Etwas the Elf

Etwas the Elf
Our heroine, photo by Maia Ycot

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


A year ago there came a kid
(Though we saw a celestial squid)
Since then the stars have been remounted,
Throughout these twelve new months we've counted
New signs have come and portents too
Of who you'll be and what you'll do,
The crab's still there but much less crabby
Centaurs remain, though not as grabby
The scorpion still lifts his stinger
(Which now you've wrapped around your finger.)
The comets and the nebulae
Seem to have much more to say.
Because the future now has Emma
The stars are faced with this dilemma:
Their only powers to foresee
Are born of regularity.
Now that you're here, a brand new thing,
There seems a new celestial ring.
The squid, the toad, the ape, the elves
(In our stars and in ourselves)
Can assure us only this one promise:
Constellations yet to shine upon us.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Etwas and Attila the Hound

As related in a puppet show:

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 Attila the Hound sniffing around.

"Howdy, Attila" the elf shouted.

"Hiyya, Etwas!"

"Whatcha doin'?"

"Just smelling.  The scents of the earth tell me something different every day."

"How's that?"

"Well, yesterday I smelled five ewes, five lambs, a ram, a dog and an American.  That told me a shepherd had come through tending his flock."

"And today?"

"Just now I smelled five ewes, five lambs, a ram, a dog and an American.  That tells me that the dog and the shepherd fell asleep, the sheep ran away and the dog and the shepherd are trying to catch them."

"But if the same smells can tell you different things every day, they are meaningless."

Attila took a deep draught of odored air and sighed, "they are poetry!"

And ever since then, whenever Etwas makes rhymes, she makes sure they stink.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The elf on the shore of Hvalfjördur

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf took a journey up and across Ingolfsfjall and down onto the broken plains that lead towards Reykjavik.  Trudging and cartwheeling through the snow, Etwas continued overnight until she reached the foot of Mount Esja, the holy site of Elvendom.  She climbed the mountain reverently and placed a lupin blossom in the tiny box where Elf pilgrims left their signs.

She stood on the rock until the sky turned pink in the East and purple in the west, the sacred time when the hidden people make plans.  As soon as her skin felt warm, she trotted down the northern side until she came to the banks of Hvalfjördur, the fjord of whales.

Just at the waters edge, she found a large flat stone and she carpeted it with green moss from the mountainside to make herself a soft place.  And there she knelt and put her hands into the frigid water.  She watched her wrists refract into the efficient curved shape of two seals sleeping in parallel.  Then she put her forehead in the water and opened her eyes and saw herself in a tiny forest of algae that reminded her spirit of home in the rough places of Europe.

Then she opened her mouth and sang an Elven drinking song but in the water the notes came slower and lower than when you sing it on a tiny table.  The song sounded sadder and lasted longer than when you dance to it.

And deep in the water, a young bull calf balene heard the song and followed it until he beached himself just close enough to the shore to see the tiny elf singing and know he'd been tricked.

Meanwhile, Etwas, who preferred her mischief harmless thought to save the whale so she made herself a long rope and knit a tiny canoe from birch leaves.  She poled behind the whale and tried to save him by yanking his tail back to the deep water.

All she managed was to push and pull her boat back and forth, sloshing behind the beached whale.  But Etwas had learned about leverage so she walked along the entire south shore of Hvalfjördur with her knife, carving the ice that grew just above low tide.  Then she walked the north shore from the waterfall almost to Akranes carving the ice there.  Then she got back into her birchleaf canoe and tied the rope around the tail once more and put the other end in her mouth and towed the calf out to the deep water using her miles-long oars.

And ever since then, whales hardly ever fall in love with any singer smaller than krill.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Etwas and the idle bunnies

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of green grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she came upon a troop of black and white bunnies holding down some grass.

As Etwas watched, one of the bunnies up and hopped over the one beside her.  The others just sat and twitched.  Then a third on stepped forward and the others still sat and twitched.  Etwas watched for hours and the herd never moved except that from time to time one would hop over another or jump forward or turn around or face each other or face away from each other.  One might look to her right and another to his left and sometimes two would look down while two others looked up. Nothing was eaten and no-one was chased and nobody chased and all were chaste and the center of gravity for the whole bunch of bunnies hardly moved at all.

"Howdy!" Etwas cried at last, thinking the poor bunnies had nothing to do.  "Do you guys want to play a game?"

The bunnies just sat and twitched until one looked over at Etwas and a few looked away from her and some looked down at their noses.

"I know some really great games!" Etwas promised.  "There's pin-the-tuft-on-the-tail, and Loopy-ear, if you like to gamble.  3D Red Rover is fun if you feel like hopping."

One of the bunnies turned backwards without looking at Etwas.  The rest mainly just twitched.  One scratched, I suppose.

"Or maybe," Etwas baited, "we can play 'Chase the fox.'  That's a great game as long as everyone's of age."

Etwas continued to offer games like luckybones and carrotnose and carnival of crows until finally a white rabbit with black hair on towards the back of his head said "No thank you.  We're kind of busy."

And ever since then, no matter how idle she is, Etwas always sets aside a little time for distraction.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Elf and the platinum pony

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of green grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she saw a pony running through a meadow.  It's mane and tail shone in the sunlight as it ran.  It's face was a darker silver but still seemed to glow.  On its flanks, sweat glistened over shining silver fur.

The pony turned in the field and when it was facing the little knoll on which Etwas was standing she saw it's eyes were a vivid green and no white could be seen in them.

Finally the argent pony stopped at a small, limpid pond and lowered its muzzle for a sip of clean water.  Then it snorted and kicked and bucked and Etwas, swinging from the pony's tail yelled "Yee-ha! Fancy silver might be but it yanks the same as you and me."

And ever since then, Etwas has hoped to find a golden pony.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Etwas and the sheep rodeo

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of green grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she found herself looking down at a valley pasture full of sheep on a rainy and windy day.  She sprinted down the hill and ran up to the lead ewe.   

Etwas jumped on its back and cuddled herself into the wool.  It was nice and warm and she started to fall asleep when she thought about the opportunity presented by a whole herd of sheep.  She plucked a long strand of wool and tied her tiny metal knife to the end.  Then she climbed up onto the ewe's head and swung the knife in a circle.  Faster and faster it spun and the strand of wool began to whir.

In the distance, lightning stuck a hilltop and the reflection from the knife looked like a halo of sparks to the ewe who took flight, bucking and jumping as she ran.  Etwas grabbed two fistfuls of head wool and rode the wild sheep.  

Within moments the other sheep were ready to credit the ewe with an iron temperament.  If she was scared, it must be for a better reason than a bronc-busting, rope twirling elf.  They ran too and soon the flock was covering the pasture in kicked mud and muck and shed hair.  Etwas jumped from one sheep to the next, twirling her noisemaker.  "Yee-haw!" she yelled as she did a blackflip from one sheep's rump to the head of the frightened ram behind it.

"Yickety-yi!" she yelled as a gust pulled her from the ear of a lamb and blew her under the chest of another ewe.  The sheep stampeded and the little elf jump and bounced and twirled her lariat for hours until the cold and the rain made her shiver.  Then she did crawl into the warm wool of a young lamb and caught up on some sleep.

And ever since then, the wisdom of the elves records that every opportunity is a choice and every choice an opportunity and the wise elven adventurer chooses the cozy nap first.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Etwas and the sanctified Puffin

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of green grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she came up over a hilltop and down in the valley below, she saw a puffin cleaning its feathers.  Etwas bounded down to say hello when a clatch of budgies gathered around the puffin and bowed.

 Another cohort of budgies landed around the puffin and anointed the larger bird with oil.  Then another landed and coated the puffin with wax.  The glistening, noble bird flapped its wings but went nowhere.  Then it went to the water and tried to fish but couldn't break the surface.  Finally, the puffin called out a tirade of profanity that melted the wax and dispersed the oil.

And ever since then, Etwas tries to remember that puffins and paraffin don't mix.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Etwas and the flea with a fiddle.

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of green grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she came to a crossroads.  Standing there was a flea with a fiddle.

"Howdy, Mr. Flea!" Etwas said.

"Are you a demon?" the flea asked.

"No, I'm an elf.  Why?"

The flea held up the violin.  "I just hoped someone would teach me to play."

"Well," Etwas said while thinking.  "Wanna go jump up and down on a cat?  That's a great game!"

"I know that game.  I want someone to teach me how to play the violin"


"Fleas have so many sorrows.  I want to be the best blues player of all."

Etwas considered this.  "But, aren't demons always happy?" she asked.

And ever since then, whenever a flea meets an elf, they just cut straight to the cat-hopping.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Fox* and the Elf

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 passed under a fox, trotting along a lava field.  The fox spun around when Etwas leapt onto the fox' belly and shimmied along to yank a tuft of hair from the tail.  

Seeing nobody behind her, the fox wheeled again in the direction it had been previously pursuing, so Etwas gave the tail another yank.  This time, the wily vixen spun in a circle, chasing its tail until it could see the tiny elf on its tail.

"O ho, little Elf!" said the fox, who needed to keep running to make eye contact.

"Howdy, Miss Fox!" the Elf replied.

Still running, the fox thought of a trick to play.

"You know, Miss Elf, it is even more fun to yank my ears than my tail."

"Oh, boy!" said Etwas, who leapt up onto the fox' back and ran along her spine, up her neck and onto her head.  She pulled at the right ear and then the left.  "Not bad!" she agreed.

"And," yelped the fox.  "it is even more fun to yank my tongue!"

So the little elf bounded down onto the fox' snout and, using a piece of braided grass and her knife as an anchor rappelled down from the nostril to wait for the tongue to be exposed.  The clever fox knew she had her prey and closed her eyes in gladness as she quickly retracted her tongue and clamped her jaws shut.

She meant to swallow the elf whole but the elf hadn't let go of the rope which yanked and pulled the knife free leaving  cutting the grass rope in a puff of pollen.  The fox' sneeze came so hard that the elf flew through the air and tumbled onto the lave field, ending up against a rock in a clump of lupine.

"You're right," said the elf.  "That was the funnest jerk of all!"

And ever since then, the clever have been humbled by hayfever.

*Foxes are the oldest mammal in Iceland.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Etwas and the gabby cabbage

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 cabbage patch.  It looked like a perfect place to play and Etwas vaulted the young cabbages, did somersaults at their peaks and leapt from each in its turn to the next, in its sequence.  

"Oof!" said one of the cabbages as the elf alit upon it.

"Why, howdy, Ms. Cabbage!" replied Etwas.  "I didn't know you could talk!"

"Well the thingamajig is stuck in my dingabob."

"Oh," said Etwas, sympathetically.  "I'm sorry.  Are my feet in the way?"

"No, no," the cabbage replied.  "You have to pull your stem out."

"My tail?" Etwas asked.  "That would be funny, but I don't have a tail.  I sometimes wish for a tail.  I envy those with tails sometimes.  But then I just yank 'em."  

"That's silly," answered the cabbage.  "Why, one time my old papa, his stem got stuck and sealed just like that.  He huffed about and complained but my old aunt Trudi came and gave it a good tug and boy did she clean his bowl.  I think she must have used spider spit or something because that was the cleanest sticky cup or the stickiest clean cup you ever saw.  Hardly any room for tobacco or tea, I tell you..."

Etwas tumbled down the side of the cabbage and onto her feet in the soil to look at the stem and see if she could sort out the problem.  Digging her way under the bottom leaves, she found the trunk of the cabbage looking dewy and thick and well within specifications.  "Well, ok, then," Etwas interrupted.  "Have a great day!  I hope your dingabob gets free!"  

And the little Elf resumed her play and the two aphids in their room inside the cabbage head continued to tell stories and fix their pipes.

And ever since then, there's been a distinction between a long story and a pipe cleaner.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Elf and the cuddly pig

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of green grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she came upon a tiny pink hog rolling in warm mud.

"Howdy, Mr. Pig!" said Etwas.

"Sprouch!" answered the pig.

"Watcha doin'?"

"Sprouch!" answered the pig.

Etwas, looking for more conversation leapt onto the hog's flank.

"Sprouch!" protested the pig.

Etwas sidled around to the pig's rear and yanked his tail.  The twisty tail pulled straight and recoiled and sprung free and Etwas was thrust by the bounce into the air and landed on her bottom in the mud.

"OK," she said, lying down to dry in the sun on the pigs rising and sinking chest.  "Lazy's alright."

And ever since then, pigs are to Etwas like butterflies for when you want to stay still.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Elves and the Aggressive Gnome

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of green grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she realized it was time for the Association of Modern and Modest Elves' Running The Pickle Soiree.  Running The Pickle was a card game popular among the elves of Reykjanesbaer.  

She trotted over to the Grand Mushroom and helped herself to one of the lupine-seed chairs at the head table.  Now, the Association of Modern and Modest Elves, like most elfin establishments, was generally non-heirarchical.  The "Head table" was so named because it was draped with a bit of lettuce leaf.  The arse table stood on legs of toxtail weed, the bulb table was surfaced with a slice of garlic and the table clothed in rutabaga skin was called the proboscuary.

The game started amid laughter and cheating and Etwas was just about to ruff a π of clover when a drunken gnome leaned on the door.  "Who you doin'?" the gnome asked the mushroom cap in a loud low and unentirely coherent voice.  

The elves all turned in their seats to look at the intruder, although some checked their neighbor's hands as they turned.

"Yo," the gnome waved with the hand he'd been using to hold himself upright and slid into the dirt.  Some of the elves slid their eyes towards one another, their expressions amused and incredulous.

The gnome picked himself up and dusted himself off.  He reached back towards his waste band in the rear and made a puzzled expression.  Then he bent backwards and reached deep into the seat of pants and pulled out a dandelion.  "I brang you dish." he announced to the room.

"Howdy, Mr. Gnome!" Etwas gave by way of greeting and rose from her chair.  "Would you like some coffee?"  Etwas proceeded to the buttercup blossom the elves used for an urn.

The gnome turned around, fell down, crawled away out of sight and came back dragging an acorn cap which left a trail of white cream behind it and was picking up soil as the gnome pulled it.  "I brang you dish too!" the gnome slurred. "'s'pudding."

Etwas got some leverage under the gnome's knee and helped him raise his waist, although he folded over the helpful elf and his beard and nose were still pressed into the floor.

"I t'ought I'd sing you sumpin'" the gnome, announced to the delight of the dirt into which he bellowed.  Then he began in bursts "My gnomette has such pretty haAAAAAir! She's lookin' good, I wonderrrr wheeeEE-Eerre.  I t'ink of her wif me own self!!!! Den I caught her wif an ugly, um, trollllllLeoleoeo..."

"Pushy, these gnomes," said Mistress Snaeksmjör to her companion Mrs. Blábaði. 

And ever since then, there's a sign on the Grand Mushroom that reads, in Elfin, "Hospitality goes both ways."

Friday, January 13, 2012

The elf and the incorrigible dog

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of green grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when a white paw from above crashed into the hillock.  Etwas found herself between a pair of black claws.  "Yipe!" Etwas hollered.  "Watch your step!  There's people frollicking down here."  The paw rose back into the air but then came down in the same place and this time, Etwas needed to leap sidewise to stay between the claws.

"Oh, well for crying out loud.  That's enough," Etwas declared.  She bounded on to the dog's paw and shimmied up a long, fuzzy leg to a fluffy, white chest.  She grabbed the longer hair and continued her assent swinging from clump to clump of canine fur.  The dog was shedding, however and on Etwas' third swing, the clump she was holding onto came loose.  Etwas plummeted back to the mud, although the clump of dog hair cushioned her fall so much that she wanted to nap.

The white paw rose once more into the sky and came back down on Etwas' head, pushing her and the clump of white fur down into the mud.  Etwas crawled back up the leg, this time at the breach, she went up the side which was steep and hard but with the perseverence of someone about to tell another person a thing or two, Etwas made the spine and was bounding up towards the neck when another clump of hair gave way and down went the fur and down came the Elf.  Once more, the shed fur made a soft and even warm landing.

Then the rain began to fall and the dog wandered off towards shelter.  Etwas pulled the one clump of fur over on top of her and was delighted to find it was not only soft but waterproof and she spent a cozy night  in her pup tent.

And ever since then, Etwas remembers that while canine behavior might change with the weather, dog hair is forever.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The elf and the magic bottle

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf was running through the forests of green grass, under the canopies of clover and around the stems of tall flowers when she found an ornate bottle, half buried in mud.  She pulled it out of the damp and rubbed the soil until the bottle sparkled.

But not only did the bottle sparkle, it sang, and not only did it sing, it smoked and not only did it smoke but it spoke.  "I am the genie of the bottle!  I grant you three wishes!"  The bottle heated up as the magic inside it awaited further instructions.

"I can't think of a thing better than a bottle that stays warm," thought Etwas, and carried the magic bottle home to her mushroom.

And ever since then, those who satisfy the fires of others' desires try to keep cool themselves.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Elf and the Cheerful Reunion

Once upon a time, Etwas the Elf and her butterfly, Rascal, took a long sojourn in a foreign land.   In Iceland, the hidden people rejoiced at her return.  There was a great parade in Etwas and Rascal's honor as few Elves ever went to foreign places.

Two elves played Portuguese horns.  A swan brought crumpets.  The International Association of Hrafnivolkin built a parade float from dried blueberry leaves, birch twigs and goose feathers.  Eleven pixies and a turtle pulled the float with a gnome singing Wagner on top in a nest of holly.  The senior Elf put on an exhibition of golf and a baboon played a bassoon.  From far away, a distant rough voice rumbled a medley of Merle Haggard songs.

The parade ended at Etwas' home mushroom and there was a great feast with rosewater in Rascal's tiny trough and powdered non-dairy cream for Etwas.  A banner over the mushroom read "HOME IS WHERE THEY'RE GLAD YOU CAME BACK"

And ever since then, Etwas is at home anywhere she's been once before.