Once upon a time in distant China, a man whose favorite occupation was painting.
I painted birds. Painted hares. He painted the fish in the brook.
The neighbors and friends and all the children of the village praised him and said:
“The animals you painted really look real.”
The man became proud. And I thought:
“No one in the world can paint animals like me.” My wish was for my animals to come to life.
Then the painted animals came to life.
The birds spread their wings. The fish shook their fins. The hares pricked their ears and sniffed with their noses.
And they jumped out of the drawings.
– Oh! Said the pleased man.
But on closer inspection, she was startled. The birds flapped their wings heavily and could not stand the air.
The fish, which had jumped into the stream, swam on their backs.
The hares were limping.
The man wept upon seeing the poor animals. And he said:
“I didn’t paint them well enough.” May my wish come true only when I know how to paint well.
The man started painting again. It started from early morning until late afternoon.
He cared like a farmer in the field, like a worker in a quarry, like an ox in front of the car. When the neighbors praised him, he shook his head.
“Not quite well enough yet,” he said.
The man was getting older. Forgot your desire. He drew the sun and, while drawing, rejoiced that it existed. He drew the stones and, while drawing, rejoiced in them. He became the most famous painter in the country.
His garden was full of children watching him while he painted, and he showed them how beautiful things were.
One day a girl approached him and said to him:
– I’m sad, and do you know why? All other boys have animals that they can pet and love. Not only me. I loved having a rabbit so much. Can you draw me one? At least I get a design …
The old man took the brush and drew a rabbit. The girl said:
– It makes a black spot on his nose. So it looks exactly the way I wanted it.
The old man drew a black spot on the rabbit’s nose and felt the nose come alive.
The nose sniffed. His long ears jabbed and a shiver ran through his hair. The rabbit turned its head to the girl and, with a great leap, jumped from the drawing into his arms.
The girl leaned her face against the soft fur.
– What a beautiful and loving rabbit! – said. – Thanks!
And he went out with the rabbit, running so glad, that not once did he turn to the old man. He sat at his desk, quiet and happy, as if asleep. Lene Mayer-Skumanz (org.) Jakob und Katharina Wien, Herder Verlag, 1986 Adapted Text