The Sad Tale of Little Libby

Sabrina Mahfouz

Once upon a time there was a child called Libby who found the whole girl/boy he/she her/him thing a bit tiring and so decided to answer only to ‘Libby’, asking to be referred to in writing and in speech by name only, no pronouns. At first, this was difficult. But as with most difficult things in life, it soon became easy enough.

Now, it’s true that Libby did not quite start a trend – yet it was certainly this freedom from labels which enabled such a wonderful wardrobe of words to emerge and stick to Libby’s skin and flow from throat and hang from hair.

Libby was never scared, never even scared of being scared.

When neighbours, parents, other kids and their pets peered through the bedroom window where this ‘curiously strange child’ resided soon enough there was a ‘NO SNOOPING’ banner covering the glass windows. Though they still tried to peep, inside Libby remained unseen and would learn the lines from the books of those who’d died trying to make lives more dignified and fair.

During all this reading, the child found it increasingly strange how humans seemed to learn devastatingly tragic lessons, work together in order that such a lesson need never be learnt again and then a short time later ensure all their work is undone because they’ve come to the conclusion that they can excuse themselves from the cycle of an unchallenged history. It was terribly confusing.

Libby wrote and wrote and wrote, not wanting people to forget so easily, wanting everyone to see the endless possibilities for equality and liberty.

Meanwhile, Libby’s parents became disturbed by their child’s abilities.

They felt inferior, irresponsible, guilty for having brought such a dangerous mind to the world. A mind that tried to change all the things they’d unquestioningly settled for their entire lives. So backpacked with shame they shut the door irrevocably on their only offspring.

And this brings us to the probably expected - but entirely avoidable – sad ending of this story.

The neighbours, the teachers, the sellers, the makers, the kids, the pets, the whole entire town in fact – being too scared to pick apart the heart of their suspicion and see if it contained any real, beating thing –surrounded Libby’s house, broke in and built bars around the room in which the child sat, crunching crisps and reading.

They fed Libby, they gave water, sometimes fizzy drinks too if they were in a good mood and even ordered obscure book titles for birthdays and celebrations. They made sure a visit was given at least once a day.

Libby never complained, unnerved them daily by smiling and saying ‘thank you’. They shivered at her resilience. Until one day of course, Libby escaped.

The town only knew of this child’s brave attempt for freedom when a truck driver came running down the road, face splattered with tears, screaming that he had just flattened a kid.


The town held a memorial and the same hands that had built the bars built a statue of Libby, so that everyone could remember and learn from the brave example of never giving in to small-mindedness; to oppression; to unfair treatment in the face of undeserved suspicion. They all nodded and said, ‘Libby was the very best child we ever knew. We can’t believe she’s gone’.


Sabrina Mahfouz writes plays, poems, stories. She is currently the recipient of a Sky Academy Arts Scholarship for poetry; an Associate Artist at the Bush Theatre; Poet in Residence at Cape Farewell - a climate change and arts organisation supported by the Science Museum and a Global Shaper with the World Economic Forum. Her first collection of plays and poems, The Clean Collection, will be published by Bloomsbury imprint Methuen in Spring 2014. @SabrinaMahfouz


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