Preface to Chapter 28
Children are facing a time of increased solitude. I am a retired teacher developing 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 cannot 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 many families are 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.
I hope you will join us.
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.
Some teachers and parents follow the time-tested approach (used in Waldorf Schools) of telling a story on one day, then asking the child to retell it the next day. The day after that the child engages in an activity related to the story: writing, math, drawing, making or using a jumprope, building a model, sewing a bean bag, or making a map for example.
Many thanks to the collaborators who are translating this story: Joel Aragón Colín who is translating the story into Spanish, to Phan Lê Minh who is translating the story into Vietnamese and Tanya Kirilova Kothari who is translating The Secret Prince into Bulgarian. I am also grateful to Karah Pino who will continue as the author of Roland’s story and to Elliot Gardner who who has joined the team as my editorial assistant.
Please join us for conversations, updates, ideas for follow up activities, new chapters and translations by joining The Secret Prince Story Community on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/640925113394726/
Many families find that the easiest way to keep up with the story is to sign up as a follower of this blog on WordPress. Blog followers receive an email with the full text of each chapter when it is posted on Growing Children.
Ronduin sang his morning song to the chickens.
“The golden sun so great and bright
Warms the world with all its might
It makes the earth so green and fair
And tends each thing with ceaseless care.
It shines on blossom, stone and tree
On bird and beast on you and me.
So may each deed throughout the day,
May everything we do and say
Be bright and strong and true,
Oh Golden Sun like you.”
And then he fed the hens and emptied their water. Looking over the balcony into the courtyard, he noticed, that, for the first time since the flooding began, the tops of the bushes were sticking out of the water.
“The water is going down faster,” said Ronduin smiling at Sunset and Sunrise as he filled their food bowl. “When the earth appears in the courtyard, you can live there and scratch at the soil and find worms to eat.”
“You may be wishing for worms,” said Ronduin, “but I’m wishing for milk. We drank the last milk from the barn long ago.”
Ronduin remembered the many times he visited Roland on the hill, often with a message from his sister, Agnes. She had often sent him to the barn to bring back extra cheese or milk when she discovered she did not have enough.
Ronduin recalled the last time he ran across the fields with such an errand. He had run up the hill and breathlessly told Ronald, “Your sister needs a jug of milk for the chowder she’s cooking.”
Roland had replied with a smile, “Of course. And, what did she send me?”
And Ronduin remembered his own sly reply, “Why should she send you something?”
Roland had shrugged and gone into the kitchen for the milk and Ronduin had quickly grabbed a milking stool and placed it behind a post. He had reached into his satchel, and carefully pulled out the square of sweet cake that Agnes had sent to her brother wrapped in a cloth. He set the cloth-wrapped cake on the stool. This was a little game he always played with Roland. Agnes always sent him a special treat. And Ronduin always pretended he had brought nothing and then hid the treat when Roland wasn’t looking.
When Roland appeared with a jug of milk, Ronduin accepted it gratefully. “Agnes told me to thank you,” he said, stepping out the door.
Just before running down the hill, Ronduin turned and called to Roland standing in the door, “look behind the post for something from your sister!”
Now, on the balcony with the chickens, Ronduin sat down cross legged, reached into his pocket and pulled out Apple. “Today we get to learn how to juggle,” he said. “But first we have to check the water level in the first floor and then it’s time to eat my porridge. After all of that we will meet with mother. We think father and Cook Agnes won’t find us in the second floor stairwell that goes to the dining hall. This is where we will have our juggling lessons.”
Ronduin gazed at Apple sitting on his knee. “You look like you can’t wait that long,” he said. “But …”
Just then, the door opened and his father walked out on the balcony. “Good day,” said the King.
“Good day,” said Ronduin. Excited words entered Ronduin’s mind. He wanted to say, “This morning mother will start teaching Apple and me how to juggle.” But, remembering that they planned to surprise Cook Agnes and his father with a juggling performance, he stopped these words from coming out of his mouth.
“I’m glad I found, you here, said the King. “You’ve been reporting on the water going down. Now, we need you to report on something else. We need you to watch for fire and smoke.”
“Fire?” asked Ronduin.
“The water is going down” said his father, “but not as soon as I wished. It is time to do the spring planting and the fields are still underwater. This means that this year we must plant the usual valley crops on the hill fields.”
“But how will that happen?” asked Ronduin. I remember you told me that the stable hand took all the horses to the hills. One person cannot plough and plant all those fields alone and also care for the horses at the highland stables.”
The King nodded. “All you say is true,” he said. “Just before Sir Andrew took the green boat to town, we made a plan for what we would do it the water still covered the fields at planting time. We decided some townspeople would be ferried to the foothills before the water was too low to travel by boat. When they are getting ready to leave, they will light a great signal fire near the home of Ricard. When they leave for the foothills, they will light a second signal fire near the village.”
“This will be a signal for us?” asked Ronduin.
“It’s actually a signal for Roland,” answered the King. “But he can’t see these fires from the barn because of the tall pine grove. Yet, somehow he must learn that they are getting ready to send people to the foothills. Roland will be eager to take the animals to the foothills because the cows and sheep will be running out of hay that was stored in the barn for the winter. But, he can’t go until the path is dry enough. And, he can’t go until he knows that he will meet people there who will care for the cows and the sheep. He will have to leave the animals with the planting team because he will have to come back to care for the chickens. And, he may also have cows that are not yet able to travel because they are about to birth calves. He needs to know people are ready in the foothills to care for the animals so he can get back to the barn quickly.”
Ronduin listened carefully. He figured out right away that as soon as he saw smoke from the fire near Ricard’s home, the castle would need to send the signal to Roland by lighting their own fire.
“So, I will watch for the first signal fire. Then we will make our own signal fire that Roland can see?”
“Yes,” said the King. “Remember when we were working on the roof during the rains? The workers also carried piles of wood to the turret that Roland can see easily from the barn. It has a stone roof, so it’s a safe place for a fire.”
The king stepped to the edge of the balcony and pointed across the courtyard to the turret that was closest to the barn hill. “We can quickly light that pile of wood on fire for Roland to see as soon as we see the smoke from the fire near Ricard’s house,” he said.
Now Ronduin remembered all the messages he had brought from the castle to Roland. This would be a message with no words and no cake. Instead it would be a fire and a lot of smoke. And it would be the most important message of all.
“I think I can see town best from the sitting room or from my room,” said Ronduin. “But, it’s possible that Roland will light his fire first,” he continued. “And I can see that from the third floor window in that turret. So, I think I should go back and forth between these places on the third floor.”
“That’s just what I was thinking,” said his father. “As soon as you see smoke, come to the kitchen and tell Cook Agnes. She’s always there and your mother and I will check in with her often as we come and go between our tasks. We have a lot to do carrying wood and water and food. Now, though, you must be hungry. Let’s go have our porridge.”
After eating his porridge, Ronduin found his way to the third floor landing in the turret nearest the barn. He was far from the place he had agreed to meet his mother, the second floor landing on the way to the dining hall. Ronduin sighed. He took Apple out of his pocket and said, “I’m sorry Apple. No juggling today. We have to watch for a fire and we can’t go to our secret meeting place.”
Ronduin peered out the window toward the hill on the barn. Clouds danced across the sky and little ripples ran across the water that covered the fields. In the distance on the hill he could see cows nibbling grass. He saw Roland step out from the barn and then go back inside. Roland didn’t look at all like he was working on building or lighting a fire.
Ronduin had worn his jump rope around his waist. Now he untied it. He jumped while he recited the “Pease Porridge” rhyme. Then he jumped by two’s and then three’s, then fours. He stopped to look out the window. The hill still showed no sign of a fire. Then he began to jump by fives. He got as far as twenty-five when the the door opened and in walked his mother. She pulled her three juggling balls out of her pocket and, without a word, juggled them for a few minutes. Then she caught them and said, “It looks like we have a new location for our secret juggling lessons.”
Here is the portal to chapter 29: https://childrengrowing.com/2020/06/04/the-secret-prince-chapter-29-the-forever-sign/