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Papa Joe  ~  Telling Tales

Aqua, My Friend - An original cautionary tale

dedicated to KC

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago and far far away, there lived a little girl and her name was Ebony. They called her Ebony, because she had long beautiful shining black hair and ebony is a kind of beautiful shining black wood.

Now, Ebony lived in a poor cottage with her mother, her father, and her two brothers. Each day, Ebony and her brothers would go down to the sea to catch fish in their nets for food.

They'd cast out their nets and bring in dinner.

They'd cast out their nets and bring in lunch.

They'd cast out their nets and bring in breakfast.

They'd cast out their nets for their meals.

One day, they caught nothing. That night, they went to bed hungry. Do you think they liked that? The next day, the three children headed down to the sea.

The oldest boy said, "I'm going to the far rocks. I always catch something there."

The younger boy said, "Well, I'm going to the high cliffs. Papa says that's where the fish have babies. That must be where they went."

Ebony went to the white sand beach alone. As she unfolded her net, she carefully checked each knot. It had taken her months to make the net. Cutting and Tying. Tying and Cutting. And with this net she had caught hundreds of fish.

There was nothing wrong with her net. Ebony had to catch something.

She tossed out her net. Pulled in Nothing!

She tossed out her net. Pulled in Nothing!

She tossed out her net. Pulled in Nothing!

All morning long, Ebony tossed out her net. Pulled in Nothing!

Her arms grew tired. Her legs grew weak. As every hour past without a single fish, Ebony grew sadder and sadder. She felt so lonely. She felt so forlorn. She started to cry.

But Ebony wasn't alone. Out in the sea, a creature was watching. A very old creature that you might call a dinosaur. Actually, it was a prehistoric aquatic reptile, one we now call a plesiosaurus. It was watching Ebony.

Ebony was still crying. Then she heard the waves grow louder. She looked out over the sea and saw a strange sight. The water was bubbling and boiling. Out of the waves came a huge creature. It had a long neck and tail. It had a giant body.

Ebony dropped her net and ran up the white sand beach. Standing on the sand dunes, she turned to face the monster. Its body was still in the water. But its long neck carried its head to the beach. It looked down at the net and up to Ebony.

"Please, don't be afraid. I won't hurt you. You just looked so sad. I'm sad a lot. I thought maybe I could help."

Ebony was very surprised to hear the creature talk.

Who are you? What are you? Where did you come from?"

The creature answered. "I am Aqua and I am old. Older than this land. Older than this sea. So old am I, that there are no more like me. I am alone."

Ebony asked, "What do you want here?"

"I told you. You looked sad. I thought you might be lonely too. I thought we might be friends. Why were you crying?"

Ebony stared at the creature. What was she doing? She was talking with a monster bigger than her house. It could wear her net for a hat. Her whole family could ride on its back and it wouldn't even notice. And it was resting there with its head over her net.

"I asked why you were crying?"

Ebony didn't know if she should talk to it. She didn't think her parents would like her to spend time with monsters. But her net was still there. She couldn't leave that. And the creature didn't look like it could leave the water. She felt safe up on the sand dune. The monster seemed friendly.

"I was crying because I can't catch any fish. I didn't catch any yesterday and I'm hungry."

Aqua nodded her huge head. "It's the Shell Crushers. They've chased all the fish from here. But if you need fish, I can get them for you. I'll get them if you'll be my friend."

Ebony laughed. "You can't trade for friendship. You just have to be a friend."

Aqua dipped her head and gently lifted the net in her mouth. Her head turned toward the deep waters and her neck followed, then her body and finally her tail. The sea roared in to take her place.

Ebony couldn't believe what was happening. What would her parents say? How could she explain about Aqua? She thought maybe she could tell them - at the right time. Some time when they were in the right mood.

Aqua returned with the net full of fish.

"Oh Aqua, thank you. How will I ever repay you for this? There is enough fish here to feed my family for days."

"As you said little one, friendship can not be traded, yet you have given me more than enough to repay this favor. Before you go, please let me teach you a song to sing when you want to call me from the sea."

"Aqua, my friend, will you come

near to the white sand beaches?

Will you come, my new friend dear,

up where the sunshine reaches?"

Ebony sand the song over and over until Aqua was sure she would not forget. Then they parted.

Aqua's parting words were: "Please come back soon."

Ebony's family was so happy to see all the fish that no one asked her how she caught so many when no one else had caught any.

The next day no one went to the sea to fish. Nor did they the day after. When the three children did go to fish, Ebony's brothers went with her to the white sand beach.

"We'll fish with you today." They said. "That way we can catch enough fish to feed us for a month."

Ebony did not want to share her secret with her brothers. She didn't call Aqua that day. The children returned home without any fish at all.

"That's not a good fishing place." Said her oldest brother. Are you sure that is the place where you caught all those fish the other day?"

"Yes, " said Ebony.

"Well, you must have just been lucky. I'm going to try somewhere else tomorrow."

"Me too!" chimed the younger boy.

The next morning, Ebony ran to the white sand beach alone.

She sang:

"Aqua, my friend, will you come

near to the white sand beaches?

Will you come, my new friend dear,

up where the sunshine reaches?"

The water in the sea began to bubble and swell. Out of the sea came Aqua.

"Ebony, you have called. I began to think you would not."

"Aqua, I am afraid to tell my family about you. I think that they will believe you are a monster and forbid me to see you again."

"Ah child, that would be sad. But secrets are dangerous."

"I will tell them. But I must do it slowly or they won't understand."

"Don't wait too long or something bad might happen," said Aqua.

Ebony and Aqua spent the morning talking and sharing stories of the land and seas.

When the sun reached its height at noon, Aqua took the net and returned it to the girl, full of fish.

"Come back to me soon my friend."

"I will, Aqua. I'll be back as soon as I can."

On the way home, Ebony thought about how nice it was to have a friend she could share her dreams with. I am so glad I met Aqua. No one could ask for a better friend.

Her parents met her with delight.

"Girl, again you have brought home a fine catch of fish. Now we'll feast."

Her brothers were not so pleased.

"How is it that she catches fish when we do not?" asked one brother to the other.

"I don't know. When we fished with her she caught nothing. The next time we go out let's follow her and find her secret."

So the next time the children went fishing the oldest brother lied: "I'm going to the far rocks again. Maybe my luck will be better."

"I will go with you. Perhaps if you are lucky I will be too!" Said the second brother.

But they did not go far. They turned and followed their sister from a distance.

"Now we will see what there is to see."

Ebony returned to the white sand beach. She looked up at the bright yellow sun. She felt the warm breeze from the sea. She heard the gulls singing. She felt a great joy to be able to call her friend again. Then Ebony began to sing:

"Aqua, my friend, will you come

near to the white sand beaches?

Will you come, my new friend dear,

up where the sunshine reaches?"

The water bubbled and swelled. Then out of the deep waters came Aqua.

So glad was he to see his friend that he never saw the two brothers run from their hiding place in terror.

The boys ran all the way home and found their father and mother working.

"Mother! Father! Come quickly, a horrible monster is going to eat Ebony."

The parents grabbed their spears and followed the boys back to the white sand beach. When they saw Aqua they threw the spears at him.

"Ebony, run!"

Aqua dove beneath the waves to avoid the spears.

"Stop! Please stop! He's our friend" called the girl. He won't hurt me. Oh father! Mother! Now he's gone."

"She thinks the monster is her friend!" cried the boys.

"What spell did that monster put on our daughter?" asked father.

"I don't know, but we must take her away from this place and not let her come back." Said the mother.

So they brought Ebony home and she worked around the cottage while the boys fished. But there were no fish to be caught.

No fish were to be found anywhere near the land where Ebony lived. Many people were hungry and where many people are hungry there is always trouble.

One day, a friend of Ebony's mother came running to the cottage.

"Flee! Run! Flee!" She screamed. "Soldiers are coming. "They are stealing food and burning cottages. They are coming this way. Run!"

Ebony's family gathered together as much of their things as they could carry. When they left the cottage they could see the soldiers coming towards them. They ran away as quickly as they could, but every time they looked back they knew that the soldiers were getting closer.

When they reached the beach they ran along the water's edge for speed. But the water was high and they found themselves trapped at the high cliffs.

"What can we do?" cried the boys.

Ebony knew what to do. "Don't worry, my friend will help."

And she began to sing:

"Aqua, my friend, will you come

near to the white sand beaches?

Will you come, my new friend dear,

up where the sunshine reaches?"

But nothing happened. The soldiers came closer. They were not running any more. They knew that they would soon have Ebony's family.

Ebony sang out again:

"Aqua, my friend, will you come

near to the white sand beaches?

Will you come, my new friend dear,

up where the sunshine reaches?"

This time the sea bubbled and began to swell and out of the water came Aqua.

"Help us Aqua! Please!

Aqua said, "Climb on my back."

"Trust him, mother. Trust him, Father. He'll save us from the soldiers."

They were more afraid of the soldiers than of Aqua. The family waded out and climbed on his large leathery back. Then Aqua swam away form the shore. Soon they had left the soldiers far behind.

"Where will he takes us?" asked father to Ebony.

"I will take you to a safer land. A place where you can make a new home." Answered Aqua.

And he did.

The End


I wrote Aqua in the 70's. It was intended to be an opening tool for teachers and parents to deal with the problems associated with keeping secrets.

It never came together for large group work, yet continues to be a favorite for groups of under0 people in school and home settings.

Papa Joe  ~  Telling Tales

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