“What on earth?!” exclaimed the leprechaun, squinting with suspicion at the treat Moira was offering him. A toothpick with a little square of cheese and ham and a tiny pickled onion and a cherry tomato skewered on it.
“Mum’s making them for the party tonight. I thought you would like one,” said Moira.
“Reminds me of some pesky unicorns I used to know,” muttered the leprechaun, struggling to tug the little square of cheese off the toothpick while Moira held it steady for him.
“Unicorns?” said Moira.
“Umph!!” from the leprechaun, as the square of cheese finally came off the toothpick, sending him backwards onto the grass. He sat up and sniffed the cheese before taking a bite.
“Pesky ones?” prodded Moira. She could feel a story coming.
“Oh, yes! Very pesky little rascals they were. Caused no end of mischief to the people in the village. One of their favourite games was to run through the streets and see how many things they could skewer on their horns before the villagers would come chasing and hollering after them. Then they’d run back to the forest and see who was the winner for the day with the most things skewered on his horn. A fine game they thought it to be, very funny indeed for them, and exciting as well, with the villagers all stirred up like a hive of angry bees, but one day, those young unicorn rascals went too far.
It was a lovely sunny day, with the breeze blowing just enough to make it all very, very pleasant in the village. The ladies had all their washing on the line. The greengrocer had fresh red apples in a barrow outside his shop. The baker had just taken a batch of buns and doughnuts from the oven. The butcher had a lovely lot of plump sausages on display in his front window. And Mrs O’Leary’s baby was sitting in its pram, happily gurgling and rattling its brand new rattle that the grandmother had bought for it that very day.
Then came the unicorns, stampeding through the streets with their manes and their hooves flying, skewering anything they could with their horns. Petticoats, socks and bloomers from the washing lines, red apples from the greengrocer’s cart, strings of plump sausages from the butcher, doughnuts and buns from the bakery shop and a brand new rattle from a baby left crying in a pram. Up and down the main street and around and around the village they high-jinxed before taking off back to the forest again. And I know you’ll be wanting to know this so I’ll tell you right now ….. the winner was the unicorn with the baby’s rattle on his horn.
And it was that very rattle that was the last straw as far as the villagers were concerned.
A meeting was called in the village hall, with the mayor dressed in his robes and all at the front, along with the policeman and the tailor who was in charge of taking the notes for the meeting because his handwriting was every bit as neat and precise as his stitches.
“Something must be done about these unicorn hooligans,” the mayor announced to the villagers gathered in the town hall.
“And about time, too!” someone shouted from the crowd.
“All my new season’s apples ruined, with holes all the way through!” the greengrocer called out.
“And my buns and my doughnuts!” called out the baker.
“And my plump sausages!” called out the butcher.
“And the washing, all full of holes and dragged through the mud!”
“They stomped all over my petunias!”
“My cat won’t come down from the tree!”
“My prize rooster is missing!”
“And what about the baby?!!” called out Mrs O’Leary, holding the little one tightly in her lap.
“This time they took the rattle. Next time they’ll take the baby!” someone yelled out in the crowd.
Now that really got the villagers upset. “We must stop those hooligans now before someone gets hurt!”
“They are dangerous!!”
“Our children are not safe!”
“Nor the old people, either, or Mr Thomas with his wooden leg!”
“They must be got rid off before they kill someone with those nasty horns!!”
“We’ll be skewered in our beds!! No-one is safe!!”
“I’ll organize a hunting party,” offered the butcher, and beamed at the cheers that he got.
The policeman stood up. He looked at the crowd, getting itself all stirred up, and in a calm, firm voice he said, “We’ll have none of that.” And he looked at the butcher with a narrowed, amused gaze “And there’ll be no unicorn in our sausages.”
“Then what are you going to do about this danger to our lives, constable?” demanded the butcher with his arms folded across his chest.
“There is no danger to life here,” said the policeman. “The unicorns are just high-spirited youngsters with nothing better to do than cause a bit of mischief.”
“A bit of mischief?!” yelled out one of the ladies. “You come and wash the dirt out of the clothes and mend all those holes and we’ll see if you’ll be calling it a bit of mischief then!!”
The policeman gave her a smile and said, “Well now, you know, Miss Brenda, I’d be only too happy to help you with that.” Which made Miss Brenda blush and the villagers laugh, because everyone knew the policeman was rather fond of that young lady.
“But we can’t have them running amuck through our village,” said the Mayor. “Something must be done about their bad behaviour because I think I speak for everybody here when I say we’ve had enough of it.”
There was lots of loud agreement from the crowd about that.
“But what can we do, that’s what I want to know,” said the baker.
“Think of your own youngsters, and what makes them get into mischief,” the policeman said.
“When they’re bored and there’s nothing to do, that’s when my young ones get into mischief and all,” said Mrs O’Leary.
The policemen nodded to Mrs O’Leary for giving exactly the answer he was hoping for. “So what can we give these unicorn youngsters to do?” he asked.
The villagers stared at him.
“You mean like games?!!” snorted the butcher. “They’re unicorns, for crying out loud!! Sausage meat is what they’re good for!!”
“No, no, no!” said the Mayor. “We can’t be killing unicorns and making them into sausages. It would be bad for our village. No tourists would want to come here. But I do like the idea of unicorns playing games. You know, I reckon tourists would come to see that. And they’d be eating a lot of sausages and buns and doughnuts and apples while they’re at it, sitting there watching the show."
“And sweets!” piped up the sweets shop lady. The unicorns always took the colourful lollipops she had on display but she never complained because this lady was very fond of unicorns.
“And sweets!” beamed the mayor who was liking the idea better and better the more he thought about it. "Our little village could do very well out of that, very well indeed.”
And so ’The Unicorn Games’ committee was formed. There were five people in it. The Mayor, the policeman, Miss Brenda, Mrs O’Leary but not the butcher because no-one liked the idea of unicorn sausages. And before you start interrupting with “But that’s only four!” I’ll tell you right now that the tailor was also on the committee because, as it turns out, he was very, very good with animals as well.
The villagers got busy and in no time at all they built an adventure playground for the unicorns with all sorts of stuff in it to amuse those bored young unicorns. And the young unicorns were very curious about all this activity, very curious indeed. They stood on the edge of the forest, so busy watching and pointing at different things with their horns they didn’t have time to go stampeding around the streets.
Meanwhile, the Mayor sent posters to the neighbouring villages, and one to the castle as well, inviting one and all to come see ‘The Unicorn Games’. And people came, curious what games unicorns might be playing. Even the king and the queen and the little princess came. Everyone sat on the grass in the sunshine, watching the young unicorns having fun
climbing up slides and then sliding down,
hanging on ropes they’d twist around their horns then swinging around and around,
poking their horns into a big haystack with treats and treasures hidden inside
racing each other along a grassy track with a start line at one end and a finish line at the other,
skewering old clothes from a washing line, baby rattles from empty prams,
and there were more games the villagers thought up and the young unicorns played but there was one game that needed a lot more practice, the tailor said ….. the one where they’d skewer the sausages and buns and doughnuts and apples and lollipops and trot them over to the visitors to buy.”
“I’d love to see the unicorns,” murmured Moira wistfully.
“Tell you what,” said the leprechaun, getting ready to pull the cherry tomato off the toothpick skewer, “…. if I ever get my magic back, I’ll take you there to see them, and maybe we’ll get ourselves some sausages and doughnuts and lollipops, right off the horns of those little unicorns.”
I wrote ‘Moira and the Leprechaun’ for my class of 5 and 6 year old students. They were hungry for magical stories like the fairytales I’d been brought up on but at that particular point in time stories about magic and magical characters were not favoured in our school libraries. There are eight short stories in the series
In the first story, Moira meets the Leprechaun, stranded at the bottom of her garden in Australia, where his magic doesn’t work. In exchange for the treats she brings him, he tells her stories.
This is the seventh story, about some young and very bored unicorns who go about causing mischief in the village. The next, and last, story the leprechaun tells is about a giant who can’t go to his own wedding because of a big hole in his boot.