Book turns the pages slowly and smoothes each one lovingly. Sofia is like a child, captivated by the two-headed demons, giant serpents, fish that swallow ships, a horse with the head of an eagle and diamond encrusted dragons with flames pouring from their mouths, huge wings and razor sharp talons, being slain by brilliant knights with magical swords. Trumpets and drumbeats waft faintly through the windows, fitting the drama perfectly.
‘What about this one, Soph?’ Book points to a picture of a maiden, chained to a post, watching while a horseman on his white charger skewers a green monster with wings and red mouth. Sofia runs her finger over the page.
‘Why does the knight kill the monster?’
Book thinks for a second and says, ‘You know this story, the monster kidnaps the maiden and the knight rescues her and marries her.’
‘Why doesn’t the monster win?’ It seems impossible for a man to defeat something so big.
‘Because that’s how the story goes. The knight saves the whole country from the monster and becomes a hero.’
‘What if the knight was the one that tied the maiden up? Maybe he was holding her until her family paid a huge ransom and the monster was the one trying to rescue her.’
‘But, that’s not how the story goes, Soph.’
‘But it have could have happened like that couldn’t it?’
‘Or, what if she had herself tied up to trick the knight into rescuing her and the monster just happened to be walking along the road at the wrong time?’
‘That’s just stupid.’
‘No it’s not. She might have wanted the knight to get killed by the monster because he jilted her at the altar.’
She is really animated now and waves her arms about. Book tries to rescue the book but she twists it away. He winces.
‘That’s it! She paid the monster to kill the knight and make it look like she was tied up to lure him into the trap.’
‘But the knight kills the monster.’
‘Yes, it all went wrong. Or -’
Book gives up trying to pull the book out of her hands. He really fears that the pages will tear.
‘Or, the maiden was being offered as a sacrifice by her village to keep the monster happy.’
‘That’s probably not far from the truth.’
‘Why?’ Sofia frowns and slams the book shut.
‘Why what? Please be careful.’
‘Why is it always the girl? Why not a few boys being sacrificed for a change?’
‘I suppose it’s more exciting if the knight rescues a beautiful princess, rather than having a bunch of spotty oiks tied to a post. Nobody would want to save them!’
She keeps the book away from him.
‘That’s just the way stories go.’
‘Well I think that’s a great big pile of -’
‘It’s not my fault! And it’s not the book’s fault either!’
‘No, you’re right. Anyway, the monster would have won easily.’ Her interest fades as quickly as it was sparked. ‘It’s all just stupid stories. Books really are rubbish, aren’t they?’
Thumbs: No Such Thing As Fairy Tales
Dragon and Captive; Gordon Napier: dashinvaine.co.uk