Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for pre-intermediate learners. The name of the story is The Boy Who Knew No Fear. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Fear. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Fear. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So, this week it’s Halloween! Woooooooooo! Scary, scary time. The thirty-first of October is Halloween, so today’s episode is a special Halloween episode. However, don’t worry. It’s not going to be super scary. I don’t like scary films, as I’ve said before, and we’ve already had some quite scary stories on the podcast. So today’s story has some ghosts and monsters but it’s more funny than scary. Actually, I think this story is very funny, if I don’t say so myself.
Halloween is a strange time of year for me, personally. It’s a very popular holiday now in the UK and many people dress up, go to parties, and go trick-or-treating. So trick-or-treating is when children dress up and visit other houses and ask for sweets or, as they say in America, candy.
When I was a child, though, my parents were always very nervous about trick-or-treating. They thought it was dangerous and they didn’t want us doing it for very long, or on our own. So when we went trick-or-treating, we usually just visited the houses on our street, which didn’t feel very exciting. I feel like there’s this idea of trick-or-treating that’s very exciting that you see in TV shows, where kids are travelling all around, and we never really had that. I don’t even remember what I dressed up as for Halloween, and I don’t know if we have any photos. So it wasn’t a big holiday with my parents. My sister always celebrated Halloween, and I think my brother did as well, but I never really went to any Halloween parties. I didn’t really like partying as a teenager, and I don’t really like partying now. So I never really enjoyed that part of Halloween, either.
So now I’m an adult, people often invite me to Halloween parties and I’m never really sure whether to go or will, you know, will I enjoy it if I do go, should I dress up, how much effort should I put into my costume. To be honest, I find it all a bit stressful, and I just remembered that I’ve been invited to a Halloween party tonight, actually! Or maybe it’s next week. No, it must be next week, because Halloween is next week. Sorry, I’m saying this on the Friday before the episode so… Anyway, I need to decide if I’m going to this party or not, I guess!
But anyway, if you are doing anything interesting for Halloween, why don’t you leave a comment at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Fear? I’d love to hear what your Halloween plans are and what you’re dressing up as. I have actually dressed up as an orc before. So an orc is a fantasy creature from films and stories like Lord of the Rings. Orcs have big teeth coming out of the bottom of their mouth, and green skin, and I once dressed up as an orc, not for Halloween, actually, for an anime convention—don’t laugh at me! And I painted my skin green. And… if I’m feeling very brave I will even post the picture at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Fear. Or maybe, hmm, maybe I’ll make the picture exclusive to the Patreon… Yeah, I think I’ll do that! So if you want to see how I looked in my orc green, you’ll have to support the Patreon at Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish.
OK, so I’ll just explain the words that are in today’s story.
Shudder. Shudder is when you shake, and it’s usually because you’re scared. You might also shudder because of the cold. It’s quite a violent shake, like your body’s really shaking a lot. So you’re either very scared, or very cold.
To make your living means you are making money to live and eat. So you have to get a job to make a living. I make my living as a teacher and also a small amount through this podcast, and I hope to make more of my living through Easy Stories in English in future.
To be hanged. So hanging is a way of killing someone. It’s when you put a rope around their neck and pull them up so that the rope stops them from breathing. In the past, hanging was a way to punish criminals and, of course, they would die, and criminals were hanged in public to stop other criminals from getting the same idea, but also to create a spectacle, to create a show. So everyone would come and watch hangings. Not very nice!
Treasure is money, gems, jewels, maybe a sword… basically, something special that is worth a lot of money. In old stories and fairy tales there are always boxes of treasure, especially stories about pirates; they always find big boxes of gold and other treasure.
A lathe is a tool that turns something around. So when you make pottery, so jugs, glasses etc., out of clay, you have this machine that turns the clay around so you can shape it with your hands, and this tool is a lathe. Most people nowadays will never use a lathe because most people don’t make pottery, but in the past, lathes were a very important tool.
An axe is a big, sharp tool that you use to cut down trees, kind of like a big knife, but you hold an axe with two hands, and it’s quite heavy. So it’s used for cutting down trees, maybe breaking down a door, as well.
A nail is the sharp bit at the end of your fingers. So you have to cut your nails to stop them from growing too long. You can make your nails very sharp, if you want. You can paint your nails various colours. I quite like doing this but I’m also lazy so I don’t it very often.
Bowling is a game, and also a sport. So when you go bowling, there are ten “pins”, which are like white objects shaped like bottles. You put the ten pins in a triangle and you throw a big, heavy ball at them, and you try to knock all of them down. Bowling is quite a popular game now to relax with your friends. So you go to a bowling alley. And you have to throw the ball quite a long way and it rolls on the floor to hit the pins.
A skull is a bone. It’s the bone that’s inside your head. So your skull, if you hit your head, you are hurting your skull. It’s very hard, it has holes for the eyes and the nose, and your teeth are actually part of your skull. Some people keep skulls as decorations. There’s a website that I am fascinated with where somebody, or maybe a group of people, carve skulls out of crystals and they sell these crystal skull sculptures and I really want to buy one, even though they’re crazy expensive. They’re like hundreds of dollars. But I just love the idea of having a crystal skull in my room.
Finally, a coffin is a box that you go in when you die. So it’s a long box that you put dead people in and then the coffin is buried underground. When you have a funeral, some people have an “open cask funeral”, which means the coffin is left open so people can see their loved one one last time.
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OK, so listen and enjoy!
The Boy Who Knew No Fear
Once there was a father with two sons. The older son, Hugh, was smart and sensible, and could do everything, but the younger son, Anders, was stupid and understood nothing. Whenever the father needed help, it was always the older son who helped him.
But when he asked Hugh to go anywhere late at night, he was afraid and said, ‘Oh no, father, I can’t go out in the night! It makes me shudder.’ And when his father told scary stories by the fire, Hugh often said, ‘Oh, it makes me shudder!’
Anders sat and listened, but he did not understand. ‘They are always saying, “It makes me shudder, it makes me shudder!” It does not make me shudder. That is another thing that I do not understand.’
One day their father said to Anders, ‘Listen to me. You are growing tall and strong. You must learn something to make your living. Look at how your brother works, while you sit and do nothing.’
‘Actually, father,’ he said, ‘there is something I want to learn. I want to learn how to shudder. I simply don’t understand it.’
Hugh smiled and said, ‘God, what a stupid brother I have! He will never do anything good.’
The father sighed and said, ‘You can easily learn how to shudder, but you will not make a living like that.’
A few days later a priest came to visit the house. The father told him about the problem with Anders. ‘When I asked him how he wanted to make a living, he said he wanted to learn to shudder!’
‘If that’s all,’ said the priest, ‘he can learn it from me. Let him live with me, and I will teach him.’
So Anders moved into the priest’s house. The priest taught him to ring the bell in the tower, and every day he did so. After a few days, the priest woke up in the night, and told Anders to go and ring the bell. “You will soon learn to shudder…” he thought, and secretly went up to the bell tower before Anders.
The boy was about to ring the bell when he turned around and saw a man wearing white, standing at the top of the stairs.
‘Who is there?’ he said.
But the man in white did not reply. He looked like a ghost.
‘Answer me,’ said Anders, ‘or leave. You have no business here.’
The priest stayed still, so that the boy would think he was a ghost.
‘What do you want here?’ shouted Anders. ‘Say something, or I will throw you down the stairs!’
The priest thought, “He doesn’t really mean that,” and kept standing there.
The boy spoke a third time, and the ghost did not move, so he ran and pushed it down the stairs. The ghost fell down ten steps onto the floor, screaming in pain. Then Anders rang the bell and went to bed.
The priest’s wife waited for her husband for a long time. Finally, she woke Anders and asked, ‘Do you know where my husband is? He went up the tower before you.’
‘No, I don’t know,’ said the boy, ‘but someone was standing up there in white. He did not answer me or leave, so I thought he was a bad man and threw him down the stairs.’
The woman ran away and found her husband. He was crying on the floor, and had broken his leg.
The next day, the priest’s wife went to Anders’ father and shouted, ‘Your boy has given us great problems! He threw my husband down the stairs and broke his leg. We don’t want him anymore.’
The father went to Anders and said angrily, ‘What did you do, you stupid boy?!’
‘Father,’ said Anders, ‘I did nothing wrong. That man stood there in a strange way. He clearly wanted to do something bad. I asked him three times who he was, and he did not answer.’
‘I have nothing to say to you! Leave. I will not have you in this house anymore.’
‘Of course, father,’ said Anders. ‘I will go out and learn how to shudder.’
The father did not completely hate his son, so he gave him some money, and said, ‘Just don’t tell anyone who your father is.’
‘Of course, father.’
For a while, Anders travelled around, saying always, ‘If only I could shudder!’
He walked past a tree where seven men were hanged. A man heard him talking to himself, and went and spoke to Anders.
‘Look at that tree. Seven men wanted to marry the baker’s daughter, and now they are learning how to fly. Sit by the tree and wait for the night. You will learn how to shudder.’
‘Wow, it’s that easy! Well, if I do learn, I will give you my money in the morning.’
So Anders went and sat by the tree and waited for the night. As it was cold, he made a fire. A cold wind blew, and the hanged men moved in the wind.
‘You must be cold up there!’ said Anders.
So he climbed up the tree and cut down the seven men. He put them by the fire, but they did not move. So he pushed them closer. The fire starting burning their clothes, but still they did not move.
‘Wow, you are really quite stupid!’ said Anders. ‘I should hang you back up there.’
The dead men did not reply, and their clothes continued to burn. This made Anders quite angry.
‘It is dangerous to let your clothes burn like that. I will not have it.’
So he hanged them back on the tree, and then went and slept by the fire.
The next day, the man came and asked him, ‘Well, did you learn how to shudder?’
‘No! Those men were so stupid. They said nothing, and they let their clothes burn. How could I learn to shudder from them?’
So Anders continued on his way, always saying, ‘If only I could shudder!’
Another traveller heard him and asked, ‘Who are you?’
‘I don’t know,’ replied Anders.
‘Where are you from?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Who is your father.’
‘I cannot tell you.’
‘And what is it you said, just now?’
‘I said, “If only I could shudder!” You see, I want to learn to shudder.’
‘I will teach you easily. There is a castle a few miles from here. No human lives there. Only ghosts and monsters live in it. If you stay in the castle for three nights, you will certainly learn how to shudder. The King has said that if someone stays in the castle for three nights, they can marry his daughter. She is the most beautiful woman to ever exist. There are also great treasures in the castle, but monsters guard them. If you succeed, you will become rich and have a beautiful wife. And of course, you would learn to shudder.’
‘How wonderful!’ said Anders.
‘Many men have gone into the castle, but none have left.’
“Hmm,” thought Anders. “Maybe it is a very comfortable castle, and they did not want to leave.”
So he went and asked the King if he could go into the castle, and the King said, ‘Yes, and you can bring three things with you.’
‘I would like a fire, a lathe, and a knife.’
‘A lathe? Are you sure?’ said the King. ‘Don’t you want something more useful? Maybe an axe? What can a lathe do?’
‘A lathe can do lots of things!’ said Anders. ‘You can make anything with a lathe and a knife. And I need the fire to keep warm, of course.’
So the King sent him to the castle with a fire, a lathe, and a knife. When night came, Anders made a fire and sat down on an old chair by the lathe.
‘If only I could shudder!’ he said. ‘But I do not think I will learn it here.’
Just then, he heard a shout from a dark corner: ‘Ow, meow! It is so cold!’
‘How stupid!’ he said. ‘If you are cold, come and sit by the fire.’
So two great black cats jumped forward and sat beside him. They looked at him with fiery eyes. They warmed themselves, and then said, ‘Shall we play a game of cards?’
Anders did not think he could trust these cats. Black cats knew magic. So he said, ‘Yes, let’s. But first, show me your hands.’
So the cats did so, and he saw that their nails were very sharp.
‘Oh, what long nails you have! Let me cut them for you.’
‘How kind!’ said the cats.
But Anders did not cut their nails. He grabbed them by the throat and held the knife up. ‘I know what you want. You want to put those nails right in my eyes. No, thank you!’
He threw them out of the window, into some water below. But before he could sit down again, hundreds of black cats and black dogs came out of the dark. They all had fiery eyes, and they shouted and bit at him. They even tried to put out the fire.
‘Go away, you annoying animals!’ he shouted.
He took his knife and started cutting them. Some ran away, but some remained and fought. He threw those ones out into the water as well. But the animals kept coming, and they ran all over him. Just when he was losing hope, it turned midnight, and suddenly, all the creatures disappeared.
When Anders sat down again, he felt very tired. He turned around and saw a bed in the corner.
‘Perfect!’ he said, and climbed into the bed.
But as he fell asleep, the bed started moving. It walked around the castle like an insect.
‘That’s good,’ he said. ‘That will help me sleep. But go faster.’
So the bed ran and ran, and Anders just laughed. Finally, the bed turned over and lay on top of him.
‘That’s no fun,’ he said. He pushed the bed off him and slept by the fire.
In the morning, the King came and saw him on the floor. He thought the ghosts and monsters had killed him, but then the young man got up.
‘What happened?’ said the King.
‘Good morning! Unfortunately, I did not learn to shudder last night, but it was a very lively evening anyway.’
‘You mean, you were not afraid?’
‘Of course not! I slept very well.’
So the next night Anders went back into the castle and said again, ‘If only I could shudder!’
A few hours later, there was a loud scream, and something fell from the ceiling. It was a man, but only half of him. There were no legs or feet.
‘Hello!’ cried Anders. ‘Half is not here! Where is the rest?’
So there was another scream, and the other half of the man fell down.
‘Let me make a fire for you,’ he said.
When he turned around, the two halves were together, and a scary-looking man was sitting there.
‘Excuse me, that chair is mine.’
Anders pushed him off the chair.
‘Well then,’ said the man. ‘Let us play a game!’
From the ceiling fell some leg bones. On the ends of the bones were human feet.
‘Ah, we are going to go bowling!’ said Anders. He placed the leg bones in a triangle. ‘I love bowling. But where is the ball?’
Some skulls fell down as well.
‘These are terrible balls! They are not round.’
So Anders took the skulls and put them on the lathe. He worked the skulls until they were round.
‘There, now they will move very nicely!’
They played bowling, and Anders did quite badly, but he had a lot of fun. But then, when it turned midnight, everything disappeared: the man, the skulls, and the leg bones.
‘Oh no! I did not get to say goodbye.’
He lay down and went to sleep.
The next morning, the King came and spoke to him again.
‘How was it this time?’
‘We went bowling.’
‘But you did not learn how to shudder?’
‘No! It was great fun.’
On the third night, Anders sat sadly on his chair and said, ‘If only I could shudder!’
A few hours later, six tall men came in with a coffin. They put the coffin on the ground in front of Anders.
‘Ah, that must be my cousin. He died only a few days ago.’
The men opened the coffin, but the man inside was too big to be Anders’ cousin. Still, the stupid boy said, ‘Cousin! You look so cold. Let me warm you.’
So Anders warmed his hand on the fire and held it to the man’s face. But the body stayed cold. So Anders carried him out of the coffin and put him by the fire. This didn’t help either, so he carried him into the bed.
Finally, the body warmed up, and started to move.
‘See, cousin? I have warmed you up!’
The dead man sat up and cried, ‘Now I will eat you!’
‘What?!’ said Anders. ‘That’s how you thank me? Back to the coffin!’
So he threw his “cousin” into the coffin and shut it. Then the six men came and carried the coffin away.
‘I will never learn to shudder!’ said Anders.
‘I can help you shudder…’
Anders turned around and saw an old man with a long white beard. He looked horrible.
‘Soon you will shudder, because you will die!’
‘I don’t want to die!’ said Anders, jumping out of the bed.
‘Too bad! I’m going to kill you!’
‘I don’t think so,’ said Anders. ‘You don’t look very strong.’
‘Oh, I might not look strong, but I am,’ said the old man. ‘Let us have a competition. If you are stronger, I will let you go. Follow me…’
So the man went along many dark paths through the castle and Anders followed. Finally, they arrived in a dark room, where there were some big stones and an axe.
The old man stood in front of the stone, and his beard hung down. He took the axe, and broke the stone in two with it.
‘I can do better than that,’ said Anders.
He went to another stone and took the axe. The old man stood and watched, and his beard hung down. Anders took the axe and broke the stone in two with it. Then he grabbed the old man’s beard, put it between the pieces of stone, and closed the stone on it.
‘I can’t move!’ shouted the old man.
‘Now I have you,’ said Anders. ‘You are the one who will die!’
He took a piece of stone and hit the old man with it until he cried, ‘Please stop! I will show you the treasures of the castle.’
So Anders let him go. The old man showed him through the castle, and they went to a room with three boxes of gold.
‘One of these boxes is for the poor people, one is for the King, and the other is yours.’
But then, when it turned midnight, the old man disappeared, along with the light in the room. Anders stood in darkness. He carefully found his way back to the fire and slept there.
The next morning, the King came and said, ‘Surely now you have learnt what shuddering is?’
‘No, I have not. My dead cousin visited, and then a bearded man came and showed me great treasures, but nobody taught me to shudder.’
‘Then you have completed the challenge, and you can marry my daughter.’
‘That is very good, but I still don’t know how to shudder!’
So they brought out the treasures and had a great wedding. Anders loved his wife, and was very happy, but every day he still said, ‘If only I could shudder!’
Finally, his wife grew angry. ‘I will show him how to shudder!’
She went out to the river and took a bucket of cold water, full of fish. At night, when Anders was asleep, his wife poured the bucket of water and fish onto him.
Anders woke up and cried, ‘Oh, what makes me shudder so much? What makes me shudder so, my wife? Ah! Now I know how to shudder!’
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