Forests are home to many animals, as well as trees and mushrooms that grow there. You can find various fruits in them too, such as blueberries and strawberries. But I know a forest where animals weren’t the only creatures living there. Everyone was scared to go in this forest.
It was black and deep and many people said that it was cursed. That’s because thieves lived in this forest. They robbed anyone who dared merely walk through it. No one knew where exactly they lived, and no one even knew how many thieves there were. But everyone was very afraid of them.
Not far from the forest, in a nearby village, there lived a courageous girl. Her name was Johanna. She despised injustice and wasn’t afraid of anything. And when I say anything, I also mean anyone. Which includes the vicious thieves who lived in the forest. Johanna didn’t like the fact that people were scared to go in the forest. They couldn’t gather blueberries there, her friends couldn’t play there, and her parents didn’t want to hunt for mushrooms there either. And that’s why she decided to do something about it. She would try to find the thieves and figure out why they did what they did.
And so she headed into the forest. Once she was quite deep within, she tried calling out: “Hey! Thieves, where are you? I’m not afraid of you and I want to speak to you.” For a long time, nothing happened. But Johanna didn’t give up and kept on calling out. After a while, branches in the trees started moving and bushes shifted as if they were alive. Suddenly, seven thieves appeared in front of Johanna. They were all dirty, they stank, their hair was unkempt, and they were clutching various pistols and knives in their hands. They were dressed in rags. You couldn’t even tell if these had been actual clothes.
The captain of the thieves stood before Johanna and said: “So, you’re not afraid of us? Such a tiny kid? We could rob you and tie you to a tree somewhere around her.” Johanna simply smiled. “And what would you get out of that? I don’t have anything you can take. I’m just a little girl. I don’t have any money or anything else. And afraid of you? I’m not afraid of anyone. Rather, I’ve come to tell you to stop robbing people this instant. People are scared to go in the forest. But the forest isn’t just yours.”
At first, the thieves were taken aback that such a little girl wasn’t afraid of them, but then they burst into terrible laughter. “So, you’re going to tell us what to do?” One of the thieves raised his voice at her, laughing. “Oh no, I wouldn’t dare take such liberties. I just want to give you some advice,” Johanna replied. But when she saw that they wouldn’t take the easy route and that they were just making fun of her, she thought for a second and then tried a different approach. “I understand why you steal. You don’t have any money and you need it just like everyone else. But I know of a different way to get money. And even more after that.”
Then she fell silent for a while. The thieves’ ears pricked up. A moment later, she went on. “But you wouldn’t manage it. You’re not cut out for it. Oh well. I guess I’ll be going.” The thieves pounced on her, grabbed her, and started shouting at her, one over the other. “What do we need to do? We can do anything. Quickly, tell us, how do we get more money?”
Johanna smiled and said: “First of all, you must wash. Then comb your hair and dress in better and especially clean clothes. Once you do that, we will meet right here tomorrow and see if you are strong enough to do what I’ll tell you to do.” And then Johanna left.
The thieves couldn’t wait to get their hands on some money, so they did everything she told them. The next day, little Johanna waited for them in the same spot. But she wasn’t alone. Two men with saws and axes were standing next to her. They were woodcutters from her village. When the thieves showed up, Johanna couldn’t believe her eyes. They looked completely different. They were clean, washed, and their hair combed. The woodcutters showed the thieves how to use the tools and what to do with them. How to chop and cut wood and where to stack it into piles.
Little Johanna just smiled and even teased the thieves a little: “Let’s see if you can manage this.” The thieves got to work. They wanted to prove how strong they were. When the work was finished, the woodcutters gave the thieves more money than they could have imagined. Happy, the thieves started arranging for more work.
Since then, no one is afraid to go into the forest anymore. The thieves still live there, but they don’t rob people anymore. Little Johanna showed them that there were better things they could do to get money. And at the same time, they can prove how strong they are.