E is, of course, for elves. What else could it be for on the day my posts center on fairy tales and the like? Today’s story comes from Dutch Fairy Tales for Young Folks by William Elliott Griffis, published 1919. The elves in his story are bright, beautiful, happy creatures who love the moonlight and are full of fun. “They loved to vex cross people and to please those who were bonnie and blithe. They hated misers, but they loved the kind and generous.”
One of the oldest of the elves, Styf, was also one of the best pranksters. He liked to mix up everyone’s wooden shoes that were left outside doors at parties. He would lead people trying to save money on candles deep into swamps, and once he bought tulips from an old miser with silver made by the Moss Maidens, and the coins crumbled in the man’s hands when he went to count them the next day.
The elves could be kind also, and were very smart. They would make clothes for children with sick mothers and, as we know, sewed shoes for poor cobblers. The people of Holland at the time made a beatuiful linen, but the elves wanted to help them make it even more special. Styf, with help from Fro, the spirit of the golden sunshine and the warm summer showers, and the kabouters, who lived in caves and mines, comes up with a special process that bleached the linen, and, after it was ironed, added a beautiful glistening surface. Starch.
“Very quickly did the Dutch folks, men and women, hear and make use of the elves’ invention. Their linen closets now looked like piles of snow. All over the Low Countries, women made caps, in new fashions, of lace or plain linen, with horns and wings, flaps and crimps, with quilling and with whirligigs. Soon, in every town, one could read the sign “Hier mangled men” [Here we do ironing].”
“Starch added money and riches to the nation. Kings’ treasuries became fat with money gained by taxes laid on ruffs, and on the cargoes of starch, which was now imported by the shipload, or made on the spot, in many countries. So, out of the ancient grain came a new spirit that worked for sweetness and beauty, cleanliness, and health. From a useful substance, as old as Egypt, was born a fine art, that added to the sum of the world’s wealth and pleasure.”
So, elves in Holland could certainly be mischievous, but in the end they were kind and helpful to the folks overall, at least in this story. You can read the tale several places, including here.
Next week, we’ll be up to K. I’m thinking of talking about a folktale for Korea. Do you know any?
Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.