Chapter 1: A witch falls from the skies
Chapter 2: The princess searches for the list
Chapter 3: King Olav gets a wetting
Chapter 4: Round potatoes cause chaos
Chapter 5: Krog always knew he was a prince!
Chapter 6: King Olav’s Society for the Protection of
Chapter 7: An answering song
Chapter 8: A valuable prize for information
Chapter 9: A witch to be reckoned with
Chapter 10: If eggs could come true!
Chapter 11: Carl goes on a hush hush mission
Chapter 12: A change of heart
Chapter 13: A lucky escape
Chapter 14: Darkness
Chapter 15: Gritta’s spell goes wrong – and right!
A WITCH FALLS FROM THE SKIES
Once upon a time, there was a frog. That
tells you that I’m about to begin, just in case you weren’t concentrating, and
I set off without you. It’s a bit silly really, because it’s got to be once,
otherwise it wouldn’t have happened at all; unless, I suppose, it had happened
twice before. As for upon a time, well it can hardly have been off it, can it?
Anyway, it’s a traditional way of starting a story. What I am certain of is
that the frog, large, green and gleaming with bulging
yellow eyes was named Krog.
Krog lived amongst the marsh marigolds and
bulrushes of a boggy meadow pond where he was happy. He had an ample supply of
food in the form of midges and other insects that like to be around water. He
had outgrown the threat posed by the two white ducks that shared his pond, and
wild geese could be put off by his surprisingly loud “Kro-o-og”. He did
however, like others of his kind, live under the shadow of another enemy, but
we’ll come to that very soon.
Krog had a strong voice and liked nothing
better than a good sing song. His favourite time was when the sun was setting,
casting a golden glow upon the pond, and a refreshing evening breeze tickled
the reeds. Krog’s chosen perch for his evening recitals was an old upturned
bucket at the pool’s edge. Here he would sing and sing and sing and sing and
sing and sing and sing and sing, and sing - and sing, until, suddenly tired, he
plopped into the reeds, sliding shut the lids of his headlamp eyes.
One evening, when the pond was glowing
orange and the ducks settling amongst the reeds, he leapt upon his muddy dais.
As he sat, sheltered behind a clump of water iris, blinking
and watching the insects dancing over the water, he completely failed to notice
that the enemy number one of all the frogs had entered the meadow.
Had Krog been listening to what was going
on around him, instead of to the tunes in his head, he might have heard a
steady squelch, squelch, squelch. Had he peered through the blades of green, he
might have seen advancing towards him, the very thing that his parents and his
grandparents and his great-grandparents and his great-great grandparents and
his great-great-great-grandparents and so on had warned him about - but he
What Krog didn’t hear and didn’t see, was a
witch. On her head was a pointed black hat, around her shoulders a flowing
black cloak, and on her feet, wellington boots, because as you know it was very
Now this witch’s name was Gritta, and she
was in a very bad mood. Tucked under one arm was a broomstick, and lagging a
few yards behind, a scraggy black cat. As she trudged, she muttered and
mumbled, her lips set in tram lines. The cat too was in a bad mood and he
didn’t even have wellingtons. As the cold water and mud oozed over his paws, he
yowled loudly. Suddenly Gritta stopped, as did her cat whose name was Scraw. “Sssshhhh!” she
said to him, then “Sshhhh!” she repeated, “Do you want someone to report us to
the K.O.S.F.T.P.O.C.? The cat’s eyes widened, and his fur stood on end. He
hadn’t a clue what the letters stood for. All he knew was, that whenever Gritta
said them, she was in a very bad mood indeed. Suddenly with a scowl, she
sploshed towards the animal, unceremoniously tucked him beneath her free arm
and continued her splashy way.
“Neighbours, nosey parkers, busy bodies -
do gooders!” she snapped aloud. As she spat out the last two words, she stamped
down hard, causing a dollop of mud to fly upwards into her eye. With a howl of
rage, she dropped the cat and broomstick and wiped the mud away with the hem of
her cloak. Now I’m sure you’ll have noticed in other books, that witches always
wear black, and this is because it’s just so practical. With black, it’s very
difficult to detect tell-tale splashes of bat blood, slug splodge, beetle
juice, and gnat splat. However, underneath Gritta’s cloak, you couldn’t help
noticing, she was wearing a perfectly ordinary pleated tartan skirt and a hand
knitted beige jumper and cardigan. It was the just sort of thing you might wear
for a tea party, well not you personally, particularly if you’re a boy, but if
you were a middle-aged woman.
The trouble was, that under the reign of
King Olav and Queen Ingrid, witches were out of fashion. Worse still, they had
become, like certain forms of bat, frog, spider and toad, an endangered species.
Whereas in King Olav’s father’s reign (Olav X1Vth), people had averted their
eyes in terror as witches had gone about their awful unlawful business,
nowadays they were harried and hounded. Whereas before, Gritta had merely to
open her window, point her broomstick and besom away, now she had to sneak off
somewhere out of sight for take-off.
All this nuisance had been caused because
King Olav was a naturalist. No-one knows where he got it from, but ever since
he was a very small prince, he would catch things in nets and sneak into his
pockets, newts, snails, frogs, mice, rats and many
other small creatures that you can probably think of. As he grew older, the
creatures he collected grew larger, and he ordered larger pockets, until his
pockets were as long and wide as his trouser legs. Of course, it was ghastly
for the laundry maid.
Yes, King Olav was genuinely fond of
animals and the more he studied them, the more interested he became. So much
so, that when his father (Olav X1Vth) died and he became king, he banned the
shooting, hunting, trapping, treading on, running over, stuffing etc. of them.
For a time, he banned the eating of them too, but soon relented because they
were simply too delicious. Still, delicious or not, he
declared only certain ones should be eaten, namely, the ones he enjoyed
All credit to King Olav, he did cut down on
the assortment of meat dishes heaped upon the royal table. From time immemorial
royal cooks had braised, roast, boiled, steamed, grilled, poached, smoked and fried creatures such as swans, deer, boar, frogs,
snails, eels, crows, sheep, goats, cows, fish, pigeons, and anything else
they’d tried once and liked. Reducing
this list to five, he extended it again to six or seven on feast days. He
didn’t think those creatures would mind because they were used to being eaten.
All the other creatures were put onto a protected list.
King Olav formed a society called King
Olav’s Society for the Protection of Creatures or K.O.S.F.T.P.O.C. for short,
although it wasn’t very short. Although he had made protecting creatures the
law, societies were a good way to keep the law. However, and this is a very big
HOWEVER, the people of Olavland, called Olavians, couldn’t choose whether or not to join his society. Everyone was sent a
membership card and a list of rules. Anyone caught ripping up their card up and
dropping it into the bin, were themselves dropped into the deep dark dungeons
below the castle. The king was firm but fair.
You might be wondering why Gritta was
creeping out of her cottage at twilight, to take off on her broomstick?; why
witches were endangered?; out of fashion?; and I was wondering this myself. No,
really - it was because people didn’t like witches any more, because witches
used up creatures in their spells, they couldn’t help it. Not to use creatures
in their spells, would be like, like, asking a decorator to paint a room
without paint; a comedian to make people laugh with nothing to laugh about; a
cook to make a meal without food and - I think it’s your turn now. So, adding
whatever it is you’ve just thought of - it was just impossible to do the job of
being a witch properly without toads, frogs, worms, spiders, bats and all the
sorts of things that make you say AAAAAAAEEEEEEEEUUUUUUUUUG.
Where were we? Creatures, right. Well now,
Gritta could of course have just used plants in her spells. She could have used
plants like stinging nettle, clinging ivy, prickly thistle and those bobbly
sticky seed heads children chuck on each other’s jumpers in the autumn. To only
use plants however and no slippery, slimy, crawly things, would be like asking
a tiger to exist on vegetables. They couldn’t do it, they would be miserable,
they wouldn’t feel like a tiger, they would stop being a tiger, they would die.
Gritta was very, very old; witches are. She
had lived through the reign of all the Olav’s of Olavland. Before it was
Olavland it had belonged to the witches. Just how it became Olavland is another
And so, Gritta was making her way to the
pond in the boggy meadow where few people walked because it was so muddy. King
Olav’s new law had played havoc with the witch population; some had emigrated
to places where people minded their own business; yet others bided their time
waiting for the Olavs to roll on, what was half a century for a witch?; others
languished in the deep dark cells below the castle; a few had got fed up and
turned to dust; and a scattering, a scattering to which Gritta belonged, practiced
their dark art secretly and silently.
Now I hope that you haven’t forgotten Krog,
there on the upturned bucket, blinking, dreaming of singing somewhere splendid,
La Scala, Milan or the Royal Opera House, London. Facing the pond, he imagined it
the shining sea of faces of the audience; to the left of the alder trees - the
royal box where the first family waited for Krog’s wonderful rendition. He
bowed to the alders, then to the pond. The white ducks looked at each other,
raised their eyes, and tucked their heads under their wings.
It was as Krog was imagining the rapturous
applause that greeted his bows, that Gritta arrived at the water’s edge, quite
close to the bucket. She too now stood facing the pond. To her it was a mirror
over which she would soon see herself flying, cackling horribly.
Gritta could cackle horribly once she was up, because no-one would recognize her. From the skies she
would scream defiance to the wind, she would make people shudder in their
shoes, she would make them remember that no, absolutely no stupid law would
stop her doing what witches had always done, which was magic, using squirmy
wormy, tickely lickely, hippety hoppety things. She positioned herself on the
broomstick with Scraw behind. Then her eyes narrowed and her lips moved, as if
in a trance. The broomstick quivered as if it had merely been asleep, and began
Just then Krog, who had finished bowing and
beaming to his imaginary audience, opened his mouth and began a passage from
his favourite aria. It was a passionate song, all about going off to fight and
leaving his true love. It required a stirring start. “KRO-O-O-G” he sang, very
loudly, but was silenced, when with a wobble and an accompanying shriek, Gritta
and the black cat toppled from the hovering broomstick. The enormous SPLOSH
they caused in the water, made the ducks untuck their heads from their wings,
and a mighty wave to sweep across the bucket washing Krog overboard.