When my sister was little, I had to spend a lot of time telling her fairy-tales to put her to sleep. When she was four, I was ten and a passionate reader of fairy-tales from around the world, so I had many stories to tell. However, my sister preferred the story I had invented on my own. The story was about squirrels who lived in a tree-trunk and had everything they could ever need. That’s it. That was the extent of the story. Squirrels living happily in a tree-trunk. I went on for hours, describing all the wonderful food the squirrels had hidden in their tree trunk, the super comfortable beds they had, and how they were never, cold, hungry, or in any danger.
I once tried introducing ferrets into the story as the squirrels’ enemies who tried to hunt them*. This didn’t go over very well with my sister who didn’t want to hear about anything even remotely bad happening to the squirrels. So I had to turn the squirrels and the ferrets into best friends. Then the ferrets got a comfortable, well-stocked tree-trunk of their own, and the story had now two groups of very happy animals.
In summer, we usually went to the country-side to visit my aunt Vera. She had two young kids of her own and they, in turn, had many friends between the ages of 3 and 8. One day, my sister gathered them all in a circle and announced,
“Clarissa knows this really great story about squirrels and she’ll tell it to us right now!”
I was a little unnerved, given that there wasn’t really a story. Or rather, the point of the story was that nothing ever happened to the squirrels.
“Wouldn’t you rather hear about Hodja Nasreddin? Or Cat in the Boots?” I asked. But my sister was determined her friends should hear about the squirrels.
For forty minutes I expatiated on the happiness of the squirrels and their friends, the ferrets. The kids were mesmerized.
“Wow,” said the eldest of them, an 8-year-old boy. “That’s the best story ever. Can you tell it again tomorrow?”
* I know nothing about the animal life, so I have no idea what the real relationship between the squirrels and the ferrets is.