Preface to Chapter 30
Children have endured a time of increased solitude. They have had their daily lives changed and still face an uncertain time as the world moves through the end of the pandemic and back to health.
I am a retired teacher developing the story The Secret Prince to show children in a Medieval kingdom who face a situation in which their world has changed dramatically. A flood surrounds the castle and the village. Prince Ronduin cannot go to school in the village and cannot run through the woods. How does he pass his time? Mirabel, who loves near the village is stuck in a small house with eleven other people. Can Ronduin and Mirabel be role models 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 as readers and perhaps even as collaborators.
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 as 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 this blog.
Ronduin looked out the window of the sitting room across the flooded fields toward the forest, toward Mirabel’s house which was hidden behind the trees. He looked at the sky over the forest for billowing smoke from a big fire, but he saw no smoke, not even a thin line of smoke from a chimney.
Then Ronduin gazed at the reflections of little puffy clouds in the water. He spotted the tops of bushes poking out of the water along the still hidden road through the fields.
Ronduin sighed and then he smiled. It had been many weeks since he first gazed out this window into a world of rain and more rain and floodwaters that rose even after the rain had stopped. He remembered watching for Sir Andrew and the green boat. And he remembered waving farewell to a boatload of villagers as they made their way home.
Two ducks swooped into view and landed near the window. “You won’t be able to paddle about near the castle much longer,” said Ronduin to the ducks. “The water is going down.”
Now Ronduin turned his back to the window. He saw the high shelf with the big book his father had read at the big table. He noticed the painting of King Ronduin, his mother’s sewing chest, and the hearth where he had so often fed the fire. Today, no fire brightened the hearth. Instead, a pile of ashes cushioned a cold, blackened log.
Ronduin took Apple out of his pocket and placed it on the small table that had once held a small flood made of cider.
“I’m sorry you don’t get to juggle yet,” said Ronduin to Apple. “But you will juggle soon and you will love it. You get to fly through the air in the forever sign. I will make two new friends for you, a yellow throwing sack named Pear and a purple one named Plum. But now you can watch me make the forever sign with this red silk. Watch closely so you will learn how to do it.”
Ronduin pulled the piece of red silk from his pocket. Using his right hand, he flung it by his left ear, allowed it to float down to his left hand, grabbed it and tossed it near his right ear. After catching the floating fabric with his right hand, he began again.
As Ronduin practiced, he learned just how hard to throw. He learned that he should not be too quick or too slow to grab the floating, falling silk from the air. At the same time, he found that waiting too long messed up his steady rhythm.
He practiced for a long time, then he remembered he was supposed to watch for smoke. He lay the piece of silk on the table next to Apple and walked up to the window. He was relieved to see that the sky was still clear.
“I think I should face the window while I juggle,” he said to Apple. That way, if smoke appears, I’ll see it right away.”
Ronduin lifted the red silk and began again.This time he looked out the window while he was juggling. He could see the silk, but at the same time, in the distance, he could see the forest that surrounded Mirabel’s home. He kept his gaze steady and he spoke these words over and over : “toss… float… catch, toss… float… catch.” Then suddenly new words with the same rhythm popped into his head and he found himself saying:
Pease porridge hot
Pease, porridge cold
Pease porridge in the pot
Nine days old. He had to say the words “in the pot” really fast as if they were one word, to make the rhythm work.
Pease porridge hot
Pease porridge cold
Pease Porridge inthepot
Nine days old
Ronduin made the forever sign with the piece of red silk as he said these words out loud. He felt himself pulled into a feeling of forever, like he could go on forever, smoothly, effortlessly. He had masted a new skill, but he didn’t stop to think about his achievement. He just kept tossing, allowing the silk to float and catching it, and tossing it again. While he did this he, watched for any wisp of smoke rising above the trees.
“This is the last day we will send jugs of water to town,” thought Mirabel as she tugged at the rope to raise a bucket of water. “After the boat leaves for the foothills, I will have to draw water for only Mother and Adelaide and baby Elspeth and Rowan and me. Father and Sir Andrew will row the green boat to the foothills. And the baker and his family will return to town. It will be so quiet here. Maybe it will be so quiet in the mornings that I can run and run around the house.”
The bucket reached the top of the well where Mirabel let it rest on the stone edge. She watched her brother Rowan splitting logs while she rested her arms. “I imagine his arms get tired too,” she thought. Mirabel poured the water from the bucket into the last of the jugs she had to fill.
Rowan stopped and used his sleeve to wipe the sweat from his forehead. He saw Mirabel looking toward him and called out, “Hey Mirabel! Can you come here for a minute? If you can do some of the wood splitting, then I can carry this pile of split wood to the goat yard where we will build the big signal fire. “
Mirabel walked over to Rowan who handed her the axe.
“I think you could do this,” he said.”You’re strong.”
“Of course I could do it,” said Mirabel, “but I told mother I would dig about in the garden and pull the weeds so the soil is ready for planting. I told her I would do that as soon as I filled all the jugs.”
Mirabel heard herself saying these words, yet at the same time she felt curious. She had never split wood before. What would it feel like to lift the axe, to swing it overhead, to bring it flying down to crack open a log in one swoop?
“I’ll try it,” she said.
“First, take a practice swing,” said Rowan. “Don’t hit the wood hard, just tap it. Do this to be sure you have a safe swing that won’t keep going and hit you in your leg.”
Rowan handed Mirabel the axe. She looked at the log Rowan had placed upright on the big stump that was always used as a base for splitting wood. She realized right away that that the whole set up was too tall for her. She didn’t let that stop her. She took the log off of the stump and stood it on the ground next to the stump.
“You know how to do this?” asked Rowan.
“Of course I do,” replied Mirabel. “I’ve been watching father and mother split wood since I was as small as Elspeth.”
Mirabel knew to grasp the axe at both ends of the wooden shaft. “This will be my practice swing,” she said.
Mirabel held the axe over her shoulder. Raising it very slowly and she moved it high into the air and as she lowered the sharp edge cautiously with great care, she slid both hands to the end far from the blade. She had seen her mother, her father and Rowan slide both hands together like this. Now she was surprised to feel that, with her hands away from the blade, the sharp end felt heavier. The axe fell faster than she expected.
“When you make your real swing, use your wrist to twist the blade just before so it hits the wood,” said Rowan, showing what he meant with his hands. One hand was flat and the hand showed the motion of the axe striking at an angle.
Mirabel nodded and looked determined. She raised the axe over her shoulder with her hands apart, then brought them together at the end farther from the blade as she put speed and force into her swing. The axe blade hit the log near the edge. It split the wood, but not all the way through. Mirabel remembered seeing this happen and she knew what to do. She pulled the axe out, and with a swift, short chop, drove it back into the opening.This time the smaller piece split away from the main piece.
Mirabel smiled. Rowan smiled too.
“Now that you can split wood,” said Rowan, “perhaps father and mother will let me go to the foothills in the green boat. I’m old enough to help plant the fields. If mother and father think you can do all of my jobs, then they will be more likely to let me go.”
Here is the portal to Chapter 31 https://childrengrowing.com/2020/06/12/the-secret-prince-chapter-31-listening-in-the-dark/