The elves


Los duendecillos


A shoemaker, by no fault of his own, had become so poor that at last he had nothing left but leather for one pair of shoes. So in the evening, he 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 quite finished on his table. He was astounded, and knew not what to say to it. He took the shoes in his hands to observe them closer, and they were so neatly made that there was not one bad stitch in them, just as if they were intended as a masterpiece. Soon after, a buyer came in, and as the shoes pleased him so well, he paid more for them than was customary, and, with the money, the shoemaker was able to purchase leather for two pairs of shoes. He cut them out at night, and next morning was about to set to work with fresh courage; but he had no need to do so, for, when he got up, they were already made, and buyers also were not wanting, 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 constantly, what he cut out in the evening was finished by the morning, so that he soon had his honest independence again, and at last became a wealthy man. Now it befell that one evening not long before Christmas, when the man had been cutting out, he said to his wife, before going to bed, "What think you if we were to stay up to-night to see who it is that lends us this helping hand?" The woman liked the idea, and lighted a candle, and then they hid themselves in a corner of the room, behind some clothes which were hanging up there, and watched. When it was midnight, two pretty little naked men came, sat down by the shoemaker's table, took all the work which was cut out before them and began to stitch, and sew, and hammer so skilfully and so quickly with their little fingers that the shoemaker could not turn away his eyes for astonishment. They did not stop until all was done, and stood finished on the table, and they ran quickly away.

Next morning the woman said, "The little men have made us rich, and we really must show that we are grateful for it. They run about so, and have nothing on, and must be cold. I'll tell thee what I'll do: I will make them little shirts, and coats, and vests, and trousers, and knit both of them a pair of stockings, and do thou, too, make them two little pairs of shoes." The man said, "I shall be very glad to do it;" and one night, when everything was ready, they laid their presents all together on the table instead of the cut-out work, and then concealed themselves to see how the little men would behave. 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 pretty little articles of clothing, they were at first astonished, and then they showed intense delight. They dressed themselves with the greatest rapidity, putting the pretty clothes on, and singing,

"Now we are boys so fine to see,
Why should we longer cobblers be?"
Then they danced and skipped and leapt over chairs and benches. At last they danced out of 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.


There was once a poor servant-girl, who was industrious and cleanly, and swept the house every day, and emptied her sweepings on the great heap in front of the door. One morning when she was just going back to her work, she found a letter on this heap, and as she could not read, she put her broom in the corner, and took the letter to her master and mistress, and behold it was an invitation from the elves, who asked the girl to hold a child for them at its christening. The girl did not know what to do, but at length, after much persuasion, and as they told her that it was not right to refuse an invitation of this kind, she consented. Then three elves came and conducted her to a hollow mountain, where the little folks lived. Everything there was small, but more elegant and beautiful than can be described. The baby's mother lay in a bed of black ebony ornamented with pearls, the coverlids were embroidered with gold, the cradle was of ivory, the bath of gold. The girl stood as godmother, and then wanted to go home again, but the little elves urgently entreated her to stay three days with them. So she stayed, and passed the time in pleasure and gaiety, and the little folks did all they could to make her happy. At last she set out on her way home. Then first they filled her pockets quite full of money, and after that they led her out of the mountain again. When she got home, she wanted to begin her work, and took the broom, which was still standing in the corner, in her hand and began to sweep. Then some strangers came out of the house, who asked her who she was, and what business she had there? And she had not, as she thought, been three days with the little men in the mountains, but seven years, and in the meantime her former masters had died.


A certain mother's child had been taken away out of its cradle by the elves, and a changeling with a large head and staring eyes, which would do nothing but eat and drink, laid in its place. In her trouble she went to her neighbour, and asked her advice. The neighbour said that she was to carry the changeling into the kitchen, set it down on the hearth, light a fire, and boil some water in two egg-shells, which would make the changeling laugh, and if he laughed, all would be over with him. The woman did everything that her neighbour bade her. When she put the egg-shells with water on the fire, the imp said, "I am as old now as the Wester forest, but never yet have I seen any one boil anything in an egg-shell!" And he began to laugh at it. Whilst he was laughing, suddenly came a host of little elves, who brought the right child, set it down on the hearth, and took the changeling away with them.
Cuento primero

Un zapatero se había empobrecido de tal modo, y no por culpa suya, que, al fin, no le quedaba ya más cuero que para un solo par de zapatos. Cortólos una noche, con propósito de coserlos y terminarlos al día siguiente; y como tenía tranquila la conciencia, acostóse plácidamente y, después de encomendarse a Dios, quedó dormido. A la mañana, rezadas ya sus oraciones y cuando iba a ponerse a trabajar, he aquí que encontró sobre la mesa los dos zapatos ya terminados. Pasmóse el hombre, sin saber qué decir ni qué pensar. Cogió los zapatos y los examinó bien de todos lados. Estaban confeccionados con tal pulcritud que ni una puntada podía reprocharse; una verdadera obra maestra.
A poco entró un comprador, y tanto le gustó el par, que pagó por él más de lo acostumbrado, con lo que el zapatero pudo comprarse cuero para dos pares. Los cortó al anochecer, dispuesto a trabajar en ellos al día siguiente, pero no le fue preciso, pues, al levantarse, allí estaban terminados, y no faltaron tampoco parroquianos que le dieron por ellos el dinero suficiente con que comprar cuero para cuatro pares. A la mañana siguiente otra vez estaban listos los cuatro pares, y ya, en adelante, lo que dejaba cortado al irse a dormir, lo encontraba cosido al levantarse, con lo que pronto el hombre tuvo su buena renta y, finalmente, pudo considerarse casi rico.
Pero una noche, poco antes de Navidad, el zapatero, que ya había cortado los pares para el día siguiente, antes de ir a dormir dijo a su mujer:
- ¿Qué te parece si esta noche nos quedásemos para averiguar quién es que nos ayuda de este modo?
A la mujer parecióle bien la idea; dejó una vela encendida, y luego los dos se ocultaron, al acecho, en un rincón, detrás de unas ropas colgadas.
Al sonar las doce se presentaron dos minúsculos y graciosos hombrecillos desnudos que, sentándose a la mesa del zapatero y cogiendo todo el trabajo preparado, se pusieron, con sus diminutos dedos, a punzar, coser y clavar con tal ligereza y soltura, que el zapatero no podía dar crédito a sus ojos. Los enanillos no cesaron hasta que todo estuvo listo; luego desaparecieron de un salto.
Por la mañana dijo la mujer:
- Esos hombrecitos nos han hecho ricos, y deberíamos mostrarles nuestro agradecimiento. Deben morirse de frío, yendo así desnudos por el mundo. ¿Sabes qué? Les coseré a cada uno una camisita, una chaqueta, un jubón y unos calzones, y, además, les haré un par de medias, y tú les haces un par de zapatitos a cada uno.
A lo que respondió el hombre:
- Me parece muy bien.
Y al anochecer, ya terminadas todas las prendas, las pusieron sobre la mesa, en vez de las piezas de cuero cortadas, y se ocultaron para ver cómo los enanitos recibirían el obsequio. A medianoche llegaron ellos saltando y se dispusieron a emprender su labor habitual; pero en vez del cuero cortado encontraron las primorosas prendas de vestir. Primero se asombraron, pero enseguida se pusieron muy contentos. Vistiéronse con presteza, y, alisándose los vestidos, pusiéronse a cantar:
"¿No somos ya dos mozos guapos y elegantes?
¿Por qué seguir de zapateros como antes?."
Y venga saltar y bailar, brincando por sobre mesas y bancos, hasta que, al fin, siempre danzando, pasaron la puerta. Desde entonces no volvieron jamás, pero el zapatero lo pasó muy bien todo el resto de su vida, y le salió a pedir de boca cuanto emprendió.

Cuento segundo

Érase una vez una pobre criada muy limpia y laboriosa; barría todos los días y echaba la basura en un gran montón, delante de la puerta. Una mañana, al ponerse a trabajar, encontró una carta en el suelo; pero como no sabía leer, puso la escoba en el rincón para ir a enseñarla a su señora. Y resultó ser una invitación de los enanillos que deseaban que la muchacha fuera madrina en el bautizo de un niño. La muchacha estaba indecisa; pero, al fin, tras muchas dudas y puesto que le decían que no estaba bien rehusar un ofrecimiento como aquel, resolvió aceptar.
Presentáronse entonces tres enanitos y la condujeron a una montaña hueca, que era su residencia. Todo era allí pequeño, pero tan lindo y primoroso, que no hay palabras para describirlo. La madre yacía en una cama de negro ébano, incrustada de perlas; las mantas estaban bordadas en oro; la cuna del niño era de marfil, y la bañera, de oro.
La muchacha ofició de madrina, y, terminado el bautismo, quiso volverse a su casa; pero los enanillos le rogaron con gran insistencia que se quedase tres días con ellos.
Accedió ella, y pasó aquel tiempo en medio de gran alegría y solaz, desviviéndose los enanos por obsequiarla. Al fin se dispuso a partir, y los hombrecitos le llenaron los bolsillos de oro y la acompañaron hasta la salida de la montaña.
Cuando llegó a su casa, queriendo reanudar su trabajo, cogió la escoba, que seguía en su rincón, y se puso a barrer. Salieron entonces de la casa unas personas desconocidas que le preguntaron quién era y qué hacía allí. Y es que no había pasado, en compañía de los enanos, tres días, como ella creyera, sino siete años, y, entretanto, sus antiguos señores habían muerto.

Cuento tercero

Los duendecillos habían quitado a una madre su hijito de la cuna, reemplazándolo por un monstruo de enorme cabeza y ojos inmóviles, que no quería sino comer y beber. En su apuro, la mujer fue a pedir consejo a su vecina, la cual le dijo que llevase el monstruo a la cocina, lo sentase en el hogar y luego, encendiendo fuego, hirviese agua en dos cáscaras de huevo. Aquello haría reír al monstruo, y, sólo con que riera una vez, se arreglaría todo.
Siguió la mujer las instrucciones de la vecina. Al poner al fuego las dos cáscaras de huevo llenas de agua, dijo el monstruo:
"Muy viejo soy, pasé por mil situaciones;
pero jamás vi que nadie hirviera agua en cascarones."
Y prorrumpió en una gran carcajada. A su risa comparecieron repentinamente muchos duendecillos que traían al otro niño. Lo depositaron en el hogar y se marcharon con el monstruo.

Compare two languages:

Donations are welcomed & appreciated.

Thank you for your support.