The Secret Prince — Chapter 36 : A Strong Little Thing

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

 Preface to Chapter 36

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 on Tuesdays and Fridays. 

I hope you and your family 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.

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!   

Please join us for conversations, updates, ideas for follow up activities, new chapters and translations by joining 

Secret Prince Story Community on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/640925113394726/

New chapters are also posted on the Growing Children Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/growingchildre/

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.

Chapter 36

by Karah Pino and Kim Allsup 

Ronduin and sat on the stone floor and continued his conversation with Apple who slumped on the window ledge in the turret. 

“You remind me of myself when I was much younger,” said Ronduin. “I used to sit all slumped like that. I was always tired. Of course I was thinner, much thinner than you. You look roundish like your name, Apple. I once looked like a carrot that has been harvested too soon, very very thin. When I was little, I didn’t know that in the village they called me The Sickly Prince. Nobody outside the castle knew my real name. I always wore a blanket over my shoulders, the same gray blanket. And my mother sang to me every day. I miss listening to her sing. But I’m glad the sickness went away. And I’m glad I can run. Not today, for there is no place to run in the castle. But, someday, I will run again as fast as I can. I will run with Mirabel along the lake. Being stuck in the castle reminds me of all the years I was ill. But I am glad I am no longer The Sickly Prince.”

Ronduin lifted Apple, and, tossing Apple into the air, he, for the first time,  made the forever sign with something heavier than a piece of silk. Apple and Ronduin practiced for many minutes. Then Ronduin smiled, placed Apple back on the window ledge and looked again at barn hill which showed no sign of a signal fire.

***

Mirabel, standing inside the top floor of the bell tower, looked through the wooden slats across the fields at barn hill. She saw no sign of a signal fire. She saw the tall pine forest that hid the barn. This forest stood above the empty horse stable that sat at the spot where the hill met the vast fields. Between the village and barn hill and the castle, Mirabel saw fields that would normally be planted by now. These fields were still mostly underwater. Scanning the vast fields, Mirabel counted out loud, “One, two three, four, five, six, seven. Seven little islands have appeared in the floodwaters.” 

Now a gray pigeon with a flash of green at its neck fluttered in through the slats. Its fluttering wing sounds echoed throughout the tower as it landed near the great iron bell. Mirabel reached into her pocket and pulled out a chunk of bread. “Some for me and some for you, little bird,” she said, tearing off little crumbs and tossing them toward the pigeon. 

After eating her bread, Mirabel returned to the view of the castle, the fields, barn hill and the foothills. Just then the pigeon flew out, “Good bye,” she said, watching the grey bird speed away in the direction of barn hill. “Maybe you will fly all the way to the barn. And, by the end of the morning, I will know whether I too will run as fast as I can to barn hill.” 

***

Roland awoke next to Giselle’s head. Next to him was a cup of cold tea he had been too tired to drink.  He stood up gingerly, leaning on the wall to support his sore back. He had finally napped briefly after being awake most of the night, waiting for the calf to be born. 

Roland carefully stretched, twisting slowly at his waist, side-to-side to loosen his back.  It had been a long night on the hard floor next to Giselle. Once he could bend down, he grasped the cup in his hand and drank the cold tea in one gulp.

Now Roland returned to the floor to be at Giselle’s side. Stroking her belly, be said “Look what happened while I slept, Giselle! Finally, after so many hours, you are ready to give birth! 

She moaned again and lifted her head to look at him. “Dear Giselle, I am here to help,” he said. He firmly pushed the calf into the birthing position. “There you go little one.”  He moved closer to Giselle’s head and whispered, “Soon you will meet your new calf! It’s not often that a cow needs help to give birth. But, over my many years in this barn, I’ve helped a few. It won’t be long now.”

Roland pulled one last time and the calf slid onto the straw. Giselle licked the new calf to dry him off. “Aho! There you go!” Roland clapped happily when the calf quickly learned how to stand on wobbly legs. Now Roland stood too. “You look to be a strong little thing,” he said to the calf.

“And you, Giselle. You are tired now. You labored for many hours to give birth, the longest I have ever seen. But, you are strong like your calf. You can rest until the sun is almost overhead. Then we must light our signal fire and walk slowly to the good green grass.”

Giselle seemed to understand this, for suddenly she stood. Her calf nuzzled up to her and began to suckle. 

Roland smiled. “Now I will prepare for our journey.”  

Roland unlatched the heavy barn doors and let the cows push them open. He walked around the barn and lowered the bucket down the deep well. Once it filled, he quickly pulled the bucket back up. He was so tired that he didn’t notice that it was spinning and swaying until it was nearly at the top.  

The bucket’s edge caught on a rock and tipped, spilling half the water back down the well. Roland sighed deeply. “I’m too tired to do even a simple job properly,” he thought.  He pulled the bucket up the rest of the way and lifted the remaining water to his lips. After taking a long drink, Roland set the bucket on the rock wall of the well.  

Roland cupped his hands and dipped them into the water. He then splashed the water on his face and gently rubbed away the dirt and sweat from his night on the barn floor. Then he lowered the bucket down the well again and with care hauled it up and poured the water into a jug which he carried to the kitchen.

Roland set to work tidying up the remaining food in the larder. He swept up the flour and wiped down the work table. He worked mostly with his right hand and leaned on the table with his left hand to support his tender back. He poured the last of the water into the half barrel to rinse out the last of the whey left over from cheese-making.  

As Roland lifted the heavy barrel to empty it outside the door, the sharp pain again stabbed through his back. He set the basin back down and bent over the table leaning heavily on both hands. When he recovered from the jolt of pain, he looked down at the supplies on the table that still needed to be packed. He looked beyond the table at the heavy stone slab on the floor, trapping the rest of the supplies he needed in the room below. “I’ll come back to move the stone when my pain calms down,” he thought. 

Roland walked around the barn, leaning against the wall as he walked. He opened the horse pen. Galen cocked his head and nuzzled Roland’s outstretched hand. “I’m moving slowly today,” said Roland to the horse.  “Go ahead and see what you can find to eat before we pack for our journey. I will check on Giselle.”

When Roland rounded the entrance to the barn, he found the new calf timidly poking his nose out of the barn door. Giselle was lying down again. Roland stroked the calf’s forehead as he passed. He leaned against the post nearest Giselle and slid down to his knees. He crawled around the cow, checking how well she was healing from the difficult birth. Pulling the last carrot from his pocket, Roland put it in her mouth before lying down beside her.

“Well, Giselle,” Roland rested his hand on her forehead, “We seem to both be very sore and tired. Just a short rest for us and then we will finish our preparations. Giselle nudged him with her nose and lay her head over his shoulder. 

***

Ronduin heard slow footsteps in the hall and jumped to his feet to open the door to let Cook Agnes into the turret. “I have stew for you and some bread,” she said, setting a bowl and a big slice of bread on the window ledge nest to Apple. 

“Thank you” said Ronduin. “Has father seen any smoke from the village?”

“Not yet,” said Cook Agnes. “The sun is not yet overhead. I thought to bring your food now, for, once it is time for us to light the second signal fire, you will be too busy to eat. 

“I’ve been watching barn hill and have not seen Roland all morning,” said Ronduin. 

“I’m not surprised,” replied Cook Agnes. “Sometimes I know what he is thinking and what he is feeling. What I’m feeling from him now is that he is eager to move the animals to the foothills, but he feels very tired.” 

***  

 In the barn, Roland was sound asleep. 

***

The portal to Chapter 37 is here: https://childrengrowing.com/2020/07/03/the-secret-prince-chapter-37-great-peace-of-mind/

Messages to Readers

A Brief Hiatus

If you are reading these chapters as they are being written (this chapter was posted on June 30, 2020) please know that I will post Chapter 37 on July 3 and then, due to a short holiday, Chapter 38 will post on July 21.

Write to Ronduin and Mirabel

Please consider writing or helping your child with a creative project they will send to Ronduin or Mirabel: a drawing, a model, a bean bag, a jump rope or a letter. 

You could start your letter something like this:

Greetings from a Land Far Away,

Like you, the people in my land had to stay home for many weeks. Instead of going to school, I stayed home. I learned about how you cared for chickens, made a jump rope and a beanbag and learned to jump rope and to juggle. I thought I would tell you what I did while I was at home.  

Please sign the letter with a pretend name and your real location. 

There are many ways to submit your creative projects. You can email letters and images  to kallsup@aol.com.  Subject line: Secret Prince or by posting in The Secret Prince Story Community page on Facebook.   https://www.facebook.com/groups/640925113394726/?epa=SEARCH_BOX 

If the letter does not include an image, you can post it in the comments below

I will create post that are compilations of of letters and images

  One thought on “The Secret Prince — Chapter 36 : A Strong Little Thing

  1. Melissa
    June 30, 2020 at 9:36 pm

    Love these! Roland is our new favorite character!

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 30, 2020 at 10:30 pm

      I was cautious about an adult central character. I’m so glad Roland has fans!

      Like

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