Thorvaldur Thorsteinsson

My name is
but you can call me Bobo

To Arney Ingibjörg

(the first three chapters from the book)

Chapter 1

Betterby dreams a dream that he does not understand and also finds a brand-new creature in his garden.

Betterby opened his eyes where he was lying in his bed and took a little while to realize that he was alone in the house and everything was the way it should have been. But wait. It was as if something had happened while he was asleep. He could tell. And the dream was so mysterious that even if nothing had happened, something must surely be just about to happen.

He dreamt he was flying on his delicate wings towards the Fountain. Where he’d never dared to venture before. He soared silently between the shadowy tree-guards whose job it was to guard the Spring, and they watched his every movement and hissed at him with bloodshot eyes in the twilight. Their wooden trunks creaked as they turned to watch this uninvited guest, first one of them, then another, and finally the whole host of them. Betterby had never been that brave before. He who had never left his little land knew that now he was in dangerous territory for little creatures. It was somewhere here that Kirsa, the little girl who was his best friend, had vanished without a trace many years before. And now Betterby was heading out into the unknown too.

This dream could not end happily.

But instead of catching him with their knotty fingers, the tree-guards bent their branches to make it easier for their guest to fly past, and before he knew it he could feel his light little legs landing on the damp banks of the Spring.

He had reached the Source itself.

Feeling thirsty, he knelt down to take a drink. He bent over the surface of the water and saw a friendly face approaching with its lips pouting. Then suddenly the image vanished and he plunged into something bright and soft and warm that enclosed him completely, until he woke up with a start and could still feel the pleasant touch of his dream on his delicate skin as he lay there in his bed.


What could that kind of dream mean?

He knew that the quickest way would be to ask the Wise One in the oak tree, but it was too early to wake him up now, because the night stars were still playing in the treetops.

Betterby took a deep breath and enjoyed listening to the air-spirits whispering, slowly in and slowly out, slowly in and slowly out. Then he couldn’t be bothered to lie still any more, so he crawled out of bed. He carefully stretched his delicate wings that had lain folded over his back all night. They were almost transparent, surfaced with glittering breeze-silk but strengthened underneath with tightly meshed threads of stillness. When Betterby felt that his wings had woken up and were definitely in their right place he stretched his whole body until it was comfortably soft and new.


When he went past the big bed where his mother and father had once slept under their anti-magic net, he tiptoed very carefully as if they were still lying there now. He stooped over the water-butt by the front door to wash, and then he remembered the dream again. He felt strange. What had happened while he was asleep? He took up a pose in the doorway while he dried himself and cautiously sniffed at the morning. His little nose quivered ever so slightly as he snuffled and scanned between the trees. He put on his glasses, round and terribly thick. Maybe he could see better with them.


Now the sun was sending its first rays through the forest and the dew rose up from the damp undergrowth. Betterby squinted with sparkling eyes behind his glasses and looked up into the big oak, wondering about its inhabitants. The oak was silent and grand in the morning fog. The Wise One had clearly not woken up. He had been lying on his branch of knowledge well into the night, listening, watching and thinking to himself. Betterby could see him through his window when he went to sleep, like a mysterious shadow-being standing out against the glow of the evening in the sky.

Once again, Betterby had that strange feeling. That something was completely different today from other days. He just didn’t know what. It was as if the flies had something new to buzz about as they greeted each other at the end of his nose. There was also a new scent in the air and suddenly some howling Sleepies flew up on the other side of the house. Something had frightened them out of their hideaways. Were there some uninvited guests around here?

Well, the only thing to do was to take a closer look.

Betterby’s heart was pounding in his chest when he sneaked nervously around the corner and peered into the back garden.


Something was sitting there, looking at him in the morning sun. something he’d never seen before yet somehow so familiar. With a head and hands just like him. Just a little bit different. And it looked at Betterby so terribly … kindly. Yes, it was really very warm, that expression. And innocent. A smiling, beautiful face. And now it laughed. Betterby couldn’t help laughing too and moved closer. This was fun. He didn’t know what it was, but knew it had to be good.

“Hello,” he said, waving from where stood some way off, because he couldn’t think of anything better. The little creature beamed back a smile and rocked back and forth where it was sitting in the grass. “My name’s Betterby,” he said, moving a tiny bit closer. “Bobo,” said the creature and shrieked for joy as it pointed at Betterby. “No, Betterby,” said Betterby as clearly as he possibly could. “Bobo,” said the creature wonderfully gently, stretching out both arms towards Betterby. And Betterby looked deep into those clear eyes. “Alright, you can call me Bobo then,” said Betterby and hugged the creature.

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Chapter 2

Telling of what the Wise One thinks is in the garden and also his prediction about a bad outcome.

Betterby eventually managed to wake up the Wise One, who shuffled half-asleep out onto his branch and held on tight. It was just as well for him not to fall out of the tree because his wings had long ago stopped being any use, but just lay like dried flaps of leather tight against his back. He settled himself down at the end of the buckling branch and peered down at where the creature crawled around laughing in the grass and chasing flies, in between looking up into the tree at them with its eyes almost closed because the sun was so strong.


For a long while the Wise One said nothing. Betterby hovered silently beside him and waited expectantly. Maybe it was a troll. He’d never seen that sort of thing. But this creature was rather too small, judging from descriptions of trolls. Or an imp? Hardly, because they were such teases and pulled faces. Unless it was some animal. Maybe a talking pet?

He just hoped it was someone who knew how to play. Although he was happy with his life in the forest, Betterby couldn’t deny that he missed not having a good friend after Kirsa went missing. She’d always been Betterby’s best friend and together they’d explored the world around the house and the Hill while they were still tiny. But Kirsa always wanted to go farther than he did. Explore more. Until one day she didn’t come back. The story was that she’d been called off to a more important mission on behalf of The Energy and that all her former life was hidden from her now. Betterby didn’t want to believe such a story.

But after The Energy called his father and mother off to it in the Light-World there was no one left in the neighbourhood except the Wise One. He’d been living in the tree for as long as Betterby could remember and thought huge thoughts, but he didn’t know how to play.

The only thing approaching a friend that Betterby had was Ragbag, Kirsa’s rag doll. She was all that was found in the clearing where Kirsa disappeared. And Ragbag was awfully raggedy after the Gnashers had eaten a hole in her chest. But a loyal doll-friend all the same.

Betterby met few others, since he never ventured beyond his garden except to say hello to his mother and father in the mound on the Hill. Of course he knew that they weren’t in the mound, but in the Light-World instead. All the same, it was at the mound that he could make contact with them. He would sit down on a stone that stood on the top and whisper “I’m here,” and then he felt how they were with him. When he was happy, as he was most of the time, he could feel how they grew happy with him too, and when he was sad, as he certainly would be later, he could feel how they secretly stroked him gently on the cheek as they’d always done when they were with him.


“Do you know, Betterby,” the Wise One whispered all of a sudden, “as far as I can tell that’s a child that you’ve found over there.” He rubbed his old face, brushed a muttering fly away from his hairy ear and peered more closely. “Yes. It’s definitely a child.”

Betterby was none the wiser, although the word sounded nice. “Child? What’s a child?”

“I don’t know,” said the Wise One. “But according to ancient tales it looks more or less like that. That’s the first child I’ve ever seen.” The Wise One was clearly moved. “The story goes that a child like that will appear without warning one fine day and stay until …” He fell silent. “Until what?” Betterby asked, a little worried. “Well … until it goes away again.”

“Where will it go then?” Betterby couldn’t conceal the disappointment in his voice.

“No one knows. But it will never come back.”

“How can you be so sure about that?” Betterby tried to protest.

“There are remarkable ancient stories in the forest about children who’ve spent years there and made what they call emotional bonds with the inhabitants … but those stories all end the same way.”

“With the child going away?” Betterby asked hesitantly.

“With the child going away,” said the Wise One and scratched his nose.

“I don’t think that child will go,” Betterby whispered. The Wise One said nothing.

“And if it does go I’m sure it will come back.”

The Wise One sighed. “We’ll see about that,” he said and made ready to crawl back indoors. This conversation was becoming far too personal.

“Bobo come!” a voice called out from the garden.

“There, listen to that,” Betterby said triumphantly. “No one here’s going anywhere.” And he looped such a funny loop on his way down to the Child that it lay on its back, completely helpless with laughter.


But in the shadow behind the old fir tree stood a dark creature, watching as Betterby hugged his friend and kissed the Child’s soft cheek.

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Chapter 3

Describing how the years passed in carefree play. And then how Tiddler appeared out of the climbing plant by the gate.

Great and wonderful days followed for Betterby and the Child. Endless play day out and day in and the months went by without anything casting a shadow on their happiness. Even the Wise One in the oak tree secretly peeked at the companions, and sometimes even forgot himself and almost fell off his branch in his excitement, although he could never admit the fact. As a rule his branch was far above all light-heartedness.

The friends went exploring the garden together to search for flowers and fairies flying between the flowers and the Child never tired of watching Betterby flying on his beautiful wings which glittered in the sunshine. But the game never went beyond the garden, except when Betterby took the Child with him on Sundays to talk to his mother and father in the mound up on the Hill. Betterby let the Child sit on the rock with him. But they never went farther than that.


Three years had passed since the Child appeared, when it crept out to the edge of the slope beyond the mound for the first time: “Bobo! When are we going into the forest?”

“Er … not now,” Betterby stammered, feeling his wings turn paralysed and his knees go wobbly at the very thought. He knew the day would come when the Child asked about the forest. “Maybe we’ll go later,” he fibbed, but deep down inside he knew that he’d never go beyond his own little world. He felt good there. All the dangers in the world lay in wait outside it and all kinds of company of the undesirable kind. Also, strange events took place there which were best kept to stories and dreams. But here at home life was a routine matter and involved playing and pleasant chores, frying pancakes and a suitable mixture of healthy fruit juice and hot chocolate. Nor had Betterby forgotten the Wise One’s disastrous prophecy. Something might still happen which would make the Child leave him, and he could not bear the thought of it. He was certain that when that day came, life would no longer be worth living.

“But I want to go now, Bobo!” the Child said eagerly. “Look, behind that tree. Behind the big tree in the forest. Someone’s hiding there!” And the Child gave a friendly wave out into the unknown. “Fun Bobo! Not fun?”

“Let’s go home and have some hot chocolate,” Betterby said firmly, trying to conceal that his voice was trembling when he saw how close the Child went to the edge of the slope. And he led the Child so firmly by the hand down the Hill, towards home, that it had trouble keeping up with him.


Just as they passed the climbing plant that curled around the statue guarding the gate, a hoarse voice whispered: “Always alone. No one to play with.”


“Who’s there?” the Child asked and slipped away from Betterby’s grasp to thrust its nose into the tangled plant.
“Be careful!” Betterby called out, not even trying to conceal his fear this time. “It could be a stinging fly … or a poisonous beetle! Or an enchanted …”

“Threats and subversion!” the voice called out from the climbing plant as a head appeared between the flowers and leaves and peeked up into the air. The Child jumped back, then roared with laughter. Betterby had prepared himself to make a run for it, but when he saw who was speaking he could not help smiling himself. He took such a great liking to this little creature.

“Hm … Not a word. All right. No need anyway,” the creature from the climbing plant muttered as it jumped up onto Betterby’s shoulder and introduced itself. “Tiddler, good day to you.”

“This is Bobo,” said the Child.

“Tiddler,” said Tiddler.

And this is the Child,” said Betterby.

“Tiddler,” said Tiddler.


So that was all settled then and Betterby could start thinking about hot chocolate for the Child and the new resident of the climbing plant.

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