“Olaf, what are you doing?”
“Oh, hi Anna! I’m looking up a word in the dictionary.”
The library was the last place she had expected to find the little snowman. He mainly ignored the room, except when they were playing hide and seek, and he only picked up a book if he was choosing a bedtime story.
Anna lifted the heavy book Olaf had open on the table so she could read the title. “That’s not the dictionary, it’s a history book.”
“Oh. That’s probably why I can’t find my word.”
“And you have it upside down.”
“Oh! Well, I’m sure that’s not helping.”
“What word did you want to know?”
“Homeopathy. So I asked Olina and she said I should look in the dictionary, and I said what’s a dictionary and she said a book, and I asked where are books and she said the library, and she said the dictionary had a red cover. So I thought this must be it. But I was wrong.”
Anna perched on the side of the table. “Well, you can’t read, you didn’t know.”
“Yeah, I know.” Olaf sighed and carefully turned the book round. “So what is this book, will you read it to me?”
“Oh, that one’s not very interesting.”
“I had to read a bunch of those when I was learning history, but I haven’t read them since.”
She looked at him. Olaf had been born - if that was the right word - already knowing so much, that sometimes she thought of him as - just what he was. But he was full of curiosity and Anna, if she was honest, knew exactly which of the people in the castle were most happy to answer his frequent questions. Olina was not one of them.
“Olaf, would you like to be able to read? Would you like me to teach you?”
“Well, we can start right now. It might take a few weeks, or months. But that’s okay,” she added hastily when he looked discouraged. “I’d like to do it.”
“Yes, of course!” She put her arm around him for a quick hug. “Come with me.”
The old school-room on the third floor had been tidied up somewhat, but everything was still there, if a little dusty. Olaf climbed up into the seat of the little desk and looked at Anna expectantly as she rummaged in a bookshelf. Yes, here were some easy books with simple words, and here was a slate and pencil, so he could practice his letters. She tried to remember how long it had taken her to learn to read - years, it felt like, but she’d been learning a lot of other things at the same time.
But it clearly wasn’t going to take years. Olaf was a quick learner. After half an hour or so he knew the alphabet and could recognise most of the letters; Anna wrote the alphabet out for him on a piece of paper and by the next morning he knew them all (she later found out he’d been asking everyone he could find to sing the song with him when he got confused). By the end of that day he was putting the letters together to make simple words.
And a couple of days later, Kristoff came to the castle and found Anna and Olaf sitting together in a window seat with a book of children’s stories. He stood and smiled at them, and when Olaf finished “...and they all lived happily ever after!” he said, “You know that book pretty well, huh, Olaf.”
“Oh, no, I’m reading it!” Olaf said.
“He is,” Anna added.
“You taught him?”
“Uh-huh. It didn’t take long.”
“It took three whole days. That’s a long time,” Olaf said, turning the page to the next story. “And I only know little words. I want to be able to read the BIG ones.”
“You’ll get there,” Anna said. Olaf nodded, frowning at the page.
“I need more practice,” he said.
“You do. Everything takes practice.”
“Are you guys going out for a drive?”
Anna looked up at Kristoff. He shrugged. “Sure. It’s a nice day.”
“I’ll stay here, if you don’t mind. I want to read this next one. And then these,” and Olaf patted the pile of books on the seat next to him.
“You don’t need any help?” Anna asked, hopping down.
“Oh, no, I’m fine. When you know all the letters, like I do, you can usually work out what a word is. Do you know all the letters?” Olaf asked Kristoff.
“Yes,” Kristoff replied solemnly. “All twenty-eight. Shall we?” and he held out his arm for Anna.
Olaf ran his finger along the shelf, humming to himself. He took down the book marked DICTIONARY, and carried it carefully over to the table; he flipped open the pages, singing the alphabet song under his breath, until he found H.
“Homeopathy,” he read aloud, “Is a practice of alternative medicine predicated on the belief that ‘like cures like’ and that substances that cause symptoms can also cure them. Homeopathic medicines are heavily diluted as practitioners believe that water has memory…”