By Tim Porteus

A STORYTELLER came into a school and gave the children a challenge.

“Imagine,” he said, “that you had a quest to obtain the apple of your dreams. This apple is magic and is found at the top of a tall ancient tree, which grows deep in a dark forest.

“To get to the tree first you must find your way through the forest. Then you will come to a circular clearing, where there are no trees except the ancient tall apple tree.

“This tree grows in the middle of the clearing and its single fruit, the apple of your dreams, can be seen on its topmost branch.”

The storyteller looked round his audience.

“Will you try to reach it and pick it to make your dream come true?” he asked.

The children all answered yes.

“Then first you must decide what your dreams are.”

“Be rich,” was a common response. The storyteller smiled and nodded: “Yes we all have dreams of being rich, but rich in what? Rich in love and happiness, or rich in money and things?”

“It’s the same,” said one child. “I don’t think it is,” said another, looking at the storyteller. “Is it?”

“That is a good question,” replied the storyteller, “for sure having too little money is not a good thing. And the world is an unfair place where those who have too much money and too many things keep it to themselves, so those who have too little money never get their fair share, even though there is sufficient for everyone to have enough.”

“So I want to be one of those that has too much!” declared one member of the class, to laughter.

“And if so would you share what you have with others who do not have enough?” asked the storyteller.

The child paused for a moment for thought: “Maybe some of it.”

Other children voiced different opinions. “I’d keep it all”, “I’d share it”, “I’d give some to my family and friends.”

It created some discussion amongst the children.

The teacher was going to ask the children to be quiet and listen to the storyteller, but he indicated he was happy with what was happening.

“But then you’d end up being poor again,” said one. “No, I’d not give it all away.”

“But the whole point of being rich is that you can do what you want.”

“Well, it also means you can help other people.”

The storyteller listened to the debate for a minute or two, then he beat his drum to regain the children’s attention.

“And so, for most here, money will be your dream. I understand that. Nobody wants to be poor. But lots of money is not really your dream.”

A chorus of: “Yes it is!”

“No,” replied the storyteller, “money is not your dream, it is what you spend it on, what it might make possible for you that you do not have now, that would be your dream. That is what you must think of before you set out on your quest.

“Because if you pick the apple of your dreams, but have no dreams for your life, then you will still be poor, even if you have all the money in the world.”

“That’s just stupid,” said one boy. The teacher was quick to remind him not to be rude, but the storyteller asked him: “What is stupid?”

“What you’ve just said, you can’t be poor if you are rich, that doesn’t make sense. That’s what I meant is stupid.”

The storyteller smiled. “Perhaps you are right, but do you think sometimes people can also be poor in things that money can’t buy?”

There was silence for a moment. Then a girl said: “You mean people can be poor in dreams for their life?”

The storyteller smiled and nodded.

“Precisely,” said the storyteller. “The whole issue of getting rich has stopped us thinking about what our dreams actually are.”

“I want to be a dancer,” said one child. “I want to drive fast cars,” said another.

“I still want to be rich so I don’t have to do anything and just play computer games.”

“I want to make the computer games,” said his friend. “Yeah, me too,” agreed his pal.

“I want to be the President!” another said.

“I just want to be happy!”

The storyteller beat his drum again.

“And so before you set off on your quest you must think about your dreams. And let me tell you that dreams can be shared too.”

“How’d you do that?” he was asked.

The storyteller thought for a moment: “Well, for some their dream may be to save an animal that is in danger of being extinct.”

“Or save the planet,” called out another.

“That’s why I want to be President.”

“So I want you to think about your dreams, and once you have you got your dreams you are ready for your quest into the forest,” said the storyteller.

The children assembled their thoughts and soon everyone had a collection of dreams to take with them to the apple tree.

“There is one more thing I forgot to tell you,” said the storyteller. “It’s an important piece of information. You see, when you finally get to the clearing you must be very careful, for wrapped around the base of the ancient apple tree there is a ferocious dragon.

“It sleeps, but very lightly. It will wake when you approach the tree. It will hear you no matter how quiet. It will hear your heartbeat. And there is no place to hide in the clearing. The moment you approach the tree, the dragon will pounce on you.”

“Can the dragon fly?” asked one.


“And breathe fire?”


There were murmurings.

“And so,” the storyteller continued, “you must decide how you will overcome and defeat the dragon. It is there to stop you reaching the apple of your dreams.”

Some of the children came up with immediate ideas:

“I’d run as fast as I could in zig zags.”

“I’d distract the dragon.”

“I’d shoot the dragon with a gun.”

“I’d make a giant kite and fly to the apple.”

“I’d take some friends and feed them to the dragon while I get the apple, then dream my friends back again.”

There were many solutions and the storyteller listened to them with interest. Each child came up with a different strategy.

The storyteller nodded, explaining the powers of the dragon; that it couldn’t be killed by bullets or blades or fire, that it was faster than lightning and once it had heard you and seen you it would go for you.

“Knowing all this, are you still going to try and defeat the dragon and reach the apple of your dreams?”

They all said yes, refining their ideas.

And so once the children had come up with their final strategy, the storyteller asked them to think about what they might need to take with them to defeat the dragon. They will have to carry these things through the forest, or perhaps collect them on the way.

Then the storyteller set the children the task of drawing the things they would need and then the dragon and apple tree. In drawing the apple they would have to decide what the apple of their dreams would look like.

When this was all done, the children settled down to hear who had the right answer.

“I have looked at all the ideas,” said the storyteller. “What I must say is that life is unfair and so is this quest. For some, the journey through the forest will be longer than others. The dragon will be more difficult to defeat for some than others, as its mood changes. But you have all come up with the same answer, and so you are all right.”

There were howls of protest.

“No, we didn’t we all have different answers!”

The storyteller beat his drum again to calm the children.

“Well yes, you all have different ideas on how to defeat the dragon and reach the apple, that is true. But you all have the same answer to the most important question.”

“What’s that?” the children asked.

“Well,” said the storyteller, “I had told you how fierce and dreadful the dragon could be. And then I asked you if knowing all this, are you still going to try and defeat the dragon and reach the apple of your dreams.

“And you all said yes, you’d try to reach your dreams, even though you had a big fight on your hands.

“That, I believe, is the right answer. You may have different ideas on how to get that apple, but you’re all right because each of you will have to fight the dragon in a different way. The most important thing is your determination to get to that apple.”

“What if after all that we fail?” asked one child.

“You might,” said the storyteller, “but on your journey to your dreams you may find a new path that leads to another ancient tree without a dragon.”

“There’s another magic apple tree without a dragon?!”

“Perhaps, perhaps not. But the only way to find out is set off on the journey with determination in your heart. You might realise on the journey that your dreams are easier to reach than you had thought, or it could be the other way round.

“But the most important thing is to have your dreams and find ways to reach them.”

The storyteller finished his session. He left the children with their dreams and their strategy to reach them.

Happy New Year and good luck in defeating your dragon, and reaching your apple.