THE COMPLETELY UNABRIDGED FAIRYTALE ADVENTURES OF OLLIE
BY EMILY BUTLER-PROBST
Once upon a time, there was a young couple who desperately wanted a child of their own. They tried everything. They sought various strange remedies, including eating random plants from the garden of an Evil Witch next door, and yet still nothing worked. One day, miraculously, the woman gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and she was named “Ollie.” When Ollie was only a few days old, her parents took her to the home of the Wise Wizard of the Forest so that she could receive her blessing. The Wise Wizard of the Forest saw every young child and he anointed each of them with various potions designed to help them achieve their destiny in life. If that child was supposed to grow up to be a Prince Charming, he gave the baby a fair dose of courage and strength. If the child was to become an Evil Witch, the Wizard gave her servings of cleverness, vileness and other useful witch traits.
When Ollie’s parents came to the Wizard’s house, they set Ollie down gently on the Wizard’s operating table and the Wizard set to creating the perfect combination of potions to aid Ollie in achieving her life goals. As Ollie lay there smiling on the operating table, a most tragic event happened. The shelf that was directly above Ollie snapped in half and dozens of potions fell on the young child. Ollie was saturated in bravery, cleverness, goodness, and a host of other traits that the wizard had forgotten to label. Some of these traits even conflicted with one another to a certain extent. Because of this unfortunate accident, the Wizard had no idea which talents Ollie had been given or which role she would be suited for. When it came to determining Ollie’s fate, two directions stretched out toward her: she could be a Princess who charms the world with her virtue and beauty or she could be an ugly Evil Witch who uses her cleverness to achieve vengeance on the world. The Wizard told Ollie’s parents to wait, telling them that Ollie’s true identity would present itself in time.
As Ollie grew, there were times when it seemed to her parents she would be the perfect princess. She was virtuous and kind to the people around her. She would dress in beautiful dresses and dance softly under the moonlight. But, there were other times when her parents were less sure about where Ollie should go because she would do things that were very unprincess-like and almost “witchey.” Ollie loved to stay up into the darkest and most ominous hours of the night. She never brushed her jet-black hair, so it quickly became gnarled and ratty, and she would often forget to bathe because she was fonder of sleep than cleanliness. Ollie was also extremely clever; she loved to read and analyze the world around her. These traits worried Ollie’s parents because they seemed to place Ollie strongly in the “Evil Witch” category.
On Ollie’s eighth birthday, the time came for her parents to choose which school she should attend: Evil Witch School or Princess School. This may seem like a new concept to have in a fairytale, but the truth is it takes a considerable amount of training before a character becomes fairytale material. Little Red Riding Hood had to learn to be more careless before she was ready for her own story. Rapunzel needed weightlifting classes to help her with pulling people into her tower, and Goldilocks honestly preferred her porridge in the pot nine days old and needed to learn to employ a more discriminating taste to her assessment of porridge. Ollie’s parents thought that their daughter was more suited for Princess School, but when they looked at Ollie’s oily hair and bent nose, they realized that their daughter was in no condition to go to Princess School. They took Ollie to Alondra, her fairy godmother, who was able to straighten Ollie’s nose, fix her hair and put her in one of the most beautiful dresses imaginable. Ollie was finally ready for school.
Ollie was dropped off at Princess School where she was introduced to the Principal Rella. After Ollie shared her name, she noticed a slight twinge of sadness cross over the principal’s face. “I’m sorry, sweetheart, but the name ‘Ollie’ simply won’t work for a Princess at this school. You will need to change it to something else that is fancier and gentler. From now on, we’ll call you ‘Olivia Persephone IX’ and you should fit in perfectly!” Principal Rella finished this statement with a warm smile and Ollie was dismissed to begin her education. Ollie didn’t like her new name at all. It felt floofy and fancy and extravagant to her, and she wanted people to call her “Ollie” as a nickname. But the other students at the school didn’t seem to believe in nicknames because she was called “Olivia Persephone IX” by pretty much everyone, except for the narrator of this story, who faithfully continued to call her “Ollie.”
Ollie started taking her classes almost immediately. She was amazing at her “Sleeping Enchantment” class, in which she slept peacefully through the entire class no matter who was watching her. She was also very good at her “Ethical Behaviors” class, in which she recognized good and evil and helped out people who were hurt or lonely with their difficulties. There were other classes that Ollie took in which she did terribly. She took the “Dressing to Win His Heart” class and found that she had no sense of style and didn’t know how to do her hair nicely, usually shoving her hair into a ponytail so that it would stay as far out of her way as possible. She also failed the “Watching Your Prince Defeat Evil” class because she couldn’t just sit around without trying to assist her Prince in some way. She had to get involved in fighting, which not only ruined her grade for that course, but also made her appearance even worse for other classes.
Ollie’s worst failure came in history class. The teacher presented the story of “Puss in Boots” and explained how the courageous Puss was able to defeat the vile, horrible ogre through trickery, and gain vast land holdings for his human companion. Ollie thought about this history for a while and eventually reached the conclusion that it was not a complete account of what had taken place, and it was also somewhat biased. Ollie cleared her throat, raised her hand, and spoke in the most adult voice that she could come up with: “Excuse me, but I don’t think what you are saying is the whole story here. The Grimm history book mentions that the ogre was ugly and he owned a lot of land, but it never says he is evil. Are we supposed to assume he is evil just because he is hideous? We can’t know that for sure. Maybe the ogre was a nice guy and Puss in Boots came in, killed him, and took his stuff. How can we praise this story when we don’t know for sure if the ogre was good or evil?” Ollie did not get a very warm reception from the rest of the class when it came to her skeptical view of established history, and she was sent to Principal Rella’s office.
When Ollie entered, Principal Rella tried to present a kind but disciplined exterior. “I have been looking at your grades over the semester and it seems like you have been having a difficult time in some of these classes. I would like to say you could restore your average with a little more practice and work, but the fact is that most of these abilities are ascribed by potions at a very young age. I don’t think you will ever have the proficiency needed to graduate. So, I’m afraid I will have to dismiss you immediately. You might have a better time at the Evil Witch School.” Ollie didn’t want to fail, but she was tired of having to pretend to be someone other than herself in order to achieve the limited success she had found. Some of the classes were quite easy and fun, but the others seemed completely pointless to her, and this assessment probably wouldn’t change. Ollie nodded her head grimly and left the Princess School behind forever.
Ollie knew she only had one more school she could attend: the Evil Witch School. In order to properly prepare herself for attending this school Ollie returned to Alondra, who helped Ollie regain her crooked nose and gnarled hair so that she would look more like a witch. Alondra even gave Ollie some additional witchey traits, including a full set of rotten teeth and a cackling sound in her currently soft voice. Ollie also put on a tattered gray gown so that she looked as much like a witch as she possibly could.
When she arrived at the school, she was taken to see Headmaster Hulga the Ornery, who welcomed her to Evil Witch School. Ollie again shared her name and Headmaster Hulga shook her head. “‘Ollie’ simply will not work here; it isn’t evil enough. From now on, we’ll call you ‘Olglia the Despicable.’” Ollie accepted her new name in silence.
Ollie did quite well in some of the classes that she took at this school as well. She did a wonderful job in her “Unmasking the Secrets of Existence” class because she was allowed to explore mysteries of the past, no matter where they took her. She also did splendidly in her “Masquerade” class because she was really good at pretending to be a sweet old lady, almost as if it came naturally to her. Ollie decided not to tell them she wasn’t really pretending and she was simply being her own sweet self.
Ollie had a lot of trouble with the food that they served at this school. She picked at the greenish, gooey blob that sat in the middle of her plate. It tasted salty and runny and gross. As Ollie mulled over her plate, Headmaster Hulga came up to her and asked why she wasn’t eating her delicious “eye of newt.” Ollie was pretty disgusted with her food before and now that she knew she was eating newt eyeballs, she couldn’t stand to have that food anywhere near her. Ollie pushed her plate away and the eyeball fell to the ground with a sickening slurping sound. After this, it became more and more difficult to eat any of the food.
The hardest part of the Evil Witch School for Ollie was the actual “evil” part. She was good at looking evil, but she wasn’t really evil inside. As a result, she completely failed her “Being Evil” class.
She was given different scenarios to which she had to respond in an evil way and she simply could not respond in the way that was expected of her. Some of the example scenarios included: “You discover two small children nibbling on your candy house. What do you do?” The correct answer involved imprisoning the children or maybe turning them into mantelpiece ornaments. Headmaster Hulga had heard some pretty wickedly creative ideas today from other students and she was expecting something equally vile when she spoke to Ollie. Instead, Ollie responded to Hulga by saying she would tell the kids that it is rude to eat other people’s houses, and then she would bring them home to their mother so that she could deal with them. Headmaster Hulga was shocked. She had never seen anyone fail this test so badly. So, she decided to try asking one more question: “You discover the secret to eternal youth and beauty, but you cannot unlock this secret unless you take the life of another, what would you do?” She expected Ollie to say she would sacrifice a rival or, even more wickedly, some young child, to achieve immortality. But Ollie’s response disappointed in every possible way: “I’m sorry, but immortality isn’t worth it. I can’t take someone else’s life just because I want to live longer.” Headmaster Hulga tried to reason with Ollie by reminding her that this was the key to eternal life and beauty, but any attempt to change Ollie’s mind proved useless. Ollie was resolute in her integrity.
Headmaster Hulga groaned and then took a moment to collect herself before she spoke: “I think it should be clear to both of us that you don’t belong here. You don’t adhere to our most basic philosophical values and you never will. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why you decided to come to Evil Witch School when you clearly are not evil. You are expelled from this school.” As Ollie left the Evil Witch School behind her, she froze. She now had nowhere to go. Both schools had rejected her, and they were the only places that gave her a future and a fate. With nowhere else to go, Ollie marched into a deep, dark forest that loomed directly in front of her, hoping that there she might find purpose.
One of the primary reasons why deep, dark forests are advertised as ominous, dangerous, and evil is because cosmic forces don’t want individuals wandering around in these forests and discovering hidden secrets that are supposed to stay hidden. In this case, there actually was something hidden in the forest, something that Ollie was about to discover. Wandering deeper and deeper into the forest, Ollie began to have the distinct feeling that someone was watching her. She turned around quickly and her face met the face of a boy who was roughly her age. Ollie wasn’t entirely sure what the appropriate action should be when encountering a stranger in the forest, but she decided that the best thing to do would be to introduce herself. Because she had been expelled from the Princess School and the Evil Witch School, she didn’t feel comfortable introducing herself as “Olivia Persephone IX” or “Olglia the Despicable” and so she decided to use her normal, everyday name. “Hello, my name is Ollie.”
“Hi,” the boy responded. “My name is Percival. At least I’d prefer to be Percival. The school I was expelled from wanted me to be Percy.”
Ollie was surprised to discover someone who was in a similar situation to hers and so she investigated this matter further. “Why were you kicked out of school?” she asked.
“I was attending Trickster School and I couldn’t lie. I’m a pathological truth-teller, actually. I couldn’t lie or even bend the truth if I wanted to, so it was difficult to trick people. That, plus I really enjoy knitting things and this skill is not entirely useful at Trickster School.” Ollie nodded and continued talking to the strange boy she had met in the forest.
As Ollie asked Percival about his current lifestyle, she learned that Percival and others like him couldn’t graduate from their trade school and were all living in the forest. Whenever a fairytale needed to have a minor, forgettable character to fill a void in the story, one of these characters was summoned and exploited. Percival listed a number of roles including a two-second job as a villager standing next to Little Red Riding Hood’s house as she set out to visit her grandmother. He had also played the role of the nondescript person who sold straw, sticks, and bricks to the Three Little Pigs. These individuals filled the interchangeable roles that the reader never knew or cared about, and Ollie was informed that this would be her fate as well. Ollie hated the thought of being ignored; she liked it when people appreciated her, as they most likely would have if she had been a princess. She also didn’t mind being hated, a fate she would have embraced by being an Evil Witch. But the idea of being ignored entirely by the reader, without significance, until her life faded into the nothingness faced by fictional characters filled Ollie with deep sorrow.
Ollie said farewell to Percival and then marched into an isolated part of the forest to collect her thoughts. Ollie couldn’t live in a world where she was ignored and invisible, but she knew she couldn’t return to those schools either. She wanted to be some place where she could be “Ollie,” unaltered and original without feeling like she needed to apologize or alter herself. Sitting there in the forest alone, Ollie had a brilliant idea. She found an old piece of paper and a pen and began to write. She wrote the story that I just told to you, of her birth, her challenges in school – everything. But when she reached this part of the story, Ollie kept writing. Ollie wrote about how she eventually started her own school, where all the misfits could come to write their own stories without needing to turn themselves into something they weren’t. The amazing and magical part of this story is the fact that Ollie’s story came true. Ollie’s school in the forest became a successful destination for anyone who couldn’t fit into the limited roles that the fairytale universe made for them.
And they all lived happily ever after (for the most part).
BY BOBBY OCTAVIANO
Each open and close of the closet echoed its squeaky cry of deep sadness. The doe-eyed toddler was locked inside whenever his mother pleased with only biscuits to tide his hunger.
All the other rooms in the house were grand and enormous. They held such beautiful and important things. The dining room boasted of fine meals and wonderful conversations. The kitchen bragged that it kept the manor nourished and strong. The library held countless editions of fine literature and scientific essays. The lowly closet was a fraction of the size of the other rooms in the house. It held only surplus coats and clothes along with the poorest and saddest member of the household.
On this day, the mistress of the manor locked in the boy. The closet could remain silent no longer. The closet asked of her, “My Lady, I know that I am the smallest of the rooms here. I don’t wish to feign more importance than I’m due. Have you a better use for me than to sadden this young boy?” Surprised and delighted, the mistress replied, “Keep close watch upon him within your walls, and listen close to what happens throughout. I pray you see more than had you before.”
Following her request, the closet listened and heard all manner of yelling and arguing. Doors slammed and cursing filled the manor. A short time passed and calm returned to the air. The mistress returned and spoke again to the closet. “You offer the only refuge my dearest little one has. His father hates his unordinary manner. Within your walls he is free to play and dress however he pleases. You hold a great many costumes, and within your embrace he feels safe. However small and insignificant you think you are, you are an oasis to my Colin.”
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