here was once an old storyteller
of great renown who sat down to write another tale. He had done so often in the
past, however this time, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't think of what
to write. Instead, he stared at the blank parchment before him for hours and
hours, quill ready in his hand, the inkwell persevering in tense expectancy,
waiting to be dipped in... – however, this one particular story, the next story
as it was, didn't want to shape in the writer's mind, and even less on the paper
in front of him.
It was the very first time in his life that this happened, and he had lived
through a lot. Oh, he had been a great storyteller back in the days! Anybody who
had heard him recount a tale in person or who had read something born from his
imagination would account for that. It had always been that way to him: If he
wasn't telling stories in front of an audience, he was usually writing; or he
was busy thinking how to connect one idea with another in order to cast it into
something that formed a whole, had a beginning, middle and an end, for that was
what stories were all about. Once inspiration hit him he often either quickly
scribbled down the thought on a piece of paper in order to pursue it later in
more detail, or he was even jotting down the whole thing from start to finish –
right on the spot! Sometimes it happened that he was so eager to get to the end
of the story, just so that he could start over again, this time reading what he
had put down. Ha, believe it or not, every now and then he even succeeded in
surprising himself when he got to the read-through, so driven was he by his
fervor. Aye indeed, so marvelous a storyteller he was that his readers even
named their firstborn after characters of his tales!
Alas, these days seemed gone for good. Now the old man sat there at his desk,
and he felt frail and worn, just like the table itself, which had served him
through many years, his "companion in crime" as he used to refer to it. They
both had seen many a tale, so many that he couldn't even remember half of them!
Ah, those were the times... But now everything around him had quieted down.
Instead, the storyteller's glazed eyes preferred to follow the dance of some
leaves the wind had just ripped from the elm outside his window; his thoughts
were wandering to all kinds of places, however, none of them promised adventure;
and every little thing there was around him – a vase, a lamp, a book – appeared
to invite him to glance at it, touch it, use it, play with it, even talk to it
rather than let him attend to his usual business. Thus the inkwell continued
waiting patiently for the quill to dip in for the first time on this day, the
quill waited for the hand to pick it up, and the hand waited for the
storyteller's mind to settle, find a subject and get going. Nothing of that kind
The old man stood up, went back and forth, back and forth, then left his desk to
step outside for a bit. Once there he enjoyed the sun's warm beams as they
tickled his nose; and the light breeze played with his hair and cooled the beads
of sweat which had formed on his brow. For a while he listened to the birds'
innocent chirping of which he was so fond of. The writer sucked it all in as
best as he could, then went back to his desk, hopeful, confident, ready. At
least so he thought.
He grabbed the quill and... eventually put it away again, for inspiration was
out for good.
The next afternoon pretty much
the same thing happened. The writer sat down to write, but there was no story he
could think of worth relating.
'Just start with a sentence,' he thought to himself. 'Just commit
something, anything at all to paper. And the rest will follow – all by
itself. You can always revise that dratted beginning later.' It was advice
he had heard from poets, from bards, novelists, all friends of his, who had had
their fair share of writer's block and used to claim that they knew the perfect
remedy for a predicament like this. Until now the storyteller had always
wondered how it came that he didn't happen to suffer from any of his colleagues'
troubles, however, now that he did, he questioned the method to just get writing
and think about what to write later. How could a tale go ahead without a set
course, an adventurous prospect, a goal, a character, a quandary, a question, a
mystery? 'No, no,' he pondered, 'I've always had a notion where I want
to go when I wrote, and I need to have an understanding of it now, prior
to a first sentence, prior to the first letter I put down. There has
to be an inkling of a path at the least! The possibilities are so vast, I need
to select one first, decide to pursue it, then I can go ahead. It cannot
be any other way!'
So he thought, then re-thought and thought again about what he thought and why
he thought so and why he didn't think differently. And as he thought about
thinking, he discovered that his spontaneity, his impulse he had for writing,
all his spirit had vanished altogether because he was attempting so
obsessively to pursue it. There was no trace of anything creative anymore, he
had thought his good intentions to death.
It was almost a mockery when he grabbed the quill nevertheless, determined to
give that weird concept a whirl against all odds and just jot something down for
the sake of it... Well, despite the intention, he couldn't go through with it
and had to admit defeat. Eventually he put the quill away again, for, yes, once
more inspiration was out for good.
The third day, well, you might
have guessed it: No progress on the writing front. Quite to the contrary: The
storyteller's once so cherished inability to write by now tormented the writer
so much, that he felt anguish, despair and misery, all rolled into one. And it
Only when his daughter came by for afternoon tea with his grandson, the five
year old Nylwyn, he got some distraction. Oh, he was pleased with that, for it
gave him the chance to leave the melancholy behind, the quietly gnawing and
festering despair, that was holding his desk in firm grip.
"What you're doing, gran'pa?" the freckled brat asked while raiding the cookie
"Oh, I... I..." the old man suddenly found himself fumbling for words. "I'm – uh
– I'm thinking of my next story, little one..." he finally delivered an answer,
though not a very convincing one. Immediately he tried changing the subject:
"Want me to tell you a tale?"
"An old one?" the gnome with an attitude threw back at him.
His granddad sighed. "Uhm... Yes, sure an old one, I don't have a new one ready
yet, you know..."
"But I want to hear about the new one you're writing!" the boy didn't want to
let go. He leapt on the old man's lap. "What's it about?"
"I don't really know yet," the old man confessed. "It could be about anything.
It's not always easy to come up with a new story, Nylwyn, I still have to think
about it first for a while." He kept the problems he had experienced in the last
days to himself, though.
"So you haven't even started yet?" Nylwyn inquired, his large eyes expressing
"No, not yet."
"Will there be a dragon in it?" the little cookie devourer went straight for it.
If there was anything in the world that was dear to the little boy, it were
dragons, all kinds of dragons.
"Well, maybe I'll have some dragons in it. Maybe not, we'll see." His
grandfather didn't want to make any promises at this point he might not be able
to keep. He'd be happy enough if he could just write something, dragon or
"Can I help you with your story?" the little man suddenly burst out between tow
bites, a big smile extending from one ear to the other.
Now, a grandfather's obligations and a writer's intentions don't necessarily
agree with each other – though in this case they seemed to coincide for once.
However, it's not that the grandfather had any hope for getting a useful story
out of this, but as long as it kept a five year old happy, it was good enough
for him as well.
So he said: "Sure, my little hero, let's make us a tale!"
"I want to have a dragon in it!" was the first thing Nylwyn announced. It didn't
particularly surprise anyone. A slight smile stole on his mother's face, who was
watching the two while sipping her tea on the other end of the table.
"Then a dragon it is," granddad gave his go-ahead to the cheers of his new
partner in crime. "Now, which one would you like to have? A fire dragon? A
horned or an ivorine one? A hydragon... a shapechanger perhaps? A shipwrecker
wyrm? Which one do you fancy?"
"An emerald dragon, gran'pa!" came the answer right off the bat. "Like the one
from that story with that... that... treasure cave!" Nylwyn offered
"Ah, yes indeed, the emerald dragon," his granddad nodded, remembering something
he once had written quite a while ago, entitled "Tricks and Treasures".
It was a declared favorite of his grandson. "An interesting choice, my little
lad!" He pulled a tome from the nearby shelf, leafed through its pages until he
found the passage he had been looking for:
"And so the dwarf entered the lair, and found the beast he had heard so much
about right there, tucked in a corner. It was rolled into an imposing ball,
sound asleep, but its huge nostrils snorted and snuffled still and from its
reeking maw filled to the brim with jagged teeth came a deep groaning and
moaning as if the monster were unable to even cease exhibiting its forbidding,
heinous nature while resting. Maybe all that was because the dragon was fighting
some nightmares, as from time to time the creature would twitch and wince and
make jerky motions, and whenever it did so, its unannounced visitor would twitch
and wince as well and add its very own shudder and shivering for good measure,
fearing the beast might be about to wake and spot the breakfast snack that had
strolled in... And breakfast it did with relish as it appeared, judging by the
numerous scattered bones in the cave...
However, aside from these disquieting and not exactly unexpected 'cave
decorations' the sight that offered itself to the dwarf was of pure
magnificence: The dragon itself appeared like he was made entirely of jewels –
instead of scales thousands and thousands of tiny gems covered his whole body,
and they were sparkling and gleaming in all their glamour so that the dwarf just
stood there for a while, transfixed by the sheer beauty of it. Even the giant
claws and the two long horns on top of the dragon's heavy head didn't look like
claws or horns at all, but rather gave the impression that someone had
meticulously designed and realized these works of jewelry. If there hadn't been
all that racket that the beast effected with its noisy sleep, the dwarf might
have taken the whole monster for a piece of art. Especially because it fit right
in there with the piles and piles of coins of gold and jewels and necklaces and
chalices that filled up the rest of the cavern..."
The storytelling grandfather looked up from his book. "So... that's the fellow
you want, right?"
"Yes, yes," young Nylwyn nodded eagerly with eyes wide open, clapping
ecstatically with his hands. "And we'll call him... uhm... uhm... Marty!"
His granddad blinked, for he was a bit puzzled by the odd name choice. "You
think 'Marty' is a good name for a terrifying, intimidating monster like this?"
"Of course it is, gran'pa!" the boy assured him. "You see, he won't be so
fearsome after all in our story."
"Aha! Well, that makes sense then," his granddad conceded to the convincing
logic of a five year old. "An endearing, amiable emerald dragon named Marty.
Stuff true legends are made of," he chuckled to himself and gave a wink to the
boy's mom who stroked the little one's hair affectionately appreciating his
Nylwyn now gained momentum. "Though he hasn't always been that way! We need some
magic to turn him into a really, really good dragon!" he suggested.
"I see, I see..." The old man took another sip from his tea. "Hmmm... Magic, you
say... Should we employ a wizard perhaps? Or would your rather have an artifact
"We'll have both!" the boy stated matter-of-factly. "The wizard forges the
artifact, an amulet or something. After all he's a wizard and knows how! We need
something like a... charm. Like in the story with the hobbit and the rabbit...
Yes, that charm from the hobbit and the rabbit! We can just use that one!"
"Hobbit and the rabbit?" his grandfather debated with himself for a bit whether
his grandson got the right one there. "I don't remember anymore if there's a
charm in this story. Couldn't it be that –"
"Don't you know your own stories anymore?" The little boy, aghast by the
writer's apparent ignorance of his very own tales threw his hands up stricken by
utter horror. "It's what the rabbit uses to charm the wolf, gran'pa!
Mommy, tell him!"
His mother just smiled however and let granddad consult the book again to verify
Nylwyn's claim. And indeed, the boy was absolutely right, as he soon discovered.
It had been more than two decades the old man noticed since he had written this
story about animals in the forest who came across magical artifacts lost by a
hobbit collector. He didn't remember half of it anymore, but found it quite
fascinating when he read a couple of lines from the text again which he had
forgotten about entirely. And there it was:
"It was a tiny, tiny tooth the rabbit had pulled from the case. Well, it was
tiny to a human – or a hobbit – perhaps, but it was placed on a coin-shaped
silver medallion that shimmered brightly in the evening sun, no larger than an
actual san coin.
'This has the power to make someone compliant,' the mouse explained showing off
its profound magical knowledge to the rabbit who had no idea that this was a
magical thing, and even less what it could do. The mouse shoved its reading
glass up a bit when it looked at the timid, but much larger creature in front of
it. Then it went on explaining: 'That is, with it you can make their will your
own, I mean your will theirs; it's all one will then, yours and theirs, you
know; and the best thing is: they don't have a will of their own.' Which was a
weird way of putting it, but the rabbit seemed to have gotten the gist of it.
'Can I make a wolf run away from me?' he inquired and as the mouse said 'Yes!'
he knew exactly what to do. Now the other remaining question was: how?"
"Well, you know your fairy tales like the back of your hand, you rascal, I have
to admit that," the grandfather acknowledged and snickered in amusement. He
savored the little fellow's verve and interest in his stories.
"Actually, dad," his daughter added while patting her son's shoulder. "You have
to know, we've read that story just the other week before bedtime. And he tells
all the tales he has ever heard to his father while he's working in the shed.
Sometimes twice! So he has practice remembering them..."
The grandfather looked pleased, happy that the work he had done years and years
ago still bore some fruit. The little boy who was joyfully beaming on his side
left no doubt about the success of his past efforts.
"Well then," the grandfather said. "And you also wanted a wizard, if I remember
correctly, right? Have you anyone in particular in mind who helped with the
enchantment? Anyone from another story perhaps as you know them all inside out?"
The boy thought for a couple of moments, then made up his mind. "Ah, we can just
take the one from the Brownie's adventure. He seems friendly enough. You know,
that story, where the Brownie wants to be somebody else," the boy reminded him.
"Like a dragon. That's what he wants to be in the end."
'Of course he brings up another one up with a dragon involved', the old
man thought. Though he remembered that in this tale it wasn't exactly confirmed
that the 'magician' in fact could cast magic at all. Maybe he was just
pretending. However, what was important was the imagination of a five year old,
and so the 'wizard' got the job.
"And now what?" the grandfather asked his little helper, not sure where this was
going. "We've got a wizard, fine. He makes a charm amulet, also nice and dandy.
And then someone uses it on an emerald dragon, so that the beast is turned into
your friendly next-door neighbor, right?"
"Right, gran'pa!" Nylwyn concurred, throwing his head up and down in a five year
old's fashion of impassioned agreement.
"So... That all may be so, but we still don't know who will be the hero of our
story..." his grandfather remarked. "That would be quite an important decision
to make, don't you think?"
"I am going to be the hero, of course," was Nylwyn's straightforward
answer. Well, his grandfather might have guessed it. The boy however was way
ahead of him on how to tie the story fragments together, and so he immediately
continued enlightening his listeners: "You know, the great knights, the fighters
and all those powerful mages don't dare entering the dragon's lair, so someone
else has to do it. So I sneak in. Because I'm small and unsuspicious, you know,
like a hobbit, or a gnome, or a Brownie – I won't be noticed. And instead of
fighting and killing the monster I'll just charm it while it's sleeping. Haha!"
Then, as a side note, he added: "The dwarf of your story should have done so too
and he could have saved himself a lot of trouble! But well," the boy at last
concluded with a dismissive gesture, "he just wasn't as clever as I am, I
"Most certainly not," his grandfather supported the notion and earned another
smile from his daughter across the table.
"And the whole thing, gran'pa," Nylwyn went on, "is necessary, because the
dragon just doesn't want to behave. For he is a bad, bad dragon! So the king has
to put an end to it, and that's why he asks all those heroes and magicians to
help him. But they are all afraid, and that's where I come in."
"To save the day, and king and country!" granddad triumphantly topped off his
grandson's story outline.
"Yes, for king and country!" the boy declared elatedly himself and then finished
up: "And from then on the beautiful princess dines with the dragon in the
banquet hall – you know, he fills the whole banquet hall! Because instead of a
pet dog she's now got a pet dragon! And so the princess and her tamed dragon
live happily every after. The end."
His grandfather smirked and applauded the story's resolution, with his daughter
joining in. "That's quite a story you've dreamed up there, Nylwyn, my favorite
rascal! Must have been something in the cookies to make you come up with all
those ideas..." he commended said rascal while the boy took his bows. "And you
put it together all by yourself!"
"Certainly gran'pa," the boy imitated his granddad's voice. "But I couldn't have
done it without your stories, without the dragon, the wizard, the amulet, and
all those things!"
"Haha, sure, sure..." The old man chuckled. "Well, if you continue that way,
Nylwyn, maybe you'll become a storyteller like myself some time... And then
you'll look back at today and remember the very first story you made up with
"Maybe I will!" Nylwyn didn't argue with that. He was pretty sure of himself.
However, as he saw his work here done, he jumped from his grandfather's lap and
was already about to dart off. "But first I'll have to see if Vanya is home
already," he explained his sudden intention to leave. "She's been in town, and
maybe she brought me something back. Wouldn't want to miss that! Oh, and you
write that story down, gran'pa!" he instructed the old man. "We'll have to read
it sometime!" Then he was gone, off to more adventure.
"Give my greetings to your little girlfriend," his grandfather shouted after
him, but Nylwyn had disappeared already, so that he didn't know whether he had
heard him at all.
"Children!" his mother smiled, stood and headed off after her son. "Thanks for
taking the time to have some fun with him! See you around, pa, and the Twelve
with you," she bade him farewell.
"Oh, it has been my pleasure," he answered and leaned back in his chair, waving
after her. "More than you might think..." he whispered to himself.
So there he was again, alone,
that storyteller of great renown who had failed to come up with a tale, but at
least had received some welcome distraction. After he had put away the tea cups
and remaining cookies, he slowly shuffled back to his desk, where quill, ink and
empty sheets were still waiting for a writer to make proper use of them.
'Well,' he thought. 'This is surely a lovely story for a five year
old, and maybe I'll write it all down at some point, just so that he enjoys
hearing again what he's come up with. But there has to be more to a good story
than a beginning with 'Once upon a time', an ending with 'Happily ever after'
and some adventure in between. A good story needs to have a conflict, a dilemma,
a predicament, a character, who struggles, lots of emotions, maybe with love and
understanding winning in the end, but even fairy tales need to have some kind of
moral, and as lovely as this rascal's story is, I cannot possibly make it into a
tale of mine.'
So he thought, but then our old storyteller nevertheless began writing. At last!
It was a tale of his own, and it flowed onto the paper like no other story he
had ever written before. It would only be the first tale of many more to come,
for inspiration had suddenly returned, already at the very moment when he began
putting down the title of that tale. He called it "The Storyteller".