Last week Tuesday I woke up to the news that a Christmas market in Berlin has been targeted by a terrorist attack. Another occasion where those who want to take away our peace of mind in public places got on with their dirty work.
Strangely it reminded me of a story I heard as a teenager in Germany. It went together with a little warm, soft fleece and it touched me deeply.
I feel that it is important more than ever to spread hope, love and good energy and maybe this old Irish tale might help to make us think where we rather let hopelessness and greed win instead of the positivity we used to feel when we were young.
So here a symbolic warm, soft fleece for you!
The Little People of Swabedoo
A long, long time ago, little people lived on earth. Most of them lived
in the village Swabedoo and they called themselves Swabedoodahs.
They were very happy: they walked around smiling from ear to ear
and said hello to everybody.
What the Swabedoodahs liked most was to give each other warm,
soft fleeces as a present. Everyone of them carried a pouch over his
shoulder and this pouch was filled with soft fleeces. When
Swabedoodahs met each other, the one gave a fleece to the other.
It’s very nice to give someone else a soft fleece. It tells the other
person he’s special; it’s a way to say: “I like you!” And it’s just as nice
to get such a fleece from someone else. You feel how warm and fluffy
it feels to your face and it’s a wonderful feeling when you put it softly
and lightly with the others in your pouch. You feel recognized and
loved when someone gives you a fleece and you want to do
something good, something nice right away. The little people of
Swabedoo liked to give and receive warm, soft fleeces and their life
together was always happy and cheerful.
Outside the village in a cold, dark cave lived a big, green kobold. He
didn’t really want to live there, outside, all alone and, at times, he
felt very lonely. He had already stood at the rim of the village, more
than once, and wished he could live between the cheerful
Swabedoodahs; but he had nothing to offer — and, besides, to him,
the exchange of warm, soft fleeces was big nonsense. If he met one
of the little people at the edge of the woods, he would grumble
something unintelligible and quickly walk back to his humid and
One night, when the big, green kobold stood at the edge of the woods
again, he found a friendly, little Swabedoodah. “Isn’t it a wonderful
day, today?” the little one asked, smiling. The green kobold just
made a drab face and didn’t answer. “Here, take a warm, soft fleece,”
said the little one, “this one’s especially beautiful. It’s surely meant
for you, otherwise, I had given it away already.”
But the kobold didn’t take the fleece. First, he looked around to all sides, to be sure
no-one was watching or listening. Then, he bent over to the little
one and whispered in his ear: “Listen, don’t be so generous with
those fleeces of yours! Don’t you know that, one day, you won’t have
any fleeces left, if you just give away everything?”
Surprised and a little helpless, the little Swabedoodah looked up to the kobold. Who
had, in the mean time, taken the pouch of the little one’s shoulder
and opened it. He sounded very satisfied, when he said: “Didn’t I
tell you? Just hardly 217 fleeces you’ve got in your pouch — so, if I
were you, I’d be careful giving them away!” And with that, the
kobold went off, on his big green feet, and left behind a confused
and unhappy Swabedoodah at the edge of the woods.
He was so confused, so unhappy, that he didn’t realize that what the kobold
had said was totally impossible. For every Swabedoodah had an
inexhaustible supply of fleeces. If he gave away a fleece, he would
get one in return from someone else, right away, and this would
happen time and again, a whole life long. So, how could they run out
The kobold also knew this but he trusted the credulousness of the
little people. And something else he trusted; something he had
discovered within himself and of which he wanted to know if it was
inside the little Swabedoodahs, as well. So, he consciously lied to the
little Swabedoodah, sat down at the entrance of his cave and waited.
In front of his home in Swabedoo the little, confused Swabedoodah
sat, brooding. It didn’t take long, before an acquaintance passed by,
with whom he had already exchanged many warm, soft fleeces.
“What a beautiful day!” his friend exclaimed, reached inside his
pouch and gave the other one a fleece. Who, however, didn’t accept
it joyfully but warded it off with his hands. “No, no! You’d rather
keep it,” the little one exclaimed, “who knows, how quickly your
supply will decrease. One day, you’ll be without fleeces, just like
The friend didn’t get it, just shrugged, put the fleece back into
his pouch and walked away, saying good-bye softly. But he took
confused thoughts with him — and on the same night, in the village,
one could hear three more times, how one Swabedoodah said to
another: “I’m sorry, but I don’t have a warm, soft fleece for you: I
have to be careful not to run out of them.”
The next day, all this had spread through the whole village.
Everybody started saving their fleeces. They did give one away, every
once in a while, but only after long and careful deliberation and very,
very cautious. And they weren’t usually the especially beautiful
fleeces but those with little stains and already a bit worn-out.
The little Swabedoodahs became suspicious. They started observing
each other distrustfully; they started considering whether the other
person was truly worthy of a fleece, or not. Some even went as far
as hiding their fleeces underneath their beds, at night. Arguments
arose from the question, how many fleeces someone owned. And,
eventually, people started exchanging warm, soft fleeces for things,
instead of just giving them away. The mayor of Swabedoo had even traced how many fleeces there were in total and, then, announced that the number was limited and declared the fleeces to be currency.
Soon, the little people were arguing about how many fleeces
spending a night or having a meal in someone else’s house was
worth. There were even some cases of fleece robbery! In the twilight,
they didn’t feel safe, anymore; while, before, the Swabedoodahs
liked to walk in the park or on the streets, in the twilight, to meet
each other and give each other warm, soft fleeces.
At the edge of the woods sat the big, green kobold, observing
everything and being very satisfied.
The worst of everything happened some time later. Something
started changing regarding the health of the little people. Many
complained about pain in their shoulders and backs — and, in time,
more and more Swabedoodahs were taken by surprise by this illness
called spinal weakening. The little people walked around bent — in
serious cases even bent to the ground. The fleece pouches were
dragged on. Many started to believe, that the cause of their disease
was the weight of the pouches and that it was better to leave them
at home and put them away, there.
It didn’t take long before one could hardly find a Swabedoodah with a fleece pouch on his back. The big, green kobold was very satisfied with the result of his lie. He
wanted to find out, whether the little people would act and feel like
him, when he, as was the case most of the time, had selfish thoughts
— and they had acted like him! The big kobold felt very successful.
He came to the village of the little people more often, now. But
nobody said hello to him with a smile, nobody offered him a fleece.
Instead, he was stared at distrustfully, just as the little people stared
at each other. The kobold liked this: to him, this behaviour was the
In time, even worse things started happening in Swabedoo. Maybe,
because of the spinal weakening; maybe, because no-one gave them
a warm, soft fleece, anymore – who knows? – some people died in
Swabedoo. Now, all happiness had disappeared from the village.
Their grief was immense.
When the big, green kobold heard about it, he was very shocked. “I
didn’t want this,” he said to himself, “I surely didn’t want this. I only
wanted to show them what the world is really like — I really didn’t
want them to die!” He thought about what he could do, now — and,
indeed, something came up.
Deep inside his cave, the kobold had discovered a mine with cold,
prickly stones. He had spent many years digging the prickly stones
out of the mountain and storing them in a quarry. He loved these
stones because they were so beautifully cold and they prickled so
pleasantly when he touched them. But not only that: he also loved
these stones because they were all his — and, every time he looked
at them, the impression of possessing great wealth gave the kobold
a satisfying feeling. But now that he saw the misery of the little
Swabedoodahs he decided to share his stone wealth with them. He
filled numerous little bags with cold, prickly stones, put them on a
big barrow and went to Swabedoo with it.
How happy were the little people, when they saw the cold, prickly
stones! They took them gratefully. Now, they had something to give
to each other, again. however: if they gave someone else a cold,
prickly stone to tell him they liked him, a cold, unpleasant feeling
came into their own hand and also in the hand of the person, who
received the stone.It was not as nice to give away cold, prickly stones
as to give away warm, soft fleeces. Every time, one would feel a
strange ‘tugging’ at the heart, if one received a prickly stone. One
also wasn’t quite sure what the giver really meant. The receiver often
stayed behind confused and with stinging fingers.
So, slowly but surely, it happened more often that a little
Swabedoodah crawled underneath his bed, took the pouch with
warm, soft fleeces, ventilated them a little bit in the sunlight and, if
someone gave him a stone, he would give a warm, soft fleece in
return. And how did the eyes of the receiver shine! Some walked
home quickly and dug up their pouch to give a soft fleece, instead of
a prickly stone, too. However, they didn’t throw the stones away.
Moreover, not all Swabedoodahs fetched their pouches, again. The
cold and prickly stony thoughts were embedded too deeply in the
heads of the little people. One could gather it from the remarks:
– “Soft fleeces? What’s the intention, really?”
– “How can I find out whether my fleece is really wanted, or not?”
– “I gave a warm, soft fleece and what did I get in return? A cold,
prickly stone! I won’t let that happen again.”
– “You never know where you’re standing: fleeces, today; stones,
Probably, all little people of Swabedoo would have gladly returned
to the things that were only natural to their grandparents. A single
one looked at the bags in the corner of his room, filled with cold,
prickly stones, so heavy that they were hard to bring along.
Therefore, often, one didn’t even have a stone with one to give to a
friend. Also, the little Swabedoodahs secretly, without saying it out
loud, wished for someone coming to give them warm, soft fleeces.
In their dreams, they imagined how they all would walk around on
the streets with cheerful, smiling faces and give each other fleeces,
like in good, old times. When they woke up, however, there was
always something that kept them from really doing it that way.
Usually, they went outside and, then, saw what the world was
This is the reason that giving away warm, soft fleeces hardly ever
happens, anymore — and usually not in public. But it does happen!
Here and there, time and again. And who knows… one day…?