Once upon a time in a small town known for its chocolate, lived a unique family. This family did not share the same mother, but was like none other because of something else they had in common. They were the heroes and heroines of their day who survived the fang of the wolf, the witches’ spells, or the strength of giants, and who ended up living happily ever after…which meant living all together in The Old Home, a home for older citizens.
Their home was in Old Town, which was at the tip of a large lake, surrounded by mountains. It was a sight to behold. It was peaceful. It was predictable. Their life displayed the perfect ending that only happens in fairytales. Until one day, breaking news announced that the wolf had once again chased the three little pigs out of their homes, leaving them fearing for their lives. And this was the start of a new set of stories in a changed world.
Scarlet threw down her half-eaten sandwich and said to all her old friends, “I’ve had enough!” She wasn’t speaking about her lunch.
Scarlet was the slimmest, fittest and youngest looking of all her friends. She was more commonly known by the name Old Red Riding Hood, but ever since she washed her favourite and only red cape with a fluorescent orange skirt her cape changed from red to scarlet. She was teased by her friends who said she should have known better, and this lead to her new name: Old Scarlet Riding Hood, or Scarlet for short.
“I cannot listen to another bad news report”, said Scarlet. “History is not only repeating itself, it’s getting worse. The wolf continues to haunt the pigs’ lives. He is also crossing the forest to eat all of the weak grandmothers where I am from! The wolf must be stopped once and for all. We need to catch him! Who’s with me?”
Wise Pig jumped to his feet. “I’m with you!” He was the wisest and most positive of the three old pigs. He always found a solution to every problem. The other two old pigs, Cranky Pig 1 and Cranky Pig 2, were twins and they had knack for always finding the problems with big ideas and dreams.
Baba Yaga had immediately stopped eating her chicken legs with her iron teeth when Wise Pig bravely spoke out. Baby Yaga was Wise Pig’s favorite. They cared for one another and were both very near and dear. When he spoke, she listened. Baba Yaga had met Wise Pig in the forest where they both used to live many decades ago. They developed a strong friendship and the more time they spent together, the more she too became wise and kind. When Baba Yaga left her hut in the woods to start a new life, she only took the chicken legs on which her hut stood and kept them under her bed.
Snow White, who had over the years lost her sight, responded, “You’re on to something, Scarlet. I’ve just read an article about the resurrected magic lamp…” She was pointing at a newspaper she was holding. No one could understand what she was pointing to because it was in braille, but they knew what she was talking about.
“It’s outrageous!” said Thumbelina, who was sitting on Snow White’s shoulder. Old Lad was hanging his head in shame, knowing too of the speculated reports of the magic lamp.
Scarlet glided around the table towards Hansel and Gretel. “Do you want to stop the witch who tried to fatten you up before eating you?” Hansel’s eye twitched at the memory. She looked over to Jack, sitting opposite them. “Do you want your great-grandchildren and great-great-great grandchildren’s lives to be forever threatened by the giant at the bottom end of the beanstalk?”
The Little Mermaid was in the blow-up fishpond, which was just next to the terrace. Scarlet said to her, “How different would your life be without the Sea Witch who would only grant you legs in exchange for your tongue?” It was more of a statement than a question.
Scarlet walked over to Rapunzel who was sitting in her rocking chair, and placed her hand on her shoulder. “And my dear Rapunzel. The years the evil witch stole from you, keeping you locked up in that ghastly tower, isolated from the world.” Rapunzel looking up at Scarlet muddled, “Which Witch? What tower?” Her forgetfulness was getting worse.
Wise Pig carried on, “It’s up to us whether this continues or not. Who wants to stop history from repeating itself? Who wants go out and make a change?”
The Little Mermaid said, “I would join you, Pig. If I could” and flapped her tail in the water reminding the friends that, because she was made to swim, she couldn’t walk on land.
Hansel stood up, “There’s no use. We’re all too old”, and he left the room, wheeling his catheter and medical devices behind him. Gretel, who did everything her brother did, followed him out the room. From down the hallway, Hansel shouted, “Besides, what do you do with a captured wolf? That still doesn’t solve everything…”
“That’s right. We won’t just capture the wolf. We will build stronger homes for the pigs in Pig Town. We will teach Little Red Riding Hood’s Grandmother to stay strong and healthy. And prevent the bad things in history from repeating themselves once and for all!”
Tusker the Elephant was wedged between the two Cranky Pigs. He tried to wiggle out from the table, but was stuck. “I never had a bad wolf in my childhood. In the wild, where I come from, I was the problem. I was so judgmental that I didn’t share water with anyone who was different from me. It wasn’t fair. I passed down this bad character trait and I want to stop that. I want the future elephants to treat others equally.” Tusker then raised his trunk in the air. “So, Scarlet, I will join you”, he said while chewing on leafy greens. Cranky Pig 1 turned to Tusker and snapped, “Stop chewing so loudly!”
Bamboo Queen, who was the cleverest of them all said, “I also didn’t have a bad wolf from my home town; there was no evil witch and no giant. I was just a girl born from a bamboo stalk and as tradition would have it, I had to go through an arranged marriage or disappoint my family. I rebelled and fought for education and in turn was rejected by my family. Since my rejection, many bamboo babies have taken the easier path – they’ve gotten married under their father’s instructions. I can’t bear to see more girls forced into arranged marriages. I’m coming with you, Scarlet.”
“Me too”, said Quelin. Everyone knew that Quelin’s story was a tragic one. He lost his younger sister to a warlock, Brujo. His sister was one among many girls who had been taken from their families. The others also knew that their journey just got harder, because they would all have to go with Quelin to Brujo Island where many had tried to rescue their stolen children, but had never returned.
The two Cranky Pigs sighed heavily, “I don’t see how three old pigs can catch one agile young wolf, but Wise Pig, you’ve proven to make better decisions than us, so we’ll come too.”
Old Aladdin was looking hopeful and ready for something new. “Count me in!”
“You can’t possibly! Not with your lungs”, said Scarlet. “I will take this oxygen tank with me”, said Old Lad.
Madam Pea Princess might have known what a comfortable bed felt like, but she didn’t know much more. “Old Lad,” she said, “you can’t possibly believe the lamp was resurrected! You destroyed it. You threw it into the hole you found it in. It’s over. The lamp is dead.”
Aladdin, without hesitation said, “Don’t be so sure. Some believe that young Aladdin is aiming to destroy his entire nation with the lamp’s genie under his command. This wouldn’t be possible without the magic lamp and genie!”
“And if this is the case, how exactly does he plan to kill everyone? Lamps can’t kill people.” Madame Pea said matter-of-factly.
“Not necessarily by killing people. But by taking away things that are important for them to live,” said Bamboo Queen who went on to recite from one of the many books she had read, “Life’s final breath shall be breathed when you remove every human need.”
“Such as…?” Madame Pea was not following the conversation.
“Well, by taking away food, water, shelter, education, money, hope… anything we need to live well.”
Thumbelina added to what Old Lad was saying, “We have also heard that Prince Aladdin has been seized by the desire to be the richest in the world. He has bought himself a bigger palace; one that is famous for being the tallest and most beautiful. He has bought islands, jet airplanes, nature reserves, and even a pet lion! This is clearly only possible with the power of the lamp.”
Old Lad added, “The magic lamp is a powerful tool and can be used for good or for evil. The wishes that Prince Aladdin is making are selfish, short-sighted and destructive. So, Pea that’s why I need to go back.”
“What are you all waiting for?” said the Little Mermaid.
“That’s right. We need to go back. Let’s do this together!” said Wise Pig, cheering them all on.
All the untouched jelly and ice-cream had melted and was cleared from the lunch table. Scarlet, Tusker, Bamboo Queen, Quelin, Old Lad and the Three Old Pigs mapped out their journey. To the side of the group, Rapunzel quietly gave Scarlet a sentimental gift for their adventure. Scarlet was touched by her generosity and tucked the gift into her red riding hood.
The next morning, the light rose before the sun and the Musical Rooster squawked. It was the same routine wake-up song for The Old Home. And it was the only time of day when those who relied on hearing aids, were considered fortunate.
Suitcases were packed. Maps and magnifying lenses were slipped into front pockets. Their electric scooters were charged and Old Lad’s flying trunk was wiped clean of the cobwebs that had grown around it. They were ready.
Holding on to all the Goodbyes and Good Lucks, the eight old and brave friends drove off into the sunrise.
They drove and they drove - Old Lad flew and he flew - until Old Town got smaller and Pig Town got bigger. When they arrived outside the gates of Pig Town they discovered their childhood forest was wrapped in flames.