There was once, a long time ago, an honest and hard-working shoemaker who, through no fault of his own, grew so poor that he had nothing left in the world but enough leather to make only one pair of shoes. He cut the shoes out before he went to bed that night, thinking that he would finish them the next day.
Rising early next morning, he hurried to his workbench and found, to his amazement, that the shoes were already made and finished! He took them in hand and examined them closely. There was not one false stitch in the whole job; all was so neat and true that it could only have been done by a master workman.
The shoemaker called to his wife excitedly and she hurried in to marvel, also at the excellent workmanship, though she could not explain how it had come about.
Sometime later, a man came into the shop and tried on the shoes.
“They are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn!” he exclaimed, and so pleased was he with the good looks that he gladly paid more than the usual price for them.
The poor shoemaker promptly went out to buy more leather, which, as turned out, was enough to make two more pairs of shoes. That evening, he cut out the shoes and laid them out neatly so that he could begin afresh the next day. Imagine his joy and surprise next morning to discover that he was saved all the trouble. The work was already done!
Soon after, two customers came in and bought both pairs of shoes.
“What fine stitches!” they exclaimed, and, “How well they are made!”
Now the shoemaker had money enough to buy leather for four pairs of shoes, which, of course, he did.
The next morning, four pairs of neatly finished shoes were ready as the shoemaker entered his shop. And so it went on for some time. Whatever was cut out in the evening was worked up by daybreak, and customers came in eagerly to buy the shoes. Soon the shoemaker and his wife were not poor anymore.
One evening, just before Christmas, when he had cut out some shoes, as usual, the shoemaker said to his wife,
“Let us stay up tonight to see who it is that helps us in this fine way.” The wife agreed readily and so, leaving a dim light burning, they hid in a corner of the room, behind a curtain.
At the stroke of midnight, two little elves came in. They sat down at the shoemaker’s bench, took up all the work that was cut out, and soon their tiny fingers began to stitch and sew and hammer so quickly that the shoemaker’s eye opened wide in wonderment. They never stopped for a moment until everything was finished. Then they arranged the shoes in neat little rows on the bench and scampered away, as quickly and as silently as mice.
The next morning the shoemaker’s wife said to her husband, “The little men have made us rich and we should show our gratitude by doing something for them. Did you notice that they were no clothes? With not a thing to cover them, they must be very cold. I’ll make them shirts and coats and trousers and hats, and perhaps even knit them a pair of stockings. You shall make each of them a tiny pair of Shoes.”
“A wonderful plan,” Agreed the shoemaker.
They both went to work and by the end of the day, the presents were read. Then instead of the cut-out work which was usually placed on the bench, the good couple laid out the gifts and hid themselves to await the coming of the little men.
At midnight the elves came in, hopping and skipping and looking about for the leather. when they found the neat little garments that had been put out for them, they laughed and chuckled with delight. They dressed in the twinkling of an eye and then they danced and capered about, singing.
“Tonight we do not need to sew,
We have fine clothes, so off we’ll go!”
With that, they danced out of the door and over the green, laughingly merrily. The shoemaker and his wife never saw them again. But the good luck that the elves had brought remained with them for the rest of their lives.