The Adventures of Forri the Baker by Edward Myers
Picking up where the author's acclaimed picture book Forri the Baker left off, this new storybook relates the life and times of history's greatest and most peculiar baker. Forri defends his village from invading barbarians; he defeats an evil, food-obsessed king; he creates a Frankenstein-like Bread Man (who promptly runs amok) and, late in life, he even confronts Death himself in the ultimate bake-off. In each story, bread is both what gets Forri into trouble and what ultimately becomes his means of escape. The Adventures of Forri the Baker is a sequence of original folk tales that is by turns outlandish, funny, and moving.
- ISBN: 0-9674477-0-4
- Price: $7.00 (paper)
Read an Excerpt
Many years ago there lived a baker in the village of Ettai. His name was Forri.
Forri was a tall man and very thin. He looked even taller and thinner than he really was because he dressed in baggy clothes sewn out of old flour sacks, and because he wore a shapeless white cloth cap that sagged over his head like a mass of unbaked dough.
Forri wasn't the only baker in town, but he was the best. Villagers often went out of their way to buy his bread, and folks from the surrounding farmlands sought Forri's bakery when they came to market. Everyone knew that Forri's bread was like nothing else. Fresh, sweet, rich: bread that could make you fat and happy.
Forri the Baker made more kinds of bread than all the other bakers. Not just round bread, which is heavy and dark and smells like a freshly plowed field. Not just square bread, which is light and sun-hued and smells like newly cut lumber. Not just flat bread. Not just tall bread. Not just skinny bread. Forri made every kind of bread, he made them better than the other bakers, and he made all kinds that no one in Ettai had ever seen, heard of, or eaten before. Cloud bread. Root bread. Ice bread. Rose bread. Nail bread. Thunder bread. Key bread.
The people of Ettai marveled at Forri the Baker, and at first they bought his bread eagerly. But Forri's fame wasn't altogether a good thing. People bought his bread, but not everyone liked it. Some people thought it strange: loaves with peculiar shapes and textures, loaves with odd hues and flavors. Some people thought it ugly or frightening. Some people thought it harmful to the traditions of Ettai—and even to the traditions of the whole Mountain Land.
"For as long as anyone can remember," villagers told each other, "we've eaten round bread and square bread. Now Forri is baking all kinds of bread that no one has heard about. It isn't right!"
Or people complained, "Lock bread, pen bread, candle bread! Who cares if a loaf will light up your room? Who wants to write with bread?"
Or they muttered, "It's not good. Forri will upset the balance of things."
Or they hollered, "We want bread that's just bread!"
The tide turned. Forri was odd. Forri was strange. Some people even said that Forri was insane. Rumors swelled like dough in a bread bowl. Perhaps the other bakers in Ettai made up these tales—they had plenty to gain by casting doubt on Forri. No one knows just what happened.
This much is certain: villagers soon stopped buying bread from Forri. His bakery failed. He moved to a shack at the edge of town.
Forri lived there for many years. Without wife or children, he went about his activities alone, neither sought by the villagers nor seeking them. He used bricks salvaged from his bakery to build a new oven. He planted wheat saved from his stockpiles to grow crops on the land surrounding him. He harvested the grain and milled it and baked bread just for himself.
That was just the start. Forri baked brick bread and built himself a new house, setting the loaves with mortar made of dough. He baked beam bread and raised the rafters. He baked tile bread and roofed his house. He baked shingle bread and cobble bread, window bread and door bread, fence bread, gate bread, and chimney bread. Little by little Forri settled in, surrounding himself with bread. Of course everyone in Ettai watched and laughed and called him a fool. But Forri paid them no attention. He just went about his business baking all kinds, shapes, textures, sizes, and colors of bread.
Somehow he made a living. Forri kept on baking.
Then the Chlars invaded the Mountain Land.
No invasion had occurred for many years, but fear of the Chlars was still raw as a fresh burn in everyone's memory. The Chlars had invaded long ago, often, and brutally. Warlike, angry, merciless, the Chlars were the cruelest of all barbarians. Ettai, lying as it does at the outskirts of the Mountain Land, had more experience with the Chlars than did any of the other towns.
Now, without warning, several dozen Chlars simply showed up with their clubs and pikes and battle axes. The Chlars were squat ugly men—dirty, hairy, covered with scars. Rushing into Ettai, they captured the townmaster, the marketmaster, and the other headfolk at once. No one in the village had a chance to resist. Besides, the people of Ettai were gentle folk. They knew little of fighting, possessed no weapons, and relied on the Mountain Land's terrain—the passes and the canyons, the cliffs and the peaks—to be their defense. Only the Chlars and a few other tribes had ever invaded the Mountain Land, and those few not for long.
Now the Chlars arrived, rushing into town and ordering the people about. "Back to your houses, all of you!" they yelled. "Stay there till we tell you what to do!"
Everyone scattered like rabbits. No one argued with the Chlars. The villagers were too afraid, for they knew what these invaders would do. The Chlars always conquer the Mountain Land's outlying towns in the same manner: they send a few warriors to capture the headfolk, then swarm in with a larger force to herd the townspeople off like goats to the slaughter. So the leaders of Ettai were captive, the people helpless, and the Chlars encamped all around the village, where they waited to make their next move.
That night, several dozen of the villagers scurried through underground passageways and met in a wine cellar to plan their defense.
"What shall we do?" asked Ozzikki the blacksmith. "We can't just let these invaders conquer us."
"Bring your hammers and pokers," said Elara the weaver. "We'll drive back the Chlars."
Tikkaji the cobbler declared, "I'll bring all my scrapers, gouges, and awls."
"Anything we have, we'll use," said Allikki the coppersmith. "I'll bring my hammers and tongs."
Everyone agreed. Shouting, cheering, laughing, they fanned the flames of their defiance.
"Down with the Chlars!" they cried.
"Drive out the beasts!"
"Free Ettai! Throw out the invaders!"
When the noise subsided, though, a voice at the back said, "That plan won't work."
All the men and women turned to see who spoke.
It was Forri the Baker.
"There are too many Chlars," he said, "and they have too many weapons for us to fight them off. We'll never beat them with hoes, hammers, and awls."
"What would you suggest, then?" asked Tikkaji the cobbler. "If you have no better idea, keep quiet."
"Maybe I do have an idea."
Ozzikki the blacksmith asked, "What's that? Wearing breadbowls for helmets? Using spoons for swords?"
"No, something better."
Elara the weaver asked, "Better? Like what—maybe bread?"
People laughed and laughed.
"Of course," Forri replied. "What else but bread?"
People laughed till they nearly fell off their chairs. Then everyone grew serious, somber, even angry.
Arriaqqi the brickmason shouted, "You've been your own downfall, Forri! Will you be ours as well?"
Forri shrugged. "Maybe so," he said. "Or maybe not."
The room fell silent. Forri was right about the Chlars having so many weapons, but what good was bread in fighting them?
"We'll hear what you have to say," Elara proclaimed. "If your plan isn't good, though, we'll go ahead with our own."
All night the men, women, and children of Ettai waited in their cottages. All night they watched, listened, and wondered when the Chlars would descend. All night the sounds of whispering, whimpering, and weeping drifted into the streets as husbands comforted their wives, as wives reassured their husbands, as parents soothed their children. There was nothing to do but wait.
The only other sound was that of people muttering about Forri the Baker.
"What have we let him do!" they exclaimed. "It's bad enough to die—but worse yet to die like fools!"
Or they cried: "Forri is a madman!"
Or they asked: "Where is he, anyway? Where is that Forri?"
To which someone always answered: "You know where he is. You always know where to find Forri the Baker."
The next morning, well before dawn, Forri passed out weapons to the villagers as they swarmed around him in the darkness. Swords, pikes, shields, bows, and arrows: Forri gave them to the men and women. Maces, spears, lances: these, too, he gave to the people of Ettai. Helmets, breastplates, arm- and leg-guards: all kinds of armor as well. Forri even showed the villagers some catapults that needed to be set in place, and people dragged them off.
"Where did you find all these weapons?" asked Elara the weaver, examining her mace and shield by touch alone, for there was so little light.
"I didn't find them," Forri told her.
Tikkaji the cobbler said, "But surely you didn’t say—"
"Take your place on the wall," said Forri, handing him a bow and a quiver of arrows.
Allikki the coppersmith said, "How do you expect us—"
"Here's your helmet and shield," Forri told him. "Now take a sword from the pile. Time is short."
Even shorter than they thought! For the stars had scarcely faded from the sky when the Chlars—almost a hundred of them—showed up shouting, screaming, and shrieking with glee. What could be simpler than to lead these villagers off to servitude and slaughter!
Then the Chlars stopped short.
The fading darkness revealed every wall, rooftop, tower, and balcony in town covered with men and women; and the half-light showed every person bristling with weapons. Swordsmen, lancers, archers, infantry—a whole army faced the Chlars. Never had any of the Chlars' victims faced them so well-armed. At least a thousand villagers surrounded the paltry Chlar invasion force.
The Chlars stared at the shadowy outlines of the weapons arrayed against them. Where had all these weapons come from? The invaders had searched every house, every shop, every grainery and barn. Conquering these villagers should have been easier and safer than leading children to a picnic. Yet here a whole forest of weapons had sprung up overnight!
The Chlars saw only the silhouettes of this great army—the slant of the pikes, the curve of the bows, the straightness of the arrows—and they were afraid.
Little did they know that what frightened them was bread! Swords made of bread! Shields made of bread! Helmets, breastplates, armor—all bread! Bows and arrows, lances, axes! Maces! Pikes! Spears! Catapults! Everything was bread! Nothing but bread!
The two forces faced one another for a long moment. No one spoke. A few swallows flipped about in the shadowy morning air.
Then, suddenly, one of the Chlars shrieked an order.
The people of Ettai braced themselves for the attack.
It never came. With a great clatter of metal and wood and leather and stone, all the Chlars staggered back, turned, and fled. They ran out of town, up the valley, over the pass, and out of the Mountain Land.
The villagers stood there in silence. No one could believe what had happened.
Then, little by little, people started to talk—Elara the weaver, Ozzikki the blacksmith, Tikkaji the cobbler, and all the rest. Soon there was a great commotion of laughter, cheering, and shouts.
"Forri has saved us!"
"Forri the Baker!"
"Long live Forri the Baker!"
And the people of Ettai found Forri among them, lifted him to their shoulders, and carried him through the town.
"Forri!" they cried.
"Forri the Baker has saved us!"
Forri was amused by all this excitement, but he let the people do what they wanted. Soon enough, he told himself, he could get back to his oven.
So everyone paraded through Ettai, around and around, through streets and alleyways, till they ended up back at the town square. Then people ran off and brought butter, jelly, and jam.
And to celebrate the victory of Ettai over the Chlars, everyone sat down together—with Forri in the middle—and they ate all their weapons for breakfast.
Praise for The Adventures of Forri the Baker
[The] well-crafted narrative is tinged with humor and embellished with spry imagery. . . As satisfying as a slice of freshly baked bread.
[S]uperb book in both word and art. . . [T]he work resonates with good humor.
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