The Wooden Man
On the morning of the fifteenth day of the third month of the year, the people of Sanhasu woke to find a magician setting up his wares in the town square. Instead of the usual card games and magic tricks, however, this magician had taken out from his large suitcase wooden birds that flew and sang, wooden animals that moved in circles around the town square, and even a life-sized wooden man who sat reading on a nearby bench and who would whistle for the passers-by.
It was exactly like clockwork, the people of Sanhasu murmured admiringly among themselves. But the magician had sworn that it wasn’t, and had challenged them to take apart his creatures. Sanhasu’s most experienced carpenter and its most skillful watchmaker had both taken up the challenge together, and were hard at work dismantling a wooden bird. When they finally held the dismantled bird out to show that there was no mechanism within, the crowd clapped and cheered. Soon, everyone was pushing and shoving in order to become the first to buy one of the magical wooden creatures.
For the most part, the magician was glad to sell his creatures. However, all enquiries about the wooden man were met with the same answer - that he wasn’t for sale. The magician explained that through his magic he had given the wooden man a soul, and selling him would be tantamount to human trafficking.
This explanation quieted most of the wooden man’s would-be buyers. But there was a little girl among them who was accustomed to getting her own way. Her father was an immensely rich man who doted on her, and every time the magician refused to sell the wooden man, he offered a higher price for him. When the magician was adamant, he threatened to run the magician out of town. Now the magician had been travelling for many days and nights, and he was too tired and hungry to resume his travels. So he reluctantly agreed to the sale, on one condition.
“You must never attempt to give him an order,” he said, “If you swear that you will always allow him to do as he pleases, I will sell him to you.”
The rich man swore to uphold the magician’s wishes, but his daughter did not. What was the point of having a companion, she thought, if you couldn’t make him do as you pleased? But she wanted to own the wooden man, so she said nothing.
They brought the wooden man home, and days passed. At first, it was entertainment enough for the little girl to watch the wooden man go about his daily business. But as his business generally involved reading some book of her father’s for hours on end, that soon grew dull, and one day, without even realizing what she was doing, she gave the wooden man an order.
“Go get me my doll,” she said, and to her delight, the wooden man did exactly that. Next, she ordered him to fetch some of her other toys, then to clean her room, then to preside over her tea party. Every day the list of things she ordered the wooden man to do grew longer and longer, and the time he had for his reading grew less and less.
The wooden man couldn’t talk, so he said nothing. But day by day a listlessness seemed to come over him, and he could often be found staring longingly at the locked door of the house. One day, the little girl came home from school to find the door open and the wooden man gone. She screamed and cried and demanded another one, but it was of no use. He had escaped, and there was no other like him in the world.
To this day the people of Sanhasu believe that the wooden man lives in the forests surrounding the area, taking shelter in abandoned huts when it rains. There are tales of books disappearing from the town library, and there are tales of lost wanderers in the forests being guided back to town by a cheery whistle. But nobody knows for sure.
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Poetry poetry poetry! This is where submissions get a bit more creative than most, and it's a wonder how many HOLers (particularly the eagles) are filled with fabulous artsyness.