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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



Language level

Intermediate: B1


I like this stories, It reminds me my grandmother when she was alive. She normally tells a stories like the one above.

I can't remember stories that have been told when I was a kid. Maybe because my mom or my grandma never tell any story at all.

It's a beatiful story. The time of childhood is some time so difficult. They have to make cat speak and make up a lot of stuff about the world they are living for became their life more livable and the loneliness less hard.
Huge writter Chris Rose.


I would like to receive some more information about the writer. When did he write this story? When and where was he born?

Kind regards, Nils

Hi again Nils,

This story was written in 2009, or perhaps before. You can find out more about Chris Rose here and here. If you like his writing, there are other stories (e.g. Two Peas in a Pod) of his in this section, and he also wrote the Big City Small World series.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

when i read this story i feel like i am a little girl, thanks

in my country, we do not celebrate Hallowe'en.. it is true that for some years now..all the shops became full of different hallowe'en stuff in this period of the year.....but it is not a is more of an american event that was imported by the rest of the world

What an amazing story! This kid and his cat are interesting characters. I feel like a child when I read stories similar to this one. I remember when I was a kid my mother was reading books and poems for me. I heard it many times so I learnd it by heart and sometimes recited something for my mom.

I think Hallowe'en is espcial night which kids wears something looke like ghosts!.
as we know people are not same they have different culture, so as Somalian we don't know Hallowe'en but we have some stories like "king of pumpkins"
this story named "dhag dheer" - long ears
onece upone time there was woman called 'dhag dheer' long ears, she was cannbil, she has one daugher, a day she said "my daugher i'm going to bring us sheep and boy, so heat the water" the daugher take her mother's order. after few time two girls come to the dougher and demanded for some water, she gave them and told the girs her mother is cannibal if the go, her mother can meet onthe way, she said " we have many rooms so both of you hide in last one and cover this gress, my mother will come the she will sleep, and don't come out untill her ear falt down because when she sleeps her ears falt down" they accepted and done.
Dhag dheer came with sheep and said " i'm so tired cook for us, but i'm feeling human smell! what are hiding for me?" "nothing, mother are you ging to eat for me today? no one else is hear" said the daughter
"ok cook for us i'm going to sleep" said the mother.
Dhag dheer slept her ears faldown. the girls came out, they poured the hot water through her ear, and she dead.
the girls came out with saying Dhag dheer is dead and the earth is peace!

Maria killherself because she felt dissapointment about everybody. She tried to talk with the persons but nobody listened to her, he passed for too many betrayals, and maybe she had problems with the persons because the was kind of stabborn, she always wanted to have reason in everything. She killherself in the restroom from her room, so the leaguend says that if you go to the house, you can hear her crying and yelling, don't try it, she can blow up and black you down! It is advisable to back down! I reccomend dont play the brave, and let her away!
Changing the subject, the story or tale called "King of the Pumpkins" was a little difficult to grasp! Maybe is because I tried to do the task without read the story, only listening but it's question to keep practising my listening. One sentence that appealed to me was when the kid say: ¿Whats is the different among a history and story? It could be that one is real and the other not.. It's true, but the stories can let you a message as well!