Once upon a time, in a village far away, there lived six blind men.
One day the villagers were very excited, and when they asked what was happening they told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today!”
With the first day of spring, when the awakening earth puts on its garment of green, and the warm, fragrant air fans our faces and fills our lungs and appears even to penetrate to our hearts, we experience a vague, undefined longing for freedom, for happiness, a desire to run, to wander aimlessly, to breathe in the spring. The previous winter having been unusually severe, this spring feeling was like a form of intoxication in May, as if there were an overabundant supply of sap.
One morning on waking I saw from my window the blue sky glowing in the sun above the neighbouring houses. The canaries hanging in the windows were singing loudly, and so were the servants on every floor; a cheerful noise rose up from the streets, and I went out, my spirits as bright as the day, to go—I did not exactly know where. Everybody I met seemed to be smiling; an air of happiness appeared to pervade everything in the warm light of returning spring. One might almost have said that a breeze of love was blowing through the city, and the sight of the young women whom I saw in the streets in their morning toilets, in the depths of whose eyes there lurked a hidden tenderness, and who walked with languid grace, filled my heart with agitation.
When I finally made it to the city of Wilming, I had only spoken to two other people. There was the border guard, who asked a few questions (very impolitely), and the taxi driver, who I couldn’t get to stop talking, even though I couldn’t understand a word he said. Was he even speaking English? I tried replying to him making noncommittal noises, but ended up desperately staring at my phone, trying to give him a clear hint that I wanted to be alone with my thoughts. I needn’t have bothered; he just seemed to like the sound of his own voice, and it didn’t seem to matter whether I responded or not.
The next person I met was the secretary at the admissions office, who brusquely gave me a huge pile of papers, brochures and forms to fill out and return the next day, ‘Don’t lose them’, she admonished, and topped it all with a map with a big red X showing me where my ‘digs’ were. Before I could ask any questions she was speaking to the next student. I tried to figure out where I was, and realised with a sinking heart my accommodation was miles away. I took a wrong turn several times, avoiding eye contact with anyone I met, and dragging my rather noisy and wobbly suitcase behind me, it felt as if one of the wheels was about to come off, maybe it was a sign of things to come.
Once upon a time there lived a mother who had two daughters. One was her own child, the other her stepdaughter. She was very fond of her own daughter, but she could not so much as look at her step-daughter without shuddering. The only reason for this was that Marussa, her stepdaughter, was prettier than her own daughter, Holena.
The gentle-hearted Marusa did not know how beautiful she was, and so she could never understand why her mother was always so cross with her, no matter what she did.
She had to take hay to the cow and milk her. She had to do all the housework, tidying up the cottage, cooking, washing, spinning and sewing, and she did all this work alone, while Holena spent the time adorning herself and lazing about. But Marusa liked the work, for she was a patient girl, and even when her stepmother scolded and berated her, she bore it like a lamb.
It was no good, however, for her half sister and stepmother grew crueller and crueller every day, because anyone could see; Marusa was growing prettier and prettier and Holena uglier and uglier.
Once there was a girl, she was a good girl, but she was very, very greedy. She would eat anything. She would eat cows, dogs – she would even eat the earth from under your feet.
One day, her parents decided that they had had enough; she was eating them out of house and home. ‘Go away’, they said. ‘You are too greedy. We don’t want you anymore. Go and find yourself a rich husband who can afford to feed you.’