In a big, big white country, which was in fact a small white room full of white flour, lived a small, small white mouse. She lived there together with her small white baby mice. The white mouse’s name was Bella. I could not memorize the baby mice’s names because there were so many of them! The only thing that I do remember is that all their names started with the letter “B.”
And all of them believed that the world was white and had always been white.
And what was the world, indeed? The world was a big white granary.
In fact, the white mice lived quite an ordinary but happy life. Mother Mouse rose every day with the first white rays of sun that shone through, and was got up to cook something tasty. Normally she boiled white milk, which she used to find each morning in the anteroom of the world. She would simply take a small white jug there and fill it up.
This made the small baby mice really, really happy.
When there was a holiday – and that was happened quite often – Mother Mouse prepared pancakes with jelly from white cherries and soft warm donuts covered in white powdered sugar.
Whenever the small mice smelled the sweet smell of something warm and fried, they immediately opened their small eyes and rushed toward the big white dining room. They sat on their small white chairs with the hearts carved into the wood and started eating right away with their small paws; they smeared their whiskers, stained their pajamas, and were overwhelmed with joy.
Looking at them, Mother Mouse was ready to rebuke them, but seeing their happily turned-up noses, her hands lowered and she opened a new pot of jelly.
The little mice shouted:
“You are the best mother in the whole world. We love you, mother!”
She fixed her hair that was white from all the flour and worries and lined up the little mice in front of the bathroom door. There they were splashing and cracking and scrubbing until each of them was clean and ready for new adventures.
They then quickly put on their small white shorts and small white skirts, small white blouses and small white sleeveless jackets, their small white socks and worn-to-whiteness sneakers. Last of all came their white hats; then the mice rushed toward their new white adventures.
There was one little mouse who loved adventures more than any other; she was the smallest and most curious member of the big mouse family. Whenever Bettina opened her eyes, she immediately began asking questions like these:
“Why is the cheese white, mother?”
“Because it is made of white milk, dear,” her mother would answer patiently.
“I understand. So white milk is made by white cows?”
“Well, yes, something like that. The cows themselves make the white milk. But I have never seen the cows, and as far as I know, they live quite far away from our world, ” the mother admitted.
“Ah, I see. So there are other worlds in other colors? Still, our world is the nicest because it is white, isn’t it, mother?”
“Yes, our world is nice and white,” her mother agreed.
“‘Sugar is also white,” Bettina clarified, and rushed away to explore the white world some more.
The world is always one and the same, thought the small mouse. How is it possible for something to always be the same? I have always been a mouse, ever since I was very, very small, and I have always been white. So I do not change. But… when I think about it, I do change. Ever since I started eating two lumps of cheese for breakfast, I have grown two entire mouse centimeters. And am I different now? And if I am different, does it mean that the world has changed too?
She started looking about herself. The owl was sleeping high on a beam, swaying with a smile.
I will learn all about the world on my own, Bettina thought. But it will take some time. I will have to eat more cheese if I want to grow up faster. And when I grow up, I will be sure to learn the answers to all questions.
Then, with a decisive step, she headed towards the big white door. It turned out to be quite heavy, so Bettina pushed it again and again until she finally managed to squeeze her small whiskers through. Suddenly she was blinded by such a strong white light that it startled her and she ducked back inside. Nevertheless, her curiosity turned out to be stronger, and this time she even managed to poke her small ears out, followed by her small paws, and finally she ran out of the door.
“Wow!” She saw so many new colors and heard so many sounds that she felt almost scared. But it was so colorful and so interesting!
All of a sudden, she was hit by a shower of something hard. The small mouse had never experienced hail or rain before, so it was not possible for her to guess at these, and she had even less reason to know that the mistress of the house was scattering yellow kernels of corn for her hungry chicken and the other birds, all of which were rushing and eating greedily. The small mouse only noticed the sharp beaks clacking all around her and almost pecking her. It was really frightening.
She darted quickly to the left and the right, and finally managed to hide behind an earthen jar. Then it became clear that those creatures were not chasing her but were hurrying to eat as many as possible of the big grains which had fallen from the sky.
Bettina was about to breathe a sigh of relief when she felt a dark shadow falling over her. She raised her eyes and saw something really terrifying: sharp ears, long whiskers, silent paws, and a long tail. She recognized him right away.
The mouse family’s monster: the cat.
Bettina’s small teeth started chattering in fear, and she didn’t even have the strength to squeak. She closed her eyes and understood why Mother Mouse always told her never leave the white world.
Bettina waited for the sharp claws of the cat to tear her nice white mouse skin. She wanted so much to hug Mother Mouse and to tell her: “Mommy, I love you so much! Mommy, I will listen to everything you say! Mommy, I will never go to the places where you told me not to go!” She wanted to scream with all her might:
I do not know if she finally managed to make herself heard – and she does not remember – but the next moment Bettina saw her mother throwing herself against the cat’s paws, and then she started running to left and jumping to the right. And everywhere around there were her little brothers and sisters peeping out and jumping.
An unimaginable chaos and tumult set in.
The cat jumped at the mother mouse and almost caught her. It was more than good timing that all of a sudden the inhabitants of the colorful new world came to their rescue. A round pink thing started to grunt. The fluffy ones with the beaks started to chase and peck the cat. Most impressive of all was a giant thing with horns, which had decided to poke the cat.
All the colorful creatures were helping the little mice to escape.
They poured a sack of white flour over the cat’s head, causing the poor animal to sneeze angrily. He couldn’t see anything, not even the door to sneak away. None of the animals liked him because he never did any work. Instead he stole eggs from the chicken, drank the cow’s milk, and laughed at the pig. And in spite of this, he was the mistress’s favorite in the colorful world.
After the cat ran away with his tail between his legs, Bettina started crying and Mother Mouse started hugging and kissing the naughty one. All the other animals began flapping their wings, stamping their feet, and making joyful sounds. The mother, Bella, said that she would make pancakes for everyone. And then Bettina watched how the cow gave a whole bucket of her warmest milk, the chicken rolled some of its recently laid eggs across to her mother, and the pig opened a big sack of white flour.
“Here is what delicious pancakes are made of,” the littlest mouse said with admiration.
Mother Mouse started frying pancakes, and everyone ate and ate. Bettina made friends with all of them.
And she learned a lot about the colorful world outside of the granary.
But the day was not over yet. There was one more surprise awaiting the curious small Bettina. And it was the very unexpected friendship of the owl, Know-All. He had known the small mouse ever since she was a tiny baby and knew of her enormous curiosity about the world.
“Uncle Know-All, Uncle Know-All, he world change when I change? And when the world changes, do I change too?”
The owl stretched his wings and replied:
“Do not be afraid, jump on board…
Now I will show you the big world from above.”
And the two of them flew high into the sky. As they were carried along through the small white clouds Uncle Know-All told the story of the whole colorful world beneath them. Bettina was amazed, and very, very happy that she had become a part of the big colorful family.