Bildrid Scrumplenose lives under a tree at the edge of Five Acre Field . He and his family have spent their lives avoiding the “big folks,” but when his daughter Pinncara disappears one night, Bildrid must brave the dangers of the fields to save her.
In the far corner of a hedged field stood a rather old and rather large oak tree. It had always been known as Five Acre Tree, owing to the fact that the original field was five acres.
That was of course before it was roughly divided up some time in the past by the planting of a hawthorn hedge right down the middle. Now the field is more or less two and a half acres.
But for some strange reason it is still known as Five Acre Tree.
In the base of the said tree among the tangled roots is an old rabbit warren. Its previous tenants having moved out long ago, it is now inhabited by a family of little folk.
Many names have been given to little folk over the centuries, such as Fairies, Elves, Dwarfs and in some cases even Trolls, a term they find immensely offensive, especially in their eyes.
Being told you are a troll by a weird five-foot monster is hard to stomach when you are only six inches tall.
The story you are about to read is about such little folk, who call themselves Hedge Hideys. This is the name that they have adopted as it describes them perfectly; they live and forage in a hedge and they have learnt to hidey from big folk, although the occasional inquisitive dog or cat may at times be a problem.
The Scrumplenose family have a long and distinguished history, ranging from Great-uncle Milo who led the historic (and not to mention heroic) charge on his fearless war hamster called Truffle against the fearsome and very nasty attacking ants, wearing a suit of armour fashioned from milk bottle tops, but that is tin foil to younger readers.
Then there is Great-aunt Felicia, who could bake the biggest berry pies in all of Flat Earth.
Here I think it may be prudent at this point to explain what Flat Earth theory is. Well you see, from the point of view of some one who’s only six or perhaps seven inches high, everywhere to them seems, well flat, and it would be totally inconceivable to assume that the world was round at all, understanding of course that Hedge Hideys have no understanding of the sciences, well at least most of them, or that gravity exists. Theirs is a simple life, every day filled with the little chores at home and foraging in the hedge rows. So now that I’ve explained this a bit, we shall now continue with the descriptions.
Bildrid Scrumplenose is best described as a portly chap. His hat, coat and trousers are made from an old tweed cap, he uses a piece of shoe lace for a belt, and his boots and a foraging satchel are fashioned from a leather glove that he found. His round smiling face has a short curly beard, and hazel mouse-like eyes peer out from under his inordinately large hat.
Doerea Scrumplenose is a large roundy and warm motherly sort of person and can cook like anything. Like all female Hidey folk she is fastidiously clean – indeed she is the type of person that would iron grass if she thought it would make a difference – but her real strong point is knitting. Doerea Scrumplenose can knit anything, and when I say anything, I mean anything. She even tried to knit a cooking pot once, but the thing leaked like a sieve and eventually caught fire. Needless to say, dinner was a little late that evening.
Pinncara Scrumplenose is in her late teens, and at this stage is still quite slim and athletic as she hasn’t succumbed to her mother’s famed cooking yet. Pinncara is a very beautiful young woman, having brown hair that is tied up in a bun – as she is all about practicality – and, like her mother and father, she has hazel green eyes.
Pinncara doesn’t really go in for the traditional scavenging (Oh, I mean foraging) thing, but she does so to make her parents happy. Just lately she’s taken to smearing parts of her face with red greasy paint in the form of a stick that she filched (Oh, I mean borrowed) and jigging around on the big folks’ window ledge to a strange sound called ‘musiac’ or some such guff.
If, dear reader, you have read books, or you are a fan of the ‘televisual’ machine, then you will have no doubt seen programs featuring little folk foraging, and making use of any object that they find, and you will have a basic understanding of what a Hedge Hidey is. They are peaceful and loving, but secretive folk, and the daily life of a Hedge Hidey is spent foraging.
A hedge can be quite a productive place to forage in, as the big folk leave all sorts of things laying around. The things that big folk call litter a Hedge Hidey would call treasure.
“Now all kinds of thing can be found in a hedge.
I remember a time some years ago, it was, when a strange big tick tocky thing was found. It was round and goldish in colour, with a smaller chain attached to it, also it had a sort of glass windowy thing attached to the front. Later it transpires that it was called a pocket watch, and from what we can understand of this strange tick tocky thing, it told the big folk what to do and when. For instance, it told them when to get up and when to go to bed. It told them when to start work and when to finish work. It even told them when to eat food.
Now that’s a very strange state of affairs indeed if you ask me.
Here in the wild hedge, Mrs Black Bird wakes you up in the morning, and Mr Owl says it’s time for bed. The squashy empty feeling in my belly says it’s time for food, and after a hard day’s foraging it’s time to stop work.
Oh yes, us small folk don’t need a tick tocky thing to tell us what to do and when. Just think, if the tick tocky thing stopped working, the big folk wouldn’t know what to do. You see, the big folk have lost touch with nature and how to live with the land. They speed about in their wheely-rhoo-doo-dos, and lock themselves in big brick huts with a strange glowy thing. And would you believe it, even the strange glowy thing tells them what to do. You see, a Hedge Hidey has to act and live on his or her instincts, being in touch with the seasons and weather, not a strange tick tocky thing or a strange glowy thing to tell us Hedge Hideys what to do.”
“Thank you, Bildrid.”
The Scrumplenose family live in an old rabbit burrow that was modified to provide quite comfortable accommodation. The interior was plastered with mud and cow dung with cow hair added for strength, and when dry it was painted with white emulsion that was found in an old paint tin left at the side of Knot Lane. The roots that showed were varnished to produce a reddish chestnut colour and rag woven mats covered the floor. The abode was quite nicely situated amongst the tangled roots of a very old oak tree, called Five Acre Tree, so called as it is in the corner of a hazel and hawthorn hedge of Five Acre Field. Also running alongside the aforementioned field is Knot Lane, leading to Knot Farm, the dwelling place of the big folk.
A Journey Begins
For some time now, Pinncara had been acting distant. She’d been distracted by the thoughts of ‘the boy’, and once or twice she’d been making trips out of the rabbit hole after dark, always heading in the same direction, making her way along the hedge row at the side of Five Acre Field towards Knot Farm.
Ben, a young man in his late teens, was in his room one evening studying the dreaded homework for agricultural college, unaware that a small six-inch figure was, and had been for some time, peering at him from the shadows on his window ledge. Suddenly he heard Caleb – that’s Ben’s younger brother – bang his bedroom door and clatter down the hall (this being a one-story cottage, you understand) and moments later the said younger brother, who Ben called ‘Libby’ because it annoyed him immensely, appeared outside his bedroom window with a large glass jar.
“Got ya, you little freak!” he cried triumphantly.
Meanwhile, back at Five Acre Tree, Pinncara’s disappearance hadn’t gone unnoticed. One of Bildrid’s jobs was, last thing at night, to check that everyone was in, so that he could close the heavy wooden door. This way, any nocturnal beast which came sniffing around, would not get in and the family would be safe. So of course, Bildrid was filled with panic when he found that Pinncara wasn’t in her bedroom where she should be.
He quickly but quietly woke his wife Doerea by gently putting his hand on her shoulder. “Wake up, Doe. Our Pinny’s gone missing.”
Doerea woke with a start. She sat upright in bed clutching the eiderdown to her chest, as if wakening from a bad dream. Doerea’s ashen face turned to Bildrid and she said, “Missing? My baby girl Pinny’s gone missing? Oh, Bildrid whatever shall we do?”
“We must organise a search party,” said Bildrid in a state of utter panic, while trying to remember where he’d put his other shoe.
“What, a search party of two?” said Doerea, climbing out of bed in a frantic attempt to get dressed. “Oh Bildrid, we will never find her.”
“Now don’t take on so, my dear. I’ve heard in the past from other passing Hidey folk that there is another family just like us living on the other side of Five Acre Field. Perhaps if I could find them, they could help us find our Pinny.”
“Then we’ll both go together,” gasped Doerea while trying to put her arm in her bloomers leg.
“No, dear,” said Bildrid. “I’m faster on my own, and also if our Pinny should come home, she will need to find you here. There’s no knowing what she’s been through.”
“That girl’s in a world of trouble when she comes home,” said Doerea. “Oh please stay safe, my dearest one. Take some food and warm clothes; they can be put in your foraging satchel – oh, and you mustn’t forget your hidey potion. Remember there’s all manner of nocturnal beasts out there that can see you just as well in the darkness as we can in the daylight,” exclaimed Doerea, hurriedly pulling clothes out of a big old chest of drawers made from discarded match boxes.
“Don’t worry, my dearest one. I’ll bring our Pinny home in no time at all.”
So they hugged and kissed in the entrance of Five Acre Tree, and with that, Mr and Mrs Scrumplenose parted company with warm and comforting hugs.
Bildrid Scrumplenose set out into the cold night not really knowing what his next move was; he only knew he had to do something.
Now as a rule, Hedge Hideys use hedges as a means of getting around, but this was a time when speed was of the essence, so Bildrid judged it best to try and make his way straight across the field.
The field had been laying fallow, so Bildrid thought that the going would be relatively easy, although a bit wet and squidgy underfoot, as it had rained earlier that evening. All of a sudden there was a loud thud that felt like a small earthquake, and there in front of him were two very large white legs with very sharp black talons on one end, and a very inquisitive owl on the other end, Bildrid froze. “I’m a dead man,” he thought. “I’ll never see Doe or my Pinny again.”
Just then the owl’s face, as large and round as the moon, drew closer to Bildrid.
“Who, or should I say what, are you?” said the owl in a voice that could have been tutored in a public school.
“Please, Mr Owl” said Bildrid. “I’m not a mouse, and anyway, you’re not supposed to be able to see me.”
“I can see you’re not a mouse or I would have eaten you by now, and as to not being able to see you, well, we owls can see many things in the darkness that shouldn’t be seen.”
“The question remains who or what are you?” said the owl, tapping his talon on the ground and thinking he had better things to do.
“Please, Mr Owl, my name is Bildrid Scrumplenose of Five Acre Tree.”
“And what are you doing here in the margins of a field, and in the middle of the night I might ask?”
“Well, it’s like this,” said Bildrid. “My little girl’s gone missing and I’ve set out to try and find her. I’m hoping that there are others like me on the other side of the field.”
“Ahh, so it’s a rescue mission,” said the owl. “There are others of your sort in the hedge over there, but I don’t know how happy they will be to be woken up in the middle of the night.”
“So you’ll help?” asked Bildrid hopefully.
“Normally I wouldn’t bother,” said the owl with a sigh, “but this seems to be somewhat of an emergency. I’ll fly around a bit and see if I can spot anything. The lights are on over at Knot Farm; yes, I think I’ll start there.”
“Oh thank you so much – erm, please, Mr Owl, could I ask you what your name is please?”
“It’s Oliver Fine Talon, but most just call me Ollie.”
“Ollie,” said Bildrid.
“Don’t ask why,” said Ollie. “It’s a name my dear mother gave to me and I don’t think I’ve forgiven her for it yet.”
Bildrid turned to watch Oliver Fine Talon fly up in to the night sky; he soared high above the hedges that defined Five Acre Field.
Bildrid suddenly realized that he didn’t know what direction he was walking in, so he decided to climb a nearby mole hill so as to better see the lay of the land. It was hard, dirty work climbing the mole hill, as it had rained earlier, and unfortunately it looked like it would rain again later in the night. Grabbing hands full of muddy fine soil and furiously pushing with his feet, Bildrid was able to pull himself up, and eventually make it to the top. Exhausted, Bildrid sat down and decided that this would be a good opportunity to grab a light snack, just to keep himself going. He reached into his satchel that Doerea had carefully packed up for him and pulled out a cloth bundle containing some of the best short bread biscuits that any one in Bildrid’s opinion could have baked. He carefully unwrapped the bundle that doubled as a napkin when opened; this was indeed a fine feast, Bildrid thought to himself. His dear wife Doerea Scrumplenose had baked some of her finest hazelnut and blackberry short bread biscuits, and a small pot bottle that was fitted with a cork, in which was some of the finest wild nettle tea sweetened with honey.
Bildrid thought to himself, Yes, the lights are on at Knot Farm. He could see them in the distance, which meant if he turned a little to his right, then that would be the direction of the far side of Five Acre Field, and possibly more little folk like himself. Bildrid could indeed make out a faint dark line in the distance.
Yes, he thought to himself, that must be the hedge. But it seemed so far away that it would take an age to get there.
“Well, sitting here gazing at the view isn’t getting things done,” Bildrid said as he finished the first few biscuits, and then carefully wrapped the remainder up for later. It would probably be a long, cold night so he would need to save some for later.
Climbing down the mole hill was easier than climbing up, and tumbling the rest of the way certainly made things quicker.
Bildrid pulled himself to his feet and brushed himself off with a dock leaf. In front of him was a jungle of tall grass thistles and nettles much higher that he was, not to mention puddles that had swollen to the size of ponds with the rain. It was hard work trying to push aside the blades of grass and avoid anything prickly like thistles and nettles.
The more he walked the more he got tired, and it was at one of those low points, with little energy left, Bildrid fell over a rusty piece of barbed wire forming a loop in the muddy soil. He would have fallen flat on his face in a puddle, if he hadn’t managed to turn himself slightly so that his head didn’t go all the way under water. Thankfully there was a load of gravel forming the pool that Bildrid was now lying in, so it wasn’t that hard to climb out of, but by now he was so cold, wet and tired that all he wanted to do was curl up in a ball and go to sleep.
Darkness seemed to close over his eyes and he thought that this really was his end at last.
“Have I come all this way to fail?” Bildrid asked himself as he drifted into unconsciousness, a soft velvety blackness where there were no more pain or worries about anything. But then as quickly as the darkness had descended upon him, it was eclipsed by a shimmering green haze. Bildrid felt his eyes open slightly. A beautiful female face gazed back at him, he felt a soft warm hand reach under the back of his head and lift it up a little, and a voice as soft as warm velvet said, “Drink, my brave one, drink.”
A beautiful chalice made of finest blown glass had been lifted up to Bildrid’s lips, and he drank a cool green liquid that was sweeter than anything he had ever tasted before.
She’s really real, he thought to himself. The green forest fairy is real.
But just to check his senses, Bildrid asked, “Are you real or just a beautiful dream?”
“Yes,” said the voice, “I am really here. I only appear to those who really need me.”
“But I never really believed in you,” said Bildrid, ashamed of the words now coming out of his mouth.
“You don’t need to believe in me; I will always appear to those in need.”
“Could I ask what your name is please – if it’s all right, that is?”
“My name is Arealeah. By the way, Bildrid, how are you feeling? The potion should have started to work by now.”
“Potion?” asked Bildrid. “Oh, the green stuff. I feel much better actually. What was in that potion of yours?”
“You don’t really expect me to answer that, do you?” said Arealeah, chuckling to herself. “Come on now, Bildrid. Your mission still lays ahead and time is of the essence. I shall watch over you from afar.” And with that, Arealeah vanished in a cloud of green mist.
Bildrid hauled himself to his feet, feeling much better now. He was still as wet as an old sock on wash day, but somehow that didn’t seem to matter anymore.