Once upon a time, there was a hedgehog who thought he was a fairy.
It didn’t really bother him that he lacked wings, or that he couldn’t produce light and sparkles on demand. Somebody had to balance out all that gauzy softness, and sparkles were overrated. He knew he was a fairy, and that was that.
He led a simple life, burrowing with diligent cheer at the base of the Blue Fairy Tree and sniffing out beetles under the soil. Occasionally, he found dropped shoes or forgotten jewelry made from crystallized dew-drops, which he hid in his burrow in case their owners came looking for them. At night, he’d sit up and comfort himself with the playful music and dancing lights of the fairy-fete glimmering in the branches. He couldn’t quite see what was going on, but as a fairy and member of the forest, he still felt like part of the dance.
Of course, none of this meant he wasn’t lonely.
He wanted to join them up there, in the Blue Fairy Tree. Wanted to join their dance, to live in their laughter, to float in their songs, at least just once. How could it ever happen? He couldn’t fly. He couldn’t climb. As a fairy, he felt his his needs had not been addressed by the community.
Then one day, a cloth like a dream fell from the sky.
Caught in the breeze, it wafted back and forth, glimmering with a delicate, diaphanous purple so perfect he barely thought it was real. But it was real; fluttering and finely woven, the dream-cloth landed right in front of his questing little nose.
It was lighter than a sigh, prettier than morning sun. If he puffed at it, it moved, like it was alive. And it was magic. The moment he wriggled underneath it, he became beautiful.
He knew he was beautiful just like he knew he was a fairy: he could feel it in the shimmery, sparkly textile tickling the tops of his curving toes, in the way it tented in front of his face with every breath, in the way it shimmered in the light like special puddle-rainbows by the road. He couldn’t help the next thing he did: without thinking, he hopped into the air.
He decided at once not to come down again.
Flying up the Blue Fairy Tree only made sense for one as beautiful as he, and the dream-cloth seemed to agree because it started to sing in a tiny, whispery voice about the blooms in June and raining on the moon. Or something. He wasn’t paying attention because he’d discovered a problem:
Flying meant “up high,” and he hadn’t known until that very moment.
Everything looked strange. His nest disappeared against the foot of the Blue Fairy Tree, and the branches and leaves with fairy-houses on them suddenly looked frighteningly large. Purple cloth fluttering, he swooped through boughs, his little nose wriggling and his huffing-puffing growing louder with his nervousness.
He could fly, but he couldn’t control it very well.
Worse yet, there were fairies up here. He’d never met any before, not in so many words, and suddenly wondered—would they like him? What would they think of him? Did they know he had their shoes? He squeaked once, high-pitched and frightened, and zipped past their tiny poppy mallow tables and right into the dangling, jingling chimes that hung from higher branches to mimic stars.
Somehow, one of the chimes caught on his toe, and suddenly, he became a traveling orchestra.
Jingle-tingle went the chimes as he loop-de-looped, trying to unseat them without losing his cloth.
Jangle-tangle went the chimes he grunted and spun, managing only to take himself more.
The chimes increased his quills-to-feet ratio by quite a few inches, and now he hit everything. The chimes snagged a blue wig; the wig went through a honey-wine fountain, and thus be-gooped, hit a heaping platter of dried, finely-ground berries and went from blue to pink in an instant. He chirped, then clicked, huffing in distress, and tried looping back the way he came in the vague hope that these items would give themselves back to their proper owners.
The wig knocked over a goldfish bowl, delivering the tiny glowing sprites inside to chaotic freedom; the bowl (why had it stuck to the wig, why?) hit somebody on the back of the head, who fell over, who toppled a table and sent the jello mold in its center into the air.
It splatted the face of the head chef fairy, who’d come out of the Blue Fairy Tree to see what in the world was going on. He shouted; the platter of singing cakes he carried went flipping over the side, and the sad little songs of falling yeast-and-honey pastries piped and toodled all the way down like musical rain.
The hedgehog had had enough, and fled back over the branch to hide in his hole. Shouts and laughter and I demand an answer followed him down, but he couldn’t give them an answer (not all fairies could talk, okay?), and he swooped back down the Blue Fairy Tree, past all the branches, and back into his burrow. Then, with dream-cloth, wig, chimes, and all, he curled up in a poky, spiny ball to hide.
There was no way they’d like him now.
The wig smelled really good. Sadly, it did not prove to be edible.
When Fairies came to visit, they weren’t mean or mad.
They ducked into his burrow, glimmering wings tucked tight, and made soothing sounds as they petted his quills and offered him pastries made from pillbugs and honey until he grew brave enough to peek out.
He didn’t really understood what they were saying,but they were very nice, and petted his cheeks, and finally took back their shoes. That was good. He’d been running out of room to keep them.
“This is sweet. Like . . . totally underground,” said one fairy, the labrets in his blue lips sparkling.
“Club Hedgie?” suggested another with bright orange hair spikes.
Blue-lips nodded. “Club Hedgie.”
One of them disentangled the purple cloth, wig, and chimes from his quills. Another tossed sparkles in the air with the grace of a dancer, and the hedgehog’s burrow suddenly twinkled like the dark starry sky. He squealed for joy.
That night, fairies came to visit with food and music and dancing, raucous music that somehow didn’t compete with the more refined strains from the Blue Fairy Tree. He shared their snacks and accepted their caresses. He danced and wriggled and didn’t even mind when somebody tied pink ribbons on each of his quills.
At last exhausted, contented and befriended, he slept at the back of his den. For the first time, he was truly part of the celebration. As he dreamed in time to the music all around, he smiled, for he knew a wonderful thing: he was without a doubt the luckiest fairy in the world.