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He’s an old man now. He lives alone. At night it’s quiet in his little cottage. Maybe a little too quiet. Sometimes.

But mostly he doesn’t mind. His heart and his days are full. They are full of children. Boys and girls, small children, not-so-small children, and children who are almost grown. So many children.

He makes toys.

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All kinds of toys. Dollies.

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And painted villages.

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And wooden blocks for the littlest ones.

All of the children are his.

His, in the sense that he knows and loves every one of them. And they adore him. They come to sit at his feet, to beg for stories, to watch his old hands bring forth playthings for their pleasure.

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He is the Toymaker.

He hasn’t always lived in this village. He showed up one day, with a box of tools and a sack full of scrap wood, and he sat down under the wide branches of the oldest tree in the shire, and he started whittling. He gave the little wooden dog to the cobbler’s youngest daughter.

The next day he made a miniature sailing ship, with real sails. He gave it to the mayor’s son, who had sat beside him all day, watching.

After that, all the children wanted something for their own. He moved into an old cottage on the outskirts of the village and he made something for each and every one of them. He tells them stories while he works. Stories about queens and kings, witches and ogres, soldiers and maidens. He weaves magic into his stories and into the toys he makes for the children.

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He’s never told them about the little girl. About her big brown eyes and her soft, soft curls. He’s never told them about her beautiful mother and how much they loved each other.

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No, those are sad stories.

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He’d rather tell the children the stories with the happy endings. He tells them about how he’s travelled the world and the strange and wonderful things he’s seen. He tells them about fantastic humped beasts that can walk for days and days across burning sands, and about lands where the sun never sets at all at midsummer and never rises at midwinter, and about a great walled road that stretches across the mountains like a giant serpent. Their eager questions and bright eyes delight him. He laughs to see the games his tales inspire.

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In the evenings, when the children have gone home to their suppers and their beds, the Toymaker’s cottage grows quiet again. He finishes his work, puts his tools away, and prepares his last meal of the day. He sits in the twilight until the stars come out. He remembers the little girl and her beautiful mother.

But there is a smile on his lips.

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The Toymaker has been blessed with many children. And he loves them all.

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