All Oompiis are born looking similar. They are lean, four-legged creatures with tightly fitting shells around their torsos. It isn’t long after an Oompii is born that their shells start to get damaged. Most adult Oompiis work all day to earn paint to cover up the scars and dents on their shells. All Oompiis know that a beautiful shell is the only way to be happy and to earn the favor of Papa Oompii, the village elder.
Osie was a happy Oompii who worked hard for her paints. She worked as a carrier, moving rocks down to the river, where they were used to build a bridge. She enjoyed carrying the rocks. She liked being outside and spending time with other Oompiis, it was the perfect job for her. The problem was that Osie always carried too much. She would haul rocks that were too big for her, damaging her shell, in an effort to earn more paint. She desperately wanted to make her shell beautiful, because she wanted to be one of Papa Oompii’s favorites.
Osie often saw Papa Oompii from afar by the river, but would make sure that he didn’t get too close because she did not want him to see her ugly shell. As he would try to walk closer to her, she would yell towards him that she would come see him later after she had done some more work. He would always look sadly at her when she said that, and she knew it was because she wasn’t earning her paint fast enough.
One morning Osie realized she was close to earning a soft pink color that would make her shell perfect. As she was gathering up rocks to carry down to the river she got more than she ever had before, in the hopes of earning the pink that very day. Straining as hard as she could, she started to move the load of rocks.
Suddenly, a horrible cracking sound surrounded her and she realized she had shattered her shell. She stood staring in shock at the broken pieces of all her hard work surrounding her. She sat back in surprise and started to cry. She couldn’t believe it. She would never be able to impress Papa Oompii now. She would never be a favorite. She couldn’t even do the job she loved anymore. Everything had gone so wrong.
“What happened here?” Osie looked up, startled, and saw Papa Oompii looking down at her.
“I was trying so hard to earn paints so that I could paint my shell for you,” Osie sobbed out, “I just wanted everything to be perfect and now it’s all ruined. I can’t work, I can’t come see you, I can’t do anything.” Osie put her head on the ground, squeezing her eyes shut, and felt the grief welling up in her. It was hard to breath and it felt like everything in her was broken, not just her shell. Everything was destroyed, and now Papa Oompii knew it too.
After a long silence Osie opened her eyes and saw Papa Oompii gathering the pieces of her ugly, shattered shell. His face was twisted in concentration and pain and he was carefully putting her shell back together. Osie could not believe what she was seeing. What magic was this?
As she continued to watch she saw that every break Papa Oompii fixed appeared as a vivid cut on his shell. She had never seen his shell up close before, but saw now that it was covered in scars like the ones that were appearing before her eyes. She cried out as she realized what was happening, “What are you doing? You are ruining your shell! My shell is broken. There’s no point!”
Papa Oompii looked at her as he continued to work, teeth gritted in pain. “There’s always a point. No shell is beyond my power to fix. It’s always been so sad to me how hard my Oompiis work for useless paint. A shell’s beauty is not in fake color, but in the healed wounds that show the work that has been done by you and done by me. I am able to heal any break, and the beautiful scar is a reminder of my love for you.” Sighing in relief, he handed her back her shell which was now whole again.