“Dwarf Story” by Professor W.W. Marplot
Pub date: June 30, 2020
Publisher: Waxing Gibbous
Genre: Middle grade fantasy
For Arty to miss a day of school, either he is very, very sick or a fairytale-character turf-war has begun in his backyard — such as what begins this particular Wednesday. First, he finds an ax-swinging, bearded, sweaty warrior Dwarf scaring his dogs. Soon enough, Emma, Cry and other middle-school friends also find fairy creatures — Elves, Spriggans, Pixies, and a hoped-for Dragon — crashing into their normal homework-doing, backpack-carrying, phone-charging schooldays.
Why are these magical beings here? What should be done? Is that axe sharp? Can Pixies be given aspirin?
Arty with his friends — and spying jerks, and questionable strangers with long names — follow the clues and try to find out, even as things turn dark and dangerous.
The mythical beings are taking sides. The Gwyllion, that legendary Old Woman of the Mountains, has a sinister plan, turning the neighborhood into a fantasy battleground. One that awaits young heroes.
EXCERPT: Chapter 1 – Arty
I found a Dwarf, and there is something funny growing in my yard.
That’s what I was thinking as the Dwarf—short, rectangular, and grunting—and I ran through the woods, early in the morning, trotting away from the bus stop, his breath like fog, his beard like a flapping flag, and his axe like a swarm of wasps—which was making me very nervous, even though he hadn’t stung anyone with it.
He made me miss the bus.
I kept running. He followed me, and I followed him.
I didn’t have a beard to sway or an axe to swing, but in compar- ison, my overstuffed backpack bounced back and forth behind me and released loose school notes and to-do lists to the wind and to the ground.
A Dwarf and a funny thing in my yard, I thought, again.
I didn’t want to worry about that funny thing yet, and since it wasn’t following me and my new, strange, dangerous, and impossible friend, it was easy to forget.
But the Dwarf—a wide, muscular, fantasy-warrior Dwarf—was easy to remember and hard to ignore. When he followed me, I led him: from the corner bus stop and away into the wet morning trees. As we ran, I grasped for breaths and for reasons why: why I found a Dwarf this Wednesday, why he followed me, and why I followed him. And what: what should I do with him? And whether: was I still asleep? And another why: why were my dreams now about fantasy characters? I hate that stuff and am more of a scientist who likes math and logic and making lists of things to do before doing them—and keeping them on color-coded sticky notes like the ones flying from my bag and leaving a pretty trail behind us.
This was like those games other kids play, rolling dice shaped like extra-credit geometry, pretending to have swords and sorcery, imagining Elves and Orcs fighting, arguing over treasure and whether charisma is better than a catapult and how many dragons fit in a dungeon. There aren’t even any rules to that nonsense.
But there I was, a human running wildly with a fantasy character whose axe had already killed a tree, scared my dogs, and made me make at least two bad decisions already. He kept yelling things in some strange language that sounded like how cement mixers might communicate. And I couldn’t even stop to keep track of it, or take notes or pictures, or anything.
INTERVIEW WITH GERTRUDE DEE MARPLOT
- How and when did you discover your great-grandfather’s manuscripts?
I was very young — I think 5 or 6 years old — when I went on an extended family reunion that had us tramping all over Great Britain. All I remember of Great-Grandad is wandering around in this dark old mansion. It looked like a cathedral, with the light inside coming at all crazy angles and through huge colored windows, and everywhere were large bookcases, and bookshelves, from floor to high-ceiling, and with every desk or table piled high with old papers, books stuffed with flattening parchments, scrolls and tube containers — a musty, dusty maze through the whole house. And they told me not to touch any of it! That experience definitely started my love of books. I don’t think I was even there very long, but those images are burned into my memory, a very happy one.
I don’t remember seeing the professor too much, but he must have noticed me because when we left, he wobbled over to me — he had a cane, was very old and gray with a stiff, short beard and a pipe sticking out of his fat, fluffy mustache. He said something about me being a good girl and that I should read a lot, or something. I don’t remember much else; it was so long ago and dream-like. But on my birthday every year since, he sent me some old parchment or ancient book with leaves disintegrating off the binder, and they were about very strange things — supposedly hidden knowledge or stories that just looked like a mess of symbols to me. Some had designs with bright colors and gold and silver etched lines — and pictures! Very cool.
When I was 13, I asked him to send me something that I could actually read, something a normal girl would like. And in pieces — large pieces, in big boxes — I started to receive papers filled with more modern stories. And with very little explanation! I finally convinced him to get a computer and email so we could communicate faster and more often. He wouldn’t want me to say much more, but he did help me get the papers in order, and he told me all he knew of their history — which honestly wasn’t much.
- How did you weave together the story as you sorted the tattered pages, and how long did it take?
A long time for “Dwarf Story” because pieces of it arrived in a scattered and disorganized way. And specifics as to the story’s setting were missing — as if any scenes that revealed specific data were intentionally left out, cut from existence. With some — very little — help from my great-grandfather I narrowed down some possible U.S. locations for the story, though it could have taken place almost anywhere. The place names in the tale were hints, as well as the weather and landmarks. I followed clue after clue, the way Arty does in the story, and did the best I could. Interesting that such a modern story could have such a mysterious source. I was just about 15 when the first package with “Dwarf Story” pages came — marked as “Mary’s letters,” and those scenes from the middle of the book. Because I recently finished it, it was about eight years from beginning to end. A lot of fun! But eight years to tell a story that takes place over one week is crazy!
- Do you think your grandfather left behind more pages that you’ve yet to uncover?
Oh, yes. In fact, there are pages that didn’t make it into the book, a few scenes that definitely take place in Scotland, but they didn’t fit the main story and still need work. It is a good question I ask myself also: For how long will I keep getting more “Dwarf Story” pages?
- What do you think your grandfather would say, knowing you went through all of this effort to tell his stories?
I think he will be proud to see more stories published because, to him, they are the latest link in a long chain. One theme of all his research and investigations concerns stories of young adults and how they cross into the fantastic and legendary. Though he doesn’t communicate much — or say much when he does communicate — so it’s hard to tell. But I think he is enjoying it.
- Did you learn more about your grandfather after discovering his writing? Was anything surprising?
Only that he seems more real, sometimes, seeing the work he did to collect these stories, and the writing he did on pulling together all old legends and connecting them up — like what I did for “Dwarf Story,” now that I think about it! Though his work is much, much greater. The hidden knowledge he compiles and collects and seams together is truly amazing — and I have only seen a small part of it!
- Have you preserved the original manuscripts? Where are they now?
I made copies and worked with those. All the originals are in storage. I had to seek some expert advice for how to preserve them. A local university has a Special Collections Department and they helped. My great-grandfather’s working spaces were far from pure — so much pipe smoke and dust, and that old mansion amid year-round cold, wet weather! What he sent me is now in airtight containers and temperature-controlled rooms. I had a local historical society staff volunteer some time also; they were very interested in the material.
Professor Welkin Westicotter Marplot, of Coillemuir, Scotland, is a collector of esoteric tales of global wisdom and curator of ancient manuscripts. He is a recluse and, as he claims, has been collecting and collating adventure and fantasy stories for over a century.
A third-generation descendant, Gertrude Dee Marplot, of the United States, has edited for publication a number of the professor’s texts that she found — to her surprise — take place in modern times.
Each tells of normal, young teenagers in strange, terrifying situations — or of unique kids in worse ones. As she continues to learn more of the stories’ origins, Ms. Marplot has edited these numerous tales from their tattered and disorganized shape for the enjoyment of modern readers.