The First Story

The King

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The land of Vàldovar lies between two ranges of high mountains. On the third side it borders the wild and stormy sea, and giant waves crash ceaselessly upon its broad golden beaches. On the fourth side there are ancient forests so dense and deep that no traveller has ever managed to pass right through them. In these forests live strange creatures who guard the secret places amongst the trees. The mountains are so high, the sea so terrible, and the forests so deep, that few people ever visit the tiny kingdom of Vàldovar. In fact, most people do not even know that there is such a place. Only one man ever drew a map on which Vàldovar appeared, but he spilt ink on it; when he wiped the ink off, the map was so smudged that he had to redraw it and he forgot to put Vàldovar back again. Because Vàldovar is so shut off from the rest of the world, and because you cannot find it on even the biggest map, no matter how hard you look, life in that country is quiet and has remained unchanged for hundreds of years.