When my nephew says ‘tell me a story’ my brain gives me things like this. 99% of the time I don’t remember them for long enough to commit them to paper but I guess that Sniz, Brooble, Helmut and the other inhabitants of Abagavaria wanted to take their place in the world.
I didn’t set out to tell a tale about ethical fashion but that definitely ended up being the central theme. I don’t set out to make my stories magical either but they always are. That’s just how I see the world.
So I introduce Helmut of Abagavaria. It might keep the kids (or you) occupied for half an hour!
In the wilds of Abagavaria it is incredibly cold. Helmut is a clothing maker, who makes wonderful, warm, snuggly coats for the people that live there. He is so good at making coats that many years ago, other people who lived nearby started coming to him and asking him to teach them how to make coats too. In that way, Helmut got his first employees.
The names of these employees were Sniz, Brooble and Gilespie. Helmut was a great teacher and they were fast learners, so they picked up coat making very quickly. The first year they worked together, Helmut was able to make many more coats than he ever had on his own. The people of Abagavaria bought them all up very quickly so, that winter, everyone stayed well wrapped up against the cold.
The next year more people came along and asked, “Helmut, can we join your clothing company? Would you teach us how to make these fine coats?”
Helmut thought about how to answer this question. He considered that Abagavaria is a small place, far away from the nearest towns and cities and very, very cold, so not many people live there.
“I am sorry,” he said, “but I have just enough people to make just the right amount of coats for everyone in our land. If you joined my company, we would make more coats than we could sell. I am afraid that I cannot give you jobs.”
“Oh but Helmut,” they said, “there aren’t many jobs in our frozen land and you are one of the richest employers in the area. Isn’t there anything we can do for you and your business?”
He thought about this question too. Eventually he said, “Well, the people wear my coats to go out but I they need to stay warm when they are at home too. Perhaps this year we could make pyjamas, as well as coats. You could help me to make those. So yes, come and work with me. You start tomorrow.” That is how the pyjama making department of Helmut’s Clothing Manufacture, Abagavaria was born.
Everybody loved the new clothes, as much as they loved the coasts. In fact, that year everybody in Abagavaria bought a pair of pyjamas. However, not one person bought a coat. You see, the previous year the team had made enough to go around. So everybody already had a coat. At the end of the season, the team had sold every pair of pyjamas but the shop was still full of unsold coats.
“Our coats are so good that they last a lifetime,” Brooble said to his boss one day.
“People just don’t need new ones. What they need are socks. Feet don’t stay warm for long in the wild Abagavarian weather.”
“Brooble is right,” said Gilespie, “Every day as I walk to work my feet get as cold as the ice and they stay cold all day. Let’s make the people some warm, fine quality socks.”
“And warm hats to match!” added Sniz.
Everybody agreed with this plan and began designing the new products. This year, when people turned up and asked Helmut for jobs, he confidently hired them, knowing that there was lots of work to go around.
Then he promoted the longest serving members of his team, to help him look after the new employees. Brooble became head of the sock department. Gilespie became head of the pyjama department and Sniz became head of hats.
At the end of that year everybody in Abagavaria added a hat and a few pairs of socks to their wardrobe. The richest people bought an extra pair of pyjamas but Abagavaria isn’t a rich place, so most people could not afford to do this and anyway, the pj’s they bought last year were still just as good as new. So now, piles of unsold pyjamas added to the stock of unsold coats from the year before.
Helmut was worried. The money that customers paid for the clothes was used to pay the people who made them and to buy new material, to make the next year’s stock. Unsold pyjamas meant there was less money to make more and less money to pay Gilespie and his pyjama department.
Again, new people knocked on the door asking for jobs.
“I am sorry but I cannot offer you jobs,” said Helmut, “Our clothes are good quality, so people buy one or two of everything and then don’t need any more. Our land is small and now everybody has a coat, pyjamas, socks and a hat. They don’t need anything else from us and I haven’t got enough money to pay the team I already have.”
“But Helmut,” said one of the people, “You are still one of the wealthiest employers in Abagavaria, surely you can afford to pay us to do something. And besides, we all need boots.”
“That’s right,” said Gilespie, “Brooble’”s socks keep people’s feet warm but only if they have good boots. It isn’t easy to get boots all the way out here in the wild lands. Maybe this year my team could make boots instead of pyjamas.”
Everybody agreed that this was a fantastic idea.
Helmut confidently hired the new people for Gilespie’s team. When Helmut looked into how to boots are made, he discovered that it is a process requiring lots of skills and energy, so he made a big decision. This year, everyone in the company would make boots. Between them, they could make enough for every person in Abagavaria.
Everyone in Helmut’s employ had been taught by the very best clothing maker in the land. They did only the very best quality work. By the end of the year, their shop was filled with the very best boots that anyone had ever worn. Every person in Abagavaria bought a pair.
Now it was time to consider the next year. Helmut looked at the people of Abagavaria and realised that there was nothing else they needed from him and his team. The clothes and boots they had already bought would keep them warm for many wild winters yet. Parents might buy a few new items as their children grew out of the old ones but that wouldn’t bring in enough to pay everyone’s wages. Besides, in Abagavaria, where things were hard to come by and people valued their possessions, most people would swap or sell the clothes that their children had grown out of.
By now Helmut was modestly wealthy. He could close the factory and live comfortably enough but he employed more people than anyone else in Abagavaria. They might not need his clothes this year but what they did need from him were their jobs. So Helmut ordered the materials and the team began working hard once more, making boots.
Helmut was very worried about who would buy the boots this year but he had trust in his team and in their products. Besides, all he could do was to pay his people well for a good day’s work, while he had the money to do so. He told himself that things would work out.
Once again, the team worked hard all year. When the job was done they gathered in the shop that was still full of coats and pyjamas and they filled it full of this year’s boots. Then they opened the doors.
By the end of the day, not a single pair of boots had been sold. Two weeks went by. Every day the team opened the shop in the morning and every day they closed it again in the evening. In between, they sold nothing.
People came to tell the team how much they loved the clothes and boots they had bought from them last year and in the years before that. “They are such fine quality,” said one woman, “That one of everything will last me for a lifetime. If only the whole world knew that the best clothing could be found here in Abagavaria, every pair of boots would practically march out by themselves!”
When the time came to buy next year’s stock there was very little money.
“I am worried that I will run out of money to pay you all,” said Helmut.
“I am worried that I will run out of money for food if that happens,” said Brooble. Most of the team agreed that they were worried about this as well.
“I am not worried at all,” said Sniz, “Every year we have had to think of new ideas to bring money in. Every year we have worked as a team and just that. This year we will do it again! There are more people on our team than there have ever been. I know that someone will have the answer.”
This made a few people smile. Then the room went quiet. People began to think. Eventually the newest member of the team, a young woman called Adele, whispered something so quietly that only the person right next to her could hear it.
“Please speak up Adele,” Helmut encouraged her. “You have been brave enough to break the silence and I appreciate that very much. I would dearly love to hear what you have to say.”
“Well,” offered Adele, just loud enough, this time, for everyone to hear, “I have heard that there are a great many people beyond the wilds of Abagavaria. I have faith that our boots will find every person that needs a pair, no matter how far away they are. I don’t have an idea to offer you but I do have great faith in the work we do here and great faith in our boots.”
“So do I,” said the man standing beside her. The words spread through the room until every member of the team had repeated them.
Helmut felt very moved. A warm sensation filled his body and tears welled up in his eyes. As they did, he felt hands on either side of him grab his own. He looked down to see that the whole team was holding hands. Lots of eyes were glistening with tears. He knew that between them they had created a special kind of magic.
“Ok then, we will leave the doors to our shop open and have faith that our boots will find their way to everyone that needs them,” he said. And he smiled a smile filled with love and gratitude.
No sooner had he said these words than something very peculiar happened. Everyone who had been holding hands was forced to let them go, when hundreds of pairs of boots jumped down from the shelves and marched out of the shop’s open doors, all on their own!
Helmut dove to the ground and grabbed the nearest pair but they shook him off easily and ran away. All over the shop, the same was happening to other people. People grabbed and dove for the boots but the boots wriggled and kicked themselves free. They were unstoppable. Within a few short minutes, they were all gone.
Helmut dropped to his knees and cried. They had put their faith in their boots and their boots had deserted them, or so he thought.
When they heard what had happened, the people of Abagavaria felt just as despondent as Helmut. Even those who did not work at the factory had seen the boots marching all over town and disappearing into the forests beyond. They knew that, without those boots, their friends and loved ones who worked with Helmut would no longer have jobs.
What the people of Abagavaria did not see is where the boots went. Cut off from the rest of the world by miles and miles of wild lands, the people did not see the boots march themselves across the whole country and spread out throughout the entire world.
Being the finest boots ever made, nothing could stop them. They climbed mountains, trekked deserts and even walked across the bottom of the ocean, surfacing as good as new in foreign lands. Pair by pair, they found their way to everyone who needed them most, wherever those people were.
Poor people on remote mountain tops opened their doors the next morning to find wonderful boots for the whole family waiting on their doorstep.
People on long and difficult journeys, whose soles had worn thin, found pairs waiting next to their tents. In other places, people awoke and opened their curtains to see the boots marching into town.
Some people thought the boots were a gift from God. Others wondered who had bought them such a useful, warm, comfortable present. All saw the stamp on the bottom of the boots that read Helmut”s Clothing Manufacture, Abagavaria. Most had never even heard of the place before.
One person who saw the boots march into her village was Trimandia. Curious, Trimandia followed a pair and watched them stop next to a homeless gentleman, who delightedly donned them right away, dropping his old, worn trainers into the nearest bin.
She returned home, with the rain coming in through the holes in her own shoes, and was thrilled to find a pair on her doorstep.
Trimandia worked for the local newspaper. She immediately wrote and filed a story about Helmut’s Clothing Manufacture, Abagavaria and the magical boots that the company had gifted to her town.
She wasn’t alone. All over the world news reporters wrote the same story. Pretty soon the boots had made Abagavaria very famous indeed. Of course, out in the wild lands, the people of Abagavaria had no idea.
That was until, one morning, someone knocked on Helmut’s door. He opened it sadly, expecting to find more people asking him for jobs that he could not offer. Instead, standing on his driveway, he found a large group of people; each one was holding either a television camera, a microphone or a notepad.
One of them was Trimandia. “Are you the Helmut of Abagavaria, who sent us your magic boots?” she asked. Everybody else wanted to know the same thing.
Helmut was confused. He stepped outside to see cars and even helicopters that had travelled across the wild lands, bringing this crowd of people to see him.
People began handing Helmut newspaper articles they had written. Pretty soon he had read lots and lots of reports of his boots finding their way to people all over the world. The stories contained pictures of the boots marching into towns in countries he had never even heard of.
Clutching several of the newspapers he ran, as fast as his old legs would carry him, to his shop, with the world’s media running behind.
He found the shop full of people and the shelves empty of stock. It wasn’t only people from the media that had travelled to Abagavaria. People who loved their boots had made the journey to find out what other fine clothing Helmut and his team had for sale and they had brought their friends. All of the coats and pyjamas that had sat on the shelves for years had been sold!
Sniz, Brooble and Gilespie stood behind the till with broad, beaming smiles on their faces.
“This is more people than Abagavaria has ever seen,” said Brooble!
“And that’s not the best part,” said Gilespie, “Some of our boots found their way to people so poor they had never owned anything so fine. They wrote to us to say thank you, from the bottom of their hearts.”
Helmut’s eyes filled with tears, as Gilespie handed him a huge pile of letters,
“And some of the boots found their way to very rich people,” said Brooble, “Some were so touched that they sent us two, three or even four times the price that we usually charge for a pair! Others sent us orders for more pairs for their friends and families.”
“Then the business is saved!” cried Helmut.
And so, Abagavaria celebrated. They threw a huge party for the visiting customers and the journalists that had made them famous. Then they celebrated by doing what they loved and working together to make more of the finest clothing and boots the world has ever seen.