15 October 2004

Fairy Snuff

I thought it was about time I told you about Fairy Snuff, one of those wandering minstrel types who roam the lands. He's an odd little fellow to be sure, but I do like him.

In the court of King Albrecht, there were three knights, two bishops and a queen. They lived in a small tower in a far-off land. It was a peaceful place, full of green trees and grassy plains. The sun shone occasionally, but the skies remained overcast for much of the time.
One night at the tower, news arrived of a strange travelling minstrel who was in the area, and with the court being generally quite a dull place, King Albrecht ordered for the three knights to ride out and bring him back in order to entertain the queen.

Each knight went in a different direction, one to the north, one to the west, and one to the east. The first knight travelled for three weeks without finding the minstrel, and one night, he bumped into an old washerwoman, cleaning her clothes by the light of the moon. ‘You shouldn’t be riding in these parts at this time of the night. There are monsters around!’ she told him. But when she stood up to wish the knight well, he realised that she wasn’t old and wrinkled, but in fact was the most beautiful person he’d ever seen.

The knight dropped from his horse and took the lady by the hand. ‘You are so fair and lovely,’ he said, ‘you must surely know of a minstrel who is wandering these parts?’
Before answering, the lady stretched up to the knight and kissed him on the cheek.

"A minstrel is but a passing craze,
His words and wisdom know,
You shall stay here for the rest of your days,
‘Til your love for me does grow."

The knight suddenly took on a glazed expression, the lady’s face turned back into the haggard old washerwoman’s, and he never returned to the tower.

And so it was that the second knight went west. He had also been travelling for weeks before the first mention of the minstrel came to his ears, and with the kind words of a blacksmith, he was sent to a most peculiar village.

The place was small with only a dozen buildings at the most, but standing high above it was an enormous giant. Its three arms were circling in the wind, and as the knight rode up to its gigantic hairy feet, he realised that there was some sort of building attached to its side. People were wandering up and down, and he asked what was going on.

‘This here is Unglebunk,’ said a small child, ‘he makes our bread for us.’
The knight peered up into the sky, and realised that the giant was in fact acting as a huge windmill. As people fed him the right mixtures of food, and his arms swung in the right direction, a magical process took place within his body until out popped beautifully formed loaves of bread.

‘Well this is amazing!’ said the knight, but right then, out of the sky fell a rogue batch loaf that plummeted directly onto the knight’s head. He was killed instantly, and so ended the story of the second knight.

But the third knight had much more luck. On his second day of travelling, he bumped into the minstrel while trotting along a coastal path. The minstrel was a squat sort of fellow, with spiky long hair, a white face, and brightly coloured clothes, and he greeted the knight with a bold flourish of his arms and a waggle of his head.

‘Let me introduce myself… I am the great Fairy Snuff,
A little short to the floor, but wise in the head,
My routine will leave you giggling and red!’

The knight looked down with a frown, but tried to manage a smile. Was this really the person he had to take to court? Either way, he offered the minstrel an appearance before King Albrecht, and if he accepted the ride, they could be there in a few hours. Fairy Snuff accepted, and they arrived at the tower shortly before nightfall. The bishops approached the gates and ushered them into the great hall, where the King was sitting with the Queen.

"Excite us and please us, oh Fairy Snuff," said the knight, "and the King will duly reward you."
The minstrel took his staff, made a lively jump into the air and landed on one foot. While balancing, he waggled his bottom and then span into a pile on the floor. "I am the great Fairy Snuff," he announced, "watch my dance, let me entrance, and tickle you in every way."

The king’s face dropped. "Is this what I have to put up with?" he said.
"Throw him out, and if we ever see his face in this land again, chop off his head!"
Fairy Snuff was unceremoniously thrown out into the night and his eyes erupted in tears.

Fairy Snuff thought that was the last straw. All he wanted to be was an entertainer, but he didn't deserve to be treated like that. I'll teach them, he thought.

He waggled his behind, did a little dance, and shook his wand. The castle flashed orange and polka dot pink, and started to rock back and forth as its foundations faltered. Then it shook violently, and in a great explosion it went rocketing up into the sky like a firework.

Fairy Snuff sat down and smiled. He watched the castle blaze through the sky like a falling star until it vanished over the horizon. His work was done.

I suppose there's a lesson to be learnt here for any aspiring egotistical Kings or Queens. Just remember that even though you are in charge, it doesn't mean that what you do is right or that your underlings are less powerful than you.

I think King Albrecht understands that full well now.