When teaching and training young children, there are specific areas that need constant care. One of them is the “Me” issue. Young children don’t have a proper understanding of what selfishness is or how to prefer someone else over themselves. That’s where we as mothers come in!
We are frequent readers in our house. My husband and I decided to cultivate this habit when our daughter was very young. I wanted our home to be a place of conversation, thinking, reasoning, and a desire to learn. I love using fairy tales as a great place to start with children. Fairy tales are often short and packed with morals and themes that young ones can learn to understand.
The Elves and the Shoemaker
This little tale has many precious lessons to offer children (and even adults as well). At the opening of the story, a shoemaker and his wife are struggling financially. He doesn’t even have enough leather to make another pair of shoes. However, he prepares to make another pair anyway. He sets out his items for the next morning and goes to bed. The next morning, he discovers a pair of beautifully crafted shoes is already made! He sells this pair and earns enough money to buy leather to make more shoes.
Now, that night, he lays out his work for the next day and goes to bed. When he wakes the following morning, he finds that his work is complete! This continues for some time. Each night the shoemaker sets out his work for the morning. Each morning he wakes and his work is complete.
One night, his wife suggests that they hide and watch to see who is completing their work. While they watch that night, they see two tiny, naked, little elves quickly completing their work for them. They work fast and then run off when they’re done. The shoemaker and his wife decide to make the elves some clothes to thank them for saving their business.
They set out the clothes later that night and watch as the elves discover their gifts. They’re overjoyed, dance around, and leave the shop.
Here are few themes that stand out:
Even though the shoemaker knew he couldn’t make another pair that first night, he set out his items anyway and planned to work the next day. He did not despair, complain, or excessively worry. He planned his day as usual. This shows he had some amount of faith or even hope that something good would happen.
The shoemaker and his wife were grateful to these small creatures who saved their livelihood. I find it interesting that they did not verbally thank them. Instead, they silently showed their gratitude with another gesture. They took the time to make them something they needed. Sometimes our thankfulness carries more weight if we act rather than just speak.
Whether these creatures expected something in return for their kindness, I don’t know. I like to think they didn’t because they worked so many nights doing the shoemaker’s work. They served at night without making their presence known or receiving anything in return. We can teach these same lessons to our children. We can lead by example.
While the shoemaker did give them a gift to thank them, we often serve in silence and never receive recognition for our service. Serving is long, hard, and often seems unrewarding. However, God does notice and He promises that we will be rewarding. Our rewards may not be new clothing, but the heavenly rewards will be much greater.
There are so many lessons we can glean from this small fairy tale. Little ones can pick out many random details of the story and that is good. This gets them to think. You can prompt older children by asking them questions about the themes and what they think. How would they respond?
If you don’t have a copy of The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, here are a couple of my favorite editions:
Do you read fairy tales in your home? Comment below and let me know how you use them!