This is children’s story written by John Griffiths. He is not sure what age it would suit, perhaps 13 – 15. What do you think?
The Myth-adventures of Hengist Thriceblest, Manxman.
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there lived an old man who knew all the secrets of the Universe. However, his happiness was not complete for he longed for just one thing: to be able to play football like Pele.
His name was Hengist Thriceblest, and there in a nutshell, was the clue to his problem. Hengist had three legs. You might have thought that his age might also have been a problem but you will soon see that that was not the case.
You will know, of course, that the Isle of Man is rather special. Deliberately placed exactly mid-way between England and Ireland back in the mystical mists of time to act as a stepping stone for all those sorcerers, sages and wizards who continually passed too and fro between the two lands in those days, many strange things happened there that couldn’t happen anywhere else.
It was part of Manx folk-lore that Hengist’s Viking ancestors had allowed a powerful sorcerer to remove the tail of his cat to collect rare pollen for a particularly spectacular experiment. Full of gratitude the sorcerer had worked his magic and from that day to this Hengist’s lineage had all enjoyed remarkable fitness into old age. The side-effect, however, was the third leg; and, of course, the fact that Manx cats had permanently lost their tails.
Having three legs when playing football didn’t help Hengist at all . Dribbling a ball into the penalty area, he inevitably managed to get his legs into such a tangle that he would end up in a heap, claiming a penalty. His team had to point out to him that it was his own feet he had fallen over. It was quite embarrassing but what was to be done? To play like Pele had become and obsession.
He had tried tying two of his legs together but then he found it impossible to change out of his football shorts, and equally impossible to get into his trousers. Riding his bike to and from matches proved to be so cold and draughty that his legs quickly turned blue. As his team colours were red, they had to drop him from the team, which might have been a disaster for him, but at last they won a match.
Then, by chance, he heard of a wise man living not too many days away and decided to seek his advice. Leaping on his bicycle, he finally reached the wise man’s impoverished, grotty little cave after many adventures too terrifying to recount here except to say that, what little hair he did have, tuned s white as vanilla ice-cream. It’s probably already obvious to you, from his poor life-style, that this so-called wise man was probably not quite as wise as he liked to make out, but our elderly, failed footballer friend was blind to these warning signs, so desperate was he to gain ever-lasting fame.
Briefly, Hengist explained to the wise man how he longed to be famous like Pele. After a very short pause, barely long enough for the words to leave his lips, the wise man flung out a grubby, bony hand with the words
‘That will be 330 in advance.’ ( so perhaps our wise man wasn’t as impoverished as he looked, after-all).
Hengist dug deeply into the pockets of his football shorts and found just enough to pay the wise man; for that was long before the era of multi-millionaire footballers who now needed very big pockets indeed and an agent to help fill them
At last, the wise man, very slowly, allowed his gaze to wander over the uninspiring frame of the man before him, the pathetic figure waiting , anxiously, for the words of wisdom that would hurl him into the hearts of millions around the globe. He could see this wasn’t going to be easy.
He studied Hengist carefully, noting the thinning, vanilla-white hair, the narrow, sloping shoulders, the reedy body supporting the almost non-existent chest, the whole propped up on three long spindly legs. THREE LEGS! For the first time he noticed what was unique about this hapless looking fellow.
‘That’s it,’ he cried. ‘I’ve got it.’
‘Got what?; gasped Hengist in alarm, jumping three feet in the air.
‘The triple jump,’ the wise old man almost bellowed. ‘You are spectacularly suited for the hop, step and jump.’
‘Good heavens, so I am,’ exclaimed Hengist. ‘Why on earth didn’t I think of that?’
‘Ah, well,’ the wise man said modestly. I have trained for years to notice if someone has more than two legs you know. Not everyone has the skill.’
Gratefully, Hengist took his leave and headed for the homestead bequeathed to him by his bloodthirsty, pillaging ancestors who had finally settles very happily on the Isle of Man. Mark you, it would require more than a little imagination to visualise Hengist as your average Viking role model; none-the-less, that’s where he was heading now with a light heart and a sore seat from all that cycling. Suddenly, however, he realised with a groan, that he had no idea what the triple-jump involved.
Arriving back in his village, he called into his library and borrowed a book entitled ‘The Triple Jump for Dummies.’ Studying it from cover to cover, he quickly, but erroneously, came to the conclusion that there was absolutely nothing to it, and, with the advantage of three legs, he would soon be a world champion. He was rapidly disillusioned. After many weeks of practice, he would still find his legs getting out of sequence, hopping when he should have been stepping, jumping when he should have been hopping; inevitably, he would find himself in a tangled heap on the run-up before he could even launch himself into the sand pit.
But Hengist, for all his fragile appearance, was made of stern stuff. He never gave up , and, slowly, he managed to get his legs working in the right order; his jumps grew longer until he realised he could qualify for the Isle of Man in the forthcoming Olympic Games. Not only that, as he was their only team member, he was chosen to carry the Manx flag in the Opening Ceremony. He was so proud.
Came the day of the event. Hengist had hardly slept that night; now he had butterflies and his legs felt as though they didn’t belong to him. All the other competitors looked so confidant as they warmed up at the side of the track. He almost wishes he hadn’t qualified as he looked around the crowded stadium; he was sure everyone was looking at him, and as a result, his first attempts were a disaster . Once again his legs refused to perform in the right order; just as in his early practices, he fell, each time, in an untidy heap on the run-up.
Hengist was distraught and not only his dignity was hurt. He had injured himself quite badly on his last fall and it looked all over for him with one more jump to go. But, as we have seen, Hengist came from hardy stock and now he called on his tough Viking forebears for inspiration.
He asked for, and was given, a pair of crutches to help him on his run-up. The officials would have agreed to almost anything for, by now, everyone had taken this hopeless athlete to their heart. Just as in laterWinter Olympics the world had urged on Eddie ‘~The Eagle to soar higher and further in the ski-jump competition when he didn’t stand a chance, so, now, the great crowd willed Hengist to complete his final run-up.
Rocking back and forth on his crutches, summoning every last ounce of strength and determination, the noise of the crowd getting louder and louder, he was finally ready. He launched himself down the track like a demented Exocet missile, his legs and crutches simply a blur.
The other competitors, who had until that moment found it difficult to keep a straight face, now found themselves looking on in wonder. This time he hit the board exactly right , and with a huge HOP, STEP and a JUMP, and a final leverage from his crutches, he sailed into the air.
Suddenly the stadium became deathly quiet. Not only was he jumping the full length of the pit; he had also cleared the bar of the pole-vault, which had been set up for the next event.
Landing from a great height, Hengist was at first too dazed to appreciate the enormous roar from the crowd, who knew they had witnessed a unique sporting achievement.
At the medal ceremony, he was presented with a special gold medal for winning two events with one jump. As Hengist stood on the winner’s rostrum, watching with pride the Manx flag being raised, he was a very happy man.
But he still wished he could play football like Pele.
© John Griffiths 2016