Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Elf

Do you have one of these, or do you remember him?

This little elf was about to hit the trash when a co-worker was sorting out her stuff.

"Wait!" I said. "I remember him!"

Every year my mother had an elf like this one that traveled around our house from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas.

He watched us.

If we did something bad, the elf knew and told Mom. He also reported our good deeds; that was important because for every good deed we were allowed to put a straw in the manger that would eventually hold the Christ child in our Nativity scene. We wanted to do good deeds and add straws so His bed would not be too hard.

Some years, I'm sorry to say, the Christ Child probably got splinters from the wooden manger. Other years His bed was soft and overflowing with straw. Some people might have cheated a little in their anxiety to be sure His bed was comfy. (Not me, of course. I would not have cheated. Ever.)

Seeing this little elf launching to the trash can brought back a flood of memories--Mom's happy face with eyes twinkling as she moved the elf to a new hiding place (as we spied on her to see his new location), the elf perched on top of mantels, bookshelves, chairs and tables, the huge angel choir at the Nativity scene, the empty manger that waited until Christmas Eve at midnight for its occupant, the huge, huge tree in the living many good memories of this time of year.

We never had much money and our Christmas gifts were usually small things, each carefully and individually wrapped--a pencil, a package of new socks, decks of cards. And a stocking full of nuts, candy, oranges and apples. Small gifts loaded with love and laughter.

The elf never landed in the trash. He's been my office companion for the past few months. Now it's time for him to get to work.

Here is a story from the Brothers Grimm about elves:

The Servant Girl and the Elves
from Germany

Once upon a time there was a poor servant girl who was diligent and neat. Every day she swept out the house and shook the sweepings onto a large pile outside the door. One morning just as she was beginning her work she found a letter on the pile of sweepings. She could not read, so she stood her broom in the corner and took the letter to her employers. It was an invitation from the elves, asking the girl to serve as godparent at the baptism of one of their children.

At first the girl did not know what she should do, but finally they convinced her to accept. It would not be right, they said, to decline such an invitation.

Three elves came and led her to a hollow mountain where the little people lived. Everything there was small, but more ornate and splendid than can be described. The new mother was lying in a bed of ebony decorated with pearl buttons. The covers were embroidered with gold. The cradle was made of ivory, and the bathtub of gold. The girl stood in as godparent, and then wanted to go back home, but the elves asked her fervently to stay with them for three days. She agreed to do so, and the time passed with pleasure and joy. The little people did everything to make her happy.

Finally she wanted to return home. They filled her pockets with gold and led her outside the mountain. She arrived home. Wanting to begin her work, she picked up the broom that was still standing in the corner and started to sweep. Then some strange people came out of the house and asked her who she was and what she was doing there. It was not three days, as she thought, that she had spent in the mountain with the little men, but rather seven years. In the meantime her former employers had died.

For more, visit the Pitt e-text site.

And for more elven tales from around the world, try these:

An story about Icelandic elves is on this interesting blog

and Japanese elves at Crackle Mountain

A variation on Tam Lin is given as a Scottish elf tale on the Stories to Grow By site.

from Brittany comes the story of The Hunchback and the Elves.

Or if you're interested in the folklore of elves, these sites will keep you busy reading for some time:

Mythical realms explores elves, elven folk and other mythical beings.

Learn about "The True Elves of Europe" here.

More from Iceland!

Enough for today. Happy reading!


Jaime said...

Yes! Yes I do! My parents have a set of those elves. I believe one is in green and the other red. They still use them on the tree. Actually they still use the ornaments that my dad had when he was a kid. And they still have one strand of lights from when he was a kid too. Their tree is rather... vintage. LOL!

Nessa said...

I remember that elf and that story. You must be careful with time spent living with elves and fairies.

Name That Christmas Song

Angela said...

Oh my gosh! Granny Sue! Yes, I do remember him! His name was Pappy! He would watch us and tell Santa if we were good or bad! Man was I scared of Pappy telling on me if I was bad when I was younger. You just put a smile on my face :)

And she was going to put Pappy in the trash! No!!! Thanks for rescuing him!


Janet, said...

Well I guess I have to be different, I do not remember us having an elf like that when I was little.

Granny Sue said...

How funny, Jaime! I think this elf is probably 60's or 70's vintage--and to think his hair isn't even gray. I think he colors it.

Granny Sue said...

You're right, Nessa. They can be untrustworthy companiopns at best.

Granny Sue said...

I love it, Angela! Pappy--I wonder who came up with that name?

Janet, these probably became popular after you were an adult. Mom was a little ahead of her time--actually, I think it was a tradition from her childhood, and maybe it just caught on in the US because of some movie or something in the 60's?

Carolyn Stearns Storyteller said...

We had 2 of those elves and they reside with me now. I remember getting a tiny Whitmans Sampler of 4 chocolates with one of them. They always sat in different places in our house too and we moved them. They liked hanging ontothe edge of picture frames and on the mantel once in awhile on the tree and sometimes windowsills. When my daughter was here for a visit recently we were out shopping and she bought 2 elves as like to ours as she could get as she wanbt s her little girl to grow up with them too. I will share your deeds lesson I think that makes it special. Thanks for zipping me onto memory lane guess Ill have to go to the attic tommrow and find the little guys they probably want to get out of the Christmas boxes.

laoi gaul~williams said...

thats not a tradition here although its made me think! out of the things i have from when we cleared my nans flat back in the summer is a small pottery elf which, according to a small label, once held mead! i think he might well become a new tradition here in the new forest :)

Granny Sue said...

Carolyn, ours liked to hang on picture frames too! How neat that your daughter wants to continue your tradition. I was so tickled to find this one--I have never had one of my own so now he'll join our annual celebrations.

laoi, I wonder where Mom came up with it then? I always assumed it was something she did as a child in England. She had so many traditions that she brought over with her, like the kissing ball and pomanders and sausage rolls and Boxing Day, and others. This seemed like yet another one of her childhood things.

Jason Burns said...

GSue - I have alot of little elves like this - although John thinks I'm a little overzealous about them. I've even got three that have pine cone bodies and play instruments. They belonged to my great-grandma and she had them on her tv every christmas. I'm going to dig out all my Christmas stuff and see what all is in the boxes.

It seems like everywhere I go I find a Christmas elf. Maybe they know I'll give them a good home? Or that I need extra watching? I'm not sure which.

Carolyn Stearns said...

You wont believe this!! I went to the Hallmark store today and they had that VERY ELF! it was a boxed set with a book explaining the elf spying for Santa tradition and then the book was in Borders as well! All you Elfless families can now rush out and buy spies of your own and spread the spread the word Santa Claus is watchin and makin a list of naughty and nice

Granny Sue said...

How funny, Carolyin! Who would have thought tey'd still be making them? that's wonderful. I love it that kids can stll have the experience of watching out for the elf!

Tipper said...

We didn't have an elf-but I want one now-great post.

Tipper said...

We didn't have an elf-but I want one now-great post.

Twisted Fencepost said...

I have an elf just like that one, somewhere in my Christmas stuff. Because of your story, he's gonna have fun finding hiding places this year.
And I love the good deed straw story too. That is a great idea for the little ones.

Tony said...

My grandmother has one of these. We see it every year when all the grandkids help her put up the tree.

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