|Illustration by Robert Anning Bell
My story got a mention in the Listener! from the highly respected and wonderful Kate Di Goldi.
"so I’d like to commend several other stories: Jeri and Del, for its economy and wit and re imagining of the witch as a producer of reality television..."
How cool is that?!
Well, I didn't win the Goethe Institute Grimms fairytale competition and I guess we will find out shortly who has, although nobody I know that entered did (and just about every children's author in NZ had a go!). I wasn't expecting to win at all (no really truly). I wrote it because writing for a competition gives you a really good end point to write for and I have always been deadline driven. Speaking of deadlines I have a book to create for Scholastic by the end of February. Really exciting and I can't really say any more than that except I might have been working my entire creative life to do this book. It's that perfect a topic for me and no, it's not about sauvignon blanc!
Once upon a time, in a large field
near the River Hutt, there stood a tall tower that dominated the land as far as
the eye could see. It was cold, grey and imposing and it was known to all as
The tower was ruled by a fearsome
witch. Her lips were red as blood, her fingernails sharp and she had a hooked
nose that no amount of surgery had managed to fix. She wore her black streaked
hair in an exquisitely styled bob and designer clothes only ever graced her
back. Her many servants did her bidding in fear, lest they might be put under
The witch spent her days concocting
new formulas by which the ordinary folk might be drugged. They had strange and
curious names like 'The Stars Do Dance,' 'Masters of Banqueting' and the most
stupefying of all; 'The Hapless Apprentice.' With these she could control and
influence the hearts and minds of simple people and consequently dine with the
rich and famous. With the aid of her alchemists, sorcerers and the company
accountant, she had devised a new and more bewitching enchantment and named it 'Aoteroa
Hath Talent'. With it she would be able to capture artless maidens and callow
youths then starve and control them until they were slim, stylish and sang like
nightingales. They would then be signed up to contracts that would keep them
slaves to the Tower forever and make her a real rich witch.
One day, a pair of young lovers,
Jeri and Del walked beside the river, picking daisies and sharing a cigarette,
which were precious in this land since the King's Treasurer had increased the
love you so much Del,' said Jeri as she exhaled, 'I want to hang out with you
forever and one day maybe like, get a pet?'
Del tucked her tiny hand into his
and carried on texting with his other. The rumble and hum of horsepower on the
Autobahn beyond was suddenly broken by a sweet sound filling the air around
Lady Gaga!' said Jeri, 'I so want to be like her!'
Del stopped texting and listened to
coming from over there,' he said pointing to the tower. Jeri pulled his hand.
Del shook his head, he stood rooted
to the spot; he still hadn't finished his filter tip.
go near that tower Jeri, nothing good ever came out of it,' he warned.
'But listen to that, it's awesome!'
Jeri said and let go of his hand. Del watched as she ran towards the music and
he knew that she was lost to him. He could neither weep not speak, so he texted
his mate Zach Ruru and asked what he should do. Now Zach was a wise young man
and said : bro git a puppy, chicks luv dem
So Del set off to the Olde Animate
Shoppe to find a canine that might win back the heart of a star struck maiden.
He wandered through the door, past guinea pigs in foul smelling straw, sly
kittens clawing carpet covered poles and turtles like rocks in their warm
watery tanks, until he came to the dogs. There was a hairy beast with teeth as
large as dragon fangs, a sleek hound baying for biscuits and a fat poodle with clan
tartan coat, but he could not see a pup in sight. At last Del managed to
attract the attention of an assistant. She was stout and kindly and reminded
him of his grandmother who had been eaten by the wolves of Social Development
have but one small dog' said the woman, 'and it is very special with the power
to charm all but the hardest of beings.' She reached inside her fleece and
pulled out the tiniest pup imaginable, with ears like a bat and eyes like huge
black baubles. It wore a pearl studded collar and trembled in the harsh light.
it looks like a rat,' said Del.
'said the woman, 'it's a girl thing. One look into this dog's eyes and any one
you desire will follow you to the ends of the earth.'
As she handed the minute animal to
Del, she told him 'Her name is Daffodil and you must be very, very gentle with
her: she has a fearsome bite.'
Del paid the woman all the money he
had saved for a new spoiler, tucked the dog into his hoodie and journeyed off
towards Avalon. The gates of the tower were heavily guarded by the witch's
henchmen. Nobody could enter without a golden pass, which were kept on guard's
belt. Del heard music coming from inside the tower, but outside people wept and
moaned and threw themselves onto the ground in despair.
they cried, 'oh why are the judges so cruel?'
Del was terrified of what might be
inside; wizards, torturers and makeup artists, but most especially the powerful
witch. Summoning all his courage he walked up to the gate and took Daffodil out
of his hoodie and showed her to the guards.
said Lars, the fairer of the two, 'Who's a bootiful widdle puppy den?'
Whilst Lars played with Daffodil's
ears and kissed her little nose, Del was able to lift a golden pass from the guard's
barked Ralf, the other guard. Del showed him his card of gold and was let
inside the gates. He followed the music up a long corridor until he came to a
green door. From behind it came moaning and wails and the occasional right
chord. He was sure Jeri was in there but as he turned the handle, a chilling
voice said behind him,
you come for the audition?'
Del turned and found himself
staring into the bloodless face of the witch herself. She poked him with her
sharp finger. He thrust Daffodil at her, rather too roughly and the dog snapped,
biting and tearing at the witch's hands, ruining years of expensive manicures.
Whilst the witch screamed and called for her guards, Del yanked open the Green
Room door. Twenty five surprised maidens and a few buff young men turned to
look in surprise. The wailing stopped as they swallowed back their song
What are you doing here?' asked Jeri, walking to the front of the crowd wearing
nothing but small silver shorts and an inappropriate tee-shirt.
come to save you!' said Del, 'from yourself!' he bent down and picked up the
dog who had finished savaging the witch outside, 'and, I have bought you this.'
need more than that' said Jeri, ignoring the dog, 'I've got through to second
Del looked at her and realised they
would never live happily ever after, not whilst she had a microphone in her
hand. He turned to leave and bumped into Lars who was daubing the witch's hands
he said, handing the little dog to the guard, 'her name is Daffodil, you can keep
As he walked back up the corridor,
he heard Lars running to catch up.
shrieked the witch, 'come back to me this minute.'
yelled Lars over his shoulder, 'I'm going with him.'
The witch screamed at him and
demanded to know why her faithful servant would leave her.
now I have Daffodil,' replied Lars, 'and you don't bring me flowers anymore.'