Odense, Danmark (photo: Barbara Malinowska, 02.07.2016)
HERE was once a merchant who was so rich that he could have paved the whole street with gold, and would even then have had enough for a small alley. But he did not do so; he knew the value of money better than to use it in this way. So clever was he, that every shilling he put out brought him a crown; and so he continued till he died. His son inherited his wealth, and he lived a merry life with it; he went to a masquerade every night, made kites out of five pound notes, and threw pieces of gold into the sea instead of stones, making ducks and drakes of them. In this manner he soon lost all his money. At last he had nothing left but a pair of slippers, an old dressing-gown, and four shillings. And now all his friends deserted him, they could not walk with him in the streets; but one of them, who was very good-natured, sent him an old trunk with this message, “Pack up!” “Yes,” he said, “it is all very well to say ‘pack up,’” but he had nothing left to pack up, therefore he seated himself in the trunk. It was a very wonderful trunk; no sooner did any one press on the lock than the trunk could fly. He shut the lid and pressed the lock, when away flew the trunk up the chimney with the merchant’s son in it, right up into the clouds. Whenever the bottom of the trunk cracked, he was in a great fright, for if the trunk fell to pieces he would have made a tremendous somerset over the trees. However, he got safely in his trunk to the land of Turkey. He hid the trunk in the wood under some dry leaves, and then went into the town: he could so this very well, for the Turks always go about dressed in dressing-gowns and slippers, as he was himself. He happened to meet a nurse with a little child. “I say, you Turkish nurse,” cried he, “what castle is that near the town, with the windows placed so high?”
“The king’s daughter lives there,” she replied; “it has been prophesied that she will be very unhappy about a lover, and therefore no one is allowed to visit her, unless the king and queen are present.”
“Thank you,” said the merchant’s son. So he went back to the wood, seated himself in his trunk, flew up to the roof of the castle, and crept through the window into the princess’s room. She lay on the sofa asleep, and she was so beautiful that the merchant’s son could not help kissing her. Then she awoke, and was very much frightened; but he told her he was a Turkish angel, who had come down through the air to see her, which pleased her very much. He sat down by her side and talked to her: he said her eyes were like beautiful dark lakes, in which the thoughts swam about like little mermaids, and he told her that her forehead was a snowy mountain, which contained splendid halls full of pictures. And then he related to her about the stork who brings the beautiful children from the rivers. These were delightful stories; and when he asked the princess if she would marry him, she consented immediately.
“But you must come on Saturday,” she said; “for then the king and queen will take tea with me. They will be very proud when they find that I am going to marry a Turkish angel; but you must think of some very pretty stories to tell them, for my parents like to hear stories better than anything. My mother prefers one that is deep and moral; but my father likes something funny, to make him laugh.”
“Very well,” he replied; “I shall bring you no other marriage portion than a story,” and so they parted. But the princess gave him a sword which was studded with gold coins, and these he could use.
Then he flew away to the town and bought a new dressing-gown, and afterwards returned to the wood, where he composed a story, so as to be ready for Saturday, which was no easy matter. It was ready however by Saturday, when he went to see the princess. The king, and queen, and the whole court, were at tea with the princess; and he was received with great politeness.
“Will you tell us a story?” said the queen,—“one that is instructive and full of deep learning.”
“Yes, but with something in it to laugh at,” said the king.
“Certainly,” he replied, and commenced at once, asking them to listen attentively.
“What a capital story,” said the queen, “I feel as if I were really in the kitchen, and could see the matches; yes, you shall marry our daughter.”
“Certainly,” said the king, “thou shalt have our daughter.” The king said thou to him because he was going to be one of the family. The wedding-day was fixed, and, on the evening before, the whole city was illuminated. Cakes and sweetmeats were thrown among the people. The street boys stood on tiptoe and shouted “hurrah,” and whistled between their fingers; altogether it was a very splendid affair.
“I will give them another treat,” said the merchant’s son. So he went and bought rockets and crackers, and all sorts of fire-works that could be thought of, packed them in his trunk, and flew up with it into the air. What a whizzing and popping they made as they went off! The Turks, when they saw such a sight in the air, jumped so high that their slippers flew about their ears. It was easy to believe after this that the princess was really going to marry a Turkish angel.
As soon as the merchant’s son had come down in his flying trunk to the wood after the fireworks, he thought, “I will go back into the town now, and hear what they think of the entertainment.” It was very natural that he should wish to know. And what strange things people did say, to be sure! every one whom he questioned had a different tale to tell, though they all thought it very beautiful.
“ I saw the Turkish angel myself,” said one; “he had eyes like glittering stars, and a head like foaming water.”
“He flew in a mantle of fire,” cried another, “and lovely little cherubs peeped out from the folds.”
He heard many more fine things about himself, and that the next day he was to be married. After this he went back to the forest to rest himself in his trunk. It had disappeared! A spark from the fireworks which remained had set it on fire; it was burnt to ashes! So the merchant’s son could not fly any more, nor go to meet his bride. She stood all day on the roof waiting for him, and most likely she is waiting there still; while he wanders through the world telling fairy tales, but none of them so amusing as the one he related about the matches.
Once upon a time there was a government which in its ranks had people so wise, that during the economic crisis their country was a “green oasis” on a map of red bankrupts. This government did not dabble in giving gifts and tried to manage their resources in an evenhanded manner. As a sign of appreciation, the top representative was designated to become the leader of a collective institution of nearly 30 countries, called the European Council. It really was a good government, but in the second round it detached itself from reality, made quite a few mistakes and had to leave.
Its then competitor, called Pisuar (PiS. It is the currently elected majority party in Poland), became its inheritor. It liked to have fun: turned a legendary Arab horse farm into ashes, decided to convert primeval forest into a mass of sawdust infected by woodworm, also wanted to buy one way tickets for young medical doctors. Also it started the program 500+ to finance distilled spirits for caring parents, encouraging these to behave like rabbit families. Friends were amply rewarded from monies left by the previous team. Lo and behold – very soon a budget hole opened – a hole so big that it was impossible to hide it from other countries under the coat of pretty newspeak. Then one of the advisors threw the “Flat +” program into the ring and said “pack!”. Easy to say, a bit more difficult to actually do. What can you pack with empty pockets and no means for a new program?
Still, this program, like the “500+” one had a great property: it gave hope for a better life and a more just division of achieved goods (not only working people can buy a flat, own a car or go on vacation. Lazy bastards also should have something). Just the slogan “Flat+” or “500+” would trigger people’s imagination about riches just about to knock on their doors. And so Pisuar was flitting about with its programs until it bewitched a beautiful princess called Poland, and a significant part of her nation became total believers, dumbed down by pretty tales. Pisuar had quite a lot of golden mouthed speakers. What great golden mountains would it build for its electorate, how greatly would they care for families and health (especially pregnant women and the elderly), how everybody else was trying to make all this impossible (probably caused by jealousy) by pointing out breaking human rights and the Constitution and ignoring/breaking laws and norms of the European Union. People were totally bewitched, mothers would kneel before the Most Serene Pisuar Majesty treating him almost like God, who has preserved them from having to work by giving them money to spend (unimportant that these sums had to be forcibly taken from others).
Pisuar felt very warm in the shine of its majesty, playing the same spectacle every month from its little portable steps. Suddenly it decided to stop both programs (“500+§ and “Flat+”) because of cost runaway and to take a bath in the crowd – to find out what people thought about him. He did fear for his safety, though – what if people would not recognize him and not show due respect – so he ordered his projected path cordoned off by metal barriers and many policemen. This of course positively contributes to populist nearness of Pisuar to the Nation. And what happened?
Without “500+” nothing was left of Pisuar, because when the nation is angry populism is indefensible.