Think in the Morning loves to post stories and articles by our friends. This is the fourth story we have posted by Mitchell Zucker. It is a beautiful story that we know you will enjoy.
Mitchell Zucker © 1990
A young sculptor was walking through the woods one day searching for a stone he could carve into a statue, when he came to a small pond. In a clearing beside the reeds sat a pure white stone made of marble, the kind of marble sculptors love to find. He was wondering what kind of statue would most comfortably fit within the marble, when a young swan quietly floated from behind the reeds, stopped in the center of the pond, and stared at the sculptor. As soon as he saw her, he wanted nothing more then to capture her beauty in the marble. He began cutting away at the stone while the swan sat motionless. And each day he returned, the swan appeared and quietly watched.
He had been at his task for less than a month, when one day he wondered where the finished statue should be placed. Perhaps in the National Museum, he thought, or why not in the King’s garden. Of course, he decided, the finished statue must end up in the King’s garden and nowhere else. Before long his work slowed down as he spent more and more time seated beside the marble, dreaming about how wonderful the statue would look in the King’s garden, perhaps beside the castle wall, or beside a lovely fountain. And while he dreamed, the swan patiently waited.
Until one day day, while the sculptor was standing beside the rock imagining himself dressed in fine robes and having a friendly chat with the King, the swan whispered to him, “You have only just begun.”
He looked at the piece of marble and realized he had indeed only begun the first vague cuts into the stone. The way he was working, the statue would take a hundred years to finish.
He decided to try to figure out how to speed up the work, and stayed away from the pond for several days in the library looking for books about how to carve statues quickly. And sure enough, one day while looking under the letter “S” for “statues,” and hidden behind all the other books, he found a tiny book entitled: Special Secret Statue Spells. He looked around to see if anybody was watching, then quickly slipped the book into his pocket and ran home.
The book contained magic spells for making statues for special occasions: births, deaths, garden parties…. He opened to the section on garden parties and there was the magic spell to make people believe his swan statue was finished and perfectly beautiful. Early the next morning, while the swan was still asleep among the reeds, he returned to the pond and stood in front of the rough piece of marble. Then he closed his eyes, imagined a swan statue, touched the rough stone, and recited the magic spell:
Rif Tan Dooty
Have the most beauty
Glendle Vort Chase
Have the most grace
Beetle Nort Terfic
Be the most perfect
Mortle Goond Arty
For a garden party.
Then, following the instructions in the book, he spit on the marble to give it life and rubbed his stomach while patting his head and standing on one foot licking his lips, then squinted at the stone very intensely and grinned a sly grin. Suddenly, the stone began to vibrate, then began to shudder, then shake little flakes of marble from it. Then more and more flakes flew off, just like flying snowflakes, until the air was filled with a cloud of white marble dust. And within the cloud the stone was transformed into a beautiful swan statue, so beautiful and graceful that the King must surely love it.
When the cloud settled, he touched the statue to make certain it was real and not make believe, then, without wasting a moment, ran all the way to the back door of the King’s palace. He was a friend of the assistant to the assistant to the assistant head gardener and took him to see the statue.
The assistant to the assistant to the assistant was amazed. It was indeed the most beautiful statue he had ever seen, a work of over- powering beauty.
When the other gardeners saw the statue, they could not control themselves: “MAGNIFICENT!” “UNBELIEVABLE!” “REMARKABLE!” “THE WORK OF A GENIUS!” they cried. It was quickly agreed that the King must have the statue in his garden. The gardeners immediately removed the statue and set it in the center of the palace garden covered with a red velvet drape. There would be a formal garden party at which time the sculptor would unveil the statue in front of the King.
The sculptor spent two entire days grooming himself for the party. On the day of the party he dressed in a beautiful robe borrowed from the head gardener and set off thorough the forest to the castle. He paused by the pond and called to the swan, who slowly paddled to the center.
“I want to thank you dame swan for being the inspiration for my statue. You were a fine model.”
“You are indeed a great sculptor,” whispered the swan. “I studied the statue’s lines and admired its beautiful form. You have captured the essence of all swans. You are a master of magic spells.”
The sculptor smiled modestly, then suddenly choked. “What did you just say?”
“You are a master of magic spells. You tricked me for the longest time, until I realized you had cast a spell over the rough-cut rock.”
This is awful, thought the sculptor. What if the swan should tell others? I would be ruined.
“What do you want from me in order to keep my secret?” he asked. She lowered her neck and slowly began to paddle backwards into the reeds. “Simply this,” she whispered. “Let me spend the rest of my days in this pond and I will never again speak to people.”
“Done!” he cried. “You have my word that you may live your life here.”
The swan turned away then silently disappeared into the reeds without looking back.
When the sculptor unveiled the statue at the garden party, the Emperor began to cry, so taken was he with its magnificence. In front of everyone in the kingdom, he knighted the sculptor Grand National Sculptor.
Following the garden party, the Grand National Sculptor was kept busy carving statues for all the special events in the kingdom. With the aid of the spells in the book, he produced magical masterpiece after magical masterpiece, when in reality of course, they were just plain lumps of rock. Before long, crowds lined up at the National Museum to be enchanted by his works, and before long his fame spread around the world. He was then appointed Chief Universal Grand National Sculptor.
One day the Chief Universal Grand National Sculptor decided to build a castle befitting someone with his fame. He wanted a magnificent castle, large enough for hundreds of servants and guests. He hired the finest stone masons and carpenters in the kingdom. Its location was in the forest, beside the pond.
The work proceeded for many years until at last the castle was completed— except one little matter remained before the Chief Universal Grand National Sculptor could move in: the pond had to be drained to make room for his studio. When the builders came to him and asked what should be done with the swan, for it had become quite old, he ordered them to get rid of the old bird. He had forgotten all about his agreement. But when they drained the pond, the swan had vanished.
That very same day the King awoke and went for a stroll in his garden. When he came to the swan statue he screamed and fainted. The beautiful statue was gone and in its place was a chunk of white rock with a few chisel marks here and there.
In the National Museum a tour of students had just entered the hall of sculpture when the spell ended, and there stood a room filled with rocks looking like they had been hammered on by monkeys. The children began to giggle and climb all over the rocks, and before long everyone in the museum, and then throughout the kingdom, realized that the Chief Universal Grand National Sculptor had cheated them. He was immediately stripped of his title and forever banished from the kingdom.
The sculptor was now an old man and wandered through the forest living on mushrooms and herbs. One day, he chanced upon another pond with another pure white marble rock beside the reeds. He called to the reeds, “Here I am, swan; I know you must be there. I wish to apologize to you.”
Sure enough, the swan slowly paddled to the middle of the pond. She was now much older. Her feathers looked brittle, she had scars on her neck and her graceful neck drooped—but she was still very beautiful. The sculptor sighed. “I fell in love with you when I first saw you and wanted nothing more than to capture your beauty in the marble. Once again I feel the same, but this time I will not fail.”
He set to work, using only one tiny chisel and a broken hammer. Days passed, then weeks and months and years past — until time itself vanished. The sculptor was now so old he could barely lift his hammer, while the swan could barely keep her neck above the water.
Yet every day she would slowly paddle to the middle of the pond and sit there as he carefully cut away flakes of stone, finer and finer flakes, until the statue began to vibrate and shake.
At the very moment the sculptor and the swan died, the statue of the swan spread its wings, stretched its graceful neck and flew to the sky.
Today, we call the swan Cygnus and she is one of the most beautiful constellations in the summer and autumn sky.
– The end —