I’ve just been granted the privilege of translating a new children’s book by Yulia Spiridonova.with wonderful illustrations by Penko Gelev. Be My Friend tells the story of a little lonely bush frog whose froggy companions have shunned him because of his pimply appearance. So he leaves his bog to seek anyone who might need him and so become his friend. His journey leads to encounters with a series of magical creatures – a self infatuated nymph, a covetous goblin, a blood-thirsty three headed lamia, a thunder dragon and a woodland white witch. Drawing on figures from Bulgarian folklore this is a magical tale for 4-8 year olds.
Here’s part of his encounter with a Lamia:
The little bush frog left the forest. The path became more and more rocky and steep, until in the end it just gave out. It stopped in front of a great black hole.
“A cave,” observed the little frog, “Here’s where I can rest.
It was warm and dry in the cave. The little frog gathered some moss, made up a soft bed for himself and dozed. His dreams were disturbed, made up of only horrid things. Huge eyes – at least six of them, slowly came closer and closer… a hot breath enveloped the little frog till he jerked in fright and jumped up.
Oh horrors. Three pairs of eyes were indeed gazing at him, glittering over three sharp toothed mouths. The eyes stared at the little frog, without blinking, and the sharp teeth clicked malevolently.
The little frog fainted and when he came to, two of the heads had retreated a little, but the third remained the same close up.
“S-s-strange f-f-fellow,” hissed the first head.
“Sh-shall we cons-sume him,” asked the second head.
“No he’s-s s-small, jus-st a tiny s-snack,” observed the third.
“We des-sire this s-snack!” cried the other heads.
Couldn’t the little frog have escaped while the heads were quarreling? The cave’s entrance was close by, through it light was pouring. The little frog gathered his strength and jumped. In the same moment a heavy tail pinned him back on the floor.
“Where were you s-s-setting out for? You wouldn’t want to es-scape from the Lamia?” asked the first head in a tone that was meant to sound mild.
So was this the Lamia? The cruel merciless and forever hungry Lamia. The little frog had heard many horrifying stories about her.
“I…I mean to say …I was just going to take myself off,” he whispered.
“You’re not taking yours-s-self off anywhere,” proclaimed the second head.
The third head just stared at him, but stared so hard that the little frog froze.
“What s-s-sort of creature are you in fact?” asked the first head.
“I’m a bush frog. I lived in the bog, but no-one wanted me there.”
“Bush-sh-sh lives in a marsh-sh,” murmured the second head. “Doesn’t sound tasty at all.”
“I’m not tasty in the least,” the little frog piped up hopefully. “I just want to be useful to somebody.
“You’re us-seful to us-s, For lunch,” the third head polished her teeth.
The heads hung over the little frog who closed his eyes in terror. Suddenly a banging echoed through the cave.
“Who’s-s knocking jus-st at lunch time?”
The monster slithered towards the bottom of the cave, but sadly her tail still barred the entrance.
At the bottom, there was a large iron door and someone was knocking at it.
“Open up Lamia! Open up and be quick about it,” the little frog could hear horrid champing voices which sent shivers down his spine.
“Demons from the lower world,” murmured the heads. “What do you want, tres-spas-s-sers?”
“We want to take a stroll in Middle-earth,” gabbled the voices.
Extract from Yulia’s novel for teenagers in which a malevolent photoshop-type programme enables a teenager to manipulate her body shape:
No! I’m not looking in the mirror! No way. No-one looks good after a whole night of crying. I’ll give the teeth a quick brush and…whoa, what’s this? My face slimmed down, no double chin, cheeks gone too. If I’d only known that crying slims you down, I’d boo-hoo every day at least an hour by the stopwatch.
I can’t get enough of myself. I’m looking fabulous!
Yeah and… ? So what if my face is beautiful? I’m still the same old tub of lard-
I look like a whale, beached in the shallows.
Hang on a sec! What’s going on here?
Where are my pudgy arms? Where are my puffy shoulders, saggy breasts? I lift my pyjama top, well now stand back for the fleshy flood. What! Where’s the pastry gone! Wow, OMG! I’ve got a waist! A real waist, people!
And my tummy? Flat, firm, with a perfect belly button – not that crater like I’ve poked a finger in the dough.
I must have gone cuckoo. I’m ill. I lean against the wall, but my legs give way and I flump down on the edge of the bath. My gigantic bum can scarcely keep purchase, my thighs overflow.
My face is finely chiseled and beautiful. My bod is perfect. I lift my pyjama top a little – yes, super, mega-perfect!
But only from the waist up.
I dash towards Mum and Dad’s room, because there’s no mirror in my room and never will be. Ever!
I blink, then I peer out of one eye. OMG! No, this can’t be true! From my waist up I’m like a swimwear model. The rest below the waist is the same as always – gigantic bum, fleshy thighs and legs like logs.
Oh! What a freak! I look worse even than from before.
Before, at least I had an all-in body. Now I’m a fabulous chick upstairs and an overfed seal downstairs.
OMG! I look like a freak mermaid!
So what now? What do I do?
I must have gone down with something. I’ve picked up some death dealing virus, that’s drinking me bit by bit.
Crap like this always happens to me, why!