Once upon a time, there was an angel called Ellanor, who was tired of wearing a long white robe and making sure she didn’t get her wings dirty. She didn’t want to practise her harp or even blow her trumpet any more. Something else was on her mind.
“I want to find out what is happening down on Planet Earth,” she announced to the biggest and oldest of the angels. “I have heard that Earth is full of beautiful people and trees and waters, birds and fishes and flowers of a great many colours, and wonderful animals of all kinds. It must be a very exciting place. I would like to go there.”
The Big Old Angel looked at Ellanor thoughtfully. “Earth may not be quite as you imagine it to be. You will find it hard to go there and even harder to stay, but it is not impossible if you find that you have something important to do there. First, however, you must see for yourself what Earth is like, and then decide if going there is what you really want to do. After that I will help you find a way to go.”
The Big Old Angel showed Ellanor how to scoop a peep-hole through the clouds so that she could see Planet Earth. At first it looked like a blue-green ball floating in an ocean of indigo space.
“Tell me what you see,” said the Big Old Angel.
As she gazed at Earth, it seemed to Ellanor that a dense, grey cloud encircled the Planet, and so it was hard to see anything clearly. She squinted up her angel-heart’s x-ray vision to help her focus, but what she saw made her heart ache sorely. She was reminded of something – perhaps it was the thing that was on her mind -- but she could not remember what it was.
“We-ell,” said Ellanor, slowly, because she was not sure if what her heart saw could really be true. “Earth is even more beautiful than I expected, but everything is so unhappy. The people there do not see Earth as beautiful and they do not see themselves or each other as beautiful. They are so frightened and unkind that they are killing each other and so they are killing the waters and soil, the trees and flowers, and the birds and fishes and animals.” Ellanor began to cry inconsolably.
“I must stop the Earth from hurting so much, but how can I do it?” she asked at last, mopping up the tears on her grubby white robe and blowing her nose on some tattered wing feathers. The Big Old Angel looked at Ellanor lovingly. He had seen angels cry these tears many times before and he knew that Earth’s gravity was already tugging hard at Ellanor’s heart.
“There’s only one thing you can do now, my girl,” said the Big Old Angel. “You must go on that long journey to Earth. It will be difficult, for the task you have chosen is not for the faint-hearted. You will have to be very brave.
“But, first things first. Right now, you must find a mother and a father on Earth who want a baby because you will have to become their human child.”
At last Ellanor’s angel-wings had an important job to do. She preened her feathers carefully. She scrubbed the grub-marks on her robe with a thick white cloud. She wanted to look as respectable as she could when she met her new parents-to-be.
While half the Planet was in darkness, and while those who slept were dreaming, Ellanor flew down to Earth. In and out of people’s dreams she flew. Using her heart’s x-ray vision, Ellanor saw what their hearts were thinking so that she could find the right parents for her big adventure. Always she kept out of the strong rays of the Sun, when folk would wake and forget their dreams. Always Ellanor followed the night’s darkness as it moved around the world, putting people to sleep, perhaps to dream of having a special baby.
One night it happened. Her angel-heart found two people whom Ellanor felt might be the mother and father she wanted to be born to, as a human child. Their names were Steve and Kirrily.
Steve and Kirrily loved all children. They especially loved Sam and Emily and Mia. In fact, they loved them so much that now they longed to have a little baby all their own.
Ellanor flew in and out of Kirrily’s dreams for a long time, just to make sure that these were indeed the parents who would let her make people love each other again so that the Earth would stop hurting. When she was quite sure, she ran to tell the Big Old Angel.
“What must I do now?” asked Ellanor. The Big Old Angel stopped playing the ‘cello and looked at Ellanor in silence. Although even the smallest angel is much bigger than a human being and Ellanor was an average sized angel, the Big Old Angel knew she had chosen one the hardest jobs any angel can try to do.
“Hmm,” said the Big Old Angel at last. “You will have to become very small, in fact, no bigger than a twinkle. I am afraid there’ll be no room even for your wings. You will have to pack all of yourself into your heart. Your heart will become all that you are and all that you have in the whole of the wide universe.”
Ellanor felt scared for the first time. “But if all I am is no bigger than a twinkle I might get lost and never be found again in all the wide universe!” she said.
“Never fear, my girl,” replied the Big Old Angel. I’ll make sure you are never lost. Look, I shall tie this silver cord around your heart. Then I shall tie one end of the cord around my middle and throw the other end down to the Earth Faeries to tell them you are coming to help them stop the Earth from hurting. If things get too tough for you, the Earth Faeries will tug three times on the cord and I will pull you up to safety.”
So Ellanor packed all that she was into her heart, closed her eyes tightly and shrank herself down to the size of the tiniest twinkle. The Big Old Angel tied the silver cord around her heart, and Ellanor jumped off her cloud.
Faster than ever she had flown, Ellanor felt herself falling, falling, falling through deepest indigo space. There was no going back now. Faster and faster she fell as if the Earth was pulling hard on the silver cord.
She must have lost consciousness for she suddenly felt dizzy and found she had stopped falling. It took her a little while to discover what had happened at first. Then she heard a voice she had come to know over the many months of flying in and out of Kirrily’s dreams. It was the voice of her new mother-to-be excitedly telling Steve, her new father-to-be, “We are going to have a baby at last!”
And because Ellanor had whispered in Kirrily’s ear so many times, just to make sure that she was wanted, Kirrily knew what her name was. “I’ll call you Ella, for short,” Kirrily told her privately, “because at first you will be so little.” Ella smiled to herself. She knew that Kirrily would help her remember what she had forgotten. And she knew Kirrily would let her stop the Earth from hurting.
The world from inside Kirrily’s body amazed Ella. At first she thought the sounds of Earth would deafen her. All the gurglings, and splashings and rumblings and grumblings that went on right next to where she found herself were very different to the harmony of harp and trumpet and sweet flute, and the Big Old Angel’s ‘cello that she had been used to. Then there were all the different tones in Kirrily’s voice, and the deep rumble of the voice of her new father-to-be as he read her bed-time stories, even though all he could see of Ella was the growing bump that was Kirrily’s belly. And, as if this was not enough to get used to, there were the sounds of dogs barking and cats meowing, noises of crowds of people and traffic, voices laughing, shouting, crying, car engines and the clatterings of knives and forks and spoons, and the jangle of radio and television, and the strange hum of the computer. Ella suspected she would just have to get used to all this if she were to become a human person who stopped the Earth from hurting.
Month by month and day by day, Ella concentrated on growing from a tiny twinkle into a bigger and then a much bigger womb-baby. To leave room for growth, she loosened the knot on the silver cord tied around her angel heart. Very soon her angel-heart had managed to grow first Ella’s human brain and spine, then two eyes, then two lovely shell-like ears and a rosebud mouth, and arms and legs and ten delicate fingers and ten long toes. But most of all the angel-heart grew Ella’s human heart at the centre of her body. All this growing took a lot of energy, so when she was tired, Ella crossed her long new legs, closed her new eyes and put her new thumb in her new mouth. Perhaps what she was trying to remember about Earth would come to her in her sleep.
There was no one else inside Kirrily’s growing belly, but Ella never felt alone or lonely. She was often visited by the Big Old Angel who very early on introduced her to the Earth Faeries. The Earth Faeries were delighted that she had come to stop the Earth from hurting. Eagerly they showed her what Earth was made of so that she should know how to live there as a human child who would never hurt the Earth herself.
The Soil Faeries led Ella inside crystal caves and to the heart of the oldest rocks on the Planet. They ran with her over hot desert sands and helped her dig holes in the dark garden soil near the birdbath. “When you grow big we will plant seeds together. We will show you the pink earthworms, and slinky lizards and bright lime beetles,” they promised Ella. “We will help you stop the Earth from hurting.”
The Water Faeries taught Ella how to ride raindrops and dive into puddles without getting muddy. They swam with her in the dark blue rivers and played with her in the white spray of the ocean. ”When you grow big, we will show you how tadpoles turn into frogs and teach you how to sing to the silvery fishes,” they promised Ella. We will help you stop the Earth from hurting.”
The Fire Faeries laughed with Ella as they raced her through the tops of the gumtrees. Behind them, the leaves exploded into flames, and Ella and the fire Faeries leapt high with the red sparks and cartwheeled through the orange smoke of the bushfire. “When you grow big, we will show you how to keep warm on cold nights, and bake bread full of the hot Sun’s goodness,” they promised Ella. “We will help you stop the Earth from hurting.”
The Air Faeries breathed into Ella’s ear. “Wake up and come dancing with us,” they whispered, and whirled her round the Earth with them. They spiralled her into hurricanes and onto gentle breezes which laid her, as light as feather-down, into the cup of a rose petal. “When you grow big, we will show you dragonfly wings. We will teach you the language of trees,” they promised Ella. “We will help you stop the Earth from hurting.”
Now Ella felt certain she knew just how beautiful Earth was, and she longed to be with the Earth Faeries. Perhaps among them she would remember what it was she had forgotten.
All Steve and Kirrily’s families and friends looked forward to Ella growing big enough to be born. All the grandmothers and grandfathers, all the uncles and aunts and cousins and brothers and sisters began to make their plans for how they would welcome Ella into their world on Earth.
“When can I see my new cousin?” asked Sam. He wanted to show Ella how clever he was with his cricket bat and how many balls he could hit with his tennis racquet.
“Cousin?” said Emily May. She wanted to show her new cousin her dollies and teach her how to be gentle with the pussycat and how not to make Cassie and Bill growl and snap.
And Mia came all the way from Japan to look in wonder at Kirrily’s very big belly. “Can my new cousin really be growing bigger and bigger in there?” she wondered.
The grandfathers talked about mortages and money for Ella’s education. The grandmothers began to knit lacy clothes for Ella. The fathers painted Ella’s nursery and worried about the car for the special trip to the hospital. The mothers discussed breast-feeding and stretch-marks.
Now Ella felt certain she was going to be loved and wanted on Earth, and she longed to be with her new big family of human people. Perhaps among them, too, she would remember what it was she had forgotten.
Ella knew that what she was trying to remember was just what she needed to stop the Earth from hurting.
Although Ella’s angel-heart was hard at work growing every single part of her human body, she was still an angel, and her angel-heart’s x-ray vision was still very busy looking into people’s hearts to see if it could find what Ella had forgotten. So it was that everywhere Kirrily took Ella, tucked up inside her belly, Ella’s heart could see if people were happy or sad.
Every time her angel-heart saw someone who was happy, or being kind to another person, or doing something loving towards the Earth, Ella grew bigger and stronger inside Kirrily. But every time Ella’s heart saw unhappiness or unkindness, her new little human heart hurt so badly that it began to tear in places.
One day, when Ella’s angel-heart had seen just too much unkindness and unhappiness for her human heart to bear, she suddenly remembered what it was she had forgotten. She remembered that once upon a time, she had been on Earth herself long, long ago.
She remembered a time when she had been part of such unhappiness and unkindness that the leaves had withered on the trees, the grasses had shrivelled away and died, and the flowers had faded away before their petals had even begun to open. The birds sang no more, but fell from the skies, and lifeless fish floated on the oily rivers. People’s faces turned grey and the eyes of the little children lay dark and lifeless in their sockets.
Ella remembered how people had been afraid there would not be enough of anything for them, how they had refused to share and had stolen things belonging to others. She remembered how people had taken more than they needed and always for themselves, how they had left nothing for others – no food, no homes, and no love. She remembered that, in order for people to do this to others, they had looked down on others and criticised them because they saw others as poor, ugly, dirty, stupid, different. She remembered how they made fun of others as worthless and unlovable, and then pretended they had nothing to do with hurting others and making them unhappy. Ella remembered how the more things people took, the more frightened, unhappy, angry and unkind they were to others.
Ella’s angel-heart saw that the people on Earth still did these things and that what they did to each other they also did to Earth, and to all Earth’s trees and flowers and waters, soils and rocks and fishes, and birds and animals.
Everywhere she went inside Kirrily’s belly, Ella’s heart saw people saying and thinking things which would lead to unkind actions. Both near and far, every unkind thought, word and action, tore holes in Ella’s new human heart which was trying to grow big and strong enough for her to be born.
“If I don’t get born soon my heart will be filled with holes, and then I’ll be no good to anyone and I won’t be able to stop the Earth from hurting!” exclaimed Ella to herself. She asked the Big Old Angel and the Earth Faeries if she could be born before her heart got any more holes in it.
The Earth Faeries raised their pale green eyebrows into question marks and looked at each other. The Big Old Angel stroked the length of his white beard, thoughtfully. Then they all nodded, one after the other.
“Yes,” they agreed, “But you will have to work very quickly and your job will be harder than ever.”
“I am ready,” said Ella, “But you will help me, won’t you?”
The Big Old Angel called on four of the most powerful angels to bring Ella strength from the four corners of Earth. The Earth Faeries began to stir Kirrily’s belly with a big flat spoon.
Kirrily called out to Steve: “Start up the car. We’ll have to go to the hospital because Ella is going to be born 10 weeks early.”
Ella turned upside down and got herself ready to be born. She could feel the clever fingers of the Earth Faeries preparing the way ahead for her. She was glad the Big Old Angel had told her to leave her wings behind. There was no room for anything extra as she pushed her way through the long dark tunnel.
For a moment she felt as if she were falling, falling, falling as she had done through the indigo ocean of space. Then Ella’s world was a sudden confusion of bright light and shiny things, voices that boomed and grated in her ear, and air that hurt her lungs and stung her eyes and dried the skin on her tiny human body. Steve and Kirrily laughed and cried with joy as they held their tiny daughter.
And so Ella was born for all the world of Earth to see. She sighed with relief and closed her eyes.
“Now what am I supposed to do?” Ella asked the Big Old Angel. “Everyone says I am too tiny to survive on Earth. They have put me in a see-through crib. Kirrily and Steve come to be with me and talk to me, but they aren’t allowed to touch me too much for fear I will break. How am I to stop Earth from hurting when I am too small for anyone to take me seriously?” Ella had been crying quite a bit at what her angel-heart still saw, but right now she just felt cross and frustrated.
“First things first, my girl,” said the Big Old Angel calmly. “Don’t do anything for a while yet. Let people get to know who you are first before you go among them to stop the Earth from hurting.”
So while Kirrily and Steve were visited by their families and friends, Ella lay in the nursery like a little rosebud. Cards and balloons and fluffy baby toys arrived for Ella to play with when she was a bigger human baby, but Ella lay quietly in her crib to give folk a chance to know her better.
She wanted her new parents, Steve and Kirrily, to know her especially well. Sometimes the Water Faeries helped Kirrily to bathe her which made her feel more like a real human being. And the sound she came to love best of all was Steve’s voice who had read her so many stories when all he could see of her was a bump in Kirrily’s belly. “Grow bigger and stronger,” whispered Steve and Kirrily into Ella’s ear. “We know you can do it. We will help you all we can.”
Everywhere, everyone was whispering to Ella, “Grow big and strong. We know you can do it. We will help you.”
But, as she lay there trying to grow big enough to stop the Earth from hurting, Ella’s angel-heart would still see many things that tore more holes in her human-baby heart. Although Ella grew humanly bigger, at the same time, she also grew humanly weaker.
“What can I do?” she asked the Big Old Angel, despairingly. “I am still too little to do anything to stop the Earth from hurting, and now I feel as if I am fading away from being a human.”
“Aha!” replied the Big Old Angel with one of his rare smiles. “Never fear, my girl. I have a plan. While everyone thinks you are lying in your crib, I want you to do something you are very good at. I want you to fly again.”
He began to unwrap the plain brown paper from a parcel he had smuggled into the hospital in the sleeve of his white robe. Ella looked in amazed delight as the Big Old Angel held out her very own wings, the ones she had left behind before coming to Earth. They had been freshly preened and polished and fluffed up.
“Put them on,” the Big Old Angel encouraged Ella. “This is what I want you to do. Every time somebody thinks of you, they leave a tiny doorway in their hearts open and, the moment they do, I want you to fly inside. You will have only a few seconds to tell them how special they are, how important it is to love and care about each other, how important it is to love and care about the Earth. But tell them that by doing this they will surely keep you alive.”
Now that she knew what to do Ella was filled with hope. For the first time, she opened her eyes properly and smiled at Kirrily and Steve. She wanted them to know her secret plan. Then she closed her eyes again, put on her wings and began to fly.
In and out of people’s hearts she flew, whispering to their owners during the moments they were thinking of her. Amazingly, the doctors and the nurses in the hospital became kinder to each other and to their patients. Instantly the mothers became kinder to their children. Suddenly, the fathers became kinder to the mothers. Miraculously, the grandmothers became kinder to the grandfathers. “Yes, of course,” thought the aunts and uncles and cousins who all became kinder to each other and told people in the shops about Ella. The people in the shops who thought about keeping little Ella alive became kinder to the other customers. The other customers who heard about Ella drove home with their shopping thinking about her and became kinder to the other car-drivers. When the other car drivers (who had never heard of Ella) arrived home, they were kinder to their next door neighbours (who also had never heard of Ella). The next door neighbours phoned their mothers and said “I love you Mum”. And these other mothers (who had never heard of Ella either) felt happy and wanted to help little children and injured possums, and old people who were sick, and young men in prison, and people who were suffering all over the world. And they asked the other fathers to help them.
These were only a few of the people that became kinder because of Ella’s flying visits.
Ella worked harder and harder, but the harder she worked to fly in and out of people’s hearts, the weaker her human body grew. She was far too busy to see how people were changing because of her heart-message. All she could see was that there was still so much work to be done. The last thing Ella wanted was to give up before she had stopped the Earth from hurting. As she flew, she asked her little human body to gather up as much of the Earth’s unhappiness as it could. But, with all the holes in it, her human heart was not strong enough to help her body turn this unhappiness into happiness.
One night the Big Old Angel saw how tired she was and told her that she would soon have to stop.
“Just a little longer,” pleaded Ella. “Please.”
“Just a little longer,” agreed the Big Old Angel, and he went away with the four powerful angels to visit the famous rose gardens of Faeryland.
“I may not be able to visit you much longer,” whispered Ella as she flew in and out of people’s hearts that night. “Light a rose-pink candle in your heart every time you think of me. It will remind you to be kind to others and to the Earth so it doesn’t hurt any more. I don’t want you to forget, as I once forgot long, long ago. Remembering will keep me alive, too.”
That night, if you had been awake, you would have smelt the sweet scent of roses as the Big Old Angel and the four powerful angels carried baskets of rose petals from Faeryland through the Earth, and up above the clouds to make a beautiful bed for Ella. And if you had been really wide awake, you just might have heard the rustling, murmuring, crackling, whispering sounds of the Earth Faeries as they gathered around the Earth end of Ella’s silver cord.
Ella was so tired after her last flight that she could not even greet Kirrily and Steve when they came to visit. As always, they seemed to know what was wrong. “If you want to go now, Little Ella, we won’t make you stay,” said Kirrily and Steve.
This was a sign to the Earth Faeries to tug three times on the silver cord. Ella felt it hold her tight as her human heart stopped beating. She felt herself being carried upward.
“Will we see you again, Little Ella?” called Steve and Kirrily.
“Oh yes,” replied Ella. “We’ve loved each other for too long to say goodbye forever.”
Up and up she went. At last she caught hold of the edge of the cloud and the Big Old Angel and the four powerful ones reached down to pull her up.
“I’m sorry. I’m afraid I failed,” said Ella sadly. “I did not know how badly the Earth was hurting until I lived down there amongst it all. I wasn’t strong enough to stop it from hurting and I gave up too soon.” First one, and then another and another, her hot angel-tears splashed down and melted a hole in the cloud at her feet.
“Come now,” said the Big Old Angel. “Just take a look down there to see what you really have done.”
With what energy she had left, Ella looked down at Earth through the hole in the cloud. Thick grey fog still blanketed the Planet, but here and there all over the Earth little patches of light had melted the fog and shone through like rosy lanterns. In some places, especially around where her Earth family lived, quite a lot of the fog had melted completely away. And, as she looked, Ella could see the patches of rosy light getting bigger and spreading.
What Ella had not realised was that people had begun to light pink candles in their hearts whenever they thought of her, or all the other angels who try to become human children. Around the rosy glow of these candles, Ella could see how pale green shoots had already begun to appear on the trees, how blue the Earth’s sky was and how fresh was the air in which the coloured birds flew and sang, how happily the silvery fish swam in the sparkling river waters, how warmly the Sun shone and how brightly the winter night’s fire burnt to keep folk warm.
“You see,” said the Big Old Angel, picking up his ‘cello to play a lullaby for Ella. “You have succeeded where many others have failed.”
But Ella didn’t hear. She was already fast asleep. The four powerful angels gently lifted her up and carried her to her new bed of rose petals.
Now you may be wondering what became of the tiny human body that Ella’s angel-heart worked so hard to grow. After Kirrily and Steve had said goodbye to Ella, the Earth Faeries took her body away with them to a place where there were tall trees above a pool of water. There, if you are very still, you may be able to see Little Ella playing with Soil Faeries in the fern-gully, and with the Water Faeries in the pool, and sometimes with the Fire Faeries if the bushland is alight; if you are very quiet, you just may hear Ella whispering with the Air Faeries as she swirls with the gusts of wind and flies with the coloured birds.
And then you will remember the story of Ellanor, the angel who became Little Ella for thirty miraculous days, and how she stopped the Earth from hurting so much. And you may wish to light a pink candle in your own heart so that the Earth can stop from hurting any more.