The cottage on the edge of the wood was in an awful mess. There were dishes to be washed, clothes to be ironed and toys scattered all over the floor. Tommy and Betty didn't care. They hated boring old housework. "What I am going to do?" their mother sighed. "I can't keep the cottage tidy. If only we had a Brownie!"
" What's a Brownie?" asked Tommy. "A Brownie is a magical little creature, which slips into houses very early before anyone is awake. It tidies toys, irons clothes, washes dishes and does all sorts of helpful things in secret," replied his mother.
"That's great! How can we get one?" wondered Betty. "The Wise Owl in the wood would know I suppose," her mother said.
Late that night, Tommy and Betty crept out of the cottage into the wood. It was cold and dark and full of shadows. Or were they ghosts? "We can't go back. We've got to find the Wise Owl," said Betty firmly. "Twitt twoo. How do you do?" a voice hooted at them from a nearby tree. "The Wise Owl!" Tommy hugged Betty in relief.
And soon the children were seated on a branch snuggling close to the big bird's feathers. They explained they were looking for a Brownie. "Do you know where we could find one?" asked Betty. "Indeed I do hooted the Owl, and, placing her beak close to Betty's ear, she explained.
"Tommy, imagine!" exclaimed Betty. "There's a Brownie in that pool over there. I've got to go to the pool over there. I've got to turn round three times
"Twist me and turn me and show me the elf, I looked in the water and there saw…".'
"Who? Who? Who?" hooted the Owl. "Look into the water and you'll find your Brownie looking back at you. Her name will finish the rhyme.
The children raced over to the pool. Betty did exactly as the Owl had said: "Twist me and turn me and show me the elf, I looked in the water and there saw…" She looked into the pool. "Well, can you see it? Can you see a Brownie?" yelled Tommy, hopping from foot to foot in excitement. "No," said Betty, All I can see is my own reflection."
Tommy and Betty were so tired and disappointed that by the time they reached the tree again, they were in tears. "Boo, hoo, hoo. What's the matter with you two?" hooted the Owl, offering them a hanky. "We didn't find a Brownie," sniffed Betty. "I saw no one in the water but myself." "Well, well" said the Owl. "Let's see if that fits the rhyme." "Twist me and turn me and show me the elf, I looked in the water and there saw…" "Myself!" finished Betty. "But I'm not a Brownie!" "Too true, too true," hooted the Owl. "But you could act like one for a change and so could Tommy. It would be fun."
Tommy and Betty returned thoughtfully to the cottage. If you had passed that way very early next morning, you would have seen a lamp burning in the kitchen window and two figures busily scurrying about inside. And when the children's mother came down for breakfast, she couldn't believe her eyes. There wasn't a toy in sight. Everything was clean and tidy. "Why, a Brownie has been here. How wonderful!" she gasped.
From that day to this, the cottage has been a different place. And Tommy and Betty have been like different children. They never get bored now; they are too busy planning their secret good turns. Of course, their mother has discovered the truth. She thinks she is very lucky to have such helpful children. And Tommy and Betty have discovered how right the Wise Owl was: being human Brownies is FUN!
We hope you now understand why our Brownie leaders are called Owls and where the name Brownies comes from.
When we make our promise we go through the woods (the other Brownies pretend to be the trees) and to the pool at the centre of our Brownie ring, where we say the same rhyme that Betty did.
You may be interested to know that make believe Brownies were supposed to dance around toadstools, which is why some packs have a toadstool at the centre of the ring.