No, this is a different story. Nope, not the same one your mommy read to you. Exactly! Now you see, children, the ducks of the Fairy Kingdom are a bit different than the ones we have here, in the normal realm. While their ducks and our ducks both love bread, and at a glance seem to be identical… What, Sammy? No no, not all bumpy-lumpy. Identical means the same. While they seem the same at first sight, instead of going ‘Quack, quack!’ these ducks can talk. Just like you and me!
Well, at first, when they’re tiny, they’re just learning how to talk. You know, like how your baby brother can only say ‘mama’ and ‘dada’. The ducklings are just like that. They quack ‘mama’ and ‘feed me’ and learn as they go. Except in the Fairy Kingdom, the ducks might learn different things than you. Because it’s the Fairy Kingdom, and everything there is sprinkled with magic.
Now give me just a second, why they’re yummy is part of the story I’m trying to tell you!
The first little duckling’s name was Samij. Sort of like your name, Sammy! But he was silly, Samij was, and he decided that he would try to live life to the fullest. So he ate and ate and ate the gross little grubs and fishies that little ducklings like to eat. He ate and ate until he got all fat. Then he couldn’t run, he could only waddle around. Yes, ha ha, a waddling little baby duck. One day, he was out waddling around looking for food, and a wolf ran up and ate him. Just like that. Munch munch!
Don’t cry. Samij was born in the Fairy Kingdom, so he was reborn as a log or a fish or a spider, later. Yes, that’s how it works in the Fairy Kingdom. Probably not here, but who knows? No, I wouldn’t want to be a log either. But who knows? Maybe being a log is totally great! You should ask a log sometime.
Back to the story. The second little duckling’s name was Ashanda, and when she saw the fate that befell Samij, she became very fixated on being skinny, and fast. Ashanda ran everywhere, until her wings grew out, and then she flew way up in the sky. But she didn’t eat enough, and so she couldn’t fly very fast. And a hawk swooped out of nowhere and ate her up. Yum yum, he said, as he soared through the air with Ashanda in his belly. And for a brief moment, as he dove towards his nest, Ashanda was finally as lightning fast as she had wanted to be.
That’s right, Lanny. Ashanda died in the hawk tummy, but she was reborn later, having learned her lesson. We hope. But remember, children, we may not get that second chance, because we don’t live in the Fairy Kingdom. But you have to finish everything on your plate when your mommy and daddy say so, so you grow up big and strong.
The momma duck named her third little duckling Wilbur. Wilbur decided one day that since the Fairy Kingdom was a magical place, he sat there and decided the trees and the rivers and the sky and the sun were all watched over by invisible fairies. Because fairies are magic, you see. So he made little fires and burnt grubs and fishes for the fairies. Well, he didn’t see the fairies. Right, right. That’s right. He just assumed they were there, so Wilbur went and did his thing.
And sometimes his sacrifice and his constant beseeching of the fairies — well, beseeching is kind of like praying or begging. He was constantly shouting at the sky, stuff like, ‘O great fairies! Shine your lucky, pretty light on us ducks!’ And sometimes when Wilbur shouted at the sky, what he wanted to happen came true. And sometimes it didn’t. But the other ducklings started to join in with his fairy worship, even though their momma duck warned them that they couldn’t rely on fairies.
One day, as he was leading a sacrifice and was all weighed down by his wacky ceremonial robes, Wilbur was snatched up by a fox and carried off. Crunch, crunch, yum. As the fox hopped off with his dinner in his teeth, Wilbur yelled, “Save me oh great fairies of the forest! QUACK!” The other ducklings watched him get dragged off in horror, and then they all ran in every direction screaming. Well, quacking. Quack-screaming.
That’s true, the fox probably had to spit out the robes after, but it probably thought Wilbur himself made a delicious dinner. Now one of the other ducklings, named Felis, was inspired by Wilbur, and continued to worship the fairies of the forest and the fairies of the sky and the fairies of the rivers, even though they hadn’t saved Wilbur from being dinner.
But Felis had a dream one night, where the Great Fairy came to her and said, ‘There is only one Fairy in all of the Kingdom, and I am she! I have dominion over all ducks, over all the trees, over all the rivers, over all the sky, and over all the creatures that live in them. You must worship only the one true Fairy!’
So of course, Felis told all her brother and sister ducklings about this dream. And many of them began to worship the One True Great Fairy, instead of the many fairies of the kingdom they had praised before. And one day, it just so happened that a coyote came upon Felis as she slept, and even though she had begged the One True Great Fairy for protection that night before she drifted off, the coyote ate her up. Yum, the coyote said, as he hopped off through the valley.
And when the ducks all woke up in the morning, when Felis was gone, they praised the One True Great Fairy, because they thought she had taken Felis up to live with her in the Crystalline Castle, so high up in the sky that the ducklings couldn’t see it even if they flew up as high as their little wings would go. Well then.
By now the ducklings in the Fairy Kingdom had got quite advanced indeed, as their mother looked on, quite baffled by all of this, and saddened by how many of her brood had been eaten up so far. But she remembered her own mother’s sad, knowing smile, and understood that was the way of ducklings: they would try new ugly and pretty things, and eventually they would end up as food for the forest creatures of the Kingdom. She had been lucky to survive into a big duck, long enough to have alllllll of these ducklings, but even she would be dinner for a Fairy Kingdom dweller someday.
Sure, she was sad. That’s true, Jana… But the momma knew she couldn’t save them all, because she couldn’t make them any less yummy to the wolves and hawks and foxes and coyotes of the Fairy Kingdom. So she did the best she could to protect them as they had their various adventures.
One day, another duckling, named Bisho, had a brilliant idea. He said, ‘These shiny fairy coins that we find in the forest aren’t tasty. We can’t eat them. But they’re pretty and shiny and rare, let’s use these to trade each other for food and favors!’ Exactly, Sammy. Just like money. But for ducks!
They carried the golden coins under their wings, using them to pay for things, fearful that another duckling would take their shiny coins. Some of the ducklings dug pits in the forest, to hide their treasure piles. And Bisho, who’d been the smarty-pants to start the whole idea, had been very sneaky indeed. He only told everyone after he had amassed the biggest treasure pile of them all.
But soon, when Bisho was going to check on one of his secret gold stashes, a big old bear crashed through the branches and grabbed him up and… You guessed it. She ate him right up. ‘Mmm, mmm good,’ said the bear, as she chomped up little Bisho. Next, the bear saw the shiny golden coins, and she picked one up and chomped it, but it didn’t taste yummy like Bisho did. ‘Oh well,’ she said, stomping back through the forest. ‘That was one yummy duckling!’ she roared. Oh, now, don’t be so scared, that’s just my bear voice. I’m pretending, see? ‘YUM YUM! RAAARRR!”
It turned out that one of the other ducklings was hiding in the branches. The whole time, she sat there shivering, terrified. Yup, she had been sneaky; she was following Bisho to his treasure! But now, after watching him become a bear snack, Irsa had other ideas. She’d been convinced that the gold coins were not lucky, after all. She went back to the other ducklings, and filled with terror, she told them how their money was cursed.
Irsa stood on top of a stump so her voice would carry to all the gathered ducks, and explained to them that instead of hoarding money or worshipping The Great Fairy or any other thing, they should try to make their life in the Fairy Kingdom better by small strides, and help each other. ‘Let’s be nice to each other, and try to help each other not be eaten, instead of hoarding coins or shouting at the sky.’
Her mother duck said, ‘That sounds very sensible indeed, little Irsa.’ And as Irsa preened with satisfaction atop the trunk, a giant snake came out of nowhere, shoom! And he slid right up the stump she stood on and swallowed her whole, slithering and hissing off into the trees before any of the ducks could do anything more than blink.
And then, through her tears, with a quack in her voice, the mother duck told her ducklings that surely their sister would be reborn as something nice. ‘But you should all remember and think on Irsa’s wise words,’ she said. And as their momma’s quacking quavered, they huddled together all scared, and the remaining ducklings were not quite sure what to believe.
Yup, sorry, that’s the end of the story. Well, no, Bo… I guess you can’t say they lived happily ever after, really. All the ducklings were beautiful and ugly in their own way, but they were all yummy food for sneaky wolves, or yummy food for scary bears, or yummy food for speedy snakes.
Now it’s time for you all to go to bed. No no, don’t cry now, that was a fairy tale. Wolves and bears and snakes don’t eat human children in real life. The creatures of the Fairy Kingdom’s forests just eat tasty little ducklings.