The Elves

Jakob and Wilhelm

Jakob Ludwig Grimm and his brother Wilhelm Karl were born in the years 1785 and 1786 respectively and wrote and published collections of European fairy tales and folktales as adults, being German language scholars, in the first half of 19th century Germany. They literally wrote their way out of poverty, as their father died while they were children. Familiarly, they wrote Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel among the plethora of the most well-known stories and fairy tales. This obscure story came from their first collection which was originally titled Kinder- und Hausmaerchen which literally means Children and Home (Folk) Fairy Tales. A well-known English translation was done by Margaret Raine Hunt. Be aware that these stories were passed down through generations by word of mouth, originally, rather than made up by the Grimm chroniclers. Perhaps it’s why they continue to endure, to this day, in pop culture all over the world. – The Castle Lady

Potsdam, Germany

a Christmas story by The Brothers Grimm


A shoemaker, through no fault of his own, discovered he had become so poor that, finally, he had nothing left to work with but leather for one pair of shoes. In the evening, he wearily cut out the shoes which he wished to begin to make the next morning and as he had a good conscience, he lay down quietly in his bed, commended himself to God, and fell asleep.

   In the morning, after he had said his prayers, and was just going to sit down to work, the two shoes stood completely finished on his table. He was so astounded that he was speechless. Taking the shoes in his hands to observe them closer, he found they were very neatly made so that there wasn’t a single bad stitch in them. It was as if they were intended to be matching masterpieces. Soon after, a buyer came in and the shoes pleased him so much, he paid more for them than was customary. With that money the shoemaker was able to purchase enough leather to make two pairs of shoes. He cut them out at night, again, and the next morning was about to set to work with fresh courage; but he had no need to do so, for, when he got to his workshop, they were already made. More buyers came along who gave him money enough to buy leather for four pairs of shoes! The following morning, too, he found the four pairs made; and so it went on for quite some time and constantly. Each night, what he cut out in the evening was finished by the morning. He soon regained his common sense of enterprise and became a wealthy man, at last!

    Now it so happened that one evening, not long before Christmas, when the man had been busy cutting out the next bunch, he said to his wife, “What would you think if we were to stay up tonight to see who it is that lends us this helping hand?” She liked the idea, and lit a candle. Then they hid themselves in a corner of the room, behind some clothes which were hanging up there and waited and watched.

     When the clock struck midnight, two handsome and sprightly little naked men came, sat down at the shoemaker’s table, took up all the work which was cut out before them and began to stitch and sew and hammer so skillfully and quickly with their little fingers that the shoemaker could not turn away his eyes for amazement and astonishment. They did not cease their work until all was done and stood finished on the table. They ran quickly away.

    Next morning the woman said, “The little men have made us rich so we really must show that we are grateful for it. They run about so, with nothing on and perhaps are very cold. I tell thee what I’ll do: I will make them little shirts, coats, vests and trousers. I’ll even knit them both a pair of stockings each. You will make them two little pairs of shoes.”

     The man replied, “I shall be very glad to do it.” So one night, when everything was ready, they laid their handmade presents all together on the table instead of the cut-out work and then concealed themselves to see how the little men would react. At midnight they came bounding in and wanted to get to work at once but as they did not find any leather cut out but only the brand new little articles of clothing, they were at first amazed and then seemed very delighted.

    With great rapidity they dressed themselves with the wonderful clothes and sang, “Now we are men so fine to see, We should no longer cobblers be!”

  Then they danced and skipped and leapt over chairs and benches. At last they danced out the doors. From that time forth they came no more but as long as the shoemaker lived all went well with him and all his undertakings prospered.

The End


If you are searching for something unique to gift a child this Christmas, in the form of literature, may I suggest a late 20th century discovery of a story written by Wilhelm Grimm, in letter form, to a little girl in 1812? This story remained in this girl’s family’s possession for over 150 years before it was brought to light to the general public on September 28, 1983. It was translated into English by Ralph Manheim and published in English in 1988 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux with marvelous art renderings by Maurice Sendak. The title of it is, Dear M i l i and is a beautiful story of redemption and hope along with the finest art renderings for children’s literature I’ve ever seen.

wishes you a lovely holiday!

About Evelyn

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