The Elves And The Shoemaker
Once, there lived a kind, but exceedingly poor shoemaker.
He was an honest, hard-working man, but he had fallen on hard times. So hard, in fact, that he could no longer make ends meet. All that remained in his workshop was enough leather to make a single pair of shoes.
In the light of the setting sun, he carefully cut out his last piece of fine leather and neatly laid it on his workbench, ready to finish his work the following day.
He closed the door of his workshop, let out a heavy sigh and returned home to be with his wife.
“Take my hand, dear,” he said. “Let us make a wish for our fortunes to change and for our years of hard work to finally bring us the ample reward that we deserve.”
His wife stretched out her arms, laid her hands softly into his and they made their wish.
The shoemaker rose early the following morning. As usual he ate his breakfast, brushed his teeth, gave his wife a kiss on the cheek and made his way to the workshop.
He was expecting to find his workbench just as he had left it—with his carefully prepared leather ready to be made into a pair of his finest shoes.
But this is not what he found.
To his astonishment, upon the workbench shone a fully stitched, expertly crafted, shining pair of the finest shoes your eyes could behold. They were perfect. Immaculately finished to a standard that he, himself, would have been proud to put his name to.
He stood there for a moment, utterly dumbfounded.
“I don’t believe it,” he thought to himself.
Suddenly, came a loud wrap at the workshop door. A well-dressed man entered and said, “Good morning, kind sir. I was passing and that pair of fine shoes on your workbench caught my eye.
Could I please try them on?”
“Why yes, of course,” said the shoemaker.
The man knelt down and tried on the shoes.
“Just as I suspected,” said the man, “a perfect fit! I’ll take them.”
What happened next shocked the shoemaker—perhaps even more than the appearance of the shoes. The man asked the shoemaker for the price of the shoes.
The shoemaker told him and this was the man's reply.
“Nonsense!” cried the man.
The shoemaker looked disappointed.
“I mean to say,” the man continued, “that the quality and workmanship is plain to see and I will not pay a penny less than double what you ask.”
The shoemaker thanked the man dearly for his generosity. The man smiled, doffed his hat and strode out the door wearing his new—and very shiny—shoes.
With the money that he had received from selling the shoes, the shoemaker went out and purchased more leather.
This time he had enough leather to make two pairs of shoes.
In the light of the setting sun, he carefully cut out two pieces of fine leather and neatly laid them on his workbench, ready to finish his work the following day.
The next day arrived.
To his astonishment, the same thing had happened again. But this time there was not one pair of shoes on his workbench, there were two. And as before, the quality of the workmanship was so exquisite that two well-dressed men came into his workshop and paid twice the asking price.
This continued day after day. With the takings from the day, the shoemaker would buy enough leather to prepare twice the number of shoes for the following day. And every morning, the shoes would be immaculately prepared, polished and stacked on his workbench, ready to be sold.
This pattern carried on for weeks until the shoemaker was selling many thousands of pairs of shoes every single day, each as expertly crafted as the last.
The shoemaker and his wife were no longer poor. In fact, they had become quite rich from selling so many shoes.
One night, the shoemaker turned to his wife.
“Dear wife,” he said, “I feel so blessed for our wonderful fortune of late and I long to know the secret behind this shoemaking magic, so we can show our deepest thanks.”
“Perhaps we should stay up tonight?” replied his wife, “we can creep down to the workshop by candlelight.”
The shoemaker agreed.
That very night—as the clock struck midnight—they each lit a candle, silently made their way to the workshop and peered in through a slightly open window.
What they saw was so magical it instantly took their breath away.
An army of beautiful elves filled the workshop. Each elf was no more than six inches tall and sat upon a tiny wooden stool working furiously—one elf per shoe.
They rapped and tapped and hammered and stitched at such a rapid pace you could barely see their little arms at all.
One elf stood out.
She was not hammering. Nor stitching.
Instead, she was standing at the front of the workshop facing the other elves, like the conductor of a miniature orchestra.
She wore a tall, pointed pink hat with the words Grand High Elf neatly embroidered on the front.
Suddenly, the candle slipped from the shoemaker’s grasp and landed with a thud upon the stone floor.
Hearing this, all the elves froze in terror.
A moment passed, then the Grand High Elf cried, “Everybody run!” and that was it. The scene that ensued was nothing short of pandemonium. The elves scattered in a frenzied attempt to flee the workshop as fast as they could.
“Please wait!” cried the shoemaker.
“We are here to say thank you,” said his wife, “for all of your amazing hard work and kindness. And we would like to show our appreciation by doing something kind in return.”
As the panic subsided all eyes fell on the Grand High Elf.
She stepped forward and said,
“We are hungry and the clothes upon our backs are threadbare. Would you be so kind as to feed us and replace our clothes? We would be forever in your debt.”
The shoemaker lay down on the ground, his face now level with the Grand High Elf.
He smiled at her and said gently, “Of course, your Highness. We will gladly give you all the food and clothes you desire. And please forgive me, but I’ve noticed that your feet are bare. I’d also like to make you each a pair of my finest shoes.”
She smiled back.
“That would be wonderful,” she replied.
From that day forward the elves, the shoemaker and his wife became the very best of friends. They worked hard and went on to live a happy, prosperous and full life together.
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When was The Elves And The Shoemaker first written?
The Elves And The Shoemaker was first published in 1812. The story is one of many written by the Brothers Grimm.