The Land of Many Peacocks

When I was little, and given to tiny secrets and imaginations, I had a suitcase.  It was small, red with two latches.  I kept it in my closet and I recall staring into its minute depths, into the faded quilted lining and pockets, marveling at its compelling privacy.

I kept all manner of things in this suitcase – magazines, drawings, newspaper clippings.  All vitally important when I was 10 – but forgotten for decades.  However, recently, mother unearthed this ancient valise.

I remember many of the things that we found there…but one item was a complete – and wonderful surprise.

It was a story – epic in scope, galloping towards silliness before leaping over it into open space, unhindered by gravity.  The words were typewritten – I had told mother what to write – and like the story, my accompanying drawings were colorful, bold and in no way rooted in reality.

I really must share it with you:

“The Land of Many Peacocks”

“Once upon a time in the land of many Peacocks a terrible problem faced the inhabitants.  Water, which is necessary to all the creatures of the world, was very scarce.  And what water there was floated over a great mass of tar.  If a peacock was not careful when he went for water he became stuck in the tar and could not get free.  The peacocks in the Land of Many Peacocks were very sad.

The peacocks pleaded with their King to remove the tar or to do something to protect them whenever they went to get water.  But the King only laughed and told them to be careful and they wouldn’t get stuck in the tar.  You see, the King was too busy taking care of the things that he needed to take care of what the peacocks of his Kingdom needed.

The King had a son who was the most handsome peacock in all the Kingdom.  And he was proud of his son.  And the son, though he was handsome to see, was vain.  He was so conceited that he refused to help get rid of the tar for fear that he might get some tar on his beautiful tail feathers.

In another part of the kingdom, far, far away from the King’s castle, at the edge of a great forest lived a young Peacock.  He was the same age as the King’s son, but his feathers were not as bright and pretty.  His tail feathers were all ragged and his crown feathers drooped.  He worked so hard trying to find a safe way to get water that he had no time to take care of himself and his feathers.

This young peacock’s name was Philip.  Philip became very angry when he saw the peacocks plead with the king and his son for help only to be turned away with an angry word.  The King’s son was called The “Prince”, laughed at the Peacock’s troubles.  They weren’t his.  He had his own pool of water that had no tar, but no one could use the water from this pool but the King and the Prince.

Philip said he would find a way to help his friends.  And so he called a meeting of all the peacocks in the land, except for the King and the Prince.

“Is there anyone here who knows how we can remove the tar from under the lake?” asked Phillip.

Johnny Peacock spread his tail feathers and shouted, “Let’s take the water away from the King and make him go to the lake whenever he wants a drink.  Let him get stuck in the tar for once.”

“Yes!  Yes!”  shouted the peacocks.  “Down with the King” they shouted.

“Wait!  Wait!”  screamed Phillip holding up a wing.  “That’s not the way to do it.  It’s not right to fight against the King.  We must find another way.”

“Yes, there must be a way to remove the tar.”

“I have an idea,” said one of the peacocks.

What is It everyone wanted to know.

“Let’s gather up all the containers in the kingdom.  All the pails and buckets.  Everything that doesn’t leak.  When we’ve done that I think I know how to remove the tar.”

The peacocks quickly gathered all the containers and brought them to the lake.

“Now,” said the peacock who thought he could get rid of the tar.  “All the peacocks who can swim must dive to the bottom of the lake, fill a container with tar, bring it to land where we can pour the tar in a hole far away from the water.  Soon all the tar will be gone and it will be safe for all of us to get water from the lake.”

So quickly all the peacocks who could swim dived into the water and filled the containers with tar.  But no matter how much tar they took out there was still some left.  The tar kept bubbling up from the earth.  There seemed to be no end to the tar at the bottom of the lake.”

And there it ends.  Perhaps I saw something shiny that day in 1967 to interrupt my peacock narrative.  Perhaps it was lunchtime.  Regardless, I have no idea how this story should end.

So I must turn to my adorable readers.  You are all so deeply clever.

How should this peacock drama end?

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14 responses to “The Land of Many Peacocks

  1. I love the story and the drawings! I will have to think about an ending. It’s oh so early and my brain is really not functioning. It will be fun to think about at work today.

  2. What a sweet story from a wonderful imagination. My daughter also made up stories at an early age, so you’ve reminded me of my own memories, too. Since you asked, I’ve ventured an ending:

    One day, as the King poured over business papers in his ornate office, the prince slipped in without knocking and slouched into a big chair. The King asked his son what was wrong, and the prince said he wanted a business of his own, something important that would be prosperous and more exciting than villagers who whined about water and tar.

    The King suggested a loyal subject named Walter who invented machines. He sent his son to visit this peacock at his workshop. Upon arriving, the prince’s eyes grew wide at the sight of so many machines whirring. He was excited to work with Walter and gave him some gold coins to invent something new and splendid that would dig jewels up from the earth better than any machine seen before.

    Walter went to work and tested his invention in the forest at the far part of the kingdom until it worked wonderfully. As he tested it, he noticed tired peacocks with feathers tinged with tar trudging up the road from the lake. When the prince came to see Walter’s progress, he showed him how the machine drilled into earth and made sturdy tunnels in any direction. Then he mentioned the villagers and their troubles with water and the bubbling tar.

    “I refuse to talk about such distasteful and insignificant things,” said the prince. “Do not mention it again.”

    Walter grew angry but said nothing to the prince. He delivered the machine to the prince’s workers as he had promised, but he didn’t let on that he’d been given enough gold to finance the building of two machines. The other, he delivered to Philip and his friends. He taught them how to use it to drill into the ground and over to the lake to make a tunnel into it that the water at the top could flow through. The peacocks dug and prepared a reservoir, positioning it at the perfect point to make a large pool of water easily accessible to everyone.

    The king and his son were so self absorbed that they never noticed the new reservoir in the far part of the kingdom. This allowed Philip and all the peacocks there to live happily ever after.

  3. So lively–and prophetic. :-/
    Hmmm…tar and feathers bring a lot of images to mind, none of them good.

  4. How WONDERFUL! What a divine mind and imagination… And how lucky to come across this treasure, years later. LOVE the drawings!

    I fully support the happy ending, too. 🙂

  5. I can’t do the wonderful illustrations the same as you, Aubrey, but maybe I can take a shot at the ending.

    “This is strange,” said Phillip. “There must be something at the bottom of the water that is producing the tar all the time.” The other peacocks agreed, but none of them wanted to swim to the bottom of the lake to find the source, because they did not want to get their feathers covered with tar.

    Phillip, who didn’t think his feathers were as important as finding out what was fouling the water, then offered to go himself. To everyone’s surprise and even horror, he plunged into the tarry water and swam to the bottom.

    It was murky and difficult to see beneath the tarry waters, and Phillip often had to go back up to take another deep breath of air. But finally, Phillip struck a hard metal object in the filth. It was a large pipe. He followed it for a bit, then found that it went upwards towards the surface.

    When he finally got to the top of the pipe (thank goodness, for he was almost ready to suffocate), he found a huge plunging, bird-like machine attached to it. It was an oil pump, and it was extracting oil from the bottom of the lake. However, there was a leak in the pipe, and the oil was escaping and creating huge lumps of gooey, lumpy tar.

    There was another peacock standing on the platform next to the pump. Phillip angrily leaped before him and shouted, “You have to shut this thing off! It’s ruining the only water supply we have in the kingdom!”

    The other peacock trembled, shocked by Phillip’s wet, blackened appearance. “I can’t, it’s not mine!” he said. “It belongs to the King!”

    On hearing this, Phillip went back to the other peacocks waiting anxiously for news. He told them about what he had found. They all agreed, it was time to confront the king and make him seal off the oil well.

    When they finally approached the throne of their King however and petitioned him to shut down his pump, he laughed. “The sales of the oil to the humans on the other side of the lake provide our Kingdom with revenue, so we can keep taxes low and still provide schools for our children and parks, roads, and cheap food for everyone. If you fools are willing to pay more for everything, then I will happily shut down our oil well.”

    The peacocks withdrew, silent. Later that evening, they had a meeting and discussed what to do. Many refused to pay higher taxes and fees in place of the money from the oil sales. Others, a smaller group led by Phillip, demanded for the sake of everyone in the Peacock Kingdom, they should seal the well forever and each peacock pay its fair share to support their public services. They argued all night, and into the early hours of the morning: but still, they could reach no consensus. It didn’t occur to any of them that perhaps, they should get rid of their King and his vain son.

    Meanwhile, the water became more black and turgid, and it stunk of sulphur. Everyone complained of it as they continued to scoop water from the polluted lake. But no one was willing to take action to fix it.
    And so it goes to this very day.

    THE END (we think)

    Sorry. I’m in a mood where I don’t have much faith in what people do when confronted with an environmental problem.

    • Wow! Although the way your ending goes is a sad reminder of the way the majority of us humans seem to think, I think it’s well written and works well. My hat’s off to you. *Virtual Applause*

      • Thanks! I liked yours too. It was probably more in the spirit of Aubrey’s childhood story than my cynical “humanity sucks” message. (Or is it “peacocks suck?” :D) I probably should stay away from writing after reading the political news on the Huffington Post. Maybe then I would have found a way to a happy ending.

  6. What a wonderful story and great drawings. What a treasure that little red suitcase is.
    I wish that long-ago lunch hadn’t been quite so delicious and we had managed to find out what happened to raggedy Philip and the tar.
    A pity they didn’t take the water away from the tar instead…

  7. I wonder if you had either visited or been reading about the La Brea tar pits?

  8. My preferred ending would involve going back to Jonny Peacock’s original suggestion.

    The peacock revolution would be an allegory of transformation, heralded by the appearance of- what else- the Cauda Pavonis, the peacock’s tail.

  9. How superb! I love Johnny Peacock’s name.

  10. What a delightful find – the little red suitcase and the treasures within! Your drawings are so sweet and your fable very compelling, worthy of Aesop himself. I’m not creative enough to come up with another ending, but I enjoyed the two presented above.

  11. I love your story – but dare not add to it just now, as my vision isn’t quite that of an imaginative and innocent child. Get me a few days more away from the elections and things may seem brighter (or not, depending).

    Actually, I love that suitcase as much as the story. Like the suitcase I bundle my treasures in for hurricane evacuation, suitcases just seem to betoken journeys. Your peacocks certainly took me on one!

  12. aubrey: talented juvenalia from a talented writer! the pictures are marvelous. as for the ending: fairy tales operate according to their own rules. 1) the main character is always the world itself, so at the end of the story it is the world that must be transformed (in this case, the peacocks will learn that looks aren’t everything). 2) the hero is always good, the villain always bad, and their fates will be respectively wonderful and awful. Phillip will become the new king and receive a nice new set of handsome (but not gorgeous) feathers; the king and the prince will be stripped of their finery and exiled to the land of messenger pigeons until they have learned the value of service. 3) the hero’s sidekick always performs a service that the hero can’t. Johnny Peacock persuades Mamie, an oracle from the land of Peahens, to come and remove the king and prince’s uncontaminated pool of water. but Mamie and Phillip fall in love when they meet, and rather than destroy a sound pool of water, they heal and restore the polluted pool, replacing the spring of tar with a spring of lemonade. When the king and prince have left, the couple are married and Johnny Peacock goes to the land of Peahens for a vacation, where he meets Florence, the love of his life, and marries her. Finis. RT

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