(By Caroline Wendling) Down in the woods, as the talking stick went round, the children sitting in the living room expressed their wishes for that morning. In the living room that fifth morning, Fareeda said that she wanted to look for the Mud Princess. I was intrigued by the idea of a Mud Princess and followed Fareeda into the woods.
Fareeda said “The princess went up there, in the tree. Let’s go and find the Mud Princess over there. The princess might be hiding inside it – come on” (addressing the Mud Princess) “We won’t scare you, we just want to say hello.”
Georgia had joined Fareeda in her quest. The two children looked up the tree, stood still and Georgia said, “There can’t be anything inside that tree”
Fareeda replied “Let’s find some trails for the little princess. Look for light green and pink!”
Fareeda seemed to have some idea where to look but at the same time she was agitated and on a mission, determined to find the princess. “She is not here now. I can’t wait to find her – we need some help.”
Georgia said, “Let’s calm down!”
Fareeda, giving out more leads, said “Mud Princess has white at the top, white at the bottom, light green and pink in the middle.”
Georgia pointed to a tree and said, “Look at her arms!”
The children stopped and looked up at the tree, which resembled a person stretching both arms up into the sky and Fareeda said, “She can’t be in that tree”
Georgia left us to follow other children through the wood.
Fareeda said, “Look, a feather! We have found a clue – lets follow it!”
On our journey we met Joseph, who came along with us. He too was looking for the Mud Princess and said, “I have seen her. Go over there and turn – you will see her.”
Arnab joined us and Joseph said, “Guys, we are creeping.” The children entered a den.
Arnab, said to me, “She is there. You can’t go inside because you are big.”
“We’ve found her!” cried Joseph
The children came out of the den.
In the den looking for the Mud Princess
Fareeda said “I don’t think it’s the real one. She is the baddie. We are looking for the nice princess.”
Joseph said, “Guys, don’t worry I have my sword.”
Arnab, totally convinced, said “That is a lion!”
We could now hear voices approaching. A large group of children with Mr Wilson had been trying to find Fareeda for a very long time all over the wood. They were looking for Fareeda because they had found the Mud Princess’ belt. Jasmine and Eve held the large leather belt between them; they presented it to Fareeda like a trophy. The children hugged each other. There was a sense of victory. Extreme joy filled the forest. Then Jasmine asked, “Is the Mud Princess a scary princess?”
To this Fareeda replied, “We found a white feather. She has a little white bit in her footprint. Maybe it was in her hat.”
Fareeda thanked all the children for finding the Mud Princess. The children marched with true happiness to the living room for a snack.
There had been such mutual respect in the quest for the Mud Princess. The children had listened to each other and, in separate groups, they set out to find her. It became very important for all of them to find her. The belt was an unexpected find, Fareeda was sure that it belonged to the Princess and was proof that she existed. . She brought the other children into her world. As Vivian Gussin Paley would say in The Kindness of Children talking about children’s stories, “Their stories depend on the interference, which is to say, on the kindness of children’. This is exactly what the children around Fareeda did. They were kind to her; they looked with her for the Mud Princess and even found her belt! Paley says that: “the children’s ideas take wing in the company of their peers. “
In the afternoon, back in the classroom, the children were asked to imagine, eyes closed, where they had been and then to draw the journey they had been on. Jasmine drew a picture of herself and Eve with the magic belt for Fareeda’s Mud Princess. Jasmine said that she found it first ‘when we were walking in the Yellow Land – we found it as we were leaving.’ It was of great importance and made total sense to her. Jasmine and Eve played a role in Fareeda’s story and concluded her quest. The Mud Princess story became the story of many children.
Jasmine’s drawing of herself and Eve carrying the Mud Princess belt to Fareeda
The following week, I asked Fareeda if she was going to look for the Mud Princess again and she replied, “But we found the princess, remember!”
It is amazing to see with which determination and seriousness children set themselves tasks, at times impossible tasks, to do in the woods. For example, the following week Charlie wanted to find a beach. Cody drew the seaside, I wonder if he went with Charlie… On week seven, Jake said: I went down there all the way. Walking and walking to the Maneky Island and found the sea. On week eight Kian set himself to jump over the world!