Etwas the Elf

Etwas the Elf
Our heroine, photo by Maia Ycot

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Elf and the Furry Caterpillar

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of small flowers when she came across a fuzzy caterpillar.  Almost immediately, the furry thing started to follow Etwas wherever she went.

When Etwas went for a walk, the caterpillar inched along beside her.  When she ran, the caterpillar inched faster.  When she climbed trees, the thing climbed along and when she played, the clumsy creature tried to match the game.  This went on for almost two weeks until Etwas decided to take Rascal out for a ride and the caterpillar couldn't fly.

So it sewed itself up into its chrysalis and, just before its face was hidden and Etwas was out of sight it called "See you in a few weeks, Etwas!"

And ever since then, elves always play age-appropriately.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Elves and the Salmon Castle

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she came upon her cousin Eamon with his hands under his hat standing over a square patch of bare earth.

"Howdy, Eamon!"

"Hi, Etwas," her cousin sulked back.

"Whatcha doin'?"

Eamon just stared down at the patch of ground he had torn all the grass from and moved all the rocks out of.  "Bewding a castew."

"Want some help?"

"Yes, pweese."

"OK, I can gather up some sticks for the walls."

Eamon frowned.  "Naw," he said, "wood sometimes catches on fioo."

"Do you want me to gather some stones?  We can build rock walls."

Eamon frowned again and furrowed his brow.  "Naw," he said, "Dey might tumbew ovah and faw on my head."

Etwas thought a minute and then her face brightened.  "Come here," she said, "I want to show you something."

So the two elves went down to the river and Etwas took out her little knife and cut some cotton weeds.  She pulled the fibers apart and then braided them together into a rope.  Then a salmon jumped out of the river and Etwas threw the rope into the salmon's mouth.  "Grab on!" she cried and soon Etwas and Eamon were flying through the water on the salmon's back.

The salmon swished its tail and splashed water past Eamon's ear.  Then it dove over the side of a waterfall.  "Woooooowwwwiiiiiiieeeeeeeee!" the two elves shouted. The salmon dove to the bottom and then jumped the surface of the river, flipped in midair and came down with a crash.  It raced towards the bank and turned sharply around.  This time, the two elves lost their footing and flew through the air.  The pair landed in a sloshing tumble onto the moss and lay there, bruised and laughing until their sides ached.

"You see, Eamon," his cousin explained, "we really need a fortress that'll move with us."

And ever since then, Eamon has been open to alternative systems of architecture.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The elf and the beetle

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she saw a beetle starting a hole in the dirt as the sun was just rising.

"Howdy, Ms. Beetle!" Etwas greeted the carapacious cavernator.

"Hi, Etwas, can you help me dig my hole?"

The elf took out her little knife and started digging with the beetle.  As the hole got deeper, they took turns- one would dig down and the other would keep the walls smooth, strong and circular.  Down and down they dug.  Before long they were down over their heads and the roles changed with one digging out the bottom and tending the sides, and the other carrying the tailings out and dumping them on the ground nearby.

Eventually, the hole was so deep that the one digging was constantly in darkness and still they dug.  Before long, even the one strewing the dirt outside the hole was in darkness.

"OK," the beetle said finally.  "That's perfect."

"Is this a nest for your babies?" asked Etwas.

"No, no."

"Are you going to store food in here?"

"Nah," answered the dirty beetle.

"Are you going to live in here?  Or hide from predators in here?"


"Then why did you want to dig this hole?"

"I just wondered what was at the other end."

And ever since then, Etwas is careful to ask questions before she starts digging around.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The elf and the reverent rodents

Once upon a time, Etwas the elf was running through the forests of grass and under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she came upon a tiny table made of a flat pebble sitting on four matchsticks sunk firmly in the dirt. Around the table sat a squirrel, a chipmunk, a dormouse and a rat on their hind legs, which is considered exceptionally mannerly in the rodent community. Their eyes were shut and their forepaws cycled under the chins.  Nobody spoke but every whisker twitched.  Beside them, on the ground, there was a scrap of cloth from which delicious aromas rose.

"Howdy, Misters Squirrel, Chipmunk, Dormouse and rat." Etwas greeted the aristocrats once their eyes opened.

"Hello, Ms. Etwas," said the squirrel.

"A goo-goo-guten Tag." stuttered the chipmunk.

"Buenas dias, Mees Elf," saluted the dormouse.

"Bonjour," the rat added with a flourish.

Etwas asked, "what's the occasion?  It's a very nice table."

The rat answered her.  "Wee have an especially fine cuisine we have preparrred.  We have zee meat of a bird who, as fate would 'ave eet, 'as bean roasted! Would you, pearhaps care to join?"

The squirrel added "We also have a potato which had come upon misfortune and was buried in milk, butter and salt."

"Und zis, zis, zis souse off red b-b-bahren vich had popped zehr shkinss in shooga." contributed the chipmunk.

"We gatherr to to conseeder dee misfortunas of dee food and geeve ar tahnks."

"Well," said Etwas, that sounds very nice.  How did the unfortunate food have the great good luck of finding such an elegant table?"

The rat answered for the group.  "Zee purr peopel een zee rotten cabeen wees ze beeg 'oles in zee walls at zee bottom of zee heel, zey nevair 'ave anysing mais yestairday, voila!"

"You stole a poor family's meal?"

"N-n-n-nein," explained the chipmunk, "dey ver prayink.  Vee-vee answeredet."

The rat added quickly, "Eet was proviahnce, zee deevahn, zat provided zair meal to us!"

And ever since then, Etwas keeps faith in providence, and stays vigilant around theologians.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, especially the poor and the thievish.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Etwas and the peaceful evening

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of tall grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when nothing happened at all.  It was sunset and the world was at peace with the nocturnal animals waiting for their time to start and the diurnal animals waiting for time to sleep and the warm earth waiting for snow.  The wind was still and the trees were quiet and the sun left a dark orange assurance of new days to come.

Etwas sat and silently wondered if her cousin Eamon was about and what kind of trouble they could get into later.

And ever since then, Etwas takes the quiet times when they come and tugs on their tails.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The tale of the elf, the ogre and the tale of the frost giants

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she decided to go visit her cousin, Stevie Elfsmoosher, the big, mean, ugly ogre.  She turned and jogged up towards the mountains and before she came within miles of his home, she heard the echoes of enormous stones being pounded against other stones.  Sure enough, it was Stevie trying to pound slabs of slate into cliffs of basalt.

Stevie was so busy, he didn't even notice that he was under attack by tiny elf until she was sitting on his earlobe.  "Howdy, Stevie!" she peeped.

"Oh, hey, Etwas.  What are you doing?"

"Sitting on an ogre's ear," the elf answered.  "What are you doing?"

"I'm building a library."

"What's a library?"

"Sort of a shelf.  You put books on them."

"Oh!  What's a book?"

"I think it's a slab of stone with a story in it."

"What's a story?"

"You've never heard a story?" her cousin asked her, incredulously.

"I don't think so."

"They usually start 'once upon a time.'  Farmers tell them a lot.  Here, I'll tell you the story about the Frost Giants"

The tiny elf clapped her hands and the big, mean, ugly ogre began.  "Once upon a time, Iceland was full of frost giants.  They were huge creatures, ten times taller than even I am."

"That's tall!"

"That's right!  And they were covered in fur- white fur, every hair on them was covered in ice crystals.  Their eyes were pale blue and they ate people."

A breeze rose and carried a voice from outside the scope of this story that asked "Like a polar bear?"   

But the elf and the ogre ignored the voice.  Stevie asked "Have you ever seen a person?  They're like bears only arty."

"Sure," Etwas said, glad to feel clued into this arcane discussion. "I've seen lots of people."

"OK, so that's what Frost Giants ate.  Anyway, there came in Iceland a Viking King named Grétar who was tired of his children being hors d'oeuvres.  Vikings had beem fighting frost giants for centuries until they realized they were simply volunteering for the pot luck.  

"But Grétar had a clever idea,  He climbed up the glacier Eyarfjälljokull and dug a hole in the top of the mountain beneath."

"Why would you put a well in a glacier?" Etwas asked.  People aren't that bright, are they?"

"Not so much," Stevie continued, "but Grétar was pretty smart for a viking,  So he dug the hole and then he hollowed out a narwhal's horn and cut a hole in the tip.  He put the horn into the hole and told a long story into the heart of the mountain which filled up with hot gas and exploded, making the first volcano.  

"The lave melted the ice crystals on the frost giants and with no frost, the giants discovered their fur was actually purple.  Embarassed, they left the area.  So King Grétar went all over Iceland making volcanoes and, ever since then, Iceland has been a slightly safer place for people as well as for ogres and elves."

And ever since then, Etwas is very careful with stories, lest they shatter the landscape.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The little elf and the great achievement

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when a strange creature loomed out from behind a tree.  It was a dark animal with hair on its shoulders and its back and its body but a naked face.  It's knuckles dragged on the ground and it had a big nose and big chin and it scratched itself all over with its big old feet, disturbing peaceful families of fleas from their harmony with each rough stroke.

"Howdy, Mr., ah, Mister."

The creature answered in a deep, rough voice.  "Howdy, Etwas!"

"Whatcha doing, Mr. Mister?"

"Watching you, right now.  And talking to you.  And thinking of singing you a song about prison, slavery, vagrancy and/or death."

"Hmm," the little Elf considered.  "Maybe we can do something else."

"I know a game," the creature offered.

"Yes, sure, let's play your game."

"OK, here's how you play..." the explanations of the rules went on for quite a ways and it seemed to be a sort of race but it ended at a certain time, 3PM so it wasn't at all clear how to win a race when it ends at a certain time.  But games don't always have to make sense and slave hymns didn't sound like that much fun so the two started.  The little elf and the big monster leaned forward.  The animal stuck three gnarled fingers in the air and counted down.  "Ready, set, go!"  Per the rules, both elf and animal flopped over and took a nap.

When the requisite sheep had been counted, they dragged themselves up and climbed the tree together, stripping bark as they went.  When they reached the top, they gathered the bark into ropes and fashioned the ropes into lariats which they threw over the pinnacle of a nearby rock to make a bridge which they walked down.  The creature lost his balance more than once but, happily, he had prehensile feet and made it to the rock upside down, where Etwas was waiting for him.

Then they gathered driftwood to make a ladder, tying the crossbars together with the risers using blackberry vines the elf cut with her little knife.  The monster got pricklers in his hands, and Etwas snacked on a few berries while the creature groaned and got out of his hands what he could.  Then they set the ladder against the side of a mountain and climbed.  When they reached the top of the ladder, the pair shrugged and started up the cliff face.  Finally, they reached the top.  There they made ink from the blackberries in the animal's hand and tip-toed into an eagle's nest to graffiti the eggs.  Etwas made an "E" and the animal made a sign too, although Etwas couldn't tell what letters, if any, were used.

They gathered feathers and sticks on the top of the mountain, and the wax from a bee's nest to build artificial wings which they strapped on their arms to fly back home.  Etwas flew high until the sun began to melt the wax that held the feathers on the wing, so she flapped towards a cloud which cooled the apparatus and then she circled.  The creature, of course, being big and heavy, plummeted straight to earth almost immediately and landed on his head.

When the race ended at 3pm, Etwas had dragged the enormous, unconscious creature back to the starting line and she had to admit, she felt like she'd accomplished a fair bit during the race.

And ever since then, Etwas looks carefully after her babysitters.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The little elf and the titanic tantrum

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she realized the world was out of adjustment and took steps to correct it.  She normally operated on the micro scale but she had some insights.  She jumped onto her mushroom and began a general upbraiding.  Rascal rolled his butterfly eyes and backed into a quiet corner of his stall.

She had heard the banshees keening so she kent.  She had heard the trolls rumble so she grumbled.  She knew how princesses peal so she pelt.  She'd heard the wolves baying so she bit and she'd seen farmers haying so she hit.  Her remorse washed across the land and took in all the hidden people and every animal and plants and trees and streams and stones.

In that moment, in that land, everyone thought.  They thought about all the mistakes they had made and all the choices that had turned out foolish.  They remembered when life held promises it no longer offered and they saw their own role in their own disappointments.

And yet, there was hope in the tirade.  If the fault was their own, the choices their own, then all the people and plants and trees and streams and stones realized that they could choose better.  They chose to choose better.  And so the world became more optimistic and Etwas was satisfied with her own screaming.

And ever since then, whenever the hidden people elect a prime minister, Etwas always polls second.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The little elf and the sleepy bear

Once upon a time, Etwas the elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she can upon a thick, black, hairy tree.  It was Etwas' experience that at the top of black, furry trees there was usually a tail to pull and an adventures to go on.

She hopped up the bottom of the tree and shimmied up the middle of the tree and swung from clump of fur to clump of fur when the reached a transverse section of hair tree which is how she came, after a few more challenges and some agile clambering to stand on the ear of a big, dark, yawning bear.

"Howdy, Mr. Bear!" Etwas cried and waved.  But the bear just sucked at its own lips and yawned.

"Whatcha doin', Mr. Bear?"  This time the bear stretched but finally answered.

"I'm tired."

"Why are you tired?"

Mr. Bear stretched and said "I'm supposed to be hibernating but I keep getting disturbed by elves and whatnot."

"Then why don't you go back to your cave."

"Because the company's better out here."

And ever since then, Etwas will only let sleeping bears lie if they ask.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The elf and the ambitious hippo

Once upon a time, Etwas the elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she came to the edge of Vatnajökull.  She looked to her left and to her right and when she saw that nobody was watching, she opened the little door in the glacier's side that only the hidden people knew about.

Once inside, she carefully closed the portal so that the hinges didn't squeak and the edges were invisible.  Then she took the stairs to the slide and the slide down to the underground rainforest.  She was just curious if anything was going on.

"A-boo-boo-boo-boo-boo!" she heard and turned.  The light of the underground fireflies, reflecting off the glimmer crystals revealed a hippopotamus with its back heels in a steamy water pond and its front paws on the edge.

"Howdy, Mr. Hippo!"

"Hey, Etwas," came the low reply.

"Whatcha doing?"

"Trying to fly.  A-boo-boo-boo-boo-boo-boo-boo-boo-boo!"  The hippo made his noise by pursing his big lips and blowing.  Etwas realized it was the sound of an engine turning over but not quite firing on every cylinder.  "I have to get the balance right."

"The balance?"

"Yeah, on land I am too heavy.  The water makes me bouyant, but it's no good for aerodynamics, being surrounded in water."  He set down his ponderous hind part until the water came just below his tail. "I'm pretty sure if I can just get the right amount of me in the air and the right amount in the water, that I can fly.  A-boo-boo-boo-boo-boo-boo!  Rats!"

"Well, where would you fly to, Mr. Hippo?"

"Actually, Etwas," the hippo blushed as his deep voice masked the tiny splashes in the water, "I was thinking of coming to see you.  I thought we'd play hide-and-go-seek in the grass."

"But I'm right here!" Etwas callled in triumph as she gave his tail an underwater yank.

And ever since then, Etwas never stands in front of a flying hippopotamus, and neither should you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The elf and the old, grey, jaded goose*

Once upon a time, Lord lord lord, Etwas the elf was a-running, a-lord lord lord, through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she came upon a grey goose at the edge of the Blue Lagoon, just standing and staring.

"Howdy, Mr. Goose!" quacked Etwas.

"Hmm," honked the goose.

"Why don't you jump in?" the little Elf asked.  "Don't you love ponds?"

"Listen heah, Elf.  Ah was mindin' my own affai's, oh, 'bout'n twenny-foah weeks back, when a man o' de cloth up'n pulls his huntmassa an filled me fulla lead.  Ag was six weeks a-fallin an' six weeks a windin' an' plucked by his missus and parboilt.  Ah was six weeks a parboilin' an dey pokes me widda foak, and dey slashes me widda knife an dey th'oes me in de hog pen an they run me t'rough de sawmill an when I finally get away widdit, danged if hea' don't come dis long string o' goslins all quackin' about how'n I's dey daddy.

"So af'n alladat, an' Ah gots de goslins squahed away, Ah comes ovah heah to de blue lagoon fo' some res' an' relaxation an' mebbe some fishin' and dang me but I jes' don' even fills lak swimmin' o' fishin o' doin' mucha a arythang!"

"Do you feel like playing?" the little Elf asked.

"Miss, jus' about de las' thang ah feels lahk wu'd be playin'"

"You sure, Mr. Goose?" Etwas asked and then she plucked one of the tiny quills growing back on the goose's tail and tore off through the underbrush.  Well, the old goose took up his temper and dashed after the elf with an outraged honk.

"Lil' E'f!" the goose warned, "Ah kin still eat a fish, an' Ah can still bite a mongoose and see if I doesn't bite you an eat you too!"

"Have to catch me first!" the Elf shrieked and ran around a stand of lupine, green amid the purple but too quick for the tired old goose who hopped and fluttered and darted after her.  Etwas dove into a rabbit's hole and the goose stuck his wide beak in to get her but his beak got stuck in the mud and the goose tried to dig his beak back out of the refreshing mud of the Blue Lagoon.  He scrambled and bucked and jumped but all he did was get his feathers muddier and muddier.  So he scratched and sprinted backwards and sprayed his underside with hot salt.

Etwas ran through the warren, making lunges with the tiny feather.  "En garde!" she yelled.  "Jeté!"  Finally she reached a tunnel that lead to the surface and as she ran out, there was the old goose no longer grey, but white.  He was covered in the mud of the lagoon and he was staring at her crossly.

"Jeté!" the little elf shouted and rushed the goose with his own tailfeather.  He stuck his beak out and grabbed the little Elf and tossed her in the air.  She landed with a "plunk" on his muddy head and they both laughed until they both fell over on their backs.

"Say," pondered the goose, "Do ya reck'n that cloud up yondah looks like a preachah?"

And ever since then, if you ask Etwas the difference between persistence and play, she'll tell you "Dey ain't' none!"

*Today's post is sponsored by the earworm** I woke up with this morning.
**Where you see "zulu1" in the lyrics, the word is "shotgun" and where you see "daddy," Lead Belly usually sang "preacher."***
***I love footnotes.

Programming note: Tomorrow morning, I leave for Iceland.  I'm not sure yet if the Etwas stories while I'm with Emma Lynn will go up here or straight into Emma Lynn's ear or straight into Emma Lynn's ear and then here or sometimes one way and sometimes the other, all of which is to say posting might be intermittent or absent until Dec. 1.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The elf and the lengthy artiste, part dos.

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she saw her cousin 'Cia looming in the distance.  Etwas decided to saddle up her butterfly, Rascal, and go play with her tall cousin.

"Bzzzzzzzz!" Etwas shouted as she flew in front of 'Cia's ear.  The tall fairy turned to swat and saw her cousin.  "Etwas," she said, "you won't trick me like that again."

"So where are we going?" Etwas wanted to know, and Rascal was getting kind of curious himself.

"I want to climb that tree," 'Cia explained pointing to a rugged pine growing from the side of a high tableland. Then she held up a parchment and a set of watercolor paints and a skin full of water.  "I want to climb up there and paint the air.  It's never been done!"

So, 'Cia spread her long limbs and fluttered her incandescent little wings, which, to tell you the truth, were to small to fly with and mainly cosmetic, really.  She climbed the moutainside with Etwas and rascal flying near her mouth and her ear.  The pair traded gossip about the doings among the hidden people until 'Cia, at last, reached the tree.

The long fairy caught the lowest branch and hoisted herself and finally, near the top, tied some branches together to make herself an artist's nest.  Etwas settled in 'Cia's hair and carved and folded pine nuts to make herself a crown so that she and Rascal would look like an orchid to eagles flying overhead.  And while she made her crown, 'Cia started to paint.

Just then, a storm that had been gathering broke loose. The tree swayed and the threesome bobbed and bounced and barely kept their foundation.  'Cia laughed and held on to the peak of the pine.  Etwas laughed and netted herself and her butterfly in 'Cia's long black hair.

The colors 'Cia was using, the dark greens that showed the healthy grasses breathing and the pale blues and grays that showed the sky lifting and falling bled together and smeared themselves until no thing had a boundary and every posed plant was part of every stone and each hill and stream were incorporated into the artist's sky.  Etwas had to admit, 'Cia had painted the air.

And ever since then, Etwas and 'Cia begin every landscape with a weather report.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The elf and the lengthy artist.

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she ran slam into the waistband of a very tall fairy with long black hair sitting on the edge of a pond.

Etwas recognized the hair and hopped inside the back of the slender woman's pink shirt.  Etwas bounced a few times on the waistband and when she had enough momentum, she sprang to where the shirt met the lady's back and the elf pressed herself against the skin and clambered up the netting of the blouse. Her host absent-mindedly swatted at the crawling elf, who kept herself safely against the long spine.  Finally, the little elf reached the neckline and tugged her way up the black hair until she leaned over a prominent earlobe.

"Howdy, 'Cia!" the elf told her cousin.

"Oh! Hey, Etwas! Sorry about swatting you.  I thought you were a flea."

"It happens," Etwas reassured her famous cousin, the world's tallest fairy.  "Whatcha doin'?"

"I'm trying to sketch a fish."

"But this is a magic pond," the little elf explained patiently.  "Everything in it is invisible.  See?"  The Elf dropped her hat into the surface and as the water slipped in over the pointed side, the hat looked like a visor.

"I know that, Etwas," her cousin explained, just as patiently.  "I'm trying to sketch an invisible fish. It's never been done."

"Makes sense."  The little elf answered and nestled onto 'Cia's shoulder to watch.  The charcoal pencil skated back and forth over a bleached hide the fairy was using as her suface.  After a while, Etwas hesitated and then observed, "You aren't drawing anything."

"I know," said 'Cia.  "The stupid fish won't stand still."

And ever since then, Etwas leaves art to those with artistic temperaments.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Etwas and the itinerant administrator (Etwas und Alles)

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she tumbled across the pointy shoes of Alles, the traveling administrator of Elfindom.

"Howdy, Ms. Alles!  How's the paper business?" the adventurous little Elf asked the diligent one.

"Hello, Etwas," Alles replied, "Well, let's see."  The bureaucrat reached into her sparkly green briefcase and pulled out a file labeled Etwas (Rascal.) "I see." the administrator mumbled as she thumbed through the paperwork, "I see.  Uh huh.  Hmm.  Well.  Ah hah.  No. Nope. No. No. No, this is unacceptable."  Alles stared down her nose at Etwas.  "I'm sorry, do you have a moment?  Of course you do.  You must. We are not lawless elves.  Needs must. I'm afraid your passport application is unfinished. You can't frolic without a current passport.  No matter, no matter. We'll fix this now.  Have a seat." The representative of elfin law sat herself primly under the cap of a mushroom and pulled out of the shiny box she carried a 221-g form, three stamps, a tiny pot of ink and a gosling feather quill.  She continued, "Do you have evidence of birth?"

Etwas looked down towards her feet.  "Well, I have feet!"

"Do you have documentation you have feet?"

"My shoes!"

"In triplicate?"

"Just duplicate."

"I'm afraid I can't accept that.  Documentary evidence of live birth must be in triplicate." The notary sighed and pulled another sheet from her briefcase.  "Well, if you are prepared to attest you were born, we can do a 14-Blue B affidavit in a moment. Please list your relatives, elves first."

"My mother is Moni Whirlibird, my cousin, Eamon..." the perplexed but playful elf began.  When she had completed her list of elven kin, Alles prompted her to list any non-elves in the family.  "Stevie Elfsmoosher, Ogre, cousin; Maximilian Zwerg, Dwarf, Cousin, Payton the Pixie, Pixie, Cousin; Jacob Outdoorvoice, Banshee, cousin;  Jessika Newtfeather, witch (good,) cousin, Anja Borealis, Ethereal Whatnot, cousin, Marie Sophie Teufelchen, demonette, cousin; oh, and my father was a bear."  With every non-elven identity, Alles winced but dutifully bore up to note the horribly mixed breeding.  Before Etwas could finish her list, the administrator stood.

"Well, it's 2:15 and I have to file before I end my day promptly at 5.  Elves really ought to be punctual, don't you find?  Of course you do.  Well, your application is incomplete."  The prim elf made a face and emphasized "entirely insufficient.  Good day, Etwas, but do come find me a week from Thursday at 2:15.  Until your passport has been stamped, I caution you no frolicking, playing, mischief-making or tail yanking under penalty of fines and possible imprisonment in a moosehead fern.  Good day, madame."

And ever since then, when completing official forms, Etwas is always careful to dot her I's, cross her T's and thumb her upturned little nose.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The elf and the mystery of the rock

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she heard someone say "chunkchunkchunk!"

"Howdy!" the little elf called.  "Who's there?"


The poem came from around a rock and Etwas ran to the other side but nobody was there.

"Are you a beetle?" she asked.

"Chunkchunkchunk!"  Although Etwas was on the opposite side of the rock from where she stood when she first hear the oration, the second verse still came from across the rock.  Etwas darted around and saw a bushy, nervous striped tail disappear around the other side.

"Are you a raccoon?"


This time, Etwas decided to climb the rock and when she could see over the top, she found little black eyes in a little brown-and-white head looking back.

"Chunkchunkchunk!" the elf cried and overleapt the rock, landing on the back of the chipmunk.  The chipmunk leapt up and wound his feet and popping his head back, forth and around and around.

"Must I be mocked at every interaction?" the chipmunk exclaimed. His tiny little paws dropped the tiny book of Poe he had been trying to enjoy.

"Sorry, Mr. Chipmunk.  I didn't know you were reading.  I thought you might be a squirrel," Etwas apologized gracefully and hopped off the chipmunk's back.  Just to show there were no hard feelings, she gave the chipmunk's double-striped tail a gentle jerk.

"Do you wish to hear some verses of Ulalume?"

"OK!" Etwas agreed.

"The skies were ashen and sober;
The leaves were crisped and sere..." Mr. Chipmunk began, with Etwas cuddling his shoulder.

And ever since then, Etwas never judges a book by the rodent reading it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The elf and the robin's nest

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she saw a nest of robin's eggs teetering on a limb.  Etwas climbed up and used some twigs and her knife to batten down the incubator.  The mother, on her way back from picking some sticks for the same purpose saw the elf protect her young and was very moved.

At the next Parliament of Owls, the robin introduced a motion to honor the little elf who had protected her young.  Birds do love to fuss, so Etwas Day was proclaimed and a parade in the little elf's honor was declared and there were oratories, pronouncements, assertions, editorials and dignifications as well.

Etwas the Elf and Eamon the Elf were out playing pop the blueberry when the eaglet ambassador fluttered clumsily down with his scroll.  Eamon and Etwas hopped on the eaglet's back and were carried to the aerie to watch the proceedings.  A falcon turned in a widening gyre.  Magpies crossed the sky with silver coins in their talons and tinsel trailing their flights.  A quetzal streaked its long green tail across the sky writing "Til Hamingju!" in the air. Jonathan Livingstone Seagull turned a series of snap rolls.  Budgies sang "For Those Who Perish In A Cage" and an owl told the future for strangers in the audience.

The ambassador jumped on his mother's back and waved at the vertical throng in long sweeps.  That was when cousin Eamon looked down and said "It's weally faw down deah!"  Etwas and Eamon realized they had lost their ride home.  The aerie was on a ledge beneath another ledge and there was no safe way down.  Rascal was clapping his wings and tapping his feet in rhythm to the vulture band and didn't hear Etwas call.

"Follow me," Etwas suggested to her cousin and she dove from the Aerie and spread her tiny arms, landing briefly on a wren's tail then bouncing up into a somersault and catching the tip of a condor's beak, swinging and falling almost horizontally onto the back of a jay just beginning its dive.  She jumped just as the tail started to whistle and perfectly timed her leap to take her onto the back of flapping swallow which yawed over a flapping chicken onto which Etwas leapt.  The chicken halted suddenly and the little elf was flung onto the spreading tail of a peacock.

A moment later, Eamon landed on the peacock's tail, two eyes from his cousin.  "Wow," Eamon said, "that was hawd."  The peacock stopped at a blueberry bush and the two elves alit and started their game over, because both claimed to have forgotten the score (which had been 19 to pi in favor of Etwas, it should be noted.)  The carnival continued in Etwas' honor behind, below and above the two elves and there was much merriment until the next day when some turkey had to clean up the feathers.

And ever since then, every year, Etwas enjoys a peaceful game in the bushes and leaves the parade to the birds.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Elf and the Queen of Voles

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when a little vole with a red cape and a wee tiara popped out of a hole in the ground, twitched its nose and put a tiny paw to its furrowed brow.

"Daylight over the hole! O breeze! Sorrow!
Exposed and plain visible! Poor me!
To walk the roof of the world tomorrow
Here today, to find me in prison free!
O, woe, woe, woe, woe, woe, woe, woe is me!"

"Howdy, Ms. Vole!" Etwas greeted with a wave.  But the vole's eyes moistened and she lifted her little nose high into the air, changing the tiny left front paw on her brow with its opposite against the bridge of her nose.

"Queen Ahmy Dala, I am known below
Yet here in frost above it isn't so.
The voles forget and the elves- they don't know
To call me 'Our Highness' is naught- O woe!"

"Um, ok, your majesty.  Good day to you, I mean, our Highness and whatnot."

The old vole bowed as though pierced from behind.

"That which is day arrives yet overland
The sun rises and darken's my spirit!
In dim and dank caverns, my title grand,
We rejoice who now cries. You might hear it.
Alas, I weep for my hole- yet fear it!" By now both of the voles hands were outstretched away from her shaking trunk, as though tied by taught leathers to trees in opposite forests where owls hunted and foxes preyed.

"Um," offered Etwas, hoping to be helpful, "Your hole is right underneath you.  In fact you're standing in it."

A darkness crept into the poor Vole Queen's eyes.

"Forsaken no more, joy!" Queen Dala chirped. "Below! Below!" And she dove back down where she had appeared a few mere laments ago.  The elf watched her tail disappear and sighed.

And ever since then, Etwas leaves alone the tails of those who are already dragged.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The elf on a rainy day.

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when it began to rain.  Then it rained harder.  Then it rained the kind of cold, hard, bone-soaking shower that washes the green off of an elf's clothes so she decided to go home and make sure the cap on her mushroom was keeping Rascal dry.

Of course, as soon as she saw the butterfly, Etwas wanted to go for a long ride.  But still it rained and rained hard and the elf, who was also a well-studied entomologist, knew that water is no good for a butterfly's wings.  So the two stood in the stable and watched the storm.  A day like that makes everyone considerate and the pair watched the rocks and the plants outside the stable ponder precipitation and remember glories passed.

The elf and the butterfly stood close together for warmth and, after a while, Etwas went over to her side of the mushroom to grab the deck of cards.  "Do you have any knaves?" the elf asked and the butterfly nodded back at her but held all its cards, making Etwas giggle.

The pair stayed restless but the rain stayed thorough and after a while Etwas asked Rascal, "have I ever told you the story of The Elf And The Hungry Cricket?"  The pair spent their whole day playing cards and remembering stories.

And ever since then, on most days Etwas does just what she wants and on other days she does what she can.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The elf and the secret to the underworld

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she saw some dwarves coming in and out of a mine, singing their dwarvish hymn, If I Had No Shovel, No Pick, No Hammer, Then Mama Would Have Me Adopted.  The elf wondered what it would be like to be miner so she found a soft patch of ground beneath a round rock and started to dig with her hands.

She tunneled straight in and level with sea.  "Boy, oh boy!" she cried, "This mining is going great."  When she was so far back, that the mine started to feel like a castle, she started digging a pit.  "I know," she thought, I'll dig for coal!"

Down and down she dug, until her chest was covered in mud and her fingernails were eroded away.  Then something hard blocked her.  She dug over the hard place and after a while discovered the obstacle was round and three times as wide as she was.  But Etwas was a very strong and determined little elf, so she cleaned and brushed and moved mud until she discovered that the hard, dark, wide disk was shiny.  Inscribed on the top were two fish.  She pried and pulled and cleaned and undermined and finally, she got the coin to stand up.

Underneath the coin, she found the top of a spiral staircase.  "Wowie!" she thought.

She rolled the coin down before her as she followed the staircase deep down into the earth.  She traveled a very long way until she found herself in a giant cavern, lit by the flickering, erratic red flames of torches.  Around the cavern wall were thousands of alcoves that led to thousand of little of little staircases just like the path she had taken.  Etwas, one of the smartest elves ever, marked the staircase she had come down with a tiny, Elvish "E."

Downslope from where she stood, Etwas saw it was very misty and deep in the mist was a figure, shuffling away and in the direction it was going she could barely see the bent frame of a man with a pole in its hand.  "Hey, Mister!" she shouted.  Want a coin?"

The nearer figure turned towards her and held out one hand.  In the other it held a lyre.  The musician took Etwas' krona and handed it to the bent ferrymen.  "Thank you," the ferryman told the musician and the musician told the elf.  When the ferryman spoke, it sounded like dried leaves scraping a fallen tree before a storm.  When the musician spoke it sounded like angels singing and Etwas danced to the gratitude.  Then the musician hopped into the ferryman's boat and the two took off over the river.

Etwas found the staircase she ha descended and then decided to take a different one which brought her into daylight over a rice field surrounded by dwarves in thatched hats.

And ever since then, the Elves have believed that every staircase goes up and every staircase goes down and that's all the geography you need to know.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Etwas and the brittle Democracy

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she bumped into a mob of fire ants busy defoliating a stand of sugarcane.

"Howdy, mesdames et messieurs fire ants!" the little Elf offered by way of a greeting.

"Hey hey! Ho ho! Flying bugs have got to go!" the fire ants chanted.  Etwas climbed onto a nearby rock to watch the ants work.

The "Occupy Sweetness" movement, the fire ants called themselves, and they clambored tirelessly over the first sugar cane until their combined weight made it bend and finally break.

"I like sugar," the elf admitted to herself.

"Hi! Hi! Sugar tree! How much sugar did you take from me?" the ants chanted.

A swarm of red covered the fallen sugar cane and then evaporated as the satisfied ants returned to their colony for tea.  Once the fire ants left and the little elf no longer worried about accidentally trammeling their rights or insect dignity. So she walked over to the fallen cane and saw that none of the ants had noticed the sugar inside.  She filled her pockets and skipped along home to share with Rascal.

And ever since then, Etwas always takes time to admire the machinery of democracy as it spins.

Etwas says, if you are an American citizen, like me, then today you should be voting. Heaven knows for what.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Etwas and the ladybug

Once upon a time, Etwas the elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when a ladybug settled on a potato leaf over the elf's head.

"Hi, Miss Ladybug!" called Etwas.  "What are you up to?"

"I'm a-huntin' aphids," growled the ladybug, the cheerful red shell came apart in the middle and fluttered, exposing the tiny, menacing black wings encased within.  "They're the leaf-eatingest, garden-beatingest, smelly-feetiest, yellow-meatiest, most diabolical little monsters you ever seen and I cain't'nt stands em alive.  Pretty sweet-tasting, though.  Must be the good diet.  Did you know they're vegan?"

"You know," Etwas confirmed, "the other day I was talking to a cherry tomato and she told me thank heaven for you, Miss Ladybug."

The ladybug squeezed out a tear.  "We've always understood each other, the cherry tomato and I.  I-I, well I just really like her."

"That's sweet," said Etwas.

"I mean, I get along with all the fruits, really," explained the ladybug.  "Got nothing against 'em, so long as they stick to their place.  But tomatoes is special. And the aphids what hassle the tomatoes is the aphidiest aphids of them all.  You can't just attack fruit!  They needs cultivtin'! I'm getting hungry just thinking about it"  Again, the bright red casing divided, opened, and an angry little flutter of wings trilled.

"Well, Miss Ladybug, no sense in telling me about it.  Go have some justice."

A third time, the happy fire-truck-colored shell opened and the wings beneath rolled.  This time, they lifted the ladybug who hovered a moment. Before flying off towards the nearest cherry tomato bush in parts unknown, the aphid-hunter called down to the elf, "See you 'round, Etwas.  Nice chat.  If you see an aphid, squish him for me!" and the lady bug disappeared and the Elf skipped away towards the blackberry bush.

And ever since then, Etwas has remembered that the sins of a species are the virtues of a variety.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The elf, the horse and the travelling gourmet

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when a horse's hoof fell in front of her.

"Hello, Mister Hoof!"  The elf jumped up and grabbed the long hair on the fetlock.  Back and forth she swung.  "Whoooooo-ee!," she yelled.  "I'm riding a horse!"

The horse reared up and Etwas was thrust upward like a rocket.  The horse drew circles in the air and the elf's cheeks were pulled tight by the centrifugal prancing.  Just for fun, she let go on an upswing and flew high into the air, turned at the apogee and dove into the horse's withers.  The chestnut horse stood back down and pulled its head up, nestling the equestriennette in warm, salty black hair.

"Why, Etwas!" cried the rider, with delight in her voice.  "Did you come to help me celebrate my birthday?"

The elf looked down through the horsehair and saw long, black boots.  She pulled aside some horsehair and saw above the boots the hem of a lacy black dress.  The little elf wrapped the rest of the horsehair blocking her view into a turban and could see the peerlessly warm and glad smile of her Aunt Anteres, the Good Witch of the South, beaming down at her."

"Hi, Aunteres!  Happy birthday!  What is that?"  Tied to the pommel of the saddle was a tiny crock pot.  "Love potion? Clairvoyance concoction? Goat entrail?"

"Gumbo!" answered the witch.

"Oh boy!" yelled Etwas.

"Kiss first!" cautioned her Aunt.  "Never take a witch's stew for granted."  So Etwas bounded down the horse's neck and on to her auntie's lap where they traded hugs and hopped onto her hand that lifted to the witch's mouth for a birthday buss.  Then they shared the okra stew. Uncle Arturo, walking alongside, mumbled that he could eat too.

And ever since then, Elves never judge visitors by their horseshoes.

Happy birthday to Aunt Anteres and Uncle Arturo from Etwas the Elf.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The little elf and the papyrus bush

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she came upon a bunch of papyrus.  "Oooh whee," she said thinking she had found a tail tree.

She scrambled up a stout stem and began to tug away in every direction.  The pollen from the papyrus turned her hat yellow and her shoes looked like they'd been blown over with snow.  The pollen filled her shirt until she looked puffed up and green like a contented bullfrog.

Then she took out her knife and cut off a few leaves, making a parasail.  She jumped from the top of the clump and soared high over the jade plant that grew below it.  She caught a thermal and rose even higher. Now she could see the papyrus from above and now a bird's nest in the pepper tree behind it.  Higher and higher she sailed until the elf and her leaves reached the end of the updraft and began to come down.

Faster and faster she went as gravity tugged against the air racing under her sail.  "Buh-buh-buh-boom!" she yelled pretending to strafe the papyrus colony but she came in too law and the papyrus returned fire.  Tiny seeds peppered the elf as she passed over the top, stinging her pointy ears and clogging her pointy nose.

"Ah-chooooo!" she sneezed.  In the spasm she let go of one side of her sail and spun her way down, hurtling all the way to the pond where she struck with a splash.  The pond closed over her elfin body and silence replaced elfin giggles and was, in turn, replaced by "shoooooooosh!" as Etwas broke the surface and spat out a mouthful of water and papyrus seed.

And ever since then, the colony of papyrus on the side of that pond has been known as "Etwas' clump" or "Etwas' sneeze" but you and I know it was really Etwas' spout.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The elf and the beetle

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she came upon a beetle with a sheaf of grass seed in its mandibles.  The elf greeted her carapacious comrade.

"Hi, Mrs. Beetle!'

"Thhhhhwetho, Ethhhhwithh."

"What are you doing?"

"Cawything grthathh in meh moofth!" the frustrated beetle explained.

"For a banquet or a building?  For agriculture?  I've heard that's how you grow rice."


"Are you making a nest?"

"Nei.  I'thm decathathing un altar."

"Well," suggested the Elf, "I would build the dais out of something you can write on, like an acorn.  Your preaching is a little hard to follow."

And ever since then, Elves mainly give advice to the muffled.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The elf and the heart-shaped stone

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she found a pretty stone.  It was shiny, black and smooth and shaped like a heart.

"A boomerang!" she laughed, picking it up.  Holding by the right atrium, she gave it a toss with a snap of her wrist.  The stone shimmered through the air and the arc bent but the stone didn't return.

"A tomahawk?" she wondered.  She went after the rock and retrieved it.  Then she traipsed over to an oak tree and, grabbing the stone at the long end, threw it at the side of the tree with an entirely different snap of the wrist. The stone dented the bark but did not stick.

"A hovercraft!" the elf declared and brought it down to a bay of the pond where she threw it sidearm with a whole other snap of the wrist.  The stone skipped merrily, once, twice, a third time and then settled on the opposite bank.  Etwas walked around the shore, retrieved her stone and threw it sidearm again with an even quicker version of the previous wrist snap.

Once, twice, three, four times it skipped and leapt up the opposite bank where it knocked a squirrel's tail.  The startled squirrel raised it's tail and ran up the nearest tree, barking and twitching.

And ever since then, there is an Elven adage that nothing beautiful is ever useless, at least for recreation.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The elfin holiday

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers, in a hurry to arrive at the little glade of cosmos where elves hold holiday.  She was carrying a pair of blackberries, two tiny candles and a circle of streamers.

Industriously, she strung the green streamers between the purple propellors of the cosmos.  Then she took a drupe from the blackberry and used the juice to write "Eamon the Elf" and "Maximilian Zwerg der Großer," on the underside of the flower petals.  She pulled the towel off a plate of crepes she had left for the party and set a candle alongside it for Maximilian.  Then she used icing to turn a blackberry into the batmobile and put a candle in the backside for Eamon.  She pulled out of her pocket a harmonica she'd made from blades of grass and willow leaves and practiced the Elfin birthday song.

"OK," she said.  "Now I just need the birthday boys to get the party started."  She took her little knife and dug and dug until she reached the cavern below the cosmo glade.

Shhhhhhhhhhoooooshhhhhhhh! A slide came in from the eastern side of the cavern and Maximilian slid upside-down into view.  He reached the end of the slide, flew into the center of the cavern holding a toy pony, tumbled into the air and landed in a mud puddle.

"Waß passiert?," asked the big, curly-haired, muddy-faced dwarf.

"Es tut mir leid," explained Etwas, "aber Ich habe einer kleiner streich gespielen.  Ich verließe das Spielzeug über eine Falle.  Herzlichen glückwünschen!"  She had built an underground slide and baited it with a toy pony to catch her cousin and bring him to the party.

Shhhhhhhhhoooooooshhhhhh! A slide came in from the western side of the cavern and this time it was Etwas' cousin, Eamon, who slid down.  He came a little slower and did not tumble or fall into the puddle, but was still pretty caked in mud.

"That was pwetty cool!" Eamon cried.  "Foost I found a spidoo-man action figya and den thew was a hole so I jumped down it and you was at the bottom!"

Etwas brought them back up to the surface and played "Happy birthday" on her harmonica while the Ogre, Stevie Elfsmoosher, sang along.

And ever since then, it has been elvish wisdom that some traps don't need bait.

(Happy birthday from Etwas to Eamon and Maximilian)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The elf and brer rabbit

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she spotted a rabbit eating the leaves from a wild rose.

"Hi, Brer Rabbit,why eat rose leaves when there is kale and cabbage around?" she asked, bopping him on the head.

"Roses are more poetic," sniffed the bunny.  "Besides, cabbage gives me gas."

"Don't the thorns poke you?" the Elf asked.

"That's what makes it romantic!"

Etwas wound her elfin way up a stem and picked some of the hips where the blossoms had been.  She tossed each one down in turn and explained, "these are sweet and rich in vitamin C."

"No no," said Brer Rabbit.  "Nutrition is the opposite of poetry."

"Hmm," thought Etwas, and then, "wait here."  She scampered off and came back with each hand shoved into the little hole at the bottom of a raspberry and one more raspberry over her head like a russian hat.  The elf bent over, extended her arms and delivered all three.  "These are sweet.  For energy!"

"No no," complained the rabbit again, "sugar is no substitute for bunny love.  I get my sweetness from other bunnies' eyes."

Frustrated, the elf went away and came back dragging a carrot.  She laid it down in front of Brer Rabbit who explained "Sister elf, a carrot is vitamins and calories, but a rabbit lives on dreams."  The bunny gathered all of Etwas' harvest into a pile.

Again the elf went away and when she came back, she was carrying a stone which she dropped in the middle of the bunny's pile of food.  "No sugar, no vitamins, no fiber and you can use it to serenade the other bunnies by drumming a song with your nose."

"I thought maybe you'd bring a potato," Brer Rabbit sulked.

And ever since then, Etwas the Elf leaves salads for the solitary.