© Rosalind Winter
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A reviewer of one of my other children's stories said: "It seems to be a bit repetitious in places ..." For any other reviewers who aren't familiar with the conventions of traditional story-telling for children: it's meant to have lots of repetition. Try reading it aloud to young children and you will see why. Stories with lots of repeats are also good for children who are starting to read for themselves.
There once was a tribe who lived on a beautiful tropical island far, far away in the warm Pacific Ocean. Some people called them primitive savages, because they could not read or write, and they had no use at all for money and they did not wear expensive clothes, or jewels or furs. But in fact they were the happiest, most contented people in all the world, because they had everything they needed and everything they wanted.
They kept pigs and goats and chickens, and they caught fish in the lagoon. They grew the most delicious vegetables in their little gardens, and in the jungle there was every sort of fruit and nut and flower they could possibly want. And if anyone ever felt sad, they would go and sit and watch the beautiful birds or the mischievous monkeys that shared the island with them, and that would soon cheer them up again.
These happy people were known as the Hat Tribe. It was always very hot and sunny on their island, and except in the jungle there wasn't a lot of shade, so everyone wore big straw hats to keep off the sun's rays. The Hat Tribe were very proud of their hats, and their King had two hats, one for best and one for every day, and they were the biggest and most beautiful hats that anyone on the island had ever seen. His wife had made them for him out of plaited straw, with lots of colourful flowers woven in, and they were each as big as an umbrella, and made a wonderfully cool patch of shade for the King to walk in wherever he went.
One day the Hat People found they had visitors. A huge sailing ship had come in during the night, and was moored out in the lagoon. The Hat Tribe liked to see visitors, because they were very friendly people, and they always enjoyed hearing about faraway places, even though none of them ever wanted to leave their beautiful island.
The Hat Tribe always welcomed visitors by giving them the very best of the flowers and fruit and nuts and fish that the island could provide. Sometimes the visitors would give gifts to the Hat Tribe too, but they were never very much use, although the Hat Tribe always accepted them politely, and the King would thank the visitors very graciously. Then after the visitors had gone, the Hat Tribe could usually manage to think of some use for their gifts. The King's wife used two long rifles as poles to hold up her washing line, and the King's daughter had a necklace made of bright, shiny bullets, which she wore around her neck on special occasions. Sometimes the visitors gave them books, and I shall leave you to guess what they used the paper for.
The King asked some of the young men of the island to take him out to the sailing ship in his big canoe, so that he could greet the visitors and invite them to a welcoming feast. So the young girls of the island decorated the canoe with leaves and flowers, and the King put on his very best hat in honour of the visitors, and the young men paddled out to the sailing ship.
When the King saw the captain of the sailing ship, he knew that he must be a very important person, because he also wore a very big hat. It was the sort of hat that is called a tricorne, which is worn by very important sailors, and the captain of the ship was an Admiral, which is a very important sailor indeed. This tricorne hat was bright blue, with lots of gold braid all over it. It was shaped like a huge triangle, and it stuck out over the Admiral's ears in a way that looked very comical to the King, although he was much too polite to laugh.
The King climbed on board the ship, and invited the Admiral and his sailors to come to a feast on the beach that evening.
'Thank you,' said the Admiral. 'We shall certainly come. My King thinks that this island would make a very good holiday resort, so we are going to build lots of hotels and restaurants and roads and golf courses all over it, and then the people of your tribe will be able to work for us and earn money to buy all the things that they want.'
'That is certainly very kind of you,' said the King politely, 'but my people already have all the things that they want. I shall look forward to seeing you and your sailors at our feast on the beach this evening.'
'Thank you,' said the Admiral. 'I think that beach would make a very good place for a grand hotel. We can chop down all those coconut palms and make a big concrete platform on the sands for people to put their deckchairs on.'
The King was very thoughtful as he went back to the island. He carefully put away his best hat and put on his second best one, and he asked his wife and all the ladies of the village to prepare a splendid feast for the visitors. Then he went to find a quiet place on the edge of the jungle where he could think about the Admiral's plans.
If only, he thought, this island was not the most beautiful place in all the world, then the Admiral would not want to build his hotels and restaurants and roads and golf courses all over it. But it was the most beautiful place in all the world. There was nothing to be done about that.
If only, he thought, there was something that would make the Admiral decide he did not like the island after all. And just as he thought that, he was suddenly dazzled by the sunlight: his hat had been snatched off his head! The King looked up, and saw one of the mischievous monkeys sitting in a coconut tree above his head: and the monkey was holding his hat.
'Give it back!' said the King sternly, but the monkey just laughed at him, and put the hat on his own head, and jumped up and down, chattering at him. The King was already feeling rather cross, because of the Admiral and his plans for the island, and he shook his fist at the monkey. The monkey shook his fist back at him.
The King made a horrible face at the monkey. The monkey made a horrible face at the King.
'Give it back!' shouted the King. The monkey chattered back at him.
The King stamped his foot. The monkey stamped his foot.
The King tried to climb the tree. The monkey climbed higher.
The King snatched up a stick and threw it at the monkey. The monkey pulled a branch off the tree, and threw it at the King.
The King got even more cross, and he grabbed a stone and threw it at the monkey.
The monkey picked a coconut, and threw it at the King.
It was no good. Everything the King did, the monkey copied, and very annoying it was too, and all the while the monkey was wearing his beautiful second best hat, and it was perfectly clear that he was never going to give it back.
'At least it's only my second best hat,' thought the King. And then he thought, 'I wonder how many hats the Admiral has?'
He thought about this all the way home, and it gave him an idea to get rid of the Admiral.
That evening the Admiral and his men rowed over to the island, and walked all around looking to see where they could build their hotels and restaurants and roads and golf courses. The King explained that his tribe did not want hotels and restaurants and roads and golf courses, but it was quite clear that the Admiral did not care about that.
'I see there are lots of beautiful tropical birds and monkeys on this island,' said the Admiral. 'We shall catch them and put them all in cages, and then the tourists can pay money to look at them.'
The King said 'I expect the tourists would enjoy that. The birds are very beautiful and the monkeys are very amusing. But I do not think they would be very happy if you put them in cages.'
'What does it matter if the birds and the monkeys are not happy,' said the Admiral, 'so long as the tourists pay money to look at them?'
'If you put them in cages,' said the King, 'they will all die. It is much better to look at them where they are.' He pointed to the edge of the jungle, where one of the monkeys was sitting in a coconut tree, watching the King and the Admiral.
'Look over there,' said the King suddenly, pointing in the other direction, and the Admiral turned around. As he did so, the King snatched the tricorne hat from the Admiral's head, and tossed it up into the tree where the monkey was sitting. The monkey caught the tricorne hat and put it on his head.
'Oh dear,' said the King. 'That monkey has stolen your hat. The monkeys are always stealing things from us, and we can never get them back.'
'Give it to me!' screamed the Admiral, but the monkey just screamed back at him.
The Admiral shook his fist. The monkey shook his fist.
The Admiral made a horrible face. The monkey made a horrible face.
The Admiral stamped his foot. The monkey stamped his foot.
The Admiral tried to climb the tree. The monkey climbed higher.
The Admiral got very cross, and he snatched up a stick and threw it at the monkey. The monkey pulled a branch off the tree, and threw it at the Admiral.
The Admiral grabbed a stone and threw it at the monkey. The monkey picked a coconut, and threw it at the Admiral.
It was no good. Everything the Admiral did, the monkey copied, and very annoying it was too, and all the while the monkey was wearing the Admiral's big blue tricorne hat, and it was perfectly clear that he was never going to give it back.
The sailors looked at the monkey wearing the Admiral's hat, and they all laughed and laughed, which made the Admiral even more cross.
'I am afraid the monkeys would steal things from your tourists all the time,' said the King. 'There is nothing to be done about it. Look, see that other monkey over there. He is wearing my second best hat. He stole it from me only this morning, and when he has got tired of wearing it, I expect he will eat it.'
'EAT IT!' screamed the Admiral. 'Don't tell me he will eat MY hat too!'
'I'm afraid so,' said the King. 'There is nothing to be done about it.'
'But I must have my hat!' said the Admiral. 'Every Admiral must always wear his tricorne hat, otherwise the sailors will not do what he tells them.'
'I expect you have another one on board your ship,' said the King.
'Yes,' said the Admiral. 'It is my second best hat. I must go back to my ship immediately and put it on.'
'I hope you will come back for our welcoming feast this evening,' said the King. But the sailors were all still laughing at the monkey wearing the Admiral's hat, and the Admiral was afraid they would laugh even more if he sat at the feast wearing his second best hat while the monkey sat up in the coconut tree wearing his best one.
'You will have to be very careful that the monkeys don't steal your second best hat while you are at the feast,' said the King. 'You would never get it back again.'
'I cannot take the risk!' said the Admiral. 'I shall not come to your feast. I have been insulted by that monkey, and I have lost my very best hat, and I shall never never come back here again!'
And he stormed down to the beach and got into his gig, and the sailors rowed him out to the sailing ship. The Admiral went to his cabin and got out his second best tricorne hat and put it on. Then he ordered his sailors to set the sails, and soon the sailing ship vanished over the horizon.
The King was very pleased that the Admiral had gone away, but he wished he could have his second best hat back again.
'I will get your hat back for you,' said the King's oldest son. Everywhere else in the world, the oldest son of a King is called the Crown Prince, but the Hat Tribe did not have crowns, so the oldest son of their King was called the Hat Prince instead, and he wore a hat that was almost as beautiful as the King's.
'But how can you get it back?' asked the King. 'The monkey will never give it to you, and he is much too fast for you to catch him. You will never get it back for me.'
'Yes I will,' said the Hat Prince. 'It is the easiest thing in the world to get it back for you.'
Then Hat Prince went to the foot of the coconut tree where the monkey was sitting, wearing the King's second best hat.
'Give it to me!' shouted the Hat Prince, and the monkey chattered back at him.
The Hat Prince shook his fist. The monkey shook his fist.
The Hat Prince made a horrible face. The monkey made a horrible face.
The Hat Prince stamped his foot. The monkey stamped his foot.
The Hat Prince tried to climb the coconut tree. The monkey climbed higher.
The Hat Prince snatched up a stick and threw it at the monkey. The monkey pulled a branch off the tree, and threw it at the Hat Prince.
The Hat Prince grabbed a stone and threw it at the monkey. The monkey picked a coconut, and threw it at the Hat Prince.
Everything the Hat Prince did, the monkey copied. So then the Hat Prince pulled his hat off his head and threw it down on the ground: and of course the monkey pulled the King's hat off his head and threw it down on the ground.
The Hat Prince picked up the King's hat and gave it back to him.
The King was very proud of his clever son. 'Can you get the Admiral's hat back as well, my son?' he asked. 'I should like to wear it myself.'
'No,' said the Hat Prince. 'I cannot get it back for you.'
'Why not?' asked the King.
The Hat Prince pointed up into another coconut tree.
'Because the monkey has just eaten it,' he said.
This is a second story from the same collection that I've included to make up the number of words. There is no need to read it or review it - it is not included in the Reading Test.
THE SCARLET RIBBON
Once upon a time there was a young man called Tom, who lived with his mother and his sister in a little cottage on the edge of Bodmin Moor. Tom's mother and his sister loved him dearly, and worked hard all the day long, spinning and weaving, washing and ironing, gardening and baking, to keep him clothed and fed.
Every once in a while Tom would take a day's work on the farm next door, but he was too idle to stick at any job for long. He found it much more to his liking to dawdle about on Bodmin Moor, where he set snares for rabbits to sell to the farmer. He never took anything home to his mother and his sister, not a single penny of his earnings, not even a rabbit for the pot. Instead he sold all the rabbits and wasted all his money at the village inn. Tom longed to be a rich man, and spend his days idling with his sweetheart at the village inn, but he was far too lazy to grow rich by honest means.
One summer's day, Tom set off for Bodmin Moor to look at his snares. A fair was coming to the village that evening, and he wanted some rabbits to sell so that he would have money to spend there. It was a fine sunny day, and Tom had hardly a care in the world, except for not being rich enough to buy all the cakes and pies he could eat at the fair, for Tom was greedy as well as lazy. You may be sure that he had no thoughts of taking his mother and sister to the fair.
'They will be far too busy at home,' he thought, 'spinning and weaving, washing and ironing, gardening and baking, to keep me clothed and fed.'
Tom dawdled over the moor, smelling the sweet honey scent of the golden gorse bushes that grew all around, as far as the eye could see, and listening to the skylarks pouring out their lovely song as they rose up high in the air above him.
'If only I could catch a lark,' he thought. 'I would put it in a cage and take it to the fair, and folk would pay me money to hear it sing.'
But he knew he could never catch a skylark.
Suddenly Tom heard another sound, much closer at hand. A little voice cried out from under a gorse bush just a short way ahead, where he knew that one of his snares lay hidden.
'Oh help me! Help me! Help me!' cried the little voice. 'I will give ten silver shillings to anyone who will help me!'
Well, that got Tom's attention, you may be very sure. He ran forward and knelt down, and there, caught in his snare, he found a little old man, no more than six inches high, dressed all in red and green. He was crying piteously as he tried to break free from the cruel snare that was caught tight around one of his ankles.
'I have caught something much better than a rabbit to sell to the farmer!' thought Tom. 'Better even than a lark to put in a cage!'
'Oh, sir, kind sir, will you help me get free of this cruel snare?' begged the little old man. 'I will give you ten silver shillings if only you will set me free!'
'You must be one of the Little People!' said Tom. 'I never believed that there really were such folk as you. My sister is always putting out bread and milk for the Little People, and I thought her a silly girl to do such a thing. I was sure it was the village cats that ate it all up, for it is always gone by the morning.'
'Oh good sir, you must surely be the brother of that kind girl at the cottage yonder! Many's the moonlit night I've enjoyed the bread and milk that she leaves for the Little People. I am old, sir, very old, and my magic grows weaker and weaker, and without her kind gifts of bread and milk I should be in a sorry state.' The little old man wiped a tear from his eye. 'And now, good sir, I am sure you will be as kind to me as your sister, and free me from this dreadful snare, and I shall give you ten silver shillings to thank you for your trouble.'
As he said it he pulled out a handful of coins from his pocket, and it was more money than Tom had ever seen in his life before.
'We'll see about that,' said Tom, who was greedy as well as lazy. 'It seems to me that setting you free should be worth much more than a few silver shillings.'
'But that is all I have about me,' said the little man anxiously.
'Then I shall not set you free,' said Tom. 'There is a fair in the village this evening, and I shall take you there instead. I shall put you in a cage, and show you to anyone who will pay me a penny to look at one of the Little People. And I shall keep you in your cage for ever and ever, and take you around to all the fairs in the whole County of Cornwall, and then I shall take you to London Town, and I am sure the King and the Queen in their fine castle will pay me too. I shall be rich and famous, and never have to live in that wretched cottage with my mother and sister again.'
The little old man looked at Tom, and guessed that his mother and sister would never have any share in the riches he meant to make. No, he would keep them all for himself.
'It is a long, weary way around all the fairs of the County of Cornwall,' said the little old man. 'And it is a long, weary way to London Town, to the King and the Queen in their fine castle. If you will set me free, I shall show you where you may find a great pot of gold on this very moor. You can have it all for yourself, as much gold as you could ever want, without all the trouble of taking me round to fairs and the like.'
Tom thought about this, and he liked the sound of it, for, as I told you, he was a very lazy young man.
'Where is this pot of gold?' he asked.
'Loosen the snare from around my foot, and I shall lead you to it,' said the little old man. 'But first you must give me your word that as soon as I have shown you the place, you will let me go free.'
'Very well,' said Tom. The little old man looked up at him, his head cocked to one side.
'I must warn you,' he said, 'that we Little People are folk of our word, and we expect others to deal honestly with us. Will you solemnly swear to let me go free when I have shown you where to find the pot of gold?'
'I will,' said Tom. 'Now show me where to find it.' And with that he loosed the snare from around the foot of the little old man, and picked him up, keeping a firm hold on his coat, for Tom was afraid that he would try to escape.
'This is the path we must take,' said the little old man, and pointed the way along a narrow sheep track, and into the very heart of the moor. Tom walked for a long, long time, and it seemed to him that they must surely be going around in circles, for he had never thought that Bodmin Moor could be so big. Then, at long last, when the sun was beginning to sink in the sky, the little old man told Tom to stop.
'There,' he said, and pointed to a golden bush of gorse. 'Buried beneath that bush is a great pot of fine gold. You must promise to share it with your mother and your dear, kind sister.'
'That was no part of our bargain,' said Tom. 'Why should I promise to share?'
'It would be better for you if you did,' said the little old man. 'But if you will not, then at least give them the ten silver shillings that I gave you for setting me free.'
'I don't mind giving them that,' said Tom, in a scornful voice. 'For I shall have no more use for silver when I have got all that gold. But I have no spade to dig. How can I dig up the gold if I have no spade?'
'You must go home and fetch one,' said the little old man. Tom thought about this, and there was no help for it: he must go and fetch a spade. But, first of all, he took from his pocket a length of pretty scarlet ribbon, which he had promised to his sweetheart. His sister had no ribbons, nor anything pretty to wear, but Tom would never have thought of giving it to her. Now he had a better use for it than to give it away to his sweetheart. He tied it carefully around the gorse bush, so that when he came back he would know that bush again from all the others that grew on Bodmin Moor.
'Now set me free,' said the little old man. 'Set me free as you promised.'
Tom thought about this, and to tell you the truth he dearly wished to cheat the little old man, and keep him still a prisoner, but somehow he did not quite dare to break his word to one of the Little People. Besides, soon he would have all the gold he could wish for.
'If I set you free,' said Tom, 'how do I know you will not dig up the pot of gold while I am gone, and hide it somewhere else?'
'I am no cheat,' said the little old man. 'I give you my word that I shall not dig up the pot of gold and hide it somewhere else while you are gone. When you come back it will still be here, buried under that gorse bush.'
'If I set you free,' said Tom, 'how do I know you will not untie the ribbon from around the gorse bush, so that I cannot find it again?'
'I am no cheat,' said the little old man. 'I give you my word that I shall not touch your ribbon. When you come back it will still be here, tied around that gorse bush.'
'Very well,' said Tom, and he put the little old man upon the ground and let him go, then he made his way home as fast as he could.
It was a long weary way to walk, and it was nearly dark by the time Tom got home, so he could not go back again that night to find his treasure. He knew he must wait until morning, and very cross it made him.
As he had promised the little old man, he gave the ten silver shillings to his mother and his sister, and very happy they were to think that they had such a kind son and brother. They went to the fair, and Tom's mother bought a pretty dress for his sister, and Tom's sister bought a pretty bonnet for her mother, and they both ate cakes and pies a-plenty, and had the happiest time they had known for many a long year.
Tom lay awake all that night, longing to go and fetch his treasure. At last the morning came, and he seized a spade and ran up to the moors to find the golden gorse bush tied about with scarlet ribbon. He knew that the little old man would have kept his word, and that the pot of gold would still be there beneath the bush, and that the scarlet ribbon would still be there where he had tied it. And he was right.
But he never found his gold.
Tom stood on Bodmin Moor and stared all about him in dismay. For everywhere he looked, the moorland stretched for miles and miles, all covered with bushes of golden gorse. And on every single one of them was tied a piece of scarlet ribbon.