The Grunchy Beast

  by Wilfred Glyn-Davies


There was once, not so very far in time, or so very long ago in space, a little world.

It was not large, as we judge largeness, nor was it very small, but it had everything that a world should have.

It had a high blue sky and lots of sun... was not quite as hot as our desert - nor so cold as an iceberg... had islands, with mountains and woods, rivers and plains...

...and it had a sea, a very big sea, and lots of little bays where the land and the sea lived comfortably together.

The sea was full of all sorts of creatures not quite the same as ours but very nearly so:

There were whales and octopuses, but the whales had horns and the octopuses had six legs, so you couldn’t really call them octopuses, could you? …and just as every world that ever was has a villain in it, so the sextopus was just such a nasty creature! -

There were plenty of all sorts of fishes, and many kinds of fishes with shells, and starfish too, but they had six points not five.

Now in one of the little bays that had plenty of sand and a few rocks there lived a little hermit crab.

He was mainly a very happy little crab but as he got older his tail got bigger. His tail was not covered in shell like the rest of him, so all the other sea people used to hurt it, usually accidentally, except for the small sextopusses, who would pull and pinch it deliberately. Finally he had to do what all the other hermit crabs did: find an old shell and hide his tail in it.
But then, as the sextopusses had got used to teasing him, they would creep up behind him and pull off his shell,

so he spent many hours of his time with his eyes swivelling in all directions while he tried to find a shell that really fitted.

Unfortunately his tail kept growing, and the more it grew, the more he thought about it, and the more he thought about it, the more it grew, and the more often he had to change his shell!

He was a very lonely little hermit, always curious, and interested in why the world was like it was. Because of this curiosity, he found it difficult to talk to the other hermit-crabs because all they would talk about was themselves and what they had done that day and what they were going to do.




Now, this little hermit’s favourite time was the late evening, when the moon came up. On this world when the sun went down, the moon came up, and then the sextopusses went to sleep, wrapping themselves in their six legs and covering themselves with sand.

Then the little hermit would come out of this shell and creep up to the water’s edge. He would let his eyes rest on the surface of the water and gaze for hours at the moon and the stars.

After many years of doing this, his tail had grown to a huge size and it was getting very difficult to find shells big enough, and because he spent so many hours resting at the water’s edge with his eyes looking at the sky, he began to find that they were getting fixed in one direction.

As you know, crabs can live on land as well as in water, and one night he was sitting on the wet sand looking at the land for a change when he saw a strange animal coming towards him in the moonlight. This animal had six legs just like him, but it also had four arms, a very long tail, a big flat face and eyes that looked always to the front. It had a shell coat on, like him, but was pink all over, not his own lovely dappled green colour.

The strange animal came up to him and although he was very shy, this time the little hermit did not scuttle back into the water, but just sat there quivering all over.
“Hallo,” said the animal. “What’s your name?”
The little crab didn’t know what to say: the other crabs called him ‘Muggins’, whereas they all had proper names like ‘Big Rock’, ‘Small Pink’, ‘Seaweed’ and such-like things, after the place they settled down in. He had never been able to stay in one place at all: for one thing his tail grew so fast, for another the sextopusses kept bothering him, and finally he was far too curious about everything.
So he said to the strange beast, “Nothing really…” and dug his arms into the sand bashfully.

“Oh,” said the stranger, “I’m a Grunchy Beast and my name’s Looka. Here,” he said, “you can see why,” and he pointed to his head which had a mirror fastened to it. He could look into it and see himself. “That is so I can see what is happening to me all the time.”

This was a fascinating thing!

The little crab had all sorts of questions and he asked Looka them all, and Looka talked and talked, answering them all one by one, until the little crab thought that the proper name for him should have been ‘Talka’!

But he was polite - not only polite, but he had so many more questions to ask -

questions that everyone else he knew thought silly, such as ‘why is the moon?’, and ‘why are sextopusses like they are?’ and things like this - that he stayed up until the moon was way up overhead. He left the Grunchy Beast, saying he would be back the next evening.

And then the small crab began to stay up every night talking to the Grunchy Beast, who sometimes brought a friend, so that the little hermit began to enjoy the sand very much indeed.

One night they had talked so much that the sun came up when the moon went down and he saw birds - real birds flying, which he had only seen before as shadows on the water,

although it was soon much too hot for him and he had to go back to his little shell under the water.

After this he began to spend a little time every day in the sun. There were so many beautiful things to see and he liked the Grunchy Beasts so much that he began to spend more time out of the water than in it. There were no sextopussies to bother him and he didn’t need his shell because, being on land, nobody walked over his tail.

Then to his great joy he found that the more time he spent in the sun the harder became the skin on his tail, so that it was nowhere near as tender as it had been. However, as soon as he went back into the water it always became soft again.

But there were not so many reasons for him to stay underwater anyway now, as his friends the other hermit crabs had began to be terribly bored by him - he was always talking about things they had no interest in. What’s more, he was bored by them too, so he thought it was time to move house.

He found a little cave above the water-line and he moved his collection of pretty stones and little shells there, and he found some nice soft grass and made a little bed for himself. Although at first it was not as comfortable as under the sea, he soon got used to it.

He had noticed that all the Grunchy Beasts spent a lot of time talking about ‘The Road'.

What road it was, no one could tell him. Where did it go? Opinions differed greatly. To some it led into a big hole that went on and on for ever. To some it led to the King’s palace. Some of the grunchy people said that it ended inside the Sun, and others that it went to the Stars.

How did you find it? Well they had hundreds of different ways...

but it still seemed to be quite difficult to find, as they were all of them looking for it, so far as he could find out. . .




It fell out one day after he had moved from his seabed home that walking through the woods, he came to a little pool.

Very still was the pool. Very quiet was the wood, and the pool lay in the heart of the wood, in its shadows.

He stopped and looked into the pool.

There looking back at him was a Grunchy Beast.

He reached out to touch it, and the beast reached out to him too.
He winked an eye, and so did the beast.
In fact everything he did caused the beast to do exactly the same, and every gentle puff of wind made it move too.

He put his head into the water to see where it was, it had gone,

but when the ripples on the water had died back into stillness there was the Grunchy Beast in the water again, looking just as puzzled as he was.

Then he noticed that there was a wood in the water and it seemed to be a copy of the wood that he was in. He had seen mirrors before, so he wondered about this, but then... who was the Grunchy Beast?

He left, very puzzled indeed.

Later he met Looka and asked him about it. Looka laughed. Taking off his mirror he held it up before the little crab.

“Now look,” said Looka, so he looked, and looking into the mirror he saw the same Grunchy Beast he had seen in the pool.

“That is yourself,” Looka said. “Once I was just like you, and now you are a Grunchy Beast just like me. That is why I spend so much time looking in my mirror.”

“Oh dear!” said the little Grunchy Beast, for that is what he had become. “No wonder my friends the hermit crabs no longer speak to me. They think I am a stranger.”

He was very, very upset and looked very carefully in the mirror.

There was the big flat face and the eyes that could only see directly ahead, and like all the other Grunchy Beasts it had a little pimple above the eyes. He was pink all over, and behind his neck he was beginning to grow a hump. He didn’t like it a bit, and after that he was forever asking other beasts whether he had changed and how he had changed, and so strange had he become to himself that he began to feel a longing for a real home where he really, truly, did belong.

Then he began to ask questions about The Road. He felt that there was where home really was, but nobody could tell him for sure, they could only tell him about how they thought you could find it.
But he didn’t listen. Instead he got himself a little bag for food, packed up his shell collection, and started off to look for The Road.





As he wandered all over the land he met many, many animal people who seemed to be living quite happily. In fact they seemed to be as happy as it was possible to be, but nearly all the Grunchy Beasts he met were extremely serious and very few of them seemed to be enjoying themselves.

They seemed to spend hours talking to each other, and really the more they talked the more they seemed to be like the hermit crabs in the sea, in fact many of them wanted to go back and kept telling him how happy they had been in their little shells.

He came across many little villages of Grunchy Beasts. It was a funny thing but they all seemed to think that the other Grunchy Beasts, “while being no doubt worthy beasts,” were “terribly mistaken” and “In fact downright dangerous!”

This seemed to him to be nonsense and he told them so, at which they turned their heads slightly and stood as tall as they could, saying “Well you are of course entitled to your own opinion,” and wouldn’t talk to him any more.

One day he came to a village of Grunchy Beasts where they really did seem to welcome him. In this village they danced. Every day they danced, twice a day.

They danced at sunrise and at moonrise.

They arranged themselves in circles and spun on their tails, which became very hard and rigid and strong. They invited him to join them, but he refused. They did not mind though, and let him stay as long as he wished. He felt a great curiosity about it all the same and asked them why they did it.
“It is our road to the stars,” they answered, “When we dance the whole world, the sun and the moon dance, all the stars dance except one and that is our real home,” they answered.

He thought that was wonderful and at last asked if he could try it.

It took a lot of hard work and practice until one day as the sun went down he understood what they meant. The village, the distant mountains, setting sun and rising moon all began to spin into nothing and all that was left was a long high road to the stars which seemed to be the only real thing in the world.

Afterwards he thought about it and decided that, wonderful though it was, that wasn’t what he was looking for, and so he left all his good friends behind and set off again on his journey.

There were many Grunchy Beasts who also were walking just like him but they were all going in different directions. Some of them had maps in their hands and some carried compasses to help them find the road, and there were also groups of them being led. Sometimes they were being led round and round in circles by one of them who claimed to know the road.

There were odd ones who spent all their time staring at the moon and others who spent all their time looking in mirrors and some who stayed where they were and seemed to be fast asleep.

As the little beast was travelling he found many paths which ended at little houses, some beautiful, some very ugly, and here often the owners said that this was the end of the road and after all perhaps it was.

But the little hermit kept on walking, hoping that one day he would find what he was looking for.

Then one day as he was making his way to the mountains he found a gate which had a big danger sign on it, a big fearsome gate all black and curly and spiky. ‘DANGER’ it said, ‘DESERT BEYOND.’

Beside the gate was a house, and he knocked at the door.

A huge terrible beast came to the door. He had huge wings which shone like a waterfall in the sun, his eyes blazed, and the golden claws on his feet were like great knives which could tear you to pieces. He had a vast mane of hair which stood out round his head just like a lion’s, and in the middle of his forehead he had a great golden horn. His tail was like a snake’s, shining in purples and greens. All in all, a terrible beast.




“What do you want?” said the terrifying beast, and his voice caused the little hermit to shiver all through. He was so frightened that he nearly ran away, but his curiosity was so strong that he couldn’t do so.

“Please, sir, what is beyond the gate?”

The face of the beast smiled, showing dangerously long teeth,

“That’s the desert.”

“Please, sir, what’s a desert?”

“It’s all sand, dry sand and stone, no plants, no trees, no animals, no place for Grunchy Beasts!”

“Please sir, what’s on the other side?”

“Terror and death and change.”

“Oh dear,” said the little beast, “but I want to go there – I’ve been everywhere else and the Road I’m looking for isn’t there, but perhaps in the desert there’s a Road, a Royal Road?”

“No,” said the terrible monster, “You could take any other journey and you might find what you are looking for, it would be very much easier. Why don’t you follow the River instead?”

Now the little beast was very, very stubborn as well as easily frightened, and the more he thought about the desert the more he was sure that the road he was looking for was there.

“P-please sir,” he said, “can you give me an umbrella and some water?”

“Ho, ho, ho,” laughed the beast. “How much water do you think you need?”

“P...perhaps 8 pints?” he stammered.

“You couldn’t carry all you will need,” said the beast, “What have you got of value?”

“Well, I have my little shell collection, it is very beautiful and I am very fond of it, I take them everywhere because I like to look at them.”

“Anything else?” glowered the beast.

“Well, I have this little jewel here.”

“Oh, is that all?”

“Well, my satchel.”

“Have you nothing else?”

“No, nothing at all.”

“Right!” said the monster, “Give them to me! I need them.”

The little hermit was frightened. “But why, sir?”

“Just because I need them.”

“But I can’t live without them!” the little hermit said.

To his surprise, tears came to the monster’s eyes.

“I really do need them,” he wept.

“Oh well,” said the hermit, “if you feel that badly about it,” he said, and taking a last careful look at them he gave them to the beast.

“Thank you,” it said. “Now I will give you something.”

He reached behind him and he brought out a water bottle.

He said, “This is a magic water bottle. It will never run dry,”

and giving the hermit his satchel back, he put some bread into it.

“This,” he said, “is very special bread. You must break a little of it off at a time. Take care always to leave some behind and it will never all be eaten, but if you eat the last bit, that is the end of it, so remember, always leave some behind.

Now here is your umbrella, satchel, water and a nice woven blanket. Look after them carefully because I shall want them back when you return.”

“But how shall I know which way to come back?”

The great beast smiled.

“There is only one way in and only one way out of the desert. You won’t be able to escape me even if you want to.”




So the little hermit began his journey.

At first there were trees and plants and even small creatures.

The first night he spent curled up in a little cave that he found, and there was even water for him to drink.

The second day there were fewer plants and not many trees at all and his path began to be full of stones. This was very hard on him because his tail kept being hurt. That night he found nowhere that he could hide for the night and he slept all curled up in the blanket which he had been given.

On the third day the sun shone more strongly, he found that he was very glad of his umbrella (for the shade it provided) and he trudged through the white stony country with his blanket, his satchel and his bag of water growing more and more heavy as he walked. His legs seemed to creak and his tail became very uncomfortable.

That evening when he lay down to sleep he was very tired and he dreamed of sharks, whirlpools, wolves, and nameless horrible things. In the night it was cold and all his bones ached and he shivered until he wrapped his blanket tight around him.

Then his journey began to be very uncomfortable. At night he froze and during the day he burned. Amongst the stones there were many little plants with thorns. He had to stop often, set up his umbrella and pick thorns out of his legs and tail.

He became very, very glad of the water which the terrible beast had given him and he began to see that he would not have been able to carry all the water he needed to drink.

After more than a week of travel he began to see strange sights - cities and valleys, and he began to dream of the sea as he was walking along.

He daydreamed that he was back on his own little beach again and he heard the sounds of the sea in his ears.

He found that he had a tendency to walk in circles following the sun.

He started a habit of counting up to one thousand, setting his eye on some little edge of sand, then after stopping for a little while he would start counting again, reach a thousand, stop, take a drink and a crumb of the bread which he had been given, then off again.

One day he saw a strange bird in the sky which flew in great circles over his head. He thought that it might be a scavenger bird which he had been told about. But it didn’t come close enough for him to see, for which he was very thankful. Remember, he was not a very brave beast. As he trudged on and on his head seemed to bend lower and lower and he heard strange harmonies like the singing of the seals. Every part of his body ached and ached and his tail was an awful weight to carry, it had by now become absolutely stiff and made him walk in a very funny way indeed. The sun was so hot during the day under his umbrella, he had to keep moving around so as to keep out of the sun. By now his pink shell had become a nasty black colour and had sort of warts all over it.

His path now became very steep, it was uphill all the way - not up and down, but climbing, always climbing. He was hungry all the time as well as thirsty. The land was completely barren and he was so far from the gate that he didn’t think he could find his way back at all.

One day as he climbed the never-ending hill, he heard a voice.

“Help, Help,” it cried.

He was not sure where it came from but he started towards it.

In the moonlight it was very difficult to see where he was going, but he had found one advantage with night-travelling: he could set his direction by the stars. That way he seemed to be able to keep going very well.

He set his star in his mind’s eye and went toward the voice, which seemed to be getting faint. By now it was near sunrise and the star which he had set himself by was fading but he trudged on in the direction of the voice.



In the dawn he began to see, some little way away, a small, black figure, and he carried on grunchfully.

Then, as he came closer, he saw what it was. Of all the things in that harsh barren land to see: it was a sextopus! He very nearly turned away, but at that moment it cried, “Help!” again and he just couldn’t leave it.

It was indeed a sextopus - shrivelled, black and helpless – but definitely a sextopus. He wondered how a sextopus could be on the dry land. He had never heard of such a thing before. Not only on dry land, but in the desert as well!

There was nothing he could do but give it food and water.

It drank and drank so that he had to take the water away from it otherwise it would have completely emptied the bottle. Then he broke some bread and gave it to the sextopus. At last the poor creature could speak, but by now the sun was beginning to blaze and he had to move them both to some sort of shelter.

He found a place between two rocks and they began to talk.

“How did you get here?” he asked the sextopus.

“Well,” she replied, for it was a lady sextopus (they were the most spiteful of all to the hermit crabs),
“I was sitting on a rock and a huge bird-beast with terrible gold claws grabbed me and flew with me for miles,”

“Then he dropped me here in the midst of nowhere and I don’t know where I am and I’m shrivelling up and thirsty and hungry and I don’t know what to do, Boohoo!” and she burst into tears.

“Don’t cry, please, don’t cry,” said the little beast. “Think of the waste of water.”

“Oh dear! Oh dear!” she said, and she licked up her tears.

He sat down between the rocks and thought, and he thought and then he thought some more. At last he had an idea.

If he cut a piece from his blanket he could make a little bag, and then if he cut off the corner of his water-bottle with a sharp stone and used some threads from the blanket to tie it up, he could have a very small water bottle as well.

Then came the test: if he took a piece of the bread, would it still work the same?

He broke a bit off the piece and ate it.

In about 30 minutes, the piece was just as large again, so he popped it in his satchel.

That was good.

Then he took the little water bottle and poured water into it, he drank some and soon it too was full again.

So he gave the sextopus his blanket, his water bottle and the bread, keeping his new little water container and the smaller piece of bread for himself.

Then that evening he spent some time telling the sextopus how to go back.

He had not thought about it before but he had realised as he thought that by travelling only at night there were nearly always stars to guide, and if he knew his path forward he also knew it back, so he taught the sextopus all this. He couldn’t really take the sextopus with him because he wasn’t sure where he was going, and in any case the sextopus just wanted to go home to the sea.

They stayed there the next day, by which time the sextopus had begun to recover. He passed on all the warnings about never emptying the water and leaving always some bread. That evening they said goodbye to each other. He was very impressed by the behaviour of the sextopus, it was very brave and seemed to our little friend to be quite a nice creature after all. Perhaps all sextopussies were? He thought that might well be true.


Having said goodbye, they parted and each went his way. The little hermit now began to feel the need of his blanket, but he walked faster to keep himself warm at night, and he found that he could not rest very much at night anyway because it was so cold, so he had to keep moving. During the day it was also very difficult - there was little shade anywhere and he was glad he was still up in the hills. At last he came to the top of the mountain, just as the sun rose.

Before him was a huge sort of sand-bowl, and in the middle of it was a most beautiful golden city sparkling and gleaming in the morning sun. It seemed as if he would be able to get there that same day but he was beginning to be a careful little beast and rested up for the day as usual. It was just as well he did. That day he slept very fitfully; the heat coming from the sand bowl was awful, and the city could barely be seen at all in the heat of the day, since the air shimmered so.

At night he came down the mountain, and although he had a few hours of cool left, he thought about how hot it would be and stayed where he was at the edge of the bowl until the evening. He began to feel very grateful for his very small water bottle. He was thirsty all the time and he could only drink a mouthful from it at a time, so that by the time it was full again it felt as though he had not had a drink that day at all.
His dreams too were peculiar; he was a little tiny crab again and he began to remember all his brothers and sisters who had been eaten and how he had escaped all the enemies. Tiny baby crabs have many, many enemies – well, not enemies but all the bigger fishes thought of baby crabs as food and so they ate them.

That night in the moonlight he started over the plain to the city. It was beautiful. Even so, he still had to travel during the day for a few hours, and arrived there just before the sun had reached its hottest. He was, as you can imagine, gasping and nearly blinded because the sun shone off the golden walls so strongly.



As he came near, he saw the gate was closed and beside it there stood a golden gong. He was you may remember a very timid little crab, but he banged the gong, trembling in his very tail. Who knew what might happen? As the gong struck, the whole city seemed to shake and the gate opened - creaking, protesting every inch of the way, but it opened.
He walked in. There was no one there. Inside it was quite cool. There was a little fountain playing, there was the faintest of high-pitched music like larks and bats. There were places to sit. But there was nobody there.
It was clean, there was no dust, there was food, but there was no one there. He was full of questions but there was no one to answer them.

He stayed there many days but no one came at all. As the days drew on he began to catch odd sights as though they were floating dreams of people, animal people who had sort of faded away, then he began to see grunchy beast’s ghosts sitting in corners or in the evening gazing at the stars, but they were all so faint that it might have been his imagining that peopled the city so. He thought to himself that perhaps this was the city of heart’s desire and the moment he thought this he began to be afraid. Not only that but he began to see the ghosts more clearly and even to vaguely apprehend what each one’s dream was. There were many ghosts of kings and queens, artists and leaders, teachers and thinkers, but he noticed no ordinary grunchy beasts at all amongst them.
He was so interested that it came as quite a shock to look at himself one day and see that he was beginning to fade at the edges. He decided to leave the next day, and then he decided this every day for a week. The black of his shell was fading rapidly. The next time he thought about leaving, he left immediately, taking his tiny satchel and little water bottle with him.
He left the city behind him. He had seen over on the other side of the sand-bowl a gap in the hills where there seemed to be flashes of lightning and vague sounds of thunder. Towards this gap he made his way. It took him two days - two days of terrible heat, blistering heat, his shell burned black again and he felt all his plates grinding together with cracking noises, making it very difficult to walk indeed, but he went on.
At last he came to the gap in the hills, and after climbing over the blistering rocks he found himself looking down on a dreadful sight: this was a bowl filled with clouds and mist and smoke which suddenly cleared to show stones, stones, sharp stones, stones on end, cracked stones, and cracks in the ground which opened and closed, and flying back and forth and round were great scavenger birds with horrible red dubbly necks.


At this point, he thought to himself, “Why not go back to the city?” and went to turn to look at it.

He stopped. “No, go on, you’ve been lucky so far, go on.”

Looking down at his feet he saw a shell on the ground. As you know, he liked shells. This looked, from where he was, just like any ordinary scallop shell, but he picked it up anyway. He was very glad he had. It was the most beautiful shell he had ever seen – it shimmered like the sun on the waves, it looked as cool as the sea, each of its lines was gently curved. Then as he turned it this way and that he saw a line of light which always pointed in the same direction. He turned his back, it disappeared, he turned again, the line came back. “This must be my guide through the strange land,” he thought, and holding it in both hands in front of him, he started forward.

Down, down into the black depths, always holding the light in front, he followed. As he went on, the mists swirled and he caught sights of blacky-green wings, red horrible necks and cruelly curved beaks. Then he was in the rocky land and though there was mist and fog, there was no rain and the stones were dry; dry as dead wood or old seaweed.
He began to be thirsty and hungry and then he remembered: when he had picked up the shell, he had laid down his water bag and food and forgotten to pick them up.
Well he was in a mess and no mistake. Could he go back? No, the clouds were too dark behind him for him to know where he had come from. It was only possible to go forward, following the light of his beautiful shell.

So, hungry and thirsty, hot and cold by turns, he went on. And now the air was really thick with scavenger birds and horrible eyes of beasts and growls and piercing screams. He could not really see them, he could only catch glimpses from the corner of his eye and hear them. Then there were strange smells, some of which made him shiver and some which spoke of terrible deeds, but he followed the line of light, teeth chattering with fright.

Then, the air cleared. It became warm, then hot, boiling hot, and he found himself on a high cliff overlooking a lake. The lake was a dark, dark, deep lake. He could see no way down the cliff. He thought of jumping over into the lake - for him it would be no problem, he was after all basically a hermit crab and could happily fall into water. But his guiding shell pointed along the cliff’s edge.
He followed it and found himself at the foot of a mountain. To you and I it would be a hill, but to a hermit it was a mountain. It was black and dark and hot. So wearily, almost crying with thirst and heat, he began to follow the light of the shell. Up, up the black mountain he climbed. His claws breaking on the hard stone, he climbed up.


Thirsty and dried up, he climbed to find himself on a path of black sand at the top of the mountain. He could go no further. He just lay there in the broiling sun. He could almost feel himself being cooked but he did not care. Then he heard a terrible crack: his tail was splitting. He fainted and his last thought was for the shell, he held it close as he slipped into what he thought was death.

As he fell, he remembered his life backwards to the beginning and he joined himself to all his brothers and sisters and then he saw the most amazing thing. All the crabs there ever were, in a great ocean of crabs, all coming out of a stream which came from one great crab. This crab was the sky and all the children of the crab were stars and then the stars faded out and the great mother crab also faded into nothing and then there was nothing: nothing at all, no dark, no light, no up, no down, nothing, nothing, nothing.


If you had been looking at that black patch of sand, you would have seen a strange sight. There on the sand was a big hermit crab which was a grunchy beast, black and gnarled, then its shell cracked and there were little movements in that body and more cracks and cracks within cracks...



The beast awoke. He did not know who he was or what he was: there was a complete new blank, and then he saw the guide shell. His head turned to look at it. He remembered. He lay there with the sun overhead but it was no longer hot, it was comfortable. He wriggled, and bits of shell fell away. He looked out over the stony land and the lake. He saw the city in the sand-bowl. He saw the land of the grunchy beasts and the sea that he had come from. He could even see the grunchy beast villages.

He could see the desert and the gate to the desert. He saw the house by the gate. He saw a shape that he thought might be the terrible beast. He stretched himself and the remains of bits of shell dropped.
His tail swished. Oh! His tail swished! He did it again. It was most satisfactory, it curled and wriggled and it was a beautiful greeny-black. The lump on his back had also broken open – he could feel a bump, bump, bump from there like a pulse. His shoulders were covered with a sort of froth, and the froth was growing, lines appearing in the froth. The pulse beat stronger and he had a strange feeling in his shoulders as though he had grown another pair of arms, arms that he could use. The n suddenly all the froth seemed to disappear.
He turned his head. His head and neck were covered in stiff hair which stood out like a mane. He tried to move his extra pair of arms and there was a rush of air. They were not arms, they were wings, and they were drying in the sun.
He stood, looked around and started down the mountain. His golden claws clanked on the stones. He laughed, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” – the sound shook the ground. His wings quivered and he leapt into the air and glided down over the city and the desert.
He didn’t land very well. In fact he fell over himself landing.
Oh well! He would need to practise. He walked up to the house by the gate.
“Ah! There you are!” said the terrible beast. “About time too. I’m off.”
“Wait!” said our friend, “You are not going to leave me here without any instructions, are you?”
“I’m off,” said the other, “I’ve waited long enough. You work it out. You’re quite bright.” said the beast, and without waiting any longer, took off into the sky.
The grunchy BEAST looked around. There was a useful store-room with lots of stores all carefully labelled. ‘Nuts from Arbor Vitae‘ and instructions on how to make Way-bread, a well which was labelled ‘Water of Life’, lots of bags with instructions on how to make the bags and underneath, a huge store-room with shelves full of the most amazing collections of things. Dreams in bottles, pretty boxes, collections of stones and “Oh! Yes,” he thought, collections of shells!
He went back into the sunlight, and coming across the plain was a little grunchy beast. This one looked very pugnacious. The beast swished his tail, clashed his teeth, rolled his eyes and growled menacingly, tried a few experimental tears, very satisfactory. He sat down by the gate and took up his duties.


Illustrations © Talya Davies 2018

Text© Talya Davies (contact through