At the Dulverton Exmoor Literary Festival 2022, the Children’s Writing Competition judge, historical fiction author Kate Lord Brown, announced the winner and runners up of the competition on the stage in front of a large audience – including the well known children’s authors Claire Barker and Victoria Eveleigh.
Here is Orla’s winning story…
The Hungry Deer
Once there lived a hungry red deer in the middle of Exmoor. His name is rocket, and he lives in a heard. They like to eat heather, whortleberries, and brambles but rocket no longer liked anything that the other deer ate. That night Rocket left his old family oak tree and sneaked to Richards, the Exmoor rangers house.
As ranger Richard was putting his kayaks away, Rocket spotted a half-eaten bacon sandwich on a moss-covered wall. Licking his lips, Rocket stared at the scrumptious looking food, finally deciding to eat it. suddenly, with a puff of smoke he turned into a human boy.
No longer did rocket have his beautiful brown fur, and on his head sat a tuft of black hair where his precious antlers once were. His two toed hoof was now a five toed foot. He tried to bellow his deep throated call to his herd but all that came out was a high-pitched scream.
Rocket was so happy that he was no longer a red deer, and he could enjoy his life as a boy. Desperate to show his herd, Rocket ran after them. Rockets herd were busy munching on the grass when they saw a terrifying sight. A human running towards them!
They galloped in different directions desperately seeking a hedgerow to hide in. Poor Rocket was left standing on the moor cold and lonely. He missed his herd. He missed the beautiful sights of his kingdom, especially his oak tree which he loved scratching his antlers on.
Woody, the wise barn owl, swooped down and perched on the family oak tree. “I’ve been watching you very closely, now its time that you watch and learn”! Rocket, as all the Exmoor animals do, listened closely to Woody.
For the next few days, Rocket watched the humans. They were constantly going to work and school. Everything they did was rushed, not once did they stop and look at the beautiful moor. Why did they not admire the landscape in which they lived?
From a safe place, Rocket watched his family. They took their time moving freely around the moor, picking at the lovely, green, juicy grass. They would stand and look at their surroundings. They showed respect to all animals.
When Woody returned, Rocket was nervous. “You must choose Rocket. stay in your human form or return to your herd as a red deer.”
Rocket knew instantly. He wanted to be a red deer. He wanted to live his life slowly and proudly on the beautiful Exmoor. Human food was nice, but they never stopped to look. They never slowed down to listen. With a puff of smoke, Rocket raced back to his family as a stag.