nce upon a time
there was a little Brownie fellow named Flinky. Brownies, as you certainly know,
are the smallest of all races found in Santharia, no larger than the finger of a
grown adult man. They train mice, rats or owls to ride and fly on, and are a
happy little folk enjoying music and dance. Some gifted ones can even cast the
Flinky, the boy of our story, lived with his parents and his five siblings in
the Council Tree, the pride of the Vale Brownies, and home of thousands and
thousands of little folk. The Tree was always bustling with activity. Wherever
one looked, people were moving up and down the spiraling stairs like ants
milling about on an anthill. Freight lifts travelled from floor to floor,
woodcarvers made new holes in the trunk creating more room for families, and
down at the bottom of the Tree tiny waterwheels were turning in the Snake River,
which was burbling by at the tree’s foot. Above all there was mirth and
merriment going on, as that’s the way the Brownies have always been and will
always be: happy, humorous and helpful.
Flinky however was different. He didn’t have many friends either. Maybe it was
because of his bulbous nose, his big ears or his short arms. At least he thought
that one of those things might be the reason. Or it was because he was more a
bookworm than a self-declared fighter brandishing a wooden sword as his peers
used to do.
So it happened that Flinky often sat on the doorstep of his 9th floor home
looking down on whatever was going on in the depths below. He didn’t think much
of all the commotion. It was always the same, he thought: fascinating and
amusing at first, but it got boring after a while. Besides, mom and dad had
forbidden him to run around outside on the Tree stairways, fearing he might
misstep and plunge to certain death. So, while his Brownie siblings and friends
fought their valiant wooden sword duels inside, Flinky journeyed to the doorstep
and made the best of it by sitting and daydreaming in fresh air.
And one day, he went away. Because he just had to.
He grabbed his walnut helmet and his slingshot, and when everyone else was busy,
he snuck to the next elevator platform, got in one of the seven waterwheels
operated lifts and went down. Flinky had enough. He wanted more than a life on
An old Brownie with a white beard that reached right to his toes already sat on
the elevator bench when he got in. The geezer briefly noticed the newcomer,
blinked at him, then continued with his snoring as if there was no tomorrow.
I don’t want to be like that, Flinky said to himself. Like someone
who’s at home in the Tree forever, drifting off to the land of dreams in an
elevator, going up and down who knows how many times, not even being aware of
it, snoring through life... No, something has to change! He wanted to aim
high! Brownie life, pshaw! There had to be more!
Well, to aim high he first needed to go down, which he did. All the way down.
Once he was out and about, Flinky put together some leaves sturdy enough to
carry him, dropped them in the water and soon was floating down the Snake River:
destination unknown. Something would come up. He was determined to go
adventuring, see where the currents might carry him. An uncharted future lay
ahead, and it felt all brand new, fresh and mysterious...
Image description, Flinky setting out on
an adventure. Picture
“Now what have we
Flinky perked up his ears as he heard a loud booming voice that shook him right
out of his reverie. He also noticed that he wasn’t moving anymore. A bit
hesitant and timid, he looked up to see where he was.
“Ah, it’s a Brownie!” the voice went on, satisfied. “Unless magic is at play
here and you’re just a doll that moves. So, which one of these options would you
say is the most plausible?”
“I’m a Brownie!” Flinky declared in a firm voice. Above him towered an
enormous head with a curious pair of eyes and a no less gigantic nose following
his movements with apparent amusement.
“Pleased to meet you,” it came out of the mouth, which was part of the
“Well, pleased to meet you,” Flinky said. “But would you now excuse me? I need
to be off!” He indicated the enormous hand belonging to the enormous body, on
which his humble leaf construction was now resting. “Put me right back in
again!” he demanded, for he had been picked out of the water without prior
“Sure, sure,” the voice of the face said. Its features were haggard and old, but
the tone of the words seemed friendly and benevolent. “Right after you tell me
where you’re heading, little one.”
“I’m off to be someone!” Flinky announced. “Now, please...”
“Be someone? Who might that be?” the man asked, perplexed by such an
“That’s none of your business!” Flinky wrinkled his tiny nose.
“Maybe I could help,” the man offered. “See, my name’s Myryx. And while I’m
somewhat famous in human lands, I guess Brownie folk might not have heard of me.
So, let me tell you: I’m a wizard by profession.”
“You are?” Flinky glared at the enormous face, his mouth agape.
“I am,” Myryx confirmed. “At your service! If you need anything magical, that
is. Small customers are my favorite. They’re easy to please, right?”
“Hmm… Could you turn a flower into a tree?” Flinky wanted to know. The man
didn’t wear a typical wizard’s hat, nor a staff to cast really powerful spells,
but maybe he was travelling the countryside in disguise. Wizards lead dangerous
lives, he imagined!
“If I wanted, I could turn a flower into a tree,” the man replied.
“Or a toad into a prince or whatever?”
“I could turn a toad into a prince or whatever, yes.”
“Then you’re quite something!”
“You’re right there, quite something I am, indeed!” A smile extended from one of
the mage’s ears to the other. “And proud of that,” he added.
“Oh my, oh my...” Flinky almost wailed, tears of joy in his eyes. “Could you...
could you... turn me into something else as well?”
“But of course!” Myryx didn’t even bat an eye. “Glad that you asked! It would
help with your mission to be someone, am I right? – Though I’m a bit
rusty as I haven’t dealt with princes and toads for a while. It’s not so much in
demand these days, you know. Times are a-changing as the poets say. But let’s
The wizard murmured a couple of mantras, apparently trying to find the right
ones to make such a powerful spell work.
“Ha! There it is! I guess I still remember…” the wizard rasped. “What do you
have in mind anyway, little one? Turning you into, say, a snail wouldn’t be that
practical though, because I couldn’t ask you later whether you’re fine with
being a snail for the rest of your life or not. Snails don’t talk, see? Haven’t
heard one talk yet at any rate.”
“No, no... no snail! Please no snail” Flinky was quick with rejecting the
prospect. He didn’t want to be trapped forever in a – literally – sticky
“What then shall it be?”
“Well, how about something larger than a Brownie. Like a hobbit maybe?” A
hobbit seemed much better.
Myryx frowned. “So that’s your idea of being somebody? A hobbit?
Now we could try that. But what makes you think a hobbit would be the perfect
creature to be?”
“It beats being a Brownie,” Flinky proclaimed matter-of-factly. “There are lots
and lots of Brownies running around at the Council Tree where I live, and I’m
just one of many, I’m soooo small! And they all say I have a funny nose,
big ears and short arms!”
“But one single halfling is as tall as a couple of dozens of Brownies, he’s a
“Ah, I see. Well if you say so, then I guess this would be a case where size
“A hobbit can pick up a whole load of Brownies with his hand and throw them
like, you know, several peds! That’s what a hobbit could do!”
“And you would do that?” the wizard asked, suspicion ringing in his voice.
“No, no, of course I wouldn’t. Just saying. But if I wanted or had to, you know,
I could. I’d be a hobbit then!”
“Well then, now I’m relieved. With all that clarified I guess we can go ahead
and make a hobbit out of you. So without further ado...”
The wizard put his hands on his temples and began concentrating.
“Ready, little one?”
“Ready!” Flinky shouted in the squeaky voice of his.
“Hold still then!” Myryx warned. “Or you’ll end up as an ox. Or a centipede. Or
a three-legged duck. With the trunk of a blackhog – at its rump!”
At that moment Flinky burst into laughter. He loved ducks. They were so clumsy!
The image of a three-legged one did it for him. Especially with a trunk at its
He laughed so hard that he tumbled and toppled over.
“Hey, young fellow! Someone needs to focus here!” Myryx complained. “And it’s
not me! I’m not that good with turning you into something that is recognizable
afterwards as I visualize it beforehand if you jump around like a monkey!”
“I’m sorry,” Flinky moaned sheepishly. “You shouldn’t say such funny things when
casting a spell. Haven’t you learned that at mage school?”
“Well, I wager hobbits are better at staying focused. They have to be! So better
see to get it over with then, aye?”
Flinky shrugged. “I don’t really know about hobbits. They’re not that
much different than Brownies. They’re like jolly and funny and all, just like
“What!?” Myryx looked at his tiny companion, confused. “So they’re not
that different from Brownies all of a sudden? Just larger?”
“Uhm... Yes, maybe.” Flinky didn’t know hobbits that well, he had never seen one
in person. But from what he had heard, they were larger, and they partied a lot.
They lived in cozy hill dwellings instead of trees, that he knew for certain. He
wouldn’t mind that. Actually, he looked forward to a cozy, comfy hobbit hole.
“Wouldn’t it be much better to be a man then? A human?” Myryx
suggested. “Beats being a halfling, doesn’t it? What the halfling is to a
Brownie, a human is to a halfling. So if you were a human you’d be ahead of any
Brownie and of any halfling, wouldn’t you say?”
Flinky considered the proposal for a moment. Then he agreed. “That’s true,
Myryx, I could as well be a human! Why not? Humans are tall and strong, and very
clever. Like you! Much better than hobbits! You can do a human as well, can
“Naturally,” the wizard said. “No big deal. Halfling, ox, duck with blackhog
trunk, human... – my repertoire is almost unlimited!”
“Then a human it is! Make me a human! Just like you!”
Flinky got in position again, and Myryx once more put his fingers on his
temples, thinking long and hard.
The wizard sat there and thought and thought. From time to time he hummed a
little bit, turned quiet again, hummed a few more notes, but that was all.
“What is it?” Flinky finally brought up, his impatience mounting. He couldn’t
stand still that long. “I’m ready! Have been for quite a while! Is there a
problem with turning me into a human? Is it more difficult to make a human out
of me? Because if it is, then I’d rather be a hobbit!”
The addressed wizard slowly opened his eyes as if returning from a long trance.
“No, no, no, it’s not that, little one. A human’s fine. I just thought...”
“Well, you want to be big and strong, so that you’d be feared by everyone else,
right? Because you’d be somebody, right?”
“Sure!” Flinky knew what he wanted, and that was it: big, strong, feared!
“However,” the wizard went on after a moment’s consideration, “even humans
aren’t the ones everyone else fears!” he argued. “You can do even better! You
could be an ogre for example, or a giant...”
“Ogres and giants are dumb!” Flinky shook his head. This wouldn’t work. At all.
“They’re huge, but soooo dumb!”
“What about a full-grown dragon then?” The wizard’s eyes sparkled with delight.
The wizard knew he was on to something there.
Indeed, with an idea like that he immediately got Flinky’s attention. “A… a
dragon?” he stammered.
“Don’t say dragons aren’t the most cunning of them all, little one, because it’s
a fact that they are! There’s nothing more intelligent, powerful and
beautiful than a beast like that, eh? Just think about all those glittering
scales covering the beast’s whole body, some have got horns, sharp teeth and a
tail that can wipe out whole villages! You’d be airborne in an instant, roast
sheep for breakfast with your fiery breath, and if you’d go for an adamant
dragon you’d be almost invincible. Most adamants live forever! Imagine that!”
Flinky couldn’t believe his ears. “I’d be an adamant dragon? Like the one
from the Katya Dragonseeker story?”
“Yes, yes, absolutely yes,” the wizard assured him. “Though in that particular
tale Katya defeated one, you know. Quite a feat, I might add! However,
that was simply thanks to a stroke of luck, and because that adamant was vile
and mean. Which you wouldn’t be, right? Besides, that was a long, long time ago,
and maybe it was just a myth anyway.”
“Then make me an adamant dragon! Make me an adamant dragon!” the Brownie
boy shouted, brimming with glee. He couldn’t stop repeating it over and over
again. “I want to be an adamant dragon! An adamant dragon! Pleeeeeease!”
“Haha,” Myryx chuckled. “Looks like we at last found what you were really
looking for, eh? A tad above the hobbit you wanted to be at first, but if you
can have it all, why not? Now hold your horses and don’t jump around again! –
Just remember this: There’s no turning back once the spell is cast. You’ll be on
“Yes, yes, I know,” Flinky nodded eagerly.
“By the way... I just realized,” the wizard began as he was getting in position
again, “now that I think of it: There’s actually something I cannot do.”
“What? Can’t you turn me into an adamant after all?” Flinky’s face couldn’t hide
“No, that I can, don’t you worry. Told you so. But there’s another thing I
cannot turn someone into,” the wizard mused. “It just occurred to me this very
moment, and I find that quite fascinating. Now who would have thought of that?”
“Thought of what?”
“Well, it’s nothing you need to concern yourself with, little one, really. It’s
only an observation, an academic question for fellow mages if you so want.
That’s just how we wizards work: looking beyond and behind things, that’s our
trade. – So, anyway, are we ready?” Myryx rubbed his hands.
Flinky however was intrigued by the words of the mage and wanted to know more.
He couldn’t help but ask: “Say, if you cannot turn someone into that thing...”
“...is it then even better than an adamant dragon, that thing?”
“Better, more powerful, smarter, taller, stronger... – pshaw! That’s not what
I’m talking about, my friend,” the wizard explained. “It’s absolutely unique,
that’s what it is. That’s what’s different about it. That’s why I cannot just
“Unique? You mean there’s nothing like it?”
“No, nothing like it. Ever. You know, even though it’s not exactly clear how
many adamants ever existed or still exist – if I turn you into an adamant dragon
now, well, you’re one of those then. An adamant among adamants. Same with
hobbits, men, even Brownies: If I turn you into one, you’re one of many.”
“But you’re always one of many!” Flinky objected.
“No, you’re not!” the wizard said.
“I am. Sure I am! You are too. Of course you are.”
“Well then, that’s what you say,” the wizard let him have his way. “I
say, the Gods made you unique. And if you think you’re one of many when you’re
starting out, you’re plain wrong. That’s why I cannot turn someone else into
you, see? I only can make someone into a Brownie. Any kind of Brownie. Or I
can turn you into an adamant dragon, but you’re not yourself anymore then. I
spare you the technical details, that’s mage talk, but basically that’s it.”
Flinky looked lost. “You mean you couldn’t turn someone into me? Because
I am... unique? And that’s why it’s so difficult to do?”
“Yes, that’s it, precisely!” The wizard nodded. “You are that someone that
nobody else can be.”
“Who would ever want to be someone like me anyway?” Flinky asked in disbelief.
“With this weird nose and such big ears and short arms?”
“Well, I don’t know. Couldn’t do it, either. However, as I said: If you don’t
want to be yourself, it can be arranged.” The wizard seemed restless. “You see,
if you think the Gods made a mistake the way they made you, it’s your business
to ask a mage and turn you into something else. That’s what I’m here for. I
guess the Gods must have thought about what kind of nose and ears suit you best,
and there must be a reason for making your arms shorter as well. But who am I to
question that? “
Flinky fell silent and didn’t know what to say to that for a while. Then he
whispered very, very quietly: “You know, maybe I’ll just be myself for a while
longer, Myryx. For now anyway. I don’t really want to be a dragon anymore. Or a
man, or a hobbit, I guess, because the Gods had all that trouble with making me
“Can’t help you there, boy,” the wizard replied and shrugged. “Only you can be
yourself, you know.”
“Yes, I know,” the Brownie said and nodded. “I guess I’d better go then. I need
to be home for supper.”
Years later, many
a year later actually, Flinky would travel down the Council Tree from his level
9 home by taking the elevator; just as he had done when he had been a little
boy. The elderly Brownie now found himself sitting there in the lift, on the
bench, stroking his beard, satisfied with how his life had turned out.
Right now, Flinky was planning to enjoy a few quiet moments down at the Snake
River near the waterwheel and get some rest from his seven grandchildren who
were horsing around upstairs at his daughter’s home.
Flinky couldn’t help but chuckle to himself. This time his escape had been
successful. Unlike back then when he had set out, determined to leave once and
for all, but some fortunate turn of events had brought him right back. And as he
had done so often in the past, Flinky fondly reminisced that day.
And as he did so, he wondered whether this stranger, who had wrought his magic
on him and made him return, had even been a magician after all.