Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
One evening at bedtime, Benson said to his mother, “Can you tell me a story?”
“I’d love to,” said his mother. She tucked Benson up into bed and started.
“Once upon a time there was a prince who wanted to marry a princess. The trouble was, it was very hard to find a true princess. Whenever he met a girl that he thought was a true princess, his mother would say, ‘This girl is not a true princess. Her long golden hair is really brown hair that she has dyed.’ Or ‘That girl is not a true princess. She doesn’t know how to curtsy properly.’ Or ‘A true princess would not have such big feet.’
“The prince began to think that he would never find a true princess. Then one dark and stormy night, there was a knock at the door.”
Just then Aunt Lillibet came into Benson’s room and said to Benson’s mother, “Moss is having problems with her knitting. She’s dropped seven stitches and there’s a big hole. Could you come and help her, please?”
Benson’s mother said, “I was just in the middle of telling Benson a story.”
Aunt Lillibet said, “Oh I can do that. Where were you up to?”
Benson’s mother said, “I just got to the part where there was a knock at the door.”
“I know that story,” Aunt Lillibet said. Benson’s mother got up and went to help Aunt Moss. Aunt Lillibet sat down beside the bed and began.
“There was a knock at the door, and the big bad wolf said, ‘Little pig, little pig, let me come in!’ The little pig said, ‘No, not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin, I will not let you in!’ The wolf said, ‘Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll BLOW your house in!’ And he huffed, and he puffed, and he BLEW the little pig’s house in, and he ate up the first little pig.
“Next he went to the house that the second little pig had built out of sticks, and he knocked at the door and said…”
Just then Aunt Moss came into Benson’s room. “I’m sorry to interrupt,” she said, “but I seem to have lost one of the pages of my knitting pattern. I think it may be in your room, Lillibet. Would you mind having a look for it?”
Aunt Lillibet said, “I was just up to the exciting part of the story. The big bad wolf was knocking at the door.”
Aunt Moss said, “I know what happens next. Let me tell it.”
Aunt Lillibet got up and went to look for Aunt Moss’s knitting pattern. Aunt Moss sat down and began. “The big bad wolf knocked at the door and the grandmother called out, ‘Who is it?’ The wolf said in a little girl voice, ‘It’s Little Red Riding Hood. I’ve brought you a basket with a little pot of butter, some blackberry jam and a fresh sultana cake.’ The grandmother said, ‘Lift the latch and come in.’ The big bad wolf lifted the latch and came in. He saw the grandmother lying in the bed and he sprang on her and gobbled her up in one bite! Then he put on the grandmother’s spare nightie and her night cap and got into bed.”
Benson was feeling a bit confused, but he loved the story. He snuggled down further in his bed.
Aunt Moss went on, “Soon Little Red Riding Hood came to the grandmother’s house and she knocked at the door. ‘Who is it?’ the wolf said in a grandmothery sort of voice. ‘It’s me, Little Red Riding Hood,’ said Little Red Riding Hood. ‘I’ve brought you a basket with a little pot of butter, some blackberry jam and a fresh sultana cake.’ The wolf said in his grandmother voice, ‘Lift the latch and come in.’ Red Riding Hood came in and she went up to the grandmother’s bed…”
Just then Benson’s mother came into the room, and said, “Moss, we’ve found the pattern so you can go back to your knitting if you like. I’ll finish the story.”
“Thank you, dear,” Aunt Moss said. “I was just up to the part where the girl comes up to the bed…”
“Oh, I know where you’re up to,” Benson’s mother said. She sat down beside the Benson’s bed, and Aunt Moss went out to do her knitting.
Benson’s mother said, “Are you enjoying the story, Benson?”
“It’s very exciting,” Benson said.
Benson’s mother said, “So the girl came up to the bed, which had twenty-three mattresses piled on top of each other. The prince’s mother said, ‘I hope you sleep well,’ but she had secretly hidden a pea under the bottom mattress, and the girl tossed and turned all night, because she could feel the tiny pea all the way through all the mattresses. In the morning the queen and the prince came to wake her up and she said, ‘I didn’t sleep a wink all night. There was something wrong with the bed…’”
Just then Aunt Moss came in again. “I’m so sorry to interrupt, but somehow I’ve got the wool all tangled up, and Lillibet says she needs help untangling it and I seem to be making everything worse. Would you mind giving Lillibet a hand? I can go on with the story if you like.”
Benson’s mother got up. “I was just up to the part where the girl thinks there is something wrong with the bed.”
“Oh, this is my favourite part,” said Aunt Moss. Benson’s mother went out to help Aunt Lillibet, and Aunt Moss sat down beside Benson and went on, “Little Red Riding Hood knew at once that there was something wrong, and she said, ‘Oh Grandmother, what big eyes you have!’ The wolf said, ‘All the better to see you with, my dear.’ Little Red Riding Hood said, ‘Oh Grandmother, what a big nose you have!’ The wolf said, ‘All the better to smell you with, my dear.’
“Then Little Red Riding Hood said, ‘Oh Grandmother, what big TEETH you have!’ The wolf said, ‘All the better to EAT you with, my dear!’ And he sprang up…”
Just then Aunt Lillibet came back into the room. “Moss, we’ve got all the knots untangled. You can go on with your knitting. I’ll finish the story.”
Aunt Moss said, “Thankyou, Lillibet dear, that’s very good of you. We were just up to the most exciting part of the story. The wolf sprang up…”
Aunt Lillibet said, “Oh yes, I know what happens next.”
Aunt Moss went out, and Aunt Lillibet sat down beside Benson. He could hardly wait to hear what happened next. She said, “The wolf sprang up onto the roof and jumped down the chimney. But the little pig had a huge cauldron of water boiling on the fire and the wolf fell into it and was killed at once.”
Just then Benson’s mother came in, with Aunt Moss. “We both wanted to hear the end of the story,” she said. “Did you tell him the part where the prince finds that the girl is a true princess?”
Aunt Moss said, “Don’t you mean the part where the woodcutter kills the wolf and rescues Little Red Riding Hood?”
Aunt Lillibet said, “No, it’s the third little pig who kills the wolf.”
Benson’s mother looked at Aunt Moss, and Aunt Moss looked at Aunt Lillibet, and they all looked at Benson. Benson smiled. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I know exactly what happens in the end. The princess and the prince and Little Red Riding Hood and the little pig all live happily ever after!”