This is William Trundle.
There’s something you should know about William: William liked dinosaurs. Actually, he didn’t just like them. He loved them.
In fact, he loved them so much I should probably write it in big letters like this...
WILLIAM LOVED DINOSAURS!
WILLIAM HAD ...sorry, William had dinosaur pyjamas, dinosaur socks, dinosaur pants, a dinosaur-shaped toothbrush, dinosaur wallpaper, two dinosaur posters, a dinosaur lampshade and more dinosaur toys than he could fit into a bag for life, but if there was one thing William knew for sure, it was that you could never have too many dinosaur toys!
William lived in a wonky little house on the edge of a busy town on the edge of a busier city, but even though the house was small it never really felt that way because only two people lived in it: William and his dad, Bob Trundle.
Now, I bet you’re wondering why William didn’t have a mum. Well, of course, he did have a mum once, but sadly she died a long time ago when William was very young. So it had been just William and Mr Trundle for as long as William could remember.
As well as dinosaurs, William loved Christmas – but not half as much as his dad did.
Mr Trundle loved Christmas so much that whenever Christmas Day was over he would sob uncontrollably for a whole week, sometimes until the end of January, desperately clinging on to Christmas! He even had a secret Christmas tree hidden in his wardrobe, which was permanently decorated, and it lit up when he opened the door to get his socks.
Each morning as Mr Trundle got dressed he would look at his secret tree and say to himself, ‘Every step you take away from last Christmas brings you one step closer to the next.’ It was these words that got him through the year.
On this particular morning, though, Mr Trundle was feeling very merry indeed – because it was the first day of December.
‘Time to get ready for school, Willypoos!’ Mr Trundle called from the kitchen as he spread butter on to two steaming hot crumpets (Mr Trundle’s favourite breakfast).
William rolled his eyes at the silly nickname his dad used for him – Willypoos!
‘Dad, you can’t keep calling me that. I’m seven and three-quarters. It’s embarrassing!’ William shouted from his bedroom as he stuffed his schoolbag full of books.
‘I thought we’d agreed that I can call you Willypoos when you’re not at school? You can’t go changing the rules willy-nilly, Willypoos!’ Mr Trundle teased as he walked into his son’s bedroom. ‘Happy first of December!’
Mr Trundle beamed as he placed a breakfast tray down on William’s desk and nodded his head excitedly at a rectangular object perched perfectly next to the plate of golden crumpets. William followed his gaze and saw that it was a chocolate-filled Advent calendar.
‘Thanks, Dad! Where’s yours?’ asked William. Every year, William and Mr Trundle would each have an Advent calendar, and open a new door together every morning before school. It was a Trundle tradition.
William thought he saw a flicker of sadness on Mr Trundle’s face, which was quickly replaced by a smile.
‘I thought it might be fun to share one this year, William,’ Mr Trundle said. Lately they’d been sharing a lot of things, as Mr Trundle didn’t have very much money. But William didn’t mind.
‘Oh, OK!’ he said. ‘I’ll open the door and you can have the first chocolate, Dad.’
‘How about I open the door and you have the first chocolate, William?’ Mr Trundle suggested.
‘Thanks, Dad,’ William said, grinning. He’d secretly hoped his dad would say that.
‘Say “Cheese”!’ said Mr Trundle as he quickly snapped a photo of the two of them. ‘Ah, that’ll make a lovely Christmas card this year!’ he said, admiring the photograph. It was another Trundle tradition to take a photograph on the first of December for the Christmas cards they would send to a long list of their distant relatives: Aunty Kim on the Isle of Wight, Great-Nanna Joan who looked like a witch, cousins Lilly and Joe, Aunty Julie, second cousin Sam, Uncle H. Trundle, Great-Grandpa Ken... It was a long list, half of whom William had never met!
‘William, have you thought about what you’re going to ask Santa for this year? You’ll need to write your letter soon,’ said Mr Trundle as he peeled open the first door on the Advent calendar. William took out the small snowman-shaped chocolate, but suddenly didn’t feel like eating it.
‘My dear boy, what on earth’s the matter?’ asked Mr Trundle.
‘Well... it’s... it’s just that I don’t think Santa can bring me what I want this year,’ said William, staring longingly at the dinosaur poster on his wall. ‘I’m pretty sure the elves can’t make real dinosaurs.’
‘Make?’ repeated Mr Trundle as he took a knowing sip of his cup of tea. ‘The elves don’t make anything at all!’
William looked very confused. ‘But I thought Santa’s elves made all the presents in the North Pole,’ he said.
‘PAH!’ cried Mr Trundle, spitting out a mouthful of tea. ‘Well, William, I’m afraid that’s all just a big pile of poppycock, fiddle-faddle, mouth-waffling, gibberyfaff nonsense. Whoever told you that is a complete knobblyplank! Make presents? Ha! Would you like me to tell you how elves really work, William?’ he asked, a sudden sparkle in his eyes.
‘Oh, please do, Dad!’ William cried, and made himself comfortable. He always loved it when his dad told him stories. He was very good at them – and he was particularly good at Christmas stories, for, as you already know, Mr Trundle loved everything about Christmas. He knew all there was to know about Santa, the elves and the North Pole. Ever since he was a little boy himself, it had been his favourite time of year, and he would always be the first person to start celebrating Christmas. One year, he’d put up their Christmas tree in July (which really annoyed the neighbours). William loved it.
‘Well, the first thing you should know is that elf hands are far too small to build any decent sort of toy, and, on top of that, they only have three fingers.’
‘Three fingers? No way!’ William said, making funny shapes with his own hands, trying to imagine he had three elf fingers. ‘How small are elves, Dad?’ he asked.
‘Very small, William. Looking at an elf is like looking at a human through a pair of binoculars, if you were holding them the wrong way round,’ Mr Trundle explained.
‘Oh, wow!’ said William, who knew exactly what he meant.
‘No, the elves aren’t toy-makers at all,’ Mr Trundle went on. ‘There are only two jobs that the North Pole elves are good at: farming and mining. Let me tell you how it works, my boy. First, Santa receives letters from girls and boys from all around the world, just like you, William, asking for all different sorts of Christmas presents. Santa then sits by his fireplace, in his rocking chair, and reads every letter aloud. Not in his head, William!’
William nodded, listening intently.
‘This is very important, William, because in his letter-reading room there is a very old, very crooked, very magical Christmas tree. If you saw it, you would probably think it was a dead twig in a plant pot – but it is very important. It was the very first Christmas tree that ever lived, and it’s still alive – and now it sits and listens to Santa read.’
‘A tree that listens? Really, Dad?’ questioned William at this rather absurd-sounding fact.
‘Of course! All trees listen, William. Why do you think they’re so quiet all the time? They’re listening, of course!’ said Mr Trundle, making perfect sense. ‘As Santa reads the letters aloud, the old, crooked, magical Christmas tree sprouts bunches of very peculiar-looking bean pods.’
‘Bean pods!’ cried William. ‘What on earth are bean pods?’
‘They are magical Christmas bean pods, William, and Santa picks these odd pods and gives them to the farmer elves. The farmer elves boil them in pots until the Christmas beans pop out. These beans are very large, with red and white swirls. If you ate one, William, it would taste so delicious that your eyes would cry rainbows and then fall right out of your head, so they are never to be eaten.’
William nodded and made a mental note never to eat a Christmas bean.
‘The farmer elves then take the beans out to the purest white snowfields and plant them, deep in the cold, powdery snow. When they’re finished, all the elves gather together and wait for a sign. While they wait, they sing a song.’
Mr Trundle cleared his throat and started singing the most peculiar elf song in his best elf voice:
‘We’re waiting for a sign –
It’s taking so much time.
Hurry up, you silly Christmas beans!
We want to go inside!
‘Our bogies feel like icicles!
Where is this silly sign?
Hurry up, you slowpoke Christmas beans
It’s nearly Christmastime!’
‘Wow!’ said William. ‘The elves really sing that song?’
‘Every year!’ said Mr Trundle. ‘Then, eventually, when the timing is just right, the sky above the North Pole lights up in a wash of glorious dancing colours.’
‘The Northern Lights?’ yelled William. ‘I’ve seen them on the telly!’
‘That’s right, son! The beautiful Northern Lights.
That’s the sign they wait for! That’s when the mining elves go to work!’
‘And what do the mining elves do?’ asked William.
‘I’ll tell you, my lad,’ said Mr Trundle happily. ‘They dig, dig, diggedy dig under the snowfields and into the ice below, which is as thick as our house and as clear as glass, William! They aren’t mining for diamonds or gold, though. They are digging for toys! The Christmas beans have worked their magic into the snow, where huge, twisty, windy roots grow downwards into the ice. And it is there, William, entwined inside these frozen roots, that all the toys for the girls and boys around the world come from. They grow in the ice, made by the Christmas beans that came from the Christmas tree that listened to Santa reading your letters!’ Mr Trundle finished.
‘Wow!’ said William.
‘Wow indeed, William! So now you know how elves work!’ said Mr Trundle.
And now you know how elves work too (and it’s true, because it’s in a book).