A Patchwork Fairy Tale: the one with the young man, the bottle and the unwished wishes.
A kind young man frees a genie and has a very hard time convincing said genie that he truly does not need the traditional three wishes in return.
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[Gentle theme music]
Laura: Hi, you can call me Laura, I’m here to tell you a story if you like. You found one of my Patchwork Fairy Tales. This is the one with the young man, the bottle, and the unwished wishes.
The Grateful Genie
It’s wrong to think that every genie in a bottle was put there by a sorcerer. Genies have always lived in bottles, or vases, or pitchers, or sometimes even in wine decanters. Such houses suit them very well, because a genie can alter its size at will and bottles are nice and snug to live in.
This, of course, does not mean that genies do not get trapped in bottles, they certainly do. Especially when their bottle ends up somewhere damp and the cork gets stuck.
This was exactly what happened a long time ago to a genie that lived in a very nice dark blue bottle.
One day, after a short nap that was only a hundred years long, he woke up to find his bottle stuck in a riverbed. He had no idea how it ended up there and to his horror he could not get out. The cork had gotten wet and swollen and was horribly stuck.
There was nothing the genie could do about it, because inside the bottle he was only a very tiny genie with very little magic. He would surely be stuck there to this day if a young man had not happened to walk past that very moment.
He was a cheerful young man, walking with big strides and his head held high. When he saw the bottle, he slowed down and turned to look at it.
“Would be a waste to leave such a fine bottle here, littering the river bank,” he said to himself and he pried the bottle loose from the clay.
Carefully he held it in the water to clean it and then he tried to pull out the dirty cork. It seemed almost fused to the bottle’s neck, but the young man made an effort and with a great pop the cork came out.
Immediately the genie shot out of the bottle with a whoop of joy.
The young man nearly fell into the river because of the shock of it, but luckily he didn’t.
“Oh thank you, young master!” the genie cheered. “A thousand thanks!”
“You’re very welcome,” the young man laughed, having recovered from the surprise already. He had never been an anxious fellow and was remarkably hard to disconcert.
“Let me thank you properly!” the genie said seriously. “You get three wishes!”
“Three?” the young man echoed.
“Of course, this is tradition after all,” the genie nodded.
“I wouldn’t even know what to do with one,” the young man said cheerfully. “There is nothing that I need.”
The genie’s face fell. “Nothing at all?”
“Nothing!” the young man laughed and he really meant it.
“Nonsense!” the genie cried. “I shall reward you!”
And he grabbed hold of the young man’s arms and lifted him clear off his feet.
In the blink of an eye he put him back down again and the young man found himself sitting on a gold throne with red velvet cushions. Marble and crystal gleamed all around him and at least a dozen servants stood by, waiting for a command.
Astonished the young man looked round for the genie, but instead of the spirit a big crowd of richly dressed courtiers came rushing towards him.
“Any wishes, Your Majesty?” a lady crooned.
“Any requests, Your Highness?” a gentleman prompted.
The young man frowned, looking down at his own clothes. He saw he was suddenly dressed in brocade and as he bent his head a heavy golden crown slid down over his forehead.
“Genie!” he yelled. “Genie, where are you?”
With a puff of smoke the genie appeared out of nowhere, a big grin on his face.
“How do you like it, Your Majesty?” he said.
“Thanks for taking the trouble,” the young man answered. “But I do not like it at all. I have no wish to be a king or even a nobleman.”
“I see,” the genie said, disappointed. “Is there nothing you like about it?”
“Not really, no,” the young man said, because he was very eager to be out of this strange palace and back into his own comfy clothes.
“Ah, but I know what else I can do!” the genie shouted, his face lighting up.
Before the young man could protest he was swept up once more and when he and the genie came down to earth again, there was a crowd of people waiting for them.
As the young man turned round they all began to cheer.
“It’s the professor!” some of them gasped. “I can’t believe he really came!”
The young man turned around, but the genie was nowhere to be seen and he was instantly mobbed by people who wanted his advice. They called him the most famous man alive, the most clever of men and most talented of professors.
When he finally managed to get a word in, he raised his voice above all the crowds clamouring and yelled: “Genie!”
The genie appeared, looking slightly worried already.
“Is this no good either?” he asked.
“No good at all, sorry,” the young man said, shaking his head.
The genie sighed and snapped his fingers.
The crowd blinked their eyes and stood around looking sheepish for a moment. Then they awkwardly shrugged their shoulders and went home, muttering to each other about not remembering why they went out in the first place.
Exhausted the genie collapsed on the ground.
“I really thought being famous and talented would be something for you,” he pouted.
“Sorry,” the young man smiled.
“So there really is nothing?” the genie wailed. “Absolutely nothing you want!”
The young man smiled.
“Come,” he said. “Let’s go back to the river and I’ll show you what I want.”
The young man led the genie down the road that followed the river until they arrived at a place where they could see a little house in between some trees.
Looking further along the river, they could make out the first houses of a little village, but the small house before them was almost hidden from sight by the trees of a beginning forest.
“There,” the young man pointed.
Silently he and the genie watched as the front door of the little house opened and an elderly man emerged. He was clutching a bottle of ointment and turned around to speak to a young woman that had followed him outside.
“Take care to use it every evening before bed,” the young woman instructed pleasantly.
She had a caring face and her smiles were being evenly divided between her patient and the small child that toddled about in front of her feet and clutched at her legs.
“Thank you, my dear,” the old man nodded and he opened the light-blue garden gate and set off for home.
The young woman herded her child into the vegetable garden and gave him some carrots she pulled out of the ground. The child darted back into the house, carrots and all and his mother chased him laughingly.
The genie stared. There was nothing more to see. Just a little whitewashed house, with a garden, a light-blue fence and gate, a vegetable plot and a little shed beside it.
“That is all I’ll ever want in life,” the young man said.
“Then why did you not ask for this?” the genie said.
“Because I’m married to that lovely girl!” the young man laughed. “And that is our house and our own little boy!”
The genie shut his mouth.
The young man laughed heartily at his expression and the genie did smile, but he also sighed.
“So there is nothing I can give you…” he mumbled.
“No! I am the luckiest and the happiest man alive to be sure!” the young man gloried. “If I had one wish left, it would only be that I would never have to leave my home.”
“Have to leave?” the genie said, puzzled, since he’d been locked in his bottle for so long. “Why would you have to leave?”
“To go out and work to earn money,” the young man sighed.
“For food and clothes, fuel for the stove and feed for the chickens. All kinds of things.”
“So you have to leave your house to keep it?” the genie frowned.
“Yes, that’s right, isn’t that a plight!” the young man laughed. “But that’s the way it is.”
“Then I’ll make it so you’ll never have to leave!” the genie said, his face lighting up with pure triumph.
“Thanks all the same,” the young man smiled. “But I wouldn’t like to be unable to leave. No offence, but you are a genie.”
“Oh no!” the genie exclaimed. “I’ll just make sure you’ll never have to leave!”
“How would you do that?” the young man spluttered.
“You’ll see,” the genie sang, overjoyed he finally knew how to repay his saviour. It is a terrible thing for such a spirit, to live in someone’s debt, and he could not have rested before he had learned how he could return the favour. But now he knew and he had no qualm in leaving.
“Farewell!” he sang and with that last cry he shot into the sky, bottle in hand and disappeared from sight in a puff of smoke.
The young man watched him go, shrugged his shoulders with the unbothered ease he was born with and went home.
His wife was surprised to see him back so soon, as he had only set out this morning to go to town.
“Ah, I go to town too often,” the young man said. “I wish I did not have to.”
“I know,” she sighed. “But my remedies do not put enough food on the table.”
“Well, we do need a great deal of food,” the young man winked.
“Cake!” his son weighed in.
“Especially cake,” he nodded gravely.
“If you help me, we shall have some,” his wife said and she lifted their little boy up so he could reach the kitchen counter.
While baking, the young man told his wife of the genie in the bottle, because he generally told her everything worth hearing. He made a fantastic story of it for their son and they all laughed about the genie who must have only ever met people who wanted nothing but fame and fortune.
“It is strange he told you that you would never have to leave home again,” his wife said.
“Yes, but there is no harm in it,” the young man assured her. And he proved this to his son by running in and out of the house and around the garden with him at least three times.
This indeed seemed proof enough, so the family thought it safe to forget about the genie’s promise.
However, as the days passed, something peculiar seemed to be happening. It was hardly noticeable at first, but after a while it became quite clear that something was amiss in the pantry.
It was always full.
Now this is generally not the sort of thing to raise alarm, but it was very strange. Nothing ever ran out. The sacks with flour and sugar were always full. The cans with coffee and tea, though not very large, never seemed to show their bottom.
Furthermore, the household seemed suddenly free of the wear and tear that usually define a young family’s possessions. Not a cup or plate broke, not even when knocked off the table by the little boy. No slugs ate the vegetables in the garden, no blankets wore out, no trousers or blouses ripped or even lost a button.
“The chickens lay more eggs as well,” the young woman remarked. “And they’re looking so round and happy.”
She was busily tying bunches of herbs to dry, because they had never grown quite so fast.
“I really cannot understand it.”
The young man looked around the kitchen. He looked at his wife at the kitchen table and at his son under the kitchen table. He looked out the window at the chickens scratching for worms and at the cleaving block that always seemed to have more uncloven wood next to it, ready for chopping.
He looked at this all and thought of the things he wanted to build and do and learn. And then he thought of all the things he did not want to do and of the town where he used to go to make money. Money to buy things. Money that took up his time.
Then he grinned and looked at his wife with a triumphant face.
“Have I not always told you I am the luckiest man alive!” the young man proclaimed with a smile broad enough to light up the whole kitchen.
“Indeed you have,” she laughed. “But even luck would-”
But her husband had no time for sensibleness to weigh down his joy.
“The luckiest man alive!” he cheered and he swept his child off his feet and gleefully swung him over his shoulder.
The boy screamed with laughter and as the young man kissed his wife across the kitchen table there truly wasn’t a happier little place to be found in all the corners of the world.
But in one of those corners there was at least considerable happiness as well, because there a genie slept peacefully inside his snug bottle, with a satisfied smile on his face.
Laura: And with that last word stitching up the very last sentence, this story has its proper end.
Thank you so much for listening, lovely of you to stop by. If you want to listen to more of these, or find out about my other projects, check out patchworkfairytales.wordpress.com. You can also find me at laurasimonsdaughter.tumblr.com which is full of folklore and urban fantasy.
There’s another tale to tell some other Wednesday but until then…
Listen to bees, never fell a hawthorn tree, and be safe~
Copyright Laura Simons, please do not copy my stories without my permission, lest you insult the fae.