In the grounds of King Plum’s palace in the Kingdom of Earith stood a barn. In the corner of the barn there leaned a bicycle. Chickens had roosted on the saddle and spiders had spun webs around the rusty handle bars. The bicycle might have remained there forever if the Butcher hadn’t boasted about the magical powers of his baby daughter, Lena. When asked for details he faltered. Why didn’t he think before he began to brag? Having just sprinkled his shop floor with straw, he exclaimed: my daughter can spin straw into gold with her bare hands.
Lena turned into a beautiful woman. The Butcher maintained she had a magic soul but no one took any notice.
Then the Kingdom of Earith fell into war. Afterwards, poverty enveloped the land. King Plum had heard about a woman who could spin straw into gold and demanded she be brought to the palace. ‘You have one day and one night to spin straw into gold,’ he said. ‘If you succeed, I will marry you. If you fail, you and your father will lose your heads.’
Lena was thrown into the barn. She crashed to the ground. How could she do what she’d been asked? Her tears washed away those years of grime from the the bicycle, revealing a paint of the most beautiful blue.
Night swept down. In frustration, Lena spun the wheel of the bicycle. ‘What shall I do?’ she asked. ‘I don’t want my father to be put to the guillotine.’ Of course the bicycle didn’t reply but its spinning wheel gave Lena an idea. She often constructed things from wood; she loved to invent. She would make a spinning wheel! She searched the barn until she’d found enough wood and rope then as delicately as she could she removed the wheel from the bicycle and set about making her machine.
Lena sat upon a milking stool and threaded the straw. However many times she spun, it refused to turn into gold. How stupid, she scolded, to think I could do such a thing. Resigned to her fate, she took off her jewels – her mother’s gold chain, her grandmother’s ring and her own charm bracelet – and set them upon the bicycle. ‘Thank you for lending me your wheel,’ she said. ‘Take these. I have no need of them.’
At that moment the blue of the bicycle grew so intense Lena thought the sky had exploded. Maybe she was mad but suddenly she felt emboldened. She would try one last time to spin straw into gold. Lo and behold, great golden nuggets fell about her feet.
The King and Lena were married. Everyone rejoiced for the queen who had put an end to their hunger.
The spinning wheel remained in the barn (though it never again spun straw into gold).
The bicycle stood proudly on its one wheel in the drawing room where Lena often brought it gifts: pearl earrings, enamel thimbles and other precious trinkets.