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

Granny Rose was feeling healthier and stronger, so Scarlet decided it was time to go where her help was more needed: Aladdin’s home. She was wandering through the bustling Arabian markets when someone tapped her on the shoulder. To her surprise, it was her dearest Quelin, who had come straight from Brujo Island. “Out of all the places in Old Lad’s town, I knew I would find you shopping”, said Quelin. They laughed and then together they searched for the others.

Old Lad and the others were standing on the edge of the crevice. “We can’t get across. The gap is too wide”, said Old Lad.

“Ahem!” said a voice from behind them.

They all spun around to see Scarlet and Quelin. “We started this trip with you and we’re here to finish it with you”, said Scarlet. “Rapunzel gave me a gift before we left the Old Home and now is the time to use it.” With that, she slipped off her red hood, unclipped her hair extension and unravelled Rapunzel’s long braid. They all cheered. They could now get across.

Cadin circled the braid over his head three times and with all his strength, thrust the braid across the gap, which then latched on to a tree stump on the other side. They then made a tightrope out of it, fastening it around a rock on their side. Cadin said, “We must cross one-by-one and then hide behind those boulders.” He then spoke to all of the elderly, “If you can distract the villain, the rest of us can come up from behind him and catch him.” 

No one could think of a better idea so they agreed. One at a time, they steadied themselves as they crossed over the ravine on Rapunzel's hair.

Cadin was leading the young group. When he got closer to the other side, he could hear a whistling voice coming from inside the cave. It was a sweet, cheerful tune. The others could hear it too as they moved closer.

The shadow stood up and was enormous in stature.
“Could it be the notorious magician?”, wondered Prince Aladdin aloud.

The shadow glided along the cave wall towards the exit until it stood in broad daylight. He had one wooden leg, a basket and behind him he dragged out a casket of bones.

“It’s not the magician. It’s Brujo!” said Cadin, confused.
Bamboo Princess said, “His leg! He was the one who got blasted by the landmine.”

“That doesn’t make any sense”, said Cadin. “Why would he be wandering through Red Woods?”

Brujo reached beneath his poncho and pulled out the lamp. It wasn’t in the glass box. Brujo started rubbing the lamp, while whispering something to it. The genie  appeared and then smoke started forming around Brujo, getting thicker and clouding Brujo from their vision. 

POOF!

The smoke blew off and evaporated and where Brujo stood was a transformed Little Red Riding Hood. Little Red skipped lopsided on her wooden leg towards the crater, while singing merrily. Cadin and Prince Aladdin saw her first. Their mouths dropped open.  

Little Red placed her basket down, next to the cage that Tusker was locked in. She faced the genie. “Right! I’m ready.”

The genie sighed and then said, “As you wish.” He paused and then with authority spoke again, “From this spell that you shall make, it is your wish you choose to take, that life’s final breath shall be breathed when you remove every human need.” The genie paused. “Now combine a symbol of all the human needs into the crater that you collected, according to the list of ingredients I gave you.”

“And then will the planet will be destroyed?” asked Little Red maliciously.

“Yes, and so will everyone on it, except for you. You will be ruler of the new world.”

Little Red rubbed her hands together with excitement. She opened her basket and one by one started pulling out every human need for survival that she collected.

“A colony of bees... No bees, no pollination. And no pollination, no food.” Little Red pulled out the beehive she got from Tree Pig. “Check.” She threw the hive into the hole.

“Fertile soil” said Little Red, continuing to read off the list of human needs. She picked up a handful of the dry, dusty sand that had not been rained on in days, and threw it into the pot. 

“Housing.” She moved towards the pigs. They squealed as she moved closer. Little Red couldn’t get a grip of them as they were twisting and turning so she decided to leave them for last and moved onto the next item on her list.

“Climate stability.” Little Red pushed the casket to the edge of the crevice, opened the lid and tipped in all the collected skeleton bones into the mix. “It took a big flood to drown everyone on the Island of Seagulls.”

“Education.” She threw in a library of burnt physics books.

“Clean air.” The lamp was sitting on the ground in front of her. Reaching down to stroke it, she said, “Genie, Genie on the floor, make some smoke for us all.” The Genie grew out of the lamp and produced so much air pollution that her eyes started watering. Little Red and the caged animals started coughing uncontrollably.

“Lastly, income.” Little Red looked at the lion and then at Tusker’s tusks. Little Red said to both Tusker and Lion, “Now time for you two and the pigs to be thrown in... Genie... I need your help here!” she called. 

Old Lad was the last of the grumbling seniors to cross over the ravine on Rapunzel’s hair. The others were the other side anxiously waiting and encouraging him. He was only a little more than an arm’s length away from reaching them when he started coughing from the encroaching pollution. Old Lad tried to muffle the noise of his cough. He wobbled a little. “Don’t look down”, ordered Ruby in a hushed panic.

“Quickly, throw your oxygen tank to me”, said Quelin.

Old Lad threw the tank, which would have landed squarely in Quelin’s hands if he were not so short-sighted, but instead it hit the rock’s surface with a loud clanging sound.

CLING CLANG BANG
Little Red snapped her head around with her ear to the noise. “Who was that?”

The seniors stood frozen. Old Lad clung on to the braid. His hands and legs started to tremor.

“What have we got here? A few saviours trying to stop their friends from dying?” Little Red chuckled then in a flash snipped the hair braid with a pocketknife. Instantly, Old Lad dropped out of sight and into the mouth of the crevice.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” shouted Prince Aladdin from behind a rock. 

Little Red spun around, “More of you?” she snarled, “Lock them all up”, she ordered to the genie. The genie threw ropes around the seniors, fastened them up and then moved towards the young ones.

Before the genie reached them, Prince Aladdin dashed for Old Lad’s oxygen tank, smashed it open against a rock’s edge and slid it across the floor towards the smoking lamp. The oxygen tank stopped just short of the lamp, releasing more oxygen than there was pollution. Instantly, the smoke started to dissipate.

Little Red was now redder than before. Her temper was more dangerous than a forest fire if not dealt with immediately. The others knew they had to act fast.

Bamboo Princess gripped her lucky bamboo stalk, swinging it over her head like a samurai sword. A move she had learnt from one of her books. Then with one blow, she knocked Little Red off her little red shoes to land face down on the ground. Prince Aladdin was most impressed.

In the meantime, Little Tree Pig ran to the hive of dying bees. “Their lives count too!” he shouted. Little Tree Pig tried gathering the hive of hurt bees, while the other two pigs tried to free the Old Pigs, but Little Red was too quick for them. “Genie, throw those little pigs into the cage and push all of them into the pot!”

The smoke started billowing out of the lamp. Then the genie started pushing Tusker and the Lion’s cage towards the bubbling pot. 

Cadin was still hiding behind the rock watching it all. He was trembling. He wanted to remain hiding or run away. It was the same fear he felt when Pincoya wanted to take him to Brujo Island to find his sister. He knew he had the courage in him. He just had to take that first step and so he did. He ran out stop the two cages from being pushed in, but they were just pushing him closer to the crater.

“What are you doing? Move!” shouted Quelin. Little Red let out a vicious laugh. “That’s it genie. Just a little bit further.”

Baby Elephant charged forward and shouted, “ENOUGH!” He stretched out his baby trunk, flicked the lamp into the air and smacked it down into the bubbling mixture.

Everyone stopped!

There were bubbling sounds, sparks and whizzing noises from inside the mixture. Then there was a moment’s quiet before the explosion. A cosmic mushroom-cloud shot directly up, froze at the top in motion, and then was absorbed back into the crater. It pulled the genie down in its vacuum. 

Everyone, young and old, sat on the edge of the crevice, overlooking the Arabian dunes spread out before them. Bamboo Princess nudged Prince Aladdin and pointed to the sky. It was Old Lad flying towards them on his trunk. Prince Aladdin sprinted towards him. Before Old Lad landed, Prince Aladdin burst out the good news. “The lamp has been destroyed!” Old Lad pumped his fist into the air, “Yes!”

Little Red buried her head in her hands. “How could I have become so destructive? It started when I went to buy Granny Rose a gift. Granny loves gravy with her dinner. When I saw an online advertisement for a gravy server, I couldn’t resist. I bought it and went to collect it at our post office the following day. It was presented in this beautiful glass box. I was mesmerised by it. While on my way to grandmother, I took it out the box to give it a quick polish with my cape and -” The others were hanging on to every word Little Red said. “- And that was the last I remember.”

Old Lad said, “That’s the unfortunate curse of the lamp. As soon as somebody’s hands take hold of it, the holder is overcome by selfish and wicked desires. That is all it takes and that’s why it was handed down to Prince Aladdin in the glass box.”

Prince Aladdin said, “Ah, I was so foolish. My father was very ill when he gave me the lamp. In his final hours, his mind was failing and he was battling to make understandable sentences. He said the lamp is a powerful tool, but must be used wisely, that it was to be kept in the glass box for all to benefit. I thought he’d lost his mind because I always thought it was a gravy server. Prince Aladdin reflected a bit then expressed his thoughts. “Nothing harmful happened under my authority because I never removed it from the protective box. Nothing good happened either because of my ignorance.” 

Bamboo Queen added, “And Little Red, who was overcome by the evil powers of the lamp’s touch, used the genie to transform herself into the different evil villains so she could wipe out the nation and indeed become ruler of the world. So, the legend was right. The lamp sure increased in rebellion. It was at the pinnacle of all destruction.”

Everyone was deep in thought, processing it all. No one spoke for ages.

The six pigs attached the beehive in the overhanging tree. “Now you can live freely without any fear, little bees”, said Little Tree Pig.

Wise Pig was twirling the hair of his chinny chin chin before he started speaking to everyone, “A few days ago, we set out on a mission. We decided that we’d seen enough disasters in our time that were bleeding into today. We knew that if we wanted our great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren to see a brighter day, then we better do something about it now, because history is not just repeating, it’s getting worse. On this journey, we have seen and encountered more frightening experiences than we anticipated. We failed at most of our plans and often we wanted to give up. When us seniors decided to set off together, we thought we were the heroes. We were coming to save the young lives, the future generations. While we came to save you,” Wise Pig looked at all the young great-grandchildren, “you ended up saving us.”

All the old folk erupted into applause and shouts of joy. The battle was over. The evil lamp was destroyed and everyone was safe. While they were celebrating their victory, Tusker and Baby Ears raised their faces to the sky and started chanting in their own language. The others could not understand what they were saying. Instantaneously, the clouds moved over. The darkness crept in. And the first drop of rain fell on the land. There was another drop and another, until there was a steady rainfall.

Everyone, young and old celebrated even more now that Rain was back. The Elephants promised to never again be so arrogant in believing that they can live without Rain. Lots of rain settled on the ground. Lots of laughter was made. Lots of happy tears were shared.

Baba Yaga said to everyone, “We’ve done it! Today history has been made. Today is the start of a new future.” She then snapped her fingers together and instantly the old home on chicken legs came running towards them. “Our ride home is here.” They all climb into the house to meet all their supporting friends and began their journey back to little Old Town.