Tina and Colleen are not new to working with the MS Society. They were commissioned in 2000 to write the script for the last MS READaTHON. During that year they presented the story to many of the Twin Cities schools encouraging students to read books and raise money for MS.
Two years ago, Tina's daughter-in law, Kari, was diagnosed with the disease. In honor of Kari and our ride with the team we have pulled out the old script and reworked the story which will appear in the new WonderWeavers story collection coming out later this summer.
Special thanks goes to Jane Chang for getting us started in storytelling and for the help with final editing of the story and to Iris Nelson for the wonderful illustrations.
So Enjoy the Preview!
The Golden Pages
At my house, Saturdays always started the same way.
My brother would yell, “Three, two, one, GO!” and the race to the living room was on. The first one to the living room became the Remote Control Master. One day I won the race. It was finally my turn to choose what we would watch on TV all morning.
After we watched super robots save another doomed city, I knew it was time for a change. I aimed the remote at the television. Without warning a tan, furry blur shot past us as our cat, Simon, darted between the remote control and the TV. POOF!
When the strange blue smoke cleared, the television screen was dark. There lying on the living room floor was an enormous book. Cautiously, we walked over and looked down at it. My brother was about to pick it up, but I stopped him.
“I wouldn’t touch that if I were you.”
“Don’t be a scaredy cat,” he replied, “It’s only a book.”
With the television broken we figured we might as well take a look at the book. We opened the cover and began to read...
Once upon a time, far, far away in the Kingdom of Usmore, there lived a king and a queen. It just so happened that this king and queen had twelve charming sons. Life was very hectic and busy with all those boys. The nannies were always chasing after someone, the tutors had lessons to teach, and the cooks and servants had their hands full. It was no surprise that the youngest of the twelve brothers, Reed, was often overlooked, missed, skipped, or just plain forgotten. His brothers called him Prince Doubtful. They thought it was doubtful he would ever amount to anything.
Time passed as it does in all kingdoms. The twelve princes grew to be fine young men and the king and queen decided it was time to retire. Each of their sons was given a portion of the realm as his own inheritance. Each prince looked over his new kingdom and was pleased - all the princes except Prince Doubtful. Being the youngest, he had received the smallest kingdom.
It was in the furthest corner of his parents’ land. Nothing much lived there. The young prince rode out to investigate his new realm. As Prince Doubtful entered his new castle, his face fell. Every single room in his castle was filled from floor to ceiling with shelves, and every shelf was filled with books. For some people this might have been a great treasure, but to Prince Doubtful, it was the worst of luck. For you see, during all those years of being the youngest and often overlooked prince, Doubtful had missed many lessons from the royal schoolmasters. He had never learned to read. Now he was to spend the rest of his days in a tiny castle filled with books, and not even a single servant around who could read to him.
Doubtful stomped out of the castle and mounted his horse. He might as well see what the rest of his kingdom held. As he surveyed his land, he was pleased to discover that it was filled with beautiful rolling hills and fields. He entered a thick, dark forest. When he paused to admire the giant trees, he heard a strange noise. It sounded like someone softly crying in those woods.
Prince Doubtful moved closer to the sound. The crying became sobbing, and then the sobbing became wailing. At length he entered a clearing. There, in the center of the clearing, sat the first person he was to meet in his kingdom - a young girl, in a fine purple gown. “She must be one of my royal subjects - and a sad one at that,” thought Doubtful.
He looked down from his mount and inquired, “Royal subject, why do you shed so many tears?”
The young woman stood up, stomped her foot and declared, “I am not your royal subject. Why I am a bewildered princess who has a mountain of trouble that is getting bigger all the time. For your information I also have a name — Princess Rita.”
Doubtful dismounted and approached Rita. “Why, a damsel in distress! My lucky day!” he thought to himself. “Perhaps I can be of assistance,” he said.
At this, Princess Rita burst into a fountain of tears.
“Things can’t be all that bad,” Doubtful said, trying to comfort her.
“They are worse than bad! I am the only child of the king and queen of Lot. Until recently, my home was a beautiful and friendly kingdom. I had everything from the finest clothes to the best teachers, and I was a healthy, happy princess. Then Count Victor arrived. He is my father’s uncle’s meanest cousin. He held an official document declaring that he had the right to take over our kingdom unless we could pay him 100 pieces of gold.”
“So your mother and father paid him, right?” Prince Doubtful interrupted.
“No, ours is a simple kingdom, not a rich one. Everyone works side by side. We all help each other do whatever needs to be done. Money is not important - at least until the day Count Victor arrived. Mother and Father have no money in the royal treasury. Count Victor was so angry. He wanted money, not our tiny kingdom. His face turned red, he yelled and hurled chairs across the room.
In his rage he said horrid words that turned everyone in our kingdom into stone – everyone, that is, but me. I don’t know why the curse didn’t turn me to stone, but my life has changed in other ways. Each day when I wake up, something different is wrong. Some days I cannot walk well. Some days my hands won’t let me pick things up. At times my vision is blurry, or I am unable to speak without mumbling. I just never know quite what to expect. I believe I’ll be doomed to live like this until I find 100 gold pieces and lift Count Victor’s curse.”
Prince Doubtful looked at Rita. “Together we should be able to work something out,” he said. “Two heads are better than one, after all. Return with me to my castle.”
With that, Prince Doubtful helped Princess Rita onto the back of his horse. As they rode, Doubtful explained, “I’ve just become ruler of this kingdom and there is no one here but me.” They rode out of the forest and returned to his castle.
Upon entering the castle, Rita’s eyes grew wide at the sight of all the books. She turned to Doubtful. “You must be the richest prince in the world!”
Doubtful was puzzled by her words. He looked at Rita as if she were crazy. “This is all that I have - hundreds of dusty old books. What good are they?”
Rita turned and stared hard at him. Finally she stammered, “What good are they? What good are they? Each book is an adventure, a new friend. You open the cover and a story emerges. With a book you can travel to places you have never dreamed of. A book can make you laugh, and it can make you cry. Best of all, a book can teach you great things! Valuable things!” As the prince listened, he began to frown and his shoulders slumped.
“What’s wrong?” asked Rita.
“I never learned how to read. I’m the youngest of twelve, and no one seemed to notice,” he said with a sigh. With tears in his eyes and a heavy heart, Prince Doubtful sat down and looked around the great room. He had missed so much. “You are so lucky to have been an only child,” he said to Rita.
Rita felt as if her heart was breaking. Suddenly, she had an idea, “Why don’t I read you a story out of one of your books? Bring one to me.” The Prince chose a large volume bound in rich red leather. A golden oil lamp was embossed on the cover. The book held over 1000 stories which a young woman was forced to tell in order to save her own life. Doubtful laughed so hard he had to hold his sides when Rita read from that book a tale called “The Historic Fart!”
Rita read late into the night. The candles were lit and she continued to read – on into morning, through the next day, and into the next. By the third morning, Rita found she could barely speak. Her words came out slowly and with so much effort. Finally, the book became too heavy for her to hold. Prince Doubtful gathered up the book from her lap and held it in his own hands. “Would you help me, Princes Rita? Will you teach me to read?”
She rested her voice only a minute, then began. They worked page by page, hour after hour. By the time they reached the last pages of the book, they were reading the words together. Finally, unable to speak one more word, Rita stopped. At first they did not notice when Doubtful read the last page by himself. He smiled at Rita and closed the book. As he placed the book on a nearby table a single gold coin fell from the pages and rolled across the floor. They watched as it came to a stop. Surely the coin couldn’t have been in the book all the time. Doubtful and Rita ran to the shelves and started pulling down more books, shaking them, opening them to see if there were any more gold coins. Alas, not one more coin appeared.
Disappointed, the two sat down and looked at each other. Then, together they said, “We might as well start another book.”
This time Rita picked a thinner volume. It was a silly story about a princess with a golden ball.
“The princess leaned over, kissed the frog, and there stood a handsome prince,” read Rita. She closed the book and, just as before, a single gold coin clinked onto the floor. Rita was stunned, but Doubtful was up in a flash searching the shelves for the very shortest book. He read the story as fast as he could. On the last page of the book he read, “One hundred gold coins dropped down the well will surely break a terrible spell.”
“That’s it!” exclaimed Doubtful “With every book we read we receive a gold coin. If we read enough books we will have enough money to break the curse.”
On that day, Doubtful and Rita began the task. They spent all their days and evenings devouring the many stories that lay upon the shelves. The stories took them to lands where the sun did not show its face for many days at a time, and they were delighted when they found a book that named and mapped the night stars. It wasn’t long before they had one hundred gold coins. Together they traveled to Rita’s kingdom where they dropped the one hundred gold coins down the well. The terrible curse was broken at last. The stone statues in the Kingdom of Lot turned back into people, and Rita’s body regained its strength.
After all those days of reading together, Rita and Doubtful had grown quite close. Doubtful, unable to imagine returning to his kingdom without her, asked Rita, “Would you marry me and be my queen?”
“You Bet!” exclaimed Rita with a smile.
When the king and queen learned how Rita and Doubtful had learned to break the spell from a book, Rita’s father insisted Doubtful should have a reward. “The only reward I ask is the right to your daughter’s hand in marriage,” said the prince.
“Well then, the only remaining problem is your name,” said the king. “I’m not sure that I want a son-in-law named Doubtful.”
The prince laughed. “That is only a childhood nickname,” he said. “I’m certain my true name will be suitable.”
Wedding bells rang the very next day as Prince Reed Usmore married Princess Rita Lot. The happy couple returned to their own kingdom where, to this day, they can be found reading stories together and living a life filled with riches beyond gold coins.
My brother and I closed the book. The television blared back to life. Mom walked into the living room and announced, “One more show and that’s it for today.”
“That’s okay,” my brother said. “Will you take me to the library, Mom? I want to get a copy of The Arabian Nights.”
“You want to come along?” Mom asked me. “Sure,” I said, “Maybe I’ll visit China while I’m there. Who knows – maybe I’ll even get rich. When we get home will you help me find that old telescope we have somewhere?”
(Copyright © 2009 by Tina Rohde and Colleen Shaskin, WonderWeavers-Storytellers, LLC. All rights reserved)
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the brain and spinal cord - the central nervous system. Each nerve has a special covering that helps the signal arrive rapidly. Each one of us has a nervous system which acts like the television remote control. A message is sent out from the brain - raise your right arm - the signal travels until it reaches the appropriate muscles to make your arm go up. With MS the covering is damaged and the signal can’t get through. Your arm won’t go up. It is like when the cat blocked the remote signal and the television stopped working.(not an exact metaphor, because blocking the signal wouldn’t turn off the T.V., in the story, it was something magical that turned off the T.V. and brought the book into the room)
People with MS are like Princess Rita -they are not sure what will or won’t work -they have varying physical challenges. They might not be able to walk right, they might become forgetful, and they might not be able to speak or hear. Often the symptoms come and go. It is not easy to explain MS. There is no cure for MS but someday there will be. Doctors and scientists are constantly researching the cause and looking for cures.
The MS READaTHON ended in 2000 but there are still ways to help support the fight against MS.