Foreword

Long ago, when mighty oaks were ladders to the sky and nature frolicked free and wild, Alf, an adventurous young man, was lured deep into the archives of the ancient woods by the sweet scent of pine that permeated the air. He trod beneath the green giants until he came to a break in the vast canopy and discovered a meadow flowing toward distant trees and a mountain beyond.

Anxious to get a better view of the mountain, Alf climbed a nearby oak. Unfortunately this particular tree didn’t like intruders and when he was halfway up it started to shake—a shake like a swatter after a fly. The oak accomplished its goal and the young man was sent into a downward spiral. Alf tumbled limb over limb, but fortunately he landed in a patch of friendly daisies.

As Alf adjusted his clothes and apologized to the daisies, he heard soft high-pitched giggles. He followed the happy sounds to a twitching juniper bush. The woodsman parted the branches and discovered a pudgy man, barely two feet tall, nestled against the trunk. The rotund body was shaking with glee. Everything about the fellow was turned up: his pudgy nose, his bushy white mustache, the hems of his coarse earth-colored clothes and the toes of his brown vine-wrapped boots.

Startled by the discovery, Alf could only stare. He had lost his voice.
The fellow’s blue eyes twinkled with mirth as they peeked out from under an enormous floppy red hat. His chubby fingers stroked a long white beard while he waited for the tall man to speak.

Finally, curiosity found Alf’s voice. “Who are you?” he asked with raspy breath.

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