The story happened in a land on the other side of the world. A world where a dark cloud of despair loomed over the heads of each person who lived there.
People had learned how to turn off their feelings and pretend everything was alright.
Those brave or foolish enough to speak out for change were exiled to the remote corners of this land, often never to return.
A soviet villain was controlling the free will of the collective.
Since childhood, the son of a hog farmer had always felt an urge to paint cheerful pictures. He created weird and whimsical animals in a surreal world where clouds played tag in bluer than blue skies. Where transplanted giraffes and elephants gazed in awe at the huge star-studded skies of the Baltic Sea.
But the villain needed to keep the young artist depressed. The artist was ordered to paint what the government mandated: no fantasy, no bright, vibrant colours. Stick to realism rendered in the official 35 shades of muted browns and absolutely no giraffes or elephants.
Our hero smiled back. His fanciful pictures made him, his family and his friends exuberantly happy. So elated that they forgot about the dark clouds that loomed over them. This was a better alternative.
The villain created problems. He refused to let the hero attend art school. Worse yet, he denied the artist the special entry ticket to the only art supply store in the land.
Undaunted, the artist rolled up his sleeves and fabricated DIY brushes from the bristles of his father’s pigs. Because he was also denied entry to the art university, he hired a private art teacher.
Before long, everybody in the village was buying his paintings and hanging up a signed piece of happiness at home.
Things were going well for our hero. The more paintings he sold, the more he wanted to paint. His dark cloud disappeared and a smile never left his face. He wanted everyone to feel the way he did. He decided to create a picture book so that people could have a collection of his paintings.
Tongues wagged amongst the members of the Artists’ Union.
“How low can you get?”
“He’s doing something called marketing! Can you imagine. He has compromised himself by going commercial. A capitalist! “
The day the artist turned 19, there was a knock at his door. The government sent him birthday greetings by way of a reminder to fulfill his obligation to fulfill three years of compulsory military service.
This meant no more painting. Worse yet, he would be forced to live thousands of kilometers from home in a remote outpost that was so far away that most mothers could only do the journey once, to bring their care packages to their sons.
He would be ostracized, beaten and possibly even killed by jealous, angry recruits who carried fuddering thunderclouds over their heads all the time.
His smiling face defied the dark cloud nearby. With chin held high, he continued painting.
As the date for the interview and enlistment approached, the artist was putting the finishing touches on an oil painting featuring a pink dog-like creature in deep sleep. It lay on its side at the edge of a copse, surrounded by the soothing sighs of the Baltic silver birch.
The artist’s mother knocked at the door.
“I just got a phone call.”
“And who called?”
“The recruiting officer you were to meet tomorrow for your interview had a terrible accident. Somehow, he drove into a tree and died.”
The artist put his brush down. The painting was finished.
Weeks went by, and no one called the artist.
He started another painting.
Then, something quite amazing transpired. That summer, in August, the villain was kicked out. The people wanted sunshine in their lives and forced the villain to release them from subservience.
A new leader stepped into the shoes of the old, and a great depression was lifted from the land.
The artist opened up an art gallery in the Big City and became a celebrity. The borders were opened to the rest of the world, and many visitors came.
The artist became so popular that people wanted to see his animals everywhere. Giraffes and elephants found new homes on building facades.
Today, penguins grace the topsides of the ferries that travel across the sea to Finland and Sweden.
They take happiness with them wherever they go.
And that is how the hero beat the villain.