Fairy Tales for a Fairer World

Contes de fées pour un monde meilleur - Cuentos de Hadas para un mundo más justo

In the Storybook, classic characters take on new adventures in the setting of traditional fairy tales from around the world, whilehighlighting issues such as climate change, epidemics, displacement, and inequality

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On the Island of Seagulls, at the underbelly of the globe, lived the Royal Family of the Sea. Millalobo was King. He had the body of a sea lion and the head of a human and fish. He ruled over all the living sea creatures. His wife and Queen of the ocean, Huenchula, was half human and half seahorse as she was born from a beautiful unicorn and a strong lumberjack.

Huenchula first met Millalobo when she was living on land during the winters. She was retrieving water from a well. She looked into the well, but instead of seeing her own reflection, she saw the face of Millalobo staring back at her. It was truly love at first sight. They started a relationship and later got married. Huenchula then went to live with Millalobo at the bottom of the sea, but would still come visit her parents, and come up for air. Millalobo and Huenchula had three beautiful children: Pincoy, a merman and prince of marine botany, and two mermaid princesses, Pincoya and Sirena. All three children helped their parents take good care of the seas. 

Huenchula’s first interest was the Island of Seagulls, where she was born and raised. Her parents, Mrs Unicorn and Mr Lumberjack, were the first family to live on the island after the great flood, where the water levels rose over the once lively and densely populated city. No one survived. Years later when the waters dropped and the land resurfaced, it was only the seagulls who returned... until Mrs Unicorn and Mr. Lumberjack discovered the island, while sailing the seas. The island was beautiful with lush forests so they decided to stay.

Mr Lumberjack built palafitos, colourful timber houses built on stilts above the treacherous waters. Their home could be seen from the mainland and soon people from the coastal towns of the mainland moved to the Island of Seagulls, also building their homes on stilts, creating a vibrant little village. Mrs Unicorn’s efforts to build a stronger community were evident in the islanders’ ability to feel and stay connected on a piece of disconnected land. After achieving all this, they felt it was the right time to start their own family and so they had their first and only child, Huenchula. 

Since Huenchula was a young girl, she always loved and respected the sea.When she became Queen of the Sea, her investment in sea conservation only grew. She always ensured a sustainable ocean for people to survive. And while she loved far and wide, she strictly disciplined those who didn't obey her one rule, to not take more fish than needed for daily consumption. If the fisherman over fished, Huenchula would limit their supply. On the contrary, if they respected the oceans, their next fishing trip would be plentiful.

Huenchula’s two princess daughters, Pincoya and Sirena were the messengers to the fishermen. They would swim to shore and deliver the news of whether the fishermen’s harvest would be short or plentiful. Pincoy would always go with his sisters, while also monitoring marine plantations.

One morning, when the sun woke up slightly later than the day before, Huenchula looked out across the seas and saw that the seawater was blood red. It wasn’t the sun’s reflection staring back at her. Huenchula screamed. “The fish are being slaughtered!” But what she did not know is that it was not callous humans that were clubbing fish as she thought it to be, but something far, far more dangerous.

All three children came to see what their mother had screamed about. Pincoy the marine botanist, gasped at the sight. “It’s red tide!”

Huenchula was furious, but more than this, she felt out of control. She knew how to regulate marine life and human activity to a degree, but the mood of the sun and other elements were not in her hands. Water temperatures were above normal, which boosted the growth of algae and this produced harmful toxins. This is what made the water turn reddish-brown. And the effect of red tide is what was contaminating and killing marine life, not the fishermen. 

The unhealthy ocean was now showing its signs of being terribly sick: Dead marine life scattered the beach. And what little fish remained, the fishermen were grabbing to sell, despite the fish being contaminated. Without hesitating, Pincoya, Sirena and Pincoy swam out to the coastal line of the mainland.

Just before they reached the shore, they noticed a young fisher boy floating alone on the still waters. The fisher boy was crying. It was Cadin, Quelin’s great-grandson.

“I understand you are upset about this red tide, but we need you to listen to us. I have to stop you from selling your fish to the market, for now. It’s too dangerous for others to eat.”

Cadin was shaking his head. “It’s not the fish. It’s my only sister, Sakin. She has been taken by Brujo, the evil warlock!”

Pincoya didn’t know how much more bad news she could hear. First the red tide and now the haunting existence of Brujo! Brujo had been kidnapping children for decades, most of whom were young girls. He lived on his own mysterious island marked by darkness, called the Island of Brujo. From the Island of Seagulls, his island wasn’t visible to the naked eye or even through binoculars with extra zoom, but it was there. It was believed that Brujo lived in a cave, set on the shoreline, where hairy monsters guarded the entrance. The monsters walked on one leg and two hands, and they were fed on black cat’s milk and goat’s esh. Legend had it that these monsters were the mutated missing children from the mainland. 

Brujo wore a magic cloak. The cloak only covered his belly, harnessed on by straps that crossed over his exposed back. With the cloak on, Brujo had supreme powers he used for revenge, a result of being mistreated as a child, though nobody quite knows. He could concoct toxic potions to spill into the oceans and kill off sea creatures. He could lull and control people with his magic powers. He could fly if he wore a poncho. And he could transform little children into monsters.

“We must do something fast”, said Princess Pincoya.

Prince Pincoy said, “You stay here to help Cadin. I will tell the other fishermen about the algae problem.” He and his sister, Sirena, swam off, leaving Pincoya with Cadin.

“We have to go save your sister! We have no other option!” said Pincoya.

Cadin buried his head in his hands. He was afraid. He had heard of the desperate parents who’d gone after Brujo to save their children. Only, they never returned. After a moment of thought, Cadin hoisted the anchor from the sea and put the weight of it on his boat. “Alright. Let’s go!”

Pincoya pulled Cadin in his boat behind her, cutting through the strong currents and making white horses in the water run alongside her all the way to Brujo Island.

Pincoya ramped the boat onto the sand bank of Brujo Island. There were beached Sei whales everywhere. Pincoya threw herself over one of the whales and wept. She knew this was a result of Brujo’s organised oil spills and other harmful schemes to destroy the ocean and all life in it. “How can someone be so cruel and malicious? What for?” she cried.

Cadin drew near Pincoya, but she motioned for him to go rescue Sakin.

Cadin was in awe of the beauty of the island. The coastline was lined with giant rock cliffs separating land from icy blue waters. Cadin bravely walked along the shoreline, while Pincoya waited in the water for his return. He could not see Brujo’s cave. Around the bend and behind rocks he could, however, see a shipwreck. “That’s the Caleuche... the ghost ship” he said to himself. It looked abandoned. He wondered if maybe he could climb to the top of it and get some clues of where exactly he would find his sister. 

Cadin found a dangling rope and hoisted himself up until making it to the deck. Standing aboard, the air around him felt eerie. Colder. Something caught his attention in the staircase leading to the cabin below deck so he decided to investigate it with caution. He navigated his way through dark passageways, feeling the walls on both sides of him. He found a room that was closed up. Something in him decided to see what was there so he slowly opened the door. There was no movement.

His eyes had adjusted to the dark and he could make out a lot of caskets stacked up on top of each other. He hunched over the box nearest him, unlatched the lock and opened it. It was crammed with dry bones. These were too big to be human bones. Feeling scared, he shut the lid quickly then noticed an engraving on the lid, reading, Mammoth. He looked from one casket to another reading all the titles on each: The Dodo. The West African Black Rhino. The Golden Toad. This was a graveyard of all the extinct animals from near and far! “This cannot be”, he thought. He was afraid and had to leave. On his way out he saw another box of bones: Locals from the Island of Seagulls.

Quelin was now sweating from fear. This Brujo not only takes children and pollutes the waters. He kills off animal species and wipes out population groups through severe climate changes. 

Cadin scrambled out of there as quickly as possible. From the deck he saw a tower roughly in the middle of the island, showing signs of life. He moved quickly and headed in that direction, while constantly surveying for possible danger.

The tower had hundreds of windows spiraling upwards, one for each room. Some of the windows were flung open and some were tucked in with the blinds laid down. Cadin moved around the tower, following the voice of a singing girl. She was hanging her hair out of the window. It was a very short ponytail; too short to braid. When she turned her face, Quelin saw that she was his friend Rapunzella who went missing
a few weeks before his sister was taken. He was shocked. As he scanned the open windows he saw a lot of girls hanging their short ponytails out from the window, but he couldn’t see his sister. Cadin was looking up with more questions than there were windows when a voice from behind him called, “Cadin!” It was his great-grandfather, Quelin.

Cadin was thrilled to see someone he knew, especially his great-grandfather. “I thought my sister, Sakin was taken by Brujo, but I don’t see her anywhere”, said Cadin, downcast.

Just then Cadin heard his name being called again. He looked up to see Sakin hanging from a window that was previously shut up. “Help me!” she cried. Cadin automatically started running towards her but his great-grandfather caught his arm! “Careful! It’s dangerous here...”

And those were the last words spoken before the force of a destructive tidal wave washed over them. 

At the same time, on the same sea not too far away, the Three Little Pigs, Ruby and Baby Elephant journeyed together on Little Water Pig’s houseboat, tracking Little Red Riding Hood.

Ruby and the Three Little Pigs had found Baby Elephant crying in the woods after hearing the landmine explosion in Red Wood. He told them his name was Baby Elephant and that he was looking for Tusker who looked like a big version of him.

“Come with us, Baby Elephant,” Ruby insisted, “We are looking for Little Red and the Old Pigs who are also missing! We will look for Tusker too.”

So here was Baby Elephant, sitting at the back of Water Pig’s houseboat, making the front of the boat point to the sky. With headlights strapped on, they all called out, 

“Little Red... Pigs...Tusker”, but to no avail.

Their slow speed was picked up by an ocean’s swell, which they quickly discovered was no small swell, but a destructive tide. They screamed, “AHHHHHHHHH!” with their eyes shut. The wave swept over Brujo island effortlessly and moved on without them, leaving them stranded on the island and surrounded by devastation: Uprooted trees, street lamps bent at right angles, and wailing young girls; girls who were desperately searching for something or someone under mounds of wreckage.

Little Mole Pig who was petrified of hurricanes, jumped out of the boat, still screaming, and buried his head underground. His two hind legs and tail were sticking in the air.

“There she is! There is Little Red”, said Ruby. Little Mole Pig looked up and forgot about his greatest fear. Ruby sprinted towards her daughter who was with two others, helping move some of the rubble. When the red hood turned around to face Ruby, she jolted to a standstill. It was not her Little Red, but old Quelin with his red hoodie pulled over his head. Ruby crumbled into a heap of tears.

“I’m sorry!” said Quelin, truly sorry for her disappointment.
“It’s not your fault”, said Ruby. “I saw what I so desperately want to see!” 

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“Little Red is not here. You all need to leave; it’s too unsafe”, said Quelin. “Calin, go with the Little Pigs and take all the young girls with you on the houseboat. I will gather the remaining girls and make sure to bring your sister. Now go, before it’s too late!” said Quelin.

Cadin knew he would keep his word so he hugged his great-grandfather before leaving.

Quelin was watching Cadin embark the small boat along with the others. The boat was over crowded and very unsafe, but it was the still safer than staying on the island.

Quelin waved his friends off until they were just a small dot on a large ocean surface. That is when he saw another boat on the horizon that looked very familiar to him. Quelin hoped it wasn’t what he thought it was, so he reached for his binoculars. It was. “It’s the Caleuche...the ghost ship. And it’s being steered by Brujo”, he said to himself.

Meanwhile, the Bamboo ladies were hopelessly lost at sea. There was no sign of land. No help. No mobile reception. They lay on the floor of the boat feeling hopeless and tired. But time must have passed and the boat must have drifted, because the next thing Bamboo Queen heard her name being yelled out. She sat bolt upright and spun around to see the Three Little Pigs, Ruby and a few other familiar faces. They were all so excited to see each other. They agreed to share stories along the way, but for now, they all had to keep going. They had friends to find.