Journey to the centre: great middle lines – 18

On an evening not long before Christmas, say the Brothers Grimm, something curious happened to a shoemaker and his wife. In “Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm”, in a short, short story, The Elves, two pretty little naked men arrive to make Christmas joyous for a hardworking yet poor couple.  The Grimms describe in one sentence a scene that tickles my fancy, and must surely tempt any reader to continue to the end:

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.

The Elves and the Shoemaker, illustration from the Girls and Boys Bookshelf, 1920

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Author: Trish

Literary translator, French to English.
Family history amateur.

6 thoughts on “Journey to the centre: great middle lines – 18”

    1. Funny that you should pick up on the word ‘pretty’. This translation is 19th-century, but I read a recent translation of this story where the little men were described as ‘cute’. I don’t read German (the original), but I doubt the Grimm brothers had cute, i.e. child-like, in mind. Pretty, here, means handsome but small. 😆

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