Josefine Ottesen
  prize-winning Danish author
Presentation > Books > Fables > The Holiwags from Seven-Trunk Tree

The Holiwags from Seven-Trunk Tree

Illustrated by Claus Rye Schierbeck

Book 1: Derring-do and Crow Poo
Høst & Søn, 2008
Book 2: Lightning Strike and Snakebite
Høst & Søn, 2009
Book 3: Wing Swish and Otter Splash
Høst & Søn, 2010
Book 4: Fox Pong and Victory Whoops
Høst & Søn, 2012

Extract from Derring-do and Crow Po

Extract from Lightning Strike and Snakebite
Author's comments

[holey-wag]: about 7 cm tall, humanoid creature with twig-like ears, powerful claws on its toes, unusually good hearing and poor night sight.
Holiwags are most often seen in older trees, where the holes formed by broken branches appear to be their hatching ground. There are other kinds of holiwags which have other habitats and which differ in various ways.
See: town holiwags, mountain holiwags.
Worst enemies: birds of prey, foxes and other animals of a certain size.

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Extract from book 1: Derring-do and Crow Poo

Chapter 1: Morning in Seven-Trunk Tree

Swoosh, it went, as Birch slid the whole way down the dewy tree trunk, followed by gadunk, as he hit the back wall in Ash's den.
“Er, what do think you’re doing here?” asked Ash sleepily, sitting up with his hair sticking out in all directions. It made him look like a battle-ready hedgehog. The large walnut shell he slept in was clearly far too small for him. His legs hung a long way out over the edge and there was no room at all for his upper body and his head which were instead lying on a pile of small stones with a mossy mat over them.
Birch tried to unravel himself from all the many strange things he’d become entangled in as he slid through the hole into Ash's little nook. There were honeysuckle twigs and bindweed, shells from many of the beechnuts Ash had eaten recently and feathers bound together in different ways, because Ash was certain that it was possible to fly if only he could work it out properly.
“They’ve arrived,” said Birch eventually. “I saw it myself. There was a huge splodge right outside my hole.”  He took hold of his friend to try and get him out of bed, but Ash just blinked drowsily. It was clear that he’d rather go back to sleep.
“It’s the middle of the night,” he groaned. Trying to wrest himself free of Birch’s grip, he tumbled heavily backwards onto his bed. Crrackk, it went, as the walnut shell bed broke in two.
“Oh, for five hundred flattened fly feet! I paid the mice through the nose for this bed. They got two armfuls of juicy beechnuts for it.  They said it was good for at least five summers.”
“It’s too small for you anyway,” said Birch.  He tried once more to drag Ash to his feet, but Ash knocked his hands away.
“What would you know about it?” Ash struggled laboriously out of the smashed shell. He gazed dejectedly at the damage, but before he could decide what to do with the wreckage, Birch had dragged him out through the small hole in the trunk.
“Listen!” whispered the agitated Birch.
Ash furrowed his brow and put his hands indignantly on his hips. “I take it you're referring to the nightingale in the thicket by the stream and the thrush noisily defending its nesting area over there in the birchwood." He looked at Birch disapprovingly. “Have you woken me up so that I can guess birdsong here just before dawn, when every holiwag with any self-respect would have his head down? I mean, really …”

He didn’t get a chance to say any more before Birch pulled two large clumps of moss out of his ears.
“Of course you can’t hear anything with your ears bunged up with moss.” Birch folded his arms and looked furiously at his friend.
“Well, the woodpecker was making a hell of a din yesterday evening,” Ash objected, but then suddenly went totally still. His ears turned slowly towards a distant cawing. “Crows!” he whispered, staring wide-eyed at Birch.
Birch nodded. “Exactly - close to our tree and I think the Crow King himself is with them.” Eagerly, he dragged Ash a little way up the trunk to where his own hole was. “Look here,” he said, pointing at a large greyish-white splodge right in front of the entrance. “Doesn’t that look exactly like a crow king poo?”
Ash knelt down and examined the bird dropping carefully. “It’s not impossible,” he muttered. “In any case, it’s a fairly hefty splodge, much bigger than a normal bird dropping.” He looked at Birch and stifled a giggle. “Lucky you didn’t stick your head out just at that moment. Then you’d have drowned in crow poo.”
“But I heard it. Splat! That’s what woke me up.” Birch drew his thorn staff out of his belt. “Let’s go up and chase them off. Pow! Wham! Bam!” He waved his staff around fiercely. “Come on then, you lousy crowy creeps!  Your final hour has come. You’ve met your match!”
He leapt around like a grasshopper and was just about to inflict the killer blow on the knot in the tree trunk that he had chosen as the Crow King, when Ash grabbed his arm. “Ssh, you’ll wake Alda.”
But the warning came too late.  A little curly head stuck itself out of the highest hole in the fourth trunk and a moment later, the tree’s youngest holiwag came leaping down towards the two boys.
“I want to go to war against the Crow King too,” she said, shadow boxing.
“You’re a girl,” said Birch, as if that explained everything.
Alda put her hands on her hips. “So what? I can still go to war with the crows. Watch me.” She pulled a tiny little thorn stick out of her belt.
Birch beat his brow and groaned. “You can’t use that for anything! There’s only one thorn on it and it’s as soft as a willow twig.” He turned to Ash. “Come on, let’s hurry up to the top and defend the tree, so those rotten feathered fiends can’t settle and drop poo everywhere. When we’re finished with that, we can tell Hawthorn, so maybe he’ll finally understand that we are the ones who should actually be the defenders of Seven-Trunk Tree.  We're just as brave and strong as Oak is.

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Extract from book 2: Lightning Strike and Snakebite

Chapter 1: Crash and bang

Ziggerdizag! And right afterwards, even more sharply, Ziggerdizag!
"Heeeeelp!" shrieked Alda, leaping out of her hole like an almond squeezed from its skin. She hurtled down the rough trunk with her hands on her head, as if that was a way to protect herself.
Broooouummmm - umm - ummm.
The resounding sound of thunder sent her flying in through the small opening in the trunk into Ash's den, which lay more sheltered closer to the ground. She almost knocked him over because he was sitting in the entrance and shouting as loud as he could every time thunderclap roared through the forest. 'Stop, stop!"cried Alda. "It's noisy enough already." "That's what's good about it," he said, trying to make himself heard over the lightning and rumbling thunder that came nearer and nearer. "In weather like this you can get everything said you'd otherwise never say. No-one can hear it." He gave a satisfied grin and when the next crash exploded almost over their heads, he yelled: "Oak and Sidney are a pair of slippery slodious slimy slugs!" "It's o-dious," objected Alda. Ash shrugged his shoulders and tried to shout louder than the next thunderclap. "So what. It sounds better with slodious." Then he continued thinking up new insults: "Hawthorn is a doddering dopey dolt!" He didn't have time to finish completely before the thunder stopped, but hopefully Seven-Trunk Tree's oldest holiwag, Hawthorn, didn't hear. At that moment, the sky was splintered by a huge flash of lightning. The light was so bright that both Ash and Alda were blinded for a moment and when they could see again, Birch stood right in the opening. He had a delighted look in his eyes as he pushed himself into the now rather narrow hole. "Something bad's going to happen. I can feel it. Something quite incredible's going happen," he said eagerly. "Where did you come from?" Alda stared at him in astonishment. "Just before, you weren't here, and now you're here. Are you a magician?" Birch didn't bother to give her an answer, but continued talking to Ash. "Did you

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Cover of book 3: Wing Swish and Otter Splash

see that lightning just now? It lit up the whole forest. The trees looked like skeletons. All the colours disappeared. It's the best thunderstorm we've ever had." The lightning and thunder came almost simultaneously and Ash and Birch began challenging each other on who could howl the loudest when the thunderclaps cracked through the air. "Whaaaa! " Alda's piercing voice drowned out both Ash and Birch and the rumble of thunder as she stamped angrily on the floor. "Stop it! Don't you understand that it's dangerous? I'm afraid."

Cover of book 4: Fox Pong and Victory Whoops

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Author’s comments: 

I’ve always been fascinated by children in the 4-12 years age group. Many of them, especially the boys, are pure project creators and explorers who don’t look back but just throw themselves into one fantastic mission after another. Whether they are digging in the back garden for several days to find treasure, starting up some incredible business project which is going to make them rich before very long, or setting off on a “walk-about” which can make most parents sweat with fear, they do it with a self-confidence and optimism that is just superb! Unfortunately, it is many of these children who later experience school as a constricting straitjacket, because the underlying agenda in most school situations is that they have to learn to sit still, pay attention to what the teacher is saying and do what they are told. I’m well aware that this is something we all have to learn, but the books about the Holeywags from Seven-Stem Tree are my greeting and handshake to all those inquisitive explorers, researchers and entrepreneurs in the age group 4-12. The first volume, "Derring-do and Crow Poo” will hopefully be followed up by three more parts in the course of the next few years. Happy reading!