An old, old piece of my writing—probably written in 4th or 5th grade, judging by the handwriting. At the time, I was heavily absorbed in Grimm Fairytales. I value this piece for its simplicity and strong female characters. Aside from a few corrected grammatical mishaps, the story is presented as originally written.

Once there was a young man who wanted to go out into the world and seek his fortune. His mother would hear none of it at first, but her son convinced her to let him go.

The mother wasn't a foolish woman, and she loved her son very much. So the woman told her son that if he first went and apprenticed himself to a master craftsman for a year, he could go with her blessing into the wide world.

The young man became the apprentice of a carpenter, and such was the young man's skill with wood that in a year he had learned all he could from his master. He traveled for many years, and his skill and fame grew 'til everyone knew the young man's name: Talat.

Talat's wealth was great, his house large, and his business successful. But he was lonely, and wanted a wife.

Many rich merchants and nobles wanted a part of his wealth, and they sent their daughters, all of them beautiful, to get this hand in marriage.

But there wasn't one of them who didn't have a greedy look in her eyes, and the young man knew they wanted his money, not him.

Now there was one girl, the eldest daughter of a poor merchant, who had seen him giving alms to the poor in the marketplace, and she had fallen in love with him. He had never noticed her.

What could she do to win his love? There were stories of poor women falling in love with rich, handsome men, but all such women were beautiful, and she was as plain looking as her clothes. However, she loved him, and with her father's blessing the girl went to Talat's fine house, and asked to see him.

The door keeper laughed at the thought of the plain girl marrying the rich and famous Talat, but he let her into the room where Talat talked to the girls who sought his hand.

He looked sad, Talat did. So sad that it nearly broke the poor girl's heart.

She curtsied, and said, "I would like to marry you, if you would love me."

Talat looked at her.

"You're not beautiful or wealthy."

"Being beautiful doesn't mean that you aren't greedy and spiteful inside. And does having money make so much difference? Neither you nor I started out with it, and having it does not mean that you are happy," she replied.

Talat looked at her, and said, "I tell you what I have told all the others. If you can hold life in your palm, if you can tell me what the fastest thing in the world is, and do one more task, we will be married. Come back in a week's time."

The girl went home, and she thought, and thought, and thought. At last, when the week was over, she went back to Talat's house, taking only a water flask with her. She was admitted to the house, and once again she saw Talat.

He asked, "What is the fasted thing in the world? The other girls said many things. Camals, horses, boats, the wind. Can you do as well as them?"

"I can," replied the girl. "The fastest thing in the world is thought."

Talat smiled, and hope was kindled in his heart. But he looked sadly at the girl. "Can you hold life in your palm?" he asked. "Some girls said no, one girl said yes and dropped a coin in her hand. Can you do as well as she?"

"I can," said the girl, and she poured water into her hand from the water flask. "Water is life."

Talat looked at her and nodded, amazed at the girl's wisedom. Then he led her into a dim room where the walls were painted black and black curtains covered the windows. He said, "My mother told me that I should only marry a girl who could correctly answer those two questions, and who could 'light up a darkened room without fire.' No one else could. Can you?"

"I can." And with that, the girl ran to the biggest window and flung open the curtain.

Strong sunlight filled the room as the girl turned and smiled at Talat for the first time. The smile shone with her love, and Talat saw her in a new light.

"My name is Tamora. Will you marry me?" she asked.

"I will," replied Talat.

They were married, and lived together happily for many years. They had children, and neither Tamora nor Talat was ever lonely again.