A new creation story for older children explains `how so many things came to be made wrong' : BOOKS
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RIGHT IN the beginning, when everything was being made, God worked night and day, and his helpers were the Angels and the Demons. His Angels made the insides of things. His Demons made the outsides. God told them how it should be done and they did it. They were tireless workers.

But one of the Demons was different. His name was Goku. Goku would not work. Or rather, he would work only in his own way. He worked in such a clownish way, all the other Demons laughed, sometimes so hard that they had to stop work, which made God angry.

Here is the sort of thing Goku did. When they were making the river Amazon, God had given his instructions. And the Angels had made a gigantic River Spirit. This was the inside part of the river Amazon. God was pleased. It was one of his masterpieces. From one angle it looked like an enormous Indian woman lying across the landscape, naked and draped only with flower garlands, beside a full-length mirror, admiring herself as she combed her hair. From another angle, it looked like a colossal snake, looped and coiled across the map, with a huge great-lipped mouth resting on the edge of the sea, into which it sang gloomy songs. Every one of its scales was like a lens, and when you looked into one of those lenses you saw a fish, or a crab, or an insect, or a bird, or a reptile peering out as if it were hiding inside the lens.

From another angle the River Spirit looked like a horde of ragged goblins, pouring towards the sea. Every one of them was monstrous, and every one different. Imagine for yourself. Some were luminous, and were half frog, half monkey. Some bounded along on a single leg, with the bone sharpened to a point. Some were simply heads, happily or unhappily rolling. And so on. The hubbub was deafening. Their wagons, loaded with magic drums, flutes, fishing tackle, looms and cooking pots, trundled along with them, pulled by alligators, tapirs, jaguars and wild pigs.

From another angle, it was nothing but an old man, trudging along. Just one lonely old man. Yet wherever you looked, along the whole length of the river, there he was, trudging along, the same old man.

From every angle it appeared to be something different.

This was the inside of the river, the River Spirit, made by the Angels.

When the Demons started making the outside of the river, they had a problem. They had to invent an endless supply of water. Plain, ordinary water. They all thought hard how to do it.

Then Goku cried: "I've got it!"

He grabbed the River Spirit, tied a mountain range round its neck, and threw this huge weight out into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The whole River Spirit flew through the air like a long streamer tied to a cannonball. As it disappeared under the Atlantic, Goku let out his laugh. He really had thought it was a good idea. He had plunged the River Spirit into endless water, just as God had wanted. But now he saw how alarming his solution was. And how wrong. And how funny.

The Demons lay laughing helplessly all around him. The Angels rushed to rescue the River Spirit before it perished in the salt water, and God was furious. But Goku only said: "You told us it needed water. Now it's got it."

When God invented Man, it was just the same. This was quite a tricky job, especially when it came to making the head. The Angels had made the inside of Man's head - the Head Spirit, thinking brilliant thoughts, planning a happy future, solving every problem, and dreaming of songs.

But then the Demons had to make the outside. They sat in thought, wrinkling their demon brows. Suddenly Goku cried: "I've got it!"

He pulled up a turnip, which God had invented a few days before, and stuck it on Man's shoulders. "There," he said. "Two birds with one stone."

But when he saw what he'd done he laughed so hard all the Demons laughed with him, rolling up and down Heaven, the Earth and the Underworld. They thought it was very funny. But the Angels frowned. The part of God that was black went white with rage. And the part that was white went black.

Man did look very odd with a leafy turnip for a head. But God's rage frightened Goku. "I'll fix it," cried the Demon. And with quick scoops and gougings of his demon claws, he carved the turnip into a face.

"What's wrong with that?" he asked. But then when he saw what his claws had done, he let out his wild ear-splitting laugh.

God threw down his book of ideas and went storming off into a far corner of Heaven. He thought he might explode and annihilate his own Creation. He really did feel dangerous. Even the Angels were frightened.

Quickly, before God came back, the Angels made the inside of Woman. And this time, before Goku could spoil things with one of his crazy ideas, the Demons gave Woman's head and face a beautiful outside, just like the most beautiful of the Demons. And before God came back, Man and Woman had two children, Boy and Girl - but they were half turnip heads, just as they are to this day. It was too late for God to correct. After that, whenever Goku saw Man or one of his children he let out his awful laugh. God began to dread the sound of it.

And so God planned how to get rid of Goku.

But just at that moment Goku found another Demon exactly like himself. A female Demon named Goka. He recognised her on sight as one of his own kind and she recognised him. They stared at each other with joyful faces and let out a fierce wild laugh that ripped the paint off God's toy motor car, which he was saving up to give to Man when the right moment came.

Goka was almost crazier than Goku. "Where have you been all these billions of years?" cried Goku, gazing at her in rapture.

"I've been up my mother's nostril, plugged in with a poggle," she explained, and let out her loopy wild laugh.

Whatever they said to each other, they followed it with a laugh. The Demons grinned, waiting for what amusing thing they would do next. But the Angels watched sternly.

"One day," said Goka, "I'll make those Angels laugh so hard their jaws will break off. They'll laugh so hard they'll be treading on their tongues. They'll laugh so hard their eyes will come bouncing off the wall. They'll laugh so hard their hearts will be jumping about on their plates -"

Goku silenced her with a kiss.

"Let's do it together, my love," he said.

So she and Goku set out to make the Angels laugh.

They almost brought Creation to a standstill. God was inventing new things all the time, and the Angels, as ever, were making angelic insides for them. But when it came the turn of the Demons to make the outsides - Goku and Goka were there, making trouble.

That is how so many things came to be made wrong.

Suddenly God had a brainwave. If Goka has a baby, he thought, she will calm down. She'll become sensible. And Goku too, he will become serious. Fathers become serious.

God gave a quiet little laugh - and there was Goka, about to have a baby. She burst into tears. Goku licked his lips, scratched his head, then got up and walked to and fro, uttering a wild laugh. Then he sat down again and frowned.

Suddenly Goka jumped up. "I've got it!" she cried. "I know what!"

She flew down to Woman and whispered in her ear: "You are going to have God's child."

Woman, who was dozing on her veranda, woke with a start. She told Man. "An Angel just came," she said. "It told me I'm going to have God's child."

"Are you sure it was an Angel?" Man asked. He knew something about the Demons.

"It was made of light," Woman said. "It had fierce eyes."

Man also knew something about the Angels. He knew they were made of light. The Demons were made of darkness.

His eyes grew round, gazing at his wife. "An Angel!" he whispered.

"It looked exactly like me," she added.

Man's eyes narrowed. How angelic was his wife?

Next day, there was the Babe in its cradle.

"My little darling!" cried Woman.

"Can this be God's child?" whispered Man.

The Babe looked at them with bright eyes like a bird, and let out a wild, unearthly laugh.

When God saw what Goka had done with her baby, he shook his head. "Just like a Demon!" he exclaimed. The time had come to do something drastic about her and her mad husband. He called to the Demons to heat his furnace white-hot, and he rolled up his sleeves. Then he bound Goku and Goka together, face to face, with heavenly wire, and heated them white-hot in the furnace. Then, laying them on his anvil, he pounded them with his mighty hammer till the sparks flew.

Again he heated them white-hot, and again he pounded them on the anvil, gripping them with his pincers as his almighty arm rose and fell, and the hammer blows shook Heaven and Earth.

Goku and Goka no longer laughed. Their faces were squeezed into one face, their bodies into one body, as God hammered them into a single lump.

Again he heated them white-hot, and again he hammered them. And as he hammered, the lump grew smaller. And smaller. Till it was only the size of a thrush's egg.

Then he plunged it into icy water, with a bang of steam.

He took it out, and rolled it between his palms. In spite of the icy dip, it was warm and dry. He gave it to an angel. "Take this," he said, "and give it to any bird who will take it."

So the Angel came down to Earth, where the birds were singing. He called them together and explained that God had invented a new egg. He showed them the ball. "So which of you will take it and hatch it and nurse what comes out?"

The birds were silent. But finally the Hedge Sparrow piped up: "If it's God's," she said, "then I'll take it." And she put it with her own five eggs.

Out of that egg two chicks hatched. They screamed to be fed. And screamed. And screamed. They took all the food their parents brought. And they grew.

They tossed the Hedge Sparrow's own children out of the nest. And screamed to be fed.

"Are these truly God's?" asked the male Hedge Sparrow. His head was worn bare with pushing food down the throats of these two gaping mouths.

One day, the two strange creatures flew up and away.

They began to fly to and fro over the Earth. One was male, one female. She called "Goku!" and he called "Goka!"

When she lays an egg, she does what she did before, and what the Angel did. She gives it to somebody else. She finds Hedge Sparrow's nest, and pops it in, and flies off with a weird laugh.

They ignore the other birds. They try to attract the attention of the Angels, and of the Demons, that stream to and fro in the air invisibly, going about God's business.

"Goku!" they cry, and "Goka!" at the tops of their voices, all day long. And as the days pass, they grow more and more desperate. They turn somersaults. They shout their names and follow that with a mad demonic laugh, hoping they will be recognised.

But the Angels and the Demons are still too busy. And God refuses to take any notice. Only Man listens. He pauses, and listens. And as he listens to that endless "Goku!" and "Goka!", and now and then that laugh echoing between the woods, a strange feeling comes over him. He feels he wants to laugh madly. He feels something is missing - something very important. And he feels the Angels watching him sternly.

8 From `The Dreamfighter and Other Creation Tales' by Ted Hughes (£10.99), published by Faber & Faber on 6 March in association with Jackanory, who will be screening five of the 10 stories every Monday from tomorrow until 30 March, at 4 pm, BBC1.

For signed copies of `The Dreamfighter', see offer on page 41