Tuesday, 30 April 2019

"Opening Chapter" winner is...

...Diane Antone!

Congratulations Diane for your sweet and magical tale of the rats - here is your story and my illustration of it.

I shall send you the special miniature storybook making bok and the painting this week.


Also thanks to Mary for her entry which was very interesting and pictorial and so I am offering you Mary a print of your choice from my Etsy shop - so do let me know.

Thanks for entering both.

WINNER - Diane Antone

Minka and Moz and the Magic Cauldron


Once upon a time, long long ago before there were any people, the world was full of animals. They lived in the woods and forests which covered the earth, and their homes were holes in the ground, like hobbit holes, or nests in the trees, or houses which they built out of sticks and stones. They lived in peace and ate honey from the bees and fruit from the trees. And all the animals were very clever and happy.

And the cleverest of all were the rats.

Now, you might think a rat is a little, furry animal that scurries quick as a flash across the garden or lives in a sewer, or is inclined to leave a sinking ship. But no, not in those days of old.

In those days, before people came along, the rats were much bigger, like dinosaurs were bigger than lizards are today. The rats had clever little hands just like us, and they often stood up straight on two legs when it was called for, although they also could run very fast on their four feet when they needed to.

This story is about two rather special rats, even more special than the average rat from the olden days. Their names were Minka and Moz. Minka was a rather attractive white girl rat with a pink nose and paws and a very clever way with magical spells. Moz was her brother and he was black and white, and had a great talent for lighting fires and chopping wood.

Minka and Moz lived together in a little wooden house in a deep dark pine forest, where in the winter the snow lay very thick on the ground. And this particular winter, the snow was even thicker than usual, and the sky was grey and dark and full of even more snow that was getting ready to fall in thick soft flakes. It was very cold.

Minka and Moz had a very special cauldron, a huge round cooking pot made of metal with a big loopy handle and three sturdy legs. It was the envy of all their neighbours, not only the other rats but all the animals in the forest - the deer and foxes and rabbits and birds and all the rest who all wished they had a cauldron too. Because Minka and Moz’s cauldron was a magic cauldron, and that meant it was much more than just a cooking pot.

When the autumn came, Moz would find his axe and start to chop branches into logs. He piled them all up into a big stack in readiness for the winter and covered them with branches thick with pine needles to keep off the snow.

Meanwhile Moz would scrub and polish the cauldron until it gleamed. Using a paste made from ashes and water and some old newspaper, all the black soot from last year was soon cleaned away. Only the very purest and cleanest metal cauldron was good enough for the spells that would be cast over it in the winter.

Soon, when winter arrived and the snow started to fall, Minka gathered some twigs and dry pine cones so she could light a fire. On top she laid logs and then the softly shining cauldron went on last. Minka and Moz stood back and admired their work, wiping the sweat from their brows with their clever pink hands.

‘Well, Minka, that’s a very fine looking cauldron we have there, I must say,’ said Moz appreciatively. Minka smiled. ‘And a very fine looking pile of logs, too, Moz,’ she replied. ‘We’ll be able to keep the cauldron bubbling all winter long.’

Moz nodded and a rumbling sound came from the region of his tummy. ‘Time for a snack,’ said Minka. The two rats headed indoors and made themselves honey sandwiches as a treat for all their hard work.



“When will IT happen?  Who will join us?”  The young rat was very excited and full of questions.

Time would tell of course, but they had spread the news throughout the nearby forest as they gathered nuts, berries, fruits and whatever they could forage.  They wanted to be sure they had enough for those who joined them for such a spectacular event.

“How can we be sure it will happen?”, asked the young rat.  He had heard talk of it, but had never experienced it before.  The way it had been described to him, he wondered if he would feel afraid.

“Are you sure it will happen?”, the young rat asked.  “What if we missed it?”

“Now settle down my young friend”, said the older rat.  “Patience is important as we can’t know for sure when it will happen.”

The young rat was quiet for a while as he thought about what could happen.  “What if I am sleeping and I miss it?” he asked.

His older friend chuckled and then assured him by reminding him that rats are nocturnal.  When the younger rat looked puzzled, his friend explained that nocturnal meant sleeping in the day and staying awake at night.

“So the people will miss it!”, the young rat exclaimed.  “They will be sleeping in their cozy cabin.”

As the older rat continued to stir the pot of forest stew, he thought about other years when the people stayed up very late hoping they would see it too.  When they saw it, they became very quiet and seemed to be in awe as they stared at the sky.  But other years the people seemed to get tired of waiting and went back inside to enjoy the warmth of their cabin.

Some time ago, the older rat had adventured into the people’s cabin one night (before young rat was born) and was puzzled by some of the things he saw.  As he peeped through a hole where the wall met the floor, he noticed a person sitting at a wheel that was turning fluffy white fleece into some kind of string.  That would feel so nice in our nest he thought to himself.  A young girl was peeling vegetables that she pulled from a basket on the floor.  They looked delicious!  He wondered if he dare run over to the basket and drag a carrot back without anyone seeing him.  He decided he would just watch for a while so he could learn their routine and perhaps sneak back another time.  He also saw a man with a piece of wood and a small knife.  Wood shavings were falling to the floor.  Again, rat thought how nice the wood shavings would be in his nest.  As he spotted a brown and white dog gnawing on a bone, he imagined how tasty the bone would make his simmering pot of forest stew.

He was still remembering his visit to the cabin when his young friend spoke again.  “When IT happens, I want to be able to name the colours.  Would you explain the colours to me again please?”

The older rat thought briefly and then said, we will play a game that will help you remember the names of colours.

“Oh boy” said the young rat.  “I love games”.

The questions began:  The colour of the apples in the orchard?  The colour of the grass in spring?  The colour of the water in the pond?  The colour of carrots?  The colour of the plums on the people’s tree?  The colour of the sun that is shining when we go to sleep?

“Will we see all those colours when IT happens?”, the young rat wanted to know.

His older friend replied, “You will find out soon enough.  Now let’s get busy and prepare for all our forest friends to join us when IT happens.”

While they worked away, young rat imagined what IT might look like.


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