I have been a fan of Belgian comic strips since my childhood, and this world always made me dream.
A meeting arranged with Bob de Groot and Jean-Claude Servais gave me the opportunity for combining both my passions.
What is more wonderful than a story made up for you to share their vision of my dream.
ONE NIGHT, AN OWL...
Once upon a time, …Hey, haven’t you noticed before that all great stories start with “Once upon a time”? Well, that will be perfect as this is one of the best stories that I have been given to tell! …
So, as I was saying, once upon a time, in a corner of heaven, a very small village was nestled between beautiful green hills. This beautiful small hamlet gave the impression that the people who lived in it could spend their time peacefully, without any worries for tomorrow, but it was only an appearance!
There was a problem!... And it was a huge problem!...In fact the water that ran from the dubious trickle pompously named a stream was unfit for drinking.
Oh of course, there was a grasping water-seller who passed through the village to sell them water, but it was at the price of gold!...Which meant that the inhabitants had to work harder to quench their thirst!
One night, when the full moon shone so bright that you though it was the middle of the day, an owl saw a kind peasant arrive who was sadly confiding in his dog, who was looking at him with love, as he had always done, not understanding a single word that his master was saying to him.
What he was saying, concerned him very much however: “I have to leave you, my faithful companion! The water-seller has put his prices up again and you are a mouth to feed that I now have to do without. You must understand and forgive me, my faithful companion, but I must abandon you in the forest, if only you knew how much I will miss you, my faithful companion!”, continued the peasant, with a tear in his eye, and he started to fasten the scruffy bit of string that served as a lead for the poor dog.
"NO, DON’T DO IT!"
The voice had clapped like thunder in the silence of the night!...The peasant stood frozen to the spot. Had he dreamt it or…No, no!..It really was the owl who had spoken! Then it continued: “Don’t do it, or you’ll regret it all your life!”
“But who are you, owl? And what miracle has given you the power of speech?” replied the peasant. The owl retorted: “The shape of an owl is just one of my numerous appearances!...Wait!"
The owl then made a cabbalistic sign with his right wing and…BOOM! He changed into a magnificent Wizard in a dark blue cape covered with stars. Stroking his long white beard with his hand, he continued: “I am the being who protects this forest and I have seen that the villagers look unhappy so I want to do something to help you. I’m going to change your stream, and there will be no other stream in the world that will be able to give such pure water! Come on, we’ll go to the spring!” The two new friends, followed by the dog, set off.
Arriving at the head of the stream, they saw a sight that left them speechless! The thin trickle of water that was running between two dirty and polluted rocks was black and oily! “As usual” whispered the Wizard into the peasant’s ear, showing him a shadowy figure who was pouring out the oily and malodorous contents of a barrel that was so huge it was even bigger than the cart!
The shadowy figure left, laughing out loud, and turning back towards the horse pulling the cart, the moon lit up his face and our friends recognised…the water-seller!...Talking to his horse, he said: “As you can see, Anatole, thanks to my ingenuity, my profitable business will go on forever!”
"THAT’S WHAT YOU THINK, YOU CROOK!”
It was the Wizard, in his stentorian voice, who had shouted at the water-seller!...Then pointing his magic wand in the direction of the scoundrel, he bellowed “DURALEXSEDLEX” … And…BOOM…A blinding light followed by a clap of thunder, and the crook turned into a frog! Then, the Wizard turned towards the spring and said:
And then a jet of water sprung out with a purity never seen before. At the same time the rocks returned to their natural beauty!
Then in the undergrowth sounds were heard…Everything was coming back: the squirrels, the birds, the rabbits, the hedgehogs, and I don’t know what else…Starting to speak again, the Wizard-Owl said: “So there it is!...Respect nature and nature will respect you!”
He added: “As you have suffered so much because of this evil-doer, I’m going to give you a gift worthy of a king!”…And then our Wizard started to give detailed and tempting instructions! He spoke for a good half an hour, with fervour, but also with the greatest respect, of a drink made from malt, he also spoke of stills in yellow copper, of the heart of the distillate, the real treasure that makes up the amber liquid that gives it its great smoothness in its taste whilst never adding anything whatsoever, and…
In the meantime, all the villagers who had been woken up by the noise of the thunderclap had arrived and were religiously listening to the Wizard. They were drinking up his words whilst waiting to drink something else!...
Everyone set to work, and then the villagers were able to hold a great celebration and finally taste this marvellous brew, of which only those with pure hearts could appreciate its charm without giving in to it too much!...This famous Single Malt was created thanks to the magical gifts of the owl!...
You can taste this treasure as well, but, as the owl said at the time, …With moderation!
Bob de GROOT
Drawing by Jean-Claude Servais