The Elves and the Shoemaker
The Elves and the Shoemaker
Once upon a time a poor shoemaker lived with his wife in a cozy home. Although he had once done very well at his cobbling trade, he now struggled to make ends meet. As a young man, he had been known for his speed and accuracy and flair for fashion, producing fine footwear that was much sought after. Now, because of his failing vision, he was unable to do repairs and make shoes as quickly as he once had. He worried that his customers would leave him for a younger, more able shoemaker.
One night he went to bed feeling particularly teary about his situation, unable to finish a simple repair job he had started that morning. He felt fretful, because he had promised his customer to have the repair job completed first thing in the morning.
In the morning, though, he was met with a happy surprise. As he made his way out of bed and walked slowly toward his workbench, he found that the repair job had been finished — and finished very well, with neat, even stitches.
This puzzled him, for he couldn't imagine who had done this for him. Although these were magical times, the shoemaker had had few encounters with fairies or elves, so he could hardly believe that they were the ones helping him out. But who else could have done such a perfect job on the repair?
After puzzling over it all day, he once again prepared to tuck into his snug bed. First, though, he set out all the tools and materials necessary to make a new pair of shoes for a wealthy and demanding customer. “Tomorrow morning, when it is sunny and bright and I'm able to see more clearly, I will begin working on them,” he thought. “Or perhaps whoever completed that repair last night, will return tonight and help me again. I would be very grateful if they did.”
And sure enough, instead of the fine leather that he had left out on the workbench the night before, the shoemaker was very surprised and very pleased and relieved to find a beautiful pair of brand new shoes, perfectly crafted. The cobbler admired the craftsmanship and felt he couldn't have done a better job on them himself.
Later on in the day, the customer came by the shop to see how his new shoes were coming along. When he found a very nice pair of shoes already made, he was very pleased and happy and paid the shoemaker twice the price they had originally agreed on.
These occurrences left the shoemaker feeling very confused and wondering what had happened at his workbench during the night hours. That evening, before he tucked into his bed, the cobbler left out some more leather and the tools for making a pair of shoes. And, once again, the next morning he found another shiny and perfect pair of new shoes. If anything, these shoes were even more finely crafted then those the cobbler himself made. “Who was making these shoes?” the confused cobbler wondered aloud.
Later that day, the customer who had ordered the shoes stopped to check on the cobbler's progress. She was surprised and delighted to see the finished shoes. These shoes, too, were sold at a higher price than was originally agreed on.
Although mystified by the nightly occurrences, the shoemaker was also relieved to have the magical help. So, now as a matter of course, the shoemaker left out leather and tools for his mysterious helpers every night. And every morning like clockwork, he found a new pair of perfectly crafted shoes.
It really seemed too good to be true. Pretty soon, the overjoyed shoemaker was able to save a lot of money. This reassured him, for he knew that the money would come in handy when his mysterious helpers disappeared.
The shoemaker had not shared the news of his mysterious nighttime helpers with his wife. She became suspicious when she saw all of the gold the shoemaker had collected from his enthusiastic customers. She asked the shoemaker for an explanation.
“Well, my dear, it really is most strange,” began the cobbler, and he told his wife all about the nocturnal mysteries, beginning with the first surprise repair job.
After he finished telling his tale, his baffled wife made a proposal: “Let's wait until nightfall. Then, we will only pretend to be sleeping in our beds. Instead, we will stay awake, peek around the corner at your workbench, and find out what has been happening during the nights around here!”
The shoemaker agreed that this was a sound plan. And so, that night, they tucked in as usual and pretended to sleep. Then, around midnight, they saw two tiny elves silently sneak into the shoemaker's shop and hop up onto his workbench. The quick and skilled elves worked together to create a beautiful new pair of shoes in a flash. Although they were working hard and moving around quickly, it was winter — and a particularly wretched one — and the elves, dressed in ragged, tattered clothes, shivered while they worked.
“Poor fellows! They must be very cold,” the shoemaker's wife whispered sympathetically to her husband. “I know! Tomorrow I will make them two heavy wool jackets, made just to fit their little elf figures. That way they will be warmer, and maybe instead of one pair of shoes, they will make two!”
The next day, the shoemaker's wife laid out red wool and carefully cut out two little elf jackets. She sat by the fire all day and stitched on little sleeves and collars. It was very fine work, requiring lots of tiny, tiny stitches because the jackets were only a few inches tall from collar to hem. The cobbler's wife worked happily, though, as she thought about how pleased the elves would be to find the small, warm jackets on the workbench that night. With perfect timing, just as the sun set, she finished her work, showing the red jackets to her husband, who thought the little coats were very fine.
That night, along with the leather and tools, the cobbler laid out the two warm, red jackets. Then, at midnight, next to the leather, the two elves found the two elegant red jackets with sparkling gold buttons. They put on the jackets and were very pleased and happy. They danced a little jig, singing: “Tweedle dee, tweedle dum! What beautiful jackets! We'll never be cold again!”
After their dance was finished, one of the happy elves said, “Let's get to work now and make a pair of shoes.”
But the other answered, “Work? What for? With two jackets like these, we are very rich. We will never have to work again.”
And so it went that the two elves left the shop, never to be heard from again.
It made the shoemaker and his wife sad to see them go because their help had been invaluable to the ailing cobbler. However, with the money saved during the elves' stay at the cobbler's home, the shoemaker and his wife were able to live comfortably and happily for the rest of their lives.