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Main > German folktales > Fairy tale "The Elves"

The Elves

Scarcely had Hermann received intelligence of this event before a very diminutive old crone entered the apartment and informed him that the elfin bride, whom he had seen in the miniature procession on the night of his nuptials, had given birth to a daughter. Hermann was very friendly to the visitor, wished all happiness to the mother and child, and the old woman took her departure. The Count did not, however, mention this visit to his wife.

A year afterwards, on the approach of her second confinement, the Countess saw the elves on the occasion of her husband receiving another of their unexpected visits. The little people entered the chamber in a long procession in black dresses, carrying lights in their hands, and the little women were clothed in white. One of these stood before the Count holding up her apron, while an old man thus addressed her—

"No more, dear Hermann, can we find a resting-place in your castle. We must wander abroad. We are come to take our departure from you."

"Wherefore will you leave my castle?" inquired Hermann. "Have I offended you?"

"No, thou hast not; but we must go, for she whom you saw as a bride on your wedding-night lost, last evening, her life in giving birth to an heir, who likewise perished. As a proof that we are thankful for the kindness you have always shown us, take a trifling proof of our power."

When the old man had thus spoken, he placed a little ladder against the bed, which the old woman who had stood by ascended. Then she opened her apron, held it before Hermann, and said—

"Grasp and take."

He hesitated. She repeated what she had said. At last he did what she told him, took out of her apron what he supposed to be a handful of sand, and laid it in a basin which stood upon a table by his bedside. The little woman desired him to take another handful, and he did once more as she bade him. Thereupon the woman descended the ladder; and the procession, weeping and lamenting, departed from the chamber.

When day broke, Hermann saw that the supposed sand which he had taken from the apron of the little woman was nothing less than pure and beautiful grains of gold.

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