The small boy was crying-the older boys had
broken his bow.
"A fine hero you make! The least thing goes wrong and you burst into tears like a sissy!" Shyrdak said angrily.
The boy wiped his tears on his sleeve and began to peer around.
"I'm over here!" Shyrdak said, raising up on his toes.
"Oh! What an amazing thing! Like a real man, and what a hat!" the boy exclaimed in delight, forgetting all about his
"I'm not a thing. I'm called Shyrdak."
"Yes, Shyrdak. And what's your name?"
"My name is Durdyli!" The boy's eyes were shining-he had never seen the likes of such a toy: it spoke, and moved, and even argued! "Can I pick you up?"
"Go ahead!" Shyrdak said, climbing onto the boy's outstretcnea palm.
Durdyli lifted the little man up closer to his face in order to take a better look of him, while Shyrdak was hopping up and down and singing a tune:
Once there lived Shyrdak.
Once there lived Durdak.
They made friends with one another,
And lived happily thereafter.
"Why don't we become friends!" proposed Durdyli,
adding after a moment's reflection: "If you're really real, that is."
"Of course, I'm real!" Shyrdak stated, hopping on one leg and then the other.
"You'll fall!" Durdyli exclaimed fearfully.
"No harm will come to me!" Shyrdak was boasting noisily.
"I've already fallen from a tree, and once I even fell off a donkey!"
Durdyli placed Shyrdak back down on the ground and suddenly grew sad.
"Why are you pouting?" Shyrdak asked, bewildered.
"Are we really friends?"
"Then you'll come home with me to live?"
"What's there to do at your house?"
"Play. I'll even read you a book if you want. I already know how."
"All right," Shyrdak agreed, "let's go read a book-if it's an interesting one."
It was a book of fairy tales. They opened it up at random, and Durdyli read the story about the king with the donkey's ears. The king's barber knew the horrible secret, and it preyed on his mind for he knew he could never tell it to a soul. The king had threatened to cut off the head of anyone who revealed the secret. So the poor barber went to an empty well and there he shouted out his secret. Time went by and a reed grew up beside the well. Then a shepherd came along and fashioned a fife out of the reed, and the fife pro-claimed the secret of the king's donkey ears to the shepherd and to the whole world.
"A very instructive tale," Shyrdak said. "Can you keep a secret, Durdyli?"
"Of course I can."
"That's good. Just remember, Durdyli: if you tell anyone about our friendship, I'll disappear."
"Just like this."
And in a flash the little man had vanished.
"Shyrdak! Shyrdak!" Durdyli cried out frantically.
"Here I am! Only not so loud!" Shyrdak was standing in the very same spot with his hands clasped over his ears.
"Just don't disappear again!" Durdyli pleaded. "I'll stay as mum as a clam. If you want, I'll read you my very favorite story about Karlson. It doesn't have an ending, but I read it anyway."
"What happened to the ending?"
"My little brother tore it out. He's only a baby yet. But the book is so interesting it doesn't even matter that the end is missing."
"But wouldn't you like to find out how the story ends?"
"Would I ever!"
"Then let's say goodbye for now," Shyrdak suggested. "Maybe
I'll be able to find you a new book."