The following story is a potential tale from Eye of the Beholder. It’s a story that the Beast tells to Isabel one night as they are sitting in the library beside the fire. They spend quite a bit of time that way, in the library, with the Beast telling her stories. So I may be posting them occasionally as I write them, just to test them out (though I make no promises). In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this one. I thought it was silly and fun, and I tested it out on my daughters as a bedtime story last night. Having children is awesome for providing a captive audience.
Once upon a time, there lived an elf by the seashore. Now, you may not know this, but elves live for nothing more than the pleasure of making shoes. Sandals, slippers, boots, clogs, moccasins, loafers, heels. If it fits on the foot, with or without a sock, an elf would be happy to make it.
At least most of them would.
This elf did not like to make just any footwear. He was determined to make only the best. The best of the best, in fact, a pair of shoes fit for a king. Nothing else would do.
And so each day he would sit in his workshop and fashion his shoes. The cool sea breeze washed through the open windows as he worked, but he did not notice. A bird sang sweetly in the tree outside his shop, but he did not care. His soul was intent upon but one thing: to make the perfect pair of shoes.
And each day, as he came to the end of his task, he would examine his workmanship. Yes, he thought to himself. This stitching is very fine. He smoothed his hand across the finely tooled leather upper or the soft sheepskin lining. Supple, he thought, nodding with pleasure. But then—and this happened every day—a flaw. One stitch a little too long. One scuff across a heel. One shoe bearing a set of markings just a shade off from the other. No set of shoes was perfect.
He would huff to himself, disgusted with his day’s work, and stroll outside with the shoes carelessly dangling from his hand.
The sunset before him, spreading out across the ocean, blazed a fiery red, with a flash of green. The world seemed set aflame for an instant, but he could not be bothered to see its beauty. He walked to the edge of a small cliff that bordered on the ocean, and with an arm strong from the cobbler’s work, he would throw each shoe as far as he could into the sea.
He turned in disgust and went back inside to sleep, dreaming of the next day’s work.
Now, it just so happened, that in that same land there lived an old fisherman. He had weathered many a storm, spent years on the ocean pulling in his catch. His dearest dream now, the one he kept closest to his heart, was to fish from the ocean the greatest fish anyone had ever caught. He would do it someday, he told the other townspeople. And when he did, his fame and riches would provide for his wife when he one day sailed his last ocean voyage.
So each day he went out to sea, catching fish after fish, waiting for the one that would make him happy. But it never came.
Then one day something strange occurred. He was sitting in his little boat out on the ocean, his pole before him, his line sliding invisibly into the depths, when he felt a tug. Now, this was nothing new, but it was a strong tug, and he hoped that finally this day he would catch the fish of his dreams. He reeled as quickly as he could, and at last he pulled his catch over the side.
A finely made, if a little damp, men’s boot.
He shrugged and tossed it into the back of his boat. I’ll deal with it later, he though to himself, and returned to his fishing.
Another few minutes and another tug brought him the second boot of the matching pair. This was indeed odd. But fishermen are used to mystery. The sea holds more things than any landfolk could ever appreciate, and this man had seen more than most. So again he tossed the boot into his boat and continued to fish. However, the boots turned out to be the final catch of the night, and it was time to return home.
He was greeted at the door that night, as he had been every night for thirty years, with a kiss and a smile from his wife. When he held out the boots and explained their appearance, she took it with the equanimity of a fisherman’s wife. She quirked her head to the side, dried them off a bit, and placed them in the closet. Neither of them thought any more of the boots that night.
The next day was as fine a day for fishing as any the man had ever known, and he set out eagerly in his boat.
That day the man caught two pairs of shoes: a fine set of ladies’ slippers and a handsome low-heeled shoe for wearing in fine weather. He shrugged as he brought up each shoe and tossed them into the back of his boat. Then he went back to fishing, still determined to catch that one perfect fish. When he returned with the four shoes, his wife kissed him again, shrugged with him, and again dropped them into the closet.
This went on for many days, each day a catch of several pairs of shoes. By now the man and his wife were growing quite a collection. They tumbled out of the closet and into the front room. Small mounds of shoes began to form larger mounds as the footwear piled up. And still, every day, the man went out in search of the fish that would make his fortune.
Finally the man returned home one day with his catch to find that his wife was not there. He rushed inside to look for her, fearing the worst, searching frantically through each room of their home. A sound from behind him made him turn, and there she was, panting and out of breath. She had run all the way from the village, where she’d been on an errand, to try to return home before he did.
She explained to him what she had been doing, and slowly the man began to smile.
The next day when the man left his home and headed toward the docks, the little old woman left as well, headed in the opposite direction and carrying a small crate of shoes under her arm. All day long, as the man fished, the woman carried. Back and forth, back and forth, and slowly the mountains of shoes diminished to hills, the hills to mounds, until finally there was nothing left.
When the man returned home that night, his wife gave him his usual kiss. And then, beaming, she dropped a coin into his hand. Their very first sale. They had opened a shoe store.
In time, their shop became famed throughout the country for the quality of their shoes. Eventually the king even heard of them and sent for his very own pair. And the man and the woman never wanted for riches again.