. Janka lifted her eyes to the sky.
“The most distinguished master builders are competing on the moon, to see who can build the highest tower in the cosmos,” she said, as if casually.
The giants pricked up their ears.
“They’re digging the foundations already,” Majko said, pointing to the lunar craters.
“How is it that they didn’t invite us?” the giants wondered.
“Maybe they don’t consider you their equals,” Janka needled them.
“Now then, we’ll show them!” the ogres roared, highly insulted. “How do we get to the moon? Tell us!”
“Well, it has to be from the desert. You must sow a seed in the sand, cultivate a tree from that, and then climb up along it to the moon,” the children explained obligingly.
Without a word of farewell the giants rushed off to the desert and set about planting trees. Not even one of them ever reached as far as the moon, but the ogres have not given up. Faithfully they’re watering their trees and planning the splendid tower that will make them winners of the master builders’ competition. And what about Janka and Majko? In the peace of their thousand-year-old forest they’re repairing the gingerbread cottage and listening to what the chirping birds say about the crazy giants.
Sailors on the Mississippi
Dessie desperately wanted to be a sailor. For days on end he stood by the bank of the river and watched the boats. He used to wave at them, hoping that one of them would take him on board. The sailors and the tourists nodded to him in greeting, but there was one mustachioed captain who always used to shout at him ill-temperedly. Now, once again, he yelled like a wild bull:
“Get lost, snotty-nose! You’re disturbing the free flow of river traffic!”
Dessie drew back among the rocks in fright and whispered sadly to the turbid river water:
“All I want is to be a sailor and sail on the river.”
With that, two winking, bulging eyes came up out of the waves, followed by the whole of an enormous crocodile.
“No problem. Here you are, come aboard!” said the friendly green reptile.
Dessie hopped on his back, which was as wide as a pontoon and as long as a barge. The crocodile swam against the current and to cheer Dessie up taught him a lively song from his home territory:
“We’re sailors on the Mississippi,
we sail through whitewater each day;
our hearts are light and we are free,
and we sing hip-hip-hip-hurray!”
When that bad-tempered mustachioed captain heard this, immediately he made his boat turn round.
“You again? Don’t you know that this river isn’t called the Mississippi? It’s my river and you have no business sailing there!” the captain snapped at Dessie.
“Anyone who likes can sail on this river. Even a reptile,” the crocodile said, mischievously baring his teeth at him.
“A s-s-speaking monster!” the captain stammered, and he fainted with fright. His own crew had to come to his assistance, or he would have flopped into the water.
But it was not possible to save his captain’s peaked cap, which fell straight onto the crocodile’s head. And so the crocodile became a captain and Dessie was his steersman. To this day they sail the river together and they take on board the children who are standing on the riverbank and longing to be sailors on the Mississippi.
Tomi and Juri were circling the Earth in a silver egg. Juri was steering and Tomi, glued to the window, was watching for cosmic beings. When a comet buzzed past or a satellite whizzed by, Tomi immediately wriggled into his spacesuit and dragged Juri out for a meeting with the extra-terrestrials. But however quick they were, they never even caught a moment’s glimpse of an alien. Disappointed, Tomi rose upwards in front of the spaceship entrance, while Juri floated about gathering shiny cosmic space stones.
“If you really want to meet cosmic beings, we’ll have to go further,” Juri said, pointing the nose of the ship towards the distant stars. It wasn’t long before the radar began peeping. In front of them, in the distance, a whole flock of cosmic beings were flying!
“Do you think they’re as nice and interesting as you?” Tomi was wondering.
“I don’t know. Maybe they’re more than people,” Juri replied.
Tomi and Juri stepped into open space, but they were still attached to the capsule by long safety ropes.
“They won’t dare come any closer to our ship,” Juri said. “Shall we disconnect ourselves?”
Tomi hesitated. Suddenly the infinite cosmic emptiness began to scare him.
“There’s nothing here,” Tomi murmured.
“There are stars though,” Juri said.
“Yeah,” Tomi acknowledged. “But now I wish I had solid ground under my feet.”
“In that case you must return to Earth. You can bring the space stones home. I’ll continue the jouney on my own,” Juri decided.
The cosmonauts embraced.
“You’re very brave, Juri,” Tomi whispered.
“You’re a lot braver,” Juri said, untying the safety rope from his belt.
Tomi gazed through the round window of the astrocraft at Juri as he floated among the stars. Once he had joined the buzzing flock of cosmic beings, Tomi turned the steering about. The silver egg whizzed through the cosmos, till suddenly it landed on the Soft White Base. The startled parents jumped under their quilt saying “ooh!” with pain, but Tomi placated them with his space stones and sticky kisses.