Brune woke up warm and comfortable, which had not happened regularly on the farm where he had spent his life, and he soon remembered where he was. At this recollection, he jumped up in the bed and look all about him, but was dismayed to find the room utterly dark. Even the moonlight through the windows was so scarce that he could not see his hand before him or the bed below him or distinguish the window frame from the night sky outside. However, he did hear a loud snoring from his left and a low whisper from the right that said,
“Hush, you dope! Can’t you keep quiet for a night?” before the grunting sound of someone turning in their sleep, though the snoring continued.
Brune was terribly worried and thought he ought to leave the cottage immediately. So the boy got out of the bed and crossed the room as best as he could remember, nearly reaching the same table he’d eaten at earlier, when the voice came again,
“Hey, where d’you think you’re going?” the voice sounded like an grumpy old man, “No snacks after lights out! Back to bed, you!”
Brune simply froze, not sure if he should run or return. He even considered answering and trying to explain himself, but he decided this would be very silly. In those few seconds, he hadn’t made any decision and so the same voice called again,
“Git now, you hear? Back to bed, Dopey!” but also, a different, kinder, voice called after,
“Please Dopey, we’re so sleepy! Go back to bed, or I’ll never be able to sleep, with all this fuss!”
So, realizing the voices had mistook him for someone else, Brune decided finally that he would try to escape anyhow. Without thoroughly thinking, he dashed to where he expected to find the door, tripped over two chairs, and ran into the wall, making a lot of noise.
“Doesn’t sound much like Dopey,” said the kinder voice.
“Ahhh!” cried a very new and very strange voice from another corner of the room.
“That sounds more like Dopey,” said the gruff, grouchy voice. Now, there was a lot of babbling amongst a lot of new voices.
“Then who’s by the oven?” said the grouchy one.
“I don’t know,” was the kind voice’s answer, “but I suggest we all go back to sleep.”
“Oh, get up, you ninny!” (I’m sure you can guess which voice said that.) and there was a sort of thud, like someone had kicked something. Then, all the voices became visible little men, for one of them had lit his bedside candle, and they all rushed to the door to see what had happened.
“It’s just the boy we found!” said a jolly looking one, but his voice was different from the “kind” voice we’d heard before.
“Just the boy!” scoffed the familiar grumpy voice, “Just the boy trying to steal us blind and run off in the night!”
And it was at this point that Brune came back from his daze and saw the six strange little faces all about him and he was quite frightened.
“Back away, let him breathe!” said one of them, and once they were a good distance away, Brune felt much better because he saw that they were no taller than him. In fact, some were a few inches shorter.
“Who are you, boy? And what do you want here?” the grumpy dwarf asked unwelcomingly.
“My name is Brune and I was left to die in the woods because the King wishes me dead,” he said quietly.
“Then you’d best get at it and do what you were left to do!” said the same man.
“Oh, please, Grumpy! We can’t just leave the poor lad to die alone in the forest!” said the jovial-looking one, “Tell me, boy, would you like to die in the wood?”
“Hasn’t got a choice, I say!” said the grouch, “The King wished it himself; it’s the boy’s duty to the throne!”
“Oh, hush!” the five others agreed.
“No, sir, I wouldn’t like to die in the wood,” Brune answered when the change came.
“Then die, you shall not!” said five of the six little men, and they all invited him to stay there.
“Thank you, sirs, I would like very much to stay with you,” he politely replied, and they all cheered but one.
“What should your name be?” asked one with a very nasal voice.
“As I said, my name is Brune,” the boy repeated.
“No, you can’t go about with a name like ‘Brune,’ ” said Grumpy, “If you’d like to live here, you ought to have a name like us. See, this is Happy,” and he motioned to the jovial one,
“And Sleepy, Sneezy, and Bashful,” he pointed to each in turn. Sleepy, it so happened, had been the kind voice we heard before,
“And he,” Grumpy said pointing at the only bald member of the party, “Is Dopey,” and Dopey smiled and waved across the circle.
“Pleased to meet you all,” Brune said and waved back.
“But you see, you simply must have a name that suits you,” Happy now said, “So, how would you describe yourself?”
“Well, I suppose I’m poor,” he answered firstly.
“But you wont need to worry of that, living with us,” answered Sleepy, “We’ll put you to dog-tiring work, and you’ll be rich after the day is done.”
“What else?” Sneezy’s wheezy voice urged him.
“My father used to say I’m pretty helpful,” Brune tried again.
“But we’re all helpful,” said Grumpy, “If we start calling one ‘Helpful’ then folks will get to thinking the rest of us aren’t helpful.”
“Okay,” Brune tried to think again, “I’m pretty smart too. What about that?”
“Well, we’re all smart, too,” said Dopey, “And folks wouldn’t ever know it if we called you Smarty.”
“That may not be all true, Dopey, but there’s still the fact that some of us are smart, and so you couldn’t be the only one,” Happy clarified.
“Well, what aren’t all of you, then?” Brune finally asked.
“Hmm, let’s see. We’re not tall,” said Sneezy.
“That’s right! In a few years, we could call you Tall!” said Dopey.
“Hah! And what should we call him in the mean time?” Grumpy folded his arms, “Not-Tall-Yet?”
“Sounds fine to me!” said Dopey, crossing his arms as well.
“That’s enough, you two!” said Sleepy, but Dopey still stuck out his tongue.
“Anyhow, what aren’t we that he is?” Happy asked them all again. They thought a bit before they started to all speak at once,
“We’re not tall or weak,”
“And we’ve got beards on our cheeks,”
“And we all wear green hats on our heads,”
“We’re not dumb or slack,”
“And carry packs on our backs,”
“And we work up in hills ‘till we’re dead,”
But Brune was a little disappointed by this list still.
“Those are all bad things,” he pointed out to them, “I don’t want a name like, ‘Weak’ or Slack,’ ”
“This is true,” said Sleepy, “But you must choose one. And you ought to choose it quickly, because I’d like to get back to bed.”
“Suppose I ask you a riddle,” Brune cleverly suggested, “And if you cannot guess, you will call me ‘Clever,’”
“And suppose we do guess?” Grumpy asked.
“Then you may call me whatever you choose,” he said.
“That sounds fair,” said the six men, “What is your riddle?”
And related this,
“Three women were turned into flowers, but one was allowed to go home each night to be with her husband. Dawn was approaching one night and she would soon have to go back to the field and become a flower again, so she said to her husband, “If you come and gather me today, I can be home with you forever,” and so he did.
“How did the husband know his wife from the other flowers, for they were exactly the same and without difference?”
The dwarfs all thought hard and long, but they could not think of the answer, so they agreed to call the boy Clever from then on.
As for that huntsman who was told to kill the boy, he brought back with him the heart of a pig, which he’d shot, and gave it to the King. And the King, in his vileness, cooked the heart and had it made into soup, which he ate that night with his queen.
© Copyright 2016 Sambelini. All rights reserved.
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