THE MOONLIGHT TREE
A JUNIOR FICTION FAIRYTALE FOR YOUNG READERS
THE MOONLIGHT TREE
The brittle wooden structure rattled in the wind as the young cobbler boy sat in his father’s cluttered workshop. His cold hands shook, his tired fingers failed to feed the thread through the eye of the needle. Distracted by fatigue, his attention was drawn to the suffering around him. The medieval village of Frankenpot was saturated with sorrow.
His first observation disheartened him. A farmer was salvaging what crops he could from his dry, lifeless field. His eyeline trailed towards two women washing clothes in the murky water. He pitied them. Others around him were weary with toil. The heavy taxes inflicted by King Hendrick had taken their toll.
Bang! Crash! An old pedlar woman staggered into a fragile house, its structure collapsing on impact. The cobbler boy rushed to her aid, removing the debris that covered her.
“Are you ok, madam?” he asked.
“Please, child,” she replied. “Can you spare a silver shilling so I may pay the baker for a loaf of bread?”
One shilling was all the cobbler boy had, meant to pay the upcoming taxes. Weeping, he approached the back of the shop and collected the shilling from under an unfinished shoe.
“Bless your kindness,” she said, as the cobbler handed over the coin. “For this, I will tell you a secret.”
“A secret?’ The cobbler boy was intrigued.
“One that will make you and the people of this village rich beyond measure,” she informed. “On the stroke of midnight, the moonlight reveals a magical tree in a clearing not far from here. Its leaves are made of the finest leather in all the land.”
“Where is this ‘tree’ you speak of?” he asked, suspiciously.
“South of the village, over the fallen log, where the frog croaks, and the owl hoots. Lifeless trees intertwined, hiding a secret only moonlight will find.”
This is too good to be true, thought the cobbler boy.
“Know this!” continued the pedlar woman. “The magic of the leaves will only work when used to aid the need of others.”
The cobbler’s sick father was furious when he was informed of the story.
“Aromas,” his father said weakly, “we will never earn another shilling in time to pay our taxes.”
“But if I find the tree …”
“You know leather does not come from trees, Aromas,” his father said, sadly. “The old pedlar woman took you for a fool. While I admire your kind soul, your actions curse us.”
Aromas was determined to find the tree. While his father slept, he snuck out into the bitter cold in search of the mysterious tree. South he went, out of the village, until he came to a river where an old fallen tree lay across the water’s surface.
Croak! Croak! Aromas turned in the direction of the spooky sound. There, sitting on a lily pad on the surface of the river was a frog. A second sound rang through the cold night air. Hoo Hoo! Hoo Hoo! Through the branches of a nearby oak tree, Aromas saw an owl calling out towards the moonlit sky. This must be the way, he thought.
The chill clung to his skin as he scampered across the log and into a forest. Within his first few steps, he noticed that the branches of the trees were woven into one big, knotted mess. He ducked, weaved and climbed through the branches, until he reached a small clearing. There, standing alone, was a tree of great magnificence. Sparkling in the moonlight were its golden, shiny leather leaves. Thrilled by his discovery, Aromas plucked two leaves from the tree and raced back home.
The sun kissed the streets of the village as Aromas went about turning the leather leaves into an impressive pair of shoes. He had just finished making them when Gregory, a local farmer, approached his shop.
“Sorry for disturbing you, Aromas,” said the farmer, “but I need a pair of shoes. My bare feet can no longer cope with the rough cobblestone streets and rocky soil. I need them so I can harvest what crops I have left.”
Remembering the words of the old pedlar woman, Aromas passed the new pair of golden leather shoes to the farmer.
Moments later, the farmer came rushing back to the store. He had a smile bigger than a Cheshire Cat.
“What magic have you put in your shoes?” he asked Aromas.
“I have done nothing to them,” he replied. “They are just ordinary shoes.”
“But they are not, dear Aromas,” explained the farmer. “The moment the shoes touched the soil of my land, my fields sprouted with healthy crops! I now have more than enough produce to pay my taxes.”
Aromas looked out towards the farmer’s field. His jaw dropped in disbelief. The dry land he had seen the day before was now decorated with wheat.
That night, Aromas retraced his steps back to the Moonlight Tree, as he had named it, plucked two more leaves and used them to make a second pair of shoes. He had just finished sewing them together when a man rushed towards his shop.
“What’s wrong?” Aromas asked the distraught man.
“It is my wife,” the man began, tears streaming from his eyes. “The Plague Doctor has visited our home and does not believe she will last the night.”
Aromas looked at the man and the condition of his shoes. They were riddled with holes and barely covered his feet. The words of the old pedlar woman rang in his ears once again. Without another thought, Aromas presented the second pair of shoes to the man.
“At least these will keep your feet warm from the bitter cold.”
Later that day, the man returned to the workshop.
“Aromas!” he exclaimed, full of excitement. “What magic have you put in your shoes?”
Confused, Aromas replied, “I am not a wizard. They are just a pair of shoes.”
“I used your shoes to keep my wife’s feet warm as they were chilled to the bone. Suddenly, she was completely cured!”
News of Aromas’s feats soon reached King Hendrick. Blinded by greed, the king summoned Aromas to his castle.
“You will make me a pair of your famous shoes, cobbler,” ordered the king. “Everything they touch will turn to gold. Do this, and you will live in the castle as my personal shoemaker. Fail me, and you will face the gallows! I will arrive in the morning to collect my prize.”
“What am I to do?” Aromas asked his father when he returned home. He had planned to give his father the next pair, hoping they would cure him. “The pedlar woman warned me that the leaves do not work in that way. I am sure to fail him!”
“You have been given a great gift, Aromas,” smiled his father. “I am sure all will be fine.”
That night, Aromas followed the path to the Moonlight Tree. When he arrived, he made a horrifying discovery: the tree was gone. All that was left were two crumpled up, lifeless leaves lying on the cold ground. Panic-stricken, Aromas, carefully picked up the leaves and returned to his shop.
All night he worked, doing his best to turn the leaves into shoes. He even used fur and wood to strengthen their structure, hoping they would please the king. Exhausted from his night’s work, Aromas collapsed on his workbench and fell asleep.
The king arrived the next day as he had promised. Startled by the king’s arrival, Aromas jumped up from his workbench, revealing the shoes. King Hendrick ordered his servants to replace his royal shoes with the pair Aromas had created.
Aromas took a deep breath as the king took his first step onto the cobblestone street. To his surprise, the first cobblestone that the king touched turned to gold. A greedy smile shaped the king’s lips. He bent down to pick up the gold. He could not budge it.
He tried again! Still, it would not budge. When the king ordered a peasant to come to his aid, the peasant had no trouble removing the cobblestone. The king snatched it from the peasant but the moment it touched his hands, the cobblestone returned to its original state.
At that moment, the king realised a valuable lesson. The kind acts of the cobbler boy had taught him that there was more wealth in the act of giving than in the act of taking.
Smiling, King Hendrick turned to Aromas and said, “You have lived up to your end of the bargain, cobbler. As it seems that the shoes do work, but I cannot use them, I present them as a gift to the village. Use it to pay your taxes, rebuild the village and live fruitful lives.”
From that day forth, the village of Frankenpot lived happily ever after. As for Aromas, the king honoured his promise, and he and his father moved to the castle where they lived happily for the rest of their days.