In the northern woods, where the hills grow tall and deep with green, a little hut stood by a thicket of colorful trees. The hut was gray and crumbled with age, and inside lived a fat, choleric little man with legs as pointed as spindle needles. He sat all day and spoke to no one; though much longer ago than our story begins, he had held council with kings and was called by many illustrious names. For he knew the true matter of every skilled craft and also the words of Changing, used to coax frogs into men and children into trees, and even (and this was his pride) straw into gold.
But Time had forgotten him, and he soon found himself alone. Only the grove of trees brought him pleasure. They were of red leaves and gold, purple and ivory, carmine and the deepest cobalt. He sometimes stared at them for hours, letting the evening’s fire go cold until it was time for bed.
In a land of grassy green meadows and thickly forested hills, not unlike upstate New York or Vermont, lived a little girl named Cheddarella. She was thin, with elbows that poked and a chin that jutted. Everyone agreed she was sharp.
Cheddarella lived with two older sisters, Lactette and Butterinda, on a farm with one hundred cows. Their father drove the cows out to pasture in the morning and back to the barn in the evening. He milked them twice a day. Their mother made the milk into skim and two-percent, cream and yogurt, and a certain kind of cheese. Cheddarella helped her father with chores in the barn, and her mother with chores in the house. She was stronger than she looked, so no matter how hard the task, she got it done.
Lactette and Butterinda never lifted a finger on the farm. They went to school, where they learned to read and write. When they were home, they complained about how hard school was. They watched cartoons, flipped through magazines, and talked about friends in an unfriendly way. Vain and idle, they believed that life should always be fun and easy as pie.
There was once a wolf and two rabbits. The wolf killed the rabbits.
Now let me tell you the story again.
In a place imagined by imagination there was a mountain on which grew vegetation so rich it ran like husks of dense green fur in the summer and remained browned and stubborn in the winter. On this mountain there lived two rabbits and a wolf.
The two rabbits were white save for a sandstone brown spot between their eyes. Twins were these two rabbits, and large. Each was as large as three rabbits their normal size. Neither spoke, not even in their own rabbit language. They communicated in their own special way and had since birth and too-soon abandonment. The rabbits felt safe in their size and private thoughts. They did not know they shared the smooth-ridged mountain with a wolf.