Children are facing a time of increased solitude. I am a retired teacher writing the story The Secret Prince to show a child who faces a similar situation in which he is stuck at home (well, a castle in his case). A flood surrounds the castle and Prince Ronduin can not go to school in the village and cannot run through the woods. How does he pass his time? Can Ronduin be a role model for children today? Can the story help to normalize the experience of being stuck at home? I’ve been pleased to learn that a growing group of families is reading this to their children as the story grows. Teachers are also using this story with their classes. My goal is to add a chapter each Monday and Thursday. Perhaps you will join us. Kim Allsup
If you are new to this story, start here: https://childrengrowing.com/2020/03/15/stories-for-children-in-times-of-trouble-storytelling-help-for-parents-in-the-era-of-covid-19/
You will find a link to the next chapter (as soon as it is available) at the end of each chapter.
Also, consider joining us on Facebook to discuss how to use this story with children at The Secret Prince Story Community. Many thanks to Joel Aragón Colín who is translating the story into Spanish and to Phan Lê Minh who is translating the story into Vietnamese. Please join us for conversations, updates, new chapters and translations here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/640925113394726/
Ronduin remembered his dream as he pulled back the curtains in his room and saw the mountains in the distance lit by the rising sun. It was the sight of the mountains that popped the dream out of his sleep and into his thinking.
It was a dream about the Summer Journey he took with his parents and Sir Andrew every year to visit his mother’s relatives who lived in the mountains. He knew he was remembering a dream and not revisiting a memory because Mirabel was with them, riding with Ronduin in the back of the cart.
Of course Mirabel had never joined his family on a Summer Journey. In real life she didn’t even know that Ronduin’s parents’ were the King and the Queen.
In the dream they rode through the quiet village on a hot summer day before the shops opened. Then they traveled on the bumpy dirt road that ran alongside the river that flowed down from the hills.
Ronduin remembered telling Mirabel in the dream, “My favorite place is the meadow of flowers high on the mountain side. My relatives in the mountains call it The Bowl because it’s shaped like a very big bowl, far bigger even than the fields in front of the castle. They tell me that the spring rains fill The Bowl so it looks like a bowl of soup. But we never come here in spring. We always travel when spring has long passed and it’s become very hot.”
It was a long Journey and Ronduin and Mirabel became tired of sitting. They got permission to run ahead for a long stretch, so they both ran up the road as fast as they could, which was not as fast as usual, because the road was uphill.
Ronduin noticed while he ran that the river beside the road now ran swiftly. Unlike the river near the village that flowed slowly and calmly, these stretches of the river bubbled and splashed over rocks as it tumbled down the hill. Just before they reached The Bowl, the road became very steep and pulled away from the river. Here the two children climbed back into the cart. They couldn’t see the river through the trees, but they could hear the roar as it fell over a cliff as a waterfall.
After the steep section, the road flattened again and they entered The Bowl. Sir Andrew stopped the cart and Mirabel and Ronduin stood up and looked around at the spectacular bowl shaped meadow. The mountains formed a ring around the bowl and, even though it was so hot that it felt like standing before a fire, some of the mountains peaks wore bright white scarves fashioned of pure snow.
“Oh my! Oh my! Oh My!” exclaimed Mirabel turning round and round, admiring the beauty of the great meadow dressed in flowers of every rainbow color. “I have never seen anything so very beautiful,”
Noticing a path, they jumped off the cart and ran through an area of mostly blue and yellow flowers. The path led them to the river which flowed peacefully across the meadow. Here, they removed their shoes and socks and waded into the icy stream.
“This cold water feels so good on this hot day,” said Mirabel.
Ronduin and Mirabel each sat down on a rock with their feet in the water. Looking downstream they saw a line of of huge boulders at spot where the river plunged over the cliff. One of these enormous rocks looked like it had cracked into two pieces. The stream ran through this crack and then could no longer be seen. Beyond their vision, the stream fell as a waterfall.
Standing at the window, Ronduin replayed all of this in his mind as if it had just happened. But he could remember no more of his dream.
Instead of seeing the dream, Ronduin now saw the lake outside the window covering land that should soon be planted. Ronduin wondered how long he would have to wait to see barley and oats springing out of the fields. How long, he wondered, would he have to wait to see Mirabel and his other friends from school. Ronduin sighed, remembering his mornings in school and his friends laughing and singing together.
“Instead of seeing school friends every morning, I now see chicken friends, and they must be hungry,” he thought. He put on his linen shirt and a pair of breeches. Ronduin picked up the bucket of food and the jug of water he had left by the door.
Today, when Ronduin entered the chicken area, Sunrise ran across the balcony to greet him. She seemed to know he would bring food. He pulled a crust of old bread out of the bucket and crouched down and held out his hand. Sunrise grabbed it instantly. But, when Ronduin reached out to pick her up, Sunset darted in to steal her prize, and Sunrise ran off with it into her basket. Sunset chased Sunrise into her basket and Ronduin laughed. He dumped and refilled their water bowl and filed their food bowl and then said, “I’ll come back to visit later and to collect the eggs. By the way, your food bowl is full, so you don’t have to fight over that scrap of stale bread. Now I have to check on the floodwater on the first floor. You know, the spot where you got off the boat.”
Ronduin no longer found the scaffolding in third floor hallway, nor the piled up furniture in the second floor hallway, to be unusual. He was now used to dodging here and there to go anywhere in the castle.
Ronduin eagerly opened the door to the stairwell to the first floor. “Will the water be at the same level, or will it be lower or higher than yesterday?” he wondered. “And, why did the water get deeper without rain?”
Ronduin hurried down the steps while eyeing the water in the entry way. He noticed that some of the sections of scaffolding in the dining hall had moved. “They are now floating,” thought Ronduin, “so the water must be deeper. Standing on the last dry step by the water, Ronduin counted that step and the steps above him. “I, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21.”
“Yesterday, it was Twenty-two steps,” said Ronduin out loud. He crouched down on the last dry step, and peered over the edge. “Hmm,” he said. “The water comes half way up this step, so it rose about a half a step.”
Now Ronduin walked halfway up the twenty-one steps and sat down. “This is a quiet place for thinking,” he whispered. He held the hem of his linen shirt between his fingers and started picturing water, all kinds of water. He remembered the lakeshore where he and Mirabel always said good bye after their runs together. He remembered the well-behaved river running alongside the town and the mischievous river tumbling down the hills. He thought about the cold water of the stream through The Bowl and the way it seemed to disappear as it went through the crack in the rock. Ronduin had never seen the bowl when it filled up from the spring rains. But he could imagine it. He guessed that the line of rocks held it back and that it took time for the extra water to move through the crack. Now Ronduin remembered the cider spill. It wasn’t water, but it was like water, he thought. And it made a puddle on the table that was held back by the rim….hmm… just like the rim of rocks that holds water in the bowl. And the cider dripped out off the table through a crack. And the water flows out of The Bowl through a crack in the rock.
All of this thinking of water brought Ronduin to a next step in his thinking. He hadn’t put it into words yet, but he saw something in his imagination. Suddenly understanding why the water was still rising, Ronduin, jumped up and ran up the stairs. Opening the door, he saw his mother and father at the end of the hallway just about to step into the new kitchen.
Ronduin ran toward them waving his arms and calling out in his his loudest voice, “I figured it out! I know why the water is rising! And it rose a half a step since yesterday. And I had a dream and I spilled cider and all of that helped me figure it out.”
“Whoah,” said Ronduin’s father as Ronduin ran up to them. “Let’s sit and you can tell us all about what you figured out, slowly, please, so we can understand it.”
A note to parents and teachers: All the elements needed to understand the mystery of the rising floodwaters are in this chapter, but the full explanation is not yet given. Children, who are perhaps ten and older, might want to figure this out. Perhaps, like Ronduin’s parents, you will let them puzzle over this on their own. Meanwhile, you might find this modern day explanation helpful (especially the part about lag time) if you are looking for an explanation and the terminology that goes with it. https://www.tulane.edu/~sanelson/Natural_Disasters/riverflooding.htm
Chapter 19 will be available by the end of the day on Thursday, April 30 and will include Ronduin’s explanation of why the water rises after the rain stops.
Younger children might enjoy this poem as a follow up:
By A. A. Milne
Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn’t any
I’m not at the bottom,
I’m not at the top;
So this is the stair
Halfway up the stairs
And it isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn’t really
It’s somewhere else
Here is the portal to Chapter 19: https://childrengrowing.com/2020/04/30/the-secret-prince-chapter-19-a-bit-of-mischief/