Kuniklö, the Determined Little Snowshoe Hare (Part 1 of 2)

There are many animals living around Santa’s Village, and one of these animals is the Snowshoe Hare, Kuniklö. He looks just like the rest of his family, with almond-shaped ears, two large snowshoe-shaped back paws (good for hopping in the snow) and a twitchy nose that is never still. During the colder months, his fur is a bright, white winter coat but it changes when the weather warms up, and he sports chocolate-brown fur.

Kuniklö’s favorite thing to do was to sit near the kitchen with his little nose twitching to sniff out the delicious scents coming from inside. He has always been so curious about what the elves that cooked for the village were up to. He would climb up to the kitchen window that the Kapunki elves would keep open for fresh air, and he would wiggle his talented nose, to figure out the scent of each ingredient, the combinations of ingredients and try to memorize the smells of different flavours.

From listening in on their conversations, Kuniklö had gotten to know some elves by name, especially Gordot, the Head Chef of the Village. But he was too shy to introduce himself. He dearly wanted to be allowed inside the kitchens to help out, but what if the elves didn’t want him there? He was too nervous that the cooks would shoo him away, so he settled for watching them, slightly hidden from sight, outside on the window sill.

Everything changed one day when Kuniklö, watching on from his usual place on the window sill, heard Gordot crashing around in the kitchen, quite upset. The bunny twitched his ears and hopped closer to the window, which was open a hare-sized crack, to listen better.

“Everything is ruined!” cried Gordot. “If I can’t get some Glowing Spring Sprouts for this recipe, Mrs Claus will be so disappointed. It’s her favourite dish this time of year! The mushrooms only sprout at the first rainshower, but I’ll never have enough time to find them before the big dinner tomorrow.” Gordot looked terribly disappointed and tired. “What a pity!” He sighed as he removed his apron and sadly turned out the light, finished for the afternoon.

Kuniklö knew that the Glowing Spring Sprouts are mushrooms that only grow in the enchanted forests around Santa’s Village. They look a lot like marshmallows and taste like them too, but with a sprinkling of glowing, crunchy candy-tops and a centre of gooey chocolate. They are certainly delicious! No wonder Mrs. Claus loved them. But they could be rare, as they only grow under certain hard-to-find trees in the forest.

That’s when he had an idea…he would find the missing ingredient himself!

Determined to help Gordot, the little hare set out into the forest to search. Deeper and deeper he hopped, nose twitching all the while, looking carefully for the glowing tops of these delicious and rare mushrooms. The afternoon flew by, Kuniklö was pretty tired, and decided to rest for a moment, between the roots of a huge fir tree.

The sun was fading quickly and he started to have doubts, ‘What a silly hare I am!’ He thought. ‘How foolish of me to think that I could help the elves, just by using my nose. I guess all this time that I have been sniffing out the foods from Gordot’s kitchen, I’ve learnt nothing!’

He was almost going to cry, when suddenly a pine cone dropped from the branches above him, right in front of the little hare’s face, and startled him so much that he bolted off and hid in the shrubs. His heart was racing but after a few deep breaths he calmed down, and his nose began twitching with the smell of something familiar.

Forgetting all about the dark, Kuniklö got to work sniffing and he followed the scent until he realized he’d done it! He had found a patch of big, juice Glowing Spring Sprouts, and he could save the day!

He gathered up as many mushrooms as he could, into his basket and started to trace his tracks back out of the forest. By the time he returned to the Village, everyone was fast asleep.  ‘Just as well,’ Kuniklö thought to himself, ‘I can leave the mushrooms in the kitchen and no one will know it was me.’

For the first time ever, the little hare crept through the window of the kitchen, instead of just sitting outside. Luckily, it was still propped open but he still had to wriggle and squeeze a bit to get inside.

Once he was inside, he froze perfectly still for a moment. This was because he wanted to be sure he was alone… but also because he was so impressed to finally be inside his favourite place!

The Kapunki’s kitchen was even more shiny and beautiful from the inside than outside. Kuniklö’s eyes were as big and round as the plates stacked on the shelves, taking in the wonderful sight. He was so tempted to poke around and explore, but there was no time.

He found a place on the counter next to Gordot’s favorite mixing bowl and left the Glowing Spring Sprouts there. Santa’s Head Chef was going to be so happy in the morning!

With this good deed done, Kuniklö headed back home to get some well-deserved rest.

Early the next morning, Kuniklö woke up super early, he was so excited to listen from the window sill and hear the reaction to his hard work.As soon as Gordot walked into the kitchen, he noticed the mushrooms and shouted, “It’s Glowing Spring Sprouts, just what I needed! But where did they come from?” He spent the morning questioning the other Kapunki elves who helped in the kitchen.

“Nano, did you get these?” He asked the short elf who arrived first.

Nano shook his head and walked over to peek at the mushrooms, “It wasn’t me, maybe it was Kyoki? She was here later than me yesterday.”

“What was me?” asked Kyoki, who was just arriving for her shift at the kitchen.She was a little worried that Gordot had found something she did wrong. The Head Chef was nice, but really picky about things being just right.

“The Glowing Spring Sprouts, someone left them near my mixing bowl. Who else would know just what I needed?” Gordot explains, perplexed.

Kyoki scratches her head. “Good question Gordot, I haven’t been out to the forest though. Maybe someone is pulling a do-good prank on you.”

Gordot scratched his head, completely baffled by the mystery!

The little hare decided that the next time Gordot needed an ingredient like Gumdrop Berries for sweet jelly or Candy Floss Root for garnish, he would go out and find it. He would always be Gordot’s secret helper.

And so he did, the next day and the one after that, and the one after that. Leaving Gordot happy but quite confused! Even though he was very busy preparing for the Spring Feast, the Head Chef just had to find out what was going on, and decided to stay up all night in the kitchen to catch the mysterious do-gooder.

Staying awake was quite a challenge for Gordot. He found himself snacking on cookies and cakes, to try and fill in the time while he waited for nightfall. Eventually, Kuniklö slipped through the window crack, as usual, and hopped up onto a stool to reach the counter. Just as he was leaving the ingredient in the usual place, Gordot jumped up.

“Ahah!” Gordot cried out, startling the already nervous, Kuniklö. “So, you’re the sneaky helper!”

Kuniklö froze in his place, terrified. O-ohhhhh! What would happen to him now? Would Gordot banish him from the kitchen forever?

Come back later to read what happened to Kuniklö next!

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