#SampleSunday - Magical Stories: The Brook

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Once upon a time there was a young girl, who lived with her father and her mother in an old water mill at the edge of the village. Carefully, her father used the wild force of the brook to keep the fire in his smithy going: Incessantly the water kept turning a big iron wheel.
Behind the mill, the brook gathered above steep cliffs before plunging abruptly into the depths. Spray danced up in the air and settled in shimmering pearls on the bushes, which were bending over the roaring brook. The girl sat there often and didn’t tire of listening to the thundering of the water.
Lena, what are you doing there?” her father would ask her now and again.
I’m listening to him!”
And her father smiled and returned to his anvil.
In winter she sat down at the window with the house cat nestled beside her and never got fed up with the miraculous world of the glittering ice crystals the frost created at the edge of the waterfall. And when her mother asked her then, what she was doing, Lena answered, “I’m watching him!”
The brook, which like her kitten cheerfully hopped from one stone to the next, jumped down the slopes and rolled through the grass, seemed to Lena a living being just like the cat. Next to her parents, both were to her the dearest she had in the world. And she wished day after day that the water spirit might show up himself, just as it had once happened to her grandmother.

Thus the years went by. Then came a spring, when it didn’t want to rain at all. The seedlings in the fields were drying up and the farmers started to complain. The brook, too, became more and more feeble. But it fed from springs deep inside the mountains and so the smith knew to reassure his daughter, telling her it wouldn’t dry up after all.
As the summer moved into the country, the need became even greater. Mercilessly, the sun burnt down from the sky and the cattle on the pastures screamed with thirst. Lena’s brook had become small and weak; however, it still turned the mill wheel.
For hours Lena sat at the bank staring at the trickling rivulets. Sometimes she cried bitterly, fearing the brook would soon disappear completely.
Now and then her father came to comfort her. “Water is eternal, my child,” he would say. “And nothing in the world is more powerful. It defeats the fire; no stone can withstand it. And it’s stronger than we humans.”
He doesn’t talk to me anymore,” Lena lamented then.
Oh, but he does,” her father replied with a smile. “Just listen carefully.” And he took a pebble and let it splash into the water. “Listen! That’s his voice, too.”

One noon, two old farmers came to her father. “Listen, smith”, they said. “We need water for our cattle and our fields. Down to the valley we are going to dig a new bed for the brook and lead it to our fields.”
No!” Lena, who had heard everything, cried out. “You can’t do this!”
Quiet, child!” her father rebuked her. “You don’t understand yet.”
Lena opened her eyes wide, startled by the unexpected rebuke. But then she took heart. “Father, they can lead the animals here to water them. But they may not lock up the brook. He’ll get angry about it.”
Stupid brat,” one of the farmers growled. “We can’t bring our fields over here.”
Lena stared at him defiantly. “Nevertheless, you can’t force him. He’s stronger than we humans!” Weeping she ran off.

Equipped with pickaxes and shovels, the next morning the men of the village arrived. They began to dig narrow canals across the fields up to the brook. Then two bricklayers came to build a high stonewall across the brook’s bed below the smithy. Thus the water was forced to take the path into the ditches. Yet there were only narrow rivulets and in the first few days they seeped away into the dried earth after a few meters. But soon they trickled farther and farther and the edges of the canals started to turn green.
Lena were sitting from morning to evening next to the mill wheel, her face resting on her clenched little fists, murmuring and watching the villagers go about their business.
Lena, what are you doing there?” her father asked her once.
I’m comforting him,” was the answer. “The brook says he’s unhappy.”
But, child,” her father sighed.

Then came autumn and it brought the long-desired rain. When the first drops were falling, Lena went outside, cheering. Reverently she touched the moisture on the leaves, shook the branches that bent over the brook, as if their moisture could fill it faster.
When her father eventually stepped up to her, she threw her arms around his neck: “Now the brook can return, can’t it? Now we no longer need the wall.”
At that her father took Lena’s hand and looked at her seriously. “Child, the brook doesn’t care where it flows. But it will serve men and animals also another year by bringing water to the meadows and fields.”
No, the brook does care,” she grumbled and walked away sad.

It continued to rain and the brook became as mighty as before. But now down the valley he was damming up in front of the wall the villagers had built, and he was forced into the fields. With rain, Lena sat at the window and watched it getting lost in the meadows. As soon as the sun broke through the clouds, she sat on the bank and listened to the growing rumble of the waterfall.

It continued to rain and the brook became as enormous as Lena had never seen him before. She listened to him and realized he was angry. Once it even occurred to her that she saw the long fluent cape of the water spirit her grandmother had described. “I knew you existed,” she whispered.
Father,” she then begged once more, “the dam wall has to go away. If the water is stronger than humans, it certainly will free itself.”
But her father shook his head.

That same evening a tempest came up. A thunderstorm was raging over the village with new floods of rain.
Lena thought the world were ending when she awoke in the middle of the night from a terrible rumble. Outside it crashed and roared, cracked and rushed so loudly that it even drowned out the thunder.
Trembling she jumped out of the bed and to the window. In the flashes of lightnings she saw a huge cloud of spray getting over the wall. To the side, where the fields had been, a dark expanse of water had spread.
She rushed into the hall and hid herself in the arms of her mother who stood there pale with fright.
Father’s mien was grim. “Now the brook is destroying everything in its path.” He lit his storm lantern and went outside.
The poor people,” her mother sobbed, “the poor animals…”

When a pale sun squeezed through the clouds in the morning, her father returned home, exhausted and covered in mud.
It could have been worse,” he said. “A few cows and sheep have drowned, two houses have been swept away by the floods. But the inhabitants are safe.”
Lena looked at her father steadfastly, but didn’t dare say a word.
Eventually he finished his report and nodded to her. “You were right, my child. We can’t control the brook.”
Finally, Lena smiled. “You yourself have taught me that water defeats everything else.”
That’s what I said,” her father confirmed. “But I didn’t believe in my own words.”
At that, with a happy heart Lena stepped outside behind the mill. The spray rose high in front of her and blocked the view to the devasted valley below. Suddenly a bright figure formed in the midst of the waterfall.
Lena sobbed with joy. Then she waved to it and shouted. “Return into your bed. They’ve understood your warning.”

Sample from "Magical Stories". Short story collection. English edition of "Magische Geschichten". 

Short stories that are not only for children...

Magic and wisdom connect with reality and legend.
Meet a water ghost, a young magician, a magical hare and a good witch.
Discover what happens when a force of nature collides with the thoughtlessness of men.
Consider wisely and well before you wish or else...some very bad things will happen.
And prepare to have your heart warmed by a very particular Christmas story.

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