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The Elves and the Shoemaker, A German Fairy Tale

Updated on July 16, 2020
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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.


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