In Santaland on Christmas Eve, you can be certain something is bound to go amiss. And just as surely, someone will make it all right. The little elf wanted everything to be perfect - he'd worked so hard to complete his task - and then, disaster! How could be possibly save the day? Once you have read RenÃ©e Schwartz's charming story, you'll want to make the little elf, exactly as she did.
The Elf's Gift
With a howl and a shriek, the wind tugged at the little elf's package. Twice it nearly succeeded in wrestling the box from his grasp, but Xiph held tight and struggled on. Finally, he reached the Christmas sleigh where the enormous load of toys sheltered him from the threatening wind.
Everything had been packed and ready for hours, awaiting the great journey. Everything, that is, except the little train Xiph had been working on. It was his first Christmas toy assignment, and it could well be his last. He had tried his best, but everything that could possibly go wrong, it seemed, had. But in the end, he had managed to finish it and, much to everyone's surprise, it was a magnificent train. It ran smoothly, puffing and tooting as it chugged along. "A truly splendid gift!" the head toy master had remarked.
The only problem was that Xiph was late, and Santa could not accept tardiness. Everyone agreed that this rule made complete sense. After all, Santa couldn't have hundreds of elves rushing about, loading their gifts at the last moment. No, that would only lead to mistakes, and so the rules stated everything had to be on board at least three hours before the sleigh rose into the sky. If Xiph failed to get his present onto the sleigh, well, he would never have another chance to become an official Christmas toy maker. Of course, there were other great jobs in Santa's workshops, but Xiph knew he had to be one of the toy makers. The one good thing about the storm that night was that no one was about. Usually there would be some little elf polishing the sleigh or checking the bells, but tonight the wind was far too fierce so the elves were celebrating inside by the crackling fire with almond crescent cookies and peppermint tea, the traditional elf Christmas Eve fare.
Frantically searching for the right sack, Xiph knew he didn't have much time. Santa would be leaving soon. Already snatches of the farewell bon voyage song drifted up from the shop. Desperate, Xiph quickly untied what seemed to be the lightest sack and he carefully lowered his wonderful present into it. And then, with a shriek, a gust of wind knocked him over and down Xiph went into the sack, with a muffled thud. Xiph tumbled to the very bottom of the deep, dark sack. When he realized what had happened, Xiph started to cry, a tiny elf cry. His leg really hurt, he was scared and he was stuck under a big, fluffy teddy bear. Suddenly, footsteps squeaking in the snow approached. They were big and heavy and unmistakable.
"What's this?" a loud voice boomed. "Those elves - leaving a sack untied!" Xiph cowered inside the sack. Santa's voice seemed rather gruff. Perhaps, Xiph thought, he could slip out unnoticed while Santa harnessed the reindeer?
Suddenly the whole world turned topsy-turvy as Santa grabbed the sack and tied it up. Xiph cried out "Stop!" but it was too little, too late. The sack was hoisted on top of the others. The thick fabric and the laughing wind concealed the elf's small voice. No one heard his cry.
Xiph now sat very still at the bottom of the sack. He had stopped shouting long ago. The moment he'd felt the sleigh lurch and begin its journey, he knew all was lost. The pounding of his heart seemed to echo throughout the sackful of presents. He was so afraid. If there was one thing every elf knew it was that no one but Santa was allowed on the Christmas voyage. That was the rule. The number one rule. Tears welled up, then began to roll down his cheeks. It was going to be a very long, very cold night. He burrowed down deeper into the sack, snuggling up to a soft, fluffy puppy, terrified by the thought of his eventual discovery.
After many hours and many stops, the little elf realized that he soon would be found. The great hand had reached into this sack already many times that night, rummaging about for just the right gift to give. There were only a few toys left. His beautiful train was long gone. The rag doll beside him might be next. Looking at her more closely, Xiph recognized her as one his friend had made. Gently he brushed back her soft brown hair. Then, to his horror, he noticed a rip in the cloth of her left cheek! How could that have happened? Some sharp toy must have accidentally torn the soft silk. Such a beautiful doll, ruined!
The elf grew flushed. He felt terrible. The knot in his stomach tightened. Perhaps it was his train that had caused this accident? Of course there was no way to know for sure, but supposing it had? Now, not only had he been late delivering his gift to the sleigh, not only had he stowed away, he had also destroyed a child's gift with his carelessness! Xiph buried his head in his hands. He felt so ashamed.
Sadly, Xiph fingered the gift tag on the doll's arm. Some little child would be so disappointed. All he'd ever wanted to do was make toys for children. Toys to make them laugh and smile, wonderful toys to play with, to hug, to love. Again the sack was jerked open and the hand reached in. The elf knew it was searching for the doll. Shoving her aside, Xiph grabbed the gift tag and slipping it around his neck, threw himself into Santa's grasp.
The next few minutes flashed like fireworks. In the black sky burned a million candles. Below, the white snow sparkled and glittered in the starlight. And then, finally, lying beneath the majestic tree, soft light flashing in every color, Xiph slowly let himself go limp and soft like a rag doll. After all, he'd broken so many of the elf kingdom's rules that night, what was one more?
Christmas magic decrees that any elf seen by a human will instantly turn to cloth. A wave of sadness swept over Xiph, but then, as he felt the warmth of Santa's smile and saw the glint in his eye, he felt content. For he knew that in a few hours, he would once again become alive, when a child's hug and smile would warm his heart.
For another great holiday tale to read aloud pick up a copy of the January 2005 issue of Canadian Living Magazine and look for The Name of the Game under Family Life.
The finished elf is approx 45 cm (17-3/4 in) tall.
Piece of unbleached cotton, 20 x 80 cm (8 x 31-1/2 in)
Piece of polished green cotton, 36 x 45 cm (14-1/4 x 17-3/4 in)
Piece of shiny red fabric, 40 x 75 cm (15-3/4 x 29-1/2 in)
Green, red and white embroidery floss
Red cotton crochet yarn, for hair
55 cm elastic, 6 mm wide
2 small jingle bells
Long, thin darning needle
Enlarge pattern by the squaring method as follows: On brown paper, draw a grid of horizontal and vertical lines 2.5 cm (1 in) apart. Each square on the diagram equals a 2.5 cm square on your paper. Enlarge by drawing each line of the design onto the corresponding square on your paper. Transfer any markings.
Note: Sew fabric with right sides together, using a 6 mm (1/4 in) seam allowance throughout.
1. Cut pattern pieces from appropriate fabric as indicated.
2. From red fabric, cut: 2 arms, each 7 x 13 cm (2-3/4 x 5 in), 2 legs, each 7 x 18 cm (2-3/4 x 7 in), 1 collar, 10 x 75 cm (4 x 29-1/2 in), 4 cuffs, each 7 x 30 cm (2-3/4 x 11-3/4 in), and 1 belt, 4.5 x 40 cm (1-3/4 x 15-3/4 in).
3. Head: Sew head gusset first to one head piece then to the other. Turn right side out. Stuff firmly. Using 2 strands of floss, satin-stitch green eyes and backstitch red mouth and eyebrows. Highlight eyes with a white French knot in upper right corners.
4. Hair: With fabric marker, draw the desired hairline around head. Thread darning needle with doubled length of yarn. Insert needle through front of head at hairline and out back, leaving approx 2.5 cm (1 in) of yarn at front. Make a tiny stitch beside point where needle emerged; slip needle and yarn under stitch, forming knot. Cut yarn, leaving approx 3.5 cm (1-1/4 in) at back. Attach all hair in same manner, working from hairline at front and back to centre of head.
5. Ears: Stitch each ear pair together, leaving straight edge open. Turn right side out. Stuff. Turn under 6 mm around opening; slipstitch to head.
6. Nose: Fold nose in half and stitch down stitch curved edge. Turn right side out. Stuff. Turn under 6 mm around opening; slipstitch to face. Brush a little blush on cheeks and tips of nose and ears.
7. Shoes: Starting at toe, stitch around sole and up back, sewing shoe gusset first to one shoe piece then to the other. Sew top of shoe together around curve, leaving straight edge open. Turn right side out. Stuff. Repeat for other shoe.
8. Legs: Fold each leg in half and stitch long edges together. Turn right side out. Stuff. Turn under 6 mm around one end of each leg, slip over straight edge of one shoe; slipstitch to shoe.
9. Body: Sew darts in body back where indicated on pattern. With raw edges even, sandwich legs between body front and back (right sides together). Sew body pieces together, leaving open at neck. Turn right side out. Stuff. Turn under 10 mm (3/8 in) around neck, slip over open edge of head; slipstitch to head, adding stuffing to stiffen neck.
10. Hands: Stitch each pair of hands together. Slit between fingers and machine-zigzag seam allowances. Turn right side out. Stuff.
11. Arms: Fold each arm in half and stitch long edges together. Turn right side out. Stuff. Turn under 6 mm around one end of each arm, slip over open edge of one hand; slipstitch to hand. Turn under 10 mm (3/8 in) around raw edge of each arm; slipstitch to shoulder.
12. Tunic: Stitch tunic front and back together at shoulder, underarm and side seams. Clip underarm seam allowance to X as indicated. Turn under 6 mm twice around bottom, sleeve and neck openings; hem. Turn right side out. Put tunic on elf and slipstitch shoulder openings closed at either side of neck.
13. Collar: Fold collar strip in half and stitch long edges together. Turn right side out, forming a tube. Insert a 15 cm (6-in) length of elastic through tube. Sew elastic ends together. Turn under 6 mm around each end of tube; slipstitch ends together. Slip collar over feet and up to neck.
14. Cuffs: Assemble as for collar using a 10 cm (4-in) length of elastic for each of the 4 cuffs. Slip cuffs onto wrists and ankles.
15. Belt: Fold belt in half and stitch long edges together, tapering to points at each end and leaving a 2 cm (3/4 in) opening along midsection of belt; turn right side out through opening. Slipstitch closed. Sew bells at points of belt; tie belt around waist.