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The Elves and the Shoemaker, A German Fairy Tale

Updated on July 16, 2020
PAINTDRIPS profile image

As a children's book illustrator, Denise has many things to say about the process, her struggles, and children's books on the market today.

E is for the Elves and the Shoemaker
E is for the Elves and the Shoemaker | Source

The FairyTale Alphabet Book

Last year, I finished a children’s alphabet book using fairy tales and folk tales from around the world as the theme. It was so much fun for me to illustrate using my collage method that I couldn’t wait to get it published and distributed.

After I danced the happy dance at my success, I decided that there were a lot more fairy tales out there, enough to make a whole series using global fairy tales and folk tales. Thus the conception of my second alphabet book began. I have only been working on it since February and so I haven’t finished very many of the illustrations. Here is the third letter in the new book for the letter E.

In fairy tales, the bad guy is very easy to spot. The bad guy is always wearing a black cape so you always know who he is.

— Taylor Swift
I start by sketching out possible thumbnails for the illustration.
I start by sketching out possible thumbnails for the illustration. | Source

The Elves and the Shoemaker, A German Fairy Tale, a Grimm’s Fairy Tale

There was once a poor, hardworking shoemaker and his wife who lived above their shoe shop. They were always kind to the poor and needy. They fed the poor of the village and often the needy would leave with a free pair of shoes as well. This meant that the shoemaker never made a very large profit but he and his wife didn’t seem to mind as long as they could do good wherever possible.

One day the mean and greedy landlord came and told them that he was going to double the rent and it was due in two days. The landlord really didn’t need any more money but wanted to rent this shop to richer tenants. The shoemaker and his wife did not know what to do. They sold everything they had that was worth anything but still did not have enough to pay the landlord.

The shoemaker had enough leather left to make one pair of shoes. He cut out the last pair of shoes and went to bed, thinking he would sew them in the morning and maybe sell before the landlord returned for his rent.

That night, three clever young elves came in and made the pair of shoes for the good shoemaker. When the shoemaker got up the next morning he couldn’t believe his eyes. They were like nothing anyone had ever seen before. He put them in the window and almost at once, a rich tourist came in and bought them for more money than the shoemaker had ever made on one pair of shoes. He had enough to pay the rent and buy food and some more leather. Before going to bed, the shoemaker cut out two pairs of shoes to sew the next day.

That night, again the three clever young elves came and sewed the two new pairs of shoes for the shoemaker. When morning came, the shoemaker was again amazed at the beautiful new footwear. His wife asked him, how this was possible, but the shoemaker didn’t know and didn’t question their good fortune. Again, he placed them in the window, and before the morning was over they both sold for a lot of money. Now the shoemaker had enough to pay his rent for 6 months and to buy more leather. That evening, he cut out a dozen pairs of shoes and went to bed.

During the night, the helpful young elves returned and busily sewed a dozen pairs of shoes for the kind shoemaker. They made lady’s shoes, men’s shoes, and children’s shoes in all sizes and styles. In the morning, the shoemaker was pleased to see twelve beautiful new pairs of shoes waiting to be sold. His wife couldn’t get over how fast so many shoes were made and tried to imagine how it could have been done. The shoemaker placed the new shoes in the window and that day they all sold. This time the shoemaker bought the property his shop was on so that no landlord could ever throw them out and again he bought more leather. He spent the better part of the afternoon cutting out several dozen shoes for him to sew the next day and he went to bed.

However, that night the curious wife could not sleep. She wanted to know how the shoes were being made each night and so she crept down to the shop from her bedroom to peek at whoever might have been helping them. When she opened the door, there were three young elves making shoes faster than she could see. When she made a little gasp at the sight of them, they heard her and immediately disappeared. After that, the elves never came again. But the shoemaker sold the shoes they had made and he and his wife had enough to never have to worry about money again.

Value sketch for the illustration
Value sketch for the illustration | Source

Collage Illustrations

I looked through several photo references of girls and shoes for this illustration. In the end, I ended up using a good photo I composited myself of a girl and butterfly wings to get the viewpoint I wanted. I decided to use a woman’s high heel shoes because they seemed nicer and fancier for an elf to make. I hope you enjoy seeing my progress on the collage. After finishing the collage I simply put a dark blue background for night time using Photoshop.

Color Composition
Color Composition | Source

I love fairy tales because I think that behind fairy tales, there is always a meaning.

— Monica Bellucci

Will Be Published with Lulu

This fairy tale has been shortened to fit into my book along with all the other letters of the alphabet. If you would like to read the full version, you can Google the title and find the story as the Elves and the Shoemaker. There were several different endings to this story but I liked the one I chose best. I expect to be finished and ready to publish by July next year.

Did You Notice

In my collages, I use paper from magazines, old wall calendars, catalogs, and circulars. Often I will add things into a collage you can't see unless you are looking for it like hidden pictures. In this collage, you will find the red shoes contain a kneeling Navaho, a flock of swans in flight, a barn owl, a kitten, a falcon, a chicken, and a hand holding a paintbrush.

The final collage illustration.
The final collage illustration. | Source

Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales whose gates are guarded by dragons: we must fight in order to conquer it.

— Alexandre Dumas

Final Thoughts

Did you like this story’s ending? Curiosity can be taken too far. Was the shoemaker right in not questioning his good fortune? Or was the shoemaker’s wife right in spying out the mystery for herself?

I hope you like my story and my fairy tale alphabet book idea. If you are interested you can purchase the first one on Lulu but not on Amazon. I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Comments

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Peggy Woods,

      Oh, very kind of you to say so. I appreciate it. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      12 months ago from Houston, Texas

      This fairytale is a cute one with a happy ending. Your artwork is superb! I wish you great success with your alphabet books.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Linda Crampton,

      I know the shoes are a bit modern but I thought it brought the story into a 21st-century level. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      12 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I remember reading this fairy tale a long time ago. Thank you for sharing it. I'm glad it had a happy ending! The shoes in your illustration are beautiful.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      William Kovacic,

      Yes, it is a tough question. I think the shoemaker's wife should have curbed her curiosity at least a little longer but some people find it hard not to be curious. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Ann Carr,

      I'm with you about Grimm. I usually don't appreciate the gruesome nature of some of them. People often say I have a lot of patience. Maybe for some things and not for others. My kids would have told you I don't have much patience. I sometimes wish I had more patience. But for art... I could spend my life immersed there. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      12 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      What a question to close with. I'll not even venture an answer. Thanks for all your hard work (just like the shoemaker), Denise.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      12 months ago from SW England

      It's such a temptation to find out the whys and wherefores isn't it?! The shoemaker was wise in just accepting his good fortune but it worked out well anyway.

      I'm not a fan of the Grimm fairy tales generally as they are often 'grim' but this is a gentle one.

      Your work is always outstanding and astounding, Denise. You must have infinite patience to do such work and I love the hidden extras in the collages.

      Ann

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      RoadMonkey,

      I did read that there were several endings to this story and I just picked one that worked best for me. Thanks for this alternate ending. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Bill Holland,

      I do hope that the sketches and the process inspire others. There is quite a bit in planning and executing illustrations even for children's books. People think it must be easy but there is more to it. I so appreciate your kind words and encouragement. You have a blessed weekend too. Enjoy your new porch. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Anupam Mitu,

      I'm so happy you think my collage is amazing. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Eric Dierker,

      I'm glad you liked that kneeling Navaho in the shoe. I guess you would have to enlarge the collage to really see some of the details. I didn't mention it in the description but if you look very closely in the shoe you will see a tiny Betty Boop near the front of the shoe. I'm not sure if I'm infringing on some copyright law in putting her in there. We shall see.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      12 months ago from Washington State, USA

      I wonder how long this would have gone on if the wife had not been so nosy? I assumed that in time the elves would feel put upon since the shoemaker was upping the number of shoes he "expected" to be made each night.

      I like the shoe that you chose to create for this story--very stylish and probably something much more elaborate than the cobbler would have made. Wonderful story and illustrations. Thank you for sharing with us.

      Best of luck on your books.

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 

      12 months ago

      I love that story of the Elves and the Shoemaker, though that is a different version from the one I read to my grandchildren. In that one, the elves are seen as dressed in very scanty clothing so the shoemaker and his wife make them tiny clothes. When the elves see them, they dress quickly and sing a song about not having to make shoes anymore, then disappear as in your version

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Lorna Lamon,

      I think we all like to search for hidden pictures, don't we? We don't have to be children to enjoy that activity. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Devika Primić,

      I'm happy you find them interesting. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 months ago from Fresno CA

      Chris Mills,

      Oh, my. I can't read horror stories. They give me night-horses. Stallions, mares, ponies... all those horsies running through my dreams. I learned long ago to leave those alone. I can't watch horror movies either. The

      Amityville Horror was the last one I allowed myself and vowed never again. So there is a place for everyone, right? I'll just stick to my fairy tales. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I always like the fairy tales, but it's your sketches I really look forward to.

      Have a fantastic weekend, my friend, and blessings always.

    • Anupam Mitu profile image

      Anupam Mitu 

      12 months ago from MUMBAI

      Amazing artist you are dear Denise! Your collage is as enchanting as the shoes of the elves.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      12 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Fantastic again! This one I knew and I have no idea why. I say boo to the wife.

      This time I enlarged the last collage of shoes and looked closely. So cool. I really like the placement of the kneeling Navajo.

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      12 months ago

      I do like the ending of this tale Denise, as even thought the elves didn't return, they had enough money for the rest of their lives. Kindness pays. This collage is very beautiful and I love the hidden pictures. Wonderful work as always.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      12 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Your fairy tales are interesting and I wish you the best of luck in publication sales.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      12 months ago from Traverse City, MI

      Don't ask me about the ending. I write horror stories. hahaha. I hate to think what I would do to this wonderful story. I wish you well with your new collection of fairytales and your book.

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