“Once there was a little ship who wished he was a galleon. He was sure he was meant to be a galleon – he certainly had grand thoughts like a galleon, and he yearned to carry precious cargo across the ocean blue and transport intrepid souls to the new worlds that were being found, and bring brave soldiers across the waves into battle. As it was, he carried only market goods, and saw only the English Channel, and sometimes, on a rough day, dipped his toe in the fringes of the North Sea.
As he sat in dock, being loaded up with poultry and cheap rugs, he watched the war ships and the great trading vessels as they set out on their vast adventures. Once or twice he had tried to talk to them, sidling up on the starboard side as they rocked gently in the harbour waters – but he was too small for them to notice, and the grand words they spoke with one another went bellowing far above his head.
The little ship thought he could have been happy if he had only been a big boat. If he had been a big boat, at least he could have had command of smalltime waves off the coast of some bustling fishing village. As it was, he was neither one nor the other – when the harbour masters came to make note of his cargo, they saw the classification – ‘ship’ – on the books, and they laughed mightily. Sometimes they called their harbour friends over to share in the joke.
‘A ship!’ they howled, crying with laughter – ‘He thinks he’s a ship!’
But when the little ship was in the bay beside the small boats, they would bristle and grumble. ‘Move over fatty!’ They would hiss. ‘This bay isn’t big enough for both of us.’
And so the little ship was very sad.
One night he was anchored up alone on the farthest dock. It was at the remote edge of the harbour, and there was a tavern nearby. The songs of drunken sailors came swimming through the yellow light of the window. The little ship was all alone – his cargo had all been removed, and he was not due to sail again for three days. He was softly crying salty tears to himself.
‘I wish I was a galleon,’ he wept. ‘Oh, everything would be alright then.’
Presently a shadowy figure appeared port side. He was wrapped in a dark cloak and had cunning eyes that glinted in the moonlight.
‘Now then,’ said then man gently, ‘what’s all this?’
The little ship, being sad, did not see the malevolence in the man’s eyes – nor did he think how strange it was that a shadowy man should come and talk to a ship.
‘Everything’s wrong,’ he sobbed. ‘I want to be a galleon – and I am only a little ship.’
‘Well, even a little ship can be important,’ replied the shadowy man – but the little ship stubbornly shook his little prow.
‘No, it’s not good enough! I want to be a galleon! If I was a galleon everything would be alright!’
Something shone in the man’s eyes. ‘Well then, we can fix that – if that’s what you want, little ship.’
The little ship rocked earnestly. ‘It is exactly what I want – but how can you do it?’
‘I am a shipwright,’ said the man – ‘and I make ships of all shapes and sizes. If you want to be a galleon, I can make you a galleon.’
The little ship looked up at the man. And because it was dark and because of his salty tears, he did not see how the man’s eyes glinted, and how something sharp down at his side glinted too.
‘Yes,’ said the little ship stoutly. ‘Make me a galleon.’
In the morning, the little ship was gone – all that remained was a pile of broken planks, which the shipwright put in a cart and took to the shipyard. For in the shipyard there was an enormous galleon under construction, almost finished – needing only a few extra bits here and there to make it ready to sail. And in three days it was finished and sailed out for the first time across the ocean waves. And as it went, the little ship, broken up and scattered across the hull, smiled his little broken smile: for even though he had had to destroy himself for it, he was at last a galleon.”