A LONG, LONG time ago, in a time of wizards and kings, there lived a small boy named Ernst, who lived in a tiny village at the edge of a great forest. Ah, but this was no ordinary boy, he was a stouthearted lad, gifted with a keen sense of adventure and imagination.
Ernst lived peacefully in a large green alpine valley with his mother, father and little sister, Ana. They were very poor, but they lived in a cozy little cottage on a farm where they had a cow, four goats, five chickens and a finicky old tabby cat.
In the mornings Ernst would go about his chores sweeping out the barn and collecting eggs from the hen house, while his mother milked the cows and his father cut firewood to make what little money they could.
Today was a very special day for Ernst, because after his chores, he could go fishing down at the pond. Fishing was one of his favorite activities, and he went every chance he had. Ernst was very happy because he had just found a bunch of fat squiggling earthworms while cleaning out the hen house. He decided he would collect some later to bring along on his fishing trip.
As Mother went about cooking breakfast, the smell of fresh butter and eggs filled the kitchen. The boy was washing his hands when Father came in, took a seat at the table, and fell deep into thought.
"Why so quiet, dear?" Mother asked, looking up from the frying pan.
"After another winter like the last, we'll have no money left at all to eat or pay the rent," Father answered. "The snows have destroyed all our crops and I don't know how we're going to manage."
Ernst stepped up to the table, "I know how I can help us make some money, Father. I’ll go to the pond and catch a lot of fish, and then we can sell them for a good profit to the villagers.”
"That’s very thoughtful of you, Son," said Father, "but there aren't enough fish left in the pond to help us. What we need is a miracle."
That reminded Ernst of a legend about a treasure that had long ago been dumped in the pond by The Ancient Temple Knights, who had looted a lot of gold from their conquests of the Far East. Ernst’s father had told him the story many times. Most of the gold had been recovered by the King, all except for a small gold statue that had been eaten by a catfish.
"Don't worry, Father. I will find a few fish today so at least we can eat.”
“Good luck,” said Father, “but how are you going to do that?”
“Because I know where to get big slippery worms, the big juicy ones that trout and salmon really like to bite on!”
“Ha! Maybe you can hook that catfish, too, and solve all our troubles!” Father joked.
“There might be a few fish left Ernst." Mother served the last of their eggs. She knew of his love for fishing and didn't want to discourage the boy. She appreciated him wanting to help, even if it was useless.
After they finished breakfast, Mother prepared him a nice lunch in a big brown paper bag with some bread and cheese and a small piece of cake left over from the night before.
Ernst helped to wash the dishes, then went outside and sat on the porch steps, gazing up at the billowing clouds and vast blue sky above.
Maybe he wouldn't find any fish, but he would go to the pond and try anyway. He went back to the barn to gather his fishing gear, but as he was about to leave, Mother called him back.
"Come, Ernst, you forgot your lunch. You wouldn't want to miss out on that nice piece of cake I made for you yesterday, would you?"
Ernst smiled then took the bag and put it in his backpack. He was embarrassed for forgetting and set off again for the pond.
"Don't forget to come back before dark," Mother shouted as he walked down the dusty path. "We're looking forward to seeing some of those big wonderful fish you've been telling us about all week, ha!"
He waved back to her, and off he went, with colorful butterflies fluttering and trailing behind as he strolled happily along. The path itself was narrow and winding over hills and valleys. After an hour he was there.