The Shoemaker and the Elves - German Fairy Tale by the Grimm Brothers

There was once a shoemaker who worked very hard but was also very poor. At last, all he had was just enough leather to make one pair of shoes. He cut out the shoes in the evening so that he could set to work on them the next morning. Then he went to bed and, leaving all his cares to heaven, fell asleep.

In the morning, when he went down to work, he found the pair of shoes made and finished, and standing on his table. He was very much astonished, and did not know what to think.

 
After a moment, the poor man took the shoes in his hand to look at them more closely. They were beautifully made. Every stitch was in its right place, just as if they had come from the hand of a master workman.

Soon after, a buyer came in. The shoes fitted him very well, so he gave more than the usual price for them.

Now the shoemaker had enough money to buy leather for two pairs of shoes. He cut out the shoes that night, intending to set to work the next morning.

But that was not to be. When he got up in the morning, the two pairs of shoes were already finished. A customer paid him so much money for these shoes that he was able to buy leather enough for four new pairs.


Early next morning he found the four pairs finished. And so it always happened. Whatever he cut out in the evening was worked up by the morning. He was soon 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 shoes, and before he went to bed, he said to his wife, “How would it be if we were to sit up tonight and see who it is that makes the shoes?”

His wife agreed, and left a light burning. They both hid behind a curtain in a corner of the room and watched to see what would happen.

As soon as it was midnight, two naked little elves came in and seated themselves at the shoemaker’s table.  They 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. They did not stop until everything was finished and ready on the table. Then they jumped up and disappeared as quickly as they had come.

The next morning, the shoemaker’s wife said to her husband, “Those little men have made us rich. We ought to show our thanks. 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 little pair of shoes.”

The thought pleased the good man very much. One night, when everything was finished, instead of the cut-out work, they laid the gifts on the table. Then they hid themselves so that they could see what the elves would do.

When midnight came, the elves rushed in, ready to set to work. But when they found the neat little garments instead of cut-out leather, they stood a moment in surprise. Then they showed the greatest delight. Swiftly, they took up the clothes and slipped them on, singing,

What spruce and dandy boys are we!

No longer cobblers we will be.

Then they hopped and skipped and leaped over chairs and benches. At last they danced out the door and into the night.

 
The shoemaker never saw them again. But from that time on, everything went well with the shoemaker as long as he lived.
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