Long ago, in a far away land, Courage and Fear lived in a small, mushroom-like cottage that sat in a field next to a stream. Courage often enjoyed going out into the world and seeing what there was to see.
“Come with me,” Courage would say to his friend. “The sun is shining. The birds are singing! It’s a beautiful day! You never know what might happen if you come!”
But Fear never did. “I’ll be alright here,” he would say. “You never know what might happen if I went.”
One day, when the grass was especially green, and the sky even bluer than usual, Courage left to go on a walk down by the river, past the paperbark trees at the end of the field. Fear watched Courage leave, and as soon as he was out of sight around a corner, he locked the door, shuttered the windows, and huddled within a pillow fort he had built out of the couch and some blankets.
Courage just didn’t understand the fun one could have huddling inside a pillow fort, Fear thought to himself. After a good half-hour, there came a knocking at the door of the little cottage.
“Oh dear,” Fear said to himself, “Whoever could that be? Maybe if I ignore them, they will just go away.” But the knocking came again, more loudly.
“Helloooo! Fear? Are you in there?” called a woman’s voice. “Oh dear, whatever could have happened to him? Maybe he’s been eaten by tigers. I always said, ‘watch out for tigers, they won’t be put off from eating you by a pillow fort’, but he never listened. Poor tiger-eaten Fear!”
“Worry!” Fear exclaimed, throwing open the cottage door to greet his friend. “Come inside, quickly! Whatever possessed you to travel about outside alone! Didn’t you tell me just last week there were dangerous animals roaming the countryside?”
Worry stepped inside, and Fear quickly closed the door behind her.
“Indeed I did,” explained Worry, “But after thinking about the situation some more, I began to wonder if staying inside wasn’t just as dangerous. Why, I could fall down my stairs and bump my head, and then where would I be? Did you know that five eighths of all accidents happen inside one’s own home! Just thinking about it for a few seconds convinced me I just had to get out of there.”
“In any case,” said Fear, filling the kettle to make some tea, “I’m glad you came. Courage has gone off on one of his long walks, and I’m all alone in the house. It’s wonderful to have some friendly company!”
“Courage isn’t here?” said Worry, her voice deep with concern, “I was afraid of that! How long has he been gone?”
“Oh, half an hour. Why, whatever is the matter?”
“Didn’t I tell you? There are dangerous animals roaming the countryside!”
“But you just said that five eighths of all-”
“Never mind what I just said,” Worry interrupted. “The important thing is that our good friend could be in grave danger this very second! We have to save him!”
“Go outside?” gasped Fear, almost dropping the kettle. “Save Courage? Oh dear, dear me. I don’t think you’ve thought this through. Courage is the bravest person I know. Besides, I don’t want to be eaten by wild tigers.”
“Thinking things through is what I do, good friend,” Worry said, taking the kettle from Fear’s trembling hands and placing it down on the kitchen table. “Ask yourself this: if Courage meets a tiger or lion out on his walk, is he likely to do the sensible thing and run home as fast as his legs can carry him?”
Fear saw to the heart of Worry’s point right away. “No, He’ll try to pat it, or fight it or something!”
“Exactly,” Worry agreed. “And then our friend will end up in the belly of the beast. You’ll have to go on living here on your own without him!”
“You’re right,” squeaked Fear. “I’ll get my coat!”
They quickly set off down the path towards the stream.
“All this being outdoors,” Worry muttered to herself as they walked past a row of bright yellow buttercups. “I hope my allergies don’t start acting up.”
Soon enough they met another traveller along the path.
“Confidence!” Fear said. “We’re so glad to see you! Have you seen Courage? We think he may be in danger from wild tigers!”
Confidence brushed her hair back from her face and scoffed, “Tigers? Here? Pa-lease! The nearest tiger is hundreds of miles away at least. Besides, it’s entirely the wrong season for tigers.”
“Lions then,” Worry asserted. “Or bears, or dragons, or a million other things. The point is we’re concerned about our friend. Have you seen him?”
“I passed Courage on the path only a few minutes ago,” she said. “You have nothing to worry about. He was quite well. He was even thinking of going for a swim in the river.”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” said Worry, “He’ll catch his death of cold.”
Fear’s face had gone pale. “It’s far worse than that! Courage doesn’t know how to swim!”
“He’ll be fine,” laughed Confidence. “Swimming’s easy. It’s not like he’d be silly enough to go out into the deep water out near the waterfall. Have some faith in your friend!”
But Fear knew his friend’s daring all too well. “Quick! We don’t have a moment to lose,” he cried, and they both ran on down the path. Confidence shook her head at them, then decided to follow along; this was quite a show.
After a short while, Fear came to a place where the bank of the river dropped off sharply to the water below. He could see somebody swimming far out in the middle of the stream. He yelled to the others, “Look! there he is, out in the middle of the river, in the deep water! I should have known!”
“I did know it! I did!” wailed Worry.
“Courage!” yelled Fear, “Come back to the shore! It’s dangerous out there!” But instead of calling back to them, Courage only slipped splashing below the water, arms waving frantically.
“See, I told you two he’d be fine,” Confidence said, catching up to the others. She smiled and waved back to Courage.
“He’s not fine,” said Worry, “he’s drowning! Does anybody know how to swim?”
“I can swim,” Fear said, wringing his hands. “When I was little, I refused to get into the bath tub without first knowing how to swim, so my mother gave me lessons. But I didn’t bring my trunks and the water is moving so fast, and it looks so cold and wet, I don’t think I-”
“You’ll be fine,” Confidence said, and with a shove, pushed Fear into the deep water.
“Good grief, you’ve killed them both!” cried Worry.
Confidence rolled her eyes. “He’s perfectly alright.” She pointed, and Worry saw to his astonishment that Fear was indeed swimming through the water as easily as if he had been born a fish.
“Go Fear! You can do it!” Worry cheered, and then added, “Watch out for piranhas!”
Fear reached the struggling Courage, and slipping an arm around his friend, pulled him to the shore, where the others were waiting for them. Courage rolled over on the sand and looked up at his friend with a new respect.
“Fear!” he said at last, once he had his breath back, “that was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen! I’m proud of you.”
Soaked through though he was, Fear beamed under Courage’s praise. To be acknowledged as brave by Courage! What an honour!
“I had some help from the others,” he said modestly, helping Courage get to his feet. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
“Not at all,” said Confidence, adjusting her jacket. “And now that you know you can do it, I’m sure you’ll be joining Courage on all his walks by the stream, and swims within it.”
“I wouldn’t go quite that far,” hedged Fear. “There’s still the matter of the tigers, after all.”
“Wait a moment!” exclaimed Worry suddenly, her eyes wide.
“What is it now?” asked Fear, looking about for whatever wild animal Worry had seen.
“I think we may have left the kettle on the stove back at the cottage,” she said.
“My kettle!” wailed Fear.
“Forget the kettle,” said Worry. “The whole cottage may have gone up in flames!” Fear groaned, but a new excitement shone in Courage’s eyes.
“Come on!” he said. “We have to fight the fire! Back to the cottage, quick step!”
Before the others could react, he was running up the path, leaving a trail of wet footprints behind him.
“Wait for us!” Worry yelled, “You can’t put out a fire all by yourself!”
Confidence just shook her head and casually strolled along the path until she arrived at the cottage. When she arrived, she discovered that the cottage had not in fact burned down, and that she was just in time for a nice hot cup of tea.