The Elves and the Shoemaker
Readers’ theater with activity
Based on the classic fable. Adapted by K5 Teachers.
Teacher Instructions: Allow children to choose parts. Read aloud.
I worked very hard and was very honest, but still I could not earn enough to live upon.
At last all I had in the world was gone. I had saved enough leather to make one pair of shoes.
Then I cut the leather out, put the leather aside to begin my work early the next morning.
My conscience was clear and my heart light amidst all my troubles.
So I went peaceably to bed, left all my cares to Heaven, and soon fell asleep.
In the morning after I had said my prayers, I sat myself down to my work.
When to my great wonder, there stood the shoes already made upon the table.
I knew not what to say or think at such an odd thing happening.
I looked at the workmanship; there was not one false stitch in the whole job; all was so neat and true, that it was quite a masterpiece.
I went in to the shoemaker’s shop. The shoes suited me so well that I willingly paid a price higher than usual for them.
With the money, I bought leather enough to make two pairs more.
In the evening I cut out the leather, and went to bed early, that I might get up and begin my work at dawn the next day.
I was saved all the trouble, for when I got up in the morning the work was already complete.
Soon in came buyers, who paid me handsomely for my goods, so that I bought leather enough for four pair more.
I cut out the work again overnight and found it done in the morning, as before; and so it went on for some time.
What I had prepared in the evening was always done by daybreak, and I soon was thriving and well off again.
One evening, in mid-winter, as my wife and I were sitting over the fire chatting together I told her my idea.
I should like to sit up and watch tonight, that we may see who it is that comes and does my work for me.
I liked the thought; so we left a light burning, and hid ourselves in a corner of the room, behind a curtain that was hung up there, and watched what would happen.
As soon as it was midnight, there came in two little elves wearing ragged clothing.
They sat themselves upon the shoemaker’s bench, took up all the work that was cut out, and began to ply with their little fingers, stitching and rapping and tapping away at such a rate.
We were all in wonder, and could not take our eyes off them.
And on they went, till the job was quite done, and the shoes stood ready to sell upon the table.
This was long before daybreak; and then they bustled away as quick as lightning.
The next day to told the shoemaker that the hardworking little elves had made us rich, and we ought to be thankful to them, and do them a good turn if we can.
I am quite sorry to see them run about in their ragged clothes; and indeed, they do not have proper clothing to keep away the cold.
I’ll tell you what, I will make each of them a shirt, and a coat and waistcoat, and a pair of pantaloons into the bargain; and do you make each of them a little pair of shoes.
The thought pleased me very much; and one evening, when all the things were ready, I laid them on the table.
We went and hid themselves, to watch what the little elves would do.
About midnight in they came, dancing and skipping, hopped round the room, and then went to sit down to their work as usual.
When they saw the clothes lying for them, they laughed and chuckled, and seemed mightily delighted.
Then they dressed themselves in the twinkling of an eye, and danced and capered and sprang about, as merry as could be; till at last they danced out at the door, and away over the green.
We saw them no more; but everything went well with us from that time forward, as long as we lived.
Let's talk it over
At the beginning of the story, the shoemaker was working hard and trying his best. However, he was getting the same outcome. If you keep trying the same thing in math or at school and get the same outcome, and it is not the outcome you want, is it enough just to keep trying hard?
What could the shoemaker have done differently to get a better outcome if the elves had not come to offer assistance?
What can you do if you try and try and do your best and it is still not working out? What can you try instead to get a different and better outcome?
If you get a challenging math problem in class, and you don’t know what to do, you try: making a model, working with a friend, or solving different ways with numbers. Do you need to be embarrassed if you don’t know how to do something? Of course not! You go to school to learn new things. Capable students have to struggle and work hard to learn new things, too.