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

Not only was Old Lad’s town the furthest away, but also he had encountered problems with his flying trunk. Needless to say he had a lot of time to reflect on his life while flying alone over the cities along the way: Old Lad was born into poverty. As a young boy, he aspired to a life of wealth; however, he was not prepared to work for it. One day, a wicked magician, a trickster, took Old Lad to an opening in the ground and asked him to retrieve the lamp from inside the hole. Old Lad, did so, but before he passed the lamp to the magician or climbed out of the hole, the ground closed over Old Lad and he was trapped inside with the lamp. That was when he discovered the genie.

With the use of the genie’s magic powers, Old Lad returned to his town where he grew in wealth. He got everything he wished for as a young boy: A palace, being crowned prince, getting married to the most beautiful princess, and sitting at the king's banquet every evening. But Old Lad noticed a difference in the wishes he made depending on whether he made a wish while holding the lamp in his hands, or letting it rest on the surface of a table nearby. With his hands on the lamp, his wishes were selfish and somewhat wicked. Old Lad didn’t want his wishes to be self- centered or cruel, so he placed the lamp in a glass box and promised to pass it down to the next generation the same way. Old Lad grew in his wealth, but he also made sure his community prospered with him. The town’s economy and its people thrived under his authority. 

A few years later, the magician located Old Lad’s palace. When the princess was home alone, the magician tricked her and took the lamp for himself. The impacts on the society were almost immediate. The magician took the lamp out of the box and held it in his bare hands. The magician took wealth from others. He took power from others. He took happiness. His authority ruled over the land and all the people in it. It even ruled over him. Old Lad chased after the magician and the lamp to destroy it. This, he achieved ...

...Or so he thought, until recently. Back at the Old Home, Old Lad and the others heard of and read terrifying stories about the decline in Old Lad’s hometown as a result of the lamp. The news reporters told how it was with the current Prince Aladdin who was being so destructive. Old Lad couldn’t understand how Aladdin’s behaviour could match that of the magician. Why would he take things from others? But if this was true, young Aladdin was not only using the lamp to destroy his own land, but surrounding regions too, possibly the entire world. So, Scarlet was right: History wasn’t only repeating itself, it was getting worse. 

At long last, Old Lad approached his country. The degraded land alarmed him. It was not at all rich enough for crops; much worse than pictures showed. Old Lad mentally prepared himself for young Prince Aladdin’s iconic palace contrasted against this decrepit landscape before him. 

When Old Lad arrived at Aladdin’s palace, something terrible had already happened. The palace was no longer there.

Young Prince Aladdin had his face pressed against the hot, dry and dusty ground beneath him. He had been sleeping under the baking sun after a day’s work of herding sheep. He was working for a farmer not too far away from his once existing palace. Prince Aladdin lay there feeling hopeless, not wanting to get up. He was weak and had not eaten in days. Suddenly someone started shaking him vigorously.

“What’s going on? Where’s your palace? Where is the lamp?” said an old man frantically. It took a few seconds before Prince Aladdin saw that this old man was his great-grandfather, Old Lad.

“Great-Grandfather! What brings you here?” he asked.

“I came here to stop this, Prince Aladdin...stop the growing gap between your wealth and the terrible poverty of the rest, but I expected you to be playing croquet on your lush lawns, not sleeping in the dirt. Where is the lamp?” asked Old Lad, pointing to the front-page news article he had kept in his pocket.

“Lamp? You mean the gravy server? I sold it. I sold everything I owned except for my palace and pet lion”, said Prince Aladdin.

“You sold the lamp?”

Prince Aladdin didn’t understand Old Lad’s distasteful glare, nor did he understand what he meant by the ‘lamp’. Prince Aladdin explained himself. “I spent every last cent of my inheritance from my wealthy father. I spent it on properties, gadgets, gambling and a pet lion that would do tricks to earn me more money. I never thought it would run out, but it did. I then became so desperate that in order to live I had to sell all my belongings too.

Unfortunately that included the gravy server that Father gave to me in a glass box. He said to never take it out the glass box and to use it wisely. But how can I use it if I can’t take it out the box? It didn’t bother me, though. I’m not a fan of gravy anyway. I put the glass box in my bottom drawer and never brought it out until the day I sold it in the same state I received it. As soon as I sold it, the most bizarre thing happened. My palace vanished and so did my lion, which was my only source of income.”

Old Lad was mortified. He spoke each word deliberately and slowly. “You mean to tell me that you don’t know about the genie who lives inside the lamp – your gravy server – and grants wishes?”

Prince Aladdin erupted into laughter.

If there was time, Old Lad would used it to sigh.

“Who did you sell it to?” asked Old Lad.

“I traded my goods online. When interest was shown and money transfers were made, I shipped off the sold items to various addresses.”

The newspapers made the world believe that Prince Aladdin was in possession of the lamp and consequently robbing others of any means to survive. But someone else had it and Old Lad knew exactly who had tricked Prince Aladdin for it. Old Lad hurtled off, with a confused prince following hot on his heels. 

There were eight travellers who were en route, but it was not the original eight who started the journey, except Bamboo Queen. The rest were the energetic and enthusiastic Three Little Pigs, Ruby, Baby Elephant, Cadin and Bamboo Princess. They were being lead by the Hero Rat and Bamboo Princess’ mobile navigation app. 

Cadin asked the tired Little Pigs if they wanted a piggyback so they all hopped on. They covered some miles in silence, before running into Old Lad and Prince Aladdin, who were both on the flying trunk whizzing towards them.

The trunk stopped a few centimetres from Baby Elephant’s eyes, who was forced to squint when it almost brushed his lashes. Prince Aladdin and Bamboo Princess’ eyes met. Prince Aladdin swept his long fringe to the side and Bamboo Princess twirled a long strand of her hair around her finger. Everyone noticed the interaction.

“Prince Aladdin sold the lamp!” said Old Lad brusquely.

“He what?” asked Little Mole Pig.

Little Water Pig said, “But if Prince Aladdin doesn’t have the lamp, then who does?”

“Whoever it is, we need to find him and then destroy the lamp”, said Old Lad.

Everyone accepted the call of duty without questioning and darted off behind the flying trunk, repeatedly chanting, “Find the lamp. Find the lamp.”

The Hero Rat was leading the group out of the city, passing up and down undulating dunes. The flying trunk was on the rat’s tail and everyone else was close behind. Ruby was trailing behind, breathless, but determined to keep up. 

Bamboo Princess said to Ruby, “It was very courageous of you to continue through the woods after you heard the landmine explosion”.

“My lost daughter is in more danger than I. Besides, we had Hero Rat leading us.”

“I’m still wondering who stepped on that landmine in the woods”, said Bamboo Princess.

“I would like to hope it was the wolf”, said Ruby, “he’s been a problem for many years.”

The landscape changed from sand dunes to rocky terrain. It was at this point when the flying trunk started jerking and stuttering before it stopped cold and refused to go further. Old Lad said, “Not again! This hasn’t stopped giving me problems! Anyway, we need to keep going.” Old Lad hopped out of his trunk.

“You can’t walk, Old Lad! Your lungs!” said Bamboo Queen. “I’m fine, we’re close enough. Let’s go!”

Old Lad held his oxygen tank close to him and charged ahead. All of a sudden, he stopped and held up his right hand, signalling to the others to stop behind him. It was a perfect excuse for Ruby to catch her breath. She was trying to breathe quietly next to the energetic kids, but she couldn’t disguise her heaving chest. Ruby – along with all the others – stared straight ahead of them. 

They were standing on the edge of a huge crevice. On the other side of the crevice was a crater. It looked as if a planet fell out of the solar system and landed right in front of them, leaving a sizeable and perfectly round dent in the earth.

“What are we looking at?” asked Prince Aladdin.

Old Lad answered, “Ahead of us is the opening in the ground where I first retrieved the lamp from and where I thought I’d destroyed it.”

Cadin looked through his binoculars.

“There’s a cage with...it can’t be!” Cadin looked over his binoculars then back through the lens, “Tusker!”

Baby Elephant started flapping his ears furiously. “And a second cage with a lion!”

“That’s my lion!” said Prince Aladdin.

“There’s another cage with...Oh no! The pigs!” Ruby burst out, “And my Little Red?” 

Cadin surveyed more and then shook his head. Nothing. Ruby wept.

“Wait...There’s a rock cave with a flickering light coming from inside. All I can see is a really large shadow of someone on the wall. He’s standing up!”