I have a delightful granddaughter who carries the moniker “Rain” as her middle name. She is amazingly creative, whimsical, and at times – a little nervous. On the night that her baby sister Violet was born, she was very wound up. She asked me to tell her a story, and I told her that when her mama was a little girl, I used to ask her mama to give me some things that we needed to put into the story that I’d tell. My granddaughter suggested that the story ought to include a House-Eating Troll, a garden, and the word “frightened”. I started talking, and fifteen minutes later, she said, “That’s a good story, Grampy.”
I was taken aback the next night, when she said, “Tell me the Rain story again, Grampy”. I struggled to remember, and it was a good thing – because I probably told that story a dozen times in the week we spent together.
My hope in sharing it with you is not that you might spend much energy thinking about whether I am or am not a good teller of stories (I already have my most important fan!), but rather that you might consider how your words, presence, and encouragement can help a child in your world grow in her or his ability to see strengths in him or herself as well as beauty and grace in the world. Alert hearers will detect that Rain is resourceful and brave, and Grampy is wise and lovable. If you think that’s a little self-serving, well, make up your own story. You can read mine, or listen to it by clicking the audio link below (you’ll have to find your own lap, though…).
This is the story of a brave, kind, funny, loving girl named Rain, and how she saved her home and her neighbors from the House Eating Trolls.
Rain lived with her little sister, Violet, in a beautiful home on Johnson Street. There were seven houses on Johnson Street, and every single one of them was beautiful. Rain’s house, in particular, was beautiful because of the bright colors that she painted it. Her favorite colors were pink and purple, and she loved them both so much that she couldn’t decide which color to paint her house! One day, she painted her roof pink and her walls purple, but not too long after that, she would switch and paint the roof purple and the walls pink. Either way, it was beautiful and she, and everyone who saw it, thought it was amazing.
All of the neighbors on Johnson Street had gardens, but Rain’s garden was by far the most beautiful. She grew everything from apples to zucchini! Rain’s garden had beans and beets, raspberries and rhubarb, lingonberries and lemons; she grew kiwi and cucumbers and apples and, of course, watermelon.
In fact, the story for today has something to do with watermelon. There was going to be a big festival in her town, and Rain had been saving an especially large and pretty watermelon to share with her friends there. She decided that the day had come to pick the watermelon, and so early one morning she went outside to get the fruit.
Imagine how surprised she was when she got to the garden and she saw that the watermelon was gone! She looked all through the garden, and in the woods, and all through her yard, but it wasn’t there. She went back to the garden to think, and then she realized something.
Her toes were wet. But not just her toes – both feet were wet – all the way up to her ankles! Rain was standing in a puddle! And then she realized something else: she was not standing in an ordinary puddle – she was standing in a puddle of something PINK! She looked down, and she saw that her amazingly beautiful, tasty watermelon had been stomped on and squished! And then she noticed something else that made her a little bit frightened: it was not a normal puddle – she was standing in a footprint!
Now, this was not a normal footprint. It was not a footprint the size of baby Violet. It was not even a footprint the size of Rain’s foot. It was even bigger than Rain’s Grampy’s footprint. In fact, it was as big as a TRAMPOLINE!
Well, Rain decided that the best thing to do would be to call her Grampy. She pulled out her phone and called him.
“Grampy,” she said, “Someone has squished my watermelon!” And she almost cried, because she liked the watermelon a lot.
“Oh, no!”, he said. “I’m sorry about that. Who do you think it was? Was it baby Violet?”
“No, Grampy, it is a huge foot! Bigger than Violet’s, bigger than mine, and bigger than yours! In fact, I’m standing in the footprint right now. It’s as big as a TRAMPOLINE!”
Grampy, who was very wise and loved Rain more than just about anything, said, “Turn the phone around and let me see this big footprint.”
And she did that, and then Grampy said, “Oh, no! Rain, I am not sure about this because the connection isn’t very good, but it looks to me like that is a special footprint. Will you count the toes in that footprint for me?”
Rain began to count the toes. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Grampy, there are eight toes in this footprint.”
And then it was Grampy’s turn to sound a little bit frightened. “Rain,” he said, “That can only mean one thing. You have been visited by a House-Eating Troll! They are big, mean creatures that eat houses up. When I was seven years old, my family’s house was eaten by a troll and we had to move to a different neighborhood.”
“Oh, no, Grampy!”, Rain said. “I love my house. I love living on Johnson Street! I don’t want anyone to eat my house!”
“Well,” said Grampy, “I don’t know if there is any way to kill a House-Eating Troll. I will see what I can find out. In the meantime, be careful! I have to go now. I love you, Rain!”
“I love you too, Grampy!”, she replied.
The next thing that Rain did was very brave. She climbed right up on top of her house and yelled as loudly as she could, “HEY, TROLL! LISTEN, BUDDY, I LOVE MY HOUSE! I LOVE MY SISTER! I DON’T WANT ANYONE EATING ANY PART OF MY HOUSE OR SCARING ME AND MY SISTER, SO YOU JUST BETTER STAY AWAY!”
And then she climbed down and went inside.
A couple of nights later, she was helping Violet get ready for bed, and she heard some noises. The first ones sounded like, SLURP, SLURP, SLURP. Then she heard two noises that sounded like CRUNCH, CRUNCH. And on the second CRUNCH, she thought that her house shook a little bit! She was so scared that she decided to sleep with Violet that night.
In the morning, she went outside and looked around. She saw that half of her apples were gone! Someone had eaten them. Then she saw that there were more eight-toed footprints in her garden. Just then, she saw her neighbor, Mrs. McGillicutty walking her dog, Buttons.
“Excuse me, Rain,” said her neighbor. “Have you seen my garage?”
“Your garage? Isn’t it connected to your house?”
“Yes, dear,” said Mrs. McGillicutty, “that’s what I thought too. But when I got up this morning, I looked where I thought my garage should be and all that was there was a small pile of sticks, my gardening tools, and the lawnmower!”
Rain looked, and sure enough, the garage was missing!
Just then, Mrs. McGillicutty said, “Oh, my, dear! Look at your beautiful home!”
And they looked, and there on the side of the house, it looked as if someone with very bad teeth had taken a large bite out of the corner of Rain’s pink and purple home.
“Mrs. McGillicutty, no one took your garage! We have been visited by a House-Eating Troll! I have to call my Grampy right away.”
Mrs. McGillicutty and Buttons walked away, and Rain called Grampy. She showed him the footprints, and the place where the garage had been, and the bite in her house. “I’m scared, Grampy,” she said. “What can I do?”
Grampy, who knew a lot of things, said, “Rain, I’m not quite sure what to do. As I told you before, there is no way to kill a House-Eating Troll. The only thing I do know about these monsters is that they are really allergic to beets and sauerkraut. I’m not sure how that helps, but that’s what I know.”
Rain said “thank you” to her Grampy, and she told him she loved him, and then she sat down to think. And then she got an idea. It was a crazy idea – but it just might work.
The first thing she did was go and pick a lot of cabbage in her garden. She took it inside and chopped it up and started to make some sauerkraut. Then she went back out to the garden and picked a whole bunch of beets. She took the beets inside and started to boil them.
Do you know what color the water in the pot turned when she boiled the beets? PURPLE!
After the beets boiled a long time, Rain and Violet mashed them down. Then Rain mixed some of the sauerkraut in with the beet juice and it was a thick, lumpy, purple mixture. Rain put all of that into a bucket and took it outside. She painted her whole house with the purple beet/sauerkraut paint. It took her almost all day, but when she was done, her house was still purple – but it was BEET and SAUERKRAUT purple.
Then, she went up on the roof again and shouted out, “HEY, TROLL! LISTEN, BUDDY, I WARNED YOU TO STAY AWAY FROM MY HOUSE. I’M NOT KIDDING AROUND. IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU, GET LOST, BUDDY!”
Well, it didn’t take long for that House-Eating Troll to come back! Two nights later, Rain and Violet were in the house reading and they heard noises outside. The first noises sounded like SLURP, SLURP, SLURP! Then there was a little CRUNCH, and the house shook just a little bit. Next, they heard a loud, long, licking noise. That was followed by three HUGE sneezes and then a ROWF, ROWF, ROWF sound. Finally, there was the sound of big feet with eight toes running away from the house. Then it was quiet.
In the morning, Rain went outside and she wasn’t sure what she’d find. She looked, and there were more apples gone from the tree. There was a small bite taken out of the corner of her house, and then a long stripe where it looked like a House-Eating Troll’s tongue had licked all the paint off one part of the house. Right next to her lingonberry patch was a big pile of Troll boogers where it looked like something really big and ugly had sneezed a lot. And there were eight-toed footprints running away from her house!
Rain knew right away what had happened. The House-Eating Troll had come back, all right. He ate a little of her house, and he licked the paint – and because he was allergic to the beets and sauerkraut she had used for paint, he got sick and scared, and so he ran away.
Because Rain is so kind and generous, she told all her neighbors how she had defeated the House-Eating Troll. And so now, every Thursday night, all the neighbors on Johnson Street sprinkle sauerkraut on their gardens. That is just enough to remind any House-Eating Trolls to STAY AWAY from their homes and just leave them alone. And ever since that time, no one on Johnson Street has ever seen or even heard of a House-Eating Troll again. They were all glad that Rain was so brave and creative, and her Grampy wrote her a special letter telling her how proud he was of Rain. And, of course, he told her that he loved her all the way to the moon and back. Because he does.