King of the pumpkins

'Deep in the middle of the woods,' said my mother, 'is the place where the king of the pumpkins lives.' A young boy and his cat try and find out what, if anything, is true about his mother's stories.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the story and do the exercises.

'Deep in the middle of the woods,' said my mother, 'is the place where the king of the pumpkins lives.'

'But pumpkins live in fields, not in forests,' I said to my mother.

She wouldn't listen to me. 'I'm telling you,' she said, 'the king of the pumpkins lives in the middle of the woods and the woods that he lives in are the woods right next to our house, the woods you can see out of the window over there.' She pointed with her hand to the woods that were, in fact, just outside the window behind our house. 'He doesn't live in a field like the other pumpkins,' continued mother, 'because he's not an ordinary pumpkin. He's the King Pumpkin.'

I shut up and decided to believe her, like you do when you're a kid. Firstly, I knew that it wasn't worth arguing with my mother. She always won. Secondly, when you're a kid, you always believe what grown-ups tell you, no matter how stupid it is. Like Santa Claus and stuff like that. Kids always believe it, even though they know it's stupid.

Still, I decided to go and find the king of the pumpkins, partly because I was bored, partly because I was curious, and also – of course – because I wanted to know if my mother really was talking nonsense or not.

Mother often talked nonsense, I have to say that. There was the time she told me that the moon was made of cheese. I knew that was nonsense. Then there were all the stories she told me. Stories about frogs, princesses, princes and shoes. Stories about donkeys and unicorns, gnomes and elves, magic mirrors and magic cooking pots. Stories about why the stars are exactly the way they are, why the river that runs through our town has the name that it has, stories about where the sun comes from, why the sky is so far away and why the elephant has a long trunk.

Some of these stories, I think, might have been true. I was never sure, and it was difficult to find out. This time, though, with this story about the king of the pumpkins, it was going to be easy to find out if she was telling the truth or not.

Some people used to call my mother a witch, but I knew that she wasn't a witch. Just a bit strange perhaps. And she used to talk nonsense. Perhaps it was also because of the black cat we had. People say that witches always have black cats, and we had a black cat. But Mog wasn't a witch's cat. He was just a regular black cat. Mog could talk, though, I have to say that. Perhaps that isn't so regular in a cat, now I think about it.

Anyway, I was telling you about the time I went to find the king of the pumpkins. I set off with Mog the cat into the woods to look for the king of the pumpkins. Even though we'd lived in that house near the woods all my life, I had never gone into the middle of the woods. This was the first time. I was glad I had Mog with me. I was a bit scared, even though I didn't really think that the king of the pumpkins lived there.

'Watch out for the wolves!' said Mog.

'Yes … and the grandmothers too!' I joked.

'Let's not leave the path!' said Mog.

When people said my mother was a witch, I told them that witches don't have children. 'Yeah,' they replied, 'that's true. But you look more like an elf than a regular kid.' I looked in the mirror to see if I looked like an elf or not. I think I looked like a regular kid, but you never can tell really.

'Do you think he's real?' I asked Mog.

'Who, the wolf? He certainly is,' replied Mog.

'No, not the wolf. I know the wolf is real,' I said to Mog. Sometimes I could hear the wolf howling at night. I knew he was real. 'No, not the wolf. The king of the pumpkins. Do you think he's real?'

'Don't know,' said the cat. 'Guess we'll just have to find out.'

We walked on into the forest. The trees got taller and taller and taller. The path got narrower and narrower and narrower.

'What does he do, then, this king of the pumpkins?' asked Mog.

'I don't know really,' I said. 'I guess he just kind of is head pumpkin, boss pumpkin. He decides on pumpkin rules and pumpkin laws, and punishes people who break them.'

'Oh, I see,' said Mog. He was quiet for a bit, then said, 'What kind of things are pumpkin rules then?'

'Erm, how big you can grow. What colour you have to be. Stuff like that.'

'You're making this up, aren't you?' asked Mog.

'Yeah,' I said.

Eventually, we got to the middle of the forest. At least, I think it was the middle of the forest, but it's difficult to say exactly. There was a clearing, a big space where there were no trees. In the middle of the clearing was the king of the pumpkins.

At least, I think it was the king of the pumpkins. It looked like a man at first. He was quite tall and had legs and arms made from sticks. He was wearing an old black coat. His head was a pumpkin. His head was the biggest pumpkin I had ever seen.

Me and Mog went up close to him. He didn't say anything.

'Is that it?' asked Mog.

'I guess so,' I said.

'Disappointing,' said Mog.

'Do you think he's the real king of the pumpkins?' I asked Mog.

'Who knows?' replied the cat.

As we walked back along the path out of the forest, I started to think about what was real and what was not. Could things that were made up also be true? What was the difference between 'story' and 'history'? One is real and the other isn't – is that it?

'What about all those other things that Mother talks about? Do you think they're real?' I asked Mog.

'Hmm … I'm not sure,' said Mog. 'Those stories she tells sometimes … about why the night is black and the day is blue, about golden eggs and girls with golden hair, about why people have ten fingers, ten toes, two feet, two hands and two eyes … Sometimes I think she's crazy, and sometimes I think she might be right …'

I knew what Mog meant. I felt the same way. 'Perhaps the stories aren't true,' I said, 'but what they mean is.'

Chris Rose

Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.


Worksheet100.04 KB

Language level

My parents told the story that may be true.I get more knowledge and know what to do or don't.I think some story may be true or false.Some of them make me pleasant.
My mother didn’t tell me stories like that. I remember that we went to the local library where I could read amazing stories. Now, I have two children and We read stories together. I try to transmmit the love for books.
Really I like this store. When I was reading this story I felt I can improve my English. So I would like to learn more vocabulary.
Even though my mother told me nonsense stories, I was believe when I was young. Now I miss my mother and her stories. She left me for fourteen years. I really remember her after reading this story. I admire everyone who still has got mother.
I can barely remember them. When I was a child, they used to tell me lots of stories. I was also inquisitive and crazy about the stories. I usually slept with them so they told me a lot. The result is that I was fond of listening to what they made-up such as where the rain come from, and where the rainbow is drinking water. When I grow up, I find out that is totally ridiculous. However, I still love of listening to them but now, not stories, about their experiences.
The only stories that I can remember from my parents were bible issues. I think that telling stories to kids is good because it blows their imagination and it’s better than spending a lot of time on tv or video games.. On two occasions I have read stories to my nephew although he doesn't like it a lot because he prefers play, I could see how in those occasions he pays attention and starts to imagine the stories.
When i was child, my family, parent's and grandparents, did not invent story like that for me. They usually read classic story from book's. Evan so, my imagination was provoked to all sorts of fantastic events. It is a period from our life when everything is possible, when all the world is yours, when all are ever ending. Now, i'm 50 years. Now i had a different perspective regarding the world. Just one example : covid-19. But i'm sure we'll pass through pandemic crisis well . Everything will be fine. Let's be positive, let's have positive attitude .
My grandmother narrated many interesting stories to me when i was a child. I remember we lied on the terrace at night. She showed me important stars and planets in the sky. She showed me scorpion zodiac and saptrishi ( seven stars that move around pole stars). As a result I can recognise them today. Often she narrated stories from Ramayan and MahaBharat, sometimes general. Some of them have had a deep effect on my mind. They made me compassionate and kind. I remember story of a poor child Mohan. Mohan went to school thru forest everyday. He was afraid to go thru forest so mother asked him to chant name of Krishna. Because of Mohans trust, Krishna came, play and escort him. One day teacher asks all disciples to bring a pot of curds for the community lunch. Boy's mother cannot give him pot of curds. While going thru forest Krishna gives him a small pot. After reaching the school everybody laughs at Mohan seeing the size of the pot of curds he braught. Mohan gets upset with his friend Krishna for giving small pot. When Mohan pours curds from his pot the pot gets automatically filled again. The miracle continues till the big vessel is full of curds. All children see in awe. Mohan is now happy. When friends ask Mohan who gave pot to him. Mohan speaks the truth and says he can take all to meet Krishna. They go to forest Mohan calls Krishna. Krishna comes but only Mohan can see him not others. Mohan could see Krishna and get HIS love because he was clean hearted and kind. I always liked these stories. Some stories were from Panchtantra. I narrated and read aloud Panchtantra stories to my children when they were young. I ask them to read these stories even now. These stories teach you the lessons of life. Some are very famous. Few to list are : Ranga Siyar ( colored jackal), Crow and swan , Hare and the Lion, Monkey and the king. Every story has a teaching in the end they are not just the stories.
My parents just had a few stories to tell me when I was a child. I don't remember those stories now, I just have an image of them. I even don't remember what was them about, I insisted my parents told them again and again. When I was a child I liked to hear magical stories, stories about witches and magic, I wanted to live in a magical world, believe it or not I still enjoy of living in a magical world, escape of this boring and repititious world that I'm stuck in. My parent's stories wasn't exactly the thing I wanted, but my brother had some English short books it was all about magic. He read those stories for me and I was really enjoying of hearing them. so when I became about 11 years old I started to write my own stories. I invented some magical stories and read them for my sister. Actually no one intrested on my stories more than myself, But now I even don't remember my stories. Anyway I still enjoy of watching magical movies , series or reading stories about magic and witches like "Harry Potter" or "Stranger things".