Ilja and Anja
PERPLEX CITY, SEASON TWO
Ilja and Anja passed through the reeds of the swamp, hand in hand, searching for a home and a family. One day, they discovered they had become terrible lost amond the reeds and were unable to return to the dryer lands from which they had come. The swamp was dank and teeming with eels and biting insects, and the children suffered mightily.
They soon discovered a sparkle beneath the muddy waters, and Anja bent to retrieve a precious gemstone. 'It is of no use to us,' said Ilja. 'We can neither eat it nor will it keep us warm and dry.' But Anja slipped the gemstone into her pocket, for she knew it might someday be useful.
Not long after, the children came upon a frog-catcher in her shallow boat. The frog-catcher was cursing the heavens and pushing aside the reeds, as though she had lost something of great significance to her. Ilja rightly presumed that the frog-catcher had lost the precious gemstone that Anja carried in her pocket.
'Mistress Frog-Catcher, we believe we have that which you have lost,' Ilja told her. 'We would happily return it to you, but in exchange, we beg that you take us in your boat to the edge of the swamp.'
The frog-catcher readily agreed to this exchange, a wide smile upon her face. 'First, let me be sure you have what I have lost,' she said, and held her hand out for the precious gemstone. But once Anja had placed it in her hand, the frog-catcher pushed away with her pole, saying only, 'Thieving orphans, I owe you nothing.'
Little Anja wept; and Ilja called after the frog-catcher and bade her most bitterly: 'Remember, now, that you did not keep your word, lest you someday rely on the word of another.' Then Ilja and Anja again passed through the reeds of the swamp, hand in hand, sorrowful as ever, seeking a home and a family to replace what they had lost.
Ilja and Anja wandered through the woods, hand in hand, searching for a home and a family. One day, they came upon a kindly woodsman. He saw their fearsome and lonely condition, and his heart was filled with compassion.
'You look tired and hungry,' the woodsman said. He brought them to his home and said: 'Bide here a while, children, and I will care for you.' And indeed, he fed them on thick porridge and honey, and gave them warm blankets to sleep upon. In return, he asked that Ilja help to fetch water from the well and stack cords of wood; and he asked that Anja help to bake bread and hang the laundry; and for a time, the children thought they had at last found the home they had been seeking.
The woodsman's wife, though, was a jealous sort, and feared that the woodman would never have love in his heart for his own children, should she bear any, while he had this fatherly love for Ilja and Anja. Evil thoughts burned in her mind, until finally she could stand it no longer.
One day, she deceived the woodsman and told him that she was with child when she was not. 'If we continue to provide charity for these orphan children of yours, we shall have no food nor warmth to spare for our own babe, for we are far from wealthy,' she cried. 'They myst go, or it shall surely spell the death of the child in my womb.'
It was with a heavy heart, then, that the woodsman turned Ilja and Anja out of his home, for he loved his wife and wished with all his heard to have his own family.
Sadness, though, was of little comfort to Ilja and Anja. As they returned to their path, hand in hand, little Anja wept; and Ilja turned to the woodsman and bade him most bitterly: 'Remember, now, how you treat those in need, lest you someday be in need yourself.' Then Ilja and Anja wandered back into the woods, hand in hand, sorrowful as ever, once again seeking a home and a family for their own.