Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ The Gardener and the Cake-Maker

Last week it was Farizad of the Rose’s Smile. This week it has to be the old riddling story that must have come back to my mind in the wake of Farizad because it’s also got roses in it. In the last few days, I’ve been trying to update it a bit to make it more suitable for our modern times.

That’s why the gardener’s wife in the story (she’s crucial) is now an entrepreneurial Cake-maker who sells her excellent cakes not only to Lord Top Noddy, her husband’s employer, but to everyone else on his vast estate. Indeed, it is probably the fact that she is doing so well that has aroused the ire of the Jealous Evil Spirit of Capitalism whose mean-mindedness is the motivating force of the story as it is now.

The story: The first bit

One evening, our gardener came home from a hard day’s work to find that although the smell of newly baked cakes pervaded his kitchen, his wife was not there.  What could have happened? Where could she possibly be? (Such questions are especially helpful when telling this story to older children. The zanier the answers, the better.)

For two days and two nights, the gardener was so distraught  he could barely continue his work. But continue he did because he was fully aware that his employer, Lord Top Noddy, was a very selfish man with no appreciation for what he regarded as the lower orders. In consequence, he would undoubtedly have thrown the gardener out of his tied house without any pay or consideration if he hadn’t kept up his work.

Naturally enough, our gardener was distraught. With little sleep and a complete absence of cake, he was fading fast when, miracle of miracles, on the third night after her disappearance, his wife suddenly reappeared in their cottage as darkness fell.

The story: The second bit

‘What happened?’ her husband enquired. ‘Where have you been?’

‘My dearest darling,’ the Cake-Maker replied. ‘The Jealous Evil Spirit of Capitalism is what did it. In its nastiness, it snatched me away and now it has set you a terrible test. No more company, no more cakes, I can only be back here till dawn tomorrow unless you can pass the test the Jealous Evil Spirit has set you. For at dawn, unless you do it, I’ll be returned to my prison which has been specially chosen to taunt you. You see, my prison is a rose. And if, at dawn, you cannot identify me among all the other roses in the garden outside, I’ll be a gonner for good.’

As we can all imagine, the gardener was very dismayed. Outside were hundreds and hundreds of roses. His only comfort was when his lovely wife told him that the particular rose-bush where she’d been confined was the one just outside their back door. Nevertheless, the task would be hard. He must know which particular rose she was and put out his hand to touch her or that would be it, caput, the end.

Now imagine how hard it was in the first light of dawn when the gardener suddenly saw his wife disappear. Know what I mean? For if you’ve ever seen that happen you’ll know that it’s like a sudden change in the light. And it’s very, very quick.

The gardener now felt terribly nervous except that, as he went out to study the rose-bush just outside their back door, he reminded himself that he did know about roses. Surely he could complete the task. Well, he looked. And he looked. And, this being a story, he had to look a third time before he saw the answer to the riddle he’d been set.

The story: The end bit

And can you guess what he saw? (Answers on one side of the postcard please.) He saw that, apart from one single rose on that rose-bush, all the others had drops of dew upon them, tiny drops of what looks like water except that it shines like pearl. For this was the very early morning and early morning is when you see dew. Suddenly now, the gardener smiled as he reached out his hand to touch the one rose which had no dew upon it. And why not? Because until that early morning, his wife had been in his arms inside their house. So he touched that one rose – which also, it seemed, had a slight whiff of cake about it – and there she was, alive and smiling and full of plans.

The end – except that it has to be added that it was undoubtedly this event that decided the gardener and his wife to move away from Lord Top Noddy’s estate and set up in business on their own. It didn’t prove easy but they liked it much better for now they could live and work as they wished and vote Remain if they wanted. Which is what they did.

The end.

PS: My top photo is me and the smiling frog newly installed in my local park. The second is an early morning picture. The third is undoubtedly where the gardener and the Cake-Maker lived after they’d set up on their own.

PSS: Great thanks to all who’ve been sending good wishes. With Chemo Number 4 coming up this next Tuesday, it’s especially appreciated.


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