The Elves and the Shoemaker


As the red curtain is drawn back, ongoing chatter and noise suddenly cease and the Calico Theater falls quiet. A humble shoemaker, attired in garb fit for the 1800s, suddenly appears on the stage, captivating the audience as the play begins. On December 11th and 12th, a division of the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati called ArtReach performed a rendition of “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” a classic tale written by the Brothers Grimm, first published in 1806.

Thanks to the German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (1785-1863 and 1786-1859), people around the world are able to enjoy classic tales such as “The Elves and the Shoemaker.” This is largely due to their book “Grimm’s Fairy Tales,” published in 1812, a compilation of folklore the brothers recorded in order to keep unwritten tales from being forgotten. It is said that the Brothers Grimm were able to obtain these stories through interviews with relatives and friends—stories that had been orally passed down within families for innumerable generations.

Although they weren’t originally written for children, Grimms’ fairy tales were revised over a period of many years and are now largely popular children’s bedtime stories, movie adaptations, and plays. However, “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” performed at UC Clermont’s Calico Theater, is a testament to the fact that Grimm’s folklore is entertaining for all ages.

“There was once a shoemaker, who worked very hard and was very honest, but still he could not earn enough to live upon; and at last all he had in the world was gone, save just leather enough to make one pair of shoes.” This is how the original story begins in the Grimm Brother’s collection of folklore, and one of the first acts of ArtReach’s dramatic adaptation. As the shoemaker in the play begins to cobble what he believes will be his shop’s last pair of shoes, fatigue overtakes him and he drifts off. “Mission Impossible” music is queued as two elves sneak into his shop, intending to construct an unforgettable pair of leather oxfords. Over several days, the elves make several pairs of shoes, each of which sell immediately. The shoemaker is eventually able to emulate the elves’ talent and create quality shoes himself. One day, the queen enters his shop, unrecognized by the shoemaker in her rightful finery; it is revealed at the end of the play that a beggar woman to whom the shoemaker showed kindness was really the queen in disguise.

The moral of the play is that kindness is often repayed with kindness, a lesson beautifully communicated through music, comedy, and visual illustrations. Warm applause concluded the play before each actor stated their name, roles played, and hometown. Songs, which were implemented throughout the play, added a musical element to the performance. Costumes were fun and authentic, and the sets complemented the aura of the play. The performance was extremely family-oriented; tickets cost only five dollars apiece. Children were even given pamphlets with activities and pencils to keep them engaged before the show began.

If you have any questions or would like to contact Community Arts, you can call 513-558-ARTS, or email them at

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