THE OTHER SIDE

A SANTHARIAN PARABLE

 
The Frethoni Book of Fables   
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Introduction. Fable No. 39, ca. 500 b.S. The "Other Side" is an ancient tale about a little girl getting lost in the Auturian Woods and while trying desperately to get out again, she find wondrous things and has a strange encounter... A decision will need to be made in the middle of the forest, a decision that would determine the fate of her life's future. There will be three endings the narrator can choose from, depending on the choice of the listeners. But will it be the right one?
 

here once was a little girl, who lived with her parents in a humble abode somewhere close to the vast Auturian Woods, and her name was Calinsa. Though their home was that close to the woods, Calinsa’s parents always told her not to venture into the underbrush of the forest, lest she get lost, for she might never return. That’s because the woods were a place full of magic, so they said, and “magic is not for the likes of lowly peasant folk like us”. Magic cheats the mind and if your mind is weak, it will render you mad – that’s what they believed, but they were quite superstitious. However, it was true that elves lived there deep in the Auturian Woods, and druids, the plant-lovers and animal tamers, and many a myth also spoke of vile wizardry going on in mystic forests like these.

But be that as it may, one day it happened though that Calinsa did nevertheless what her parents had warned her so much about: She entered the woods. It’s not that she thought much about it as she did so though. For she loved everything green, especially trees, even more so those which looked ancient and mysterious, and the forest had so many of them! Thus she once found herself treading near the forest’s edge, admiring what she saw, and before she knew it her little feet had strolled into the shadowy underbrush, for Calinsa wanted to touch the trees there as well.

The endless depths of the forest

View picture in full size Picture description. Calinsa seemed to drown in the endless depths of the forest. Trees appeared like giant fiery hands to her, and an eerie fog crept through the underbrush... Image drawn by Ingeborg.

Once in, the girl was in awe of what she saw. The forest was so quiet, so beautiful and solemn, that she felt almost like in the holy Nehtorian cathedral in Marcogg which she had visited with her aunt a while ago, only that she was in midst of nature: Strange plants, lush bushes, colorful flowers and sometimes even glowing mosses and peculiarly dotted mushrooms grew already in the forest’s outskirts. Further in there was even more to admire, such as incredibly tall trees the girl had never seen before, and entire hills built by the always busy ants, and carpets of leaves to bathe in. And to all this singing birds twittered merrily; it seemed almost as if they did their concert just for welcoming the new visitor. On and on Calinsa walked into the woods, marveling at the new sights and sounds, until she saw a doe browsing on the grass in midst of a small clearing. The animal looked timidly back at her, then leapt away in response to the girl stepping closer. Calinsa however didn’t want to give up on the doe and tried cautiously to the follow her to see where it was headed and what it was up to. But as she did so, she moved deeper and deeper into the underbrush.

In the end she had lost track of the animal, which certainly was much faster than she was; and so it came that the girl found herself eventually all alone, amongst many silent wooden watchers. When Calinsa looked up through the branches of the trees she realized that the sky had already lost its bright blue hue and that the evening was slowly but inevitably drawing closer. Immediately it dawned on the girl that it was long overdue to return home, and so she turned around and headed back to where she had come from.

But all Calinsa could see were trees and trees and trees again wherever she looked. She walked and walked, but her surroundings got more and more alien the further she came, so alien eventually that she panicked, for wherever she went, it didn’t appear to be the way home. And so she began to run in fear, and that's when her shoe got caught in a root, and thus she fell, and then she lay there helplessly. Thereupon, as she got up again, she didn't know anymore whence she had come from nor where she should head. Which is why Calinsa squatted down and looked at her dirty clothes and the grazed knee and sniffed a few times, shaken by her plight. However, the girl restrained herself and forbade herself to cry. 'I need to get home, I need to get home!' she whispered again and again, pleading to the Gods to aid her in her hour of need. But none of the Gods answered her prayers – not Grothar, not Arvins, not the all-knowing Seyella. She was alone.

One last time Calinsa pulled herself together, and went on. She tried a direction, which suited her best for the sake of it and because she needed to decide on one, and she made haste as she headed off. But after she had been walking for a while, the girl became very unsure again and made a turn and continued the other way. But it was no different in this direction either. The forest seemed endless and instead of clearing out it became even more dense and ominous. Suddenly everything looked menacing: the torch trees that dominated this part of the woods appeared like giant fiery hands in the late afternoon sun about to reach out for her any moment, coarse grunting sounds of awakened wildlife made her aware of a scary presence somewhere far off, and eerie fog wafted in certain parts of the underbrush – or maybe it was just an illusion, for the mind enjoys playing tricks on those that are driven by anxiety.

Thus the hours went by. It seemed like ages to Calinsa that she had walked around in these woods, searching desperately for a way out with no success. Until she reached a spot which she thought that she had come across already a while before. And as the sickle of the moon hung already high in the sky and the warmth the sun had provided was being replaced by a noticeable chill as well, Calinsa finally dropped to the ground and wept bitterly. She must have walked in circles, she was sure now, and as she realized her futile efforts she lost all hope to find a way out. What had at first looked like a piece of undiscovered land, a beguiling adventure full of wondrous plants, trees and fascinating scents now seemed to turn silent and cold and as deadly as a grave.

But then Calinsa saw it: that faint glow, somewhere out there in the distance, almost hidden behind a batch of trees, defying the growing darkness.

It was just there as if out of nowhere, all of a sudden. The flare was eerie somehow, but calm and peaceful at the same time. Calinsa moved nearer to it, curious, excited, tense all at once, saw how the faint shimmer more and more turned into a bright light... When she was already very close she suddenly heard the calming sounds of water burbling along, and then she saw it: first the small pool, then the light source that shone down from the top of a tree, illuminating a tiny cone-shaped spot in the middle of the forest. Encompassed by utter darkness there was a speck of bright daylight to marvel at.

To Calinsa's surprise the doe she had been following was there as well, drinking innocently from the small pool. The animal briefly glanced at Calinsa when the girl stepped closer to the light source, then continued lapping at the pool as if she were safe here.

First the girl didn't trust her eyes, but there it was: Two bent trees formed some sort of gateway, and from there the light emanated... Was it something magical?... A portal leading where to?

"Idy-ho!" a cheery voice suddenly rang through the forest.

Calinsa looked around, but it lasted quite a while till she found a figure sitting right on top of the branches of the tree-made portal, waving at the newcomer.

"Idy-ho! Welcome to our little odd place in the middle of nowhere, Calinsa!" the figure shouted down to the little girl. It had a pointed hat, pointed ears and even pointed shoes. It looked funny and friendly and waved at her.

"Hello..." Calinsa answered, looking up somewhat confused, but happy to have found someone who perhaps might be able to help her. "How... Why… do you know my name?"

The little guy chuckled. "Why shouldn't I, my princess? It saves some time to know it already, otherwise I'd have had to ask you about it. On the other hand you now ask why I know it, and I need to answer to that as well, so maybe it wasn't such a bright idea to know it in advance, as we have this conversation now.” The strange fellow let his feet dangle wildly. “Hmmm... – Ah, you humans are a pretty weird folk, you know, always wanting to know why and what for and so on..."

Calinsa didn't know what to answer to that.

"Well, I'm Dumpletee, just in case you should ask," the figure added. "And I'm sure you would. Humans always ask."

"I've ventured into the woods, though I know that I shouldn't have," Calinsa told him bluntly. It was all that was on her mind, and whoever or whatever the fellow was, he had to help her! "My parents told me not to go into the forest, but I didn't listen. I'm so desperate, Dumpletee! It's already dark and cold now, and I am lost out here!" She wiped a tear from her eye.

"Lost? Ah, that can't be", Dumpletee answered. "Everyone who comes to Dumpletee isn't here by accident. You don't get lost to meet Dumpletee, you meet Dumpletee not to be lost anymore, you know. I'm just like a living crossroads." The little fellow grinned excitedly. "I can tell you how to get back home for sure, Calinsa, no doubt about that, we'll manage together."

"Hurray!" Calinsa shouted triumphantly. But moments later she looked at him quizzically. "Uhmmm... What exactly are you? An elf? A sprite? Or a pixy? I have never before seen or heard about someone like you, not even in fairy tales!"

"Well, I don't know how people call me in these lands. Or nowadays for that matter. Just pick something which seems right, I propose."

"But are you not from here? Did you come through this… this... magical portal? Is that what it is?"

Dumpletee stopped dangling his feet and looked down. "Ah, that! Yes, I think that could very well be. At least I wouldn't rule out that possibility. In more human words: yes."

Though still not sure what to think of the stranger Calinsa was overwhelmed by her curiosity: "Can you tell me? What is there on the other side?"

"Hmmm... Good question, little lady! Good question... I'd guess it's perhaps something pretty special, enchanting and just wonderful. Well, at least it’s the other side of the world, so there must be something to expect! You'll probably find something you've never seen before and of what you've always dreamed about... That would be my guess."

"Your guess?" The girl inquired. "But if you've come from this wonderland you should know for sure how it looks like! Say, is it lovely over there?"

"Good point, little one! Perhaps I know that indeed, but on the other hand I can't say if what I think is lovely is liked as much by other people, know what I mean? Humans perhaps don't have the same liking as elves, sprites or fairies have... – or whatever else you might call me. While the one might say: ‘Ah, I've seen all that hundreds of times, I don’t care!’, others would say: ‘Oh, how splendid and magnificent! Here I want to dwell forever!’ It all depends on what people expect to see. What they want to see and what they don't want, and that's that. The minds are different, and different minds may see different things."

"Well, then tell me what you can see over there in your world, what kind of people live in it and how they live! Then I can judge!" Calinsa clapped into her hands, eager to learn more, her initial predicament all but forgotten.

Dumpletee sighed. "If that would be so easy... But that I cannot tell, unfortunately. And it also won't be as easy for you as to step into the portal, take a look and then go back if you don't like what you see. This is a one way portal as far as humans are concerned, little one. You go in and come out on the other side."

Calinsa stared at the luminous light cone. It looked fascinating and inviting.

The Magical Portal

View picture in full size Picture description. The magical portal to the other side of the world. Image drawn by Eratinalinfalah.

"And if I'd go into the portal?" she asked.

"Then you'd be gone."

"But I'd come out at the other side..."

"You'd come out at the other side, yes-es-es!" Dumpletee nodded.

"And I wouldn't be able to get back home anymore?"

"No-lo-lo-lo… erm… – no." Dumpletee shook is head vehemently.

"I would lose everything I know from this world then?"

"Sure."

"But I would see this new world and live in it, just as I do in this world?"

"That's the deal."

"Never ever would I be able to get back here?"

"Mmmm-mmm..." Dumpletee made a definite denying gesture.

The portal appeared really tempting to Calinsa. And dangerous at the same time.

She hesitated. "Would you go in if you were me, Dumpletee? I'd really like to know what's on the other side!"

"Don't know. Can't say. Can't give any advice. I’m only here so that people don’t get lost, you see, that's my purpose. Either way you go, you won’t be lost anymore, but will end up somewhere. That I can guarantee.” A smile stole across the queer creature's thin lips. “I tell you what, princess: If you'd prefer to get home again, then just ignore the portal – and walk around it... Do you see these tiny stones shining through the gate?" Calinsa saw them and nodded. "Just follow them. They mark a trail. It won't be long till you reach your parents' house. On the other hand: If you prefer to get to the other side, just go through the portal and discover what's behind. Your gain, your loss. Just think very carefully about it!"

Calinsa pondered indeed. "Will your portal still be here when I come back later? Say, tomorrow, maybe? Then I can think about it a little while longer," she suggested.

Dumpletee however shook his head. "And then get lost again? No, no, actually I'll have to leave as soon as you've made your decision. I'm always in a hurry and need to make haste in order to help others who are lost as well, you know," he said while eyeing Calinsa. "So, tell me now: What is more important to you, little lady? To stay here and continue your life with your family, your friends, everything you love? But also with everything this entails, including the things that are not to your liking? Or would you rather leave everything behind by stepping into the portal to reappear at the other side of the world and discover all these unknown possibilities that lie over there and tempt you so much?"

Calinsa pondered for a while longer, and finally she made her choice.

At this point the narrator usually picks someone from the audience, asking about a decision whether Calinsa will enter the portal or not. There exist three different alternate endings to this tale. In case the audience agrees that the child should indeed enter, the narrator may also choose between two versions.

Ending #1. If portal not entered.

"I'll not give up everything only to see where the portal will lead me!" Calinsa said firmly. "I choose to get home to my parents where I belong!"

“Idy-ho then! As you please, and on with thee!” Dumpletee said and smirked. “Just walk around the portal then, my dear, and good-bye to you!”

And so it happened. The girl walked around the incandescent portal and began to follow the stony trail Dumpletee had pointed her to. She nodded back at the small figure, and he waved back at her, but didn’t say any more.

Indeed, as the mysterious keeper of the portal had promised, it didn't last long until Calinsa found her way out of the forest, her trail only dimly lit by the sickle of the moon behind a veil of clouds. Emerging from the gloomy darkness deep in the woods the little girl eventually found herself back again with the strange plants, the lush bushes, colorful flowers, the glowing mosses and even the peculiarly dotted mushrooms she had seen in the forest’s outskirts. Actually, she didn’t have to walk very far, not at all, for she discovered that she was already quite close to the forest’s boundary when she made her first steps following the trail, and so she very soon stepped out of the woods.

Some trusted faces eventually picked her up. They were villagers who had just started to comb the forest looking for her, and great relief befell them when they saw that the girl was safe and sound. So they brought her home, and only a short while after she had been found Calinsa's worried mother could embrace her dearly loved daughter again. It took almost a full hour until it was her father’s turn though, for he had been out as well searching for her, but once united they all rejoiced – her parents even almost forgot that her daughter hadn’t obeyed them. Calinsa however hadn’t forgotten and she promised to never again venture out into the woods all by herself. She would keep her promise.

But once Calinsa was home, the portal and its whimsical guardian disappeared from its spot somewhere in midst of the Auturian Woods, and never was it to appear again.

Now what secret did the portal contain? Well, who knows? Who can say? Well, maybe another traveler will chance upon encountering this Dumpletee fellow some day as well when he considers himself lost – but what decision will that traveler make?

Ending #2. If portal entered.

"I'll go through the portal!", Calinsa declared firmly.

“Idy-ho then! As you please, and on with thee!” Dumpletee said and smirked. “Just walk in, my dear, and good-bye to you!”

And so it happened. The little girl stepped in front of the incandescent portal, nodded to Dumpletee one last time, and he waved back at her, but didn’t say any more.

Thus she went, stepping into the portal. Calinsa disappeared and with her the whole portal right after she had gone through it, leaving no trace whatsoever of what had once been there.

Many people of the village, where Calinsa had once lived, combed the forest that night and also in the following days in search of the lost girl, but it all proved to be of no avail. Her parents wouldn’t want to believe the fate of her dear daughter, but as time went on the pains of grieve more and more invaded their life as they began to understand that her little one wasn’t to return anymore. Also Calinsa's friends lamented bitterly with her parents, and even the small dog that she had left behind never was as joyful as he had been with her.

So what happened to the bold Calinsa, who had stepped into the mysterious portal? Where did she emerge? Somewhere else in Caelereth? In a whole other world? A magical land? What exactly happened then? Was it worth it? Did she find a new place to stay and would she live happily ever after? – Well, who knows, my friends? For, just as Dumpletee had said, she is gone from here and never will she be back again, remember?

Ending #3. If portal entered, the revelation.

“I'll go through the portal!", Calinsa declared firmly.

“Idy-ho then! As you please, and on with thee!” Dumpletee said and smirked. “Just walk in, my dear, and good-bye to you!”

And so it happened. The little girl stepped in front of the incandescent portal, nodded to Dumpletee one last time, and he waved back at her, but didn’t say any more.

Something happened.

When Calinsa opened her eyes again, she found herself standing in the middle of a forest, all alone. A light breeze played with her long hair and she heard the sound of an owl cooing somewhere in the distance. The portal was gone now, only the sickle of the moon provided some dim light that lent everything a magical, eerie touch. As she looked around, Calinsa found herself standing near a small pool and behind it there was a trail of barely recognizable stones that led into the unknown. She decided to follow the path, curious where it might lead…

And lo and behold: It didn't last long until Calinsa found her way out of the forest. Though it was dark, the hills she passed looked familiar, quite familiar actually, she realized. Puzzled she moved on, driven by a queer hunch…

There! There was a river, and next to it a waterwheel, and an ancient mill, and next to it that huge, sad looking willow tree! In spite of the darkness Calinso recognized them all, for she knew them so well, having played for years next to the mill, the waterwheel and that sad willow tree, and they were all there.

Suddenly the words of Dumpletee came back to her: "It all depends on what people expect to see. What they want to see and what they don't want. The minds are different, and different minds may see different things." And it was at this moment when she spotted her mother standing near the forest’s edge, a torch in hand, searching for her beloved lost daughter, and she was desperately calling her name.

"I'm here, mommy! I’m here!" Calinsa shouted back, and tears filled her eyes. "I'm home!"

Additional notes: This story supposedly originated from the elves of the Auturian Woods, though it clearly had been altered by human narrators in this version. In the course of time it became popular in the ancient kingdom of Avennoria and from there it spread over the whole southern part of the Sarvonian continent. Finally it found its way – in slightly adjusted form – into Santharia's most common human fairy tale books like “Master Tribell’s Miraculous Narrations”. But not only that: "The Other Side" is also regularly used by scholars in their lessons to open the minds of listeners to new approaches on issues or to shed light again on philosophical questions considered solved already. Furthermore the narration is commonly referred to by teachers or parents due to its educational implications helping youngsters to make up their own mind.

Depending on the listeners the narrator may determine to use a location which is well known by the audience. The storyteller may also choose either a male or a female protagonist for the main character of this tale and even select a specific name of someone present in the audience as the protagonist’s and later ask for his or her decision when it comes to the tale’s conclusion. Traditionally the options which are not chosen are not revealed to the audience, keeping the mystery alive.
 


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Parable written by by Artimidor View Profile