Once upon a time, when we started Storynory back in 2005, our main character was called Bertie. He’s a royal prince, who was once turned into our frog. That’s why Storynory’s mascot is a little green frog wearing earphones. After a long time away on holiday, Bertie is making a return in this story. He’s in his human form, but he’s still friends with all the pond life, including Colin the Grumpy Carp.
Bertie and the magic seal
Dedicated to Abha and Om
Hello, This is Natasha
This is a story about moochy, growly, bad-tempered old fish called Colin the Carp. Colin lived in a pond at the bottom of the garden belonging to a royal palace. I would like to say it was an ornamental pond, but in fact, it was all covered in weed and slime because the palace gardener did not enjoy cleaning it up.
“Just look at the state of this pond!” Colin grumbled. “And look at the gardener sitting under a tree transfixed by his phone! People these days don’t know how to put in a day’s work.”
A young tadpole, whose name was Tim, asked him, “Dear old Uncle Colin, why do you complain about the slime so much?’
“I’m not your uncle, and I don’t like slime because it’s slimy,” grouched back Colin.
“BUT IT’S DELICIOUS!” squealed Tim And all the water foul - which is a posh word for ducks, greece, and swans- honked and quacked and tweeted to say how much they appreciated the green slime, because extremely slimy slime is even more tasty to eat that plain old radioactive slime that comes in a big tin and they serve up at school lunch.
One day, the King was in a thoughtful mood as he strolled around his garden. “I know, I’ll go and inspect that old pond. It’s been years since I took a look at it.” He wandered off in the direction of the garden water feature, but he couldn’t find it for the life of him! You see, the pond was covered in such thick slime that it looked exactly like grass. The poor old king walked straight into it. Both his feet touched the bottom of the pond and the water came up to his knees.
“UGGH!” he called out, “It’s so slippery, slimy, AHHHH!”
And he fell face first into the pond. When he emerged he looked just like a green slime monster. Even the palace guards did not recognise him and refused to let him back into the palace.
“But I’m the king and I need to get changed!” shouted His Majesty as he stood shivering by the back door.
The guard replied,
“The public toilets are on the other side of the palace near the ticket booth.”
The king complained so loudly that eventually the Wicked Queen, opened her bedroom window and hollered out:
“Let him in, you fool, he’s not a tourist, he’s your king covered in green slime.”
It was only later, after the king had showered, and his valet had put out a clean velvet dinner suit, that he felt his old self again. He examined his face in the dressing room mirror and thought: “I’m not so bad-looking for my age. A touch of silver hair suits a king. Adds a touch of dignity.”
He went down the stairs, in a dignified manner, to his office, where he planned work by placing his royal seal on some new laws. Most of these laws were the brainchildren of the Wicked Queen. Her ideas included
A tax on birthday parties
Fines for parking your car in your own drive
Banning smelly people from public transport.
If only the king had read the laws, he probably would not agree to them. But too often, he was thinking of something else while he worked. He reached for his royal seal. This wasn’t the sort of seal that flaps its flippers and barks. This seal was a small gold stamp. It had been in his family for centuries and bore his family crest of a frog. All he had to do was to dip the gold seal into hot red wax and then stamp it at the bottom of the paper. The words on the paper would then become the law of the land.
But when the king reached into his drawer for his gold seal, it wasn’t there. He was rather absent-minded.
“Bother,” he thought. “I bet I left it under my pillow.”
But it wasn’t under his pillow.
“I know, I might have taken it to the games room to change the house rules for billiards.”
But it wasn’t in the games room.
And then he asked the Wicked Queen if she had tidied it up, but she had not seen it either.
It was then that he had a troubling thought: “Oh no! It must have had it in my pocket when I fell into that pond.”
And straight away, he ran back down the garden, where he waded into the slimy water - this time on purpose - and he groped around on the bottom of the pond for his gold seal.
The Wicked Queen, who was watching this from her window, thought, “Hmmm. He really must miss that seal if he’s prepared to wade into that slimy pond. You know what? I bet it’s a magic seal, and that’s why he’s so desperate to find it.”
Now a magic seal is something really special. If you write a wish, and stamp the magic seal on it, the wish comes true. If there was one thing the Wicked Queen really wanted, it was a magic seal.
Of course, the king did not find his gold seal on the bottom of the pond, but he did get all wet and slimy again. And so did the three palace guards whom he sent down to the pond to help him search for the seal.
That night, over dinner, the Wicked Queen commented: “Poor dear, you must love that gold seal so very much. What’s so valuable about it?”
The king replied, “It’s been in my family for over 700 years.”
‘So it’s old, get a new one.”
The king shook his head. Prince Bertie who had been listening to the conversation said:
“Do you remember, your royal dadness, “You gave me an exact copy of your gold seal for my birthday? I don’t make laws yet, and so I put it away in a drawer. Why don’t I just let you have mine?”
The Wicked Queen, who was Bertie’s stepmother, and despised him for being a bigger nincompoop than his father, rolled her eyes in despair.
“Because it’s not the same one!” said the king angrily. “It’s not the same gold seal of a frog that my father, and my grandfather, and my great grandfather, and my great, great grandfather - and my great, great, great…”
“Yes we get the picture,'' interrupted the Wicked Queen, who did not believe a word he was saying. She was sure now that it must be a magic seal for him to be so bothered about having that exact same one.
Early the next morning the Wicked Queen sent six soldiers down to the pond to drain it with a pump. Bertie was half-awake in his bed when he heard the pump’s engine start-up. He looked out of his window to see what the racket was, and was horrified. Still, in his pyjamas, he ran down the garden shouting “Stop! Stop!!” When he reached the soldiers, he asked:
“Don’t you know that there are fish in that pond? You’ll drown them if you suck up all their water? One of them is called Colin the Carp. He’s an old friend of mine.”
And Colin, who was lurking in a puddle on the bottom of what was left of the pond, grumbled to himself: “Old, I maybe, but calling me a friend of Bertie is going a bit far.”
“Our orders are to grab that fish,” said the Sergeant. “Her Royal Wickedness says he probably swallowed the King’s gold seal with the stamp of the Royal family frog”.
Just then the pump started to splutter. The slime from the pond had clogged up its motor and it no longer worked.
“Well that’s a relief,” said Bertie. He ordered the Sergeant to fetch a hose and refill the pond with clean water. Trusting that his order would be followed, Bertie returned to his room.
But the soldiers were more afraid of the Wicked Queen than they were of Bertie. So they followed her orders and not his.
Prince Bertie was not by the pond to see one of the soldiers wade into the mud and catch Colin the Carp in a net. Fortunately, when Bertie got up at eleven o’clock, he went down to the kitchen to see what he might have for brunch. And on the table, he saw a fish tank. And in the tank, he saw a familiar fishy face. The face wore an expression that was so furious that one of the cooks screamed and ran to hide in the pantry when she saw him. Toni, the head chef, said to Bertie:
“Ugly brute, isn’t he.”
“Yes, Colin’s never going to win a beauty contest,” conceded Bertie.
“But hopefully he will taste better than he looks," said the cook. He’ll be on your plate tonight . Her Majesty wants me to see if I can find a gold seal inside his belly.”
“Oh,” said Bertie, “There’s no need to do that. I’m not keen on fish unless it’s from the fish and chip shop.”
“The Queen has commanded me to cook him, so cook him I must” said Toni.
Fortunately, Toni was busy. He had to leave Bertie to go and shout and wave his arms at the the kitchen staff. He did not see Bertie grab Colin’s fish tank and run off with it back to the pond, trying not to spill water, or Colin, in his haste.
“I never thought I’d say this,” said Colin when Bertie had tipped him back into the muddy water, “But thanks for saving my life.”
“No problem,” said Bertie, “I wouldn’t want to eat you. I bet you’d taste horrible.” And then went to fetch the garden hose and used it to refill the pond so at last it had some clean water in it.
“By the way,” said Bertie, “You haven’t seen a gold seal anywhere in the pond have you?”
“Oh Yes,” said Colin, “I think I have seen one.” And as he was in a good mood with Bertie - a rare occasion - he dived down into a corner of the pond and fetched it in his mouth.
“Well thank you,” said Bertie, “This is really important to my dad”
At lunchtime, Bertie placed the gold seal by the King’s plate. “What’s this?” he asked when he saw it. “I told you, I want my seal, not a copy.”
“It isn’t a copy,” said Bertie, “A friend of mine called Colin picked it up from the bottom of the pond.”
“Well, Well,” said the King, brightening up. The Wicked Queen leaned over and said:
“Let me examine it.” When the king handed it to her, she took out a piece of paper with the words, “Give Me Treasure!” written on it. She stamped the seal on the bottom of the paper
But nothing happened.
“Thought so.” she exclaimed, “It’s a fake. Bertie’s got the real magic seal and has given you his copy.”
“No I haven’t!” exclaimed Bertie. “I would never do such a thing. My seal is up in my room!” and he ran upstairs to fetch it. When he returned the King and the Wicked Queen were arguing.
“I never said my seal was magic,” said the King.
“No you didn’t,” fired back at the Queen. “You wanted to keep it for yourself to pay for all those useless paintings you like to buy.”
“But it’s not magic. It’s just tradition! It’s been in my family for generations.”
When Bertie returned with his ring she muddled it up with the king's seal. Then she held out her hands and said:
“Now tell me which is yours?”
“I don’t know,” said the king. “They are both the same.”
“See!” exclaimed the Queen. “One of them’s new, the other is old, but they are both made of gold and look the same. What’s the difference to you? You don’t think I was born yesterday, do you? One of them’s a magic seal. That’s obvious, otherwise why would you bother about which was which?”
And she rubbed both gold seals and demanded that they give her treasure. Neither of them did.
“Now,” said the king. “If you will be so kind as to return one gold seal to me, and the other to Bertie, we shall stop talking about this magic nonsense. For me, the family history of the gold seal is a kind of magic. Now we shall never know which is the old one, and which is new, but I don’t mind so much, because both of them will stay with us.”
And Bertie took one of the gold seals to his room and locked it firmly in his drawer because, although he did not care about gold nearly as much as the Wicked Queen, he did understand that the seal was an important part of history.
And that was the story of Bertie and the Magic Seal. As you may now gather, the gold seal wasn’t actually magic, but it was special to Bertie’s father.
We live in a world in which lots of things are mass-produced - but people do still care about certain objects being unique and having their own history. For example, if you go to a museum, you might see a shaving brush that a famous general used to shave 300 years ago, on the morning of an important battle. If it wasn’t the same shaving brush, but just an exact copy, you wouldn’t think it was special.
We can’t quite explain why that is so, but it’s part of human nature.
And I’m delighted to dedicate this story to
Abha, aged 6 yrs, and Om aged 2, whoenjoy listening to Storynory every night before going to bed. Of all the kids stories, Storynory is their favourite.
Well thank you Abha and Om, that’s really nice of you to say so. I do hope you enjoyed this story about Prince Bertie. And thank you so much for supporting us on Patreon.