A fairy tale for the young and the young of mind
Once upon a time a little girl lived in a small village on an island in the middle of a vast, vast ocean. Her name was Sey-Tu. Sey-Tu was known on the island for her beautiful black hair and her inquisitive mind. But most of all she was known as the girl with the unusual large feet.
Sey-Tu lived in a small house with her father, mother, grandmother and her brother Vanu. The house was located at the edge of the small village, near the beach. In the garden there were large palm trees that would wave softly in the wind. The trees brought shade at day time and they waved in some cool air into the house at night.
Because of her large feet Sey-Tu always had troubles walking to the village school over the sandy road. Each morning she walked to school together with her big brother Vanu, and her footprints were bigger than his. The children at school used to make a fun about her feet, so Sey-Tu was always trying to hide her feet under her sari and her tears behind her black hair.
One day the teacher noticed Sey-Tus insecurities and decided to help her build her confidence. The teacher, Mrs.Solomon, took all the children to the beach to teach them how to swim. All the fifteen children of the school were put in a line, from the tallest to the shortest. This as it so happens, was the same as from the oldest to the youngest. Mrs. Solomon directed the children into the water, the shortest nearest to the beach where the water was shallowest. The tallest children were standing in a little deeper water. But all 15 bellybuttons were exactly above the water surface.
As Sey-Tu was the youngest, smallest kid, she was nearest to the beach. Her brother Vanu was the tallest so he was at the other end of the line of children. Mrs. Solomon asked the children if they were comfortable in the water, and all children said that they were. This was obvious because all the children of the island were used to playing in the water. What they were not used to was actual swimming, and Mrs. Solomon was going to teach them. The first thing the children had to do was float bellybutton up. This was easy for all the children, they had done this before.
The next exercise was to use their feet as flippers, ‘Just like the dolphins do’, explained Mrs. Solomon. It took the children some practice to master this, but after a week all children could flipper in the water on their backside. Another month went by and all the children could swim properly, they could crawl, they could swim on their backs. They even could swim under water, holding their breaths.
Now all the children could swim, but no-one was nearly as good at it as Sey-Tu. Sey-Tu was like a dolphin in the water. She swam with confidence and with power. Sey-Tu soon was the best swimmer of the whole island, and this was thanks to her big feet.
After school, when the other children went to play between the palm trees, Sey-Tu went swimming. She learned to swim faster and faster and dive deeper and deeper. Her grandmother therefore made special glasses for Sey-Tu so she could see under water, goggles. This was the best gift Sey-Tu ever received. Above the water Sey-Tu could see nothing with the goggles on, everything was blurry. But as soon as she put her head under water, everything changed. She saw fishes in all the colours of the rainbow. Big fish, small fish, beautiful shells at the bottom, the coral. Sey-Tu was completely enchanted by the underwater beauty.
Her parents were not so happy that grandmother gave Sey-Tu the goggles, because now she would never get out of the water voluntarily. Every evening at dinner time Vanu had to go look for Sey-Tu with his canoe. And every time he had to paddle further and further to find her.
Sey-Tu became such a good swimmer that she could swim around the whole island in an hour. She was often accompanied by dolphins, because they enjoyed playing and swimming with her.
Then on a day a very heavy storm hit the island. The people had to stay in their houses. They were scared because they could hear trees breaking and the waves that were crashing on the beach. The storm lasted two whole days. The grandmother of Sey-Tu and Vanu said this was the worst storm she ever witnessed in her whole life.
After the storm it was unusually quiet on the island. There were no birds singing, the rooster had hid himself under a bush. He didn’t dare to come out to crow that the morning had come. Slowly the people emerged from their houses and they investigated the damage.
Mrs. Solomon was in tears because the whole school was blown away. In fact all houses had severe damages, so all hands were needed to help and restore the houses.
People were collecting wood from the fallen palm trees, to restore houses and the pier. The people asked Sey-Tu to swim around the island to see if she could find their lost belongings back. Sey-Tu was happy to help and collected a lot of clothes, tools and books that were washed away.
At night Sey-Tu told her grandmother that she swam around the island in half an hour. Her grandmother said that surely she must have been mistaken. ’You can’t suddenly swim twice as fast’ she said to Sey-Tu. But Sey-Tu insisted, so her grandmother said to come to the beach with her in the morning to see. The next morning proved that Sey-Tu was right.
Grandmother burst out in tears after Sey-Tu circled the island in half an hour. Sey-Tu thought that she had made her grandmother proud, and that these were happy tears. But no, these tears were the saddest tears ever.
‘So it is happening’, said grandmother and Sey-Tu asked her what was happening.
‘Well’, said grandmother, ‘you know that we live on a small island in the middle of a vast ocean. The ocean separates us from other islands’. ‘Yes’, said Sey-Tu, ‘like the island of auntie, it takes us a whole day to sail there’.
Grandmother started explaining that on the world were many islands, even continents. That in all these places other humans live, 7 billion of them. This number didn’t mean anything to Sey-Tu, who could count to one hundred.
Grandmother continued to talk, and told about factories, airplanes, cars, trains and busses. About pollution, dirty water and food shortages. Sey-Tu and Vanu, who had just joined, were listening in amazement although there was much they did not understand.
‘Well’, said grandmother, ’all this activity is causing the ice of Antarctica to melt’ and her eyes filled with tears. ‘This molten ice is now water, and the sea is getting deeper and our island smaller because of it’.
Sey-Tu and Vanu didn’t quite understand all that grandma told them, but they surely were afraid that the island would keep getting smaller. The next day at school, they asked Mrs. Solomon. She told all the kids at school that grandma was right. The island had gotten smaller because of the rise of the sea water level. ‘But’, said Mrs. Solomon, ‘we can make a plan to save our island, but we need Sey-Tu to help’.
Sey-Tu listened closely to the plan and then set to work. She ran into the sea and whistled for her dolphin friends. ‘We are going to do a game’, she said. ‘We are going to find all the stones at the bottom of the ocean. The stones we give to Vanu and his friends in their canoes. The children will bring all the stones back to the island and make it big again’.
After days of hard work the children and the dolphins had gathered enough stones to restore the island. They even made it a little bigger and higher, just to be certain that floods wouldn’t do any harm ever again. The people planted new trees and felt happy and secure again.
And so it happened that the little Sey-Tu with the unusually large feet became the hero of the island….
The alert reader must have noticed the remarkable names of the character in this story. Sey-Tu named after the Seychelles and Tuvalu, her brother is named after Vanuatu. And Mrs. Solomons name speaks for itself….
This story is written for all the people who live on small islands all over the world. Especially for Nirmal Jivan Shah who was a delegate in the COP21 for the Seychelles.
About the author: Willemijn Heideman
Living and working in the Netherlands, she describes her motivation in life like this:
“Increasing sustainability and raising awareness for the well-being of our planet and all the creatures on it (including us humans), are the key motivators in my work and personal life. My goal is using my skills and knowledge to do my part in achieving a sustainable future for the world.”