The timid little girl set off into the forest early in the morning determined to find courage. It was rumored that courage lived at the edge of the forest in a little cottage on the bank of the river. After walking for a while, she saw that up ahead was swirling mist beyond which she couldn’t see the path. She noticed a signboard and hurried to read it. It read, ‘Mist of imagined fears. Close your eyes, speak out loud where you want to go, and take a few steps forward’.
The little girl trembled. The mists looked so scary. How could she walk through the strange silvery mist?
Clutching her doll to her chest, she took a few steps and stood just inches away from the mist. She shut her eyes tight and squeaked, “I want to go to the cottage of courage!”. Taking a deep breath, she took a few steps forward. Too scared to open her eyes, she took a few more steps forward. Then she heard a voice say to her, “Miss, is there something wrong?”.
Her eyes flew open in amazement. In front of her stood a rabbit sharply dressed in a maroon suede jacket. She turned around and saw that there was no mist behind her! She rubbed her eyes. Surely, they were playing tricks on her.
“Where…where’s the mist?!”, she stammered.
“Oh, you mean the mist of imagined fears? It’s just that – imagined! All you need to do is take a few steps ahead and it disappears”, said the rabbit cheerfully.
“Oh!”, exclaimed the little girl.
“Where are you going?”, asked the rabbit.
“I’m going to the cottage of courage”, said the little girl. “Will you come with me? You see, I’m very timid and I need to find courage”.
“I see”, said the rabbit. “I cannot come with you all the way but I will accompany you until the lake of easy choices”.
“Oh thank you!”, said the little girl, starting to walk once again with the rabbit by her side.
When the sun was high in the sky, the girl asked, “Shall we stop here for lunch? I have some sandwiches and I’d love to share it with you!”. “Yes, please” said the rabbit gratefully. As they ate, the girl asked the rabbit, “so what is this lake of easy choices?”
“Oh, it’s the most extraordinary lake! There’s a bridge that takes you over to the other side and on it, you’ll find all the things that you love the most – dolls, candies, pretty frocks, you name it! However, if you want to find courage, you have to make sure that you do not stop to enjoy any of the things you find on the bridge. You have to ignore the goodies and keep going forward.”
“What comes after the lake?”, asked the girl, a little dismayed that she couldn’t keep any of the candies or dolls for herself.
“After the lake comes a steep hill. It will take you three hours to reach the other side. That is the only path to the cottage of courage. It is a hard climb, but just keep going. Rest if you must but don’t give up!”, said the rabbit.
The rabbit and the little girl started walking once again. In a short while, they reached a vast lake that shimmered with rainbow coloured light. “This is so pretty! Oh look, there’s the bridge!”, said the girl. “Yes. But remember dear, do not stop to enjoy any of the goodies you’ll find as you cross the lake of easy choices!”, said the rabbit.
“Thank you for all your help, dearest rabbit. You have been a good friend. Thank you and goodbye!”, said the girl. “Goodbye, sweet girl”, said the rabbit and bounded off.
The bridge sparkled ahead. The girl took a deep breath and started walking across it. Soon, the most marvellous sight met her eyes! The bridge was a veritable fair with stalls of candies, dolls, and pretty frocks everywhere! How she longed to eat one of those yummy candies! Oh, how lovely those blue-eyed dolls looked! How nice that pretty purple frock would look on her! Then suddenly she remembered the rabbit’s words! “I mustn’t stop and take any of these things, pretty as they are”, she told herself. She hurried forward.
Just as she reached the end of the bridge, she caught a steep hill illuminated by the evening sunlight. “Oh dear”, she muttered. “The rabbit was right – that hill does look very steep!”. She put her doll safely away in her bag and drank a sip of water from her bottle. “Okay, let’s do it!”, she declared in her tiny voice as she started climbing the hill. It was hard! She had never before climbed a hill so steep and soon she got quite tired. She leaned on a tree as she caught her breath. “Oh, my feet! They’re so sore”, she said. She trudged on, stopping every now and then to take a sip of water or to catch her breath. After three hours, she reached the other side of the hill.
The sun was just setting and up ahead, she caught the warm glow of a tiny cottage with smoke rising from the chimney. It looked rather friendly. “At last!”, she said happily as she ran towards it. Standing at the door was a smiling little dwarf. He warmly greeted the visitor who had walked from dawn to dusk to find this cottage. “Welcome to the cottage of courage!” he said. “You must have plenty of courage to have made it here!” he exclaimed excitedly.
“Oh no! I don’t have any courage”, stammered the little girl. “I came all the way here to find it, you see”.
The dwarf smiled at the little traveler. “No, little girl”, he said. “You see, courage is not something you find. It’s something you muster from inside. Everyone already has it. By bravely going through the mist of imaginary fears in spite of being scared, crossing the lake of easy choices by resolutely not taking anything that was in easy reach, and climbing the hill of hard things despite it being hard, you showed yourself that you indeed had courage. Now come along and have some well-deserved supper!”