A little boy, Frede, wants to help his poor parents during the harsh winter. He dreams of visiting the Christmas village to ask his hero, Santa, for help. With his brothers he plans the trip. First they have to cross the treacherous forest of elves. An enchanting, heart-warming Christmas tale ideal for reading aloud to your (grand)children!
Targeted Age Group:: 10-14, all ages, family read, read aloud
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The winter season and Elf King (Erlkönig by Schubert) inspired me to write this winter story.
“The large forest”
In a village far far away from here, there once lived a farmer and his wife. They had three sons: Rhune, Folke and Frede.
The oldest son, Rhune, looked like a handsome prince every time the summer sun played with his gold-blonde hair. When that spring season awakened, their middle son Folke sang like an angel. Frede, the youngest one, resembled more a Christmas elf whenever winter time came knocking at their front door.
The winter travelled relentlessly through the far, faraway village. The poor farmer and his wife saw its coming with big concern. That summer harvest was inside right on time, but it wasn’t very large.
”There is not enough,” the farmer complained, shaking his head. How would they ever warm their bodies in the coldest time of year? He thought hard about this difficult future that awaited them. Their three sons grew like weeds and their hungry mouths had to be fed.
“Maybe, if you go to the forest to collect some wood over there,” his wife suggested, “we could dry it and sell it in the village.”
The farmer looked hopefully at her. That was a great idea! There would always be someone who needed wood for the fireplace. “I’m leaving tomorrow morning,” he said.
“You might take Frede with you,” his wife spoke.
It may seem strange to you, but their youngest son liked the cold more than the heat. So, little Frede was very excited when his Father asked him to go with him to that large forest. As they got home later that day, his older brothers Rhune and Folke would assist Mother in drying the wood. In the evening, when the children were asleep, the farmer and his wife would go from door to door to sell it.
No sooner said than done. The next morning, the farmer picked Frede up and set him on top of his old cart. The two of them started down the road, to the abandoned forest that extended to the north of the village. Mother and the other sons waved as they disappeared from sight.
Helter-skelter, Father rolled his cart with his little son on top of it, along the most rugged rivers and nasty hills. The cold wind blew right through the deserted landscape and sealed their lips for a long time. Silently, they went on.
Finally they arrived at the entrance of the big forest. The first row of gigantic trees opened invitingly. Their crowns overshadowed the early visitors who meanwhile bravely entered. Father and son had a mission which was ‘to fetch wood’.
Hours later, the afternoon light squeaked between the crowns of the giant trees. The farmer sawed the dead branches from the lowest ones, while Frede bravely gathered the wood. It was a hard job, and especially for such a small boy in this cold. Yet, Frede preferred the outdoors and this kind of weather.
That afternoon, it remained quite silent in that forest. The farmer and his son remained however very busy. Only the muffled sound of boots on the frozen moss broke the silence of Nature. Frede gave the bundles of wood one by one to Father, who piled them neatly on his cart. Side by side, they worked on, forming a rotating machine.
After a while, Frede looked up from his work. He stared into the distance, enjoying his daydream. Somewhere behind that big forest, lay Santa’s village. Mother had often told him about the location. He knew the good old chap lived there along with lots of helping elves.
They together made all the children’s dreams come true and the boy found that such a noble thing to do!
Furthermore, in that magical place, it appeared never to rain, but it always snowed. It seemed the entire year icy cold over there. And, what could a winter boy like him want more from life? Oh, he really hoped he could once be employed by Santa as a Christmas elf!
The farmer gave his resting son a push and pulled him back into the harsh reality. Frede was shocked out of his dream, but returned to his task with a secretive smile on his lips. Father was truly proud of him, as he was of all of his sons. There was only one person who had disappointed him lately, and that was Nisse, their farm helper.
Even his wife didn’t understand the problem. The farmhand was getting rewarded for the work in their fields, barn and stable. Every day, she prepared his favorite porridge with much love. With lots of patience she even sewed Rhune’s gold-blonde hairs in the little gray clothes of Nisse. Yet, the elf boy, who was as a fourth son to her, ran away from home. To his human brothers, who saw Nisse like one of them, the loss remained great as well.
The farmer sighed deeply. With the animals in the stable, it went downhill. For the first time in years, the summer harvest failed. And for the first time in life, the poor peasant family realized how much luck Nisse had brought them in these years before. That boy elf had been extraordinary helpful.
Father’s thoughts wandered around in the forest. Nisse, the man wondered now, dear elf child, why on earth did you run away? Oh, come back, please, we miss you so!
Suddenly something broke the silence around them. Slowly large drops started to fall and the wetness was on their crowns. The drops began to follow each other now in quick succession.
“We have enough!” the farmer yelled. Hurriedly, he took the last branches out of Frede’s hands. He then quickly stretched the thick rope over their loot, which was now getting wetter and wetter.
Frede lingered but Father took him by the hand and dragged him beside the crowded cart, to get out of the rainforest soon. The water splashed hard and the wind blew loud. Frede’s boots sank deep into the swampy soil. But, his strong dad pulled him smoothly upwards.
Meantime, the wind was chasing them menacingly.
Finally the first row of trees came back into their view. Even now civilization seemed nearby, Frede looked again and again over his shoulder. As he noticed how fast the giants closed behind them, he shuddered. There was something strange in the forest that haunted and frightened him. The boy reinforced his safe grip with Father.
Through the sea of rain the old cart rolled slowly forward. Soggy Frede desperately sought shelter in Father’s large cloak. In this way, Father, son and cart stumbled home.
When they finally reached their village, the evening had already fallen. Rhune and Folke ran to meet and help them. Full of retained energy the boys took over the cart. Father hurried home with Frede.
“My son!” the farmer’s wife screamed appalled.
The farmer took his son in his lap on his seat next to the fireplace. Mother sought the thickest blanket in their entire house and rubbed her shivering child dry.
Not much later Father took the sleepy son to bed. He tucked the exhausted child in and whispered: “Rest well, my son.” He tiptoed out of the boys’ room.
Frede opened his eyes. “Father?” His voice sounded terrified.
The farmer stopped and returned. Next to Frede’s bed, he fell to his knees. His questioning eyes stared right into one frightened face. “Yes, my son?”
Frede lifted himself with all his strength. “Father, those sounds in the large forest,” he whispered in his ear, “that whirling wind; it sounded so menacing, and it kept on chasing us!” Tears of extreme fear welled over his white drawn cheeks. “Father, there is something strange going on in that forest and it just scares me to death!” The boy desperately searched for support
in the strong and safe arms of his Father. “I’m scared, so scared!” he repeated emphatically. His body trembled as a spring bird’s feather.
Father embraced him intensely. The poor man looked for words.
Sweat created pearls on Frede’s forehead and his skin felt feverishly hot. “It’s all good now, son, you truly have nothing to fear here,” he comforted him. “Let it go, for we’re not going back, I promise!”
“But Father, we need lots of wood, thus we must go back,” Frede said. “We must!”
Father squeezed the boy’s shoulder. “I’ll find another solution!”
Frede nodded hesitantly. His parents did everything for him and his two brothers. They worked very hard, but would this be enough for the long winter to come?
While their youngest brother lay in bed, the work just began for Rhune and Folke. They constantly walked in and out of their house with dead wood. In the living room, the bundles were unrolled and dried before the fire by Mother.
At last, she was the one who sent them to their room. Exhausted, they sought the comfort of their beds. The oldest one fell asleep like a log while Frede was still awake. He was too worried about the fate that awaited his family. He wanted to DO something!
“Folke?” he asked.
“Frede, I am asleep,” the second son spoke curtly.
“But…” There was a little silence on Frede’s side now. “How can you talk then?”
“Well…” Folke sighed heavily. He in fact knew that his brother wouldn’t shut his mouth and eyes before he had answered all of his questions. Painfully, he crawled to his feet. “Okay then,” he said, “I am listening.”
“The forest is sssssssso bad!” Frede hissed from under his sheets.
Folke stepped quietly out of his bed and crept toward his bro. “In the forest lives the Elf King. He eats all the little boys he can catch!”
“No!” Frede cried as he freed himself from Folke’s claws. He did not like the Elf King, because that bad man terrified him!
“Shhhh!” Folke soothed him. “That talk of the Forest King is only a story to keep us, children, in line. He is not even real.”
“Sure?” Frede urged him on. He peeped over his blanket.
“Very sure!” Folke went back to his own bed. “And, now, please go to sleep, Frede, it will soon be day again!”
“Yah?!” Folke sighed irritatedly for his singing voice needed rest. His little brother looked tireless!
Frede kept silent as a field mouse in the barn. He clearly was still worried about something.
“Frede, what’s on your mind?”
“Is the wood drying well?”
“Yes, Frede, everything will work out just fine,” Folke answered him with increasingly yawning. “When it stops raining, Mother and Father will go and sell it from door to door!”
“All right then!” it sounded now at the other side of the room.
Folke turned rather satisfied between his sheets. Even little Frede crawled under his blanket again, partly reassured, yet rolled over a few times but eventually slipped effortlessly towards dreamland…
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Leen Lefebre grew up in West Flanders where she works at the Local Heritage Service. As a kid, she threw herself upon each book that was available. Later, she turned around and settled on the worldwide web. She then emerged as a true explorer of literature, music, and sports. Leen is a dreamer and a doer – and this is how her stories rose up as charming and lively fairy tales for adventurers of all ages.