This is a fairy tale inspired by the author's travels through Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China. The hero of our story is a young girl named Minli. She lives in a small house with her mother and father in the shadow of a large mountain. All the villagers call it Fruitless Mountain because nothing grows on it and no animals or birds make their home there. Minli's family is very poor, as are most of the villagers.
Although Minli is a child, she is always smiling and ready for adventure. The villagers thinks her name (which means quick thinking) is well suited to her. Sometimes her mother thinks it suits her too well. What makes Minli happiest is hearing her father tell her stories of far away lands, of magic and dragons, of imagined worlds where anything is possible. One of her favorite stories that she likes to have her father tell is how Fruitless Mountain got its name. Minli loves this story and always asks her father what could be done about the barren state of the mountain to which her father always answers, “That is a question you will have to ask the Old Man of the Moon.”
Minli believes her father's story and asks him where she can find the Old Man of the Moon. He tells her that it’s been said he lives on the top of Never-Ending Mountain. Then Minli has a great thought. She tells her father that if she could find the Old Man of the Moon, she could ask him how to change the family's fortune. This time the mother scolds the father for putting such ridiculous thoughts in their daughter's head.
The next day is not an ordinary day. A goldfish seller walks through town calling out “Goldfish. Bring good fortune into your home.” Minli asks the man how a goldfish can bring good fortune to which the man replies, “Don't you know? Goldfish means plenty of gold. Having a bowl of goldfish means your house will be full of gold and jade.” Minli has two copper coins given to her when she was a baby and without another thought, runs back home and offers them to the goldfish man. He only takes one coin and gives Minli a bowl with a goldfish in it. When she brings it home, her mother is not pleased, saying it’s just another mouth to feed.
Minli thinks about what her mother said and sneaks out at night to set the fish free. She sighs just like her mother and says out loud if she can only go to Never-Ending Mountain, then she would be able to ask the Old Man of the Moon how to change her family’s fortune. As she is about to head home, the fish speaks and says it can show her the way to Never-Ending Mountain.
This is how Minli's true adventure begins – starting with a talking goldfish, then meeting a dragon that can't fly, and having to solve riddles to find her way to Never-Ending Mountain where she can ask the Old Man of the Moon her question. Will she get there? Will her family's fortune change? Are there really talking goldfish and dragons? Only one way to find out--finish reading the story!~Ernie Hoyt