A few months ago, my four year old wrote a story called The Flame Sword. He worked silently, writing page after page in a loopy cursive-like script that said nothing anyone without an imagination could possibly read. He asked that I staple it together. Then we read it. He carried The Flame Sword with him around the house, and some nights, took it to bed with him. He was proud of his first book.
This morning, he brought it out again, and asked me to read it. Of course, I had forgotten the original version, so together, we came up with a new one. It went something like this:
“Once upon a time,” I read, “there was a brave boy named Jim.”
“No,” my son interrupted. “That wasn’t his name.”
“What was his name then?”
“Read it,” he advised, looking at me as if I had forgotten how.
“Once upon a time, there was a brave boy named Knight Dakota.” We just returned from South Dakota, so he was content with that one. “He had a flame sword that caught on fire whenever danger was near.”
“No, no, it was always on fire,” he corrected, pointing at his loopy writing.
“It was always on fire. And Knight Dakota went on an adventure. You see, there was really bad guy who all good guys in the whole kingdom wanted to put in jail.”
“No, he is going to stab him with his flame sword.”
“Yes that’s what it says. He planned to stab him with his flame sword, the most powerful weapon in the world. Knight Dakota heard that the bad guy was hiding in a cave at the very top of the highest mountain in the world. So even though he knew it was very dangerous, and there was a blizzard every night, he climbed with his horse, named Bluey.”
“No, he doesn’t have a horse. If he held his flame sword in front of him, it would kill his horse. So he couldn’t have a horse.”
“Okay, no horse. It took him three days and nights to reach the top of the mountain all alone.”
“His flame sword kept him warm,” added the author.
“But when he arrived at the cave at the very top of the snow-covered mountain, the bad guy was not there.”
“A bear was in the cave,” smiled the author, pointing again to the words on the page. “A good bear.”
“And the bear could talk,” I added. “He told Knight Dakota that the bad guy had been hiding there but had left the day before. And he was heading for the ocean. Knight Dakota didn’t even stop to rest. He headed down the mountain as fast as he could to the sea.”
“And the bear came with him.”
“Yes, the bear came with him, because the bad guy had been mean to him, and he wanted to get him too. They had to cross through a dense jungle in the middle of the darkest night, past wild animals like jaguars…”
“But they were good jaguars.”
“Those were bad.”
“When they finally got to the ocean, they saw evidence that the bad guy had built himself a boat and sailed away. Luckily, Knight Dakota had worked as a ship builder before he became a knight, and he knew how to build the fastest boat in the world. It was a beautiful red boat.”
The four year old smiled, “Because both of their favorite colors was light red.”
“They caught up with the bad guy just as he landed on an island in the Bahamas, and they had a huge battle of swords.”
“The bad guy had a flame sword too,” read the author.
“But at first the bear could not help, because the bad guy sent a family of snakes to surround him and trap him.”
“They were bad snakes too.”
“And just as the bad snakes were about to bite the bear, Knight Dakota caught them on fire with his flame sword. And he and the bear fought the bad guy together.”
I turned another page, and the four year old pointed to the words at the top, “The bear scratched the bad guy down his face and across his belly. The scratch even covered his eye.”
My voice rose with the drama of the fight, “Then Knight Dakota finally slashed his leg with the flame sword and captured the bad guy. They brought him back to the king, who put him jail. And as a prize, he gave Knight Dakota and the bear a castle on the beach in the Bahamas.”
“And they lived happily ever after.”