Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, people were afraid. There was something out there, something which affected the health of the people, and they didn’t quite know what it was. They only knew that it was contagious, and that nobody was safe.
It manifested itself in several ways: some people became very ill and couldn’t hear anymore. Other people had a terrible itch in their right little toe, and yet others became very grumpy. And in rare cases, it caused severe fits of laughter. It kept spreading and spreading, and soon people all over the large kingdom showed symptoms. What also didn’t help was that there were also people who were itchy by nature, or were simply never happy, and then it all became rather confusing.
They didn’t know whether it was an illness or a monster (or a monster spreading illness, or an ill monster, or any other combination). They did notice that there seemed to be fewer cases of the Syndrome, as they called it, if people stayed inside. Was it because the monster didn’t dare enter houses? Or was it because the illness jumped to other people like fleas? Nobody knew. And that’s how the kingdom did not only become afraid, but also silent.
Silently the people started wondering what had to be done. From all over the kingdom the best scientists, most renowned doctors, and the cleverest witches and wizards, as well as some druids and ancient librarians (and some people who had just walked in because they were curious), were asked to come to the capital and find a solution. They talked for days on end, but all to no avail. To make matters worse, they started showing symptoms too. One of the wizards had such an itchy toe, and became so grumpy, that he punched a librarian in the nose, and she had to go to the hospital straight away. It was then decided that people had to go back to their own village and do their research from home.
After weeks of no news, the people were starting to get restless, and turned to the King and Queen for a solution. However, they stayed silent. They kept telling the people to be calm and to wait, but slowly the atmosphere in the towns and villages became more and more oppressed. People started going out on the streets to protest, but that only resulted in more sick people.
The mysterious illness spared no one, not even the Princess’s boyfriend. And he was more afflicted than others: he couldn’t hear a single thing anymore, and had such terrible outbursts of laughter, that he had almost destroyed his vocal cords.
Naja, the Princess, feared for her boyfriend’s life, and decided to take matters into her own hands. She set out for the far eastern part of the kingdom (for that, people claimed, was where the first symptoms had come from), and find out what was going on. On her way, she found many villages with empty streets and deserted squares, and people looking at her from behind their windows. She became more desperate with each town she passed.
One day she arrived at a village, tired after long hours of horse riding, and she realised that there were no sick people there at all. Everyone seemed cheerful, and nobody was excessively grumpy (apart from one man leaning against a lamppost). However, when she asked the people how this was possible, she couldn’t understand what they were saying, for the people spoke in quite an unintelligible accent (and lamppost-man seemed only to be speaking in vowels). She saw them pointing to some fluffy balls that were rolling around all over the village, but decided to carry on. She must be getting close to the cure!
Naja continued on her journey, until she eventually reached an ancient forest. There was only a small path leading into the woods, but she felt she had to follow it. She had to climb over tree trunks, jump across puddles, and avoid being cut by brambles. The further she walked, the more she had the feeling that shapes were moving just out of sight. She tried to listen, but she realised that her hearing had deteriorated ever since she had entered the forest. The canopy of leaves became thicker and thicker, and it took her a lot of effort to stay on the path. The shapes in the dark seemed to be surrounding her, and a feeling of absolute dread overtook her. She was so frightened that she wanted to turn back, but at that moment she stumbled upon a glade in the centre of the forest – and she was petrified by what she saw there.
A huge monster was sitting there, dark green, with two long arms and two short, thick legs with six enormous toes on each. It had a massive snout, fluffy little ears, and great big, blue eyes, and a giant mouth with an enormous purple tongue inside it. But the scariest part was that it had many, many children. They looked like their mother, but they were much smaller. They had long tails and were covered in thick blue fur all over their little bodies.
Naja could not even begin counting them, for they would scurry around the glade so fast she could not tell them apart. As one entity they were approaching her, slowly but surely, like a ripple in the water. She scratched her toe, and asked the monster, quietly and timidly (she thought – but in fact it was rather loud since she had lost her hearing), if it was the cause of all the illnesses in the land.
“I am,” it said, “and I am sorry.” Naja was surprised by its voice; despite the size and the frightful appearance of the monster, it sounded very kind. She felt strengthened by this, because it could mean her quest had not been in vain, and the monster might be willing to help her.
“Well, madam Monster, could you perhaps help me out? People are dying, and they’re angry, and we don’t know what to do. Why are you doing this to us?”
“It’s my children. There are so many of them, and they just want to have some attention. See how they’re flocking towards you? They just love people, and they mean no harm. They just want to get out of this forest. I’ve been stuck here for ages, and I don’t want them to share my fate. I’m too old and too big to move, but they still can.”
Naja saw the wave of tiny monsters coming closer and closer, and the closer they came, the more ill she became. She became angry, and shouted that she would kill them all if the monster would not fix her. (She was too grumpy to realise that this was probably one of the symptoms of the Syndrome.)
But the monster wouldn’t fix her. It wouldn’t even move. All it said was: “Please don’t kill my children. They really don’t mean to hurt you.”
Naja shrieked, and stood still. (It’s not like there was anything else she could do, for her toe itched so badly and she couldn’t walk anymore.) Eventually, one of the monsters touched her. And immediately she felt a huge relief going through her body. She picked up the monster, and soon she was not suffering from any symptoms anymore.
That must be it then! People reacted very badly to the furry little monsters! And because their mother had allowed them to roam around freely, they had reached all the villages in the kingdom, leaving a trail of itchy toes, deafness, and grumpiness wherever they went. And that’s why people seemed to get better when they stayed inside: the monsters wouldn’t come close enough! And the cure was to let the monsters touch them – that was what the people in the village must have been trying to tell her.
She had an idea.
“Dear monster, I’m so happy I’ve found the source of the strange illness that has been hurting the country. Here’s what we could do: I will go back to my parents, the King and Queen, and tell them about you. I will have them send for you, so you can live in the castle and see some more of the world. Your children will follow you, and if they play with the people they meet, they will heal the entire kingdom.”
And so it happened. Naja took all the little monsters with her, and told everyone she met that they could have a monster of their own. Slowly the kingdom recovered, and everything returned to the way it was before. The monsters turned out to be plenty of fun, too; people enjoyed having a friend with them at all times and even gave them names.
Naja’s boyfriend recovered, too, and they soon got married. A huge party was organised, bigger than ever before. Everyone was invited, and they were allowed to bring their little monsters, too. The kingdom had never felt this alive, and they lived happily, and symptom-free, ever after.
So, what do you think? Did Naja come up with a good solution? Did you miss anything? Let me know in the comments! Also, take a look at this post if you want to write your own fairy tale! And don’t forget to follow me for more stories and book musings!