* illustration used with permission from loneanimator.deviantart.com
Once upon a time...
There once lived an ogre who loved to frolic about in his small forest domain; setting traps for prey, picking fresh daisies, climbing mighty oak trees and the like. The other forest creatures feared him, for after all, he was an ogre, and ogres have certain, shall we say, reputations. But truth be told, he really wasn't interested in playing the role of a monster. No, he was content with making strawberry jams, creamy porcupine puddings and a number of other fine ogre recipes handed down from his grandmama. His only weakness was that he had a ravenous appetite!
One chilly winter morning a wee leprechaun happened to stray onto the ogre's land. He was searching for his lost newt, his much beloved pet. Newts can be very difficult to find, as they like to hide under rocks or in tiny crevices. So it had been many days that this particular leprechaun, whose name was Charlie O'Hanlon, had been searching for his newt. Quite unexpectedly, Charlie suddenly found himself at the bottom of a large pit. One minute he was scrupulously searching for his pet, the next he was down in the pit rubbing his sore... backside!
"What a fine mess I've gotten meself into! he mused aloud. "Just what will be the final end of it?"
He didn't have to wait long for his answer. Thump, thump, thump - the heavy footsteps approached closer and closer. Then Charlie heard a deep voice cry out:
"Wintry, wintry, wintry day, just what fine prey be trapped today?"
Prey??? Charlie began to shake and sweat profusely, as a big one-eyed ogre looked down into the pit and said:
"Well, whatever it is, it's green."
He reached down into the pit with his long arm and pulled poor Charlie out by his boot. When the ogre saw that he'd caught a leprechaun he didn't quite know what to make of it. He had never seen one before except in a picture book, the last one he'd read before dropping out of school. And he had heard that leprechauns had lots of money!
"Lead me to yer pot o' gold wee fellow," said the ogre.
Charlie responded: " Er, excuse me, me ogre friend, what be yer name, lad?"
"Me name be Landru, and this be me land, sir," said the ogre.
Charlie replied: "Well, Landru, what a fine, strappin' fellow ye be. Tall and handsome. And so strong, why I'll bet..."
"ENOUGH!" bellowed the ogre. "Lead me to yer pot o'gold little man, or I'll be havin' ye for supper tonight."
"Now look Landru, er, Mr. Ogre, that's only a fairy tale. Leprechaun's have no more pots o' gold than elephants have wings. Now if ye be lookin' for a fine new hat I believe I can help ye out, lad. But this pot o' gold thing is only make-believe," Charlie implored.
"Hmmph! We will see. We will see," said Landru.
So he carried him under his arm to his small cabin in the forest thick, all the while whistlin' a bonnie tune. When they reached the cabin he placed the leprechaun in a little cage, and then began preparations for dinner. As it was, having dropped out of school when he was just a wee ogre had left him in a somewhat sorry plight. He wasn't particularly bright, and had never learned to read proper. His grandmama had never taught him how to make leprechaun stew, so he pulled out his great big cookbook and flipped the pages until he found a picture of a leprechaun.
"Aha!" he shouted. We will be havin' leprechaun stew after all!"
But as he tried to read the directions Landru got a bit stuck. The words just didn't seem to make any sense. Now, when an ogre gets frustrated bad things tend to happen. After throwing the cookbook through the kitchen window (hitting a poor woodchuck in the head and rendering the poor creature somewhat loopy) he grabbed the cage that the leprechaun was being held prisoner in and began shaking it violently. Of course, this caused poor Charlie's heart rate to accelerate, as he began to ponder what it might feel like to be literally shaken apart. He knew he had to act - NOW!
"Excuse me, Mr. Ogre, sir, but I couldn't help a noticin' that yer readin' could use a bit of polishin' up. I believe that if ye were to retrieve yer cookbook I might be a willin' to help ye out," Charlie said.
Oddly enough this seem to calm the ogre down, and he went outside to fetch his cookbook so that Charlie might read to him the directions for preparing leprechaun stew.
Now Charlie had graduated from leprechaun school magna-cum-laude, but more importantly, he had his wits about him. As he looked at the book he saw that there was indeed a recipe for leprechaun stew. How utterly ghastly, he thought to himself. Nevertheless, he had no intention of getting eaten on this cold, blustery night. So, he began dictating to Landru just what was needed for the stew. A little of this, a dash of that. Landru began singing an old ogre supper song that he had learned from his mama. Suddenly, Charlie burst out:
"Oh no! I cannot believe me eyes. Oh, Mr. Ogre, sir, I have some rather poor news. Listen carefully as I read these last sentences lad: Warning! Leprechauns can only be eaten safely on the third Wednesday of February, and only if it be a leap year. If eaten on any other day the eater will suffer from an intense bellyache, followed by seven years of unspeakable misfortunes. Well, there you have it lad, this be not a Wednesday, neither be it a leap year. I'm afraid you'll have to settle for somethin' else."
The ogre hunched over and slowly sat down.
"What am I to do with ye then? Ye have no pot o' gold. I can't bloody eat ye. What then? said Landru.
"I've got an idea lad," Charlie replied. "Let me out of this here cage, and I'll cook ye a nice pot o' carrot stew, and afterward I'll read ye a nice bedtime story. Would ye like that at all?"
Landru thought for a moment. He had never really been the fearsome ogre type. Still, he didn't have a single friend. And no one had offered to read him a story since his mama passed.
"Alright wee man, but ye had better not try and escape!" said the ogre.
Sure enough, Charlie did just as he'd said he would. They ate carrot stew, and then later Charlie read him a story. Needless to say it was not 'Jack and the Beanstalk'! Something friendly and calming. Before long the ogre was fast asleep. Charlie whispered to himself:
"Now I can be on me way, time to escape!"
But as he gazed over at the ogre he felt a wave of pity flood his tiny body. Maybe he could stay for just a wee bit longer. He looked over at the shattered window, and to his surprise who should be sitting on the ledge but his beloved lost newt.
"Perhaps today wasn't such a bad day after all," he quietly whispered to his little friend. "No, not really too bad at all."
*to be continued
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