Once upon a time, there lived a girl who was born with a shining mango instead of a heart. She was like a normal girl in every other way, apart from the peculiar ability to reach inside her own chest and pull out a ripe, glowing mango.
Mango Girl's mother naturally told her to never tell anyone about this, for she feared people would abuse and ridicule her. The years rolled on, and Mango Girl became a tenacious ten year-old with a loud laugh and eyes that shone brighter than the stars.
One fateful day, Mango Girl spotted a merchant selling yellow balloons in the town square. She merrily skipped over to him and pointed to the yellow balloon, which had a long red string attached to it. Now, this merchant was miserly and dishonest - rumour had it even his tongue was black from telling so many rotten lies.
The merchant shook his head and demanded ten gold coins for the balloon, finding twisted pleasure in making a child upset. Mango Girl's bottom lip quivered, but then she furrowed her brow. Without thinking, she thrust her hand inside her chest and pulled out her shining mango heart. The merchant shielded his eyes with his grubby cloak because of how bright it was, while Mango Girl stared at it proudly.
The merchant hastily snatched the mango heart and gave Mango Girl a balloon, telling her to be on her way. Mango Girl skipped home with a smile on her face, her balloon bobbing behind her. When she came home, she hugged her mother and told her she'd bartered her mango heart for a balloon in the town square. Mango Girl excitedly showed her the yellow balloon, a cheeky grin on her face.
Mango Girl's mother shrieked in fear and ran barefoot to the square, but the merchant had gone. She enquired about him everywhere, but people shook their heads, telling her that he never stayed in one place for very long, as he was wanted for unscrupulous behaviour.
With tears streaming down her face, Mango Girl's mother walked back home. She saw her daughter standing in the doorway of her house, waving excitedly at her. Suddenly, Mango Girl frowned and her smile vanished. She collapsed in a heap, letting go of the red string her balloon was tied to. The last thing she saw before she passed out was the yellow balloon floating away into the distance.
Mango Girl's mother asked a local mystic about what had happened, and after scrunching up his ancient face in a fit of wisdom, he replied that Mango Girl's heart was in mortal danger of dying, because it thrived on love and security.
Mango Girl's mother asked what would happen to her heart, and the mystic shook his head sadly and said outside of her body, with no love, it would rot and eventually die. Mango Girl herself would never wake up, and remain in a deep slumber forever.
Slamming her fist on the table, Mango Girl's mother vowed to find her daughter's heart, even if it meant travelling the entire world.
Meanwhile, the crooked merchant sold Mango Girl's heart to a prince in another realm, who put it proudly on his shelf as an ornament for guests to admire. Over time, the heart began to wilt and rot, so the prince summoned his most learned vizier and demanded he reverse the rotting.
The vizier explained that hearts are fuelled by love, and although everyone “aah'ed” and “ooh'ed” at the Mango Heart every night, superficial attention is not the same as love. It's barely a whisper of what love truly means. The prince rolled his eyes and demanded the vizier throw the Mango Heart away with the rest of the castle's daily rubbish.
Mango Girl's mother, meanwhile, had left her daughter in the care of her best friend, and scoured village after village, town after town, in search of her daughter's Mango Heart. One night, exhausted and alone, she was approached by a Witchling - witches cast away from their tribes because of their dark thoughts.
She told Mango Girl's mother she could lead her straight to the heart, but on one condition. The Witchling took a large shard of glass from her pocket, whispered dark things to it, and said Mango Girl's mother had to place the shard of glass into her shoe and tap-dance. Her feet would magically tap-dance straight to Mango Girl's heart, but only if she moved with the shard of glass in her shoe, as it knew the exact location.
The mother exhaled slowly, took the shard of glass and slipped it inside her shoe. She stood up and it instantly bit into her heel, her feet spasming as she was forced to tap dance across the ground. She winced and grit her teeth, and the Witchling smiled in quiet satisfaction that she was helping, but causing pain at the same time.
Mango Girl's mother tap-danced for many days with no rest, her feet magically taking her where she needed to go. The pain in her foot was unbearable by day two, but she persevered, not even daring to look at the damage the shard of glass was doing. By day seven her foot felt like a scrap of flesh torn to ribbons, but she limped on, tap-dancing chaotically through towns and villages, thinking of nothing but her daughter's smile. By day eight she was collapsing every few steps, but with steely determination, rising again slowly every time to tap-dance her way towards her goal.
On day ten, Mango Girl's mother, nearly totally exhausted and defeated, noticed her feet were slowing down. They had taken her to a small forest on the outskirts of a grand castle. Around her were bags of rubbish, reeking of fish and rotten food. Her heart started hammering against her chest as she looked around frantically for her daughter's mango heart.
How had something so precious ended up in such a desolate place? She walked for a while longer and stopped, leaning against a tree to catch her breath. Suddenly, something tickled her hand. It was a red string, caught in the branches of the tree. She looked up and saw a bright yellow balloon bobbing above her. She frowned, trying hard to remember where she had seen the balloon before, as she was delirious from her travels.
Suddenly, she remembered. It was her daughter's balloon. How incredibly curious, that it had flown so far and settled in the same tree she’d been guided to. She gasped as she realised the tree was bearing shining mangoes. Her heart must have ended up in the forest and rotted, but from its seed, a whole tree had grown.
Mango Girl's mother looked at the tree and spotted one mango, right at the top, shining and sparkling in the sun. She put her hand on the tree and felt it shudder. It was afraid. Mango Girl's mother put her hand out, and told the tree it was Mango Girl's mother.
She stood there patiently, until the tree's branches bowed down, offering her the mango heart. Mango Girl's mother gently took it from the tree and gazed at her daughter's heart. It was exactly the same as she remembered it, except this one had a thin yet firm protective coating around it. It still shone just the same, but it was less soft and plump.
As Mango Girl's mother turned to leave, the tree's branch spiralled out and nudged her bloodied foot with a leaf. Mango Girl's mother took the leaf and hesitatingly rubbed it on her foot. Within a few moments her foot was entirely healed, and she took the shard of glass and put it in her pocket as a makeshift weapon on the way home, just in case she needed it.
Before she left, Mango Girl's mother also untangled the balloon from the tree and tied it around her wrist. With a fierce look of determination she marched back to her town, the yellow balloon bopping behind her.
On her way back, she stopped at a tavern and overheard a rowdy group of men, with one slimy looking man boasting to everyone about how he'd bartered a glowing mango heart to a prince and been rewarded handsomely for it. It was the crooked merchant himself.
Without hesitation, Mango Girl's mother strode over to the table, grabbed the shard of glass from her pocket and thrust it through the merchant's hand, pinning it to the wooden table. He screamed in pain and tried to remove it, but the cursed shard liked the taste of justice, so it refused to budge.
Mango Girl's mother told everyone in the tavern he had nearly killed her daughter and stolen an innocent girl's heart. This tavern entertained some questionable folk of rather shady backgrounds, many of whom had daughters, so as Mango Girl's mother left, she heard the merchant wailing and shrieking in agony as everyone in the tavern punished him in their own quaint ways.
Mango Girl's mother hurried home and burst into the house where she had left her. Her daughter was still there, pale and still. Her hair had grown passed her shoulders, corkscrewing off the side of the bed. She approached her daughter, Mango Heart in hand, and took a deep breath.
Then, she placed the Mango Heart back inside her daughter's chest. There was a moment of silence and then Mango Girl suddenly inhaled, the colour returning to her cheeks. She looked around in a daze and saw her mother. Mango Girl's mother cried with joy and hugged her daughter with all her might, and gave her the yellow balloon. Mango Girl giggled with joy and hopped off the bed, taking her mother by the hand, her Mango Heart glowing brightly for ever more.