Once upon a time, not that long ago, and not that far away, there was a young man. There are many young men, but this one was special, or else we’d not have been making up this story about him.
He was a fine man, big and strong, for all that he had lost his parents hat a very young age, when they had been frolicking in a field of peas and had been frightened by a bull. Abandoning him – and the majority of their clothes – they had fled, never to return. The little boy might have died then, but he was taken in and raised by the peas as one of their own. Along with his adoptive brothers and sisters in the pod, he grew up, and as he grew he became big and strong until throughout the pea field he was known by one name, a name fit to send shivers down a malefactor’s spine before he snapped it in twain...the one, the only...
Zartan of the Peas!
One day, it so happened that the pea field was invaded by a dread monster. Zartan was off foraging for grubs and berries when he heard shrill, terrified screams coming from his pea relatives, and took off for the field at a dead run. Arriving there, he saw the monster marching on its many legs, while it cut up his friends and relatives with its immense jaws and devoured them alive.
Shrieking with fury, not with fear – for he was a brave and noble man as well as young and strong – he rushed upon the monster, a dried twig as his weapon, and so fierce was his assault that the caterpillar turned tail and hurried away as quickly as it could, never to return. And Zartan was the toast of the pea field, celebrated in song and story.
But, of course, everywhere, there are evil people looking to do harm; envious people, who lack all decency and honour. And it is no different among the peas. So among the peas there were those who began murmuring against Zartan.
“He is not one of us,” they said. “He has arms and legs. Perhaps he is a spy come among us, to betray us to our enemies.”
“Rubbish!” his defenders said. “He saved us from the caterpillar. He is one of us as much as anyone else is.”
But the jealous ones would not stop waggling their evil tongues. “Just think,” they urged. “Sooner or later he will realise that he is not one of ours, that he is from our enemies by birth. Then what will he do?”
And so they kept repeating the same line until even the strongest defenders of Zartan began to waver. “But he has never attempted to do us any harm,” they protested.
“Only because he has not had the opportunity,” the evil ones said darkly. “Give him but a chance, and see what he does. You must test him.”
“How?” the defenders asked. “Tell us but how, and we will.”
“Nothing simpler.” The evil peas grinned so widely that their pods virtually split. “So many of us have been kidnapped and taken away by Zartan’s own people. Send him to find them and rescue them.” For they imagined, of course, that he would never return.
So Zartan’s friends called him to them and said: “Zartan, you know that so many of us have been pulled cruelly from the earth and taken to the cities of men, no doubt to serve them as slave labour. We cannot go and rescue them, but perhaps you can. We’re looking up to you.”
“To do so would be my honour,” declared the youth, and, pausing only to pull on a loincloth made of pea leaves, he rushed off to the city. People were everywhere, of course, and they stared at him, but he couldn’t care less.
“What are you looking for?” a policeman asked.
“Peas,” Zartan said.
“Doesn’t everyone,” the policeman replied sympathetically. “Well, if you’re looking for peace, you’ve come to the wrong place. However,” he added, looking at the young man with his leaf loincloth and deciding to have some fun, “you can go to that building over there.”
Now the building in question was a pea packing plant, and as Zartan arrived at the entrance he saw immense loads of peas being dumped onto conveyor belts. He threw himself at the belt in an attempt to rescue the peas, but the belt carried him into the depths of the building, only to be caught, washed, and sealed in a packet all ready for canning.
But Zartan flexed his mighty thews and burst out of the packet with a roar of fury. Gathering together all the peas around him, he burst out of the building and rushed back to the field.
“There!” he declared to his exulting friends and his dumbstruck enemies, dumping out the peas so they rolled in all directions. “I have set them all free from slavery!”
And there was peas upon earth.