This gentle springtime story from Suzanne Down can be told or done as a puppet show for children. Learn how to write nurturing stories of your own from Suzanne’s talk, The Story Art of the Heart: Where All’s Well with the World, at the National LifeWays Conference on May 18th, 2013. Learn to make a puppet yourself at her afternoon workshop The Joy of Seasonal Stories.
A long time ago, way up in the mountains of a small kingdom, there was a shepherd boy. It was spring and the shepherd tended his sheep day after day, and as he did he loved to listen. He listened to the wind on the leaves of the trees. He listened to the new spring grasses that moved and danced in the air. He listened to the melting snow in the stream that gurgled and bubbled along and danced over the rocks. He listened to the bees that visited the first of the mountain flowers. How he loved the mountains and their sounds. The boy had a wooden flute, which he played and played to the wind and the sky, to the sheep and the waterfalls. And they too listened. It was a fine life for the shepherd boy in the mountains.
Far down the mountain in the city, there lived a King. The King had great concerns. His only daughter was filled with sorrow. None of the doctors in the land had been able to help her. One kind and wise doctor suggested that perhaps musicians would cheer her sad heart. At once, the King sent his messengers out across the land to declare that the musician that soothed the sad heart of the princess would be rewarded half the kingdom.
You can imagine the excitement. Musicians came from far and wide with harps, and violins, with cellos and song. Each played his best for the princess, but still her heart hung heavy with sadness. The King was beside himself! Surely there is one musician in my kingdom that can play the right music to bring joy to my daughter’s soul.
Far, far up the mountain path, the shepherd boy got word from his brother of the King’s plea and great need. Quietly, he packed up his few things in his pack, and left his sheep in his brother’s care. He went down the winding path, over the foot bridge where the water flowed. Down he went past his own little village at the foot of the mountain. He traveled along the road for a long time until he came to the city gates. He walked on right up to the King’s castle.
The King’s guards laughed when they saw a lowly shepherd dressed in rough clothing. ‘Imagine that,’ they cried out, ‘This simple lad thinks he can cure the princess!’ And they doubled over from laughing so hard.
The boy put his pack down and pulled out his flute. ‘The King himself has asked for a musician to help his daughter, and I have come a long way to play for her.’ And the boy started to play on his flute. The guards became quiet and listened. The boy walked through the castle gates and up to the great door. The King’s maids and servants were looking out the windows listening. The cook in the kitchen opened the back door and listened. Everyone listened as the boy played his music.
Inside the castle, word reached the King that a lowly shepherd had come to play to the princess. The King, all forlorn, said, “let him in, what harm will it be.’
The shepherd boy kept playing ass he walked inside the castle, and as he did, the flute’s tones floated up the stairs to the princess’s door, and her ears listened. She heard the birds that fly in the forest. She heard the crocus petals open in the morning light. The Princess opened her door and went down the stairs where she saw the shepherd boy playing his simple wooden flute. And she listened deeply. She heard the sun rise and set in the sky, she heard the stars singing in the clear night sky. She heard the sheep’s bells in the mountains. And the Princess started to smile. Her eyes started to twinkle. Her cheeks began to get rosy. The Princess laughed and started to dance! The whole castle was amazed.
And the shepherd boy played on, and he started to walk out of the castle and out of the city. The princess followed him joyfully, all the way until they were climbing up, up the mountain path to where the shepherd boy’s sheep were peacefully grazing on the fresh grasses. The shepherd boy now stopped playing his flute, and still the princess listened. She could hear the music all around her, and she was happier than she had ever been.
Of course the King and all his people had followed the boy and the princess up to the mountains too. The King was overjoyed! And as he promised, he gave the boy musician half his kingdom.
Best of all, from that day on, the Princess came to the mountains often, to listen to the music of nature. She was never sad again.
When the boy and the princess were old enough, they did marry, and they built a mountain cabin for their home instead of a castle. They lived happily listening to the peaceful sounds around them all their days.
Suzanne Down is the founder of Juniper Tree Puppetry, and teaches puppetry and storytelling workshops throughout North America. She was also the Director of the Rocky Mountain LifeWays training in Boulder, CO.