Charlie was a brave little boy. So brave in fact, that all the other young kids on the playground deeply admired him for his courage. So lionhearted even that he went to bed without needing a night lamp, because he did not fear any monsters that could be hiding under his bed or in the wardrobe. “I am a big boy, I don’t need a night lamp anymore,” he would tell his mother every time she asked him if she should switch the lamp on before saying good night. Had there ever been a monster who dared coming into Charlie’s room he would have planted himself in front of the strange creature and declared: “I don’t fear you. Leave this room now, because I am Charlie, the bravest boy on the whole playground, and you will never be able to scare me.” And then the monster would go away, and be a bit sad because it was not spooky enough to scare a little boy. But no monster ever came to Charlie’s room, probably because they all knew that they would stand no chance against his courage. One day however, when Charlie was playing with his new wooden, yellow-painted digger in the sandbox with his friends, and built a beautiful and impressive castle, one of his friends asked Charlie if he was really as courageous as he always claimed. “I think you are not brave enough to walk into the dark forest and count to ten before you come back out again,” Sam claimed. “Of course, I am!” Charlie replied, feeling slightly offended that Sam did not believe he was the most courageous boy on the playground. “I will only believe you when you do it. Even you must be a little scared of the forest.” “No, I am not! I don’t fear anything, not even the deep, black forest.” The other children heard what Charlie was saying and started gathering around him, some whispering and asking if he would really do it, others shouting out Charlie’s name and telling him to prove Sam wrong. “I will even count to fifteen before I come out again,” Charlie affirmed and walked towards the forest. Sam and the other kids followed him in awe. A few yards before the forest all seven of them stopped, and all of them except for Charlie looked up at the giant trees that looked so majestic and important with all their branches and large roots that were so big they even stood out of the soil. “Kimberly told me that there are dwarves living under the trees and they use the roots to climb up into the forest to find food,” one of the girls said, holding her teddy tight. “And they have magic powers: when you see them they take you away, so you can tell nobody where the dwarves are.” “Lily, that cannot be true,” Charlie riposted, “if they made all the children disappear, how could Kimberly know that there are dwarfs?” Lily did not reply, but held her teddy tighter and looked at the forest, terrified. Charlie started walking into the forest, and all the kids starting counting aloud. 1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10… “Okay Charlie, you can come out again,” Sam shouted, getting himself a bit scared that he sent Charlie into the forest. “He said he would count to fifteen,” Lily timidly explained.
11…12…13…14…15… “Charlie you can come out now! I believe you!” Sam was very nervous now. What if there really were dwarves and they made Charlie disappear? What if Charlie got lost in the darkness of the forest?
“Charlie? Charlie come back!” All the kids starting calling his name now, but there was no sight of Charlie anywhere. Lily starting crying and hugged her teddy again. “The dwarves found him. They took Charlie away,” she sobbed. “There is no such thing as dwarfs,” Sam told Lily, but he was not really convinced that it was true. “You have to go looking for him,” Lily told him, “you sent him there, you have to go look for him.” “But if there are dwarves…” “You said you didn’t believe there were any.” “Then why doesn’t he come out by himself?” Sam thought about running home and asking his daddy to go look for Charlie in the forest. His daddy was a tall and very strong man, he could certainly fight against a dwarf. And the dwarves could not make him disappear because he wasn’t a child anymore. But then he considered it again, and decided that the other kids would make fun of him if he ran away and get help from an adult. “I will go look for him,” Sam puffed himself up, more trying to convince himself of his courage than the others. He walked into the forest, his heart beating faster with every step he took. He was terrified of the dark forest. “Charlie,” he whispered, not realising at first that Charlie would not hear him if he whispered. The thought of a dwarf noticing him when he’d hear him calling out Charlie’s name made Sam feel very afraid. But then he plucked up all his courage and called Charlie as loudly as he could. Charlie didn’t answer.
Suddenly Sam heard a rustling and thought his heart would stop beating. He turned around, and saw a squirrel hiding a nut by a strawberry bush. “Sam! Is that you? Sam!” All of a sudden Sam heard Charlie’s voice. “Sam, help me!” Sam went a bit further into the dark forest and saw Charlie lying on the ground against a tree, holding his right foot. “What happened to you? We got scared. Lily even thought a dwarf made you disappear,” Sam said, trying to hide his own fear and that he had also thought Charlie might have been magicked away. “I fell over the roots of this tree and now I can’t walk anymore. My foot hurts too much when I try to get up.” Sam helped Charlie to get up and let Charlie use him as a crutch. Together they left the forest. And from that day onward, Charlie had to share his title of being the most courageous boy on the playground with his friend Sam.