One day, when the elf was a very young girl, she was out in the garden with the toads. Other creatures strolled about, including a garden nymph, watering a moonbeam lily nearby. The elf didn’t seem to want to play the usual games, and one of the toads asked her why. The nymph watched the little elf pause, think, and open her mouth.
But just as soon as she had opened her mouth, she closed it.
For a protector had appeared and stopped them from going any further.
“Whoa, don’t do that!” it exclaimed. “If you let those words out, you can’t get them back. If you talk about it and say it, then you’ll worry people. And then they’ll feel sad about the words you spoke. And then you’ll feel even worse. So – let me hold onto your words. I’ll keep them safe right here, in this safe little nook between your chest and your throat. And then you won’t worry anyone, you won’t burden anyone, and you won’t have to worry either.”
Well, the little elf thought this was a great idea. She appreciated this protector looking out for her best interests, for watching out for her.
“Okay,” she happily agreed, and skipped away.
From then on, she had a solution. Any time those silly words wanted to escape out her mouth, words that would cause her friends and family sadness and anguish, her protector caught them and held them for her.
It was perfect.
Years later, the elf had constant tightness in her throat, pressure and heaviness in her chest. No herbs or elixer seemed to make it go away, and she feared that she was very, very ill.
One day out in the garden, that same nymph from years ago was tending to plants, fertilizing the mintberry plants. She noticed the elf laying in the hammock, and went up to her, asking her how she was doing.
When the elf replied, “I’m afraid I am not well,” the nymph knew it was time to speak the suspicion she had carried for so many years.
“Dear elf,” the nymph began. “I wonder – does that protector still live in that space between your chest and your throat?”
“Why yes, of course,” the elf replied, surprised.
“I find it curious,” the nymph continued, cautiously, “that this illness which has befallen you is occurring in the same spot as where your protector has held all of your many, many words, over the years.”
The elf listened, curious.
“You see, dear elf, I can’t help but wonder if there is simply not enough space for all of your words anymore. If maybe your pain is the words trying to get out, because they are crowded and in pain.” the nymph added.
“I just don’t see how that could be,” the elf said. “My protector assured me that this would protect me from the things I fear the most. The protector would never had lied.”
“Oh, of that I have no doubt,” the nymph reassured. “Protectors never lie, though I must tell you that over time they become very stubborn. Of course, sweet elf, it’s all out of love and care. But I do believe that now, your protector needs to be told that its services are no longer needed. That you will continue to become more and more ill if it does not begin to let the words through.”
“I’m afraid,” the elf told the nymph. “If the words come out, people will hear them. I will never get them back. And isn’t it safer to keep them hidden in their spot?”
“What’s the price of safer?” the nymph questioned. “I watch you day after day from my spot with the plants in our garden, and the price of ‘safer’ seems to be your health. I believe it’s worth a risk to save your life. And your friends, the toads and the nymphs and the fairies – they’ve been waiting, for years, to hear the words that your protector has hidden.”
The elf heard what the nymph was telling her. She knew that the nymph was right. She spoke to her protector that very night. “Oh, dear protector, I need to thank you,” she told it. “You did what you thought was right – and maybe when I was just a little girl, it was right. But it’s no longer working, for it’s making me very, very ill. Dear protector, I am not upset with you. I am grateful to how you’ve looked over me all of these years. But it’s time for you to go. And I will be brave. And I will know that all of my words – even the loud and hard and scary and deep ones – they will all be greeted warmly by the fairies and toads and nymphs. So, my dear protector – goodbye.”
And it left.
And that next morning, out in the garden, while drinking lilac-melon tea with a water fairy, the elf opened her mouth, and the words came out, and they rode right into the fairy’s heart, who welcomed them, hugged them, loved them.
Moments later, the elf felt better than she had in years. Her chest had opened. Her throat had relaxed.
She was no longer ill.
She was going to be just fine.