Bald Boy and the Squirrel
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Bald Boy and the Squirrel
A Turkish Story by Meltem Basel and Anonymous
One upon a time, in a small village in Turkey, there lived a mother and her loyal son. The son was known by all as Bald Boy because even though he was still quite young he had no hair on his head at all.
Bald Boy and his mother were very poor indeed and so each day Bald Boy would take up his basket and venture out into the woods in search of food.
‘Good luck, my son,’ the old woman would call out as Bald Boy waved goodbye and set out on his daily journey.
One day, as he was searching the forest floor for the juicy mushrooms that could often be found growing in the shadows of the tall trees, Bald Boy was sure that he could hear a young girl crying. When he looked up he noticed a little squirrel sitting on the branch of the tree above his head. The squirrel was crying inconsolably and so Bald Boy reached out to comfort the little creature. He took the squirrel in his arms and stroked her and sang to her and assured her that everything was going to be okay.
When at last the squirrel stopped crying, the two friends got to talking and Bald Boy explained how he lived with his mother and how they were very poor.
‘I need to come into this forest each day in search of food because we have no money,’ he told the squirrel.
It was then that the little squirrel said, ‘You have been very kind to me today so I am going to help you in return.’
Then the little squirrel jumped out of Bald Boy’s hands and said, ‘Follow me, follow me.’
The young boy followed the squirrel through the forest for many hours until they reached a cliff edge that overlooked the lush green valley below.
‘You must climb down this cliff,’ said the squirrel. ‘When you reach the bottom you will find the Grouse Queen. She will ask you three questions and you must answer them all correctly to receive the prize.’
The squirrel climbed up onto Bald Boy’s shoulder and whispered the answers to the three questions in his ear. And once she had done so she jumped down and scampered back into the forest without another word.
Bald Boy made himself a rope out of twine and lowered himself down the cliff edge and made his way to where the squirrel had told him the Grouse Queen lived. When she saw him approaching, the Queen stopped Bald Boy in his tracks and demanded that he answer three questions. ‘If you do not answer correctly,’ she said in her stern voice, ‘then you will lose your head.’
Bald Boy was very nervous but he nodded all the same and awaited the first question. The Queen indicated to a cherry tree nearby.
‘How many cherries are growing on this cherry tree?’ she asked.
‘There are as many cherries on that tree as there are feathers on your back,’ replied Bald Boy without hesitation.
The Queen nodded approvingly and then asked, ‘Where is the middle of the earth?’
‘You are standing on the middle of the earth,’ said Bald Boy with just a hint of doubt in his voice.
Once again the Queen nodded approvingly. Then she cleared her throat and prepared for her third and final question. She presented Bald Boy with two identical looking walnuts and asked, ‘Which is the heavier of these two walnuts?’
Bald Boy looked at both nuts and then tossed them into a nearby stream. One of the nuts stayed afloat but the other disappeared beneath the surface.
‘The one which has sunk beneath the water is the heavier of the two, Your Majesty.’
The Queen could not deny that all three answers were correct and so she reluctantly handed Bald Boy the large pot of gold that was his rightful prize.
The young boy climbed back up the cliff face with his pot of gold strapped to his back and ran into the forest to thank the little squirrel for her kindness. But when Bald Boy eventually found the squirrel she was crying once more, her head resting in her tiny front paws as the tears fell to the ground all around her.
‘Why are you so sad?’ asked Bald Boy.
‘I used to be a beautiful Princess until the Grouse Queen cast a spell on me and turned me into a squirrel. Now the only thing that will set me free is a single drop of Emerald Water from the lake in the dragon’s cave.’
Bald Boy was so very grateful to the little squirrel for saving him and his mother from a life of poverty that he instantly promised to fetch a drop of the Emerald Water. He marched into town and used some of his gold to buy the sharpest sword from the blacksmith. Then he climbed the Mountain of Kaf towards the dragon’s cave.
When he reached the cave, Bald Boy raised his sword and did battle with the two giant snakes that guarded the entrance to the cave. the fight was fierce and bloody but Bald Boy eventually cut the heads from the evil snakes and threw them from the edge of the mountain.
Deep inside the cave the evil dragon stirred. He stretched his wings and took flight to see what was happening with his snake guards. It was then that Bald Boy crept unnoticed into the dragon’s lair and filled his glass bottle with the precious Emerald Water. When he was sure it was safe he ran from the lair and climbed back down the mountain and disappeared into the forest to find the little squirrel.
‘I have returned,’ he told his friend as he raised the bottle triumphantly into the air, ‘and I have the Emerald Water for you.’
Bald Boy poured some of the water into his open palm and watched it run between his fingers into the forest floor. The last drop he saved for the squirrel who jumped down from the tree to drink from Bald Boy’s palm.
As soon as she had taken the drop of Emerald Water there was a blinding flash of white light that illuminated the gloomy forest for miles and miles. When the light eventually faded a beautiful Princess stood before Bald Boy with tears of gratitude in her eyes.
Bald Boy escorted the Princess back to the Royal Palace and when the Sultan saw his beautiful daughter he was overjoyed.
‘You are a brave man and you shall never again want for anything,’ he assured Bald Boy as he embraced the youth fondly.
That was when Bald Boy remembered his poor mother waiting back home for her mushrooms. He thanked the Princess and the Sultan and he took his pot of gold and returned home to his mother after shopping for gifts and food at the local market.
The old woman could not believe the story that Bald Boy told her over dinner that night, but one thing was for sure… her brave son would never again have to enter the forest in search of food. The old woman smiled to herself then as she dipped her silver spoon into a nice big bowl of mushroom soup.