On a cold, quiet night speckled white by the snow,
As the moon became bright and the sun slipped below
The horizon and inky blue darkened the skies,
Ella yawned softly and opened her eyes.
Happy but hungry, she thought it’d be right
To find something tasty to start off her night.
So, Ella set out through the snow and the sleet
To get herself something delicious to eat.
Beneath a big fruit tree she very soon sat.
She was munching away when she spotted a cat!
She waved at the cat and invited him over
To join her. And so, the slick, striped nighttime rover
Crept through the snow, treading oh so softly,
Over to Ella beneath the fruit tree.
“Hello!” said Ella, “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Hi!” said the cat, “It’s good to meet you, too.”
They talked for a while as they watched the snow
Drift down gently to Earth. Then, the cat had to go.
“Before I take off – sorry if it’s bizarre,”
Said the cat, “I was wondering just what you are.
Usually cats alone are the creatures I see
Awake in the night, but you don’t look like me.”
Ella stared, mouth agape, at the cat in the snow.
What was she? Ella realized she didn’t know.
She had never considered her species because
She had always been Ella; that’s just who she was.
But, suddenly, now Ella wished it were clear
What creature she was and just why she was here.
Ella turned to her new friend. “So, you are a cat.
May I ask how exactly you came to know that?”
“Well,” the cat explained, “I just looked around
At the world and myself, and I very soon found
That based on what I do – how I leap, mew, and spit –
I just must be a cat. That is just where I fit.”
“Thank you!” she shouted, and off Ella went,
Giddy and most certain that if she spent
The rest of the night looking upwards and down
And backwards and sideways and all over town,
Thinking and learning, pursuing her cause,
She would very soon know just what creature she was!
“I know I’m not a cat. That’s one thing I’ve got right,”
Ella thought to herself, “But I am up at night.
So, here is the plan: I think I’ve got to scout
Some non-feline creature who’s out and about.”
And no sooner were Ella’s clever words said
Than a giant, dark shape flew right over her head!
“Hello!” Ella called, “May I please speak with you?”
The shape came to Earth, and then it answered, “Who?”
“You!” Ella cried, “Could you please talk to me?”
“Well,” said the shape, “I suppose I could be
Persuaded to take a quick break and concede
Just a bit of my time. What is it that you need?”
“To know what you are and why so I can see
Whether you are a thing that’s the same thing as me!”
Ella tried to explain, fearing she’d gone afoul
With her words, but the shape answered, “I am an owl.”
“Wonderful!” Ella said, “So… Do you think
That I am an owl?” And then, without a blink,
He answered, “You?! You’re not an owl at all!
Owls are big! You are far, far too small.”
“Okay,” said Ella, “Thank you, and goodnight!”
She watched as the owl resumed his great flight.
Then Ella took off, still in search of new leads,
And not too far away, she heard sounds in the weeds.
So, she stopped for a bit to examine the grass,
And through the blades she saw a furry, gray mass.
“Hello?” Ella called out, “Is somebody there?”
A small, bright pair of eyes met her quizzical stare.
“Hello,” a voice squeaked, “Who and what are you?”
“I’m Ella,” said Ella, “And I wish I knew.
I truly do not mean to bother you, ma’am,
But I’m trying to find out what it is I am.
I’ve been looking for answers all night, near and far,
And I’m wondering: Am I whatever you are?”
“Well,” the voice answered, “From what I can see,
I don’t think that you are a field mouse like me.
I’ve looked you over, and what I have found
Is that your ears are pointy, and my ears are round.”
“Thank you,” sighed Ella, a little let down.
“Maybe you’ll find answers somewhere in town!”
Squeaked the mouse. “Oh! What a wonderful thought!”
Ella cried, “Thank you! Yes! That helps a lot!”
So, the little mouse scurried off back underground,
And Ella set out to adventure around
The neighboring houses and shops and town square,
Certain that she would find her answers there.
As Ella approached, she was met by the sight
Of the entire town glowing stunningly bright,
Full of colorful trees and sweet window displays
Set up to celebrate the holidays.
As on her grand journey she wandered on by,
One of these windows caught Ella’s sharp eye.
She spied in that window a small, friendly creature
Bearing a fantastic, familiar feature!
He had large, pointy ears! And it seemed that he crept
Around doing his work while two small children slept.
As she stared at this creature who seemed like a clue,
Ella thought back to holiday tales she knew.
As she peered through the glass at the holiday scene,
She could not help but think about what it might mean.
And then, at last, she had it! She said to herself
With a grin on her face, “Why, I must be an ELF!
Elves are awake at night, and they are pretty small,
And they have pointy ears! And I check off all
Of the things on that list – ounce for ounce, gram for gram!
Elves are exactly the same as I am!”
Then it dawned on young Ella that now that she knew
Just what creature she was, she had a job to do!
“Elves help drop off presents! Hey, I’d better see
If I can find a house with a nice, big chimney!”
And so, Ella did. And then, without a pause,
She shimmied on down to help out Santa Claus.
As she prepared the house – trimmed the tree, swept the mat –
Someone crept down the stairs. And then… “Oh no! A BAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“A bat!?” Ella thought. Then, from thin air, a broom
Came crashing and shooing her out of the room!
“Look at its sharp fangs and its horrible wings!”
The broom-swinger cried, screaming terrible things.
Ella escaped the house just as fast as she could!
She flew out of the town and then over the wood
And off into the night, and as she climbed the sky,
Ella the bat, I guess, started to cry.
She flew fast, though she couldn’t see through her tears.
Then Ella crashed! A loud sound filled her ears…
“Ho, ho!” A voice boomed, “Why, is that my new elf?”
Ella flapped, shocked, as she saw for herself
A jolly old man in a suit warm and red
Whom most have seen just with the eyes in their head.
“Santa?” She whispered, “But… I’m just a bat.
Not an elf – nor a mouse nor an owl nor a cat.
I’m not sleek or majestic or dainty or merry;
I’m ugly and creepy and bizarre and scary.
I wish I could help you,” she said with a sob,
“But I’m afraid I wasn’t made for the job.”
“Nonsense!” the man laughed, “It’s not silly things
Like your ears or your size or your fangs or your wings
That tell me that you are or are not an elf.
What matters is something inside of yourself.
When it comes to elf-dom, the one special part
That makes someone an elf is the size of their heart.
You have pointy ears, and you’re up late and small,
But your helpfulness makes you the best elf of all.”
“So, am I an elf, then? Or am I a bat?”
Ella asked as she fluttered near Santa’s red hat.
“You are both!” Santa said, “Why, you don’t have to choose!
You’re an elf, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose
All the great things about being a bat!
You are both, and there’s nothing as awesome as that!”
Ella just smiled, eyes bright, not because
She finally knew just what creature she was
But because she had realized something else, too:
What made her herself had not one thing to do
With her looks or her species or what people thought
Of her based on appearance. What mattered a lot
Was the way that she spoke, how she chose to behave,
All the love that she shared, and the help that she gave.
Yes, she was a bat, and yes, she was an elf.
But what mattered the most was that she was herself.