Three Stories Of Elves
A Tale from the Brothers Grimm
Soon after a purchaser entered, and as the shoes fitted him very well, he gave more than the usual price for them, so that the shoemaker had enough money to buy leather for two more pairs of shoes. He cut them out at night, and intended to set to work the next morning with fresh spirit; but that was not to be, for when he got up they were already finished, and a customer even was not lacking, who gave him so much money that he was able to buy leather enough for four new pairs. Early next morning he found the four pairs also finished, and so it always happened; whatever he cut out in the evening was worked up by the morning, so that he was soon in the way of making a good living, and in the end became very well to do.
One night, not long before Christmas, when the shoemaker had finished cutting out, and before he went to bed, he said to his wife,
"How would it be if we were to sit up to-night and see who it is that does us this service?"
His wife agreed, and set a light to burn. Then they both hid in a corner of the room, behind some coats that were hanging up, and then they began to watch. As soon as it was midnight they saw come in two neatly-formed naked little men, who seated themselves before the shoemaker's table, and took up the work that was already prepared, and began to stitch, to pierce, and to hammer so cleverly and quickly with their little fingers that the shoemaker's eyes could scarcely follow them, so full of wonder was he. And they never left off until everything was finished and was standing ready on the table, and then they jumped up and ran off.
The next morning the shoemaker's wife said to her husband, "Those little men have made us rich, and we ought to show ourselves grateful. With all their running about, and having nothing to cover them, they must be very cold. I'll tell you what; I will make little shirts, coats, waistcoats, and breeches for them, and knit each of them a pair of stockings, and you shall make each of them a pair of shoes."
The husband consented willingly, and at night, when everything was finished, they laid the gifts together on the table, instead of the cut-out work, and placed themselves so that they could observe how the little men would behave. When midnight came, they rushed in, ready to set to work, but when they found, instead of the pieces of prepared leather, the neat little garments put ready for them, they stood a moment in surprise, and then they testified the greatest delight. With the greatest swiftness they took up the pretty garments and slipped them on, singing,
Then they hopped and danced about, jumping over the chairs and tables, and at last they danced out at the door.
From that time they were never seen again; but it always went well with the shoemaker as long as he lived, and whatever he took in hand prospered.
and began to laugh. And directly there came in a crowd of elves bringing in the right child; and they laid it near the hearth, and carried the changeling away with them.
Sources And Further Reading
Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm Illustrator: Walter Crane Translator: Lucy Crane (Project Gutenberg)
Walter Crane An Artist And Book Illustrator A short article we have written about Walter Crane
The Brothers Grimm And Their Tales Some information about the two brothers who collected these stories