The Elves

: Good Stories For Great Holidays



The little Elves of Darkness, so says the old Iroquois grandmother, were

wise and mysterious. They dwelt under the earth, where were deep forests

and broad plains. There they kept captive all the evil things that

wished to injure human beings,--the venomous reptiles, the wicked

spiders, and the fearful monsters. Sometimes one of these
vil creatures

escaped and rushed upward to the bright, pure air, and spread its

poisonous breath over the living things of the upper-world. But such

happenings were rare, for the Elves of Darkness were faithful and

strong, and did not willingly allow the wicked beasts and reptiles to

harm human beings and the growing things.

When the night was lighted by the moon's soft rays, and the woods of

the upper-world were sweet with the odor of the spring-flowers, then the

Elves of Darkness left the under-world, and creeping from their holes,

held a festival in the woods. And under many a tree, where the blades of

grass had refused to grow, the Little People danced until rings of green

sprang up beneath their feet. And to the festival came the Elves of

Light,--among whom were Tree-Elves, Flower-Elves, and Fruit-Elves. They

too danced and made merry.

But when the moonlight faded away, and day began to break, then the

Elves of Darkness scampered back to their holes, and returned once more

to the under-world; while the Elves of Light began their daily tasks.

For in the springtime these Little People of the Light hid in sheltered

places. They listened to the complaints of the seeds that lay covered in

the ground, and they whispered to the earth until the seeds burst their

pods and sent their shoots upward to the light. Then the little Elves

wandered over the fields and through the woods, bidding all growing

things to look upon the sun.

The Tree-Elves tended the trees, unfolding their leaves, and feeding

their roots with sap from the earth. The Flower-Elves unwrapped the baby

buds, and tinted the petals of the opening flowers, and played with the

bees and the butterflies.

But the busiest of all were the Fruit-Elves. Their greatest care in

the spring was the strawberry plant. When the ground softened from the

frost, the Fruit-Elves loosened the earth around each strawberry root,

that its shoots might push through to the light. They shaped the plant's

leaves, and turned its blossoms toward the warm rays of the sun. They

trained its runners, and assisted the timid fruit to form. They painted

the luscious berry, and bade it ripen. And when the first strawberries

blushed on the vines, these guardian Elves protected them from the evil

insects that had escaped from the world of darkness underground.

And the old Iroquois grandmother tells, how once, when the fruit first

came to earth, the Evil Spirit, Hahgwehdaetgah, stole the strawberry

plant, and carried it to his gloomy cave, where he hid it away. And

there it lay until a tiny sunbeam pierced the damp mould, and finding

the little vine carried it back to its sunny fields. And ever since then

the strawberry plant has lived and thrived in the fields and woods. But

the Fruit-Elves, fearing lest the Evil One should one day steal the

vine again, watch day and night over their favorite. And when the

strawberries ripen they give the juicy, fragrant fruit to the Iroquois

children as they gather the spring flowers in the woods.