Preface to Chapter 41
New posting schedule: Find a new chapter each week on Tuesdays
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. In the northern hemisphere, teachers used this story with their classes during the 2019/2020 schools year and some are resuming the story with their classes for the 2020/ 2021 school year. 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 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.
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 has 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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Ronduin and his father scraped flat-edged shovels across the stone path in the courtyard. The shovels made loud, grating sounds as they pushed the mud to the side of the path that ran up the center of the great rectangular yard surrounded by tall castle walls.
Ronduin looked directly up at the blue sky and breathed in the the fresh air. The King stopped shoveling too. “It is good to stand on the earth again and look up at the sky,” said Ronduin.
“And it is good to work alongside my son,” said the King. “Sometimes I think a life of simple work would be more enjoyable than being a King,” he added.
“Father, when do you think the runners will arrive at the barn?”
“If they are swift, they should be there before dark,” said the King.
“I would like to go up to the turret at the end of the day to watch for them,” said Ronduin.
“I too would like to know they arrived safely,” said the King. “Right now they are probably running fast in order to reach the animals on the hill to help move them to a new home. And we too must work to help the chickens get settled into their new home.”
Ronduin smiled at his father and then went back to moving mud.
Sunrise and Sunset still perched in the small pear tree at the far end of the path. They watched Ronduin and his father move slowly toward them as the sun inched lower in the sky. Now, Ronduin was almost close enough to touch a branch of the pear tree.
Suddenly, Sunrise fluttered out of the tree and landed near Ronduin’s feet. Ronduin lay his shovel on the path, lifted the chicken and tucked her under his arm. Next Sunset fluttered down. Ronduin’s father caught her and tucked her under his arm. Together, carrying the chickens, they walked back down the path they had cleared. They each used their free hand to pick up one of the baskets they had left in the doorway. Then they carried the baskets and the chickens about halfway up the path.
“Let’s put them here in the middle, said Ronduin’s father. “We can move them to the doorway when we are done clearing the mud.”
With the sun sinking lower in the sky, Mirabel and Rowan ran more slowly than they had at first, but still they ran.
“Soon we will no longer be able to see the castle,” said Mirabel.
“We can only see half of it now,” said Rowan, “but we can see barn hill better than we could see it when we started running.”
“Now that we are closer, I can see that the high path looks nice and dry,” said Mirabel.
Roland walked out of the barn to the well and looked out toward the foothills. Unlike the side of the hill that faced the castle, this side of barn hill was covered with trees. The tree branches waved in the light breeze and, when they moved, they opened up views to the high path and the hills beyond.
Each time a window opened up in the leaves, Roland squinted, trying to see any sign of runners moving across the hillside. He had almost given up when he spotted two people who both appeared to be running. Then the leaves swished them out of view.
Robere, rubbed against Roland’s leg and Roland reached down and lifted the big barn cat and spoke to him excitedly. “We are about to have company, Robere! We have not had visitors in so very long! First I will haul up water, for them for they will be very thirsty. And they will need food and a place to sleep!”
Robere answered with a loud “Meow!”
As Roland placed Robere on the ground and reached for the bucket, a vision of his sister Agnes came into his mind. “Oh, yes,” he said. “You and everyone else in the castle will want to know the runners are here safely. Yes, as soon as they are here we will stand by the barn door so you and the royal family can see that the runners have arrived.”
Robere spoke again. This time it was a softer meow. “Did you too hear that message from my sister, Robere?” asked Roland. “Is that why you are so noisy?”
The brightness of the day began to fade as Mirabel and Rowan descended from the grassy hill onto the path. Running along the high path between muddy pastures, barn hill stood tall before them. This side was covered with thick trees. The top of the barn roof peeked out from the highest part of the forest.
“We will be at the barn before dark,” said Rowan.
“And then, from the top of the hill, we’ll see the castle again,” said Mirabel.
Reaching the bottom of the hill, Rowan and Mirabel found that the path split in two. A narrow footpath went straight up the hill. A wider path went to the right.
‘That wide path does a zigzag for the cows,” said Rowan. “It’s not so steep, but it’s longer. “
“Let’s take the faster path even though it’s a harder climb,” said Mirabel.
Rowan nodded and they began hiking up the steep hill between the tall trees. They crossed over the zigzag path and soon after that crossed it again. The third time they crossed the zigzag path they heard a voice from above.
“Do I hear people climbing the hill?,” shouted the voice.
“Yes!” shouted Rowan. “We are Mirabel and Rowan, children of Ricard.”
“Hello Roland!” shouted Mirabel.
“Hello Mirabel and Rowan!” shouted Roland.
And then they were standing next to Roland by the well. “Thank you for running all the way here,” said Roland, handing the bucket of water to the children. And just in time. We are almost out of hay and the hillside has no more grass for the animals.
Rowan lifted the bucket to his lips and took a long messy gulp with water spilling on his face and down his shirt. Then Mirabel took a gulp from the bucket. When she handed it back to Rowan, he poured water over his head.
“My turn,” said Mirabel who splashed the rest of the water onto her sweaty face.
Roland laughed and said, “Welcome. I have food for you in the kitchen and a place to sleep in the barn. I will leave early tomorrow to take the animals to the foothills. Giselle is very tired after birthing a calf and needs to rest. You can care for her and the chickens until I return. But, first, we must go through to the castle side of the barn to show the royal family that you have arrived.”
Mirabel and Rowan followed Roland through the barn and out the other side where they gazed toward the castle.
“Look, there on the turret,” said Roland, pointing. “It’s the royal family and my sister, Agnes the cook.”
Roland’s arms moved in great wide sweeps and Mirabel and Rowan joined in as they all tried to make their waving arms visible from a distance.
The King, the Queen, the Prince and Cook Agnes waved back.
Mirabel said, “That must be the sickly prince.”
Rowan said, “He doesn’t wave like a person who is sick.”
Mirabel said, “He’s so far away, so I can’t see him that well, but for some reason, he reminds me of Ronduin.” Turning to Roland, she said, “You must know the prince. Do you also know Ronduin?”
For just a second, Roland felt confused. He muttered to himself. “The sickly prince. Ronduin.” Then he remembered one of Prince Ronduin’s visit to the barn.
It was the year the young prince had recovered and had started school. He remembered the prince saying, “I want to be like all the children at school. I don’t want special treatment. The children will all know me as Ronduin and they won’t know I am a prince.”
“Ah, yes,” said Roland. “I do know the sickly prince. And I know Ronduin. He has visited this barn just as you did, Mirabel, when you and your father collected a kitten.”
“My kitten is a big cat now,” said Mirabel, remembering her cat and smiling.
As they stood looking at the four people standing on the turret, the sky began to change color. Clouds dressed themselves in pinkish orange beneath a purple firmament. Everyone stopped waving to feel gratitude for the glory of the sunset and the successful arrival of the runners. Then the dimness of the night began to claim the sky. The Prince, the Queen, the King and Cook Agnes offered one last wave and turned to go inside the castle.
“Good night,” said Mirabel, even though they could not hear her. Roland turned to lead the two children into the barn.
“And do you see why I think the sickly prince on that turret looks much like Ronduin?”
“I see what you mean,” said Roland.
Here is the portal to Chapter 42 https://childrengrowing.com/2020/08/11/the-secret-prince-chapter-24-pear/