Once upon a time, in a small village that suffered from thunderstorms more than any other place in the country, lived a little girl with curly brown hair and a shy smile.
The little girl lived with her mother and father in a cottage by the woods where she had a tiny bedroom all to herself. But in the summer holidays, she spent most days at her grandmother’s house, a ramshackle little place with just two rooms in the middle of the forest.
Her grandmother wasn’t very steady on her feet so she didn’t go out. She usually stayed in bed most of the day, looking out of the window at the trees and thinking through all of her memories. But even though she had a lot of memories to think about, she still got bored so the little girl got in the habit of bringing things with her which she’d found in the forest to amuse the old lady.
Her mother gave her a basket to carry these things in and every morning the little girl would set off purposefully, looking neither left nor right, crunching over the leaves in her small boots until she reached her grandmother’s door.
But after a while she ran out of pine cones and owl pellets and needed a source of new amusements. So she took to making a detour to the village first to see what new things could be found there. There were a great many things in the shops but, no matter how sweetly the little girl asked, her mother and father always insisted they had no money to give her to buy any of them.
It was frustrating but the little girl still made her trips to the village because she was always hopeful of finding something interesting that had been dropped by someone in a rush, or overhearing a conversation her grandmother would find funny.
Apart from the toyshop, the sweetshop was her favourite place. It stood at the foot of the hill, its windows shining with treasure and she would gaze at the humbugs and the sherbert lemons in a way that would break any heart. Her grandmother had a very sweet tooth and the little girl knew she would just love to have some of these sweets.
The sweets were very small and the shopkeeper was very short-sighted so one day the little girl realised that, if she was swift and careful, she could scoop some of the sweets from the jars into her pocket without him seeing. And then they belonged to her. Magic beans that made her grandmother smile.
It was the summer of sweets for the grandmother and the little girl, handful after handful of sugary goodness arranged in dazzling colours. The girl got bolder and soon it wasn’t just the sweetshop that received her attentions. For her grandmother liked all sorts of things: books, eggs, cakes… And there was always somewhere in the village where the little girl could find these things, unwatched.
The best thing she found was a silver teaspoon that she knew the old lady would just love to stir her tea with. So she put it in her basket when no one was looking and took her small but purposeful strides into the woods. But as she passed through the trees, looking to neither left nor right, she didn’t see the big bad wolf following her, with his smart blue uniform and his warrant card and his eyes fixed on her distinctive red cloak.