The magic flute, or the Christmas story of Thomas and Emma
Christmas markets in Bavarian towns are unforgettable. Everywhere you see swirling merry-go-rounds, sizzling sausages, sparkling souvenirs, and incredibly appetizing gingerbread. Its scent simply knocks you off your feet. What ingredients could it consist of?
“Flour, nuts, cinnamon, vanilla, clove, coriander, scented pepper, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, and the secret ingredient — love,” explained the gingerbread seller to his young customers.
He was an old man with a beard, and his gingerbread was the most delicious in town. Thomas and Emma, two children of about ten years old, knew that very well.
“Thomas, Emma, could you do me a favor?” said the old man to the children. “I have a basket of gingerbread here. Could you please carry it to St. Anna orphanage? I do it every Christmas, and the kids just love it! But this year I am so busy and need help.”
“Well, sure, no problem,” answered Thomas and took the basket.
“Thank you so much! You are kind-hearted, and I will give you something in return.” The old man searched for something in his pockets and took out a flute.
“This is a magic flute from the House of Wishes. Its music has the power to fix anything that needs to be fixed. You just need to play it,” the man stretched out his hand and gave the flute to the children.
Thomas and Emma exchanged glances. They were both interested and confused.
“Thank you for such a nice present, but… well, isn’t the House of Wishes just a fairy-tale?” asked Emma shyly.
The old man did not answer, only smiled mysteriously.
The children politely thanked him and went away through the bustling Christmas market.
“House of Wishes! This man believes in fairy-tales. Maybe he also believes that Hansel and Gretel really existed and spilled bread crumbs in the wood to find their way home,” said Thomas, grinning.
“Oh, Hansel and Gretel! That’s my favorite fairy-tale!” said Emma.
She suddenly stopped, grabbed Thomas’s sleeve, and lowered her voice to whisper, pointing to an old saleswoman.
“Look, look, it’s the witch from that fairy-tale!”
“Remember the witch who wanted to eat Hansel and Gretel and invited them to her house made of sweets? I always imagined her to look exactly like that woman.”
The old saleswoman had a crooked nose, a stringy black hair, and a witch-like stick. She noticed the children and her golden teeth glinted in a sly smile.
“Nonsense!” laughed Thomas. “First, they baked the witch in the oven, and second, fairy-tales are not real.”
“Ok, ok, I know it’s nonsense. It’s just that the fairy-tale impressed me so much. And not only me. Did you know that Hansel’s and Gretel’s bread crumbs gave the name to the term for websites? Breadcrumbs help website users find their way.”
“Nice comparison, but websites are not woods. If they were it would be interesting to walk through a very thick one,” laughed Thomas.
“All you imagine can come true,” said the strange woman in a squeaky and witchy voice. “Come to my tent, children, I have plenty of cakes and candy.”
“Run!” Emma grabbed Thomas’ arm, and they escaped hurriedly.
“Bad children! You will regret your impolite behavior! What you have just imagined will come true in the worst possible way!” screamed the woman and shook her stick.
...They ran and ran and felt like falling somewhere. Suddenly they found themselves in a thick wood full of heavy snow.
“What a twist! Where are we? I never knew there was a wood near the town,” wondered Thomas, shaking off snow from his coat.
“Me neither,” whispered Emma in surprise.
“St. Anna orphanage is just a few streets away from the Christmas market, and we promised to bring this basket there,” Thomas scratched his head. “But first we need to get out of here.”
They walked through the wood and their feet squeaked in the deep snow. The wood was getting thicker and thicker. They were freezing.
Suddenly they bumped into a huge snowdrift that blocked their way.
“We can’t pass,” said Thomas desperately. The cold wind was strengthening.
“Look, there are letters written on the snow. They say “Error 403. Access denied,” noticed Emma.
Thomas and Emma looked at each other, astonished.
“So is this strange wood really is a website?”
“I’m afraid, yes. The witch must have charmed us,” sighed Thomas.
“Oh, what to do? I’m so scared and cold,” cried Emma.
Thomas put his frozen hands in his pockets and found the flute.
“What did the old man say? ‘It’s a magic flute from the House of Wishes whose music fixes anything that needs to be fixed.’ Maybe we could try to play it?” Thomas said with hope.
And he pressed the flute to his lips. First it was hard to make any sound, because of the cold. But then the quiet and beautiful music came. It sounded like everything would be fine soon.
Birds fluttered up the old, snow-covered fir-trees. And suddenly the huge snowdrift began to disappear! When the road was completely clear, the amazed children freely ran forward.
On and on they went, until they came to a hill with stairs. On top of it, sat Owl in glasses who held a register. The Owl said to them:
“Hello there, children! If you don’t tell me your names, you can’t pass.”
“Hello. No problem. My name is Thomas and this is Emma.”
“Ok, I allow you to climb one step higher.”
The children climbed one step up the stairs.
“Now your last names... Your address.... Your age… Your dog’s favorite food...Your music teacher’s middle name...”
They were climbing higher and higher up the hill until suddenly the Owl exclaimed “Error! Wrong answer! Start from the beginning!” and waved her wing.
The children came stumbling down from the hill together with their basket. Luckily, the gingerbread was carefully wrapped in a cloth, so it was not scattered.
“Doesn’t that remind you of complex registration forms on some websites?” whispered Emma to Thomas as they got up to their feet. “When you have answered many boring questions, you have to start over again because of some strange error.”
“You are right! But I think I know the solution,” Thomas took out the flute from the House of Wishes and began to play.
“Ok, ok,” grumbled the Owl when she heard the music. “I don’t really need to know so much information about you. Dear Thomas and Emma, you are welcome.” The children ran up the hill laughing happily.
On and on they went. It was dark, and the snowy paths were getting more and more tangled. Finally they came to an old squeaky road sign. It pointed in three directions: “Witch’s House”, “Woodman’s Cabin,” and “Enchanted Swamp.”
“Wow, what great choices!” said Thomas. “Let’s quickly go to the Woodman’s Cabin and ask for a cup of hot tea.”
The road sign squeaked and began to rotate. What had been the road to the Woodman’s Cabin, now pointed to the Witch’s House. The children heard an evil laughter in the midst of the wood. Then the sign rotated again.
“Absolutely unclear where to go. I think this resembles poor navigation on some websites,” said Thomas.
“It’s not funny. I’m afraid the magic flute will not work. It’s too dark and scary here,” said Emma. The road sign kept rotating and squeaking, and the evil laughter kept sounding.
“Well, let’s try anyway!” Thomas took out the flute and played it with all strength.
The magic music filled the wood. The road sign rotated for the last time and stopped. It clearly pointed to the Woodman’s Cabin path. All trees turned their branches in the same direction. The birds chirped and flew in that direction as well, inviting the children to follow. And they did.
In just a few minutes, Thomas and Emma reached the glade with the Woodman’s Cabin. But there was something strange going on there.
Robbers with black masks on their faces were stealing things from the cabin. They were dragging sacks with potatoes, bundles of firewood, books, a box with coins, and other goods.
The children hid themselves behind the bushes and watched this.
“If we are on a website, these are hackers!” whispered Emma with her eyes widely open.
“Maybe the flute can help?” Thomas reached into his pocket.
“Wait!” Emma grabbed his hand. “They will notice us!”
“But we have to do something!” Thomas played the flute.
When the magic music started, all the goods flew from the hackers’ hands back to the cabin. The doors and windows got closed. Modern locks and security shutters appeared on them. The hackers saw it all and ran away scared and disappointed.
At this moment, the Woodman returned from his walk and was very surprised and happy.
“I always dreamed of a better security!” he exclaimed.
“This is the magic from the House of Wishes,” replied the children.
“Come on in and let’s have some tea,” he said, opening the doors with his new keys. “And then I will help you get home in my sleigh.”
“We need to get to St. Anna orphanage first and bring them this basket of gingerbread.”
“No problem!” replied the Woodman. “I will get you there.”
The tea was tasty, the Cabin was warm, and the Woodman’s sleigh was fast as it carried them through the snow to their destination...
…”Emma, wake up, sleepy head! Thomas is here already and wants to take you to the Christmas market,” said Emma’s mother’s voice.
Emma opened her eyes. The wood, the witch, the flute, and everything else had been just a dream.
But we’ll tell you a secret — the House of Wishes exists for real. Your wishes get accepted here. You know, websites often have many problems that their owners do not know of.
Do not make your website users struggle through the woods ;) Let the House of Wishes take care of it and fix everything that needs to be fixed!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!