Cowrie Shells Teacup Travels


Cowrie Shells

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Here they come,

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my two intrepid explorers...

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Oh!

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Charlotte and Lokesh.

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I'm their Great Aunt Lizzie, you see,

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and I wonder which one is coming to see me today.

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Ah, so it's Charlotte!

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Hello, Charlotte.

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Hello, Great Aunt Lizzie.

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Once upon a time, I travelled the world,

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discovering treasures from long ago and far away, and no end of stories

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to remind me.

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But my most precious possession of all

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is my extraordinary collection of teacups.

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Here we are!

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No time to count the clouds!

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Let's have a nice cup of tea and a story.

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But first, we need the teacup.

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But which one?

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-That one!

-Ah!

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The cowrie shell.

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-Isn't it pretty?

-Yes, it is.

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These little shells were very valuable in Viking times.

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In fact, for years, many people all over the world used

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-the cowrie shells instead of money.

-Wow!

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So, are you ready?

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Ready.

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Then let me tell you the story of Charlotte and

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the Adventure of the Cowrie Shells.

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This story begins in a little village huddled next to a

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freezing lake in a sparkling, cold

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northern region we now call Scandinavia.

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And it was there, among the tiny houses,

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that Charlotte turned up one bright morning.

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And even though she'd only just arrived,

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Charlotte could sense an air of excitement in the village.

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-Oh, the juice!

-The first person Charlotte came across was a

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young woman who seemed to be preparing for some kind of feast.

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I'm sure I've forgotten something, but I've no idea what!

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I want his homecoming to be just perfect, but what if it isn't?

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She appeared very distracted and flitted from one thing to another.

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Excuse me! I wonder if you need some help.

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What? Oh, yes, thank you.

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I don't seem to be able to concentrate on anything.

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The men from our village are coming home, you see.

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It's very exciting!

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This time, my brother, Gulbrand, will be with them.

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Has your brother been away?

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It was his first time away at sea,

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and even though I'm looking forward to him coming back,

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I'm worried. The men are two days late already.

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-Oh, dear.

-I've been preparing this table every day, and then each night

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I put it all away again.

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I'm sure there's lots of reasons they could be late.

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-Do you think so?

-Well, at sea lots of things can happen.

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-There could have been a storm...

-Oh, no!

-But probably not.

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They could have decided to stay somewhere longer.

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I just hope Gulbrand is OK.

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-I'm sure he's strong.

-One of the strongest.

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-And clever?

-Very clever.

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Then there's every chance he'll be home really soon.

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I hope so. In the meantime,

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perhaps I need to be grateful for everything we have here and

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hopeful for my brother's swift homecoming.

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I know! We can make an offering of thanks to one of the goddesses.

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The only trouble is, which one?

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There are so many to choose from!

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And what do I offer them?

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I don't want to get it wrong.

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Maybe you could ask someone.

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Who is the wisest person you know?

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Of course! We could ask Sigrid.

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She is bound to know!

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She's a very wise woman and she knows everything about goddesses.

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Great! You stay here in case your brother comes home

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and I'll go and ask her.

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She lives in a farm by a cave on the side of the mountain.

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I'll be as quick as I can.

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It didn't take Charlotte long to find Sigrid,

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sitting by the cave above her farm, watching the world go by.

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Excuse me. Are you Sigrid?

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-I am.

-Then I wonder if I could ask you something.

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Ask me anything you like, my dear. I'll answer it as well as I can.

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Gull's brother, Gulbrand,

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is supposed to be coming home from sea today but he's late back.

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-Oh, dear.

-Gull wants to make an offering of thanks and hopefulness

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to a goddess but she doesn't know which one.

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So Charlotte sat, hoping to discover something important

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among the legendary Viking goddesses.

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There are many,

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many goddesses but I think the best one to honour would be the

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goddess Freya. She is one of the highest and most powerful goddesses.

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She sounds perfect.

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Do you know, the goddess Freya cries tears of real gold?

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I can't imagine that.

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And she drives a chariot led by two cats.

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That must be cool.

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Gul should have a ceremony and make an offering

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of cowrie shells.

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What are cowrie shells?

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They are very precious and rare little shells

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that come from hot lands far across the sea.

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They would make the perfect offering to Freya.

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Where on earth was Charlotte going to get cowrie shells?

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But as if she'd read her mind, wise Sigrid had an idea.

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The only person I know who has such rare cowrie shells is Afi.

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Who is Afi?

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Someone I knew a long time ago.

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He lives in a little hidden cove by the sea.

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And I have heard people say that now he only speaks in riddles.

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Oh, dear! How was she going to understand a man

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who only spoke in riddles?

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It was only lunchtime and already it was all such a puzzle!

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Look at those beautiful sunflowers.

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-Helianthus annuus is their Latin name.

-They look lovely.

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I got the seeds many years ago on one of my travels.

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So they are from a faraway place too, like the cowrie shells?

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They are.

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You are just like Sigrid, the wise woman in the story.

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That comes from going on so many adventures and meeting so many

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interesting people, just like Sigrid.

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So it's probably best we follow her advice.

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That would be wise, Charlotte.

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She's probably right about Afi and the cowrie shells

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and offering them to the goddess Freya.

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So Charlotte couldn't give up without at least trying to get

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the cowrie shells, could she?

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Off went Charlotte in her hat, bag and boots.

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Through the spiny forests.

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And over rocky, windswept crags.

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When she was almost out of breath...

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..the path ran out!

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There was only one way to get to the other side.

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Charlotte took a deep breath.

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Finally, she came to a cove hidden between some high rocky cliffs.

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But there was no time to take the sea air.

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Charlotte had to get those cowrie shells!

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She ran along the rocks and up to the headland,

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where she found an extraordinary-looking man.

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I'm sorry to bother you, but Sigrid sent me.

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She said you might have some cowrie shells I could have.

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But the man didn't seem to hear her

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and just kept on staring into the distance.

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Charlotte was about to ask again when he began, in a kind of riddle.

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Tell me of Sigrid, by the strength of the wave.

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-Where does she live?

-Charlotte wasn't sure how to answer

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this riddle, so she decided to just say what she knew.

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She lives near a cave.

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The man seemed pleased with her answer and so she went on.

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My friend Gull wants to make an offering of thanks to the

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goddess Freya for what she has and her brother's safe return from sea.

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Again, the man replied with a riddle.

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Tell me of Freya, the goddess of old.

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When she cries, she cries...

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Tears of gold!

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Charlotte seemed to have answered both the riddles correctly.

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Maybe the third would mean he would

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finally give her some precious cowrie shells.

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Tell me her chariot, lest they say that.

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Who pulls it along?

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It must be...

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Charlotte knew she knew it, if she could just remember.

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Cats!

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Here are the shells, as pretty as any.

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I'm only sorry I don't have many.

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The delicate little shells were so pretty and cool

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in colours of white, brown and pink.

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They seemed very precious indeed.

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Go right back with hermit speed,

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taking with you the shells that you need.

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Thank you. Bye!

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Back came Charlotte...

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..in her hat, bag and boots.

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Over barren, windswept hills and through the dense, green ferns.

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Sigrid and Gull were busy decorating a shrine with flowers when...

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I got the cowrie shells!

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Thank you so much, Charlotte.

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I had to finish a lot of riddles with Afi, but I got them right.

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I'm sure you did.

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With these cowrie shells, I give thanks to the goddess Freya

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in the hope that soon she will return my brother safely.

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-MAN: Hello!

-It's the men!

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-They're back!

-They're back from the sea.

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-Sister!

-Brother!

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Welcome home!

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These are my friends, Sigrid and Charlotte.

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They helped me honour the goddess Freya.

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Thank you.

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You're very welcome.

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I've got a present for you, Gull.

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It's a conch shell. I got it from a beautiful little island that I left

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many months ago. I've carried it with me ever since.

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I've never seen anything like it!

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-Thank you.

-It's beautiful.

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It belongs here, next to the cowrie shells,

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as thanks for my brother's swift return.

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May I?

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That was that, the whole kit and caboodle.

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Charlotte and the cowrie shells.

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Do you think it worked, making the offering to the goddess Freya?

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What I do know is,

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it's always good to be grateful for what we have and to

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remember how lucky we are.

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I'm very lucky to have you to visit me.

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And I'm very lucky to have such a wise great-aunt who can tell me

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stories any day of the week.

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So, tell me, Charlotte,

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what day of the week do we still remember Freya?

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I don't know.

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Think about it.

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-Friday?

-Absolutely right!

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Oh, goodness me! Is that the time?

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Come on! Your mum will be here in a minute.

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Now, how did those get there?

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Home time, Charlotte.

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-Thanks, Great Aunt Lizzie.

-Cheery-bye, Charlotte.

-Bye!

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Great Aunt Lizzie tells the story of Charlotte and the Adventure of the Cowrie Shells. A young woman named Gull is anticipating her brother's return from sea but the ship was due back days ago and she is worried. She decides to make an offering to one of the goddesses for his safe return, but which one? And what should she give? Sigrid the Wise knows the answers and Charlotte sets off in search of the perfect tribute.


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