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A fairytale from Latvia
(Originally by Anna Brigadere contributed by Elita Bauska, Carrickmacross)
Along time ago, a brave young boy named Spriditis lived in a remote part of Latvia. The boy was named Spriditis by all who knew him because he was a wee small boy, little bigger than Tom Thumb. Spriditis lived unhappily with his wicked stepmother. The only good thing about his home was that his best friend Lienite lived close by. Although Spriditis and Lienite had great fun together, our little hero longed to leave the village of his childhood and dreamed of adventures in the big wide world.
One day, when Spriditis and Lienite were out playing by the deep dark forest, Spriditis saw a magnificent glow rising from the forest floor. ‘We’re rich Lienite’, he exclaimed, ‘There’s gold buried in the forest and I’m going to find it!’ ‘Don’t be silly Spriditis’, said the far more sensible Lienite, ‘there’s no gold in the deep dark forest. There’s nothing there but creepy crawlies and all kinds of nasty beasts.
That’s why we never go in.’ But Spriditis refused to heed Lienite’s advice. Instead, he bid Lienite a swift goodbye and grabbing his sturdy shovel, he took off at great speed into the forbidden forest. It didn’t take long for Spriditis to find that Lienite had, as usual, been quite correct. The golden glow was nothing more than a wildfire burning brightly in the forest.
Our wee hero was disappointed and sat down by a large old tree to think. Unbeknownst to Spriditis, a fairy queen had been watching his antics from afar. She was so impressed by the bravery of the tiny boy that she decided to give him two gifts. She appeared before Spriditis and bearing a magic flute and an enchanted slingshot she said, ‘If you are ever in trouble, play a tune on this flute or fire a stone from this slingshot and they will keep you from harm’.
And so, armed with these special gifts, Spriditis decided to continue his search for treasure, fame and adventure. This is where Spriditis’ legendary travels begin. After many days and nights wandering through forests and meadows, hiking up hills and down dales, the weather changed. Where once there had been sunshine, now there was lashing rain and howling winds.
Spriditis found himself alone in the middle of a heavy storm. He pulled his hat down firmly on his head and trekked on through the gale force wind. Eventually, tired, wet and weary, our brave young man came upon an old wooden shack. ‘Thank goodness’, thought Spriditis, ‘I’ll ask the owner if I can take shelter for the night’.
The door was opened cautiously by an angry looking robber. ‘What do you want?’ he barked at Spriditis. ‘Just a bed for the night, Sir. I’ll be gone first thing in the morning’. The robber didn’t want to let Spriditis into the shack but he was taken aback by the young man’s courage. ‘You can sleep on that bench’ said the man, pointing to a rickety plank of wood in the corner ‘but I don’t want to see you move, I’ve business to attend to’. Spriditis was too tired to argue and fell deep asleep as soon as his head touched the wooden bench.’
Before long, he was woken by a loud knock at the door. He opened the door and found a bedraggled old man standing in the rain. ‘Please young man, can I have some shelter from the storm?’ he pleaded. Spriditis was as kind as he was brave, so he let the old man in.
The robber who had been busy counting coins in the far corner of the room, turned as soon as he saw the old man enter the shack. ‘What did I say about moving little man? How dare you invite that old codger in to my shack!’ he roared. ‘Now I have to teach you a lesson you won’t forget’, he cackled. The old man flinched, but Spriditis was as brave as ever.
The robber was incensed by the wee boy’s bravery and decided to test it. He held our hero’s tiny hand close to the fire and waited for him to scream but Spriditis remembered his enchanted slingshot and kept as calm as ever. Quick as a flash, Spriditis pulled the slingshot from his pocket and hurled it at the robber. The robber vanished out of sight.
With that, the old man who had been hiding under the bench jumped up. Spriditis now realised that he was not just an old man, but a wizard. ‘Take this ring, young man. In your hour of need it will transport you to a happy place. Just remember these magic words, “Swan, oh gentle swan, swim swiftly and take me to a happy place”.’ Spriditis thanked the old man. He popped the ring into his pocket and continued on his way.
After a few more days and nights in the wilderness, Spriditis saw a castle appearing in the distance. He had never seen such a magnificent castle before and decided to get closer to get a better look. As he approached the castle, Spriditis noticed a commotion involving the king’s horsemen and what looked like a wild beast. He hid behind a large rock to get a better look.
The noise of clashing swords was deafening but the soldiers struggled to contain the animal. One by one the king’s horses took fright and galloped away from the castle leaving the beast free to enter the castle gates. Spriditis followed quietly behind the beast as it stormed into the spectacular courtyard where the king and his daughter, the beautiful princess, were huddled under the throne.
‘Please leave us in peace’, pleaded the king. ‘You have defeated my army but I cannot let you take my daughter.’ The beast opened its gruesome mouth and laughed so loudly that the chandeliers shook ominously overhead. Spriditis knew he would have to act quickly to save the princess. He put his hand in his pocket and remembered the magic flute given to him by the fairy queen. He put the flute to his lips and blew as hard as he could.
To his amazement a beautiful and joyful tune emerged from the instrument. As music filled the air, the beast began to dance. Around and around he twirled, twisting and turning to the melody. ‘Please’, he begged, ‘make him stop.
I’m getting dizzy’. But Spriditis did not stop. Instead, he played harder and faster. Thump. With a loud bang, the beast fell to the floor. Spriditis crept quietly towards the groaning mass of fur, until he was close enough to feel its rancid breath on his bare arms. In one quick movement, he jumped up onto the beast’s head and broke off one of his horns. The beast vanished beneath him.
‘Young man, you have saved this kingdom from a terrifying end’ proclaimed the king, ‘As a reward for your courage, you shall have my daughter’s hand in marriage.’ Spriditis was overjoyed.
Not only had he slain the beast, but he had won the princess’s hand. Sadly, his joy was short lived.
The princess may have been beautiful but she was not so noble as her father. ‘I won’t do it Daddy’, she wailed, ‘What would the other princesses think, if I were to marry this tiny little peasant? I won’t! I Won’t! I WON’T!’ With that, the spoilt princess had a tantrum so ferocious that even the king had to take cover to avoid her wrath.
Spriditis began to realise that riches, fame and adventure were not always as wonderful as he had imagined. For the first time since his adventure began, he felt tired and longed for peace and quiet. World weary, he put his head down and he shoved his hands deep into his pockets. It was then that he remembered the ring, hidden deep within the folds of his pocket.
He pulled it out and repeated the magic words, ‘Swan, oh gentle swan, swim swiftly and take me to a happy place’. Before you could say abracadabra, a beautiful white swan appeared to bring our wee hero home.
Arriving back in the familiar peace and quiet of his village, Spriditis was greeted once again by his best friend Leinite. Taking her by the hand, he thought to himself, ‘I have travelled the world, only to find happiness right here at home.’