Story: The River Elf

Written by and copyright to Jennifer McCormack, February 2015.

Korbyn the Class Elf, Needle Felted Doll, 2002

This story is adapted from one I wrote in July 2014 and published on my blog lavendilly. The original story was written to help children transition into school, and yet it is adaptable for younger children in different environments, so I have re-written it to help children settle in to our outdoor nature-play rhythm. 

Once there were a few children and a teacher, who came together to play at their nature kinder once or twice a week. Each of the children were different, and the teacher loved how interesting this made the days at kinder. Some children would come running through the door as soon as the teachers opened it in the morning, shouting a quick goodbye to their parents and feeling very excited about their plans for the day. Some children would arrive, and enjoyed a slower, quieter farewell with their parents, sitting together to talk and read and feel at home before they found something to do. Some children would play on their own for a bit, and then join in with the others. Once everybody had arrived, they would say their blessing, have their morning tea together and talk about what they would like to do during the day.

There was always plenty to do. Most mornings they would go to the river, where there they could wade in the water out to the stone islands, try to catch the little fish or to cook in the river kitchen. When the water was high, or too cold, they would play on the riverbank where there was a story circle and a fig tree (that was also sometimes a pirate boat or a unicorn or a house or a shop!) Every now and then they would walk together to the park to play on the swings and slides, and make fairy houses under the trees. They could also choose to climb and run around the trees growing in the field. Sometimes they would walk to the duck pond to see what treasures they could find, to sail paper boats and to explore. And sometimes, too, they chose to stay home and play in the backyard.  After their morning adventure they would come back, eat their lunch and have a bit of a quiet time inside.

There was one child who didn’t always feel comfortable outside. It was sometimes hard to say goodbye to his mum, and he would almost always sit on his own in the morning to watch the other children play. He found it tricky to walk on the smooth round river stones, and sometimes the wide open field felt very big. There was a lot of dirt and scrubby plants around and he felt like the fig tree looked too tall for him to climb. The teacher would come and have a chat and try to interest him in some activities, but he seemed to prefer to watch and listen until he was ready.

“He’ll play when he’s ready,” the teacher would say to herself, “I’ll bet he is having lots of interesting thoughts and ideas as he watches.”

One morning, after morning tea, the boy was sitting in the backyard on the picnic rug. The teacher was busy gathering the things they would take with them to the river, and the other children had found things to do while they waited. As he sat there, something surprising happened. He was certain that he saw a green and purple thing flash past the picnic rug and into the vegetable garden. It was so quick he couldn’t see more than a streak of colour, but he was absolutely sure that he heard the sound of a jingling bell ringing as it went by.

This was very interesting! So he stood up to have a look. There was a child in the vegetable garden. She was looking for ripe strawberries and nibbling sweet leaves from the basil bushes. The boy crept over to her and quietly whispered,

“Did you see something running past? It was green and purple and very fast!

I didn’t see it very well, but I’m sure I heard a jingling bell!”

The girl in the garden replied, “No, I was searching for strawberries. Smell this basil, isn’t it AMAZING?” The boy nodded, yes it smelled delicious! She was so busy in the garden, no wonder she hadn’t seen anything rush past. He asked if he could stay and play until he saw it again, and the girl made room for him. Together they followed the pumpkin vine from one end to the other and searched for long green beans to pick.

They played together for a little while then one of the girl pointed excitedly “Look! Is that what you saw?” They looked up at the same time and as they did, they heard a little bell. A little flash of green and purple dashed off into tree house! So they both ran over to see. It was a tricky climb up there, but they helped each other and up they went.

There was a child up there, who was drawing with the chalk on the blackboards. The other two crept up to him and quietly whispered,

“Did you see something running past? It was green and purple and very fast!

I didn’t see it very well, but I’m sure I heard a jingling bell!”

The child who had been drawing replied, “I thought I saw something! Look, I’ve tried to draw it. Isn’t it FASCINATING?” The boy nodded, yes it was just like what he had seen! They decided to all draw what they thought the green and purple thing was. It might help them find it. Everyone began to create lots of different images about what they thought it was.

They created and talked together for a little while then one of the children pointed excitedly “Look! Is that what you saw?” They all looked up at the same time and as they did so, they heard a little bell. A little flash of green and purple dashed off into digging pit. So they all got up and ran over to see.

There was one child in the digging pit. She was pouring water into the pit to make chocolate mud for her cake. The boy, the friend from the vegetable garden and the friend from the tree house came over too. The boy asked her:

“Did you see something running past? It was green and purple and very fast!

I didn’t see it very well, but I’m sure I heard a jingling bell!”

The friend in the digging pit replied, “No, I was making up some chocolate cake. Isn’t it DELICIOUS?” The boy nodded, yes the brown chocolate mud cake in the bowl looked really yummy. She’s been very busy, no wonder she hadn’t seen anything rush past. The boy asked if he could stay and play until he saw it again, and they all started digging and pouring and mixing together, making a bit of a muddy wet mess. Suddenly one of the children pointed excitedly “Look! Is that what you saw?” They all looked up at the same time and as they did so, they heard a little bell. A little flash of green and purple dashed off outside and into the field and into the little mango tree!

All together the boy, the friend from the vegetable garden, the friend from the treehouse and the friend from the digging pit called to the teacher! They wanted to run out on to the field and climb the mango tree to find this mysterious colourful, jingly thing! Their teacher replied, “Yes you can go! I’m all ready now, let’s go together.”

And so the children ran across the field and climbed up into the mango tree. The boy was last up, and there wasn’t much room in the little tree so it was a bit squishy with all four of them together. They giggled a lot as they searched.

“Can you see it?”

“I can’t find it!”

“I’m sure it came here!”

“I heard it over here!”

They looked everywhere – all through the trees, over the field and down to the fig tree that grew on the riverbank. Every now and then they would hear a little bell, and together they would race off to where they thought they could hear it. They ended up playing and climbing and running outside for all the morning and then when their teacher called them together for story time they told her all about it! It took so long to tell of their adventures that they did not have time to hear the day’s story from their teacher.

“Well, thank you!” their teacher said, “What a treat for us today! I thoroughly enjoyed story time today!” The children all giggled when they realised that THEY told the story to their teacher instead of the other way around.

The teacher looked at the children. “You know,” she said, “every now and then I think I hear a little jingling sound in the garden too. Always just behind the tree or near the swing or behind the tree house. Mostly down here by the river! Every now and then I am certain that I have seen something flash past. I think something like a little cheeky river elf lives here, and I thought I was going mad until you saw it today too!”

The teacher turned to the boy who had first heard the bell and who had started the great search. She said, “You know, I knew you were a great watcher and listener. You notice things! You sat and listened and waited and look what happened! This little river elf of ours has helped you find some people to play with. You have been having fun all morning! Now you know everyone and can play outside too.”

From then on it was a bit easier for the boy to say goodbye to his mum and dad, and he continued to sit and watch for a bit at the start of the day, before going to play with his friends. Always they hoped to catch a glimpse of the cheeky river elf.

And sometimes they did.

This story can also be used to play hide-and-seek in a version of the Honey Game that we have always loved to play 🙂

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7 thoughts on “Story: The River Elf

  1. Pingback: Game: Isn’t Funny How a Bear Likes Honey? | Numala Kinder

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