Retold by : Vera SouthgateOnce upon a time, there lived a shoemaker and his wife.
The man was a good shoemaker and he worked hard, yet he and his wife were very poor.
As time went on, they grew poorer and poorer.
At last, the day came when all the shoemaker had left was one piece of leather. It would make only one pair of shoes.
That evening, before he went to bed, the shoemaker cut out a pair of shoes from the leather. Then he left them on his workbench, all ready for him to sew next morning.
As they were going upstairs to bed that night, the shoemaker spoke sadly to his wife. "I have used my last piece of leather," he said. "I have cut out one pair of shoes. Tomorrow I will sew them. When they are sold, I don't know what will become of us."
The next morning, the shoemaker got up early and went into his workshop, ready to make the shoes. on his bench, instead of the leather that he hadl eft cout out, he found a pair of shoes, already made. He was astonished and didn't know what to think.
The shoemaker took the shoes in his hands and looked carefully at them. They were neatly made, with not on bad stitch in them.
He showed the shoes to his wife, who said, "I have never seen a pair of shoes so well-made. They are perfect."
The shoemaker and his wife could not think who had sewn the shoes.
The same morning, a lady came into the shop, to buy a pair of shoes. The shoemaker showed her the pair he had found on his bench. She said "I have never seen such well-made shoes."
The lady tried on the shoes and they fitted her perfectly. She was so pleased with them, that she paid the shoemaker twice the usual price. With the money, the shoemaker was able to buy leather for two pairs of shoes.
That night, before he went to bed, he cut out two pairs of shoes. He left them on his workbench, all ready for him to sew in the next morning.
The next morning, the shoemaker got up early and went into his shop, to make the shoes. But he had no need to do so. On his bench he found the two pairs of shoes, already made.
He took the shoes in his hands and looked carefully at them. Once more he found that they were neatly made, with not one bad stitch in them.
That morning, a man came into the shop, to buy some shoes. The shoemaker showed him the two pairs of shoes he had found on his bench. The main said,"I have never seen such well-made shoes."
He was so pleased with them that he bought both pairs of shoes. He paid the shoemaker twice the usual price. With the money, the shoemaker was able to buy leather for four pairs of shoes. That night, before he went to bed, he cut out four pairs of shoes. He left them on his workbench , all ready for him to sew in the morning. The next morning, the shoemaker got up early and went into his workshop to make the shoes. But he had no need to do so. Again, on his bench , he found four pairs of perfectly made shoes. And so it went on. Every night, the shoemaker cut out some shoes and left them on his workbench.
Every morning, he found the shoes, all neatly made. Many rich customers came to his shop to buy these perfect shoes. So, in time, the shoemaker and his wife become rich.
Yet the shoemaker and his wife still had no idea who made these perfect shoes for them.
One evening, not long before Christmas, when the shoemaker had finished cutting out shoes, he went to his wife.
"We still don't know who sews the shoes for us," he said. "Shall we stay up tonight, to see who it is that helps us?"
His wife thought that this was a very good idea. So she lit a candle and they went into the workshop.
They hid themselves in a corner of the room, behind some clothes which were hanging there.
Then the shoemaker and his wife waited quietly and watched to see what would happen.
For a long time nothing happened. Then, just as the clock struck twelve, the door of the workshop opened quietly.
In came two tiny elves. They were dressed in old clothes and their feet were bare. They didn't see the shoemaker and his wife, who were hiding in the corner, watching them.
The elves jumped on to the workbench and took up the shoes that were cut out. They began to stitch and sew and hammer. They worked so neatly and so quickly that the shoemaker could hardly believe his eyes.
The elves didn't stop for a moment until all the cut-out shoes were finished. Then they ran quickly away.
The next morning, at breakfast, the shoemaker asked his wife, "How can we thank these little elves, who have made us so rich and so happy?"
"I know what we can do", said his wife, "We can make them new clothes and shoes. Their own clothes are ragged and their feet are bare."
During the evenings that followed, the shoemaker and his wife began to make new clothes for the elves.
The shoemaker chose the softest leather he could find. He cut out two of the tiniest pairs of shoes you have ever seen. Then he stitched the shoes as carefully as ever he could.
The shoemaker's wife cut out two white shirts, two small green jackets and two pairs of trousers to match. She sewed them with tiny stitches. She made two little caps, each with a feather in it. She also knitted two pairs of wee white stockings.
By Christmas Eve, the tiny clothes and shoes were finished. The shoemaker cleared the leather and the tools from his workbench. He and his wife laid their presents on the bench, instead of the usual work.
Then they hid themselves, as they had done before, and waited to see what the elves would do.
Just as the clock struck twelve, the door opened quietly, as before. The two elves came running in. They still wore old clothes and their feet were blue with cold. They jumped on to the bench, ready to get to work at once. But there was no leather on the bench, only the tiny clothes.
The elves were astonished, at first, and they they were delighted. In no time at all, they were out of their old clothes. Then, talking and laughing, they dressed themselves in the beautiful new clothes -- the green jacket and trousers, the white shirt and stockings, the soft leather shoes and the little caps, with the feathers that nodded as they laughed.
In their delight, the little elves skipped and jumped over chairs and benches. They they joined hands and danced around, as they sang :
"Now we are boys so fine to see,
We need no longer cobblers be."
We need no longer cobblers be."
At last they danced happily out of the door.
The shoemaker and his wife never saw the little elves again. But, form that time, good luck was always with them. They were rich and happy for the rest of their lives.