Preface to Chapter 34
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 who face a situation in which their world has changed dramatically. A flood surrounds the Medieval 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 lives 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?
As the flood waters in the story begin to recede, we see the pandemic receding in some countries and regions and not in others. The story continues to be a metaphor for the evolution of the pandemic and our experiences during this unusual time. In the story, some characters travel to the foothills, away from the flooding while those in the castle continue to be homebound.
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. I’ve included math topics relevant to children in the early grades. The story can also be used by teachers presenting the Medieval period. Historical events are not included, however, I am attempting to show how people lived in this time period.
I write a new chapter each Monday and Thursday and post them on the day they are written or on the following days, Tuesdays and Fridays.
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 children 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. Some creative parents are adding to the story by telling about a person who lives in the village. One parent had the idea to add to the story by having Ronduin’s mother tell him stories.
Chapter 34 is the second chapter in the story written by Karah Pino. I am grateful for her contributions and I’m enjoying having a collaborator in imagining this Medieval story.
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 Elliot Gardner who who as joined the team as my editorial assistant.
Also in the works is The Secret Prince readaloud onvideo by a talented speaker!
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Packing for the Journey
by Karah Pino
Roland walked to the cow laying in the corner of the barn and kneeled down behind her. She lifted her head and placed it on his knees. “How are you feeling, Giselle?” Roland stroked her forehead and down her neck. He pulled a carrot from his pocket and placed it in her mouth. She chewed contentedly as he continued to stroke her neck and down the side of her swollen belly.
Roland pressed his hands along her side, feeling for the calf inside. “You’ve been resting a lot today,” he said to the weary cow. He turned his head and pressed his ear to her side, listening intently just as his father had taught him to do. The calf moved slightly and Roland stroked firmly several times in one direction. “That’s a good girl, Giselle. Thank you for being patient while I work on your belly. This will help your calf be ready to be born. If your calf comes today, we can leave tomorrow!” Roland gathered the last few armfuls of hay and placed some near Giselle’s head.
Roland smiled as Marguerite’s calf pranced around in front of the barn while her mother grazed the patchy ground. This calf had been born with ease and already looked lively and ready to walk to the foothills. Giselle’s calf had not yet dropped into position and Roland knew that if she went into labor before it did, he would have to act quickly to help.
“My dear Giselle, I am worried about the patches of bare dirt all around the hillside. I’m afraid all our friends have stamped so much of the hill into solid earth searching for new sprouts. If we stay any longer the hill will be bare!”
Roland gently stroked Giselle’s forehead and said “I know you don’t know why you are so large and so tired, for you have never birthed a calf. But soon you will see your little calf and you will lick it and give it milk. Then we can all journey together to the foothills. I have chores to do, but I’ll be back to check on you soon.”
Galen, the horse, trotted up while Roland was carrying an armload of sticks from the woodpile. “Hello, Galen, these are for our fire!” Galen whinnied. “When we are ready to go, I will light the fire with some tinder and embers from the kitchen hearth. Our signal fire will be very hot and bright, so I will put you in your pen first.”
A group of three curious sheep came around the barn to see what had excited Galen. “Yes, my friends, we are leaving soon! Do you see how much the floodwater has fallen?”
“Come along, Galen, we need to pack for our trip. Do you think we can do it by the end of the day?” Galen happily followed Roland to the kitchen. “You are lucky you are not in town, my friend, for your four hooves would get stuck in the muck. Instead we will walk on the path to the foothills and enjoy the green hillside. The flood didn’t go that high so the earth is firm and the grass is growing high. We will meet Sir Andrew and the farmers in the fields after they travel up the river from the town.”
Roland untied the heavy wooden crate from the horses back. “It seems the carving I did on the crate yesterday helps it stay on your saddle. Today I wanted to put rocks into the box and test how well it will stay in place when it is heavy with supplies, but we are out of time and now I must pack it.” Roland carried the wooden crate up the kitchen stairs and set it on the top step while he pushed open the heavy door.
After entering the kitchen, he pulled the table away from the wall revealing the heavy stone slab that covered the cold storage room underneath the kitchen. Hidden below the kitchen was a bounty of treasure kept cold by the stone wall of the well that had been dug deeply into the hillside. His mouth watered as he imagined the smells when he would open it: earthy root vegetables, fragrant cheeses, hearty dried meats, pots of cold butter and honey and the best of all: raspberries from the path to the fields preserved in honey.
Roland pushed the two large wheels of fresh cheese across the kitchen. They were so big he could just barely wrap his arms around them. The cloth wrapping felt rough against his fingers. These would go underground to age and he would bring up the two wheels that had been aging since the last harvest to bring to the farmers headed to the upper fields. Moving the stone slab was hard work and he usually had help to pry it up and push it to the side. Without a helper, Roland would need to find some sturdy sticks to keep the slab from falling in or slipping sideways when he lifted it up to the level of the floor and pushed it.
Roland carefully laid out all the supplies he had ready on the table. Over the past week he had baked loaf after loaf of bread. He had boiled two dozen fresh eggs, then peeled and packed them in salt water so they would last longer. But everything else he needed was still under the heavy slab.
As Roland lifted the heavy wooden crate onto the table, he felt a sharp pain stabbing through his back. He heavily set the crate down and rubbed the sore spot with his fist. This pain reminded him of the injury he suffered when he fell off a bucking horse as young man. It had taken many months to recover and, ever since then, if he worked too hard or lifted something heavy in the wrong way, it would bother him again.
Breathing deeply from the pain, he smelled wood smoke coming into the kitchen from outside. Roland hobbled down the stairs and leaned against the wall as he walked around the barn. He saw a fire blazing on the castle turret nearest him.
Near the fire he could see the faces of the King and Queen and Prince Ronduin looking his way. “Aho!” He yelled. “We are nearly ready! We are waiting for Giselle to give birth!” It was too far for them to hear. He saw Agnes’ head rise from the stairway inside the turret and he closed his eyes and sent this message as a feeling-thought to his sister. They had practiced sending silent messages to one another since they were children.
Roland was lifting his arm to wave when a loud bellowing came from the barn. It was Giselle!
Here is the portal to Chapter 35: https://childrengrowing.com/2020/06/26/the-secret-prince-chapter-35/