The Story of the Brownies

Adapted from "The Brownies" by Mrs Ewing - as published in "The Brownie Guide Handbook", 1969

Once upon a time, many years ago, a poor man and his wife lived with their two children, Tommy and Betty, in a small cottage on the edge of the wood. The mother loved both the children but she was always having to find fault with them because they were lazy and forgetful and untidy.

They used to rush about the place yelling and playing games, upsetting the furniture, breaking the crockery, spoiling their clothes and generally making themselves a nuisance.

As long as they had a good time they never thought what a bother they were to other people.

One evening, at the end of a particularly busy day, the mother sighed and said, "Oh dear, how different things were when we had a Brownie!".

"What's a Brownie?" asked the children.

"The Brownie," answered their mother, "was a creature who came to the house before anyone was up, and swept the hearth and lit the fire, drew the water and laid the breakfast table. He tidied he rooms, he weeded the garden, he cleaned the shoes and put the children's clothes away. He did every kind of useful work, but nobody ever saw him. He always slipped away before the people of the house got up, but he was the greatest blessing to everyone. Everyone was happy and the home was bright and clean."

"My word, I wish we had a Brownie!", explaimed Tommy. "He could do all or odd jobs for us."

"Yes," agreed Betty, "and we should never have to tidy up after ourselves. Mother, do tell us how we can find a Brownie".

"There's only one person who can tell you that," replied their mother, "and that's the wise brown owl in the woods; she knows all about the Brownies."

So after dark the two children went out into the wood to seek the brown owl. Tommy led the way very bravely at first, but as the path got darker and darker in the silent woods he began to hang back and feel sorry that he had started on the adventure.

But Betty was eager to find out about the Brownie, and though she felt nervous, she would not allow herself to turn back, and she pushed on, leading her brother after her.

Presently, they heard the uncanny hoo-hooting of the owl among the trees. It sounded so weird that for a moment they stood still and felt inclined to turn and run back home.

But again Betty thought of their chance of learning about the Brownie so she stood her ground, and hearing again the voice of the owl, which sounded more friendly as they grew accustomed to it, she went forward and presently came to the tree in whose branches the owl was sitting.

Brown Owl"Mrs Owl, Mrs Owl, we have come to see you," she whispered.

"Oo-hoo-hoo, I am glad to hear it. Climb up the tree, my dears, and come and sit by me on this branch."

They did so, and snuggled up closely against the soft, warm feathers of the bird, they told her their trouble; how they were always being bothered to work when they wanted to play, and how they had heard of the Brownies and wanted to get one to come and live in the house and do the odd jobs for them.

"Oo-hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo!" chuckled the owl. "You see that pool down there. Go to the north side of it when the moon is bright and then turn round three times and say:

"Twist me and turn me and show me the elf.
I looked in the water and there saw ..."

To get the finishing word of the rhyme look down into the water and there you will see the Brownie, and her name will fill in the rhyme that you want".

"To get the finishing word of they rhyme look down into the water and there you will see the Brownie, and her name will fill in the rhyme that you want."

So when the moon was up, Betty went to the pool and turned herself round three times and cried:

"Twist me and turn me and show me the elf.
I looked in the water and there saw ..."

browniePondBut when she looked in the pool she saw nothing at all except her own reflection. So she went back to the owl and told her how she had seen no one there, except her own reflection in the water, when she had been hoping to find a Brownie who would come to the house and do all the work.

Then the owl said: "Did you see no one whose name would make up the rhyme that I gave you?"

Betty said "No one."

Mrs Owl asked: "Whom did you see in the water?"

Betty replied: "No one but myself."

Then Mrs Owl said:"Wouldn't the word 'myself' make the rhyme?". And Betty thought of the rhyme:

"Twist me and turn me and show me the elf.
I looked in the water and there saw myself."

"But I'm not a Brownie."

Mrs Owl replied "No, but you can be one if you try. You are strong and active. You can sweep the floor, you are clever enough to lay a fire and light it;you could fill the kettle and put it on to boil you could tidy up the room and lay the breakfast things; you could make your bed and clean your shoes and fold up your clothes. You could do all these things before anyone else was up, so that when your mother and father came down they would think that the Brownies must have been there.

Day after day this went on, and the children had more fun and happiness out of being helpful than they ever had out of playing rowdy games or being lazy.

It was only a long time afterwards that the parents discovered that their own children were the Brownies who had helped them and then they were even more pleased.


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