THE ELVES AND THE SHOEMAKER
There was once a shoemaker, who worked very hard and was very honest:
but still he could not earn enough to live upon; and at last all he
had in the world was gone, save just leather enough to make one pair
Then he cut his leather out, all ready to make up the next day,
meaning to rise early in the morning to his work. His conscience was
clear and his heart light amidst all his troubles; so he went
peaceably to bed, left all his cares to Heaven, and soon fell asleep.
In the morning after he had said his prayers, he sat himself down to
his work; when, to his great wonder, there stood the shoes all ready
made, upon the table. The good man knew not what to say or think at
such an odd thing happening. He looked at the workmanship; there was
not one false stitch in the whole job; all was so neat and true, that
it was quite a masterpiece.
The same day a customer came in, and the shoes suited him so well that
he willingly paid a price higher than usual for them; and the poor
shoemaker, with the money, bought leather enough to make two pairs
more. In the evening he cut out the work, and went to bed early, that
he might get up and begin betimes next day; but he was saved all the
trouble, for when he got up in the morning the work was done ready to
his hand. Soon in came buyers, who paid him handsomely for his goods,
so that he bought leather enough for four pair more. He cut out the
work again overnight and found it done in the morning, as before; and
so it went on for some time: what was got ready in the evening was
always done by daybreak, and the good man soon became thriving and
well off again.
One evening, about Christmas-time, as he and his wife were sitting
over the fire chatting together, he said to her, 'I should like to sit
up and watch tonight, that we may see who it is that comes and does my
work for me.' The wife liked the thought; so they left a light
burning, and hid themselves in a corner of the room, behind a curtain
that was hung up there, and watched what would happen.
As soon as it was midnight, there came in two little naked dwarfs; and
they sat themselves upon the shoemaker's bench, took up all the work
that was cut out, and began to ply with their little fingers,
stitching and rapping and tapping away at such a rate, that the
shoemaker was all wonder, and could not take his eyes off them. And on
they went, till the job was quite done, and the shoes stood ready for
use upon the table. This was long before daybreak; and then they
bustled away as quick as lightning.
The next day the wife said to the shoemaker. 'These little wights have
made us rich, and we ought to be thankful to them, and do them a good
turn if we can. I am quite sorry to see them run about as they do; and
indeed it is not very decent, for they have nothing upon their backs
to keep off the cold. I'll tell you what, I will make each of them a
shirt, and a coat and waistcoat, and a pair of pantaloons into the
bargain; and do you make each of them a little pair of shoes.'
The thought pleased the good cobbler very much; and one evening, when
all the things were ready, they laid them on the table, instead of the
work that they used to cut out, and then went and hid themselves, to
watch what the little elves would do.
About midnight in they came, dancing and skipping, hopped round the
room, and then went to sit down to their work as usual; but when they
saw the clothes lying for them, they laughed and chuckled, and seemed
Then they dressed themselves in the twinkling of an eye, and danced
and capered and sprang about, as merry as could be; till at last they
danced out at the door, and away over the green.
The good couple saw them no more; but everything went well with them
from that time forward, as long as they lived.
From "Grimm's Fairy Tales" by Jakob Grimm (1785 -1863) and Wilhelm
Grimm (1786-1859) -- translated from "Kinder und Hausmarchen"
("Nursery and Household Tales") by Edgar Taylor and Marian Edwardes.