Hurrah, pantomime season is upon us. If you are not from Britain, you may not know what the Great British tradition of pantomime is about and to be honest friends, I would struggle to explain this quirky form of entertainment if you asked me about it. But these comic shows are usually based on fairy stories and folktales and that is something fairies know very well.
One of the famous pantomimes is 'Dick Whittington and his cat' and it is a story close to my heart as my own relative Bow Bells, was the very fairy who met Dick Whittington on his way to London.
Dick Whittington had heard the streets of London were paved with gold. So he set off to the city to make his fortune.
It was a long trip but eventually he could hear the famous bells of London calling out to him. They seemed to ring out his name. And when the last bell chimed, the fairy of the bells appeared in front of him.
Dick thought he was seeing things but called out anyway.
'Oh beautiful fairy. Are you real? Are you a sign of my fortune in London?'
'Yes Dick. Your adventures in London will lead you to great wealth. But first you must meet a new friend. This cat shall make you rich in more ways than one.'
'A cat?' said Dick. 'How on earth could a cat make me rich?'
But the fairy of the bells had already disappeared. Dick scratched his head thinking he'd imagined her. But sure enough a cat arrived, purring at his feet.
So Dick continued his journey to London and the cat followed. Dick wasn't at first that fond of his new companion but he couldn't shake him and so he named him Tom. When the pair arrived, Dick was most disappointed to not find a single gold slab on the dusty dirty roads. London turned out to be a horrible and unwelcoming place, which made Dick thankful for his only friend.
After looking for work for some time, Dick met a cook named Sarah, who worked for a wealthy merchant, Mr Fitzwarren. Sarah, a cat lover and batty dame, took quite a shine to Dick, who had to make excuses never to be left alone with her. Her masculine features, her chiseled jaw and her deep voice, were not something the young man looked for in a lady. Besides he had fallen for Mr Fitzwarren's daughter Alice who was beautiful and kind. Fortunately Alice and Sarah besieged Mr Fitzwarren to give Dick a job allowing him to stay in London.
One day, Dick and Tom were tasked with guarding a casket of gold. Unbeknownst to Dick, whilst he stood watch outside the vault, the evil Rat King was tunnelling in to take the gold for his wicked plans.
The Rat King didn't like Dick and he hated Tom the cat even more. He decided to frame Dick and get rid of the pair once and for all. Sneaking out and placing some of the gold in Dick's pockets, he knew that everyone would suspect Dick of being in league with thieves and taking a cut.
As soon as Dick realised he'd been set up, he made a run for it. He didn't think anyone would believe him, not even the fair Alice. He and Tom left London as quick as they could with Dick wishing he'd never come to the dirty city in the first place.
When they reached the edge of the city, the bells began to ring. As they had when Dick first got to London, they once again seemed to ring out his name. But were they calling him back or warning him to run?
And then, Bow Bells appeared once more. The fairy of the bells was as beautiful as before.
'Dick.' she said 'You must go back. Go back and I promise you will be mayor of London. You will be mayor three times if you go back.'
Dick didn't know what to believe. He would surely be arrested if he went back. He found an inn to stay the night and mull over his predicament. A few days later he decided to go back to see Mr Fitzwarren, to clear his name and ask for his daughter's hand in marriage.
But when Dick returned he heard distressing news. Alice was to set sail for Morocco on a ship taking her father's goods to the sultan. Dick decided to stow away on the ship.
Also stowing away on the ship was the Rat King and his band of rats. The people of London were on to them and the Rat King had taken the opportunity to travel to new lands to practice his wicked schemes. He was not best pleased to have Tom on board the ship as the cat made life difficult for his rat cronies.
Towards the end of the voyage a great storm struck the ship. Everyone was panicking that they would not make it. The Rat King and the rats stole one of two boats and abandoned the ship as it began to sink. The crew were loading what they could into the remaining boat when Davy Jones himself arrived and came aboard.
Davy Jones was a monster, known for ferrying sailors lost at sea to the underworld. He had long tentacles with suckers and a terrifying ugly face. The crew run away screaming, many jumping into the sea. Poor Alice yelled out in fright as she saw the monster and fainted.
Below deck Dick heard the screams and came running to save Alice. But he was confronted with Davy Jones and promptly ran the other way yelling 'Monster!' Sarah the cook was in the galley. On hearing Dick's yelling, she grabbed a saucepan as a weapon and came out to find Davy Jones staring at her.
'Oh my! It's absolutely hideous!' cried Davy Jones and leapt out the nearest exit, heading back to the depths of the sea,
Unfortunately the ship was nearly sunk and the last boat had gone. Dick and Tom were still on board and it seemed Davy Jones would have them anyway.
But it was not so. As the storm cleared Dick and Tom were washed ashore, clinging to a piece of driftwood. They were in a strange land with no money or possessions but they were alive and had each other.
They headed to the nearest city, passing through towns and relying on the kindness of strangers. Dick wondered what had come of the others on the ship. He feared that his beloved Alice had not survived.
They arrived at the city and found it in a state of turmoil. The city had been overrun by giant rats, the likes of which they'd never seen. The evil Rat King had taken over the city. The Sultan had decreed that anyone who could rid the city of these invaders would earn their weight in gold and also his daughter's hand in marriage.
Dick and Tom arrived at the palace to find the gates abandoned. Even the guards had fled from the giant rats. But having faced greater danger and survived, Dick was not afraid. In the main hall, Dick saw the Rat King addressing his cronies and quickly made a plan.
'Hey, you.' He shouted at the evil villain. The Rat King turned and was surprised to see the boy he thought had gone down with the ship. He and a dozen rats chased after Dick who turned on the spot and ran. But as the King left the hall, Tom leapt out on the first of the rats. Although these rats were massive, the brave and clever cat knew how to frighten the rats who scurried back and squealed in fear.
The Rat King alone chased Dick through the palace, to the place where Dick had laid a trap. Disappearing behind a tall and heavy curtain, Dick hid from the Rat King. But the villain had seen. He ran at the curtain with a sword.
However, the Rat King crashed into a mirror, the clever boy had hidden behind the curtain. Dick pushed the large mirror onto the villain and pulled the curtain down over his captor. His clever plan had worked. The Rat King was caught trapped under the weight of mirror and curtain.
That night, there was a great feast at the palace and the whole city was invited to celebrate the rats being run out of town by a brave cat. The Rat King was in prison and the city was safe. The Sultan, true to his word, commended Dick and Tom for their heroics and offered them many riches.
Dick was also offered marriage to the Sultan's beautiful daughter. She was very lovely but Dick graciously declined. He told the Sultan that his heart belonged to another and although he feared the worst he had to try and find his sweet Alice.
As good fortune would have it, Alice then emerged from the crowd. She had arrived safely at the city, although her father's wealth and goods were mostly at the bottom of the ocean. Dick asked the Sultan for a last favour; a ship to take them home to London, where Dick would ask Alice's father for his blessing to marry his daughter.
When they got back, Dick was a very wealthy man, in more ways than one. Mr Fitzwarren gave Dick and Alice permission to marry. And Dick Whittington even became mayor of London. Three times. Three times the bells of London rang out to his inauguration as mayor, almost as if they were ringing his name. And Dick could swear he saw the fairy of the bells smiling at him in the crowd.
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