Once upon a time, [well, today, actually] the Irish king-of-all-books sent a liveried flunky to the land of the magic painting elves, announcing, with something of a flourish and a booming voice, ‘Hear ye, hear ye! A message from the king! I call on all ye little illustration-elves in your smocks of emerald green, that there be an exciting new competition to make magic paintings for the king’s children.’
‘Oh goody!’, cried all the little illustration-elves in joyous unison, merrily dancing together in their little smocks of emerald green. When they peered at the Royal Proclamation that had just been nailed to the village gibbet, they gasped in wild amaze at the the reward offered by the king, €5000 seemed an unusually high prize for an Irish king.
‘O, benevolent king!’, they all exclaimed. However, one curious little elf took a look on the reverse of the royal decree at the terms and conditions inscribed thereon. Rather than a competition, it was really an invitation to get involved in a free-pitching episode. ‘What silly-billies you are!’ exclaimed the curious little trouble-maker of an elf.
Instead of a ‘prize’ what the king means is, ‘a tiny bag of fool’s gold in return for a year’s toil’, said the curious elf. “And there’s more; The winner will get the wonderful chance of doing 70 whole original magic paintings for the gold. ‘That’s…why, that’s…just over €70 for each magic painting!’, cried one of the dazzled elves in alarm’, his innocent little face reddening.
Evening out all the magic paintings to the same size and complexity for the purposes of this bedtime story; if it took a day for each one, we’d be getting less than the village leper gets in groats and farthings thrown at him.
So it’s starting to look less like a prize now, isn’t it, children? All the little illustration-elves thought they could smell something rotten from beneath the gold. They began rummaging with their little shovels and picks like busy little elves.
And do you know what they found? They found lurking underneath, a frightened little goblin that told them that the king was going to take their birthright and all their first-born children along with the magic paintings. Well! The awful stench started to get worse and some of the elves began retching all over their smocks of emerald green.
But do you know what? they all answered the king’s call…and got royally bummed for their trouble.
[I won’t mention the publisher or book because I don’t want this endeavour to get any publicity. At all]