Once upon a time, long ago, there were four little people. Their names were…
They all wanted to see a bit of the world, so they bought a big boat to sail around the world. The boat was painted blue with green spots and the sail had yellow and red stripes. They would return by land on the other side of the world.
When they set off, they took only a cat as a helmsman. The cat also had to look after the boat. They also took an older Quangle-Wangle who had to cook and make tea. They took a large kettle for the tea.
For the first ten days, they sailed smoothly and had plenty to eat because there were many fish. They only had to scoop the fish out of the sea with a long spoon. The Quangle-Wangle would then cook the fish immediately. The cat got the bones. So the whole party was happy and content.
During the day, Violet was busy pouring saltwater into a churn. Her three brothers did the churning, hoping it would turn into butter. But unfortunately, this happened rarely, if ever. In the evenings, they all retired to the teapot. The teapot was an excellent and comfortable sleeping place. The cat and Quangle-Wangle guarded the boat.
After a while, they saw land in the distance. When they got closer, they discovered it was an island of water surrounded entirely by land. It was bordered by necks of land where a great ocean current flowed through. It was a perfectly beautiful place with only a single tree 150 meters high.
When they landed, they walked around. They discovered to their great surprise that the island was completely covered with veal cutlets and chocolate drops, and there was nothing else. So they all climbed up the tall tree to see if there were people.
After spending a week at the top of the tree and seeing no one, they concluded that there were no inhabitants. So they descended and loaded the boat with two thousand veal cutlets and a million chocolate drops. This could sustain them for a month or even longer. This way, they could travel further without having to search for food.
Next, they arrived at a coast where no less than sixty-five large red parrots with blue tails sat. They all sat in a row on a railing and were all in deep sleep. And I’m sorry to say that the cat and Quangle-Wangle crawled to the parrots and bit off the tail feathers of all sixty-five parrots. Violet scolded them for this.
Nevertheless, Violet put all the feathers, two hundred and sixty in total, into her hat, which shone and sparkled beautifully with the feathers.
Their next adventure took place in a narrow part of the sea that was so full of fish that the boat couldn’t move any further. They were there for about six weeks until they had eaten almost all the fish. They were Tongfish that tasted delicious with shrimp sauce, so that was no problem.
While the fish (that weren’t eaten) complained about the cold and the trouble they had sleeping because of the noise from the ice bears, Violet knitted a woolen dress for some of the fish. Slingsby gave the fish calming drops so that they would warm up again and sleep well.
Then they arrived in a land that was entirely covered with huge orange trees that were full of fruit. They all went ashore and took the teapot with them. They planned to collect some oranges and put them in the kettle.
While they were doing this, a terrible wind rose. The wind blew almost all the parrot tail feathers out of Violet’s hat.
“That was nothing compared to the calamity of the Oranges, which came down from the branches with millions. They thudded and clattered on their heads and the travelers had to run for their lives. The sound of the Oranges rattling on the tea-kettle was the most terrifying sound they had ever heard.
Nevertheless, they arrived safely at the boat. Everyone was grumbling because they were in pain. Quangle-Wangle’s right foot was so injured that he had to wear a slipper for at least a week.
After this adventure, they were a bit sad for a while. Perhaps that would never have passed if Lionel had not remained standing on one leg with all his dedication and perseverance. He really had to be praised for this. He whistled a cheerful song loudly for them. This provided good distraction and they could all recover. They agreed that when they returned home, they would make a beautiful painting of Lionel, made of gingerbread and raspberries, as an expression of their gratitude.
After sailing for a few more days, they arrived in a land where they saw, to their great joy, an innumerable crowd of white Mice with red eyes. These were eating a delicious pudding in a large circle. The Mice were very polite and well-mannered.
Because the four travelers were quite hungry and because they were tired of eating only Fish and Oranges for so long, they discussed how they could politely ask the Mice for some of their pudding. It was agreed that Guy would go and ask the Mice, which he did immediately.
And… he received a walnut shell from the Mice that was only half full of pudding, mixed with water.
Guy was very upset and said, “If you have so much pudding, maybe you can give away a little more?”
But he had hardly finished speaking when all the Mice turned around. And they all sneezed at the same time, vengefully, at him. You can’t imagine what a horrible sound that makes: millions of angry Mice all sneezing at the same time.
Guy didn’t know how quickly he had to run back to the boat. But first, he threw his hat in the middle of the pudding. With this, he had nicely spoiled the Mice’s dinner.
Gradually, the children now approached a land where there were no houses. However, there were an incredibly large number of big Bottles without corks, in a dazzling blue color.
Each of these blue Bottles contained a Blue-Bottle Fly. And these interesting animals all lived together in harmony. Probably in many parts of the world, such perfect happiness cannot be found as here.
Violet, Slingsby, Guy, and Lionel were deeply affected by this special place. After asking for permission, from the Blue-Bottle Flies (who were very courteous), they pulled the boat to the shore and began to make tea. But because they had no tea leaves, they just threw some pebbles into the water.
The four children had a chat with the Blue-Bottle Flies. The Flies spoke politely in a dignified manner, albeit with a slightly buzzing accent.
“Why,” asked Violet, “do you live in bottles and why in blue Bottles and not in green, purple, or yellow Bottles? Would you like to explain that to us?”
A very old Blue-Bottle Fly replied: “We found the Bottles here ready-made, we could move in. We do this just like our great-great-great-grandfathers. In winter, we turn the Bottles upside down to reduce the cold. This can only be done with blue Bottles.”
“Of course, it’s not possible with a different color bottle, I understand,” said Slingsby. “But if we may ask, what do you live on then?”
“We mainly live on oyster tarts,” said the Blue-Bottle Fly. “When those are scarce, we survive on raspberry vinegar and condensed jelly.”
“How delicious!” said Guy.
To which Lionel added, “Huzzzzz!” And all the Blue-Bottle Flies said, “Buzzzzz!”
At that moment, an elderly Fly said it was time to sing the evening song. And after a signal, all the Blue-Bottle Flies began to hum simultaneously in a beautiful low tone. The melodious sound echoed over the entire water and reverberated between the peaks of the green mountains. It was a beautiful soft sound. The Moon shone in the starry sky, illuminating with its rays the shiny backs and wings of the Blue-Bottle Flies. It was a beautiful spectacle of nature.
Many long years later, the four little travelers still looked back on that evening as one of the happiest evenings of their whole life. It was already midnight when Quangle-Wangle hoisted the sail of the boat, put the teapot and churn back in their place, and the Cat was back at the helm. The children lovingly said goodbye to the Blue-Bottle Flies, who all came to the water’s edge to see the children off.
As a sign of respect and farewell, Violet made a deep, polite bow and placed one of her few parrot tail feathers in the hair of the most distinguished Blue-Bottle Fly. Slingsby, Guy, and Lionel gave them three boxes of black pins, dried figs, and salt. And so, they left, forever, from that blissful place.
Overwhelmed by feelings of sadness, the four little travelers jumped into the water kettle and fell into a deep sleep. But along the entire coast, for many hours, the sound of the sobbing of living creatures was clearly heard. The sad sound lingered in the waves as the boat sailed away from the Land of the Happy Blue Bottles.
After this event, several days passed quietly. Nothing special happened. Except that when the travelers passed a sandy area, they saw an unusual spectacle of large and small crabs, perhaps six or seven hundred, sitting on the water’s edge. They were busy unraveling a huge hoop of light pink worsted. They moistened themselves intermittently with a liquid consisting of white wine and lavender water.
“Can we help you with something, Crabs?” asked the four children.
“Thank you kindly,” the Crabs replied. “We’re trying to make worsted gloves, but we don’t know how.”
To which Violet, who was perfectly familiar with the art of making gloves, said to the Crabs, “Can you unscrew your claws or are they clamps?”
“They are made to be unscrewed,” said the Crabs. And immediately, they laid a large pile of claws near the boat. Violet then combed out all the light pink worsted and made the most beautiful gloves you can imagine.
The Crabs happily screwed their claws back on and walked away on their hind legs, singing songs with their silver voices.
After that, the four little people sailed on until they came to a vast and wide plain of astonishing dimensions. At first, there was nothing to see. But as the travelers continued, an object appeared in the twilight that, upon closer examination, looked like someone with a large white wig, sitting on a chair made of biscuit and oyster shells.
“It doesn’t quite look like a human,” said Violet hesitantly. But they couldn’t tell what it really was until Quangle-Wangle (who had been around the world before) exclaimed loudly, “It looks like a Cauliflower!”
And it was. They soon discovered that what they had mistaken for a giant wig was actually the top of a Cauliflower. They also saw that the Cauliflower had no feet but could move gracefully on a single stem. A remarkable feat that also saved him the trouble of wearing stockings and shoes!
Soon the whole group left the boat and stared at the Cauliflower with a mixture of affection and disgust. Then he suddenly stood up and hurried, in his own fluffy way, towards the setting sun. His steps were supported by two reliable Cucumbers and a large number of Water Wagtails that led him three by three. Eventually, he disappeared at the edge of the western sky in a crystal-clear cloud of sand.
Of course, this wonderful spectacle made a deep impression on the four children. They immediately returned to their boat, coughing and spluttering from the sand and with huge hunger.
Shortly thereafter, the travelers had to sail under a few high, overhanging rocks. At the top of the rocks sat a very mean boy, dressed in pink pants. He had a tin plate on his head. He threw a huge pumpkin at the boat, causing it to dangerously sway.
But there was nothing to worry about, the whole group could swim very well. They even preferred to swim until the moon came up. When the water became cold, they stepped back into the boat, soaking wet.
Quangle-Wangle threw the pumpkin back with great force. The pumpkin hit the rocks where the mean boy was sitting and exploded into a thousand pieces. The rocks caught fire and the mean boy got hotter and hotter. His pants turned completely green and his nose burned off.
Two or three days later, they arrived at another place. There, they found nothing but deep pits filled with mulberry jam. This was the domain of the small monkeys with yellow noses that lived here in large numbers. They kept the mulberry jam as food for the winter. They mixed the jam with a light soup of periwinkle and served it in fancy bowls that could be found for free everywhere in that part of the country.
There was only one of the monkeys with a yellow nose at home, and he was sound asleep. Yet the four travelers, Quangle-Wangle, and the Cat were so scared by his enormous snoring that they dared only take a small cup of jam and immediately returned to their boat.
How great was their horror when they saw the boat (including the churns and teapot) in the mouth of a huge Sea-Spider! This fierce creature lives in the waters of the sea and is terrible to see. Fortunately, you almost never encounter them! In an instant, the beautiful boat was bitten into billions of pieces. And it became clear that Violet, Slingsby, Guy, and Lionel could no longer continue their sea journey.
The four travelers had to decide to continue their journey on land. Luckily, an elderly Rhinoceros happened to pass by at that moment. They all climbed on his back. Quangle-Wangle sat on his horn and held onto his ears. The Cat sat at the end of his swinging tail. So they continued on their way, with only a few small beans and potatoes for food.
Luckily, they managed to catch some chickens, turkeys, and other birds along the way, which constantly landed on the rhinoceros’ head to collect seeds. They cooked the animals on a fire that was lit on the back of the rhinoceros.
They were accompanied by a crowd of kangaroos and large cranes that were very self-important and curious. So they were never short of company, and it became a whole procession that traveled through the country.
After eighteen weeks, they finally arrived safely back home. They were received by their loved ones, but they were also scorned for their adventures and plans. Eventually, they decided to carry out their travel plans at a different, more favorable time.
As for the rhinoceros? As a gesture of their gratitude, they had it killed and stuffed. Then they placed it in front of their father’s house as a doormat.