Once upon a time, there was a little fat fairy. She was a short, squat, roly-poly puddin’ and pie fairy, with a little brown mop of hair, a rounded potato nose, a wobbly tummy, and fat little arms and legs that made her look like a Dandelion Clock with tapered limbs. (It must be pointed out here that the Dandelion Clocks always took exception to that description, as they were much more graceful than the little fat fairy, and they resented the clumsy comparison. This is despite the fact that they did a good business with her, as she used their fluffy seeds to make summer parasols for the fairies of the area.)
She was not like the other fairies, who were tall, beautiful, graceful, willowy and floaty. She was short, ugly (by fairy standards), clumsy, stout and leaden. Most fairies were graced with wings of wide-spanned rainbow sheets like shining organza, whilst the little fat fairy had two stubby little scraps of a brown speckled hessian-type membrane – they were so small one could not even observe she was a fairy from the front.
It was sometimes whispered amongst the Elders that the little fat fairy’s father had been a gnome from the Royal Gardens of Sparkling Gemton. There was nothing wrong with being a gnome from the Royal Gardens of Sparkling Gemton, but some people where the little fat fairy lived pretended there was, because they thought it made them look better (it didn’t, it simply showed how mean some people can be). But the little fat fairy’s mother was so loved by all the local fairies in their little corner of Fairyland, that it was a gossipy secret the younger generations knew nothing about. And just as well, or the little fat fairy would have been cruelly and mercilessly teased, even more than she already had been growing up in that narrow-minded small-town corner of Fairyland. As it was, people had even forgotten she had a real name, simply calling her “Little Fat Fairy” or if they were kind, “Little Fairy”. How sad!
The little fat fairy lived on the edge of Anchor Wood, in the little fat root nook of an old oak tree that produced twisted but sweet-tasting acorns in the autumn. Her family had lived there for years, in that Twisted Acorn Nookery treehouse. It had little fat round windows with red and white polka-dotted curtains, just like the little fat toadstools in the garden. It had a short, wide door that most fairies had to stoop to enter (except the little fat fairy – it was almost as if the little door had been made just for her, even though it was 500 years old, and she was nearly 16 – which is very young amongst fairies!).
In Fairy School, the little fat fairy had often been alone, sitting in the quietest corner of the playground during break time, or at the back of the classroom under the Ivy Leaves of Happy Banana Hollow’s Finest Fairy Educational Establishment. Nobody knows why the little town the little fat fairy lived in was called Happy Banana Hollow, although there was some speculation over a midnight visit to the noble family of the Hollow Dwellers many centuries ago by a stranger from a distant land of Hot Summery Sunshine. Sometimes, when there was a new student at the school who found themselves alone, the little fat fairy would be kind to them, and sit and share her lunch of little fat fairy cakes and sugar-sprinkled honey nuts. But it was never more then a day or two before she was alone again, after the other fairies had pushed her away and taken the new student under their voluminous wings. For some reason, the other fairies had a problem with how the little fat fairy looked, and they missed out on getting to know her kind, gentle spirit because they were so busy calling her fat and stupid and ugly. And so the little fat fairy was lonely and miserable.
In lessons, the little fat fairy was terrible at her wishwork, pathetic at her spellwork, and abysmal at her flying education. She was often sniggered at by the other fairies for how poor she was at these subjects, particularly the flying (or, more correctly, not flying). Dancing was the bane of her life too, because her feet just would not go the way that her brain would tell them, and she often felt a little piece of her heart break as she was told to sit out again and again as the more competent fairies performed the most intricate of dances. This was the kindly but short-sighted teacher’s attempt to spare the poor little fat fairy’s feelings, but all it did was show the other fairies that she was hopeless and make them giggle more.
She did show some skill in fairy baking (she had a good tongue for flavours), and in art, she was somewhat proficient, churning out pictures of well-observed flowers and copious amounts of stunning fairy dress designs. It was clear that this little fat fairy not only took after her mother in being wonderfully skilled at sewing, but indeed, was going to be a greater seamstress than she had ever been! Her mother’s skill was already legendary amongst the upper ranks of the royal palaces across both Fairyland and Elvendom. Once she had been given her own sewing kits and materials for her tenth birthday, it became quickly apparent that the little fat fairy had a great talent of producing garments of stunning quality that fit the fairy it was made for like a second skin.
At the age of sixteen, when a fairy is able to go to work if she or he wishes, the little fat fairy had decided to leave school and take over her mother’s business. Before, she had helped her mother after school had finished for the day, and during holidays, firstly tacking up the pieces of fabric before they were fitted to the fairy it belonged to, and eventually taking over even the finest parts of the intricate needlework on wedding gowns and ball gowns for the nobility who often went to the Royal Palace in Diamond City. The little fat fairy had always hidden from the customers her mother measured up and did the fittings for, because she feared their laughter and scorn, but when her mother received a message to say that the little fat fairy’s great aunt was very ill and she needed nursing, she offered to run the business on her mother’s behalf.
This was a great sacrifice for the little fat fairy, because whilst she loved sewing and creating these wonderful garments, she hated having to speak with customers and measure them up. Most of them were not rude to her face, but the way that they looked at her made her feel as if they were either looking through her, or laughing at her. She knew she was very good at what she did, but nobody really knew her, only what she could offer. She was very lonely, but she was too afraid to speak to anybody because she feared how they would respond, like the other fairies at school who simply laughed at her, called her names, or ignored her.
The little fat fairy preferred to hide on her own, only emerging to do what she must, or to say hello to the Primroses in the hidden little Primrose Hollow where she often took refuge from the world with a piece of needlework and a fairy cake. After all, none of the fairies wanted to be her friend, and so she gave up even attempting to be anybody else’s friend, even to the happy little Violets and Bluebells that lined her pathway to her hidden retreat. She found that the more she hid from the fairies, the more they forgot about her, which suited her just fine, because when she was forgotten about, people couldn’t think of how ugly she was, or laugh at her clumsiness. They simply forgot that she was there at all!
She spent her time watching the sunlight break through the trees, smiling at the Squiggle Family whenever they brought their youngsters out of the highest branches to learn how to climb and pick nuts, listening to the sighing of the trees as they whispered their ancient, sleepy comforts to her, and sewing those wonderful garments.
She made little suits for the youngest fairies out of softest birch bark; she wove the finest threads of gossamer from Madame Arachne and her Terrifying Sisters into the party dresses of the rich young city fairies; she made practical work clothes for the local farmer fairies from the tough pith of the oak trees, lining them with thistledown to wick away the sweat of their summer toil and to keep them warm in winter; she decorated skirts and everyday dresses with baubles of elderberries and cherry blossoms; she made bridal veils of the finest threads from Mrs Mori Bombyx, and decorated the little teasel combs with shining beads of dew and honeysuckle nectar. Oh, she loved her work, that little fat fairy! But still she was lonely.
She determined that even though she could not be anybody’s friend, she could at least make everybody look beautiful so that they would be a fine sight for all their friends. She would be content to sew and take care of her mother’s business, and her mother could go and take care of her great aunt until she was better. It gave her great pleasure to know that her hands were able to create such beauty, even though she could see no beauty of her own when she looked sadly at her face in the surface of the Twisted Acorn Nookery Puddle.
It had been nearly a year before our story started that the little fat fairy had taken over her mother’s business. And what a lot of business there was at the Twisted Acorn Nookery! Autumn parties here, midsummer dances there, winter festivals coming and going, spring flings to-ing and fro-ing! Then there were Naming Ceremonies for the fairy babies, and, of course, the Graduation of the Dancers and Singers from the Faerieversity of Folklorian Town – everybody who was anybody went to that, and they all wanted a new gown or a hat or a stunning statement piece.
All year, the little fat fairy had kept her fingers flying, and folk came and went, never seeming to think of the time or skill or individuality of the one who was making these beautiful frocks and fripperies for them. They did not see her climb stiffly from her bed on blustery mornings to scrape dust from the rainbows to dye her fabrics with (the Leprechauns were willing to let her have as much as she wanted, as long as she made pretty bows for their beards whenever they had a Gathering). They did not see her toiling over the finest beadwork and detailed designs of their lacy bodices and shining silk slippers. People simply said, “Let us go to the Twisted Acorn Nookery, I need a new dress.” Or, “I must go and pick up my Queen Anne’s Lace parasol from the Little Fat Fairy, I’m ever so excited!”
And most of all, people did not see the special deals she did with the poorer folk of Happy Banana Hollow, who could not afford certain materials or laces. The little fat fairy would price her garments according to the amount of gold or silver her customers had. She would trade her skills for a basket of strawberries or a couple of cinnamon cookies. She would make sunhats in return for a bit of gardening, or sew on fire beads in return for firewood. She always found a way round for people to be able to afford her clothes, and never told anybody else what a person had paid. She used materials that were affordable, but made them into stunning raiment, so that even the poorest folk could hold their heads high and dance proudly and prettily. But she was so busy, and so scared that people may call her names, that she never stopped long enough to pass the time of day with her grateful customers.
And so the little fat fairy was a lonely little fat fairy. Poor little fat fairy!
Now, that autumn, after the harvests had been collected, the barns were full, the nuts were ready for roasting (the Squiggles always made sure the fairies were well supplied), and the berries were being pulped for wine and dyes and puddings, the Royal Palace sent out their invitations for the Royal Harvest Ball. Oh, the excitement! This was the ball where all the teenage fairies got a chance to display their beautiful faces, their new gowns, and show off their dancing and singing skills. Everybody wanted to be there, everybody wanted to go, and everybody wanted to look wonderful! Fairies from all over Fairyland, from the furthest reaches of the Cloudland Mountains, to the deepest depths of the Ocean Valley Forests, all wanted to come to the Diamond City Palace to greet the Fairy King and Fairy Queen and swoon over the Fairy Prince, feast on the finest foods, and with a bit of luck, steal a kiss from the handsome or pretty fairy of their dreams. For in Fairyland, there is nothing quite as attractive as a fairy in autumn, bedecked in finest berry colours with shining dewdrops in their hair, draped in silks and dazzling with the richest fairy dust the Magic Miners could find!
As you might guess, the little fat fairy had been getting everybody ready for this momentous feast for many months, in between all the other parties and celebrations. But now, with just a week to go, all the folk of Happy Banana Hollow were constantly calling on her for final fittings, or sending messages with passing woodland folk, wanting to add this ribbon or that thread, another layer or a different colour, changing the style of a hat or draping a veil differently. The little fat fairy had no time even to eat properly, running around from dawn until dusk with pins all lined up between her pursed lips, tape measures around her little fat shoulders, needles stuck in her cotton overall, and ribbons flowing out of her pockets. She fell into bed exhausted every night, only to be woken up what felt like seconds later when Mr Robin Redtummy began singing very loudly outside her front door until she rolled out of bed and brought him some worm cookies for getting her up ready for another day’s work.
The day before the Royal Harvest Ball, a group of the little fat fairy’s old school fellows arrived to pick up their dresses. Normally, they would visit the Twisted Acorn Nookery separately, and there would be no problem for the little fat fairy. Each one of her old school fellows would simply act as though she either weren’t there, or just speak about what they wanted, and leave. But this time, in a group, it felt very different. Now, I don’t know if you have ever been at school, and suddenly, a group of people are looking at you, and one person says something rude about you, and suddenly the whole group is laughing at you. Has that ever happened to you? Because it used to happen to the little fat fairy every day! And when something like that hasn’t happened to you for a while, you sort of forget how horrible it was because it doesn’t hurt quite so much. You hide the pain away until it is a dull ache, and you get used to it. But as soon as somebody pokes that sore spot by calling you ugly, or skinny, or fat, or spotty, or whatever it is they say you are, it hurts all over again, just as much, and sometimes more.
And that day, all it took to poke that sore spot the little fat fairy had, was for one tall, slender, pretty fairy of the group to whisper loudly to another tall, slender, pretty fairy, “Goodness! Hasn’t she got fatter?” And all the tall, slender, pretty fairies giggled.
Poor little fat fairy! If the truth be told, as indeed it must, because this is a fairy tale, and in all fairy tales, the truth ought to be told in full, the little fat fairy had actually lost weight recently, because she was so busy making party dresses that she hadn’t had time to eat properly! Those beautiful, but mean, fairies might have thought the little fat fairy was ugly, but that comment was much uglier than she could ever be!
The little fat fairy got down on her knees to try and hide her tears as she finished adjusting a hem on a diaphanous gown of gold and silver lace. The fairy wearing that dress looked a vision of loveliness, but ugly words spilled out of her mouth as she said, “I suppose, Little Fat Fairy, that somebody like you wouldn’t have got an invitation to the ball, because it is only the most beautiful fairies in Fairyland that attend. But when we come back, we shall tell you all about it. I would offer to bring you some cake back, but I see you have had enough of that already.”
And all the fairies giggled again.
The little fat fairy did her best to finish her work in silence, concentrating on the last minute tucks and alterations of the dresses, and when, half an hour later, the fairies left her, she collapsed into her little fat armchair by the cold, empty fireplace. As she tried to hold back the tears with a quivering lip, she saw a golden envelope sticking out from behind the little fat clock on the short wide mantelpiece. Do you know what was in that envelope? Can you guess? Yes! It was her very own invitation to the Royal Autumn Ball!
The little fat fairy suddenly got up again, grabbed the envelope, ran as best as she could (which means a fast walking pace for people who are not little fat fairies) along the path through Anchor Wood, and flung herself down on the ground in her special little Primrose Hollow, sobbing loudly and crying so much that she wet the grass beneath her. She felt dreadfully alone, and little, and fat, and ugly, and horrible, and, even worse, as all people who end up crying because they have been hurt dreadfully know, snotty! She sobbed and sobbed with her face hidden in the moss. Not even the Primroses were out at that time of year to stroke her little fat hands with their soft, furry leaves, and there was nobody around at all to pass her a tissue. Everybody was at home having their tea and getting excited about the ball.
But why was the little fat fairy crying? Well, any of you who have had something cruel said to you knows that it hurts horribly, and you just can’t help crying sometimes. But some of you might be thinking, at least she had an invitation to the Royal Autumn Ball! That would show those mean, nasty fairies! The little fat fairy could just turn up and surprise them all!
But in order to be allowed into the Royal Autumn Ball, one must first be sixteen (which the little fat fairy was), but one must also be dressed in fine clothes. That sounds a bit mean to fairies who have not got any gold or silver, but don’t worry, this is Fairyland, and there are such things as Fairy Godmothers for those who need them. But the little fat fairy did have the gold for fine clothes, so she did not need the services of a Fairy Godmother.
The problem was, whilst the little fat fairy had the gold, she did not have the fabric! All the silks and laces and gossamer and fine materials and baubles and sequins had already been used for her customers’ clothes, and there was nothing left to make even a headdress, let alone a ball gown for a little fat fairy! Or even a tall thin one! Madam Arachne and her Terrifying Sisters had already gone on holiday, and Mrs Mori Bombyx was said to be throwing buckets of dirty water over people who dared to knock on her front door for last-minute pieces of silk. There was not a scrap of spare material to be found anywhere!
And besides, the little fat fairy thought to herself, what use is a lovely gown when the wearer is fat and ugly? Who wants to see a little fat fairy make herself look even more ridiculous?
Oh, poor little fat fairy! And she cried and cried until she was all cried out.
As she quietened into that time when you cannot cry any longer, but your tummy and chest make you produce the strangest sounds, halfway between a loud hiccup and a sob, and your face and eyes are all red and swollen, she began to hear the trees.
“Ssssshhhh… Ssssssshhhhhh….” They were using their leaves to try to quieten her, and comfort her.
“It’s n-n-no use, lovely trees,” she said. “I c-c-can’t cheer up. I don’t w-w-want to cheer up. I just w-want to be fat and miserable like I am bec-c-cause I c-c-c-can’t go to the b-b-baalllllll!” And she began crying again. But she was so exhausted that she could only lie there in the grass and push her face into handfuls of velvet moss, wiping her tears and blowing her nose on it (moss is very absorbent, you know).
As she lay there sniffing and wiping, wiping and sniffing, she suddenly heard a sound. She stopped still, shuddering hiccups shaking through her now and again. She listened…
A voice in the distance was calling.
“Helloooooo? Can you hear meeeeeee?”
The little fat fairy sat up.
“Hellooooo? Who is crying? Come and talk to meeeeee!”
The little fat fairy looked at the trees, sniffing.
“Who is calling, lovely trees? Should I go and talk to them?”
The trees could not reply (they don’t have mouths, you know). But they nodded their branches at her, and swept their leaves in the direction the voice was coming from. Stumbling, the little fat fairy got up, and crept towards the sound.