Once, a long time ago, there was a king called Xerxes. He was a bit of a show-off. One day, he called his Queen in to show her off and she wouldn’t come, so he got into a real strop, screaming and stamping his feet and throwing things! He was so mad he had the Queen put in a little cottage in the middle of nowhere and forgot about her.
Now he needed a new Queen. So he called for all the women of the land to come and present themselves to him. Well. There were fat women and thin women, tall women and short women, old women with walking sticks and gangs of teenage girls. There definitely weren’t any pregnant ladies or little girls on roller-skates though. Xerxes wanted to marry a new lady, so already married ones and little girls weren’t a lot of good to him.
But Xerxes didn’t like any of them. One was too spotty. One was too cheeky. One didn’t like gummy bear sandwiches, which was no good! gummy bear sandwiches were Xerxes’ absolute favourite dish.
At last Xerxes met a young girl called Esther. Esther was a lovely girl; everyone that knew her liked her. She got invited to all the parties and never forgot to send birthday cards. Best of all, Xerxes thought, was that she just loved gummy bear sandwiches too! He fell in love with her immediately and found a fabulous dress for her to wear, put a crown on her head and had a huge party where he told everyone that she was the new Queen. Just like that.
Esther, however, had a secret. She had an uncle who lived and worked at the palace and his name was Mordecai. Her uncle Mordecai had brought up Esther and she loved him very much, but she couldn’t tell Xerxes that he was her uncle because Mordecai, and therefore Esther, were Israelites. Xerxes wasn’t an Israelite and wasn’t too fond of some of their habits.
Uncle Mordecai was having problems. Xerxes had a right hand man called Haman. Now, Haman was a bit of a bad egg. He was a show off and he thought far too much of himself. He liked everyone to bow and kneel when they saw him. But uncle Mordecai wouldn’t bow to Haman. He was an Israelite and would only bow to God the Father, not to whoever happened to be king that week and certainly not to people that weren’t even kings!
Haman thought that this was far too cheeky and got cross. And when Haman got cross, you had to look out. He liked to overdo things. So he made a plan to kill all the Israelites the following Thursday.
When poor Uncle Mordecai found out that he was going to get his head chopped off he got very upset, as you would, and started wailing all around the palace. When Esther heard him she asked what on earth the matter was?! Uncle Mordecai told her the tale and asked her to help, but poor Esther was terrified! And also very upset. She has a tough choice ahead of her. If Haman found out that she was an Israelite then she would be killed, but if she said nothing then all her family would die. If that wasn’t bad enough, just going to see Xerxes when he hadn’t invited you was enough to get your head chopped off!
So Esther decided that she would pray very hard and see what God said. She did just that and God gave her an idea. She put on her best dress and stood in front of Xerxes throne. Which was empty. When he finally showed up for work she was lucky, as he was pleased to see her. He asked her what she wanted, saying to her “You can have half of my country if you’d like!”
Esther said that she would tell him what she wanted later and invited him out for dinner, with gummy bear sandwiches (She remembered they were his favourite!) and asked him to bring Haman along. They met that night down the local restaurant, ordered a bottle of house red and chatted whilst the a waiter ran to the sweet shop for more gummy bears. Xerxes was getting very interested to know what Esther might want that needed quite so much buttering up! He started bugging her to tell him. But Esther held firm, telling him that she would tell him tomorrow, same time, same place, over gummy bear sandwiches.
That afternoon, Haman was feeling very pleased with himself for being so well thought of that he got invited along on the King and Queen’s personal dates. But suddenly he saw Uncle Mordecai and all his good feelings went away. He got mad just thinking about how Uncle Mordecai wouldn’t bow to him. He stomped off home and moaned so much to his wife that she told him to go build a gallows and hang Uncle Mordecai on them. Unfortunately, Haman thought that this was a brilliant plan and had them built immediately.
Back to the King. Next day, Xerxes remembered to shave and brush his hair, fairly humming with excitement. Esther put on that dress again and Haman, well, Haman thought so much of himself already that he didn’t make any effort. He was whistling as he arrived at the restaurant, thinking about how he was going to hang Uncle Mordecai after dinner. They met up, ordered a bottle of house red and chatted whilst the waiter ran down the sweet shop for even more gummy bears. They’re munching on olives when Xerxes says, “Go on then, miss Queen-in-your-best-dress, what do you want? You’re driving me mad, woman! So Esther took a deep breath and said:
“Basically, a very bad man has got it in for me and all my family and is going to get us all killed on Thursday if you don’t step in and stop him.” She said it all in a rush with her eyes screwed up, hoping for the best. There was a pause and she opened on eye. Well. You remember that Xerxes had a temper? He’d gone purple in the face and started to stamp about throwing olives at the waiters demanding to know who would dare be this mean to his Queen. Esther breathed out again and sat back, smiled sweetly and pointed to a very scared looking Haman. The king got so mad that he had to go and take a walk outside before he broke something.
When he got back, Haman was trying desperately to talk Esther into letting him off the hook and Xerxes thought that he was trying to hurt her! He was going to burst a blood vessel in a minute and when the waiters saw how mad he’d got they shouted out to him that there was a gallows down the street that Haman had made for Uncle Mordecai. They yelled out “Hang him! Hang him!”
And so he did. Haman got hanged, Esther got his stuff and his house and Uncle Mordecai got his job. Xerxes declared the former day of death, Thursday, to be a bank holiday instead and everyone had a three-day party. Xerxes and Esther drove through the streets throwing our gummy bears for everyone. Everyone was having a great time and when Esther asked Xerxes if he wanted another gummy bear sandwich, what do you think he said?
“Yes, please! Gummy bear sandwiches are YUMMY FOR THE TUMMY!”