versiune audio: Autor: Alex
Children, what if I told you that a baby lark, born without wings, ended up saving the lives of all forest animals, would you believe me? Well, if you are curious to find out what happened, just sit comfortably and listen to the story of little Hop.
Once upon a time there was a big and beautiful forest. This was a forest where people had not started to cut trees and where all the animals and birds lived happily. A lark had made its nest by the side of a clearing. Do you know what a lark is? Yes, it’s that little bird that sings so beautifully that the forest stops its hum to listen to it sing. Every morning the lark would fly up high, close to the sun, and sing. This made the sun so happy that it shined over the forest and hugged the animals with its warm rays.
The lark sang even more beautifully when she was happy. What was she most happy about? Well, in her nest she had laid six eggs. She loved them and protected them fiercely, excited to meet her future babies. The miracle happened one morning, just after she had sung, as usual, for the sun. The little baby larks had started to hatch, one by one, and they peeped joyfully and stretched their little beaks for food. But only five of them. The sixth egg wouldn’t crack and just moved around the nest as if the little baby was trying hard to break the shell but wasn’t strong enough to do it. The lark watched it with concern until she finally decided to help the little one come to light. So, she hit the shell of the egg with her beak, to break it. A piece of it broke loose and the lark saw her baby girl peek her little head out. But still, she was trapped inside the egg, so the mother started to break the shell, piece by piece, until the baby girl was finally free. At that moment, all the joy turned to pain. Although the little baby lark peeped joyfully just like her brothers, her mother saw that she had no wings and her legs were too short. All her brothers and sisters jumped around the nest, while she could barely move.
Like a good loving mother, the lark took care of all her babies, even if the five did a lot of running around while the baby girl just sat in the nest. Every morning their mother brought seeds and fed them equally so that none of them would starve. At night, she would sing them to sleep.
The little baby girl was the first to welcome their mother. She strived so hard to jump with her short legs that her mom called her Hop.
One day, Hop asked:
„Mom, do you sing to the Sun every morning?”
„Yes Hop, every morning.”
„As thanks for the light and heat given to us, because we are together in a new day and because we managed to pass the night without being attacked by the Hoot of the forest.”
„What is …. the Hoot of the forest?”
„The Hoot is a terrifying shadow, big and black, with round eyes that throw flames into the dark. It has long claws and a sharp beak. Every night the Hoot of the forest gets out of its cave and goes around the forest eating all the small animals and birds who are not in their nests.”
„Did you see it with your own eyes mom?”
„Grrr, if I saw it I wouldn’t be here anymore. No, I haven’t seen it, but everybody in the forest knows it. So watch out for Hoot of the forest!”
Hop and her brothers were listening with fear. They were so happy to have their mother to protect them and tell them when to hide and when to go out to play.
But the lark saw it was getting harder and harder to take care of all her babies. Those with wings had started to play outside the nest more and more, to drink drops of dew and to chase ants. Hop could barely get to the edge of the nest where her mother gathered dew for her in a broken acorn. With her heart broken, the lark started to realize she won’t be able to protect all her babies. If she were to stay with the helpless one, she wouldn’t be able to be with the others, who were also babies and would very soon encounter danger.
She had to choose between saving one life, that of Hop, or five.
One morning, the lark forgot to fly high and didn’t sing to the sun. She was so sad, like never before. She had decided to go with the five strong babies and leave Hop in the nest. She felt her heart breaking but hoped that a bird without a nest would find Hop there and would raise and love her. So, just before sunrise she left. Hop was still asleep.
Hop woke up pretty late. The sun was already shining bright, but not as bright as before. The sun seemed…sad. Hop saw she was alone in the nest. But she thought her brothers were somewhere close by, playing with mom. She was a little hungry and thirsty, so she went to the edge of the nest; she knew there was always some dew in her acorn. But, guess what? The acorn was empty. Hop started to get anxious: “where is my mother? Where are my brothers and sisters? What if the Hoot of the forest got them? Something definitely had happened. Mother would have brought me dew and seeds by now if not. She wouldn’t let me starve,” Hop thought. A little scared she decided to go and look for them. She jumped over the edge of the nest and from there, down to the ground. Then, with a couple of small jumps, she got to the clearing. She had never been there before. She looked around. Nothing. Nobody. Just a strange creature who was long and fluffy with two long things on its head, with eyes on the ends. It moved slowly. Very slowly. Maybe because it carried with it, on its back, something round and hard, that looked like a huge acorn. Hop hopped to it and said:
„Hello, strange creature! My name is Hop.”
The creature slowly turned its head towards her, stared and said:
„Oh dear, how you scared me! Look, you made me turn my head in such a hurry that I almost twisted it. Don’t you ever do that again! And by the way, how dare you call me strange creature? It is obvious that I am a snail, but I have no idea what you are. I would have thought you are a baby lark, but you would have wings and longer legs if you were one. But looking like that, i don’t know what you are…And anyway, I don’t have time to waste talking to you because I am in a hurry to get…somewhere. Didn’t you see me running? Why did you stop me?”
Hop had no idea what to answer the snail. She didn’t think it was either running or twisting its head to look at her. Still, she dared to ask:
„Have you happened to see, on your way, a lark and five baby larks? I can’t find my mother and brothers and sisters.”
The snail thought for a second then said in a mild voice:
„Little one. I haven’t seen any larks: not big ones nor small ones. And it seems strange that I haven’t even heard one. Every morning I hear one sing somewhere high above. Today, nothing. I think even the sun is a bit upset because look how cold it got… Brrrr. Luckily, I’m running all the time and I get hot. Now excuse me, I need to run somewhere.”
And so, it started to move away, slowly, very … very slowly.
Hop was left in the middle of the clearing, not knowing what to do. She got hungrier and hungrier and thirstier and thirstier and she started to miss her mother and little brothers and sisters. She was alone and scared for the first time in her life. She had no idea what to eat and where to find water. With her eyes filled with tears she jumped back to the nest. There she found a feather that belonged to her mother. She laid her head on it, closed her eyes and cried: “Come back mommy, don’t leave me alone!” Then she sang to herself the song her mother used to sing to get them to sleep. Soon she fell asleep. She was exhausted.
Then a terrifying noise woke her up. Hoot hoot, hoot hoot! Her feathers rippled with fear and she started to shake. It was very dark outside. She had slept the entire day. The wind was blowing, the branches were squeaking and the whoosh of the leaves was terrifying. Hoot hoot, hoot hoot! She heard it again, much closer. Then she saw two red eyes watching her from a branch just above the nest. Her little heart was petrified with fear. It was the Hoot of the forest, for sure! The two eyes came closer and from the dark a big beak appeared. It opened just in front of Hop…
Hop had no idea what happened next. She had passed out because of fear.
When she woke up, she didn’t open her eyes. She thought she had died, that the Hoot of the forest had eaten her. And, if she was dead, why would she open her eyes? Maybe just a peek to see if the Hoot had eaten her legs? But her legs were already very short! “By the way… my legs! I wonder if I can move them?” she thought and she moved one of them. The left one. It was moving! “Oh…i still have it”. Then she moved the right one. It was moving as well. “I’m not dead, I’m not dead, I’m not dead!” and her heart began to race. She wanted to know where she was, but she was scared. However, she knew that she had to do it…so she opened her eyes slowly. In front of her something big and dark was standing. She closed them back and held her breath.
“Open your eyes,” said a hoarse voice. “I know you are not sleeping, I saw you moving your legs.”
But Hop wouldn’t answer, wouldn’t move or breathe.
„If you won’t open your eyes now, I’ll eat you!” Said the voice in a very low voice.
Hop opened her eyes so quickly and so wide, like never before in her life. And there, just in front of her was a huge creature, maybe 100 times bigger than her. It had big orange eyes, with a black dot in the middle. The eyes were so big and round that they looked like a pair of glasses. Its body was covered in feathers, so it was definitely a bird. It even had wings, unlike Hop, but it kept them folded. It also had a big beak which sprung out of the middle of its face and went down to its chest, where some feathers made it look like a tie.
„I am an owl and I won’t eat you. You were lucky enough to be found by the only vegetarian owl in the entire forest… and probably in the world. In any case, I wouldn’t have eaten you. It is a terrible thing to harm a small and defenseless creature like you. But who are you? Why were you alone in the nest and why don’t you have wings?”
„If you eat me, you’ll get poisoned, because I am a poisonous bird, and you are going to die!” Hop lied, trying to make sure she wouldn’t be eaten.
„If I said I won’t eat you, I won’t. And it’s very unpleasant to lie, so you shouldn’t do it anymore. I took you from your nest to save you. If I would have left you there, you would have died from cold or hunger. Or another animal would have eaten you. Now, stop being afraid and answer my questions.”
„But before you said you would eat me if I didn’t open my eyes. Then you said you won’t eat me because you are a vegetarian. What should I believe?”
The owl smiled.
„You are smart, little one. You are right. If you lie to someone and they catch you lying, you won’t believe them the second time. Even if they tell the truth. So, let’s say that I …fooled you, even if that wasn’t very fair either. But I was sure you wouldn’t have opened your eyes otherwise. Now keep calm, I won’t harm you. I am the Hoot of the forest, and everyone is so afraid of me, even though I have no idea why. I have never ever eaten a fly in my entire life. I have never hurt anyone. It is true that during the night I get close to the animals in the forest, but just to see if I can be of any help. That’s how I found you and brought you here. You were lucky…Although…I think the lucky one was me… It’s so long since I last spoke to anyone…”
Hop was calm now. If the Hoot of the forest wanted to harm her, it would have done it by now. She wasn’t used to trusting a stranger, but somehow, deep inside she felt the owl was really trying to help. Maybe it would even help her find her mother and brothers.
„My name is Hop, I don’t have wings because I was born like this and I was alone in the nest because my mother and brothers are missing. Please don’t eat me and please help me find my family.”
„Stop thinking I will eat you! Maybe you are hungry….When did you last eat?”
„Before my mother disappeared. Because of my little wings and feet, it’s hard for me to move…so she always helped me.”
Without any other word, the Hoot of the forest went to a drawer behind the pink armchair and came back with a nutshell filled with seeds.
„I don’t have any flies. I know you children need some protein, but I already told you I am a vegetarian. Now, eat! Bon appetite!”
Hop was so hungry she started to eat extremely fast. Patting its beak with a wing, the Hoot of the forest said:
„So, your mom is gone and you can’t take care of yourself. We have two problems. I will help you look for your mother and teach you how to survive alone in the forest. The fact that you don’t have wings shouldn’t stop you from doing anything. You are special and the whole world will see that. Hmm…awkward. Yesterday morning the lark didn’t sing so the sun didn’t shine. So, the legend is true…”
Hop stopped for a second.
„They say that the sun shines brightly only if the lark sings at dawn. During autumn and winter, it is cold because the larks leave the country. The sun is left alone and sad until the spring, when the larks come back. Your mother was the only lark in this forest. Without her, the sun will stop shining and winter might return, even though it’s spring now. That would be terrible and all the animals would starve. Now go to sleep. In the morning we have a lot of work to do.”
Hop ate a couple of more seeds and then went to bed. She thought about her family, she sang her mother’s sleeping song and fell asleep. Hoot put her carefully on the pink armchair and then covered her with a big, soft feather. Then stood there watching the little lark and thinking about what to do.
…Hop heard in her dreams. When she opened her eyes, the Hoot of the forest was standing just in front of her with half a nutshell filled with seeds, and the other half with dew.
„Before you woke up I flew through the forest trying to find your family, but I wasn’t successful. However, I won’t give up. Remember Hop,” said the Hoot of the forest, “never ever give up on something that is really really important to you. Never. Now, please eat; you need some strength. You will learn how to catch flies.”
„Catch flies??? But I can barely walk. I have no wings and my feet are so short.”
„If they are short, we will make sure that they are strong. Does a flea have long legs? No, but have you seen it jump?”
„Well, no…I haven’t.”
„You will, I promise. Even more…you will catch one!”
„Who? Me? But I can’t”
„Don’t ever say that again. And most important, don’t even think it. You can’t if you don’t want to. Don’t you let anything stand in your way. You were born without wings and with short legs and you have to learn to live with what you’ve got. Are you done eating yet?”
„Now wash your beak and face with dew.”
„But I don’t have any wings, how will I wash myself?”
„You do have a head, right? If you have a head, you must have brains inside. Use it. You have inside special forces and together we will get you doing anything, Now, come on, use to dew to freshen up. And don’t forget to always look for solutions to any problem you might find. If you don’t struggle to help yourself, nobody else will.”
Hop was staring at the Hoot of the forest. Behind the grave voice and the harsh look, you could feel the kindness.
„Hop, now get out of my hole.”
„How? Where will I go?”
„At the entrance is a thick branch. Walk on it. Slowly…until you reach its end.”
„But I am afraid!”
„Don’t be. Trust yourself. You are stronger than you think.”
„I will trip!”
”I will be there to help you.”
„I will fall!”
„I will help you get up and go on.”
Hop got out of the hole but froze at the beginning of the branch.
„Now move on.”
„A little bit, right?”
„A little bit more, yeah.”
Hop took the first step. Then the second. Her heart was beating like a drum. Then another step, and another one. She was floating. She felt she could do it. Walk all alone, without any help, on a high branch. Her joy gave her the wings she never had. More and more confident, she was getting to the end of the branch. But as the branch was getting thinner and Hop was getting closer to the tip, she started to be fearful again.
„You can do it, Hop! You can do it! She heard the Hoot of the forest say. Look towards the end of the branch and go on. You are strong, don’t give up!”
The cheering of the owl gave her strength and she managed to reach the tip of the branch. She was so happy. Happy like only a lark could be. The Hoot of the forest was crying with pride because the little baby lark had shown such strength and determination!
„Now come back to the hole.”
When Hop turned around, she felt sick. It seemed like Hoot and the hole were extremely far away. She thought she could never go back on that long and thin branch.
„Come on, you can do it!”
„No, I can’t. Not anymore!”
„But you already did it once.”
„But i am tired. My little legs are hurting me. I’m afraid.”
Hoot was quiet for a second. Then she said:
„Hop, imagine that at the end of the branch there is something that you really really desire. Fight for it and you will be successful!”
Then something miraculous happened to Hop. She started walking on the thin branch, without fear, without stopping for a second. She got back safe and sound by Hoot’s side, who held her tight in her wings.
„What did you imagine, Hop?”
„I thought that my mother and brothers and sisters are waiting for me here”, said Hop almost crying.
Hoot sighed and hugged her one more time.
„Come inside. It is getting colder. I am afraid winter will come early if no lark will sing to the sun soon.”
Late at night, Hop was thinking about her mother and wondering if she would have been proud of her, “I hope to see you again mummy, I miss you so much”. Thinking about her family she started singing to herself until she fell asleep.
She opened her eyes feeling that something was not right. As if she had over slept. How come the Hoot of the forest hadn’t woken her up to start another day of training?
She looked outside and it was still pretty dark. “Ah, it is still early and Hoot probably didn’t return”. But that wasn’t so. Hoot was sitting on his pink sofa looking very very worried.
„Good morning! Is everything ok?” Hop asked?
„This is not a good morning, dear Hop. And it’s not even morning, it’s almost noon.”
„Noon? But it is dark outside. What happened?”
„It is dark and cold. I’m afraid I was right. Your mother isn’t back so no lark sang to the sun. And I didn’t manage to find your family either, although I looked for them the entire night. We are lost. Soon everything will freeze, it will snow, and animals won’t survive such an early winter.”
Hop was worried.
„Hoot, why do you say that? Didn’t you teach me I should never give up? Now you are telling me we are lost? There must be a solution.”
„There isn’t. Without the song of a lark we are doomed. The sun isn’t coming back.”
„…I know a lark.”
„What lark?! Where? Tell me! Quick! We need to call it immediately! If it doesn’t sing to the sun today, tomorrow might be too late…”
„…the lark is here…. It is me.”
Hoot was shocked. Staring at Hop his orange eyes became bigger with surprise.
„Aaaah…yeah, it’s true…you are a lark… YOU ARE A LARK! But…do you know how to sing?”
„I know a little bit. My mom used to sing to us every night before bed.”
„Could you sing to the sun?”
„I could definitely try. You said I should fight for everything that is important to me.”
„And I was right. But the sun can’t see you unless you get above the trees somehow.”
„Well, isn’t this hole in the tallest oak in the entire forest?”
„Then I will go up to its top, on the highest branch and sing from there.”
„You are incredibly brave. Will you be able to do it? It’s one thing to walk on a branch and a totally different one to get to the top of the oak.”
„If I trip, you will help me, if I fall you will help me get up and go on.”, said Hop smiling.
Hoot of the forest got so emotional she almost cried. But those were good tears, tears of joy and admiration for the little baby lark who proved to be braver than an eagle.
„Come on Hop. Go save the world and I will be by your side no matter what.”
Hop got out of the hole. It was so cold outside. She started carefully on the first branch. Taking small steps, trying hard not to fall. But the branch was frozen and slippery. Hoot was around, but couldn’t stay too close because of the oak leaves. When she got to the end of that branch Hop jumped on another one. She almost fell, but used her beak to catch a leaf and then got back on track. The wind was blowing violently. But Hop was determined to make it. She had to do it, to sing to the sun and save the forest from winter. She jumped from branch to branch until she got to the top of the tree. She had the entire forest at her feet and her head was very close to the snowy clouds. “This is it” she said and started to sing. At first very silently, just like she used to sing for herself before bed. Then she started singing louder and louder. Hoot, who was very close, couldn’t believe her ears. Hop was singing incredibly beautifully, just like her mother.
And then the miracle happened! The snowflakes stopped and the wind stood still. From behind the clouds the sun appeared. Hop then sang even louder, as loud as she could. The light became stronger and seemed to be getting closer to the forest. Then something terrible happened. Hop felt that she would lose her voice. She felt a strong pain in her neck. No matter how much she tried, the song stopped getting out of her chest and the light started to vanish. Everything seemed lost…
But then … another lark started to be heard from far, far away. It was a song Hop knew very well, for she had heard it before bed. But no, it couldn’t have been her mother. Maybe she was deceived by the wind. Hoot was also looking towards the east. Then the wind stopped again and the sun started shining for the first time in a while. The clouds disappeared and a strong light invaded the whole forest.
Then Hop saw her mother. At first like a dot in the distance, flying towards her. She was flying and singing a beautiful song. A song filled with love and emotion. The lark came and sat on the branch where her little baby was sitting and hugged her. With tears in her eyes, she said:
„Hop, how did you manage to get here, on the top of the oak? Forgive me for leaving you! I was terrified I couldn’t take care of you all. But then I soon realized I could not live without any of you. I have been looking for you for two days, I went back to the nest but you were not there. Today I heard your song and came to you in a heartbeat. I will never ever leave you again.”
Hop was crying with joy and her mother too, and Hoot too.
„Mom, I don’t need to forgive you because I know you didn’t do it to hurt me. I know you love me. I was very lucky. Hoot of the forest found me and took great care of me. Hoot is not bad mom, not bad at all, but kind and good. He took care of me, taught me to be strong and thanks to him I got here and so you heard me. He is my good Hoot.”
Mother wiped Hop’s tears and then, in the light of the sun, they left for their nest with Hoot following closely. Her five brothers and sister were waiting there and there’s no point in telling you how happy they were to see Hop again.
From that moment on, Hoot was part of their lives and family. He became the teacher of all the baby larks but of course his favorite was always Hop.
Children, if you ever see a little boy or girl who seem different, don’t ignore them. There is as much kindness and love in them as in all of you. And who knows, maybe with your help, that little boy or girl will get to save the world.