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DISCOVERING THE FANTASY WORLD OF THE ARDENNES
The Ardennes Elf
8 mins OF ESCAPE
To see the magic, you have to believe it...
The Ardennes forest is amazing. This is the forest that Julius Cesar named "Arduenna Silva" - the deep forest. This refuge for knights fleeing from their ennemy is also home to a wizard called Maugis and many other imaginary creatures. This forest is the gateway between our world and a magical fairyland.
The Ardennes forest offers its tranquil paths to travellers who enjoy the simple pleasure of wandering and allowing the soul to breathe. But if, like me, you're tempted to leave the beaten track and venture deeper into the forest... jump across the stream to explore the other bank... and place your hands on the bark of an oak to feel its beating heart... Then you're ready to visit the fantasy world of the Ardennes forest. A mythical world of legends that fascinates children and sparks the curiosity of adults. So come with me to meet an imaginary inhabitant typically found in the Ardennes forest.
To see the magic, you have to feel it...
Let's begin by being quiet and calm. That's the first thing to remember in the Kingdom of Little People. Any excessive enthusiasm or impulsive behaviour would rule out our chances of detecting their presence. Breathe as lightly as possible, concentrate very hard and implore the Fairy King to let us enter his World. Only the purest of hearts and the most sensitive souls may be fortunate enough...
To understand the magic, you also have to read about it...
It is written that this creature, between thirty and a hundred centimetres tall, lives in openings in the rock, cavities carved out by Mother Nature along the rivers and streams that wind through the Forest. You've guessed it, we're looking for a kind of dwarf, an age-long imp that's typical of this forest: the Ardennes Elf.
This elf has two major faults: he is over-sensitive and he loves human females
The Ardennes Elf seems to live in places where you or I would never make our home. But in fact, he lives in a clean environment, in spacious, stylish dwellings furnished with solid items made out of the best oak.
The Ardennes Elf is also very appealing in appearance: slim with fine features, groomed hair and an immaculate beard. He wears a cute red hat and nice clothes. These little beings are known for being very good with their hands: whether they're tailors, ironworkers or shoemakers, their work is always amazing! This wonderful creature is almost perfect in every way, except for one thing: the Ardennes Elf is closer to humans than he seems... With a closer look, he is a lot like the local people. He enjoys feasting on the famous Ardennes cuisine: freshly-sliced ham, delicious-smelling sausages, or a "cacasse à cul-nu" (potato stew), not forgetting the local "tarte au suc'" (sugar tart) or the "gateau mollet" (brioche-like cake)... Without a doubt, he loves food.
But he is also taciturn and very quiet. He doesn't speak much and would rather sip at a drink than engage in long conversation. Another frequent personality trait of the people of the Ardennes.
In fact, the Ardennes Elf lived close to Man for a long time. He would help the farmers and labourers carry out their daily tasks. It used to be said that having an Ardennes Elf in the home was like owning treasure.
After all, we mustn't forget that this elf has magic powers! We still hear stories about families who became rich thanks to their Ardennes Elf... But then... over time, Man and Elf fell out... Because what I didn't tell you is that this elf has two major faults: he is over-sensitive and he loves human females. We've heard a few stories about that distant era when Elf and Man coexisted...
To share the magic, you have to become a storyteller, a conductor of history...
Here's a legend that you still hear even today... One day, a widow came to meet the Elves outside their cave. Mourning her husband who had died a few weeks earlier, she was looking for a kind soul to help her cultivate her land. Alone with 3 daughters to feed, she feared famine. An Elf in the prime of life - barely 200 hundred years old - felt sorry for the poor woman and offered to help her in exchange for his keep at the farm, where he would live with the widow and her daughters. "Leave the farm tools in the field and the work will be done" he told the widow. Over the next few days, she was relieved to find that the first field had been ploughed and sown. Over the following nights, the other fields were cultivated too. For several years, the Elf looked after the land and the widow wanted for nothing. The fields became more beautiful and the harvest more abundant than ever, which made them the talk of the village.
Then, one morning, a neighbour offered to pay the widow for the services of her charitable labourer. The temptation was too great for the widow, who accepted the proposal and placed the tools in her neighbour's field, thinking "The Elf will think I've acquired new land and won't know it's not mine!"
Big mistake! Not only was the field not ploughed, but the Elf disappeared forever, leaving the widow to her fate.
In practice: the legendary stories of Oligo the Ardennes elf
Author: Celine Menoncin
Illustrations: Adeline Vachez
Come with me to meet an imaginary inhabitant typically found in the Ardennes forest.