Terpsichore Goes to Furth

Terpischore“Terpsie! Terpsichore! Come on! Let’s go!”  

Horace, Terpsie’s brother, sounded angry.

It was time for school and Terpsichore the Fairy was late, again. She wasn’t trying to be late. It was just that sometimes she got distracted. Like this morning, when she was looking for her slippers, she’d noticed how nice the sun felt on her back. She thought her doll, Miss Pigeon, would like to sit in it. Then Miss Pigeon had invited her stuffed cat named Cat, and before you knew it the three of them were having a picnic (Cat the cat did love picnics) and then —

“Terpsie! Hurry up!”

This was her mother’s voice, and she was angry. Quickly Terpsie grabbed her slippers (they were under Miss Pigeon’s blue hat) and flew downstairs.

A fairy house doesn’t really need stairs, since everyone can fly, but Terpsie’s father said they were a good investment. And besides, sometimes your wings get tired.

Terpsie the Fairy and her brother Horace lived with their mother and father in a big house in the very top of a tree outside the Carnegie Library in Angola. You’ve probably never seen it, since it’s a fairy house and is made out of fairy floss, which is like spider web strings, only a thousand times stronger and very difficult to see. But, if you look up one day and squint really hard, you might just catch the edges of it.

The fairies have certainly seen you.

But this morning, Terpsie wasn’t looking at the boys and girls going to the library. She and Horace were very, very late. She barely had time to take a bite of toast before Horace was grabbing her arm with one hand and spinning his wand with the other, and they were off to school.

TerpsyTerpsichore is the muse of dance, and her name means "lover of dance." This statue, inspired by choreographer George Balanchie's ballet "Apollo," is located in the second floor of the T. Furth Center for performing Arts. Find out more

Terpsie had to go with Horace because she still had a Training Wand, which wasn’t any better than flying. Fairies, you see, can’t fly very far because their wings are very thin and small. It’s much better to go by fairy dust. A fairy with a proper wand (not a training one) can send fairy dust shooting out as far as the eye can see, to anywhere in the world they want to go. Then, all they have to do is step on to the trail and whoosh, they’re there.

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Terpsie had begged and begged and begged her mother for a real wand. And when that didn’t work, she’d begged her father, and when that didn’t work, she’d gone upstairs to her room and kicked the dust bunnies under the bed and hugged Cat and Miss Pigeon and told them about all the adventures they’d have together once she had a real wand.

Of course, Terpsie knew as well as anyone that she couldn’t get her real wand until she knew her Real Talent. That’s what all little fairies had to wait for.  Terpsie thought she might wait forever.

Horace’s Real Talent was math, which Terpsie thought was ridiculous. He was going to spend his whole life dribbling fairy dust over kids taking math tests, helping them understand Long Division and how to Carry the One.


Her best friend Clio was going to be a History Fairy and help old people in dusty rooms look at books or something. If she was being honest, Terpsie hadn’t really been listening when Clio told her about it. She’d just been so jealous of Clio’s new wand, with its shiny gold band around the tip and the little sparks of dust that flashed this way and that every time Clio turned it.

Terpsie sighed. She didn’t think she’d ever like anything so much that she’d want to do it for her whole life.

They were at school now, and Terpsie had taken her seat in the back of the room next to Clio. Up at the white board, their teacher, Mrs. Muses was talking.

“Class,” she said, “There’s been a change in plans. Our guest speaker, Mr. Homer, has been delayed, so instead we will be watching a documentary on Good Fairy Manners.” 

The class groaned. Terpsie groaned. But just then, Clio’s new wand fell to the floor with a crash.

Clio said “Oh!”

The class said, “Ah!”

Because when the wand was very new and very highly charged. When it hit the floor it started shooting fairy dust everywhere. Trails of dust arced out in rainbows out of the classroom windows and — oh, Terpsie knew she shouldn’t. She knew she shouldn’t, but…she did. She stepped on to the edge of one of the rainbow trails and whoosh she was in another place entirely.

It was a very large room with a balcony and many, many rows of blue chairs filled with many, many, many people. At the front of the room was a big stage, with more people on it. But these people were dressed in black and they had instruments — horns and cellos and violins and other things that Terpsie had only seen in picture books.

She said, to herself, “Where am I?”

“Why, you’re at The Furth Center,” said a voice at her feet, “And you’re about to hear a concert.”

Terpsie looked down. It was a black squirrel with a brown stripe down its back. He was standing on his hind legs, eating a peanut.

“Who are you?” asked Terpsie.

“Me?” said the squirrel. “I’m Toe-knee the Furth Squirrel. I live in the attic. You know, kinda take care of the place. But shhh…they’re about to start.”

Terpsie “shhhed.” And then she heard the most wonderful thing she thought she had ever heard in her entire life. First the violins started to play high beautiful notes. Then the cellos came in and then trumpets. Oh, it was so beautiful! Terpsie felt her wings start to quiver, then they were flapping carrying her high up in the air, in great big circles in time with the music. Higher and higher she went until she was up in a dome painted with pictures. She turned and twisted in the air, doing somersaults and pirouettes. She thought the music would never end.

And when it last it did, she heard a voices calling. “Terpsie! Terpsichore!” It was her mother and her father, and Horace, too. Mrs. Muse must have called them. They must have been looking all over for her.

“Oh no!” thought Terpsie. She was bound to be in trouble. She flew down into the balcony where her family was hovering.

But as it turned out, they weren’t angry at all. As it turned out her father was grinning, and her mother was grinning. Even Horace was grinning, and there wasn’t any Long Division in sight.

“That was beautiful, sweetheart,” said her mother.

“It was pretty great,” said Horace.

“I think,” said her father, taking a wand from behind his back — a real wand and not a training one —, “it’s time for you to have this.”

And that is the story of how Terpsichore became the Furth Fairy. She lives in the dome in a house with a door that opens into the attic so she can have picnics with Cat and Miss Pigeon and Toe-knee. If you squint really hard one day, you might see her there.  

She certainly sees you.

Written by Sarah Franzen, Dean of the Jannen School of Arts and Sciences