The Romance of Hansel & Petal

Hansel's Mysterious Past

When Petal agreed to marry Hansel she knew nothing of his family.  He seemed to be a simple guinea pig, content and harbouring no ill will for anyone.  He was well spoken, though gruff, and she felt that she would comfortably see out her days with guinea pig such as him.  It was Petal’s friend Pricilla Paws who wasn’t so sure about Hansel.  She was incredulous that Petal knew nothing of his background, yet was prepared to commit her life to him.  Petal went to see Alfred Chalk who teaches at Wendelton’s Lord Guinea School.  He knows about most things scientific and it turned out that he had a good grasp on the history of Wendelton and Grimsville before that.   Chalk knew Hansel, and had also wondered about where Hansel had come from, but that is as far as it went.  He had never had the inclination or time to pursue the matter further.  Pricilla asked him if there is any way they could find out more.   The professor said that it would be difficult because all records of the previous regime had been destroyed by the royal family at the time of the great disobedience.  Nothing remained.  All the books and journals store in Swinestone castle had been burned before the proletariat swarmed up the hill to overthrow the monarchy.  Chalk had occasionally passed the time of day with Hansel, and found him an amiable guinea pig, but Hansel  never spoke about events before the here and now. 

After her discussion with Chalk, Pricilla felt more uneasy than before about this guinea pig that her best friend would soon be marrying.  It seemed however that if there was anything unsavoury to be discovered about Hansel’s past, then it would be well-nigh impossible to discover it. 

She tried not to worry but couldn’t displace the nagging feeling that there was something bad about Hansel.  Her anxiety grows as the day when wedding  draws closer.   She tried to take her mind off things by watching edifying documentaries on TV.   One night the documentary she was watching was about mummies unearthed in Egypt and how scientist had been able to do DNA tests on ancient remains, and establish that people  living today were direct descendants.  She knew that in this lay a possible way of establishing who Hansel really was.

Petal Gets a DNA Testing Kit

Pricilla Paws is Petal’s very best friend and Pricilla thinks there is something bad about Hansel which nobody knows.   In fact nobody knows anything about Hansel’s past.  He lives in his shack at the base of Swinestone hill and minds his own business  That was good enough until Petal agreed to marry him.   From a documentary on TV, Pricilla learned about DNA testing.  Apparently using just a hair or a toenail you could work out who was someone’s parents.  Pricilla knew that this was the way she would find out where Hansel came from.  She rushed to see Alfred Chalk, the most knowledgeable Guinea Pig in Wendelton.

It turned out Alfred did know a thing or two about DNA testing, but although he had a laboratory full of jars, tubes and chemicals, he didn’t have the equipment to do DNA testing.  So he and Pricilla Googled ‘Stuff for DNA testing’.  They got lots of results.  Alfred started by clicking on the Wikipedia entry, and this had lots of links.  Alfred clicked on the first one ‘Dead Royals’.  In that article there were further links ; Alfred clicked on ‘The Middle Ages’  and he kept on following links eventually ending up at ‘Basket Weaving’ which had nothing to do with what he was initially trying to learn about which was DNA testing, but was, never the less interesting for Alfred because Alfred was interested in lots of things. 

All the while Pricilla had been waiting and waiting, being oh so patient with Alfred because Alfred knew a lot of stuff and she was going to need his help.  Alfred was following another link about growing willow for making baskets, when she told him that she would come back later.  She scurried off home and when straight to her own computer, googled ‘Stuff of DNA Testing’, clicked on one of the adverts which read ‘Do It Yourself DNA Testing’, and ordered a kit. 

A week later it arrived and she took it straight down to Alfred.  Alfred was finishing planting out a line of willow cuttings.  This was lucky because now he could give full attention to Pricilla and the kit.  Alfred opened the large instruction book and started to read.  Pricilla sighed and rolled her eyes, thinking that this would take hours, but it was written in Rabbit, Hedgehog, Mouse, Chicken, Duck and Lizard, as well as Guinea Pig, so it only took a short time to read the section written in Guinea Pig.  Alfred closed the instructions, looked at Pricilla and said “It seems that the best thing we can do is get a whisker from Hansel”.  “How shall we do that?”  asked Pricilla.  “Yes, how indeed,  how indeed” replied Alfred Chalk. 

Pricilla Might Know A Way To Find Out About Hansel's Past

When Petal agreed to marry Hansel she knew nothing of his family.  He seemed to be a simple guinea pig, content and harbouring no ill will for anyone.  He was well spoken, though gruff, and she felt that she would comfortably see out her days with guinea pig such as him.  It was Petal’s friend Pricilla Paws who wasn’t so sure about Hansel.  She was shocked that Petal knew nothing of his background, yet was prepared to commit her life to him.

 Pricilla went to see Alfred Chalk  who  teaches at the Wendelton school.  He knows about most things scientific and it turned out that he had a good grasp on the history of Wendelton and Grimsville (Wendelton’s name before the revolution).  Alfred Chalk  knew of Hansel, and had also wondered about where Hansel had come from, but that is as far as it went.  He had never had the inclination or time to pursue the matter further.  Pricilla asked him if there is any way they could find out more.   The professor said that it would be difficult because all records of the previous regime had been destroyed by the royal family at the time of the great disobedience.  Nothing remained.  All the books and journals stored in Swinestone castle had been burned before the guinea pigs, who lived on the low lands, swarmed up the hill to overthrow the royal family.   

Alfred Chalk had often spoken with Hansel, and found him an amiable guinea pig, but Hansel never spoke about his past.  After her discussion with the Alfred Chalk, Pricilla was just as unhappy about this guinea pig that her best friend was soon to marry.  It seemed that if there was anything bad to be discovered about Hansel’s past, then it would be hard to discover it. 

Pricilla tried not to worry but she couldn’t get rid of the feeling that there was something bad about Hansel.  Her unhappiness grew each day with the wedding drawing closer.   She tried to take her mind off things by watching educational  documentaries.   One night the documentary she was watching was about mummies unearthed in Egypt and how scientist had been able to do DNA tests on ancient remains, and even find out that some people  living today were direct descendants  of the peoples whose mummified bodies had been tested.  Pricilla knew that in this might be a way of finding out where Hansel came from.

Alfred gets one of Hansel’s Whiskers

Pricilla Paws is very concerned that Hansel, who is engaged to be married to her best friend Petal, mightn’t be a nice guinea pig.  She wants to find out about his past.  Alfred Chalk, who knows lots of things, is helping her.  Pricilla and Alfred need to get a whisker from Hansel, so that they can do a DNA test and find out who Hansel’s parents were.

“Surely,.” said Pricilla to Alfred  “there is bound to be a few of Hansel’s whiskers lying around in his shack.  I’ve heard that he isn’t a great one for keeping a tidy home”. 

Alfred knew Hansel, but had never visited him at his shack.  He would need an excuse for going to see him.

 “What about taking him a wedding presen,”  Pricilla suggested.
 Alfred agreed that that was a good idea and had just the thing, in fact, something he had invented himself; a ‘Multiball’.
 
“Here, I’ll show it to you”. Alfred produced from his pocket what looked like a Cricket ball. 

“Now watch this,” he said. 

Alfred prodded it with his ball point pen and it immediately transformed itself into a basketball.

“And that’s not all”.  Alfred prodded it again. 

The ball immediately changed shape into a Rugby ball.  

“Gosh that’s wonderful”  said Pricilla, “but I doubt that Hansel is much into sport”. 

Alfred replied “that is the whole point don’t you see?  The poor chap has probably been prevented from participating because he didn’t have the right ball,  but with my Multiball, he will always have the right ball should the occasion arise”.

Pricilla wasn’t convinced by Alfred’s logic, but he was so enthusiastic that she could see there was no point in debating anymore.  Alfred felt that a Multiball was the perfect gift for Hansel, and whether or not it was, did not matter.  Any gift would do, as it was only an excuse for Alfred to call on Hansel at his shack.

When Alfred arrived at Hansel’s shack, Hansel was packing away his vacuum cleaner.

“Hello Alfred, welcome to my clean shack.  I’m cleaning up my act now that I’m getting married to Petal”

Alfred had arrived too late to find a whisker lying about.  The shack was spotless. 

“I’ve brought you a wedding present.”  Alfred said.

Hansel was very delighted and unwrapped it straight away. 
“A cricket ball!”

“Ah yes, but it is more than a cricket ball” said Alfred, and brought out his ball point pen to demonstrate.  He prodded the multiball and it immediately transformed itself into a basketball.   Then he prodded it again and it changed into a rugby ball.  He gave it one more prod and it was back to being a cricket ball.

Hansel was mightily impressed and held the cricket ball sized multiball up very close to inspect it.  He asked Alfred if he could borrow his ball point pen.

Alfred gave him his pen, but cautioned him to be careful. 
Oops!  It was too late.  Hansel immediately prodded the ball.  It expanded into a basket ball and knocked him out.  Hansel fell backward.

Alfred is not a fast thinker but he is a good thinker, so after a few moments with Hansel lying unconscious  on his back, it dawn on him that now was his chance to get one of Hansel’s whiskers.  Alfred reached into one of his pockets and took out a pair tweezers, and quickly plucked one of Hansel whiskers.

“Ouch!”  Hansel woke up and rubbed his face.  “Than Multiball really smacked me on the snout “.

Alfred slipped the tweezers and the whisker into his pocket.  “Yes I was going to tell you not to hold it near your face when you’re going from cricket ball to basket ball.  Anyway I guess you’ll never do that again”.

Hansel was still delighted with his present, but needed a bit of sit down after being knocked unconscious, so Alfred said good bye.

Who were Hansel's Parents?

Now that Alfred Chalk has a DNA testing kit, he should be able to find out who were Hansel’s parents.  But to do a DNA test Alfred needed one of Hansel’s whiskers or toenails or something like that.  Alfred plucked a whisker when Hansel was unconscious.  As Alfred was cycling home from Hansel’s shack he started thinking about the next step after he had done a test on the whisker.  Knowing Hansel’s DNA code would not be of any use unless he could compare it with the codes of other guinea pigs.  He needed to find one that had bits of the code that matched Hansel’s.  Then he would know if Hansel and the other guinea pig were related.

 

As luck would have it Felicity Squeak, owner of the Piggy Wiggy Hair and Beauty Salon had samples of fur from all her customers, also customers of her mother, who owned the salon before Felicity, and her mother’s mother who started the salon many years ago.  There was a room at the back where all the samples were stored, hundreds of them, dating back to when Wendelton was called Grimsville and was ruled by a nasty king and queen with nasty children.

Both Petal and Pricilla were good customers of the Salon, so Felicity was more than happy to supply them with samples of fur from guinea pigs who could have been Hansel’s mother or perhaps a sister or aunt.  Each sample was in an envelope labelled with the name of a guinea pig.  The most recent envelopes were stored in plastic boxes with the year written on them in vivid marker.  The older ones were in wooden boxes with the year written in pencil.  Pricilla gathered up samples from the boxes marked 2008, and 2009, the years she thought might be when Hansel’s mother would have started getting her fur cut at the Salon.  She then scurried off to see Alfred Chalk.

Alfred promised to get onto the testing straight away.  He found this very very interesting.  He discovered that some of the guinea pigs were cousins and no one ever knew.  He became so fascinated that he continued working late into the night.

It was just before dawn when he called Pricilla.

“ You’d better come straight over Pricilla.  I daren’t tell you over the phone what I’ve discovered”

Hansel's Real Identity

Alfred Chalk did a DNA test on one of Hansel’s whiskers and the fur of a host of other guinea pigs.  He discovered a match between Hansel’s whisker and one of the fur samples, which explained why Hansel never talked about his past.   It was very early in the morning but he phoned Pricilla Paw’s and asked her to come over straight away.

Pricilla scurried across the grass to Alfred’s house.  All the other guinea pigs in Wendelton were still tucked up in bed.  Alfred let her in and asked her to sit down.

 

“It seems you were right, being concerned about your friend Petal marrying Hansel.  Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I have found out that Hansel is a Baseofberg”.Petal gasped.  The dreaded Baseofbergs were suppliers of dandelions to the royal family.  They didn’t grow them.  They got the farming guinea pigs of Grimsville (as Wendelton was known at that time) to do that.  In the spring before the great disobedience, and the overthrow of the royal family, the Baseofbergs had promised the farming guinea pigs good payment for their dandelions, but when the crops were ready, they said the royal family did not so much fancy dandelions, and would only pay a very little.  Had it been possible to sell the dandelions to Eyebright, the farmer guinea pigs would have done that and got a good return, but the Royal Family had stopped all exports out of Grimsville.  It was a case of selling to Baseofbergs or leaving their crop to spoil in their fields.  The Baseofbergs were friends of the royal family and, like the royal family, lived very well while the ordinary guinea pigs in Grimsville barely had enough to survive.

 

Alfred had discovered that Hansel’s mother was Gringella Baseofberg.  Gringella was married to Grudgeworth Baseofberg, head of the Baseofberg family.  All of the Baseofbergs were involved in the Dandelion business, and Hansel  was one of them.

Pricilla knew she must tell Petal immediately.  Every day that went by, there were more preparations for the wedding.  Invitations had been sent out.  Ingredients for the carrot wedding cake were being collected.  The garden at Eyebright had been hired.   Flossy the balloon lady was coming.  Games had been organised.   If the wedding was to be called off, as surely it would be when Petal learnt the truth, it needed to be done now.

The sun was rising beside Swinestone Hill as Pricilla scurried to Petal’s place.  Petal was frizzing her fur when Pricilla arrived. 

Pricilla told her about Hansel being one of the dreaded Baseofbergs, but rather than being surprised, Petal said: “Yes I know.  The guinea pigs of Wendelton dislike the royal family and the Baseofbergs so much that I did not think they would understand how I could marry one of Grudgeworth’s sons.   I thought I could keep it a secret.  Now that you have found out the truth, I must try to make guinea pigs understand.   Come in and have some toasted carrot muesli with me, and I’ll tell you all about Hansel”.

 

 

 

 

Why Hansel is a Good Guinea Pig

It turns out that Hansel, who is engaged to Petal, is the son of Grudgeworth Baseofburg.  When Wendelton was known as Grimsville, the Baseofburgs were as disliked as the nasty royal family.  By promising to pay well, they got the farmer guinea pigs to grow dandelions for the royal family, but when the crop was ready they said that the royals didn’t much like dandelions anymore, and they would only pay very little.  All of the Baseofburg family were involved in the dandelion business.  Petal knew that Hansel was a Baseofburg, and now that her friend Pricilla knew also, she had to explain to Pricilla why Hansel was not a bad guinea pig.

Pricilla prepared marigold tea for both of them and poured Petal a bowl of toasted carrot muesli.  They sat down and Pricilla started telling Hansel’s story:

Hansel was engaged once before.  When he was very young, his father sent him to visit farmers and promise good prices for dandelions.  Hansel knew what his father was up to, so told the farmers to put dandelions around the outsides of their fields, but to plant carrots behind them.  Hansel knew that carrots provided good food that could be eaten in the winter. 

One of the farmers had a daughter called Flower.  She thought Hansel was very handsome, and Hansel thought Flower was very pretty.  Hansel asked her to marry him and she agreed.  That was in the spring time, and they were to be married in the autumn.   About the time of the dandelion harvest however, the guinea pigs of Grimsville rose up against the royal family.  There was terrible fighting. The hardworking guinea pigs rebelled against the lazy royal family and their lazy friends, like the Baseofburgs.  Terrible things were happening and Petal knew she and Hansel must get away.  Petal went out into her father’s carrot patch, dug up two juicy carrots, stood on her hind legs, waving the carrots and calling out to the birds.  She needed a large bird that could carry Hansel and her to safety. 

Eventually, she caught the attention of Woodrow the Wood Pigeon.   He came and landed in the carrot patch.  In the direction of Swinestone Castle explosions could be heard and there was smoke rising.  Time was running short.  Woodrow agreed that he would carry the couple away for the payment of twenty fat carrots.  As strong as Woodrow was, however, he could not fly with both of them.  Hansel was the one most in danger, because he was a Baseofburg,  but he insisted that Petal be carried away first.  He strapped Petal to Woodrow’s belly, nuzzled her neck and made a thrumming noise, then bid them farewell.  Woodrow ran down between the carrot rows, reached out his wings and made a big leap.  Slowly he and Petal rose above the carrots, the shacks of Grimsville and the trees of the wilderness beyond. 

 

Minutes after Woodrow had lifted off,  a bomb was lobbed from Swinestone Castle and landed in the carrot patch where Hansel was standing.   It landed so close to Hansel that the explosion threw him to the ground.  There was a crater left by the bomb, and similar explosions were happening all over Grimsville.  Nowhere was safe, so Hansel climbed into the hole that the bomb had made, and there he stayed as the battle raged. 

Woodrow and Petal set a course due West to fly over a marble mountain.  Woodrow had a friend called Marcus who lived on the other side.  He knew that Flower would be safe and cared for with Marcus.  It was a long trip but Woodrow did not dare stop for a rest.  He knew that he was too tired to be able to take off again with Flower strapped to him.   When they arrived at Marcus’s place both were very cold and Woodrow was exhausted.  Woodrow would need a sleep and lots to eat before he could set off to get Hansel.  Marcus didn’t want to upset Flower, but he knew that there would be little point in returning.  The news from Grimsville was bad as it could be.  It was unlikely that Hansel would even be alive.

“So you see Pricilla, Hansel is not at all like the other Baseofburgs.  He did not cheat the hardworking guinea pigs.  He is noble and honest and brave, and that is why I want to marry him”.

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