The Brothers Grimm – The Elves (two stories)
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 employers, 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
covers were embroidered with gold, the cradle was of ivory, the
bath-tub 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. But first
they filled her pockets quite full of money, and then they led
her out of the mountain again. When she got home, she wanted to
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 had her child taken 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, lay in its place.
In her trouble she went to her neighbor, 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 neighbor bade her. When she put
the egg-shells with water on the fire, goggle-eyes said, I am as
old now as the wester forest, but never yet have I seen anyone
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.
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