This is a tale that we tell at Storybook Farm. I hope you enjoy it!
The farmer at Storybook Farm always says that there is a fairy living in his upper pond. He says she must live in the corner, because that’s where bubbles come up. The farmer is much too strong and gentle to think of disturbing the fairy. He only points out to the granddaughters, “the fairy is stirring today.” The granddaughters look with eyes full of longing and wonder, but they are too small to explore to the pond by themselves. When they are older, I’m sure they will make friends with her. But things are best as they are for now, because the fairy, too, is very young.
She was a stray, you see, fallen down Ale Mountain last spring on a stormy night, and tumbled into the pond before she knew anything. It would make you weep to see the little thing’s big frightened eyes, which, since she is a water-fairy, are bluer than those of any mortal—more blue even than the eyes of the second-oldest granddaughter.
They were all frightened back in the early spring, the fairy and the pond and the Lonely Fish. The pond, you see, had been scooped out over the winter (losing its water is the only thing a pond fears). The Lonely Fish was half-grown when the farmer tossed him in (to eat algae). There weren’t any other fish, so he and the fairy were young and lonely together.
Of course the pond fell in love with the fairy at once because of her hair. She has such quantities of hair, fine as silk, and one can never say whether it is gold or silver. The pond felt that it had got back all the fine grasses it was used to seeing growing in its water and on its banks, so it was comforted. The Lonely Fish also loved the fairy; he became her pet and steed, and she grew into a fine trick rider, once the Obligated Breeze showed her how (but that is a different story). The fairy herself had little choice about things, and still hasn’t much. She is yet too young and ignorant to get out of the pond by herself.
I don’t want you to think of her as a little thing shivering in the wet. In the first place, though she looks so rounded and delicate, she is really very strong. In the second place, she has never been cold—not in the way we mean. Water fairies just live for the sensation that we call “being cold’; and, for that matter, they love “being hot” too. They even like being evaporated, which they say tickles. You can freeze a water fairy solid, shatter it into a million pieces, and then hear the shards laughing as they start to melt and run together. In fact, it’s almost impossible to harm a water fairy, bodily.
This fairy suffered far more in mind than in body during that first spring, summer, and autumn at Storybook Farm. For, being born of mountain water, she was quick and impatient and always wanting to get out so as to run further down. She didn’t like being hung up half-way, like a towel put out to dry. She didn’t know how long she would have to stay there, so she complained to God about it a good deal. But God will see to her, don’t you worry.
Slowly, as seasons turned, this fairy began to love the little pond over which she was queen. She loved the Lonely Fish, and the returning frogs became her subjects (water-beetles, too). I wish you could have seen the wonder and longing in her eyes, the first time a flower bloomed on the bank of her pond, and again when the first golden-scarlet leaf she had ever seen landed on the pond’s surface. She had could keep flowers and leaves fresh for ever, as water fairies can, so you may imagine how splendidly she decorated her palace, which is—oh!—but I mustn’t tell you that. Not before the granddaughters find out, anyway.
All that long warm season, the fairy explored her pond, tamed her people, established her court, received diplomatic visits from the Lower Pond and each of the Seven Springs on the farm (a very funny thing happened when those haughty Bathtub Spring sprites came, and it proved our fairy’s nobility, but that is another story). She learned to bear strong sunlight (for water fairies are fond of sunlight, but terrified of drying out). Whenever she was especially merry (just after a good hard rain), the pond bubbled. Whenever the farmer and his family came to swim in the pond, she withdrew with a good grace, for fairies, whatever the books say, are not at all jealous of people, nor do they play tricks on us. They know their place (which is a good deal lower than the angels), and they know ours (better than we do, I often think), and they respect God’s ordering of things.
But, I wanted to tell you about the fairy’s first Christmas. Remember that she was an impatient fairy, who, thought she had come to love the pond, often despaired that God would ever let her rush on downward, for she longed to get at last to the sea. Well. There was exactly one thing that the fairy loved more than the thought of rushing downwards, and that was the appearing of the stars at night. She would lean up out of the water, all breathless with anticipation, and talk to the stars as they came out until it almost seemed to her that they talked back. This went on a long time, until it came that the fairy could scarcely bear cloudy nights.
Unfortunately, those nights grew more and more frequent as the winter storms came on, and the fairy would complain bitterly about it (she was a very young fairy, you must remember, and had a great deal to learn about being happy). One day, sobbing, she told God that she didn’t see any cause for hope in the world at all, especially on nights when it was too cloudy to see the stars.
So, God told her a long and wonderful story about the Christ (after which, you may be sure, she always watched the farmer and his family with a great deal of awe and fascination). Now, I don’t know how God talks to water fairies, but I imagine it sounds a good deal like something we would mistake for just ordinary watery sounds. I also don’t know what sorts of ways He puts things to them (perhaps with a lot of under-water imagery that would mean little to us), but I think light and darkness, and wet and dry, and anything else you find in watery places, are images and symbols that they understand. I suspect God told the fairy, when He
was telling her about Christ, something along the lines of the Messiah’s star, and especially about Him being the morning star, and so on.
If you wonder what Christ could possibly mean to a water fairy, all I can say is that, besides the general excitement that the angels and all the creatures have concerning this grand story, water fairies are as eager for the whole earth to be made new as anybody else (just ask one!), and they are particularly curious about the river that flows down from God’s throne in the New Jerusalem. They are simply dying to know what living water tastes like, and so on. They have many stories about it.
I think God must have told our fairy about it, because on the first night when we put up the Christmas lights, it was cloudy and the stars could not be seen. But when we woke up in the morning, the pond, though frozen over, was all bubble-frosted in her corner.
So, I think she must have seen the lights twinkling like stars on the house, and I think they must have been God’s way of reminding her to hope. Since they are sort of earth-stars put up in honor of the Christ, I think they reminded her to hope for the stars in heaven coming out again when winter storms are over… just as we hope for our morning star to come back to us when He is ready for the stormy evils of this world to be over.
It was a good lesson for the fairy to learn on her first Christmas. And when I think of those frosted-over bubbles in the corner of the pond, like smothered giggles of surprised joy, I honestly tell you, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry happy tears myself. We all love the fairy so; we want her to be glad.