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Party Time
Tale One: Rohan and the Enchanted Zoo

Far faraway in the town of Jumblepore lived a boy called Rohan. He loved listening to stories. His favourite story was the one told by his dadima about a magical place called Zhongrila. Zhongrila, it was said, was full of precious stones of different kinds, and of treasures few men had ever seen. Rohan really longed to see Zhongrila. But deep down, he was not sure if it was not just a fairy tale.

The Minstrel

One foggy morning, a wandering minstrel came to Jumblepore. He sang with a sweet voice, playing his ektara (one-stringed instrument):

"Lies across the seven seas and seven mountains
Zhongrila, full of golden stairs and silver fountains

Maidens sit in orchards laden with fabulous fruits,
Near a glimmering lake, playing their magical lutes

Only good children can see Zhongrila soon
For dal and a roti, I can take you there by noon"

Rohan was thrilled. All his life, he had thought that Zhongrila was just a story. He said "Chacha (uncle), I will give you some dal and rotis. But please take me to Zhongrila."

"Thank you, Rohan", the minstrel replied, "My name is Hothal, the wandering minstrel." Rohan wondered how he knew his name. Hothal continued, "I will show you how to go to Zhongrila."

After the meal, Hothal spoke, "That was delicious. I know that you have been a good boy. But the path is dangerous and full of evil. Only children who have been dutiful and obedient reach there."

"I am prepared," Rohan said.

"Close your eyes," Hothal commanded.

Rohan closed his eyes and felt as if he was floating. When he opened his eyes, he was in a different land. The sky was a bright purple. The trees were bigger than anything he had seen in Jumblepore. Fluorescent butterflies and musical birds flew around him.

Ahead on a path of cobbled stones, he saw a sign that said: Zhongrila 7 Tasks Away.

That was strange! In Jumblepore, distance was written in kilometres. Clearly, this place was different.

The First Task

Rohan walked along until he reached an enormous gate with a sign that read 'The Enchanted Zoo'. He was a bit afraid. Zoos were places where big, dangerous animals were kept. He walked in carefully, not knowing what to expect in this strange place. However, the only sound he could hear was that of the rustling dry leaves that littered the zoo.

'ROAR!' came a sudden loud noise, piercing the silence and scaring him out of his wits. He turned to look, but was relieved and very surprised to find out that it was only a cow!

He walked ahead. A loud trumpet greeted him. He expected it to be an elephant. But it was just a poor parrot flying in desperation inside its cage.

The next cage had an elephant that made a chirping sound. The last cage had a pathetic-looking lion mooing away in embarrassment. How strange, he thought.

A gruff loud voice was singing:

The enticing Enchanted Zoo, a strange place indeed
Trapped are bewildered beasts, can they be freed?
From the Rhyming Dragon's evil, a spell that he cast
The boy from the other world, is he the one, at last?

It was clear that he was meant to come to this place and help these poor animals find their voices. But how? And who was singing this song?

Suddenly, the trees shook and the leaves were scattered. And, a fierce dragon as high as a 3-storey building flew and stood in front of Rohan.

"Who are you?" Rohan asked.

The dragon replied:

"Who am I? I am the Rhyming Dragon
Lord of the jungle and the rhyming pen
Tell me a good rhyme, or else you will see
Your voice quite changed, sounding like a bee"

Rohan was scared. The dragon was truly a terrible sight. Every time he breathed out, fire shot out of his nostrils. He felt like going back home but he hesitated when he thought of the poor animals in the cages. Then he sang:

Plenty of pretty poems and songs I know
This, a difficult challenge that you throw

Give the cow back its moo, the lion its roar,
The elephant with no trumpet is a big bore

The parrot can chirp away to its fabled freedom
And me back to my path, boring and humdrum

Oh, please return the voices of these poor beasts
If with my rambling rhymes, you seem pleased

"Wonderful, dear boy!" grunted the Rhyming Dragon. "I will restore their voices with great joy!" And so he did and flew away.

The animals were released from their cage. The lion roared, the cow mooed, the elephant trumpeted, and the parrot chirped. But the Rhyming Dragon had given them an additional power. They could speak like humans if they wanted to.

All the animals spoke together, "Thank you for removing the spell. We will join you on your journey." Rohan was overjoyed. He had made four new friends in this new place. Now it was time to continue on the journey to Zhongrila.

Did you like the story? Will Rohan make it to Zhongrila? Do you know how to make rhymes? To share your views and comments, click here

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