Ernie the Elf
By Samuel Patrick Smith
The performer tells (and demonstrates) the story of Ernie the Elf, who thought his Christmas present from Santa was empty. When he opened the gift on Christmas day, however, it was filled with colorful surprises!
1. A Square-Circle production box, consisting of two nesting tubes—usually a cylinder within a box—which may be shown empty before producing a large load of streamers, silks, or other items. (Available from many magic dealers.) Mine is actually a “Square-Square,” since the inner tube is not cylindrical but rectangular. The Square-Circle represents Ernie the Elf’s Christmas gift from Santa Claus. Square-Circles sometimes come with weird designs painted on them. If yours is not artfully designed (tacky), cover it with Christmas wrapping paper.
2. A lid for the gift. Cut a piece of cardboard slightly larger than the outside box of the Square-Circle, cover it with wrapping paper, and put a large bow in the center.
3. A miniature Santa Claus doll or some other cute figure to be used as the final production (available from many greeting card shops).
4. Twenty-five feet or more of gold or silver Christmas garland.
5. An instrumental recording of Christmas music. I like electronically recorded music for this purpose. Select a sentimental tune, such as “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire).”
6. An elf hat.
7. A long rubber nose, available from magic and novelty stores.
Place the Santa Claus doll (or other figure you will use for the final production) in the bottom of the load chamber. Next, wind the garland into a coil and put it into the chamber on top of the doll. My box holds 25 feet, but use as much as yours will contain.
Put the rubber nose in your jacket pocket, and place the elf hat on or behind your table.
I’ve performed this routine in my Christmas show, Jingle Bell Magic, since 1983. Young children love to see magic presented in story form. They listen very attentively, and they genuinely care about the outcome of the story.
I begin the routine by saying, “Today, my friend Ernie the Elf was planning to come to the show. But things have been so busy up at the North Pole, getting ready for Christmas, he was not able to get away. So instead, I’m going to show you a story set to music about something that happened to Ernie one Christmas not long ago.
“I brought my six-piece band to play the music for us. [I pick up my tape recorder.] My six-piece band: a tape recorder, a tape, and four batteries! Maestro, some elf music, please!” I press the play button and turn my back toward the audience. The music begins, and the children can see that I am getting dressed for the routine: I put on the elf hat—still facing away from them—and I put on the long nose. They don’t see exactly what I’m doing, so when I turn around, the nose gets a big laugh.
As I turn to face them, I say, “This is the story of Ernie the Elf.” I pause to let them laugh at the long nose. Sometimes, for the teachers’ benefit, I’ll add, “And this goes to show that some people will do anything to earn a living!”
I continue: “A few days before Christmas a few years ago, Ernie was in Santa’s workshop cleaning up while the other elves were outside on the playground.
“He was sweeping the shop and doing a good job. And when he was through, like a good elf, he went to the closet to put the broom away. But when Ernie opened the closet door, [taking on a secretive tone of voice] he noticed something high on a shelf—it was a Christmas present!
“Ernie took it down to get a closer look, and guess whose name was on the box! That’s right! It said, ‘To Ernie, from . . . Santa Claus!’ Boy, he was excited! Now you know, he should have waited until Christmas. Ernie knew it, too—but he didn’t wait. He very carefully removed the ribbon . . . he took off the lid . . . and he looked inside the box. [With excitement] And do you know what he saw? [With a disappointed tone] Nothing . . . except another box . . . and his nose. But when you have an elf nose like Ernie’s, you can always see that.”
As I make these comments, I pick up the outer box, leaving the inner box on the table. I show the outer box empty, spin it around, and look through it toward the audience as I am saying, “. . . and his nose. But when you have an elf nose like Ernie’s . . .”
I replace the outer box. “Next he looked inside the other box—and do you know what he saw?” I pull out the inner box and look through it as I say, “Nothing. Except his own . . . nose.
“Ernie was very disappointed.” I replace the inner box. “He put the lid back on his present and tied the ribbon just as he had found it.” I pretend to tie a bow, though the bow is actually still on the lid, which I have now replaced.
“Ernie put the present back into the closet, and he went to his room, where he cried for a long, long time.” I put my head down into my hands and sob in an over-dramatic, comical manner. Then I stop short and continue the story.
“Finally, Christmas day rolled around, and all of the elves were very excited. But there was one elf who wasn’t very happy, and his name was . . . Ernie. That’s right.
“But Ernie was a good sport. He didn’t complain at all, and when it was his turn to open his gift, he untied the ribbon and took off the lid and . . .” I say this with a bit of despondency, but as I look down into the top of the gift, my face suddenly brightens.
I look up excitedly and say, “But this time it wasn’t empty. It was filled with beautiful Christmas garland!” I begin slowly pulling out the garland. I use both hands, exaggerating the motions to make it look like a very long stream of garland. Often, the children will ask, “Where did you get all of that!”
As I near the end of the garland, I say, “And just when Ernie thought it would never end . . . [I let the last of the garland slip through my fingers to join the pile on the floor] . . . it did. But Ernie took one last look inside the box . . . and there was his present from Santa Claus, a miniature Santa Claus doll!”
I say the phrase “a miniature Santa Claus doll” with a slow, “aw, how sweet” tone of voice, and as I say “doll,” the children will frequently say “awww” in unison! I hold the Santa figure up for display and say, “And Ernie the Elf had a very merry Christmas . . . and a happy New Year!” As the music ends, I remove my elf hat and take a sweeping bow.