The Elves and the Cobbler

here was once a shoemaker, who, through no fault of his own, became so poor that at last he had nothing left but just enough leather to make one pair of shoes.

He cut out the shoes at night, so as to set to work upon them the next morning; and he laid himself quietly down in his bed and fell asleep. In the morning he found the pair of shoes made and finished, and standing on his table.

Soon after a purchaser entered, and as the shoes fitted him 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 when he got up they were already finished, and no customer was lacking, who gave him so much money that he was able to buy leather enough for four new pairs. Early 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 he said to his wife: "How would it be if we were to sit up tonight 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 began to watch. As soon as it was midnight, they saw two neatly formed naked little men come in, who took up the work, and began to stitch, to pierce, and to hammer cleverly and quickly. And they never left off until everything was finished, and then they jumped up and ran off.

The next morning the wife said to her husband: "They must be very cold; I will make little shirts, coasts, 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, and at night they laid the gifts on the table, instead of the cut-out work, and placed themselves so that they could observe how the little men would behave. At midnight 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:

"What spruce and dandy boys are we! No longer cobblers we will be."

Then they hopped and danced about, jumping over the chairs and tables, and at last they dance 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.


There was once a poor servant maid, who swept down the house every day, and put the sweepings on a great heap by the door.

One morning she found a letter, and it was an invitation from the elves to come and be godmother to one of their children. As she was told that no one ought to refuse the elves anything, she made up her mind to go. So there came three little elves, who conducted her into the middle of a high mountain, where the little people lived. Here everything was of a very small size, but more fine and elegant than can be told. So the maid became godmother, and was then ready to go home, but the elves begged her to stay at least three more days with them; and so she consented, and spent the time in mirth and jollity. Then they filled her pockets full of gold, and led her back again out of the mountain. When she got back to the house she was going to begin working again, and took her broom in her hand -- it was still standing in the corner where she had left it -- and began to sweep. Then some strangers came up and asked her who she was, and what she was doing. And she found that instead of three days she had been seven years with the elves in the mountain, and during that time her master and mistress had died.

Click here for more Grimm's Tales.