A Fairy Tale for the Holiday season
Once upon a time there was a poor miner called Happy who lived with his wife and cherubic twin children in a tiny miner’s cottage outside a town called Diligence. The cottage enjoyed a pretty setting in a small wood on a hill overlooking a flowing, crystal clear spring. Every morning Happy rose at 5am to walk the six miles to the coal mine where he worked, and every evening he walked back the same six miles to enjoy the company of Sally, his wife, and Julian and Sandy, the twins. Thus was everyday life in the county. Every three months there was a special duty to perform. Happy would collect a share of the coal he’d mined in the previous 90 days and take it in a wheelbarrow to the castle on Audit Mountain, just along the road from the mine. At the castle he would hand over the coal to the factor of the royal Prince who owned the castle, and, in thanks for this service, Happy was given a nice hot drink, a royal tea. The coal, of course, was paid to the Prince as his due for the right to work the mine.
One day, Happy arrived at work as usual only to find all the miners in a tizzy. ‘Woe is me’, cried Max, the foreman ‘There’s no coal left in the mine, we’ve worked our last stint!’. ‘No coal?’ called Happy, ‘surely it cannot be true?’. ‘It’s all too true, Happy, you see for yourself’ said a sad Max. Sure enough, when Happy went into the mine he could see that the very last seams of coal had been dug out. The mine was finished. Without the coal to sell to the local merchants, and the share to be given to the Prince, the miners would not be able to put food on the table, and they surely all would starve. ‘It seems to me’ said Happy, ‘That what we need is a new mine’. But where to find one? ‘Well’, mused Max, ’I seem to recall seeing an advert for a new mine when I was at BLE (Borough Landworkers Exhibition) last month at the castle. Do you think that the Prince will let us work that new mine instead?’ ‘He must’, cried Happy, ‘for unless we work the mine the Prince will himself receive no coal to burn in the castle’s many fireplaces. Princes don’t like to feel the cold, you know’. And so it was that Happy set off to visit the Prince to ask permission to work the new mine.
After explaining the problem to the factor, Happy was given an audience with the Prince. The Prince expressed great sympathy with the miners’ plight. ‘Though I have offers from others for the right to work the mine, I am minded to grant it to you and your men. In return, however, you must agree to send me two barrow-loads of coal each 90 days’. ‘Two barrow-loads?’ lamented happy. ‘There is nought else for it, stated the Prince’. Happy know this would be very tough, but what choice did he have? They would all have to work harder than ever, that’s all. ‘Very well, your highness’, answered Happy, ‘I accept your terms on behalf of all the miners’.
‘There is one thing more I am obliged to ask of you’, the Prince exclaimed, just as Happy was preparing to rise and take his leave. ‘Before you start work on the new mine, you must deliver to me ten barrow-loads of coal. It is only just that I am not kept waiting before receiving part of what is due to me.’ ‘But, your highness,’ begged Happy, ‘We have no coal, nor will we have any until we have worked some weeks in the mine. How can we deliver ten barrow-loads before we have even started?’. ‘The means concerns me not, only the ends’, replied the Prince, and his haughtiness was a thing to behold. Thus Happy returned to the other miners. Without the ten barrow-loads, they could not work the mine, so they were all forced to leave their homes in Diligence and move far, far away. The Prince received neither his ten advance barrow-loads, not his two each quarter, as the mine was not worked, and the Prince, in turn, grew ever colder in his castle on Audit Mountain. And so it was that regal remove cost the Prince his warmth and the miners their livelihood. Good thing it’s only a fairy tale.