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The Boy and the Water-Sprite

Published December 15, 2009
Countries: None
Age Levels: 9 and up

Once upon a time there were three brothers who were left alone when their parents died.  The parents did not leave them much to inherit.  Still, what was left would have taken care of all three if they had shared.

But, the two older brothers did not like to share!  The oldest brother took the cottage to live in.  The second brother took all the property that was left inside the cottage.  The two split all the money they could find between them, and they kept the small amount of land the parents had owned to themselves and refused to share it with their youngest brother.

The cruel older brothers turned their youngest brother off the land with no money, no land and no home of his own.  "How shall I live?" he asked them.

"You are clever," said the oldest brother.  "Use THIS to make a living."  He picked up a coil of rope that he found in the corner of the house and threw it out the door.

"Well, the rope looks useful," said the youngest brother to himself.  Then, he walked until he came to the great woods.

He took part of the rope and unwound it to make several smaller cords.  He tied these in a special way to make a small-sized piece of rope, a middle-sized piece of rope and left one part as it was, a big-sized piece of rope.

The boy used the small-sized piece of rope to make a small-sized snare and used the small-sized snare to catch a small-sized squirrel.

The boy used the middle-sized piece of the rope to make a middle- sized snare and used it to catch a middle-sized hare. 

Finally, the boy walked down by the lake that sat inside the great woods.  There, he saw a bear enter a dark cave.  He took the big-sized piece of rope and sat down to make a big-sized snare to use to catch the big-sized bear.

The boy had just sat down to begin tieing pieces of the big-sized rope together when a water-sprite came to the surface of the lake and saw him there.  The water sprite watched and watched, but could not figure out what the boy was doing.  The old water sprite was too large and too heavy to leave the lake to go ashore to talk to the boy or to eat him, and the boy did not enter the water.

The old water-sprite went back down deep into the water and sent up his son to see what the boy was doing with the rope.  The wee water-sprite was small enough to move around along the shore and left the lake to walk up to ask the stranger what he was doing.

"Oh," teased the boy, "I am making a big snare so I can tie up the whole lake.  Then nobody can come in or out of the water without my permission."

The wee water-sprite hurried back to tell his father what the boy said.

"If nothing can get into the water, we'll have nothing or no one to eat," said the big water-sprite.  You go up and ask the boy to race you up a tree.  When you reach the top of the tree, wait for him.  When he catches up to you, push him into the lake.  Then, we can have him for a snack."

The wee water-sprite did just as his father asked.  He went back to the boy and challenged him to a race to the top of the tree.

"I am too busy to race you right now, but I have a small friend who will race you." The boy untied the squirrel and said, "One, two, three, GO!"  He let the squirrel loose.

The squirrel started up the nearest tree, but the water sprite was left far behind and couldn't catch it.  The wee water-sprite went back to tell his father what had happened.

"Go back again," said the big water-sprite.  "Ask the boy to run a race with you.  When he gets tired, drag him into the lake, then we can nibble at him a little at a time."

The wee water-sprite again left the water.  He did as his father asked and challenged the boy to a race.

"I don't have time to race with you," said the boy, but I have a friend who will race you.  He untied the hare and said, "One, two, three, GO!"  He let the hare loose.

The hare took off running with the wee water-sprite running after him.  Soon, the wee water sprite was left far behind.  He went back into the lake again to tell his father what had had happened.

The big water-sprite was upset and said, "Go back again, and this time ask the boy to wrestle with you.  You are strong, since you are my son.  When you have the boy on the ground, drag him into the lake.  Then, we can have dinner together."

The wee water-sprite did what his father asked him to do.  He invited the boy to wrestle with him.

"I am too busy to wrestle," said the boy.  "But, my Grandpa is sleeping in that cave.  You can challenge him to wrestle.  You may have to wake him up before he will wrestle with you.  Just walk into the cave and hit him up the side of the head.  That will wake him up.

The wee water-sprite walked into the dark cave and saw a large shadow on the floor of the cave.  "Come on.  Let's wrestle," said the wee water sprite.

But, the shape in front of him just lay snoring.

"I said, let's wrestle," said the wee water-sprite.  He hit the sleeping form on the ear.

A bear stood up on his hind legs and knocked the wee water-sprite right out of the cave, across the woods and back into the middle of the lake.

"That boy must be stronger than we are," said the wee water-sprite.  His Grandfather hit me so hard that he knocked me half way across the lake.  We'll never be able to beat that boy."

"Well," said the big water-sprite, "You go back one more time and ask the boy what he will take to leave us alone.  We don't want him to tie up our lake."

The wee water-sprite did just as his father had asked.  He asked how much money the boy wanted to leave the lake alone. 

"Just enough to fill my hat," said the boy.  Then, he laid his hat upside down on the ground. 

The wee water-sprite ran back to the lake to help his father pickup coins that had fallen to the bottom of the lake over many years.  While he was gone, the boy dug a hole in the ground and cut a hole in the top of his hat.  Then he put the hat back over the hole.

The Wee water-sprite poured what he thought was enough coins into the hat to fill it, but the hat was not full.  He went back to his father in the lake again and brought back more coins to dump into the hat.  Still, it was not full.

"The coins were only enough the fill the bottom of the boy's hat," the wee water-sprite told his father.

"Tell him this is all we have," said the big water-sprite.  Then, he pushed a barrel of coins out of the water and onto the lakeshore.

"My father says this is all the money we have.  Please take it and go away and leave us alone," said the wee water-sprite. 

The boy promised not to tie up the lake, and the wee water sprite ran back to the lake to tell his father the good news.

The boy carefully picked up all the pieces of rope so no animals would get caught in them by accident.  He covered the hole that held part of his money to hide it until he needed it.  Then, he put his hat on his head.  He rolled the barrel of coins home to his old cottage to show his brothers.

"Where in the world did you get all those coins?" his brothers asked him. 

"By catching animals," the boy answered his brothers.  The only thing I had from our mother and father was the rope you gave me, so I made snares to catch animals down by the big lake in the great woods."

"You take the cottage and land, and give us the rope," demanded the two brothers.  They signed the deed to the property over to the boy and left for the great woods with ropes in their hands on their way to catch animals.

They never came back to bother their youngest brother again.  Maybe they are still living in the woods, or maybe they are guests of the water-sprites.

Dr. Mike Lockett is an educator, storyteller and children's author from Normal, IL. Dr. Lockett has given more than 4000 programs across the USA and in eastern Asia. Contact Mike by writing to in order to book him for a storytelling program or young authors program or to inquire about purchasing his books and CDs.