Heed, the hedgehog did not want to leave her meadow. Wasn’t home the safest place in the whole world? That was when destiny decided to take her to the deepest and darkest part of the forest. The odd creatures of this fantastic cave were not in the least welcoming. Faced with certain death and treachery, Heed scrambled to get back home. Unfortunately, to do so, she had to place her trust in a mad ferret, and her survival depended on finding friendship and loyalty in those mysterious glittering tunnels.
Targeted Age Group:: 8-15
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I got the inspiration for this book during an underground cave trek. The small animals I saw there and the threats they (and I) faced had to come out as a story.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The characters are animals. The development of certain behavioural traits of these animals may have been influenced by myself, my siblings, cousins and childhood friends.
HEED, THE HEDGEHOG
A hazelnut fell on Heed’s head with a thump. The sharp pain froze her for a moment, and her spikes stood up stiff and straight. Down came a shower of nuts—some with shell, some without it, some broken and some bitten. Most of them missed her, but a few bounced off her spikes.
Those troublesome squirrels, thought Heed, as she ran as fast as her little legs would carry her.
The squirrels’ tree, however, was spread over the meadow like a canopy, covering much of Heed’s path. A few branches extended over the nearby river as though they wanted to bid farewell to the sun disappearing on the other side.
Heed glanced up for a moment. Several squirrels ran hither and thither all over the branches. Some of them stopped to shake their fists at her. Their rapid, high-pitched chirps did not make any sense to her, but she knew she had to move faster, and she was right. More nuts flew in her direction.
Heed fixed her eyes on her favourite evening haunt on the other side of the meadow where she always curled up during the night. Red toadstools and white flowers dotted the green floor. Nearby, the river meandered onwards to unknown places.
Heed did have a home. Her family lived in a beautiful hole in the meadow where she slept during the day. But, at night, when a proper hedgehog should be out sniffing and snuffing for bugs and beetles, she liked to laze around on the grass, taking in the scent of the sweet-smelling flowers till her eyes dozed shut. She was sure that her mother would save her a leaf full of crunchy bugs and a heap of juicy fruits.
What a pity that Heed always had to pass underneath the squirrel-tree to reach her haunt. However, once she was outside the shade of the tree, a carpet of white flowers welcomed her. Heed slowed down to enjoy the brush of the soft and silky grass on her spikes. Soon she would curl up peacefully.
‘Oh, no,’ Heed muttered to herself. The field did not look entirely peaceful tonight. Two hedgehogs were rolling around in the grass in a confusion of spikes. The bigger of the two was dark brown from the tip of his spikes to the soles of his paws.
Heed did not have any difficulty recognising him. It was her elder brother, Timothy. The other hedgehog had big black eyes, which took up almost half of his face. That was Rorky from the village.
‘What are you two doing here?’ Heed asked, moving towards them with her face screwed up. ‘You will destroy my flowers. Weren’t you going to the village?’
The two hedgehogs stopped their mock fight.
‘We came looking for you, Heed,’ said Timothy. ‘Won’t you come to the village with us?’
‘No, Tim. I would rather spend my night here,’ Heed replied, wishing that both of them would go away. They were disturbing her tranquil spot by making all kinds of noises. The moths would never come now.
‘We are going to play in the rabbit hole by the village. We will pretend that it is The Furrow,’ Timothy said. ‘I will be the king, as always, and Rorky will be my faithful soldier. You can be a soldier too,’ said Timothy.
‘I am not playing.’
‘I will make you my minister,’ said Timothy. There was a note of dissent from Rorky, but a stare from Timothy silenced him.
‘I don’t want to play in your imaginary Furrow,’ replied Heed. ‘Why are you so interested in The Furrow? It’s a dangerous place, and Father has told you not to speak of it. He thinks that one day you are going to go deep into the forest, searching for The Furrow. Also, it’s not polite to poke into other’s holes.’
‘That hole has been empty for several seasons. And I’m only pretending it’s The Furrow. I am not going to go and find the real Furrow.’
‘We should, indeed, find the real Furrow one day,’ said Rorky, hopping up and down. ‘We can all go into the forest to search for it together. It will be fun.’
‘First, let us try to get her to the village. She won’t put her foot outside this meadow,’ said Timothy, shaking his head.
‘I love it here. Why should I go anywhere else?’ countered Heed before curling up near her flowers.
‘How can you say that? You haven’t seen anything outside the meadow,’ Rorky stated, rolling his big eyes at Timothy.
‘She is afraid to leave. That is the reason,’ said Timothy, grinning mischievously.
‘I am not afraid.’
‘She thinks that the meadow is the safest place on Earth,’ said Timothy to Rorky, ignoring his sister’s protests. ‘She thinks that no fox or owl would ever come here.’
‘And I am right,’ said Heed, uncurling and standing up to face Timothy. ‘There is nothing wrong with wanting to be safe. I am not afraid. I am just cleverer than you.’
‘Look. We can do something easier if you do not want to play Furrow,’ Timothy tried to coax her. ‘We can search for snake eggs or pick mushrooms from under Old Bubo’s rock, or we can take a dip in the stream.’
‘Are you mad?’ asked Heed. ‘You call those easy? Poking around a snake’s burrow and drowning in the stream? As for Old Bubo, he will eat your head before you close your mouth over a mushroom. A hedgehog has no business going sniffing under an owl rock. Why can’t you play simpler games, like hide-and-seek or pick-the-beetle or chase-the-toad?’
Timothy and Rorky exchanged looks of exasperation. ‘Come, Rorky. Let’s go,’ said Timothy, and both of them ran off towards the village, leaving Heed with her flowers.
Finally some silence, thought Heed, heaving a sigh of relief. The chirps from the squirrel-tree had also died down. This was her haven. She relaxed. There could be no other place in the whole world which was more beautiful or peaceful. There were no snakes or owls or foxes in the meadow. She hoped that Timothy would not get into any trouble. The thought of going near Old Bubo’s rock, indeed.
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