A young girl and boy are on their first fishing expedition with their strict father who prizes obedience to his words more than anything else. The father is preparing his rod and reel while his two children prepare their short poles. They stand not far from the edge of a huge rock above a fast flowing stream.
The obedient daughter patiently waits further coaching from her father. Not the son! He anxiously casts before getting his father’s final instructions and approval. Off balance, he begins to lose footing from his slippery perch. The fisherman leaps to his feet and grabs the boy by the collar before he falls to be swept away by the stream’s swift current.
In The Lake That Stole Children, angry at his son’s disobedience, the fisherman bellows at the boy so loudly that even birds in the forest flee from their tree nests: “See what can happen when you ignore your father!” The daughter and son are told they must continue to practice casting their lures close to shore.
The son resents this boring directive. He wants to cast out into the stream's center so he can catch big fish like his master-fly-fisherman father is doing. Silent and discouraged, both daughter and son continue practicing.
After seeing how discouraged her young son was, later that night when both children are in bed, the children's mother tells her husband he is too stern with their son. She feels the boy needs more love than harsh discipline.
The young boy cannot sleep. The night cries of the river are beckoning. He steals away to the fishing rock carrying his father’s prized rod, reel, and fishing pail. At the rock, he casts far into the gushing stream’s center.
In a flash, something huge tugs hard on his lure. He attempts to wind in his line, but his young body is neither heavy enough nor strong enough. He refuses to let go of the fishing rod, fearing his father’s rage if he discovers it missing.
Into The Lake That Stole Children splashes the young lad, desperately gripping the rod. As he is drawn through the stream and then out into the great lake, he sees a brilliant light coming fast at him. He hears the soulful cries of many children deep in the lake.
Who are these children? Where are they? Are they mere ghosts or specters of this terrified boys unbridled imagination? Will the disobedient boy drown? And what will become of the fisherman and his wife?
As a former teacher, I would highly recommend this descriptive short tale especially to educators who are trying to stimulate imaginative writing in their students. Read sentences from the story like, “From the depths of the dark lake, a round beam of light steamed upward, like the warm glow of a fat lantern.” Then ask students to write their own simple story or paragraph describing what the light could be. This could provide as much enjoyment as letting the kids take turns, reading their own masterpieces or one another’s sentences aloud.
Any reader who likes fables will appreciate this magical story. In my mind, The Lake That Stole Children is a fable for both adults and children. Is it too frightening for kids? I think not. It should not scare them any more than Pinocchio and his father being swallowed by a great whale.