“Time as a stuff can be wasted,” Carl Sandburg reminded us in The People, Yes, as if most of us didn’t have some direct experience of just such a lesson. But the time I spent today reading The Lost Half Hour was without a doubt, time well spent.
Thanks to my friend and colleague Mike Seliger for making a connection with my sad saga of lost keys and alerting me to this gem of a story that I suspect may not be very well known these days. In the spirit of my call in The Endangered Stories Act to find story treasures and keep them from going extinct, I offer here, this brief summary and recommend the full text which in now in the public domain and can be found in Henry Beston’s The Firelight Fairy Book. (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/19207) Theodore Roosevelt certainly didn’t think he was wasting his time with this delightful book. He wrote the introduction and bought copies for his own children.
Bobo is a classic simpleton with a good heart. A princess, looking for some fun at someone else’s expense, brings him to her land, whereupon Bobo provides one and all with amusement as they send him off on one after another fool’s errand. Bobo does have one friend, a kind and understanding kitchen maid named Tilda.
One day the princess sleeps late, and upon waking announces that she has lost half an hour. Bobo gladly volunteers to find it.
As he sets out on his quest, we learn that other intangibles have been lost. One man has lost his reputation, another his temper. But most importantly, a King has lost his daughter to the fairies. Seeing that Bobo is traveling far and wide in search of the lost half hour, all enlist his help, with the Kind of course offering half his domain for the return of his daughter.
A shipwreck on a deserted island, a pair of magic shoes, an encounter with Father Time and his twelve sons, the water of wisdom, a fierce dragon…all the elements of a classic hero tale unfold in this wondrous tale, and you won’t be surprised to learn that all’s well that end’s well. The lost half hour is found, but to learn how it’s used you’ll have to go to the source. And having gone there, you may be left with a rather obvious question.
Think of your most precious wasted minute or hour. What would you do, if you could have it to live or spend over again?
Let us also consider our own fool’s errands and the time that we think we have wasted, only to learn that we’ve picked up a lesson or two along the way…that we know something that we didn’t know that we knew, and there it is, just when we need it and for just what we need it for. As for me, I think I’ll continue on with what seems at times to be this fool’s errand of the storytelling life, and keep an eye and ear out for stories lost and found. Maybe one will be that lost key I’ve been looking for! Maybe those lost hours of reverie, day-dreaming and wonder will prove their worth after all!