Sunday, 12 January 2014

Unfair-y Tale Concluded

I love so many of the suggestions for finishing the tale.   No way could I choose the best, which is why I did a draw for the winner (see the end of the post.) 

Here is my own ending, which I wrote before reading anyone else's, or I might have been tempted to copy.


.....At this, Poor Little Red Shoes realised that she had been cruelly tricked.

She went as pale as snowflakes, but she didn't say a word, just sat down quietly beneath one of the trees that grew near the market.  She never cast another glance at Mrs. Applecheek’s stall, and didn't even notice when the man in the purple hat and jerkin (who was a wealthy and unpleasant courtier) bought her lace shawl for four and a half ducats, and took it away.  

Then the bustle of the market died down, the stallholders pulled their shutters closed, and everywhere became deserted. But still Little Red Shoes sat alone, her form barely visible as the evening mists crept over the town.

Some time later, the young soldier swung past.  His tour of duty was over, and he was going to get himself a meal.  But he recognised her, and hurried across.  “What are you doing?” he asked. “Where is your lace?”

At the sound of his voice, she looked at his face, then at Mrs. Applecheek’s stall, now shuttered for the night.

“That is the lace agent's stall!" cried the soldier. “And I see from your look that something sad has happened. I fear this is all my fault, for it was I who suggested you approached her.”

Poor Little Red Shoes shook her head.  “It's not your fault," she said. "Mrs. Applecheek is the one to blame - she's the one who tricked me."  Then she told the soldier about the competition and the two ducats, and she showed him the Terms and Conditions which still fluttered at the side of the stall.   

He walked over and read the treacherous words by the light of a match.  “This is indeed the Law," he said sorrowfully, when he had finished.  "And  I can't help you to argue it, for I'm no attorney. But I could help you to get revenge, if you wish?"  

"I don't want revenge -  I was very stupid," said Little Red Shoes, "I was headstrong, and ignored my parents' wise advice never to trust strangers. And I was so dazzled by flattery and dreams of gold that I didn't cherish the treasure I already had."

"She shouldn't have done that to you, though," protested the soldier, who certainly wanted to take revenge himself, even though he was not the one who'd been robbed.  (And also, even though Poor Little Red Shoes was not particularly beautiful, there was something about her which he liked very much.) 

“At least I am wiser now,” said Little Red Shoes. “So I'll go home and make another lace shawl, and next time, I'lll be more sensible."

Her words were brave, because secretly she knew how hard it would be to find money even for even the amount of plain white thread that she needed. The soldier suspected this too, but he kept his mouth shut, to save her pride.

"Please let me buy you a meal,” he said, instead. “You look hungry, and it's getting so cold.” 

"Thank you, I'm very hungry, so I will have a meal if you'lll accept this cloth from me in exchange," said Little Red Shoes. "It is not much, but it is all that I have."  She untied from round her waist the cloth in which she had wrapped her lace and her bread from home.  “My mother wove it for me before she died."”  

"Thank you" said the soldier, doubtfully accepting the cloth.  He had no use for it, and privately resolved to return it to her one day.   So, over supper,  he took care to find out the name of the poor village where she lived,

 in case he ever got the chance to go there.   

After their meal, he escorted her back to the church where she must sleep before departing for home.  Then he set off back to his barracks for the night.

It was very dark, with clouds fitfully revealing the moon above and a chill wind blowing through the trees.   The soldier was so lost in thought that he hardly noticed the drunken reveller staggering just before him, his purple jerkin dirty, his purple hat askew.  It was the very same wealthy courtier who had brought Little Red Shoes' lace and was now on his way home. 

Drink did not make the courtier happy. On the contrary, it always made him angry, and confused him. When he reached the town bridge, he stopped to consider the way. The soldier, still lost in thought, accidentally ran into him. 

“Are you attacking me?” bellowed the courtier,aggressively.

“Certainly not!” cried the soldier.

“Liar! “ bellowed the courtier, and, with the fumes of drink in his head, he swung his great fist at the soldier. The soldier jumped nimbly aside and the big man lost his balance.  For a moment he teetered, and his arms flailed.  Then, his purple hat flew off his head as he toppled over the low wall, and fell into the river below with a heavy and ominous splash.  

The soldier ran to the edge of the bridge and looked over.    

Now, the river of this town was  a disgrace, stinking of human waste, rotting rubbish, dead animals, and every kind of dirt and decay. Its brown and bubbling depths were bad enough during the day,    

but at night time it was far worse, for that is when the evil spirits came out to play their cruel games.

As the soldier leaned over the parapet, he heard the delighted chattering of the evil spirits, and the voice of the courtier screaming from below, “Save me! Save me, I will reward you well!"

At the word "reward" the soldier sprang into action. He was as brave and bold as any other soldier, and so he hastened down the bank to the river's edge. The mud slipped beneath his boots in the dark, and the smell of the river was almost too disgusting to bear.   A brief shaft of moonlight illuminated the head of the courtier surfacing through the scum again.  "Save me! I will give you anything you want!" he choked.

The soldier braced himself on the bank and reached out his right hand as far as he could, but the courtier was too drunk to catch it, and besides, the evil spirits had gathered around him now and were starting to tug at his clothes to pull him down into the depths.     

"Oh, save me in the name of God!" screamed the courtier, again - but those were the last words he ever uttered, for then he sank again and the river finally sucked him in, and the evil spirits with him.

The soldier was horrified, for this entirely changed the situation. There was no chance of a reward now, and nobody must spot him by the bridge, either. For when the courtier's body was found, the soldier did not wish to be accused of his murder.

His boots were filthy and they stank, but he hardly cared about that as he scrambled back up to the bridge as fast as he could. He was just about to take to his heels, when his eye was caught by a pearly gleam. The courtier had dropped his bag as he toppled over the bridge, and spilling out onto the stony road was the lace shawl,  twinkling gently in the faint moonlight.

The soldier caught up the courtier's leather bag, and gently folded the lace back into it. Then off he ran, the bag bumping on his back.   He must be back at barracks before midnight, or he would be punished; but first, he wanted to return the shawl to Little Red Shoes.

On his way, he doused his stinking boots in a nearby cattle trough, so he would not offend her, then he hurried on to the church where he knew she would be asleep.

Many poor wretches slept in the church, for it was the only place of refuge in the city,

and mostly they slept in the porch.  But Little Red Shoes was not with them, and as the soldier tiptoed into the dim interior, he spotted her lying beneath the pulpit.  He walked over to her, and quietly removed the shawl from the bag, and spread it out over her, like a quilt.

He wanted to stay and look at her a moment, but just then the church clock chimed the quarter hour, and the soldier knew he could not stay. With one final glance, he hurried out of the church and ran as hard as he could back to his barracks, throwing the courtier's bag into a hedge as he went, where it was found next day by a schoolboy who used it to carry his books for many years, even after he grew up and became a learned professor.

Next morning, Poor Little Red Shoes awoke in the church with a heavy heart.  Now she must return to her village, with her hopes in ruins, selling eggs and vegetables to get enough money for plain white thread.

But as she moved to get up, she realised that something was covering her.   It was her beautiful lace. Amazed, she grasped it, ran it through her hands, and examined it.  Yes, it really was her shawl!

"Has Mrs Applecheek returned it to me?" she wondered - for she had not noticed the courtier buying it the previous day.  But then she remembered the old lady's cynical smile as she had said "I am not your mother!"

"No, it cannot have been her. It must be an angel," decided Little Red Shoes, and the idea of that heartened her greatly. So she wrapped the lace around her neck, washed herself in the fountain, and set off towards the city gates with a brighter heart.

 "Perhaps an angel is looking out for me ," she thought as she walked, "So I must not fear. I am lucky to have strength and talent. All will be well."

She had almost reached the town gate when a plain, friendly-looking girl stopped her.    "Excuse me" said the girl. "I hope you don't mind me asking, but I am wondering where you got the lace that's around your neck?"

"I made it," said Little Red Shoes.  She liked the girl's open face, but she would not make the same mistake again, so there was caution in her tone.

 The girl's face brightened.  "You made it?  Well, that is good news! My master has sent me out to get some lace to trim his new suit.

"But I can't find a single piece of lace that he likes. He says it is all dull - but your lace is not dull at all!   Will you come with me, and show it to him? I think he will like it, and if he does, I am sure he will employ you to make something similar to trim his new suit."

Little Red Shoes decided to go along with the girl.  "But this time," she thought, "I will not listen to flattery and offers of prizes, but I will see what I am actually offered. Then, I can decide if I want it."

So she followed the girl to her master's house. There, the master, who was a rich attorney, declared himself delighted with the quality of her lace.  He immediately offered Little Red Shoes a commission, together with a room to stay in, all the food she wanted to eat, and the finest materials with which to work, as well as two groats on account for her trouble.

In the following weeks, Little Red Shoes worked harder than she had ever worked before. She designed a new style of lace to suit her master's profession, creating a pattern of lawyers' scrolls, curly wigs and quill pens, and also of delicately worked honeysuckle, delphiniums and roses, for the attorney passionately loved his garden and the flowers he grew in it.

He was very happy with the lace, and, as the servant-girl had predicted, he commissioned more and more, until he became quite well known for the magnificent trimmings on his suits. Since he was a generous man, the attorney also freely passed on her name to any of his rich friends who admired his lace.

So, with his help, Little Red Shoes soon had enough work to set up her own business in a nice quarter of the city.   She did well, and became moderately rich, and nobody ever called her Poor Little Red Shoes again.   Of course, she always gave the attorney's work the highest importance, and their relationship became cordial, as befits people who know and trust each other. And so it was that one day, when she delivered a batch of lace for his latest jacket, he asked her about her past, and how she first came to the town.

She told him about Mrs. Applecheek and her competition, and about the terms and conditions attached to the stall.  The attorney listened with darkening face, and when Little Red Shoes had gone away, he smoked a pipe and walked around and thought for a while about what she had said.

The next day, he got up early, and strolled to the market place, where he quickly located the stall.  He ambled over, and carefully read the piece of paper which was still attached to it.   Mrs. Applecheek, observing from his splendid clothes that he was wealthy,  watched him nervously as he read the paper. She did not wear her usual smile, and she did not say a word.

When he had finished reading, the rich attorney smiled at Mrs. Applecheek.

  "I do not know who drew this legal notice up for you," he said pleasantly, "but you should know that it breaks the terms of the 1296 Copyright Designs and Patents Act, which effectively prohibits any party from waiving their own moral rights as defined by sections 77-83 of the earlier Copyrights Designs and Patents Act of 1288 which you cite.  As for  the phrase "any similar laws of any jurisdiction"  I am certain that you would need to argue in court exactly what these "similar laws" may be, since the mere phrase "any similar laws" is certainly too vague for my taste!"

And he gave a dry little chuckle, and leaned one elbow on the stall. "I must tell you, Mrs. Applecheek, that I have reason to believe that you have used this notice illegally to deprive certain parties of the right to their own work, and this is something that you might have to explain in court in the near future.   May I suggest you prepare for this contingency by hiring yourself a very good attorney?"

And without waiting for her reply, he bowed, and turned away.    Then off home he went, chuckling still more to himself and leaving Mrs. Applecheek in a terrible panic.  He never did bring a case, but Mrs. Applecheek took the terms and conditions down forever on that very same day,  and lived in a state of acute fear for many months following.

As for Little Red Shoes,  her business thrived, and so did her friendship with the soldier, who eventually became her husband, whereupon he bought himself out of the army and set himself up as a shoemaker.

He gave her back her mother's cloth, of course, but he never told her what had happened with the lace, and for the rest of her life he let her believe that it was an angel that had returned it to her on that fateful night.

For although he was just a soldier and a shoemaker, he always tried to be good; and privately, he hoped that there might be a little fragment of an angel inside his own heart.

© Copyright Jenny Woolf

It's been interesting to write this story because it's made me look at my own opinions about success.  Hard work and talent will probably win out in the end, but I think people need a bit of luck too. It helps to find a constructive way to deal with rejection and unfairness. Sometimes it helps to laugh at it. In fact, someone emailed me to suggest this was called an "UNFAIR-y" tale because it's about an UNFAIR writing competition

And finally,  here is the result of the draw; the winner is PENELOPE, from BC.   Congrats, Penelope, and please contact me with your address.

And now, back to normal service, shorter posts and more about travel, perhaps. Or should I do more about writing, since I'll only be travelling in and near London for two or three months yet?

. . 


  1. Just seen this, so I have been back and read the beginning of the story. Well written Jenny (and congratulations to Penelope as well).

  2. Life is often not fair, but if you have faith in yourself and give it your best shot, luck will come your way in some form.

  3. Yes, congratulations to Penelope too! I didn't even realize there was going to be a drawing, when I offered my ending! See how captivated I was with your story, and how it would all end. This was a delicious treat. So many lines like she was as pale as a snowflake danced off my screen with joy. An excellent break from the normal posts we do!

    1. Thanks for this charming comment, I like the idea of words dancing off your screen.

  4. Excellent. No detail overlooked, no loose ends. I'm still smiling.

  5. I missed the first part since I was on my blogging break, so went back to catch up and I love it! What a grand and entertaining piece of writing, my friend~

  6. I'm sitting here on such a bleak Sunday afternoon, how cheering to read a fairy story! Jane xx

  7. Jenny, I hope you take this story beyond the blog. It's enchanting in every way. I can imagine wonderful illustrations to match the words. It has legs if you decide to run with it!

  8. A truly enchanting story and very thoughtfully written. Your readers provided a lot of creative endings, but I liked yours the best. It was wise for you to write your ending before looking at the other suggestions. And I'm glad that it's a happy ending with lessons well learned.

  9. Nicely turned, she got help, but still used her own skill and wit, without being "rescued." Good subtle revenges not of our heroes making, too.

  10. I LOVE IT! Good job and of course, well written!

  11. Your ending was the best, Jenny!
    Congrats to Penelope!

  12. A lovely story! Not sickly sweet, and a good ending.

  13. I love a happy ending; she may have needed help but she was no victim.

  14. I love the happy ending!

    You could always take turns writing short stories and travel stories - I enjoy both from you.

  15. A befitting ending both to your tale and to the purple-wearing jerk! :)

  16. Great ending! Now I have to go back and read the beginning.

  17. Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the story! Will be writing individually to a few folks too!

  18. its only ever "poor little red shoes" if you fell poor within your own heart. if your heart is open and giving then you are rich beyond what any words can tell you. so have a little think about it. and feel the need to move to some "other" star in your night sky.

  19. Congratulations to Penelope, I'll bet she is excited. What a great story, as some one else said, the illustrations could be wonderful as the words were so descriptive. I enjoy your writing, stories or travel, I'll read it all.


  20. Happy end! I love your story, Jenny.
    Congrats to Penelope!

  21. I like the realism in your fairytale ending because things rarely go “poof” and magically happen. There is usually a process that leads to the happy endings we seek. And I totally agree … talent mixed with hard work AND a bit of luck is something many creative folk say helped them succeed.

    It looks like I had a bit of luck myself winning the draw and a mystery prize! That is awesome, indeed! I am so excited. You can contact me for details by going to my profile page and finding my email address there. Thanks so much, Jenny!

  22. Am I allowed to say that I love the happy ending? I must still be a child at heart!

  23. I loved, loved, loved this story (and in two parts. You're brave!). I wasn't expecting the twist, the terms and conditions. I laughed my head off. That is one heck of a spin on the traditional fairy tale. All the other elements are there and that was why I liked it. Like Muriel I also liked the happy ending. Thanks, more stories, please. :-)

    Greetings from London.

  24. You are a great story teller and you write so well. It was quite an enjoyable story – you do have writing talent.

  25. Good story! LOVE the details...
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'll be keeping an eye on your travels as I love to travel, but can't always afford to. So I live vicariously through others...

  26. This is the most perfect story! Completely engaging, sensible, lovely ending. I am SO HAPPY! Thank you for this wonderful story. LOVE!

  27. An exciting, touching story! I really enjoyed it! Thank you Jenny!

  28. With you being of the sort you are, I was rather apprehensive over how you would end this. For the heroes and heroines do not triumph in the end in far too many of the tales from your area, but I am delighted to see that this is not the case with your story. Now, go forth and be a good influence on others!

  29. Sorry I haven't been to your blog for a while, I was in the States and then had to come back to holes in the roof and other boring stuff, so I missed out on your wonderful story! But I've caught up now!

  30. Just caught up on your wonderful story, love it. :)

  31. Nothing at all like the ending I suspected. Much gentler.

    Actually, write a few more, I like your tales.

  32. I had to read the story of course. I expected and was content with a happy ending. However I do have a bone to pick with you Jenny. The ante-penultimate line "For although he was just a soldier and a shoemaker". A few years ago I wrote a blog post: To Be The Best. For 'only' substitute 'just'.

  33. Thanks so very much to everyone who commented. I was touched that so many people made such lovely and encouraging comments, very cheering! I will write a bit more about stories in future posts. I went to a very interesting talk the other day on urban legends by a guy called Scott Wood who has written a book on it. I'll reply to some specific comments ....starting with GB. I liked your post and think I commented agreeing with it Graham but hey.... in the fairytale scheme of things shoemakers and soldiers really are NOT on the same level as angels. Probably in the real world they wouldn't be either, assuming that you get angels in the real world
    Jerry, the strange thing is that British people get incredibly het up if things aren't fair, not that I am saying it necessarily influences the outcomes of anything :)
    Thanks for commenting, McVal, and I'll be continuing to keep an eye on your blog too.
    Many of us are still children at heart Muriel, at least about some things. And I'm glad of it, actually.
    Maria (Penelope) thank you and your prize is on its way - I hope you like it!
    Darla, you are so right. I'm working with an illustrator on our kids project (see my other blog) and just starting to experience how illustrations can enhance a work.
    Beatrix, you are so right. Poverty or riches is in your own heart. This is one of the main messages in so many fairytales, specially Andersen's, don't you think?
    Yes, Zhoen, I wanted to put a bit of karma in it too. Having just watched The Wolf of Wall St movie yesterday I feel that karma is missing there somehow.

    1. Well, I am glad that has changed. For I have seen a fair amount of British movies where the good guy/gal did not survive their fight--let alone live happily ever after, which is the way it works in the real world, I know. Oh my, do I ever know...

  34. PS Due to rubbishy Blogger not responding to colour change commands, comments on replies are coming out ridiculously as yellow on white, very hard to read. If you mightlight the text you can read it but I'm afraid I can't change it.

  35. What a fabulous story Jenny! The first part took me relatively long to read but I raced through the second part! Nice one!

  36. What a delightful tale!! Loved it! :)


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