Elfa and Holger

December 01, 2018

Pencil illustration of Elfa and Holgar

Read about Elfa and Holger.

Who are Elfa and Holger?

The first thing they want you to know is that they are sister and brother!

Elfa is the elder, and that might explain why she’s the leader. Also, Holger is extremely shy. In fact, he’s so quiet that you hardly ever hear him speak. He relies on Elfa to speak up for him. Even though he’s quiet, Holger loves to play, and he sees the funny side of things. His eyes see everything. All the tiny details stand out around him. He just has a hard time letting you know—communicating.

However, Holger would like to share a special secret with you: He has a small pet, a little mouse, that he keeps in his pocket with him all the time. His mouse never leaves or runs away, as they are best friends.

Elfa is also quiet, but not quite as shy as Holger. She’s not afraid to do the talking for her brother and herself. She also knows how to read, which comes in handy at times.

Both Elfa and Holger are gentle and kind.

Even though they are children, Elfa and Holger live and work in a cotton mill. The mill turns the puffy cotton harvested from the fields into thread and cloth. Elfa is a spinner. Her job is to brush lint off the machines that spin thread onto cone shaped spools, called bobbins. All day long, she walks along the rows of machines, brushing and paying close attention to see if any threads have popped. When a thread breaks, she must stand on a box so that she can reach over and tie the ends together. Then, the bobbin can continue spinning. Her tiny hands are good for handling the thread, but Elfa looks even teenier than she is while next to those big, loud machines.

Holger is a sweeper. His job is much more fun than his sister’s. Going from room to room with his broom, he sweeps lint off the floor. He loves his freedom to move around the factory, and he also has time for play.

Both of their days start early, well before the sun rises, and continue into the night. Most nights, by the time they finish work, they are exhausted. Staying awake long enough to eat their dinner is hard, but they feel fortunate. They have a place to sleep and food to eat. Elfa and Holger also have friends, and that makes everything nearly all right.

But why are Elfa and Holger working in a cotton mill? Where are their parents?

Elfa and Holger are living on their own at the mill, but that was an accident. Their real home is far to the north, where it’s extremely cold and the wind always blows. In fact, Elfa and Holger are Wind Travelers. They get about on the wind.

Does that sound odd? Of course, it does, but not for Elfa and Holger. It’s what they know!

Wind Travelers have a special sense that tells them which direction the wind is blowing. Instinctively, they know just where it’s going. Even more exciting, if they want to go in the direction of the wind, they jump on and then jump off at the right time.

The jumping off part isn’t always perfect. The wind can be unpredictable, sometimes dropping off a Wind Traveler a little further or closer to the place he or she had in mind. Therefore, while Elfa and Holger can always catch a ride, they can never control the wind. Not even the most experienced Wind Traveler ever controls the wind.

That is why Elfa and Holger ended up in the mountains. It happened on a day when two winds were blowing in nearly in the same direction, but not quite. Elfa and Holger wanted to visit their grandmother. She lives on the other side of the lake. To reach her house, they needed to step onto the smaller wind. Instead, they stepped onto the larger, stronger wind. Oh, it was a powerful, dangerous wind!

Immediately, Elfa and Holger felt a horrible, sinking feeling in their stomachs—theone that creeps inside your body when you know something is about to go terribly wrong. They could do nothing but hold on and wait until the wind let them go, when the force of the wind finally died. At that time, they landed with a thud and a bump in the Mountains. At first, they sat in silence. Shocked, they gazed at their surroundings and then looked at each other. The sister and brother were still stunned and silent over their situation, when Holger's mouse ran out of his sleeve, scurried up his arm and crawled through his hair, all the way to the top of Holger's head. Sniffing the air, the little mouse knew, too, that they were not just across the lake. They were somewhere else, far away from home.

Elfa broke the silence, saying, “It’s fine. We will find a new wind to take us back,Holger. Remember, I always have the map with me.” Holger said nothing. Even though he was younger, he was smart enough to know that such a strong wind was unusual. The three of them were stuck!

Knowing what her brother was thinking, Elsa said, “Let’s walk down into the valley. Maybe we will find something there and someone to help.”

So that is what they did. Elfa, Hoger and his little mouse went down the hill, through the woods and into the valley. Sure enough, they found something, the cotton mill, and someone, Mrs. Teabrewer.

Looking through the tall window of her office, Mrs. Teabrewer noticed Elfa and Holger standing and staring at the gate to the factory. She could recognize lost children any day. Lost children always had a sad feeling about them. They also fiddled with their fingers. Hence, she kindly invited them in for tea. Mrs. Teabrewer served hot lemon tea with honey and thick, heavy slices of shortbread, sprinkled with sugar. As the children drank and ate, they explained—well, Elfa explained—to Mrs. Teabrewer that they were lost.

“Bad weather,” Elfa began, “it was a terrible storm that separated Holger and me from our parents. We’re sure our Mommy and Daddy will come and find us—soon!” Elfa did not go into details about wind travel. Most people would find the news of Wind Travelers so strange that they would not believe it.

Mrs. Teabrewer knew nothing about wind travel, but she was a smart woman. Quickly, she figured out the important facts. Elfa and Holger needed meals and a place to stay. They were well-behaved children. They would be perfect for the mill. They could live and work there while they waited for their parents.

On that afternoon, she introduced Elfa and Holger to Mr. and Mrs. Bobbinhead, the husband and wife who ran the cotton mill. All agreed that Elfa and Holger could stay in the children’s house and work at the mill until their parents showed up.

Part 2 Going Home

Looking at the ground and speaking gently, Holger asked Elfa, “When are we going back home? I really want to go home.”
Elfa turned toward Holger and reached out to softly cradle his pet mouse. She held it in her hands for a moment or two as thoughts were spinning ’round her head. “You know what?” she said with a gentle smile. “This Sunday, when the mill shuts down for the afternoon, we’ll see if we can leave.”
Elfa returned the mouse into Holger’s secret pocket. “Don’t let him out and don’t show him to anyone,” she whispered.
“Okay,” said Holger. “How do you know there will be any wind this Sunday? There is almost never any wind here.”
“You’re right. Here in the valley there isn’t any wind, but back up the mountain, there just might be, so we’re going to try!” said Elfa with authority, “The wind brought us here, it has to take us home.”

Holger looked sad and thought to himself, “If that’s true, why have we not seen Mom or Dad? If they can’t get here maybe we can’t get back. Maybe all of this is just a big mistake.”

Elfa looked her brother in the eye and said, “Stop thinking so much, sometimes you just have to try.”

Holger smiled wryly, as he wondered how his sister does that. How she always seems to know what he’s thinking? 

The week was no different from the other weeks, but boy did it seem to drag on. Each day leading up to Sunday seemed twice as long, like a never-ending thread of hours all joined together. But, of course, Sunday did eventually come.

As usual, the children who worked in the mill put on their Sunday best. This was the day that aprons and hair coverings were left in the mill. Everyone liked Sunday. There seemed to be more food, there was time to dress, and, most importantly, there was no going into the mill. All they were expected to do was sit quietly in the church and then eat lunch. It was after lunch when Elfa found Holger and said “Let’s go!”
“But won’t we be spotted?” said Holger.
“No, I think it’s OK. Miss Teabrewer is helping in the kitchen and the Bobbinheads are gobbling down all the shortbread. If we leave now they won’t notice we’re gone, or see us pass through the gates.”

For the first time in months, Elfa and Holger were standing on the outside of the mill gates. Wow, freedom! For ten minutes they ran as fast as they could, but they soon became tired as the hill got steeper and turned into a mountain. By now, they were surrounded by thick dense bushes that hindered their progress. It was a beautiful day, not too hot and not too cool; in fact perfect for a picnic. But they were not out to play. They had to get to the top of the mountain before dark, to catch the wind to take them home.


After the initial excitement, everything now felt like it was taking so long and it was so hard. Elfa and Holger were out of breath and out of water. With dry mouths and tired feet, they finally reached a clearing and, at last, they could see the mountain top. Suddenly they were no longer thirsty or tired. Instead, they ran through the last of the afternoon sunlight, across an open space to the top, feeling happy that all they had to do now was step onto the wind.

Elfa reached out and grabbed Holger’s hand as if all was going to happen as planned, but what happened next was nothing. There was a gentle chirping in the distance and the odd bug humming, but there was absolutely no wind not even a breeze. Everything was completely still. Holger looked at Elfa. He understood her disappointment, and he felt sad too. “It’s alright, at least we now know how to get
here,” he said. “We will just have to try again next Sunday; you know we will just keep trying.”

“Yes, you’re right,” she replied. “I should not be so disappointed. Let’s just sit here for a little bit to catch our breath. I guess we should make our way back.”

Elfa lay back in the grass, closed her eyes, and thought of home. Holger sat beside her and played with his secret mouse. Not much time passed when out of the blue, a young voice popped up from nowhere. “Hello,” they heard. A girl about the same age as Elfa and Holger was standing just a couple of feet away. “Hello,” she said again. Holger and Elfa didn’t recognize the girl. She was not from the mill. “Hi,” she said one more time in a cheery voice, “My name is Melissa.”
Her hair was auburn red, her cheeks were rosy pink, and her clothes were well made. She was oddly very colorful, they observed. There was an uncomfortable pause, but after their initial startle and realizing there was nothing to be afraid of, Holger and Elfa responded to Melissa’s friendliness.
“Hi,” said Elfa. “I’m Elfa and this is my brother Holger. Do you live up here?”
“Sort of. I live closer to here than I do down there in the valley,” said Melissa.
“Oh, so you know about the mill?” said Elfa.
“Yes, I have seen it, but I have never been inside of course,” responded Melissa.
Abruptly, Elfa turned to leave. “Well it was nice to meet you, but we have to go.”
Melissa wanted them to stay. She rarely had people her own age to talk to. “Can’t you stay a bit longer?” Melissa asked. Then she blurted out, “I heard you say that you would be back next Sunday. I could be here too!”

“Sure, see you next Sunday,” Elfa said.

Holger saw the look on Elfa’s face and he knew it was time to go. They headed quickly down the mountain, as the sun also began to go down. They knew there was not much time left before dark, so their steps were quick and they were silent; there was no time for talking. Holger wondered to himself why Elfa was so quick to leave, when she had been relaxing in the grass. What was it that spooked
her? Or was she just worried about the time?

Going down was so much easier, and they made it in half the time it took to go up. Soon they were out of woods and walking across an open field toward the mill. Feeling like it was okay to talk, Holger asked Elfa, “What was it about that girl Melissa that bothered you up there?”
“I am not sure,” came the reply. “Something was not quite right. Didn’t you find it odd that a well-dressed girl was out there on her own?”
“Well, a lot of things are odd. We are odd,” said Holger. “She seemed friendly.” After that, Holger stopped talking and thought to himself, “She looked lonely to me.”
Elfa said “She could be.”
“I wish you would not do that!” Holger grumbled.
“I’m sorry, I can’t help it, sometimes it just happens!”
“If you can’t help it why did you not do it to the girl on hill? Why didn’t you know what she was thinking?”
“That was the problem,” said Elfa. “I tried with her and nothing happened. It was like her thoughts had a will of their own. Like flowing water, they kept slipping away from me.”

Now, the mill gates loomed over them, and they crept back inside. Back to their new and hard life.


Part 3:  Another Week

Monday morning came as usual and everybody jumped up before the sun to dress and eat breakfast, before heading straight to the mill. Elfa stood at her post checking the threads and Holger went about sweeping. It was an endless job, which he hated: start at one end of the room and by the time you have reached the other end, you have to start again, all day every day. But this week, Holger and Elfa had something good to think about: the possibility of wind and who the unusual girl with the red hair was.

At 11 o’clock, Miss Teabrewer came by with lemon tea for the morning break. She had a funny quick walk with short steps and she also had quick little eyes to match. She noticed something was different today as she watched Elfa and Holger. She could not put her finger on it, but she made a mental note to keep an eye on them.

“Here is your tea Elfa, come and take your break,” said Miss Teabrewer. “You seem preoccupied today, are you alright?”
“Yes, but I’m missing my mom and dad and wondering why they have not found us yet,” said Elfa.

The answer satisfied Miss Teabrewer. As she watched Elfa drink her tea she thought, “I doubt your parents are ever coming back. They most likely deliberately dropped you off here, hoping to never see you again.”

Miss Teabrewer was very good at what she did, making lemon tea, baking shortbread, and being organized. But after doing what she considered to be her duty, she was quite selfish. She did not care if Elfa’s parents came. She cared that the work in the mill was done and she liked to report to Mr. and Mrs. Bobbinhead only good results. Because of this, Mr. and Mrs. Bobbinhead thought the world of
Miss Teabrewer and marveled at the good job that she did.

Miss Teabrewer blew her whistle signifying that tea break was over, and everyone went back to their stations. As she pushed the tea cart toward the door, Miss Teabrewer’s walk slowed down. For the first time she wondered about the bag Elfa had hanging over her shoulder, which rested on her back. Why did she always carry that bag with her, she thought to herself. She had noticed that compared to the other kids, these two siblings were unusually well behaved, and she began to feel suspicious.

What were they up to? There’s something odd about them, she thought. Suddenly, one of the machines made an unexpected clunking sound and Miss Teabrewer’s mind left her thoughts on Holger and Elfa to focus on the clunking machine.

With Miss Teabrewer preoccupied, Holger came sweeping up to Elfa and they caught each other’s eye. Not a word was said, but Elfa knew what Holger had seen: Miss Teabrewer watching Elfa. It was a subtle moment, but it meant that they would have to be extra careful about leaving on Sunday.


Part 4: It is time to go

The week went by without incident, and before they knew it, it was Sunday again! Even mouse was excited. He scurried up and down Holger’s arm, through his shirt, and around his tummy to wake him up. Holger giggled and then mouse ran up to his head and buried himself in Holger’s thick mop of hair. Come on wake up, wake up! Anything was better than being in the mill and hiding in Holger’s
pocket all day. Mouse could not wait for an afternoon of fresh air and freedom. Holger was excited about the possibility of wind, but he had his doubts, of course. It would be nice if the odd girl with the red hair turned up, he thought.
Elfa sat up in her straw box bed and she could see that Holger and Mouse were awake. It was time to get up. It was going to be a long day.

Down the hall, Miss Teabrewer was already up and dressed. She didn’t like Sundays as for her it was just all extra work. She didn’t understand why everyone else got to have a day of rest, when she never got a day off. There was all the additional food that had to be prepared and all the additional checking that everyone was where they were supposed to be. “Ah yes,” she thought, and made a second mental note to keep an eye on Elfa and Holger.

She pulled her clothes straight and marched down to the kitchen. Already the smell of freshly made bread was floating down the hall, and it smelled delicious. As she entered the kitchen and started giving orders for the Sunday breakfast and lunch, her mind yet again lost any thoughts of Elfa and Holger.

Just like last Sunday, as soon as Mr. and Mrs. Bobbinhead arrived in the dining hall, Elfa and Holger seized their moment. They knew Miss Teabrewer would be so bent on impressing and serving that she wouldn’t have any time to notice their absence.

Out of the mill, through the gates, across the field, into the woods, and up the mountain they went.

The first part was stressful but easy and getting up the steep mountain was tiring but they made it and, just like last Sunday, they took a pause when they got to the clearing. But just like last Sunday, it was a beautiful day and perfect for a picnic: completely still and no wind, not even a breeze.

Out of breath and tired, Holger and Elfa dropped to the ground feeling disappointed. But since neither of them expected there to be any wind, it did not feel as bad as last Sunday.

“Well, it is nice up here. Let’s sit for a while and we can take a slow walk back,” said Elfa.

“Okay,” said Holger “You know, I was hoping the girl with the red hair would be here.”
“Did you like her?” asked Elfa
“Yes, she’s odd like us. There’s something different about her,” he replied.
“That’s true. Well, we can wait a little bit then, before we go back, to see if she comes.”

Elfa and Holger wandered around a little to pass the time, and then sat against a tree. The view was vast and the land laid out for miles in front of them and white clouds filled the sky. Suddenly a streak of multicolor shot across the sky.
“Did you see that?” asked Elfa.
“Yes!” said Holger, feeling quite alarmed. “What was that?”
Then from behind a cloud, another streak of color shot across the sky. It looked like a cross between a shooting star and a beautiful rainbow. It darted from cloud to cloud, dipping and divining, and then it was gone.

“Wow! That was spectacular!” said Elfa. “But we need to go back. Our time is up. We can try again next Sunday.”...

To be continued...

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