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Many Moons

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   Author:  James Thurber
Copyright Date:  1943
Publisher:  Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich
Pagination:  45 p.
M A N Y   M O O N S

     ONCE UPON A TIME, in a kingdom by the sea, there lived a little Princess named Lenore. She was ten years old, going on eleven. One day Lenore fell ill of a surfeit of raspberry tarts and took to her bed.
     The Royal Physician came to see her and took her temperature and felt her pulse and made her stick out her tongue. The Royal Physician was worried. He sent for the king, Lemore’s father, and the King came to see her. “I will get you anything your heart desires,” the King said. “Is there anything your heart desires?”
“Yes,” said the princess. “I want the moon. If I can have the moon, I will be well again.”
     Now the King had a great many wise men who always got for him anything he wanted, so he told his daughter that she could have the moon. Then he went to the throne room and pulled a bell cord, three long pulls and a short pull, and precisely the Lord High Chamberlain came into the room.
     The Lord High Chamberlain was a large, fat man who wore thick glasses which made his eyes seem twice as big as they really were. This made the Lord High Chamberlain seem twice as wise as he really was.
     “I want you to get the moon,” said the King. “The Princess Lenore wants the moon. If she can have the moon, she’ll be well again.”
     “The moon?” exclaimed the Lord High Chamberlain, his eyes widening. This made him look four times as wise as he really was.
     “Yes, the moon,” said the King. “M-o-o-n, moon. Get it tonight, tomorrow at the latest.”
     The Lord High Chamberlain wiped his forehead with a handkerchief and then blew his nose loudly. “I have got a great many things for you in my time, your Majesty,” he said. “It just happens that I have with me a list of the things I have got for you in my time.” He pulled a long scroll of parchment out of his pocket. “Let me see, now.” He glanced at the list, frowning. “I have got ivory, ape, and peacocks, rubies, opals, and emeralds, black orchids, pink elephants, and blue poodles, gold bugs, scarabs, and flies in amber, hummingbirds’ tongues, angels’ feathers, and unicorns’ horns, giants, midgets, and mermaids, frankincense, ambergris, and myrrh, troubadors, minstrels, and dancing women, a pound of butter, two dozen eggs, and a sack of sugar—sorry, my wife wrote that in there.”
     “I don’t remember any blue poodles,” said the King.
     “It says blue poodles right here on the list, and they are checked off with a little check mark,” said the Lord High Chamberlain. “So there must have been blue poodles. You just forget.”
     “Never mind the blue poodles,” said the King. “What I want now is the moon.”
     “I have sent as far as Samarkand and Araby and Zanzibar to get things for you, your Majesty,” said the Lord High Chamberlain. “But the moon is out of the question. It is 35,000 miles away and it is bigger than the room the Princess lies in. Furthermore, it is made of molten copper. I cannot get the moon for you. Blue poodles, yes; the moon, no.”
     The King flew into a rage and told the Lord High Chamberlain to leave the room and to send the Royal Wizard to the throne room.
     The Royal Wizard was a little, thin man with a long face. He wore a high red peaked hat covered with silver stars, and a long blue robe covered with golden owls. His face grew very pale when the King told him that he wanted the moon for his little daughter, and that he expected the Royal Wizard to get it.
     “I have worked a great deal of magic for you in my time, your Majesty,” said the Royal Wizard. “As a matter of fact, I just happen to have in my pocket a list of the wizardries I have performed for you.” He drew a paper from a deep pocket of his robe. “It begins: ‘Dear Royal Wizard: I am returning herewith the so-called philosopher’s stone which you claimed—’ no, that isn’t it.” The Royal Wizard brought a long scroll of parchment from another pocket of his robe. “Here it is,” he said. “Now, let’s see. I have squeezed blood out of turnips for you, and turnips out of blood. I have produced rabbits out of silk hats, and silk hats out of rabbits. I have conjured up flowers, tambourines, and doves out of nowhere, and nowhere out of flowers, tambourines and doves. I have brought you divining rods, magic wands, and crystal spheres in which to behold the future. I have compounded philters, unguents, and potions, to cure heartbreak, surfeit, and ringing in the ears. I have made you my own special mixture of wolfbane, nightshade, and eagles’ tears, to ward off witches, demons, and things that go bump in the night. I have given you seven league boots, the golden touch, and a cloak of invisibility—”
     “It didn’t work,” said the King. “The cloak of invisibility didn’t work.”
     “Yes, it did,” said the Royal Wizard.
     “No, it didn’t,” said the King. “I kept bumping into things, the same as ever.”
     “The cloak is supposed to make you invisible,” said the Royal Wizard. “It is not supposed to keep you from bumping into things.”
     “All I know is, I kept bumping into things,” said the King.
     The Royal Wizard looked at his list again. “I got you,” he said, “horns from Elfland, sand from the Sandman, and gold from the rainbow. Also a spool of thread, a paper of needles, and a lump of beeswax—sorry, those are things my wife wrote down for me to get her.”
     “What I want you to do now,” said the King, “is to get me the moon. The Princess Lenore wants the moon, and when she gets it, she will be well again.”
     “Nobody can get the moon,” said the Royal Wizard. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 
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