from A Grandpa's Notebook, Meyer Moldeven
The first part ended with the Little Old Man telling us all to stand and stretch. That's what we, at Three Palms, did too. As we ate half our sandwich, Suzanne went on with the story.
The Little Old Man continues.
'Here we are now,' he says as his eyes move from one side of the half-circle to the other. 'The Princess, you and I have just stepped across the magic line into the enchanted, tangled forest. We have escaped from the trolls. We must find our way back to the cove where our ship is anchored. From there we will sail across the stormy seas, heading for home. Our Princess will be back with her mother and father who love her and miss her very much.
'But first, we must make our way to the other side of this enchanted, tangled forest.
''The Trolls tell strange tales about this forest,' the Princess whispers.
'She stares about at the thorny, dripping vines.
'The Trolls say there are things in this forest. I hope we can get through to the other side without seeing them.'
'We cannot delay; we must move on. Up ahead the trail twists among the trees and disappears under thick vines. We start along the trail. I lead the way, then the Princess, and you in the rear to guard us from behind. We force our way through the heavy vines and underbrush.
'After walking for a long time we stop and listen. There are no noises in the forest. No sounds of birds singing, or insects buzzing, or leaves rustling, or breezes blowing; nothing but silence. It is the enchantment. We try to walk fast, but we must be careful.
'The narrow, twisty trail leads us up one slope and down another. The leaves on the trees are so wide and densely packed that we are in deep shadow. The sharp thorns on the slimy vines that hang from tree branches claw at us, but we push them aside.
'Up ahead is an enormous tree with heavy branches stretched across the trail. It blocks our way. The trunk of the tree, off to the side, is very thick, and its branches and roots spread in all directions.
'We must get through the tangle of the tree's branches or roots, and find our way again on the other side. We search for a trail around the tree. The closely packed branches, roots, and steep rocks on both sides of the trail are too dense to push through.
'Standing next to a branch across the trail I reach out to climb across the tangle. The Princess and you are close behind.
'As I touch the branch, it draws back and away from my hand.
'What is this? A tree branch that pulls back and away when it is touched? Impossible! I reach for it again. It pulls away. The Princess, you and I stare at it, astonished.
'An enchanted tree,' the Princess says. 'We must talk to it, and trust it to understand.'
'OK.' I shrug and step back.
'The Princess turns to the tree. 'Tree,' she says softly, 'I am the Princess.'
'A rustling sound comes from the tree, and the sounds form into words.
'I am Omar the Oak,' the rustling words come slowly. 'What are you doing in the enchanted, tangled forest? It is forbidden to ordinary humans.'
'We are strangers in this enchanted, tangled forest,' says the Princess. 'My friends, here beside me, have just rescued me from the Trolls who live in the caves, and now we are trying to get through to our ship in the cove. My mother and father are waiting for me at home. They love me and I love them, and we miss each other very much. Please let us pass?'
'The fallen tree is very still; not a branch stirs, not a twig twitches, not a leaf flutters. Is the tree thinking?
'After a long while, slowly, very slowly, a leaf moves, a twig bends, and a branch curves toward us. The branch stops near the Princess's hand. She reaches out and gently touches it.
'More leaves move and soon thousands are fluttering. The branches untangle and a way opens for us. Branches curve around to form a ladder and we climb up and over the branches that are too thick to bend. The branches on the other side bend and open to let us to pass. We reach the ground near the trail.
'We turn back to Omar the Oak. The tree's leaves flutter, its twigs twitch, and its branches wave slowly. We wave.
'Thank you, Omar,' says the Princess. 'Thank you for helping us across. We will never forget your kindness.'
'The rustling of the leaves becomes louder, and form words. 'Good-bye, good-bye,' says Omar the Oak. 'I wish you well. Be warned. You must prove that you deserve to leave this enchanted, tangled forest. Be warned! You must deserve!'
'How must I show that I deserve to leave this enchanted forest?' The Princess asks Omar the Oak. 'To whom must I prove it? What must I do to 'deserve'?'
'The rustling gets louder, and we hear again, 'You must deserve to make your way out of this enchanted, tangled forest. Be ready.' The rustling is very loud. 'Be ready,' the words repeat and fade away.
''What do you mean, Omar?' the Princess repeats her question, 'what has 'deserve' to do with our leaving the forest?'
'But the tree is silent. The leaves stop rustling, the twigs stop twitching, and the branches no longer wave. Omar, the enchanted oak, will say no more.
'We turn away from the friendly, but mysterious tree and move on along the narrow, twisty trail.
'The trail gets narrower still, and the leaves in the trees pack so close we hardly see our way. We trip over roots curling out from the squishy ground, and our clothes are snagged by the sharp thorns of slimy vines hanging from trees. The deep silence of the enchanted, tangled forest is all about us.
'Ahead, the trail takes a steep drop into a hollow with huge gray rocks on each side. The rocks are shiny with wet, green moss. We slip and slide about as we try to make our way down and across to where the trail curves up again to drier ground.
'But wait. We cannot make our way through this rocky hollow. The trail is blocked. Yes, blocked, and I mean really blocked. There, in front of us, completely across the narrow, twisty trail with its huge wet, slimy rocks on each side, stretches a huge, glittering, lacy-braided, closely woven spider's web.
'That isn't all. In the center of the huge web, waiting for us, is the Spider. Oh, the size of that spider! Enormous! Its legs are long and bent, and covered with jagged spikes at the ends of which are curved, red pincers. The spider's eyes, big as dinner plates, glare at us.
''We must fight that spider,' I say, 'or we won't get through.'
''No,' the Princess says. 'This is an enchanted forest, and the creatures that live in it are also enchanted. Let me try.'
'The Princess walks close to the web. She's so close that the spider can reach out and grab her with its curved, sharply pointed pincers. If the spider grabs her, it will not be a pleasant hug at all for our Princess.
'The spider doesn't move. The huge eyes glare at her.
'I am the Princess....' she starts to say.
'I am Cyril the Spider,' the spider interrupts and its voice is like a saw cutting through wood. 'What are you doing in the enchanted, tangled forest. Ordinary humans are not allowed here.'
'The Princess speaks; her tone is polite.
'Pointing to you and me, she says, 'these are my friends who came from far away to rescue me from the Trolls who live in the boulder caves. We must make our way through this enchanted, tangled forest to our ship in the cove. From there we will sail across the stormy seas to my home where my mother and father are waiting for me. They love me and I love them, and we miss each other. I want very much to go home. Please let us pass?'
'Cyril the Spider stares at the Princess, then at you and me. Cyril is thinking.
'Very well,' Cyril says, his buzz softening. 'I will let you pass.'
'The huge spider stretches one of its long legs to the bottom of the web and draws it up. The web's strands pull apart until there is just enough room for us to pass in single file. The Princess goes first, you and I follow. As I pass through the web, it closes behind me.
'The Princess turns back to the spider.
'Thank you, Cyril,' she says. 'You're very kind to let us through your web. I will never forget your kindness.'
'Good-bye, good-bye.' Cyril's buzz has softened to a hum. 'I wish you well.'
'Cyril's voice changes to a rasp. 'Be warned,' the Spider says, 'soon you must prove that you deserve to leave this enchanted, tangled forest. You must deserve!'
''There it is again,' the Princess says, her voice now exasperated. 'I'm warned again about deserving to leave this enchanted, tangled forest, and that I must be ready. What does that mean, Cyril?'
'But Cyril doesn't answer. He is watching the trail again. We're now behind his web and Cyril will say no more.
'We turn away from Cyril and move on along the twisty trail. It leaves the narrow space between the high rocks. Once again we are in the deep shade of closely packed leaves, fighting our way through drippy, thorny vines and thick underbrush.
'We walk for hours. Ahead, we see a steep hill. The trail zig zags up the hill, and disappears into a dark tunnel.
'We stop. We must follow the trail through the dark tunnel if we want to reach the cove where our gallant ship waits.'
The Little Old Man stops. He looks round at the waiting faces. 'Would you like to hear what happens when the Princess and her friends enter the tunnel?'
'Yes, yes,' we all shout.
'Very well. It's time for another stretch so let's all rise and move about a bit. When you're ready, take your place and I'll finish the story.'
(Back) (Index) (Next)