The Tomten and the Fox
The fox creeps to the light of the farmhouse window and sees the children playing inside. He see the cows sleeping in the shed, the mice that tease him as he passes in search of hens. The hens cry for help and are rescued by an "old, old Tomten, who guards the farm at night. Were you frightened, Reynard? Have you seen the Tomten before, going his rounds from building to building?" Tomtens are small spirits from Scandinavian mythology who help care for the animals on the farm and look after the homestead, keeping it neat and orderly. They expect porridge with butter around Christmastime as a sign of thanks for their work.
The Tomten understands the fox is hungry, and shares a bowl of porridge that is provided for him every night by the children of the farm. "Eat, Reynard, you can share my porridge. Every night if you like. But don't touch our hens!" The scene of the fox and the little old gnome sharing a meal in the silent snow is touching. It's a moment of sharing and peace. It's the spirit of kindness and self-sacrifice for the care of others. I enjoy picking this book up in December the most. Something about the European charm of it's tone and content feel even better by the light of a twinkling tree.
The story closes with this spare passage, "Satisfied and happy, Reynard goes, through the forest back to his den. It is a night for foxes and tomtens. People are fast asleep in their beds, but the morning star has already risen above the edge of the forest."
GRADE LEVEL: K-12
Astrid Lindgrin is also the creator of Pipi Longstocking, and many other works. Her bio is very interesting, as she made the leap from mother/housewife to famous author/editor and later became an important voice for activisim and social change.