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Lake Harriet elf reflects on 25 years answering notes left in his tree

Nearing the end of a difficult 25th year, Mr. Little Guy remains an optimist
Credit: Boyd Huppert, KARE
Summer home of the Lake Harriet elf, Mr. Little Guy

MINNEAPOLIS — In times like these the world can feel like it's spinning out of control.

Violence.

Bitter election.

Global pandemic.

Big problems, that can make us feel small.

For 25 years, Minnesotans have been consulting an expert on small.

Both children and adults have swung open a tiny door to drop off their handwritten notes at the base of an ash tree along the walking path at Lake Harriet. Days later, they return to find a response from an elf known as Mr. Little Guy.   

Credit: Chad Nelson
Mr. Little Guy 1

As we wind down this silver anniversary of the Lake Harriet elf’s emergence, Boyd Huppert took a few of his own questions to MLG.

BH: Why did you start answering notes?

MLG: I started answering because kids started writing.

BH: Why can’t I see you?

MLG: Because elves are kind of shy. I’d love to go to birthday parties but I’m afraid someone would step on me and guts would come squishing out my mouth. That would just ruin the party.

BH: What do you look like?

MLG: I look remarkably just like my dad.

BH: How tall are you?

MLG: I’m taller than my younger brother and shorter than my older brother.

BH: What’s your favorite color?

MLG: My favorite color is plaid.

BH: What’s your favorite food?

MLG: Certainly, a minnow pizza. I also love popcorn, three kernels and I’m full. And anything covered in chocolate.

BH: If we can’t see you, how can we be sure you are real?

MLG: I’ve never seen the air, but I know it’s there. I sign all my notes ‘I believe in you.’ If you can believe I’m an elf, I can believe you’re a human. It also means I believe you can be and do anything that you want.

BH: Is it hard to answer so many notes?

MLG: It makes me cry once week.

BH: What’s in the notes that make you cry?

MLG: It's kids with cancer that write and it's adults with cancer, and it's adults that have never found love and adults that have lost love. It’s little kids writing about the coronavirus and asking if it affects elves, and I say, it certainly affects elves. Anything that affects humans affects elves. Anything that affects any of us affects all of us. We’re all interconnected.

Credit: Chad Nelson

BH: Can Mr. Little Guy help cure COVID?

MLG: I can’t cure COVID, but I have a great recipe for kohlrabi cakes. 

BH: I understand your 25th summer has been difficult.

MLG: This year has been a tough year for notes and answers being stolen. So, on a given day, there might be 50 letters in there and by the time I get to them there might only be two or three.  I can’t imagine what kind of ogre would be taking these notes.

BH: Does it hurt your feelings?

MLG: Yes, it hurts my feelings. It hurts that these kids are being deprived of their letters and deprived of their fun.

BH: Do you worry about kids growing up in these times?

MLG: Kids are going to be just fine. I worry about the adults. We are we going to get through this. Mr. Little Guy is a huge optimist. He knows things are going to get better.

People are inherently good. It may take a while, but good triumphs over evil. Except when chipmunks are involved. Don’t get me started on chipmunks.

BH: Are we ever going to get back to normal?

MLG: You're asking an elf if we're ever going to get back to normal?

NOTE: Mr. Little Guy has moved back to his castle for the winter. He promises to return to his tree home on the south side of Lake Harriet in the spring.

Credit: Chad Nelson