Phoenix Ark are delighted to publish another story, for parents to read aloud with kids, from PolliPigglePuggar, by David Clement-Davies
THE TALE OF HOPPETTY THE GRASSHOPPER
Once upon a day the sun was shining with all its might, just as it loves to do. The misty skies were quivering with the turning spring and great billows of itching gadflies rode the morning air, in clouds of glittering wings. They only had a day. In the shining meadow the long grass was rich and juicy, thick as little pencils, while among the fattly firming stalks of luscious green, casting their shadows everywhere, a new-born Grasshopper, tiny as a nail, fresh as a dew drop, popped up his little head and looked about in wonder.
Wow. His little Grasshop-eyes were huge, and the fine antennae fingers on his head shook with interest, and a mighty question too, that Hoppetty couldn’t wait to ask. ‘Oh please,‘ he cried, to all his brothers and sisters, flashing through the stalks above and darting everywhere, ‘can you tell me how I do that too? How to reach the sky.‘
‘Too young, Hoppetty,’ snapped a brother scornfully, and with a gigantic spring, launching himself straight over a Dandelion, like a fly. ‘Too weak, Hoppetty,’ winked a sister, flicking like a weightless dart, to the very top of the highest flower, ‘Go and ask our parents, silly Hoppetty.’
So the little Grasshopper turned and walked on his little legs over the earth to his mum and dad. But they were busy making meadow music with their strong back legs, a kind of cerricketting, side by side, and talking of all the dangers in the meadow too, to even notice their tiny offspring’s question. Poor little Hoppety bowed his head and nearly cried.
“Oh why does nobody show me anything at all?” he wailed.
But then Hoppetty’s brave little heart rallied and he decided to ask the other creatures what he wanted to know. The creatures in the meadow.
So off the big-eyed Grasshopper set, through the long grasses, up the meadow, step by step. At first Hoppetty was very frightened and rather slow, creeping through the stalks, like a forest of giant trees looming around him, tipping forwards too, always looking down, because Grasshopper’s legs at the back are bigger than the front. But at last he came on a yellow backed-Bumblebee, who he heard first, hovering over a buttercup and sticking pollen to her legs, like magic dust. Her face was shining like the sun, as Hoppetty looked up, and nectar dripped from her lips.
‘Please, Mrs BumbleBee,’ said Hoppetty nervously, feeling very small indeed, ‘Can you tell me how to touch the sky, just like you? Like the gadflies, and all my brothers and sisters too? I’m Hoppetty the Grasshopper.” ‘Fly in the sky, My Dear?” buzzed the busy bumblebee, though not unkindly, ‘Dear me no, Hoppetty, you haven’t any wings.’ With that the heavy laden bee took to the air again, abuzzing and afuzzing, but called out kindly too, ‘Up there, Hoppetty, below that tree, try the Caterpillar. They know a thing or two.‘
So off the bright green Grasshopper set again, a little less nervously this time, and there, on the edge of a leaf, hanging down from a low trailing branch, Hoppetty saw a jet black Caterpillar, furry as a spider, acurling and awhirling, aworming and asquirming and eating his home. ‘Please, Mr Caterpillar,’ cried Hoppetty, ‘Can you tell me how to fly?” ‘Not me,‘ answered the Caterpillar, chewing on his leaf, ‘I haven’t changed just yet. But when I eat enough, and spin myself a silk cocoon, then I’ll be a butterfly myself. All sun and air and breeze. I’m planning to take off.”
The little Grasshopper looked jealous and then monumentally sad. He sighed. ‘Besides,‘ said the Caterpiller, smacking his delicate lips, “Grasshoppers don’t fly, silly, they hop. They hop, skip and they jump. Suddenly.” “Oh yes,” said Hoppetty, “I forgot.” “But Try up there,” said the Caterpillar, beginning to spin the finest thread around itself, “Up the meadow, by those stones. Snail knows a thing or two.”
So Hoppetty walked on, faster now, and found Snail, like a homeless slug, lying beside her shell, trying to eat some earth. “Please,” said Hoppetty, “I want to launch myself, but I don’t know how to Hop.” “Mmmmm, beats me,” said the snail, “I haven’t any legs. I’m earth bound. Though I know your reach should always be bigger than your grasp. But tell you what, up there, by the old Kitchen Garden wall, lives the wisest creature in all the world. The Tortoise. Go ask him, Hoppetty, he knows everything.” So that’s exactly what brave Hoppetty did. He was going much faster now, even stepping over little stones, and less frightened of all the things around him, although Hoppetty stopped dead when he saw a dark green grass snake lift its head and flick its tongue, looking for a snack, just like him.
But the bright sun shone in the snake’s dim black eyes and he slithered coldly away, and Hoppetty went on, faster still, seeing a great brown wall of human bricks and stones, far in the distance, rising like a flat mountain before him. It was huge and it made him gulp and feel sick. It seemed to take for ever to even get near it, but there, in the earth , at the edge of the Kitchen garden Wall Hoppetty found the Tortoise. Or Hoppetty found his stoney shell, since tortoise was inside, contemplating things.
Now Hoppetty stepped up sharply, to the dark little hole where a head should have been and called out loudly. “Hello, Tortoise,” he cried, “I’m Hoppetty, and I’ve come to ask you how to hop.” It took an age before anything happened, but then, very slowly, a wrinkled head came out, blinking and sniffing the coming summer air. ‘To Hop?” said the Tortoise slowly, in a deeply ringing voice, “Well how should I know, little fool, I’m the slowest thing in all the world. I hardly ever move.” “But the cleverest,” said the bright eyed Grasshopper quickly, “Everyone knows that!”
“Mmmmm,” said the Tortoise, flattered and chewing on his ancient lips, “Mmmm.” His voice was as deep and ringing as an old stone well. “Well, I tell you what, Hoppetty, I’ll make you a bargain.” “Bargain?” piped the little Grasshopper. “Oh yes,” said the Tortoise, “nothing in life is quite for free. And I’m hungry, and this grave question of yours needs real food for thought.”
Hoppetty was pushing himself up on his back legs, his brave antennae quivering faster then ever before, as he wondered just what food for thought was. He waited and he waited and at last Tortoise spoke again. “So go and find me something delicious,” said the Tortoise, “And I might just tell you what you need to know.” “Some thing?” said Hoppetty, very smartly, “Well, I know Mrs Bee likes Pollen, and the Caterpillar loves his leaf, the Snail likes earth and snakes are simply silly. What shall I get you though?” Now the Tortoise looked at Hoppetty straight, and looked, and some strange new light came into his dark, slow eyes.”Cabbage,” he whispered suddenly, although not very fast, “I like my cabbage, Hoppetty, and it’s the only answer to your question too, I’m sure of it. So bring me a fresh new cabbage leaf, Hoppetty, and I will show you exactly how to hop, higher than anything else.” “Where,” said the Grasshopper, wonderingly, ready to run as fast as ever he could, “IN THERE,” answered the Tortoise ominously, turning his slow head, “Beyond the Kitchen Garden Wall.”
Now Hoppetty set off immediately, his heart filled with hope, but soon his spirit had sunk like the biggest stone, in the deepest pool, for though the little Grasshopper went around and around the wall, there simply was no way in at all. The Garden wall just was too high to climb, and the wooden door, when he found it, was blocked below with stones to stop the slugs getting in. It was impossible. The poor Grasshopper’s bursting heart was breaking, because if Hoppetty didn’t get Tortoise his Cabbage, he would never know the secret at all.
But then the sun came out again, and suddenly the little Grasshopper had a brilliant idea. So he jumped onto a stalk of grass, and sprang onto another, then up to a leaf, and now the top of the wall was not so high at all, he closed his eyes, and pushed and pushed and pushed and launched himself up and out. Hoppetty found himself sailing over, straight onto the finest cabbage leaf in all the Kitchen Garden. Hoppetty set to work, and now, eating a little himself, but cutting the best bit for his friend the Tortoise, so eager now to get the answer that his heart was doing somersaults, he turned and sprang, straight back over the wall again.
“I’ve got it,” cried Hoppetty proudly, landing like a gadfly right before his friend, “Your special cabbage. So please, Tortoise, now can you tell me just how to…OH!” As the great old Tortoise lowered his kind, wise head and smiled, pulling the delicious cabbage into his old mouth, Hoppety’s little heart took wing and soared. “HOP,” he cried delightedly, “But I hopped, and I popped and I dropped, and then I hopped again, all on my own, into the Garden and out again, over the wall and away. Hooray.” So off grateful Hoppetty went, thanking his friend, as the Tortoise chewed his most delicious leaf, ahopping and apopping, aspringing and asinging, the summer filling his brave little heart, Hoppetty, Hoppetty, Hoppetty, all the way home. Now he jumps quite the highest of all the grasshoppers in all the meadow, ever, does Hoppetty the brave.
David Clement-Davies 2011. All Rights Reserved.