“The Elves and the Shoemaker.” In Famous Fairy Tales, Favorite Stories from the Land of Once-Upon-a-Time. Racine, Wisconsin: Western, 1971.
Brothers Grimm. “The Elves and the Shoemaker.” In The Random House Book of Fairy Tales. Adapted Amy Ehrlich. New York: Random House, 1985.
Windham, Sophie. “The Elves and the Shoemaker.” In Read Me A Story, A Child’s Book of Favorite Tales. New York: Scholastic, 1991.
I used a combination of all three versions.
Ethnic Origin: German, Grimm’s fairy tales
Running Time: 5 minutes
Power Centers: The shoemaker’s trust that everything is going to work out. He trusts in his God and is a good man so everything is going to work out. The second power center is the determination to pay the little men back for their help. I want the children to see that you do not get something for nothing and the gratitude that the shoemaker and his wife feel for the little men.
Characters: Shoemaker, wife, 2 little men, and the customers
Scenes: Shoemaker cutting out leather. Shoemaker finds the shoes. Shoemaker and wife hide to find out who is making the shoes. The elves come in and find the clothes and shoes.
Synopsis: Poor Shoemaker has only enough leather for one more pair of shoes. He wakes in the next morning to find that someone has made the shoes for him. This goes on for several months. He becomes rich. The shoemaker and his wife decide to stay up and find out who has been making the shoes. They find out that two naked little men have been making the shoes. To pay them back the shoemaker and his wife make them little shoes and clothes. The shoemaker and his wife hide again to see the little men’s reactions. The little men celebrate and dance with joy of their new clothes and run out. The shoemaker never sees them again, but the shoemaker and his wife live happily ever after.
Now we’re dressed so fine and neat, Why cobble more for other’s feet?
Naked as a peeled onion!
This story is for 3-6 year olds. I chose this story because I think that preschoolers right now need a “happily ever after story” especially with all the tragedy that has been on television with the terrorist attack. I also wanted to show them a story where good things happen to good people. The shoemaker and his wife continue to work hard even with their good fortune and they find away to pay the elves back. I want to show the children that the shoemaker and his wife are grateful for the elves help and are not disappointed that the elves do not come back again.
Bibliographic information on other versions/variants:
Climo, Shirley. “The Very Old Woman and the Piskey.” In Magic & Mischief, Tales from Cornwall. New York: Clarion Books, 1998.
“The Elves and the Shoemaker.” In Favorite Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Legends Told Under the Green Umbrella. Selected by Literature Committee of the Association for Childhood Education International. New York: MacMillan, 1930
Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. “The Elves, First Story.” In Grimms’ Tales for Young and Old, The Complete Stories. Trans. Ralph Manheim. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1977.
Plume, Ilse. The Shoemaker and the Elves. New York: Harcove Brace Jovanovich, 1991.
Rockwell, Anne. “The Shoemaker and the Elves.” In The Three Bears & 15 Other Stories. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1975.
Sideman, Belle Becker, ed. “The Shoemaker and the Elves.” In The World’s Best Fairy Tales. Old German Tale, Collection of Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora Archibald Smith. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader’s Digest Association, 1967.
Brief comparison of all versions/variants in terms of language, rhythm, “tellability,” “flavor,” content, etc.
Climo’s variant, “The Very Old Woman and the Piskey” which is set in Cornwell. It has the same basic premise, but in this case an old farm couple get help with the farm work instead of shoes. The biggest difference is in attitude. The old woman wants to pay them back, but the old man is worried about scaring them off and then he would have to do the work again. The old woman leaves food for the piskey against the wishes of her husband and that makes the Piskey work harder.
The woman makes clothes for the Piskey and the Piskey leaves and never comes back. The old man instead of being grateful for the work the Piskey has done is angry. The man never spoke to the old woman again except to say I told you so every night. The story does not flow well and it certainly doesn’t portray a moral lesson that I would want to teach.
The version that is most different from the original is Isle Plume’s “The Shoemaker and the Elves.” It takes place in Italy and has an additional character, a cat. It deals more with the despair of the shoemaker having lost his fortune. The elves in the story also have clothes on. This to me takes away the dramatic affect of giving them clothes. It also makes you wonder why they left just because they had new clothes. The setting changes were fine and it gave it flavor, but the change in the major plot took away power from the original story.
Rockwell’s version stuck close to the Grimm version, but it does not have any emotional overtones. It mainly just recites the story and doesn’t have any pizzazz.
The Famous Fairy Tales, version of “The Elves and the Shoemaker” is my favorite and is from a book I have had since childhood. It uses very expressive language and gives a lot of good detail. It also deals with his emotions and surprise of finding the shoes made very well. This version also deals with the spiritual aspect of the shoemaker putting his cares to heaven.
I pulled my song from the, Random House Book of Fairy Tales. This version handled the ending better than Famous Fairy Tales and had better rhythm. The story didn’t have much emotion in the beginning, but at the end it expressed emotions and described the elves better than the other versions. The Read Me A Story, A Child’s Book of Favorite Tales had good tellability and I liked some of the language which I pulled out for my story. It had some good details, but it didn’t dwell much on the emotions.
The World’s Best Fairy Tales was very close to Random House’s version, but it lacked tellability and seemed bland in comparison to others. It does deal with the spirituality, but it doesn’t really show any emotions. It just doesn’t have any warmth. Favorite Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Legends Told Under the Green Umbrella’s version dwells on the spirituality and the fact that the shoemaker is not worried about the future. It does a good job of handling the emotions and showing gratitude. The language would be hard for young children to understand since some of the phrases are not in common usage.
Grimm’s, “The Elves, First Story,” talked more about the shoemaker’s being a good and Godly man. The tellability is hard; it doesn’t seem to flow as well for telling and is a bare bones version. This could be that it’s a more direct translation. The song that they sing doesn’t rhyme like other versions. I think that the translator probably translated the content accurately, but it probably lost some of the flowing language in the translation.