Rated: E · Short Story · Children's · #1568498
A greedy toymaker learns the value of Time.
|“The Timeless Tale of Tinker Toyle”|
In which Professor Proot teaches:
The value of time
The cost of greed
Why the wise must beware the Puck
There are sad stories even in a place as magical as Avalon, and this is one of those. Those of you who are wise, however, know that the purpose of sad stories is to teach all who hear it a most valuable lesson. Of all the most valuable lessons to be learned from Professor Proot’s Tales and Fables of Avalon, this is perhaps the most important of all.
There once was a toymaker in Avalon named Tinker Toyle. Tinker Toyle spent all his days in his workshop turning out twirling tops, seesaws and the most amazing marionettes. He then sold these on Wednesdays at the market, which is, as many of you well know, the absolute best day of the week to have a market. Now, people came from all over the magical realm to buy his toys. Although he sold most of what he made, he seldom had enough money left over after his expenses to put into savings.
One day a Wicht came to market. The Wichts are the tiniest of Elves, and they enjoy nothing more than wiling away their time making wonderful, whimsical clocks and watches. This particular Wicht, upon seeing a fine, carved doll at Tinker Toyle’s stall, offered to trade for it. He produced from his bag the finest watch that Tinker Toyle had ever seen. The toymaker marveled at the tick-tocking pocket of tiny cogs, springs and sprogs that kept perfect time with the passing of the Avalonian sun, and so he agreed to trade the watch for the doll.
Now, Tinker Toyle was a masterful toymaker, but he knew nothing of clocks. He did, however, know a little of the value of things. He knew that if he, too, could learn to make watches like those that the Wichts made, then he could give up his toy making and soon retire a wealthy man.
The Wichts, too, know something of the value of things. They created watches as easily as a baker browns a bun, or a farmer fills a basket full of wheat. Their watches were the work of busy hands, and because of this they traded for their needs but never allowed silver or gold to be pressed into their palms. This is the way of Wichts, but it is not the way of toy makers. Tinker Toyle could only think of the riches he could earn by making Wicht watches, and because of this, he grew jealous of their skill and sought to learn it for his own ends.
When he asked the Wichts to show him their watch making ways, however, they rebuked him, for the Wichts are wise and wily, and well versed in the wants of humans. “Tinker Toyle,” they said, “you know nothing of the value of time. Stay home and make your toys. Find your riches in the joy of children, and free your heart of the seed of greed you have planted there.”
The more they denied him what he wanted, the deeper Tinker Toyle’s greed grew, until the Wichts, weary of his wicked wants, stopped coming to the market. The toy maker, however, was undeterred. He sought to spy upon the little watchmakers, and asked about as to where they might be found. The Wichts, he was told, lived in Cwm Pwca (coom pooka), or the Valley of the Pooka. All who knew him advised against his folly, for the Pooka, who are also known as Pucks, are a foul type of Elf who trick and beguile the unwise, and lead them astray. For Wichts, however, the Pucks are the best kind of neighbors because they keep their settlements free of outsiders, which is just how the Wichts want it.
Tinker Toyle’s friends fretted at his foolishness. “Beware the Pooka,” they told him, “lest their wily ways lead you astray.”
Tinker Toyle was an intelligent man, and as intelligent men often do, he thought himself too bright to fall for tricks. Those of you who have traveled Avalon already know that the Valley of the Pucks lies in an area known as the Mynydd Annwn (Me-need Anoon), or Mountains of the Underworld. This is a dark place, where all the good of Avalon begins to fall under The Shadow. Like all such places, is best avoided by intelligent men.
The toymaker, however, thought nothing of danger and only of riches. He kissed his wife and children goodbye, and set out upon the back of a pack mule for the home of the Wichts.
In the area where Avalon and Mynydd Annwn meet, a fast but shallow river flows. Tinker Toyle pressed his little mule forward across the Fiord, eager to enter that dark land and find the wily Wichts. On the far side of the river, however, a bear bellowed from the underbrush and spooked the mule. The frightened animal reared and shook Tinker Toyle from his back, dropping his supplies into the water where they were lost to the current.
The bear, however, was a Puck in disguise who had been set about to keep the toy maker out, and he chastised the greedy man. “Go home, Tinker Toyle, lest I teach you the value of time.”
The Puck then vanished into the night, leaving Tinker Toyle cold and wet, but undeterred. He had come a long way. The secrets of the Wichts called to his greed like the scent of honey bread to a starving man, so he pressed on into Mynydd Annwn and toward Cwm Pwca.
Soon, however, he heard the baying of hounds. Not wishing to be discovered uninvited in the dark land, the toymaker tried to hide from his barking pursuers. Each time he changed course, however, the sound of the hounds appeared just ahead of him. You will recall that I told you already that Tinker Toyle was an intelligent man, and he was. He soon realized that the hounds were surely Pucks trying to steer him away from the home of the Wichts. Instead of turning away from their noise, he began to follow it, to become the hunter rather than the hunted.
As he twisted and turned on barking dogs, he found their sound fading until they eventually fell quiet. A voice from the darkness called to him, saying, and “Go home, Tinker Toyle, lest I teach you the value of time.”
The toymaker ignored the taunting for he had caught the Pucks in their game and turned the play against them. As he had believed when his journey began, he felt himself too wise to fall for the ways of the fell elves, and he pressed on.
Eventually, he came to a broad valley that stretched to the horizon. The lights of little towns lit the sides of the mountains that lined the vale and Tinker Toyle felt a pang of dismay. It would take a lifetime to search each of the settlements for the home of the Wichts. It was then that a bobbing red light caught the toymaker’s eye. The light moved in a strange sway, coming closer as it moved from left to right. Soon, it became apparent that the light was a lantern held in the hand of a little man.
“How do?” he said to the toymaker. “What are you doing so far from home?”
“Ah, good sir,” Tinker Toyle said, “I am looking for the home of the Wichts, for surely it lies in the valley before me.”
The little man smiled. “You are correct, sir, for the Wichts live just beyond the closest rise. It is, however, a treacherous way. If you would like, I can get you there within a day.”
Tinker Toyle was overjoyed to hear this, being weary from his travels, and he bid the man to lead the way. Upon his word, the little man and his red lantern sped off into the gloom of Mynydd Annwn towards Cwm Pwca. The toymaker was surprised at the pace, and quickened his step to keep up. Try as he might, however, he could not catch the little man, and instead had to follow the strange sway of the red light lantern. Despite the uncomfortable speed with which the man lead, Tinker Toyle thought of little but the riches he would gain once he had spied the watch making ways of the Wichts. It was this thought, and this thought alone, that spurred him forward. Greed filled him, and when he fell off the pace the little man set, a voice called to him, urging him forward.
“Not much further to go now.”
“One more ridge.”
“One more rise.”
“One more darkening sky.”
The toymaker lost all sense of time and direction as the sway of the lamp hypnotized him and tugged at him the same way strings tug at a marionette. The light turned left, and so did he. It darted to the right, and his feet changed course to follow. Day became night and then turned into day again, and the whole repeated itself until time itself forgot the toymaker. Tinker Toyle, however, could not forget his goal, his dream of riches, and so he pressed on at the urging of the little man.
Then, something changed. The landscape became familiar, less dark, and Tinker Toyle found himself remembering landmarks as he passed them. Had he passed that tree before? Why did that hillock tug at his memory? Then, as if a veil were lifted, he found himself standing before a house—not the home of the Wichts, but a place more familiar. The sway of the lamp stopped, and suddenly the truth of the moment took him. The man who held the lamp was a Puck, and he smiled wickedly at the toymaker.
The door to the house opened and a woman, bent with age, looked out upon her garden. Seeing him at the gate, her eyes went wide with surprise, and she wailed. Another man and a woman suddenly appeared at her side and asked what the matter was. The old woman, however, could only point and cry.
“Papa,” gasped the man. “Can it be? After these twenty long years.”
It was then that the truth of his folly was revealed. In his greed for riches, the toymaker had fallen prey to the Puck and squandered all he had, earning nothing in return.
“We warned you,” the Puck said. “Look now upon your children grown up, upon your wife grown old, and ask yourself if you now understand the value of time.”
Tinker Toyle’s heart was broken. He had squandered the riches of the time allotted to him in the search for wealth; had missed his children growing, and the love of his wife. Of all men who ever lived, Tinker Toyle understood as well as any the value of time.
The wise among you will take the moral from this little tale and heed it well, for it is not the amount of time you have that is important, but how you spend it. If there is anything else to say on the matter, I do not know what it is.