The Magic Pond

from The Magic Pond and other fables

In a simple village, in a simple age, there lived a simple family – of a simple man, his simple wife and their simply beautiful daughter. For years they pursued their unelaborate lives, working quite hard, not having much, but somehow getting by without causing any serious harm to the rest of humanity.

Then one day, they realised that their daughter was growing up. “I suppose – ” she said one evening – “I shall soon be grown, and the time shall come for me to take a husband.”

“I suppose . . . ” her father agreed, rather nervously.

“Then you should know,” she told her parents, “that the woodcutter’s son, whom I have known and played with all my life, has said that really likes me and wants to marry me.”

The parents paused.

“Well this is hardly sudden,” said the mother. “You have known and played with him all your life, and he says he really likes you.”

“True,” said the father, “but now you must consult the magic pond.”

And so the daughter rose next morning and tripped lightly through the fields, and down the hill, and through the woods to the magic pond.

“Who goes there?” said the old pond keeper, his pebble necklace gleaming in the sunrise. “Who comes to seek the word of the magic pond?”

“I do,” said the beautiful daughter. “The daughter of the simple family. I am in love with the woodcutter’s son, and I come to seek a blessing upon our union.”

“Well, I’d like to help,” said the pond keeper, “for the judgement of the pond is never wrong. But I have been decommissioned – for we are obsolete – and must direct you to the nearest accredited priest of an established religion.”

And so she scurried through the wood and on to the nearest temple, where a priest in golden vestments sat upon a blesséd chair.

“Oh holy one,” the girl enquired, kneeling at his feet, “I am a simple daughter and seek permission to wed a woodcutter’s son. The magic pond keeper has sent me forth, for he is decommissioned – though I don’t know why as he was good enough for my parents and all our ancestors.”

“Alas, fair maiden, I cannot help,” the priest replied quite sadly. “For I too am no longer permitted to offer advice. It is the village psychotherapist and counsellor that you seek, who is learnéd in books, and qualified in courses, and under the supervision of a fellow professional.”

On she skipped, bright as a butterfly, keen as a quite-keen fish, or tropical bird – but not exactly chirping.

“Therapist therapist!” she sang at the door, as she arrived at the therapist’s abode (which was pretty opulent by local standards, I can tell you). “I am young and seek to be the bride to a woodcutter’s son . . . ”

“Pity,” said the therapist – who was a female person. “You should have come last year. For the days of counsel are over, and the therapies of listening and reflecting consigned to the past. Seek ye now the opinion of the business leaders.”

“The what?” said the maiden – who was simple, as we know.

“The business leaders,” said the psychotherapist. “They are a successful people, and widely believed to know everything.”

So on she ran, further and further, later and later in the day, until she came at last to the fortress of the business leaders.

“Oh guide me, guide me,” sang the simple daughter. “For I am the daughter of a humble nobody and seek thy wise opinion of my marriage to a woodcutter’s son.”

The business leaders sat chewing on their thrones – swathed in priceless robes of foreign origin, chuckling at their cleverness, drooling and dribbling with importance.

“A humble nobody’s daughter, eh?” gurgled the first. “Then I presume you have no fortune?”

“How many forests does this woodcutter own?” belched the second. “To the nearest hundred?”

“None,” said the daughter, “he just cuts up the trees that have fallen and sells them as firewood.”

“Then we forbid this,” farted the third business leader. “Marry only a rich man.”

Sad – but obedient – the simple daughter returned downhearted to her parents; and she told them about the pond, and the priest, and the therapist, and the business leaders.

“Well, thank goodness you managed to get the advice of professional people who know what they are talking about,” remarked the mother.

“We are lucky to have access to such wisdom,” agreed the father. “I’ll go and tell that woodcutter.”

The woodcutter’s son was informed, and duly hanged himself that night.

“Now I am filled with trivial girlish feelings of remorse,” sighed the daughter.

Now it just so happened, a few weeks later, that a caravan passed through the district, and at its head there rode a prince who was seeking a pretty young wife. He was dressed in silks and precious stones, and his camel was attired in golden chains, and his entourage of servants and musicians danced and played and gave out sweetmeats.

“Why,” said the father. “A man with a fortune. Just as the business leaders have foreseen.”

“Hasten,” said the mother. “Perhaps you will be the lucky winner in this iconic contest that has gripped the nation’s hearts.”

And the daughter skipped forth in her skimpiest sari, her eyes and cheeks alive with purest make up, her painted toenails twinkling, her nameless charms all obvious and available.

“Take me! Take me!” she squeaked at the prince.

“After due deliberation I think I will,” he quipped. And he snatched her up and rode away, back to his distant palace, not hanging about, but acquiring further wives as he went.

“Hurrah hurrah!” hurrahed the simple parents. “What a happy ending! Hurrah for the prince and hurrah for the business leaders!”

Alas, within a year, word had reached the village that the prince was not exactly as he seemed; and he had no palace, but was more of a mobile operation; and was in the habit of gathering girls and putting them to work in the entertainment industry (and even that was stretching the term ‘entertainment’ a bit).

Worse still, their daughter had been exported to work as a sex slave overseas, and denied the freedom to complain or send any communication, but had, on the plus side, now been murdered by her master who had eaten her body and thus saved the family the expense of any kind of funeral. And the so-called prince could only apologise but obviously it was hardly his fault and enclosed eight gold pieces as a gift – even though he was not legally liable.

Stricken with grief and shock and regret the parents adjourned to the magic pond.

“I could have told you,” said the pond keeper. “I mean, that woodcutter, she really liked him . . . ”

They went to the priest. “Bit of a no-brainer,” he remarked. “Bloke on a camel? Giving out leaflets?”

The therapist was no help. “You see,” she said, “that kind of marriage has a very unhealthy power dynamic. Particularly when the man has so many other wives.”

And so the parents arrived at the fortress of the business leaders; and they told them the whole wretched story.

“And all we have to remember her by – ” sobbed the miserable parents – “is a half-used bottle of nail varnish and eight gold pieces.”

“Eight gold pieces?” slavered the business leaders. “Then what are you complaining about? Result!”

Moral: What is this deference to business leaders all about? I despair sometimes. Really, I do.

© Adam Acidophilus 2015