Fairy tale: Tina Two-Languages
Once upon a time a little girl lived in a small village at the edge of the woods. Most people in the village were happy doing as little as possible. They all did what they had to do but no more. Tina, however, was different. She always wanted to learn something new.
The villagers went to the stream and fished, and Tina went with them to watch. “What are you doing?” she asked. “How do you catch the fish?” she asked. “Go away you irritating young person”, they replied.
Tina did not spend all her time bothering the villagers though. She used to wander into the woods on her own from time to time. “Hello birds”, she would say. “Hello sheep”, she would say. “Hello rabbits”, she would say. “Tweet, baaaa, and thweep”, they would reply.
The villagers went to the fields in the Spring to plant corn, and Tina went with them to watch. “How do you know how much to plant?” she asked. “How do you know where to plant it?” she asked. “Go away you irritating young person”, they replied.
Tina continued to wander into the woods on her own from time to time. “Hello goats”, she would say. “Hello little pigs”, she would say. “Hello worms”, she would say. “Greep, oink, and shooop”, they would reply.
The villagers went to the fields in autumn to harvest the corn. “How do you know it is ready?” asked Tina. “How do you know you’ve got enough?” asked Tina. “Go away you irritating young person”, they replied.
Tina continued to wander into the woods on her own from time to time. As she did so she begun to understand what the birds and the sheep were saying to her. She began to talk back to them.
Next she began to understand what the rabbits and the goats were saying to her, and she began talking back to them.
Finally she began to understand what the pigs were saying to her, and she found this very interesting. She began spending afternoons in the field by the stream exchanging gossip with the pigs.
She never understood what the worms were saying to her. But neither did the birds and the sheep, or the rabbits or the goats. The pigs maintained a certain ambivalence.
By Christmas the villagers had got fed up with Tina. “What use is she?” they asked each other. “She doesn’t cook because she is always following us around. She doesn’t sew because she is always following us around. She doesn’t make candles for the long winter nights, because she is always following us around”.
One old woman, by the name of Martha, had a particular dislike of Tina. She was jealous of her because, even though the villagers claimed not to like Tina, they talked about her all the time. “Nobody has made candles this winter,” she said to anyone who would listen. “We must send someone through the horrible woods to the village on the other side to buy some”.
“Who can we send?” the villager replied. “We are all busy fishing, and collecting firewood, and walking around.” “We can send Tina!” Martha replied. “B-b-but the last three people who went through the woods never returned,” the villager replied. “They got lost or got eaten.”
“Exactly!” Martha replied.
Eventually when Martha had talked to enough of the villagers, everybody thought it was someone else’s idea, and then everyone thought that everyone else had agreed with the idea, and then everyone agreed with the idea because they thought that everyone else had already agreed with the idea.
So the villagers told Tina that she had to go through the woods to fetch candles from the other village. “Oh,” said Tina. And that she had to avoid getting lost. “Oh oh,” said Tina. And that she had to avoid getting eaten. “Oh, gulp,” said Tina.
As Tina entered the woods she spoke to her friends and they spoke to her. They agreed to join her on her walk, and they all tweeted, baaaed, and thweeped, greeped, oinked, and shoooped as they went along. Nobody knew what the shoooping meant, of course, except maybe the pigs.
They had not gone far through the woods when the birds gave a tweet of alarm. “There is a fox ahead,” they said. “He wants to eat you”. Tina talked with the rabbits and they dug a big hole, and the fox fell in.
They had not gone much further through the woods when the sheep baaaed an urgent warning. “There is a big, bad wolf ahead and he wants to eat you,” they said. Tina talked with the pigs and they built a cage from twigs and vines and tricked the wolf into sitting in it before they closed the door and tied it firmly shut.
Eventually they all reached the other village. The animals sat at the edge of the wood and the pigs gave Tina wise advice on how to bargain for candles. She got one hundred and twenty two candles for the price of one hundred and twenty, and a free sandwich and a glass of fresh spring water.
Three days later she said goodbye to her friends at the edge of the woods, and walked back into the village with almost enough candles for everyone for the winter. The villagers were amazed and delighted. They all praised Tina and gave her another sandwich and a big glass of foaming ale.
Martha was consumed with jealousy. “If it’s that easy,” she thought, “I will do it myself and get an even bigger mug of foaming ale and even more praise”.
“One hundred and twenty two candles for the price of one hundred and twenty,” she roared at the villagers. “Bah! I can do MUCH better than that. I will go and get us all a proper bargain!”
She stormed off out of the village and down the hill to the woods. The animals watched as she approached. “Out of my way,” she shouted, throwing a stone at a bird. “Out of my way,” she shouted, shoving a sheep aside. “Out of my way,” she shouted, kicking a rabbit. “Out of my way,” she shouted, hitting a goat on the head. “Out of my way,” she shouted, throwing her shoe at a pig. “Out of my way,” she shouted, trying to stamp on a worm as she hurried to pick up her shoe before the pig ran away with it.
“You stupid animals. Keep out of my way, do you hear – not that you can understand because you’re just animals and not people,” she yelled as she got to the woods and disappeared into the trees. Everyone watched her go, but none of the creatures tried to talk with her because, after all, they were just stupid animals.
They didn’t tell her about the fox who had climbed out of the hole the rabbits had dug. They didn’t tell her about the big, bad wolf who had managed to free himself from the cage that the pigs had built. They watched her go and they never saw her again.
And neither did the villagers.