Preface to Chapter 35
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 role models 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 help children today? Can the story help to normalize the experience of living in an unusual time?
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 onTuesdays and Fridays.
I hope you and your family 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.
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 Karah Pino who is writing the chapters about Roland, the farmer on the hill, and 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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Secret Prince Story Community on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/640925113394726/
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Mirabel was barely awake. She felt for Adelaide and didn’t find her. It was the overwhelming smell of freshly baked bread, that reminded her that tonight, for the first time since Adelaide was a baby, she had not slept snuggled up to her sister. Instead, she had slept upstairs above the bakery.
Mirabel stood up and walked to the open window. This was nothing like the view out her window at home. Here, instead of lines of trees, she saw lines of houses and shops. Looking down, she saw a street still covered by muddy water.
“Today, I will learn whether I will scrub mud off walls or run as fast as I can with Rowan across the foothills all the way to the barn,” she thought.
Just then Mirabel’s father, Ricard entered the room. “Good day, Mirabel, he said. “We have a job for you. We need a watcher who will keep their eyes on barn hill. Garrick will show you how to get to the top of the bell tower. If you see a signal fire at barn hill, you will ring the bell three times to let us know that Roland and the animals are on their way to the foothills.”
“And if I see no fire?’ asked Mirabel.
“Garrick with return to ring the bell once at noon,” said Ricard. “If he arrives, and you have not yet seen the fire, then come directly to the boat where we left it at the pier. All the supplies and passengers will be loaded and we will leave as soon as you arrive.”
Ronduin sat crosslegged with Sunrise settled into in the hollow made by his legs.
“I can’t stay here long today,” he said to the contented chicken. “So don’t start to think that my legs are your nest.”
Ronduin’s hand rested on the soft feathers of the chicken’s back and he could feel her breathing as he peered through the openings in the railing. He saw a courtyard where bushes peeked out of muddy water. The stones on the lower level of the castle wall wore a muddy color.
“Soon, when the water is gone, you can live out there in the courtyard. You will be much happier pecking about in dirt than you are here with a stone floor,” said Ronduin to the chicken.
Just then the door opened and the King entered the balcony. “Good morning, Prince Ronduin, honored ruler of chickens,” he said with a smile.
“Good morning,” said Ronduin who gave his report right away: “No fire yet from barn hill. And no fire yet from the village.”
“Sir Andrew will send a watcher to the bell tower to watch for Roland’s signal fire,” said the King. “He will wait until mid-day. If Roland’s signal fire isn’t lit by then, he will take runners on the boat. If the signal fire is lit, he will take Lars who is a skilled farm hand.”
“Plowing and planting the high fields is a huge task,” continued the King. The food supply for both the village and the castle depends on these workers. To be honest, son, I’m not sure they can finish the planting soon enough to grow the quantity of food we need to get us through the winter even if they do bring a skilled farmer like Lars instead of runners.”
“Who do you think Sir Andrew will bring if he doesn’t see a signal fire from barn hill?” asked Ronduin.
“Ricard told Sir Andrew that his two eldest children are very fast runners,” said the King.
“I know them from school,” said Ronduin. “Both Rowan and Mirabel are very fast.”
Ronduin smiled as he realized that, if Mirabel ran to the barn, he might see her far in the distance and he might wave to her and see her wave back. Then his smile faded and his eyes opened wide. “Oh no!” he thought. “If she recognizes me, she will know I’m not Ronduin from a small farm. She will realize I am Prince Ronduin of the castle. I will no longer be a secret prince.”
“Father, Mirabel doesn’t know that I live at the castle,” said Ronduin. “Do you think that she will recognize me if she sees me on the turret?”
Ronduin’s father looked like he was thinking and then he broke into a mischievous grin. “She might and she might not. It is far away, so she would not be sure about who she is seeing. I suppose, if you want to be sure she doesn’t know who you are, you could wear a disguise,” he said, laughing.
“Hmm,” said Ronduin.
“You’ve got all day to figure that out,” said the King with a smile. “If there is no fire on the hill, Sir Andrew will leave midday with the runners. They have to row upstream and then the runners have a distance to travel on the trail along the foot hills. They would arrive at the barn before dark I would think. But now we must take up our watch posts. You go to the turret and I’ll watch from the sitting room. Your mother and I brought more wood to the top of the turret last evening. We piled it around the edges because the first fire still holds embers. We have to move the wood from the edges to the middle as soon as we see the signal fire at the village. When Roland sees the second fire, he will know the green boat is moving upriver.
Mirabel followed Garrick across a board that connected the bakery to the bell tower. One end the board was propped up on a chair inside the bakery and, on the other end it rested on the third step of the bell tower.
“It’s really dark in here,” said Mirabel, her voice echoing slightly off the stone walls.
“It’s quite dim all the way,” said Garrick. “But, when we get to the top, near the bells, the light will stream in and you will see all the way to the castle and to barn hill. You can’t see the barn, because of all the trees, but if Roland lights a signal fire, you will see the smoke rising above the trees.”
Mirabel touched the cool stone of the wall as she climbed. “This must be what it’s like in the stone castle,” she thought. “You have to climb up and up and up to get to the top. I’ve never been so high above the ground.”
“I’ve always wanted to ring the bell,” said Garrick climbing steadily up the wooden spiral stairs. “The usual bell ringer lives at the other end of town and still can’t get here, so mother tells me I will ring the bell three times a day until he returns. I wanted to be one of the runners but, instead, I have to help at the bakery. When I learned I was staying in the village, I thought my luck to be very bad. But, now that I am to be the bell ringer, I see my luck is very good.”
“I too may stay in the village, or I may run in the hills,” said Mirabel. “I will know soon what my luck will be.”
Ronduin stepped up to the window of the turret and pulled Apple out of his pocket and set it on the window ledge. “Good morning, Apple,” he said.
Ronduin saw cows and sheep on barn hill nibbling on the few green patches amid the bigger patches of brown earth where the grass had been destroyed by too much grazing. He moved Apple closer to the window. “Look at those sheep and cows with so little to eat,” he said. They will be so happy when they get to the tall grass of the foothills.”
“By the end of the day,” he told Apple, “we might see Mirabel at the barn. You’ve never met Mirabel, but you would like her. And now I have to decide if I will wave at her and take the chance that she recognizes me.”
“What do you think, Apple? If we see Mirable, should I wear a disguise? Maybe a wig? Or a jester’s cap?”
“Or, should I just be me and take the chance that she learns I am a prince and not the sort of farm boy she thinks I am?”
Ronduin looked at Apple for many minutes, waiting for an answer. He knew Apple could not speak out loud, but maybe Apple would send him a quiet message about whether he should wear a disguise.
Apple leaned against the edge of the window opening looking peaceful.
“You are right, Apple,” said Ronduin. “I will feel more at peace if I do not try to pretend to be someone else. I will just be me.”
The portal to Chapter 36 is here:https://childrengrowing.com/2020/06/30/the-secret-prince-chapter-36-a-strong-little-thing/