The Three Dwarfs

This is the tale of three brothers who live in Honningsvag, near North Cape, beyond the Arctic Circle, the northernmost town in Europe. Their parents named them Magnus, Markus, and Marius. They spend their time building things, as dwarfs are very good with their hands, and when they get tired, they sit on a table, have a beer, and then back to work it is. But it was not always like that. The three brothers do not belong here, not really. They came here a long time ago, and they just could not leave.

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It all started on a warm Sunday afternoon, when Magnus, Markus, and Marius were playing by the sea shore in their village. It was a small village of dwarfs, only 50 families lived there, helping each other out when needed, giving each other company on the lazy summer afternoons and the harsh winter evenings. And of course, fighting and bickering at the drop of a pointed hat, for dwarfs just love to quarrel. When they don’t find a valid reason for fighting, they just go ahead and invent one. No big deal.

This morning, the three brothers had a huge fight with their mother. She wanted them to stay at home and finish their homework, while they wanted to enjoy the afternoon sun while it lasted. Soon, it would be winters, and the sun would not appear for the next six months. So they begged and pleaded with her, but their grades had been falling too low to give them any leverage on this front, so they had to resort to throwing tantrums, and when even that didn’t work on their battle-hardened mother, they just ran away in a huff, while she kept shouting after them to come back.

While playing on the beach, Magnus suddenly saw a strange structure appear in the water. He excitedly called out to his brothers to come and have a look. The object kept coming towards the shore, and very soon, it was on the beach. The three dwarfs rushed towards it, and upon reaching it, realized that it was a cute little boat, and of just the right size for them.

Now dwarfs are land creatures, no dwarf in their village had ever set foot on a boat. This was because dwarfs and the sea were traditional enemies, their fight going back generations. They’d forgotten the reason behind the enmity of course, but having an enemy slightly bigger than their neighbour Alex helped lend some purpose to the existence of the dwarfs in this small village. As for the sea, she never forgets! It was believed that if any dwarf ever goes into the water, the sea will just throw him back on the land. But this theory had never been tested on a boat, where there was a barrier between the dwarfs and the sea. So the three brothers decided to test it out.

They sat in the boat, tied themselves to the mast, and waited for high tide to come and take the boat back into the water. They were nervous, but also thrilled, for they were going where no dwarf had gone before- Into the water (Narrator’s Note: Should I ask Paula Hawkins for a cut for this subtle promotion of her latest book?)

The high tide finally came, and did what it always does, carried the small boat back with it, and the three brothers were off! The boat was bobbing up and down wildly, for the sea was rough and choppy that day, almost as if it could sense the presence of the three dwarfs on it, despite the wooden barrier of the boat.

The brothers untied themselves a few hours later, when they had kind of gotten over their fear, and saw a fascinating but horrific sight- There was water all around them, and they could not see any land at all. And it was not the calm and gentle water of the duck pond in their village, it was the tempestuous water of a sea which is angry because she does not realize why she is so angry!

The brothers started crying on seeing this, but then decided that this was definitely better than attending school, where their class teacher was sure to make them stand outside the class with their hands as well as their legs raised, for they had been prancing around on the beach instead of doing their homework.

So they started to enjoy their little adventure. They started pointing at various whales and dolphins in the water, and started building stories around them. They saw a solitary seagull take shelter on their boat, and helped repair its wing, for they were so good at mechanical stuff.

And so, two days and two nights passed happily, when they finally saw a large mass of land. And it was also then that Markus realized that he was thirsty, for they had not had a drop to drink since they left their village. So he asked his brothers if they should drink some water from the sea.

His brothers told him to be patient till they reached the land, for there was sure to be some well or stream there from which they could have their fill of water. But Markus was going crazy with thirst now, so he waited for his brothers to turn their backs towards him, and quickly thrust a hand into the sea to take out some water and drink it quickly.

Two things happened in quick succession as a result:

  1. Markus threw up violently upon drinking the sea water; and
  2. The sea realized that there were dwarfs on the boat, and threw up violently with so much pressure that the boat flew into the air, burst through the roof of the town church, and got stuck in the air, its ropes entangled with the pillars of the church.

The rattled dwarfs untangled themselves from each other, and then looked around them to see that they were still in the boat, but now they were hanging in the air instead of being on the water.

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They panicked for an instant, but then their happy-go-lucky attitude took over. They got down somehow, and started walking towards the sea, to see if they could find another boat to take them home.

But the church into which they had fallen was a long abandoned one, and they could not find a single soul living in that place, no boats, no houses, no shops, absolutely nothing. So they decided to build a new town for themselves.

And which is what they did. They built cute, colourful cottages, and people came from other parts of Norway to come and live in those houses. They then built a market, and trading started to bring prosperity to the town. And they then built a huge boat, so that they could go back. But the minute they came near the sea, it sensed their presence, and started a tsunami which almost destroyed the town that they had built with so much love and patience.

And so, they decided to stay on in Honningsvag. And if you turn left from the town church and climb slightly up the hill, you will find them still building things to make the town even more beautiful. Occasionally, they think that they can hear their mother calling out to them, to come back and complete their homework, and their eyes tear up.

But at those times, the seagull that they’d saved on the sea comes and sits with them, and they start smiling again, for they know that they were born to do something bigger, bigger than their homework, bigger than their tiny size. They were born to give birth to the northernmost town in Europe.

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The Invisible Giant

The sun was finally up, marking the end of six long months of nightfall in the picturesque town of Honningsvag, on the other side of the Arctic Circle for the rest of the world, and on the ‘right’ side of the Arctic Circle for all the denizens of that region. It had been a brutal winter, the streets covered with snow, icy winds howling from little cracks between the window and the frame, or in case such a crack did not exist, trying its very best to make one. But the people of the town couldn’t care less. It was winter, time to relax, time to sleep…for six long months. And today was the day when the town was finally waking up from that long sleep.

And when I saw the giant shoes kept outside a house on the main shopping street, I realized that life could bloom even in the most unlikely of places.

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The shoes had obviously been kept outside the house because they would have been covered with snow when the GIANT came back home six months ago and went into hibernation. And now look at them, full of tiny little flowers which took advantage of the dirt in the shoes, and built a home inside them.

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I started imagining how huge the giant would be, to be able to fill such big shoes. Would he be a ferocious hunter, and apex predator, or a slothful lumberer who waited for the unsuspecting prey to come to him, and then catching it and gobbling it up when it wasn’t looking? Or what if he was a domesticated GIANT, living here with his extended giant…sorry joint family, buying vegetables and meat from the local supermarket, and catching fish from the scenic fjords right outside his home? You know what would be really funny though, if the GIANT turned out to be a vegetarian!

I then started wondering how his house would be from the inside. Looking at the shoes, the GIANT was at least 18 feet high. So the roof of the ground floor would basically be the roof of the second floor, as the house would definitely have been hollowed out from the inside.

There must be giant staircases, I thought, larger than those in the Naagin’s haveli (Palatial house) in the eponymous, epic and epiglottis (OK OK, scratch that last one) TV Show in India. The kitchen would have to be at least equal in size to my entire house in Mumbai, and the knives? They would be bigger than the Mountain’s sword in Game of Thrones.

But my main fascination was with the bathroom. The bath tub would be an Olympic-size swimming pool, that is fine, but the WC? How huuuuuge would that have to be? And would a normal human being ever be able to use it? Hmmmm.

And while I was deeply engrossed in these deeply philosophical thoughts, which could potentially change the future of mankind (and GIANTkind), I heard a soft knocking sound. I looked here and there, bit couldn’t see anyone. And it was then I realized that the knock was coming from inside the main door of the house, which, the chill spreading across my bones, I realized could mean only one thing- the GIANT WAS AWAKE!

I slowly turned around, and with the chant of Hanuman Chalisa (Old Indian prayer to ward off evil spirits) on my lips, looked inside. But I was horrified when I saw…that there was no one there!

And this, my paranoid, almost-frozen brain told me, could also only mean one thing- That the GIANT was not only awake, he was also INVISIBLE!

If I had any hopes of surviving before, they had all crumbled to the ground, like I soon would be in the iron grasp of the INVISIBLE GIANT. After all, he would have woken up hungry, not having eaten for the last six months now. From the corner of my brain, came a tiny prayer- I hope he brushes his teeth before eating me! I mentally slapped that part of my brain, and braced myself for what I knew was sure to follow.

But I waited and waited, but the door didn’t open, and no GIANT, invisible or otherwise, came out. The only thing which I could hear was the knocking, which had now become louder and more insistent.

So I looked inside again, and my ears told me a strange thing- The knocking was coming from the bottom part of the door. So I brought my eyes down to my eye-level, and then slowly started bringing them towards the level of my feet. And just at my knee-level, I stopped, because I saw my GIANT, who in real life was all of 1.5 feet tall. He was yawning away to glory, as if he’d just woken up from sleep.”

He saw me make eye-contact, rolled his eyes, took a deep sigh, and said- “Finally! Now can you please take out my house keys from under the left flowerpot and open the door, my wife went to the supermarket to buy vegetables, and locked the door from outside!”

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The Guardian of Secrets

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My brief, though not written, was to protect the treasures of the souvenir shop

And I had sworn to keep fighting to protect it, even to my blood’s last drop

But now, I was conflicted, between my duty and my instinct

For I wanted to chew and gobble up this imbecile, to put it in a manner succinct

 

For generations, my family had been the sole protectors of a secret so huge

That our masters had entrusted it only to us before they went into exile to take refuge

This innocent-looking souvenir shop that you see in the background, behind this fat Indian who obviously loves eating his curry

Is the warehouse where trolls had stored all their gold, diamonds & jewels before they’d left ages ago, in a real hurry

 

They could not carry all of it, for there just wasn’t enough space on board

So they smartly appointed my family as the secret guardian of the horde

For countless number of years, one of us has stood here, proud & erect

And each successor is trained from the childhood to pose as a statue, but if needed, die doing what is correct

 

Until now, that, is, this fateful day, when all those sacrifices have proven to be futile

Because this imbecile had to stand right next to me for a photo, and smile

His wife clicked the photo, and I instinctively bared my teeth in a smirk, knowing even then that it was unwise

And that is how my secret was finally revealed, that I was not a statue, but a live hell-hound in disguise

 

Hundreds of humans started running helter-skelter on seeing my real form

When suddenly everything went quiet, like the calm before a storm

For the troll king had discovered that I had failed in my responsibility

And had returned to control the damage caused by the human’s stupidity

 

But imagine my surprise, when the Indian welcomed the troll king like a long lost brother

They hugged with joy, and started reminiscing fondly about one thing or another

And it was then that both of them turned to me, for I was standing scared and clueless, looking like a complete tool

And the troll king said- You’re always so serious, so we decided to bring some excitement into your dull life by playing this prank, and making you a….APRIL FOOL!

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An Ode to the Library

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We entered the extremely cute cafe, and saw a mysterious sign over the warm hearth

It told a tale of ancient history, when humans were slaves, and aliens ruled the earth

They were an advanced race, technologically, and due to their strict laws, there was no crime

But since humans were doing all their work, one thing they had loads and loads of, was time

 

And it was this unlimited free time that ultimately led to the alien race’s doom

For an empty mind is a devil’s workshop, and in their minds, the devil did get a lot of room

There were books in the kigdom, hundreds of thousands of them, but all going to seed

For the aliens had advanced so much, that they did not feel the need to read

 

Now it so happened that the alien emperor, in his infinite wisdom, thought he would put all the books lying around to good use

And so he announced a contest, not realizing that by doing so, he was making his own noose

The contest was to find the biggest collector of books in the land

And the winner would be appointed as the emperor’s Hand

 

The contest started, and soon unleashed a wild lust for hoarding books that soon became an epidemic

The funny thing was, the reason behind getting the books, or the method, was not even remotely academic

The goal was the grand prize, for it did not matter if you’d read the books or not

So books became a symbol of greed, not of knowledge or progressive thought

 

Thousands died while fighting over books, until the books put their foot down

So much bloodshed in their name, all so that some idiot could become the Hand of the Crown?

The aliens have gone overboard in their debauchery this time, the books decided in an Extraordinary General Body Meeting

So we need to overthrow them, it’s high time they got what they deserve- a good old-fashioned beating

 

So the books ran that very night, from the palace of the emperor, from the warlord’s chambers, and from the Count’s abode

And hid in a huge hall that had been looted in the recent riots and was now lying empty, sad and derelict, just off the main road

They then sent representatives to all the humans in the city, asking them to assemble in the hall

The humans, though scared, eventually agreed to answer the book union’s call

 

The books now asked the humans- Do you want to send your alien rulers back to the sun?

The humans were initially sceptical, but then asked the books how such an impossible task could be done

Read us, said the books, and use our knowledge to fire up your imagination

And we promise you, very soon, you will see yourself again as a free nation

 

So the humans read voraciously, crafted brilliant strategies, and designed many a deadly weapon

The battle, when it finally came, was fierce and brutal, but in the end, the humans had indeed won

So they decided to build temples for the books that had helped them so much in becoming free

And to this day, each of these temples is visited by countless humans to set themselves free, today, we call this temple a library!

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The Case of the Missing Gloves

One moment I was happily posing as a fatter (but younger and cuter, as I would like to believe) version of Shah Rukh Khan….

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…and the very next moment, my hands were empty, literally, as my warm, newly-purchased-in-Flam-after-selling-both-my-hands-but-they-had-reindeer-on-them-so-cute-expensive gloves had disappeared.

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We were flummoxed, to put it mildly. I’d not taken them off even for a second, nor had we been in contact with any human for the last half an hour, as we were busy exploring the wilds of Longyearbyen in Svalbard, that is, we were 50 meters outside the town center.

So where could the gloves have gone, we wondered? There was only one logical explanation, we decided after eight hours of discussion, a troll has stolen my gloves. They’re the only magical creatures powerful enough, and mischievous enough to do such a deed, and get away with it clean.

I summoned the Troll King and ask for an explanation, since we had diplomatic immunity in Svalbard (We didn’t, but he didn’t need to know that, He He) but he staunchly denied him or any of his people being involved in this stunt. Everyone knows that Trolls can’t lie, so I let him go, still as clueless as before, if not even more so.

We had finally decided to give up on my gloves when my wife suddenly saw a strange but wondrous sight- a reindeer was quickly trotting up a green hill, scurrying along, I should say, throwing guilty, furtive glances left and right in the process.

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We immediately knew that he was hiding something, so we decided to follow him. Both of us being in tremendous shape, the distance that he covered in five seconds took us 15 minutes to cover. The land was marshy, filled with bogs of various shapes, sizes and depths, and had a steep incline. But we had caught our scent, and refusing to give in, we doggedly continued our pursuit.

Huffing and puffing, we finally reached the summit. We were expecting to see the reindeer eating grass there, but what we saw instead shocked us beyond words. The reindeer was there, but there were two things which we had not expected at all:

  1. The reindeer had my gloves in his mouth, ergo, he was the glove thief
  2. He was not alone, but was being controlled by a Norwegian couple, who were calling him towards themselves to get my gloves.

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At first, we were too horrified to say or do anything, but then, our Punjabi blood took over. We rushed towards those criminal masterminds, abusing them in a heady mix of Punjabi and Hindi (Oh, it was so cathartic!), and they got so scared that they ran off without a word, promising loudly that they would never even look at a glove again.

As for the reindeer, even though he could not understand what we were saying, he got so petrified that he dropped my gloves, and peed right where he was standing. “That’ll teach him not to mess with us badass Punjabis,” I said to my wife.

She said, “Should we report him to the cops?” I thought for a while, and then said, “No, he’s just a teenager, if he gets a police record now, his entire future could get spoiled. I have a better idea, jiss se saanp bhi marr jayega, aur laathi bhi nahin tootegi (Old Indian Saying, loosely translated- The snake will die without any damage to the stick.)

I then took a photograph of the reindeer in that pose…

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…and showed it to the reindeer, warning him strictly that if he did not stop this life of crime, I would publish this picture on social media, and his reputation would be mud. The reindeer meekly agreed, and swore to live a devout life from then only, praying to the Norse Gods daily so that they would keep him on the right path.

And you know what, he did stick to his promise, more or less, for he was none other than Julten, the future superstar of St. Nicholas’s Model School for Reindeer (See: https://jagahdilmein.wordpress.com/2017/06/27/student-of-the-year) and so he did live happily ever after. I hope he would remember that it was the efforts of an Indian couple which brought him on the right track.

And as for me, I picked up my gloves gingerly and lovingly, checked that they hadn’t been soiled by Julten’s elixir, and quickly wore them. I was never taking them off again, they were mine, only mine, my preciousssss!

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Of Close Relatives in Faraway Lands

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What you see above was the culmination of a long and eventful journey, literally to the end of the world. And boy, was I relieved. But let me start from the beginning (a very good place to start, as Maria told the Von Trapp kids).

When I told my friend Rabi, a strapping Sardar lad (as he still considers himself, despite him being two years elder to me, and everyone knows I’m ooooold) from Patiala, that I was going on a cruise to Svalbard, he got all excited. Frankly, I found his reaction a bit odd and over-the-top, for me being the snobbish me, I always thought that Rabi’s knowledge of geography began and ended with the address of Ms. Kamra, our hot Geography teacher in school.

But then I thought he’d misheard me, and was confusing Svalbard with one of his regular evening haunts.

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“No, no, no, no” Rabi cried out in exasperation when I offered a clarification regarding our destination, “I’m talking about Svalbard only, that Norway waala, right?” When I nodded in the affirmative, he surprised me by saying, “My favourite aunt Dolly is settled there. She married a Chinese restaurateur (Narrator’s Note: Actually, he said dhaabe waala, but I’m paraphrasing to keep this story ‘cool’) and they now run a Chinese restaurant in Longyearbyen.”

I congratulated him warmly on his aunt’s marriage, to which he replied, “No, no, no, no….they got divorced within two weeks of their marriage when my uncle, or should I say, ex-uncle, realized that my aunt did not belong to any royal family.”

That stumped me, and despite myself, I was forced to ask, “But why did he ever think that she belonged to the royal family?”  Rabi replied in a tone filled with patience, as if explaining simple things like 2+2=4 to a 3-year old delinquent, “Well, he heard her mother refer to her as Patiale ki Maharani during a fight, and looked it up in Google Translate of course. That is when he decided to propose to her, since he’d never married someone from a royal family before.”

“But why are they running a restaurant together then?” I asked. Rabi replied, “Well, she loves Chinese food, and he loves his aaloo-paranthas, Butter Chicken, and Rajma-Chawal, and where else in Svalbard would they find either cuisine?”

I gave up, and asked, “Do you want to send anything for your aunt then?” Rabi replied, “Let me ask her and let you know.”

And that is how I traveled to Longyearbyen, the northernmost town in the world, with 10 Kgs of MDH Garam Masala for Rabi’s ex-uncle, and a fidget spinner for his aunt.

So I reached Longyearbyen and started looking around for his aunt. I first asked this pretty Indian lady, standing inside a hole-in-the-wall,  if she knew where Rabi’s aunt Dolly lived. But she said she had no idea, since she didn’t like Indians, or people in general.

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So I obviously asked her to marry me, to which she agreed, and we did the rest of the trip together.

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We then reached the town center and started asking around. We first went to the Post Office, but they did not have her address, as the only letters processed there were those being sent by tourists to their homes in their countries, as a souvenir of sorts.

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We then went to the Tourist Information Office, but they too had no idea where Dolly Chan lived, as she was neither a tourist, nor a tourist sight.

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So we then asked this nice young husky, who was just about to leave on his snow-mobile with his man. He froze when we took Dolly’s name, and after ten minutes, said, “Go right, and you can never go wrong.”

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So we kept going right, and finally, after 10 Kilometers, we finally found what we were looking for. Our long journey, and desperate search, was finally over, for we had arrived at the home of Rabi’s aunt!

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The Miner and the Princess

 

They were two bodies but one soul.

He was poor, just a miner, who worked in her father’s diamond mines in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, the northernmost town in the world.

She was a princess, daughter of the Troll King, no less.

He was kind of heart, gentle, mild, always thought the best of everyone.

She was fiery, tempestuous, wild, quick to anger, but even quicker to forgive.

Together, they were the living, breathing brand ambassadors of the old adage ‘Opposites attract’!

Till she told her father about him.

The Troll King knew that his only daughter was willful, and had always got what she wanted. He tried to convince her that this was not the right choice for a princess, she should marry someone from another Troll Royal family, so that their kingdom becomes stronger. But once he saw that she had made up her mind, and was madly in love with him, his heart was no longer in the protests. She had won, they had won, for they were two bodies but one soul.

The king told his daughter, “Before I give my final approval, I want to meet the man who has stolen my darling daughter from me. But not here, in the palace, where he will be uncomfortable, and so it will be difficult to judge him properly. I will meet him at his home ground, in the mine, to gauge his true character. And one more thing, I want to meet him alone, in your presence, neither of us would be able to speak his mind.”

She was very happy, jumped with ecstasy and hugged him hard. There were tears in the eyes of both of them, one crying with joy for a future that was rosy, bright, and full of shared love, the other because he knew that he was going to wipe away that vision of a happy future from his only daughter’s eyes, and he hated himself for it.

The next day, the Troll King went to the diamond mine to meet his daughter’s beloved. There was no one else in the mine, everyone had been quietly asked to go home early that day.

The King told the Miner, “There are fifty thousand diamonds in this mine. Take as many as you want, take all of them for all I care, but I do not want to see you in this town come tomorrow morning.”

The Miner replied, “No diamond can shine the way her eyes shine, and I love her.”

The king now threatened the Miner, “I will have you, and your entire family executed publicly if you don’t leave my daughter.”

The Miner replied, “Life has no meaning for me without her, because I love her.”

The king now begged, “My daughter is a princess, raised to be a queen. But as per our rules, if she does not marry into a royal family, she can never become a queen. Don’t you want her to get what she deserves, become what she was born to become?”

The Miner replied, “She was born to become one with me, and I love her.”

The Troll King’s face fell on hearing this, and with an expression of deep sadness and regret, he said in a slow voice, “So do I.”

With that, he raised his hand and said a spell, and a cauldron of molten lava appeared high above the Miner. The king flicked his hand, and the cauldron tilted, and the deadly lava started its descent towards the unsuspecting Miner.

But suddenly, there was a loud cry, and a figure rushed and wrapped itself tightly around the Miner. It was the Princess, who had been unable to contain her curiosity about the meeting between the two people that she loved the most in this world.

She turned around and looked towards her father. She was not crying, she was not angry, she was not shouting…she was just hurt, and the disappointment in her eyes broke his heart into a thousand pieces.

He tried to stop the spell then, but it was too late. The lava had already reached the Miner. But before it could touch the Miner, the Princess hugged her lover tightly, and then…melted to cover his entire body with her own, so that let alone the lava, even air could not touch him anymore.

The lava hit them, and the protective layer formed by the Princess’s body held out as long as it could, but finally, it started turning to a bronze-like metal….and within seconds, the Miner had become a bronze statue.

The Princess and the Miner were now one body and one soul!

And to this day, lovers from all across Svalbard come to this statue to take the blessings of the two lovers, and it is said that as long as the statue exists, no parent can deny their daughter or son the chance to be united in their true love, for if they do, they will have to face the wrath of the Troll King, who keeps a ceaseless vigil over his daughter and her beloved, the lovers with one body and one soul!

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Disclaimer: My usual disclaimer applies. No such story exists in Svalbard, the mythology is totally made up from scratch, only the statue of the Miner takes a pride of place in Longyearbyen Town Center. Who he is, why is he there, google could easily tell us the truth I guess, but then, where’s the fun in that!

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The Perfect Trap

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This is me, frozen on the wall, but still a terror for pesky tourists like this Indian in a jacket

They come to my home and strut about like they own the place, creating a terrible racket

’tis a pity that I cannot move around much as my lower body is across the wall

Or I would have taught these imbeciles a suitable lesson for their brazen gall

 

But being in a state of limbo for 200 years does give you some time to think and plan

The thrill of the hunt anyways lies in doing what your prey does not think you possibly can

So, after a lot of iterations, I have crafted a strategy befitting an apex predator like me

It involves oodles of guile, deviousness, and cunning, just thinking about it fills my frozen heart with glee

 

The first step in this master plan, let me finally reveal today

Is to lure unsuspecting tourists through this sign, and lead them astray

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Feeling perfectly safe, the poor fools keep coming closer to me, while I put on my cutest smile and just wait

And then they try to tickle my chin, saying “So cute”, blatantly ignoring the second warning note, till it is just a bit too late

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The Great Race

Narrator’s Note: Remember Julten, the wannabe delinquent who went on to become Student of the Year at St. Nicholas’ School for Model Reindeer? (See: https://jagahdilmein.wordpress.com/2017/06/27/student-of-the-year/) This is another little-known adventure featuring that future superstar.

Julten was in love….once again, and this time, it was with a woman, an Indian one at that. He had been calmly grazing on a hillock just behind the Longyearbyen Church when the lady, and Cupid, had found him.

She was trying to photograph him, and he was doing what had been recommended in countless trashy romance novels that he had been reading ever since he had reached adolescence- playing hard to get.

She climbed the hillock excitedly upon seeing him. This was the first indication, he thought, that she too was reciprocating his love. “He is so cute, ” she said to her companion (Must be her brother, thought Julten in his newly achieved envious state), “I want to get closer to him.”

“Aha,” Julten smirked, “she is reciprocating my feelings.” So he started his ‘playing hard to get routine’ that he had practiced innumerable number of times, but, till now, had never had the occasion to apply in real life.

He started strutting around, scampering from here to there, making her follow him, allowing her to come close, and then suddenly turning away and running rapidly in a different direction. He was having fun!

But then, Alf had to come and spoil everything…as usual.

Alf was Julten’s bête noire, and was everything that Julten was not- Handsome (Cheerleaders in school swooned when he passed them, and many fainted due to his masculine, sweaty smell), confident, charming, and above all, cunning! He saw Julten’s interest in the woman, and decided to have some fun at Julten’s expense.

So he challenged Julten to a race. “Whoever reaches the Church first, ” said Alf, “gets to ask the Indian woman on a date.” And that, put Julten in a real bind, for Alf held the world record for 100-meter sprint, having won one such race in 5 seconds, while Julten was lucky if he could cross a 100 meter grass field in 10 minutes.

So he broke out into a sweat. He tried to make his standard excuses of stomach ache, headache, leg ache etc, but Alf kept mocking him. And it was then that Julten had a brainwave, he knew what he had to do!

So he told Alf, “Let’s go down to the lake for a drink first, and then we’ll race. I don’t want you to get dehydrated and collapse you know, it’s already a one-sided race, so I want to give you a fair chance.” As Julten had expected, Alf’s ego took over his brain, and he agreed to go for a drink.

They reached the lake, and for the next 10 minutes, all one could hear at the lake was the glugging of water at two places. After every few seconds, Alf would stop and raise his head, only to see that Julten was still drinking, so he too got down to continue again. What he didn’t realize was that while Julten was taking in the water in his mouth, he was spitting it out at the same time, and in those ten minutes, while Alf drank around 30 liters of water, Julten had hardly a glassful of it.

And now, Julten finally stood up, burped loudly, and said, “I’m ready!”

Completely unaware that she was the object of the affection of two reindeer, and the ‘grand prize’ of the competition between them, the Indian woman was gazing in the distance when the great race started behind her.

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And what a spectacular race it was. Alf took off like a gazelle, but suddenly found himself weighed down by the 30 liters of water that he’d just drunk. This allowed Julten to almost catch up with him, almost.

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For even with this newly-discovered handicap, Alf was too strong an athlete for Julten. And as the distance to the Church narrowed, Julten got really worried and scared that his grand plan was not going to work. Try as he might, he could not keep up with the school’s resident stud.

But then, biology kicked in, for what goes in has to come out, and 30-liters of water needs to come out quite urgently. So just 10 meters before the door of the Church, their ending point, Alf could take it no more. His stomach was close to bursting, all he could see was darkness in front of him, but he desperately wanted to date the Indian woman also.

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But finally, in this epic battle between heart and kidneys, kidneys won, and Alf stopped for a quick pee, which stretched on, and on, and on, and on….

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While Julten, who was 50 meters behind Alf at that time, ambled across the grass, stopping intermittently to eat a green tuft there, a brown one there, and touched the door of the Church with his horns. He had won the race. he looked behind, and saw that oblivious to all this, Alf was still relieving himself, a feeling of joyous relief on his face.

But then Julten realized something else. His prize, the Indian woman, was walking towards the open door of the church, for she had seen something inside which fascinated her much more than a mere reindeer. She had seen a polar bear!

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And now, Alf, after creating a waterfall that some unsuspecting tourists below the hill were filling their water bottles with, realized that a trick had been played on him, and so he turned towards Julten menacingly….and Julten ran. He did not realize it at that time, and no records of it exist, but he had just broken Alf’s record of 100 meters in five seconds!

 

 

 

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The Lonely Hut

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I hate winters, cried out the cute wooden hut in despair

My joints get frozen, screws unscrewed, and not a soul around to repair

As it is, even in the best of times, I struggle to find good company and conversation

But it gets worse in this season, when I long for a kind word of appreciation

 

For I was built not to satisfy someone’s idle whim

But to give warmth and shelter to people after a good swim

However, it continued, now that the lake is frozen and hostile

It’s been months since I heard a tinkle of laughter, or saw a pretty face smile

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A passing bird heard the lament of the lonely hut

And its heart broke, like a shriveled up, dried nut

So he decided to do something to ameliorate the hut’s circumstances

It was the last hut of its kind, he thought, so why take any chances

 

He flew in a tizzy to the benevolent huskies in the dog yard

And begged them to help the loneliest hut in Svalbard

The huskies understood the seriousness of the situation

And immediately rushed to gather tourists at the battle station

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Off they went, like the wind, their paws barely touching the ground

The poor passengers held on to the rails, not daring to make a single sound

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The carriage carried on till it stopped right in front of the cute wooden hut’s door

And the hut smiled a big, wonderful smile, for she was lonely no more

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