I was born more than seven hundred years ago, the youngest child in a family who lived near Silent Pool in the Surrey Hills. My father was a woodcutter; my mother worked for the local miller, helping him grind corn for bread. My brother William was the first born. My sister Emma came next. And Eleanor the baby of the family – that’s me.
Both my parents worked so hard: my father out in all weathers, searching for trees that needed cutting down, then working on them with his sharp axe, cutting and chopping the wood into logs, then hauling the logs on a sled to a place of shelter, sometimes pulling the sled himself, sometimes borrowing a local farmer’s horse. When the wood was dry, my father could sell some of the logs to local farmers, often in exchange for food. Most of the wood, however, had to be given to the local lord. He owned the land where my father worked. If we were lucky, there were logs left over to keep our small two-roomed cottage warm in winter.
For my mother, it was hard, heavy work at the mill. Dangerous too. If the corn got too hot between the grinding stones, it could burst into flames and cause terrifying fires. She also helped the local baker, and sometimes brought home a delicious warm loaf.
My brother was a strapping boy, full of energy. He loved to help my father. He would run through the forest looking for trees that were ready to be felled. Then, at the end of the day, helping my father drag the wood back to shelter. When he grew up, he became a soldier earning his living by fighting for kings, lords and dukes all across Europe. He married a Spanish lady from Barcelona, and raised a family with her by the Mediterranean Sea.
My sister Emma. Ah yes, Emma, the famous one in our family. She loved adventure: full of daring, aways laughing, always exploring the Surrey Hills and forests. Everyone knows her story, so I won’t tell it now. If you want to find out about Emma, visit Silent Pool.
Then the baby of the family. Me. Eleanor. Named after a famous Queen of England. People said that I was the quiet, thoughtful child. I know I wasn’t as daring as Emma or as noisy. For as long as I can remember, I was interested in the living things in the forest: I loved to study the rhythm of nature; the changing of the seasons; the heat of summer which made me seek the cool of the forest; the wonderful sounds of birdsong and bees looking for flowers; the gifts of Autumn, the berries which ripened and the excitement of harvest. Then the magic of the leaves turning colour, the biting cold of winter winds, snow on the ground and ice on the water, and finally, Spring, my favourite season of all: the arrival of the bluebells in the forest; the leaves beginning to show on the twigs of trees; birdsong back in the forest.
So, this was how I passed my time. I spent it in quiet study, not like my noisy brother and sister. I was at home in nature. Water was the part of nature that attracted me most. I loved to explore the pools and streams that were near to my home. The beautiful Tillingbourne river, which winds through the valley bottom. The mysterious Silent Pool, with its greeny-blue water. The Sherbourne Pool, lower down. I loved clear, fresh water. I felt I could almost talk to it, and it could talk to me. I understood the rhythm of water. I knew when a storm was coming long before it rained. I sensed when streams were drying up and lakes and pools were being starved of life-giving refreshment. I had never seen the sea, but I adored the tales seafarers told when they passed through our village. The idea of the power of huge waves and currents and tides excited me.
Unlike my brother and sister, I had no fear of water. I loved to bathe in fresh cool water, particularly in Sherbourne Pool. When I was immersed in water, I became totally relaxed. A quiet buzzing filled my head, ZZZZZZZZZ…. almost as if I was dropping to sleep.
I was bathing in Sherbourne Pool one day in late Spring, my favourite time. The weather had warmed enough to make it pleasant. Then something happened to make that day one of the most significant in all my long life.
At first, I had been splashing and kicking and diving. Afterward, I lay back and floated, enjoying the quiet. ZZZZZZZZ…..Then, in the distance, I heard a faint drumming. The drumming grew louder and I recognized the sound of hoof beats. Horses approaching, and several by the sound of it. Then a shout and a cry. Men’s voices, calling in excitement. Just like my brother and father called to each other in the forest. I felt no fear. Mostly because I was in water where I never felt fear. I had no place to run or hide anyhow. I was in the middle of the pond. I had to keep calm. The buzzing in my head grew louder – more insistent. ZZZZZZZZ…….. . It wasn’t scaring me, but rather it was making me concentrate on what was going on.
The hoofbeats and the cries were close now.
Suddenly a huge white charger broke through the woodland cover near the pond. On the back of the massive horse, a knight in shining armour. The sight of horse and rider filled my vision. The knight had a sword on his side. He carried an enormous shield decorated with a red lion on a background of green and yellow. Knight and horse paused at the edge of the pond. The knight looked over the pond, and then looked straight at me. I was strangely unafraid, and remembered something my mother often said. “Do not be unkind to strangers. They may be angels in disguise.”
So, I raised an arm, and waved at the knight in greeting. He made no response. It was as if he hadn’t seen me. He continued to gaze at the pond, then lifted his eyes to the hills beyond. More knights on horseback broke through the cover, and joined the leader. Soon there were at least twelve horses and riders at the poolside. No one gave me any recognition. There was a lot of conversation between the knights. They were seeking the best way to the sea, where they would take a boat to fight a war in foreign lands. I raised my hand in greeting again, even smiled. Nothing. It might as well have been invisible!
Then the first knight barked a command, and they rode off. I was left alone in the quiet pond. The buzzing in my head calmed. All sense of danger passed.
I got out of the pond, and ran as fast as I could to our home. There I found my mother. She had returned from the bakers, and had boiled a pot of water on the fire. She helped me dry, and gave me a hot spiced drink, and a slice of delicious warm bread. When I was calm, I told my mother the whole story of the day’s events. I was afraid she would be angry with me for putting myself in danger. But she listened carefully and calmly to every word. When I came to the part about the armed riders not seeing me in the pool, she showed no surprise.
At the end of the story, my mother said, “Now I must tell you a story that will help explain everything. Long, long ago, there was a woman called Melusine. She had the most marvellous magical gifts. She loved nature, and understood all the wonderful gifts it gave to mankind. And in particular she understood water, and its importance to all living things, especially mankind. It was said that she could talk to rivers and lakes, even to the seas. They too could talk to her. You and I are descended from Melusine. I have not told you this before, but I have many of the powers of my ancestor. You, Eleanor, are the only one of my children who has inherited all Melusine’s magical powers. You must use them wisely, and we will talk about that.”
I told my mother I still didn’t understand why the knights had not seen me in the pond.
“Because of your magical powers, you become invisible when you are in water” my mother explained. “The water sees if you are in danger, and makes you invisible, to protect you. You are very important to water. Water knows that and protects you. When water is protecting you, a pleasant buzzing will fill your ears. If great danger approaches, the buzzing will be louder. It’s a sign that water is protecting you at all times, so you don’t panic if you see scary things.”
That day I decided I would become Eleanor the Invisible, the Guardian of the Water in the Surrey Hills. I would use all the powers I had inherited to safeguard the wonderful fresh water of our Hills. It was my way of thanking water for the protection it gave me.
Since that fateful day, I have roamed the Surrey Hills, telling everyone how important fresh water is, how to respect it and use it well. I talk to everyone I meet. I tell them how water is esssential for the growing of food. How we can use it, with care, for power – like the stream that powers the mill where my mother helps grind corn. How we need it for drinking and keeping clean. I explain how we must treasure it. Never throw dirty things into pools or streams. How we must be very careful about stopping the water flowing freely, for fear of causing floods. I have put to good use my magical ability to talk with water. If I hear that there is a risk of floods, or that harmful things are being tipped into water or a big storm is coming, I tell the local people so they can work to stop bad things happening.
For a long time, I just worked in the Surrey Hills. Then one day I was talking to my friend the Green Man who is Guardian of the Forests. He told me that all across our planet, there was much work to be done to develop the supply of fresh water. I explained to the Green Man that there was only so far I could walk in a day. So, working across the whole planet was beyond me. He took me to a magician he knew. The magician made for me a lovely suit in forest green. He made me a cloak in the beautiful colours of the waters of Silent Pool. All made in the lightest material – like a spider’s web. He made me strong boots, so I could work alongside others in the planet to keep fresh clean water flowing. Finally, he made me the most amazing gloves. Between the thumbs and each of the fingers there was the material you see in spiders webs. All in a rainbow of colours. The gloves, the magician explained, would work like wings – they would make me fly.
The magic worked. From that day on, I have flown the world over. I have seen so many problems with keeping water clean and met so many people who have no fresh water at all. I have helped wherever I can. Wherever I fly to in my cape, strong boots and magical rainbow gloves, I am known as Eleanor the Surrey Hills SuperHero, Guardian of the Waters of the Planet” And when I bathe in the water, I become Eleanor the Invisible- ZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
Having water to protect you at all times is a wonderful gift. ZZZZZZZZ….. You will find out how important this is in other stories about me you can read.