Stories for our Children, social commentary, moral story, The Panda King vs 2
|The Panda King
I heard him at the threshold and narrowed the world in my eyes. I looked to him without somber, arm outstretched. The poor mystified boy crossed his toes and inched to my chair. I pulled him into my lap and let my journal shut. I allowed my eyes to close completely; put a finger to the leather and swept the cover open:
"Across Wide Oceans and Deep Seas, in the Middle Kingdom of our world, lived a tribe of giant pandas. The pandas lived in an enormous forest of bamboo and wild flowers and birds colored in splendor. And every living thing loved the Panda King.
See, bamboos are like skinny trees. They don’t need to grow big and round. They have no need for bark. They just like to reach high, high, high, toward the sun. As much as they love light, though, big bamboo must give up their eyes so they may grow; so, they send little ones out, called ‘shoots’. The baby Bamboo shoots can’t speak, their siblings don’t think, and the old bamboo are blind. It is hard to be bamboo. This is why they love the Panda King.
The bamboo send their eyes everywhere, like the top of your head, where they shouldn’t be. Sometimes, they put eyes on top of rocks that roll over, squish. Sometimes the little eyes get lost in caves and try to grow, but get stuck as minor-bamboo forever and ever. And so, the Panda King watches over them.
All pandas have a great big belly and the Panda King has the biggest. They go slow, as not to miss any lost shoots, so the bamboo knows to only grow in the right places. All day, the pandas plop their bellies atop rocks and eat the shoots stuck in cracks. All night, the pandas shrink their bellies to squeeze deep into caves and rescue shoots stuck in the dark. Because of the Panda King, the bamboo always finds the sun and grows bright green and tall and proud. The tall bamboo catches the wind and sings across the great forest, telling all the birds to be happy, the flowers to bloom.
One day, the Panda King lost his son, the second biggest tummy. He walked around and around and forgot to eat the lost eyes. At breakfast, ten thousand eyes looked up and saw the Panda King deep in thought. At lunch, ten thousand baby bamboos gave up their eyes and reached toward the sun. At dinner, ten thousand tall bamboos got all tangled up over the Panda King. The next day, there were so many big bamboos perched over the King that no sun touched his white furry eyes to tell him it was morning. His black spots didn’t get warm, and his paws never got dry, so he slept, and slept, and slept, and never told the other pandas where to eat. Soon, all the pandas napped under great bamboo roofs.
The bamboo kept looking for the sun and found it in all the wrong places: in between a rock and waterfall, in the middle of the river, deep in the mud, and down the entrance of all the caves of the forest. The bamboo did not know to stop. They grew many, until the roots became dry, and the forest turned yellow and sick and the bamboos stopped singing – too close together, they just clapped and hoped the wake the Panda King. But, the King slept, and slept, and slept.
One day a little boy approached his Father. “I want to build a playhouse,” he said.
The father looked around and saw too much bamboo. He told is son, “You will need a roof, a chair, and a table. Go cut enough for each and come back.”
The little boy ran into the yellow forest with his knife. He had to wear shoes because the ground was so dry and the roots scratched his feet. He went up to the densest part of the forest and started to chop. The bamboo was hard from no water. The boy worked all day and only had a few stalks. He brought them to his father at dinner time.
“You will need much more,” his father said. “Take the sword, tomorrow. I will sharpen it for you.”
The boy was very excited. Father hadn’t let anyone touch the sword since he put it up next to his uniform. The boy ate a big dinner and packed leftovers for he knew how much work awaited him in the forest. The sword was heavy and there was so much bamboo.
When he returned to the thicket he saw little eyes where he’d cut before. He tried to pull up the shoots, but they went deep and would not be pulled from the ground. Finally, he took up his father’s sword and started swinging wildly into the mess. Slash! Whap! Crack! Bamboo went flying. His father had sharpened the sword so well that each slice whipped through all the tall bamboo he could reach. Again and again he swung, pausing only to eat and drink, cutting until his arms were so heavy he could no longer lift the sword. He looked at all he had done and was about to carry everything back to his father when he noticed a change in the light.
It was getting dark, but there were still a few hours of light left. The sun peeked through red clouds and cast a golden glow against a little black hole in the thicket. The boy stuck his sword in the hole and sawed left and right, getting it big enough for him to stick his head in. Twilight came quickly, though, and he needed to leave. He tied the great stack of bamboo to a sled and dragged it home with the sword on his side.
The boy went proudly up to his father at dinner, covered in splinters with a great white smile. “Look at all I’ve got,” he said. “I got it from the thickest part of the forest, so it must be strong,” He continued.
His father looked at his worn son, clothes torn. “You have enough for the roof. You still need a chair and table. Give me the sword and I will sharpen it again,” he said.
The boy was a little sad at this. But, he would get the sword again the next day, more than anyone else in his family. He slept completely, without even a dream. When he awoke he was so sore he could barely stand. He crawled to breakfast and told his father, “I can not go today. I can not move. I can not carry bamboo or swing your sword.” He began to cry.
His father didn’t get angry. He said, “I will go with you, but you will come to tie the many bamboo I cut into piles.”
The boy smiled so wide his face hurt more than his bruised arms. The two went early into the forest; the sun just over the mountain. When they reached the thicket, the boy screwed up his face.
“What is the matter? Is this not where you worked?” The father asked.
“It is, father. But after I came the first time, there were shoots like little eyes everywhere I cut. And I did so much more yesterday, I thought there would be a thousand little ones here. Oh! And the hole. Look, father, the hole is gigantic!” the boy exclaimed. And it was. He left the hole the size of his head, just a little bigger than yours. That morning, though, the hole was bigger than a man. The fresh sun cast angelic rays into the threshold and inside the father could see flattened grass and white and black fur.
“Son, you may no longer cut bamboo for a playhouse,” the father said.
“Why? What happened?” the son asked, more confused than angry.
“Let me tell you the story of the Panda King,” he said. And he did. The little boy looked with wonder, the morning light blazed in his big eyes.
“Yes, father. I understand. I want to see the Panda King.” He said.
“Maybe someday, son,” the father replied. “But, we will have to wait a long time”.
The next morning the boy returned to the thicket with a present of nuts and berries for the Panda King. The hole had grown larger, arched into a big doorway that he could easily walk through. Light touched the entrance and he walked inside. Where there was light and flat grass, bamboo shoots had curled into a small table reaching from the dark out to the entrance. A hundred little bamboo had sprung up next and underneath; shorter under the table’s shade, and longer beside it, tangled in the form of a low chair. In the entrance he saw a little pair of green eyes threatening to close the door. He worked all morning clearing the unwanted bamboo shoots, and used his knife to trim the edges of his table and chair so he could sit and snack on his nuts and berries. He knew the Panda King hadn’t come inside because the eyes were there. He was busy waking up the other pandas. That was alright, thought the boy. He had a place of his own.
"Time for bed, little one."
Special thanks goes out:
-To Evertrap for convincing me to rewrite, and for pointed suggestions that helped bind the story.
-To Kilpik for catching repetition where it wasn't needed.
-To Kelly Lee for not letting me cheat on any character I bother the reader with, especially the narrator.