The Light Well

A fairy story, by JPB and TRFB.

Long, long ago there was a little village in a little island now known as Britain. The villagers were all happy and content because a powerful wizard had made a light well for them--the only one in the world. The wizard had taken a piece from the sun and put a charm on it in a deep hole. Whoever had the magic bucket could pull up a bucketful of light and pour it on whatever he wanted; when he poured the light whatever he wished for came true until the next full moon.

The bucket was made from oak wood with a rope of twisted mistletoe. Every inch of the bucket--the inside and outside and all the edges--was decorated with looping, spiraling pictures which the wizard had carved with the iron tip of his staff. Only a person who knew what every single picture on the bucket meant could lift the bucket. For anyone else the bucket would be as fixed and immovable as the biggest mountain in the world.

The wizard had told the villagers what all the pictures meant, and he warned them that if they told anyone else then their bucket could be stolen and, without the bucket, there would be no way to draw the magic light from the light well.

One day, a little girl with bows in her hair from the neighboring village came by to look for some of her father’s sheep that had strayed. She saw the headman’s son winding up the rope of mistletoe to lift a bucket of light to pour on the flowers that were dying in his mother’s garden. She was amazed by the light shining up out of the bucket. The girl followed the boy, slipping from tree to tree, as he carried the bucket back to his house. She saw him pour the light on the dead flowers and wish for them to bloom again. At once the flowers grew tall and beautiful. “How wonderful,” thought the girl. “I wish we had a bucket that would grant wishes.” She ran home to tell her father.

At first her father was angry because she had come back without his sheep--he did not believe what she told him about the boy with the bucket of light. He shouted at the girl and sent her to bed without any supper.

That night, however, he dreamt of the bucket full of light. When he woke up, he asked himself what would happen if the girl’s story was true. He remembered that the crops were always good in the neighboring village even when the weather was bad, and that the people who lived in that village always seemed happy and content. So he questioned the girl closely about where she had seen the boy pulling up the bucket of light.

All day, as he worked in the fields, he thought about the girl’s story. In the evening he decided to go and see if the story was true. He crept along the road to the next village until he came to the little hut that the girl had described. Sure enough, he saw a glow shining up out of the light well.

He went into the hut and tried to pick up the magic bucket but, of course, since he did not know what the pictures meant, the bucket was fixed and immovable no matter how hard he tugged and pulled. At last he flopped down panting and sweating, trying to think what to do.

“Of course,” he thought, “if this bucket will not move, what I need is another bucket.” He crept around the village till he found a cow shed where there was a bucket and a rope. How happy he was as he tied the rope to the bucket and went back to the light well. He was sure that soon all his dreams would come true.

How very wrong he was. As soon as he lowered the cow bucket into the well the piece of the sun that the wizard had put in the hole flared up as bright as day--the bucket exploded into flames (whoomph!) which dashed up the rope, burning the man’s hands and setting his beard on fire.

“Ow! Ow!” screamed the man as he ran outside, beating at the fire on his beard. The flames from his beard set fire to the hut, and, as it burned, the magic bucket began to char and smolder. The magic bucket was only made of wood and the magic worked on sunlight, not the hot flames of fire.

The villagers were woken by the man’s cries for help and gathered round the burning hut, but the flames were by now too fierce for anyone to enter. The boy tried to run inside to save the magic bucket, but his father stopped him because it was too dangerous.

The villagers watched sadly as the hut, and the magic bucket inside it, burned to the ground. In the end there was only a pile of gray ash. A little wind came along, and blew the ash away, and then there was nothing left but the deep hole with the little piece of sun still inside.

If you go to Britain you can still see the hole with the little piece of sun inside, but the village and everyone who lived in it has gone, no one knows how or where.

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