German fairy ‘village’ lightens coronavirus blues

January 24, 2021
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It was an early November day at home in the Franconia region of the southeastern German state of Bavaria and Silke Sauer decided to take her two children and some of the neighbors’ kids out for a walk in a nearby forest to beat the coronavirus-induced boredom and blues. Silke knows the woodland area well, for she had grown up there.

On a large patch of tall pine trees that separates the villages of Hiltmannsdorf and Egersdorf, they propped a few fallen branches against one trunk to create a kind of tent. At the base of another, they arranged a tuft of rich green moss over two chips of pine bark, creating a cozy miniature retreat — perfectly inviting for an elf, they joked.

They returned a few days later and discovered an amazing sight. Their elf house was there, undisturbed and apparently uninhabited, but there were also a four more. The next time they came, on November 21, Silke and the children brought along tiny Christmas trees and other elf-like decorations, and found even more elfin houses.

Something was going on’

“That’s when we knew something was going on,” recalls Sauer, who works at the nearby Erlangen-Nuremberg University. “When we placed the Christmas decorations, it must have encouraged other people, because the next time we came back, the area had turned into a regular elfin village, with some of the fairy nests containing furniture and everything.”

At that point, with the village grown to about 20 elfin abodes, they hung a small sign designating the woodland “Elflingen.”  Sauer located the farmer who owned the land to tell him what was up, but she didn’t have to; he said he already knew about the growing colony, and said he wouldn’t dare disturb the development. For her part, she promised to collect the decorations and doll house furniture that might be left over, whenever that is.

But the elfin village Elflingen shows no signs of disappearing soon. It is now the size of a soccer pitch. Currently, the tract features over 80 different structures, including tiny tree houses, an elfin playground, caves, and a horse stable. The village is no longer a secret, either. Kindergarten groups pilgrimage there, and families come to be enchanted by the otherworldly atmosphere.

Sauer says the village of Elflingen is growing fast because it is a perfect example of what she calls “corona creativity.” It is open-air space that allows many people to join in creating something together, without having to come too close. She says the feeling of being able to create something out of nothing is especially empowering at a time when Germany remains in lockdown, and many people feel a bit helpless, and kids tend to be bored easily.

Feeling the magic

Experiencing Elflingen, she says, allows us to feel the magic of people working silently and spontaneously together but with terrific energy, all with the same goal.

The houses range from plain huts of about 15 centimeters (6 inches) in height to much more elaborate, two-storey structures the size of a small child, and long houses. There are tiny stars made of straw adorning the roofs of many elf homes, fences and walkways made of twigs are also common. Every house is unique.

During the holiday period it is not unusual to see other people dropping in for a visit to Elflingen, says Sauer. And though there are tiny knitted elfin dolls here and there, nobody has so far spotted any real elves. As usual, they have apparently worked their magic without anyone being able to see them.

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