A Grumpy Old Man


Manuskript *

… that’s what Egilbert is. He is the archivist of Lar Elien.

I always envision him wearing a grey habit, not sure why. He has grey hair, is rather impatient and dislikes women. The libary is his home, high up in one of the towers of Lar Elien.

Egilbert doesn’t appear often in my Lar Elien tales, mostly because I had to rewrite the first novel, cutting out many scenes of Andert’s early years. And thus I also had to eliminate the scene where Andert gets his first writing lesson with Egilbert – which soured quickly for both of them. But you’ll get to see this outtake, in a quick translation.

Enjoy Little Andert and Goswin!


Andert refused to go to bed. “No, I don’t want to go to sleep!”
“Why not?”
“Because then it will be tomorrow already, and I’ll have to go back to Egilberg.”
Goswin sighed and wished he could just call Marle, the nanny. However, the young woman had left the castle just after dinner. He was on his own.
“But aren’t you looking forward to riding your pony tomorrow?,” he tried to divert his little friend’s attention.
“But afterwards I have to go to Egilbert!”
“What’s so bad about Egilbert?”
“Everything!”, the boy sobbed.
The dwarf rolled his eyes and took a deep breath. Then he clung to his patience. “That is not a good answer, Andert. I would like to help you, but I have to know what happened. Please tell me what Egilbert wanted from you.”
The boy looked at him with huge eyes.  Then he started sobbing again. “But I don’t know.”
Goswin let out his breath with a hissing noise. This evening was the worst test of his patience yet. It took him an effort to control his fury at the archivist who had caused all this trouble.
“Well, just tell me what you both did up there in the tower.”
Andert managed to stop his sobbing. He sniffed a few times, rubbed his eyes with his sleeves and finally started to tell his story.
“He put something …. something flat and large on the table. And he pointed at the squiggles on that thing. Then he pushed another one of those things to me and gave me a goose feather. And then …” Andert sniffed once more and gave his friend a sad look, “then he said ‘write this’.”
“I see. And what did you do?”
“I didn’t know what to do.” Andert ducked his head. “And then he got angry.”
“And then?”
“He told me to put the feather into the ink and start writing.” Andert studied the floor. “But when I did that, the pot with the ink fell over. That stupid feather didn’t even fit into the pot.” More tears welled up in his eyes.
The dwarf hid a grin. Now he began to understand some of Egilbert’s fury, even if it didn’t excuse the archivist’s behaviour towards a small child. “What happened then?”
The boy described how he was given two pieces of wood, one flat with wax on it, one round and long with one pointed and one flat end.
“Ah, a wax tablet and a stylus. Good idea,” Goswin explained, but Andert was still caught in the unfairness of the whole situation and wouldn’t calm down.
“Then he told me to write again. But I don’t know how to write!”
“And then?”
“Then he walked away.”
“What did you do?”
“I was so bored. I drew pictures in the wax.”
“I see. What kind of pictures?” Goswin was hard pressed not to smile. He was fairly sure he knew what those pictures looked like.
“Of you,” Andert admitted. “And my pony. One end of that … that … pointed thing is good for drawing hair.”
“And then?”
“He came back. And when he saw the pictures, he was really angry.”
“Hmmm. I think I saw the rest.” The dwarf got up and walked back and forth in Andert’s room. When he had figured out how to explain what the teacher had wanted him to do, he sat back down at his little friend’s side.
“Egilbert wanted you to draw those squiggles on the flat thing.”
“What? Why didn’t he say so?” Andert gave Goswin a disgusted look. “And what is this writing, then?”
“Drawing squiggles on parchment,” Goswin grinned. He gathered the boy in his arms and explained to him what parchment, feather and ink were used for. For a while, Andert listened attentively, but then his eyes grew heavy and soon he leaned into Goswin’s shoulder, fully asleep.


* picture source: Old Prayer Book, Phrood, Wikimedia Commons

About Hannah Steenbock

Hannah Steenbock is an author, dreamer, and coach. She has published several short stories in English and German, as well as one novel in German. In 2013 she started self-publishing her work. In 2014, she has won two awards for her short story "Sequoia".
This entry was posted in English, Lar Elien and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *