Fairytales are part of Christmastime in the UK, in the form of pantomimes. It you’ve not grown up in Britain, you’ve probably never seen a stage show with men dressed as outlandish women, a woman dressed as the male hero, and an audience shouting “it’s behind you”. Trust me, it’s a tradition: oh yes, it is.
Anyway, December is a time for pantos, so here’s a new fairytale. Though I’m afraid it would need some padding out for the stage. Including a hero, a heroine, and a role for two men dressed as the front and rear ends of a farmyard animal.
Two Rude Witches
Once upon a time, far, far away, there was a corner of land where two witches held sway over the hard-working peasants.
Rosa possessed a magic mirror that was very good at lying, reflecting her (to herself only) as a lovely person and fine example to the peasants. Who all thought she was rude and impatient.
Sylvia didn’t look into mirrors at all, and also couldn’t see what the peasants really thought of her. She was even ruder and more impatient. And had once bitten a warlock. Possibly as some kind of attempt at wooing him.
Both witches were very aware of their own importance and status, and regarded the peasants as quite inferior beings.
If Rosa or Sylvia told a peasant to jump, the expected response was not ‘how high?’
Because that would have entailed the witches wasting precious seconds of their very important time answering the question.
The fiefdom ran smoothly, there were no complaints from the emperor, and Sylvia the witch grew complacent about her power and position, sure she deserved them and that she was unassailable.
But one day, the emperor sent a message that the most-feared creatures in the empire, the bean-counters, had been counting the fiefdom’s beans and decided all was not well. And almost before she knew it, Sylvia the witch was ordered to hand over her wand and broomstick, and depart.
And all the peasants rejoiced. But privately in their hovels, and not too much, as they feared the terrible bean-counters might notice and turn their attention to them.
Rosa the witch, meanwhile, decided she needed to protect herself from the heartless bean-counters. Because even she now realised being a fine example, and powerful, and important couldn’t save you from their terrifying reach.
So, she took her cauldron and threw in some ingredients and waved her wand and chanted some spells, and created a new fiefdom, which she populated with peasants from near and far, and it grew and grew and she felt unassailable.
But after a while, she realised she’d put too much into the cauldron. The fiefdom kept growing, it was getting too much for her to control.
So, she cast new spells to make her life easier, not spotting that it weakened the magic shield that protected her from the reach of the cruel bean-counters.
Nor did she notice that many miles away, a narcissistic dwarf was out to impress the emperor and to direct the bean-counters’ attentions away from his own small fiefdom.
Until one day she awoke to find her fiefdom had shrunk, like the walls of a crusher moving inwards, or a puddle drying up in the sunshine. And slowly, but steadily, it kept on shrinking and shrinking. Until Rosa the self-important witch found there was nothing left of her fiefdom but herself and three peasants and she could no longer order them to jump, as what was the point, with the bean-counters circling over them all?