The fairy tale Cloudhead Worldheart – for the LEA project – in an abridgeds version.
Once upon a time there was a little boy named Neil O’Sullivan, affectionately known as Little Cloudhead, who lived happily with his parents Reamonn and Reul O’Sullivan and his two years younger sister Roisin in Cluain Meala, also called Clonmel, an Irish town in the south of County Tipperary.
The O’Sullivans were hardworking and respectable businessmen and respected people who were very popular and well-known in their city and far beyond the borders of Cluain Meala. No wonder, because the O’Sullivans also sold one of Ireland’s best apple wines in Cluain Meala, which became a magnet for many people from all over the world.
Their wonderful city was an idyllic place to feel at ease, where everyone knew each other and people from all over the world met to do business and celebrate together. Where the river Suir meandered gently and picturesquely through the city, which had previously merged with the two rivers Aherlow and Tar.
Later, on its way to the north of Waterford, it merged with the rivers Nore and Barrow to form a mighty big river, which was called „The Three Sisters“ by all and finally flowed into the Celtic Sea.
Many of the traders in Cluain Meala came from Waterford, by the way. And many of them would have liked to stay forever. Because this wonderful town of Cluain Meala, situated in a quiet, lush green valley, surrounded by the rugged hills of southwestern Ireland, also known as the honey meadow, was considered one of the most beautiful places in Ireland.
Little Neils O’Sullivan knew every corner of his beloved city and spent most of his time outdoors. Often he sat dreamily for hours on the banks of the Suir and held his hands in the water, where he saw the many trout and salmon passing by. But he did not want to catch them, because his beloved fish and all the other life that the river brought with it was sacred to him in a very special way.
He had also taken the two swans, who greeted him every day, deep into his heart.
Sometimes his sister Roisin accompanied him on his wanderings through nature, she had a preference for the flowers, the bushes and grasses and above all for the tree – cotton grass, which danced like snowflakes over the heather and undergrowth in the wind.
Roisin also loved to make jugs and plates together with her mother, which they then sold once a month at the big market.
Neils greatly admired his sister’s craftsmanship, but one of his favourite pastimes was lying in the big apple garden on a meadow, looking into the clear blue sky and listening to the animals around him when they spoke. And sometimes, when he was sure that he was alone with the animals, he would talk to them.
For he counted them all among his closest friends. golden eagles, crows, falcons and also the snow owl, which gave Neils the name Nilda.
But also foxes, deer, hares, bees, dogs, cats, horses and beetles always sought the proximity of little Neil O’Sullivan.
He loved them all!
Neils also loved the humans, but he felt a little closer to the animals in a magical way.
Some people in Cluain Meala were amazed at Neil’s deep love for animals, but nobody laughed at him. He was also very popular with all people because he was always friendly, in a good mood and helpful.
And not a single day passed without him talking to the animals, roaming meadows and forests or being seen on the riverbank.
But every afternoon little Neils he ran through the streets and through the many alleys to the other end of town to bring his sick Aunt Doreen the sweet pastry Scones she loved so much, which his mama baked fresh for her sister every day.
His aunt Doreen was one of Neils‘ favourites, she was already a remarkable woman. Due to a malicious illness she was tied to her bed for a lifetime, but had never lost her sense of the beautiful things, nor her sense of humour. On the contrary – this generous woman loved nature and animals like her nephew Neils and was also interested in the latest gossip.
She enjoyed the company of little Niels, who stayed with her every day for an hour, and with whom she associated so much more than even Neil’s parents suspected.
So she shared her passion for good books and exciting stories with him and told him every afternoon, a captivating little story, from one of her collected books, of which she possessed countless.
She knew how much he loved fairy tales and legends, which is why every year on his birthday she gave him a booklet with the most beautiful and newest fairy tales from all over the world.
For Neils that was one of the most beautiful things he had, the stories of his Aunt Doreen.
And every night, Mrs. O’Sullivan read a story from one of her sister’s little books to her children Neils and his little sister. Afterwards both children fell asleep and Neils sometimes dreamt of a big zeppelin with which he floated over a big glittering cloud city and hundreds of beautiful butterflies accompanied him.
Reamonn and Reul O’Sullivan loved their children equally, with all their hearts.
Nevertheless, for some time now they have been paying little Neils a little more attention, because her son was much smaller and weaker than children of the same age, and always a little paler. His feet and hands were big enough for his age, only the rest of him suddenly didn’t seem to want to grow any further. He always ate sufficiently and regularly, spent most of his time in the fresh air and seemed to be completely unconcerned.
Actually, everything seemed fine with him. Because with his blond angelic curly hair, his sparkling blue eyes and a face full of tiny little freckles, he radiated pure joie de vivre, always and everywhere, just by his appearance!
And when the10-year-old little boy laughed, the world would laugh back
This little boy was really something very special, and his parents knew that too.
And not just her.
The O’Sullivans did not share their growing concern about their little Neils with anyone.
Not even when one night they found their Neils barefoot in the grass of their garden under their big oak, where he stood and hummed a beautiful melody. All his friends the animals stood around him, and the birds chirped with him.
It almost seemed like Neil was wide awake, but he wasn’t. Although he had his eyes wide open, he did not react to anything around him. Not even the gentle words of his mother, who always encouraged him to go back to bed.
Until his father carried him back into the house, where he carefully put his son back into bed.
The next morning, when Neils woke up fresh and cheerful, he was, as always, in a good mood and without memory of his nocturnal excursion into the garden.
When Neil’s parents found him again and again in the garden during the following nights, the O’Sullivans finally decided to visit the old doctor and good friend of the Odhran Collins family, who lived in the castle „Caisleán near the Cathrach“ in Cahir.
Concerned, they told the old good doctor in detail what had led them to him.
Odhran Collins knew Reamonn and Reul O’Sullivan as well as the children Roisin and Neils very well.
He listened attentively, frowned, and after hearing everything, he spoke softly:
„Now return to your children and wait until I send a messenger.“ He’ll bring a powder. Take two large spoons of it and stir it into Neil’s porridge.
But you must be careful. Because the only one who’s allowed to take this powder is Neils.“
Then he slowly got up from his chair and said goodbye to Reamonn and Reul O’Sullivan, who hurried back to their children in gratitude.
Four days after their visit to Dr. Collins, the long-awaited messenger came and brought them the promised powder.
Neil’s mother did as the doctor ordered and stirred two spoons of the powder into her Neil’s sweet porridge.
Once a month, always on a Tuesday, the big market day took place in Cluain Meala.
The O’Sullivans also built up their market stall there. In addition to flour, eggs, vegetables and the popular cider, there were also handmade bowls, cups and plates that Mrs. O’Sullivan had made together with her daughter Roisin.
Everywhere you looked, there was a bustling trade and colourful market activity. And this market day, once a month, was much more than just a day of trading. This day always brought all the people of Cluain Meala together.
The McGraths, who had their stand right next to the O’Sullivans, offered the most beautiful fabrics in the area. Opposite them stood Mrs. Wilson, who baked the tastiest cake in town. Those who longed for good cheese found him at the Brennans‘ stand, which also provided musical entertainment.
Cluain Meala’s market offered the right thing for everyone. That’s why he was so popular with people from near and far.
As soon as the market ended, people returned to their villages, towns and houses, one could feel the satisfaction of all the inhabitants who lived together in a very special way. Because the inhabitants of Cluain Meala held together and supported each other.
Envy and disfavour were alien to them.
And if there was a dispute between some inhabitants, it was always settled quite quickly. Because the people in Cluain Meala knew how to handle it well and loved their city like no other.
That’s why they loved and lived harmony.
Only one thing was a thorn in the side of most people of Cluain Meala and uncanny:
Cluain Meala was also the home of Orlaith, feared by so many people and called only the one-eyed, hunchbacked woman by most inhabitants.
Few people dared to say their name out loud, for Orlaith lived alone in a small hut on a hill near the Old Church of Our Lady and is said to have magical powers.
Rumor has it that her mother and grandmother already had magical powers.
And indeed, amazing things happened near the one-eyed, near the old church.
As soon as it became a full moon, flames struck the sky at night, and a loud drumming shook the whole valley, which kept pulling people out of their sleep and terribly frightening them.
But after that it became quiet again for many weeks, and hardly anyone from Cluain Meala got to see the one-eyed hunchback afterwards.
Except Neil’s father, Reamonn O’Sullivan, and Neils himself. Because Neil’s father supplied the one-eyed woman once a month, always after the big fire, with flour and eggs, sausage and many herbs, spices and wine. Neils always accompanied his father there, but never dared to approach her. Something was there to wake him up. Orlaith, the one-eyed hunchbacked woman, always paid Neil’s father generously and always gave him small blue stones. Mr. O’Sullivan was always surprised at the addition of a blue stone, but he took it with thanks and put it at home with the others, which he kept in a small box on the mantelpiece.
to be continued