Ján Uličiansky

The Four Elves and the Fairy

translated by Charles Sabatos

Reprinted with permission of Perfekt.

“Croak! Croak! Can I believe my eyes? The little fairy is back… with the hurdy gurdy! Finally!” the frog welcomed Viva.

“Tree frog! Everything was just as you told me. You really are a fortune-teller. That elf had locked himself in his house and was listening to his music over and over.”

In the meantime, the frog had jumped out of the tree and sat astride the barrel organ.

“I can understand why he didn’t want to part with it, when he held the power of the weather in his hands.”

Viva remembered everything Freddo had made her endure, and she whispered a complaint:

“And he had no manners at all…”

The frog wasn’t listening to her, however. She was staring greedily at the hurdy gurdy.

“Show it to me, let me see this musical gadget.”

Viva answered honestly:

“I’d rather give it right to Piccolo.”

The frog jumped up as if someone wanted to throw her into boiling water:

“That’s just perfect! What is he to you? We have the hurdy gurdy, don’t we? We do!”

Viva still didn’t understand what the frog was scheming and why she had really sent her to get the hurdy gurdy. She too looked at it with pleasure:

“Isn’t it beautiful? Careful, don’t drop it.”

The frog turned it over from every side, and even tried to turn the handle of the barrel organ.

“A tree frog dropping something?” she laughed. “Look at my fingers! I have suckers on each one! Once I catch something, it’s mine for good! Croak!”

Then she clutched the hurdy gurdy and jumped into the tree with it. Viva asked her in alarm:

“What are you doing, Futura? Where are you off to with the hurdy gurdy?”

“Not everyone needs to see what treasure I’ve laid my hands on,” the frog said deceitfully. She jumped into a higher branch. “I’ll hide the hurdy gurdy high in the treetop.”

“But it’s not yours,” protested Viva.

The tree frog chortled:

“Balderdash! Stuff and nonsense, and fly droppings on top of that! Am I Futura the fortune-teller? Yes! You told me yourself that I know how to predict the weather better than anyone else in all the land. From now on my predictions will be infallible. If I say that tomorrow the birds will start singing? They will! If I open the springtime drawer, that is. Would you like a summer storm, dear friends? Croak! Croak!”

The little fairy still didn’t understand what the frog was talking about.

“Futura!” she called pleadingly.

The frog began to scowl at her from the tree:

“Yes? What do you wish? An autumn breeze to ruffle your fair hair? The all-powerful Futura can arrange it for you! It’s in her hands now! She will change the weather as she pleases!”

Viva stood helplessly beneath the old oak and sobbed:

“No! Please give me back the hurdy gurdy…”

Futura the tree frog started to turn the crank of the barrel organ and her croaking voice rang out from the tree:

“After winter comes autumn, after summer comes spring!

I’ll change the calendar, and decide everything!

A heat wave on New Year’s, and frost the next day.

Nature takes the orders when the frog has her way!”

Viva the fairy didn’t know what to do. She started to scream at Futura:

“Freddo the Elf was right! You’re a nasty old toad!”

The tree frog puffed out her cheeks and retorted:

“Just wait, you little viper! Who stole the hurdy gurdy? Did I? No. You did! Who didn’t want to wait for the right time to come, as nature had planned?”

“What will happen to us now?” Viva sniffled. She stumbled helplessly around the tree. But there was no one around to help her.

The frog went on boasting:

“What do you think? Everything will go on as it was. Except that the hurdy gurdy of the four seasons has finally fallen into the right hands.”

Viva asked in confusion:

“Pardon me? I don’t understand you.”

Futura settled comfortably on the branch and started to explain:

“My pretty! You’ve seen for yourself: as long as Freddo, Piccolo, Solario and Vento shared the hurdy gurdy… it was always a problem for them to reach the oak on time without missing the spring or autumn equinox, or the summer or winter solstice. From now on, it will be much easier: I’ll play the hurdy gurdy and nature will dance to it as I please!”

The little fairy started to weep again:

“Futura! Pretty please…”

The wicked frog jumped up to the next branch with the hurdy gurdy and proclaimed imperiously:

“From now on, saying please won’t be enough! Leave me alone now… I have to think over how much I should charge for changing the seasons on demand. You can be sure that I’ll ask extra for a warm summer night… and I’ll give a discount for a wet, misty autumn morning.”

The fairy, huddling at the trunk of the old oak, whispered quietly:

“Pretty please… open the lid a little bit, like Piccolo the spring elf would. I’m terribly cold. I can’t stand it!”

“Get used to it! From now on, no one in the world will have things easy: animals, people, or even little fairies!”

The wind rustled through the crown of the old oak and Futura, carrying the magic hurdy gurdy, crawled into her hideout.

Poor Viva!

Numb with cold, she walked away from the place where she had been betrayed. She couldn’t understand how she could have let herself be tricked like this. Because she wanted to see her beloved spring elf after such a long time, she had deprived the little guardians of the four seasons of their magic hurdy gurdy.

What could she do now?

The little fairy wandered through the cold forest. She no longer had the energy to run as she had while looking for the house of Freddo the winter elf. Ashamed, her feet numb, she set out to look for the cottage of the spring elf.

Who knows what he would say to her, if she could even find him? How could she explain that she herself had given the magic hurdy gurdy to the greedy old tree frog?

Well… those who haven’t the slightest trace of falsehood and hypocrisy in their hearts cannot guess what secrets might be hidden in the souls of their supposed friends.

© Mullek and Sherwood