There was once a poor servant-girl who was
industrious and cleanly and swept the house every
day, and emptied her sweepings on the great heap in
front of the door. One morning when she was just going
back to her work, she found a letter on this heap, and
as she could not read, she put her broom in the corner,
and took the letter to her employers, and behold it
was an invitation from the elves, who asked the girl to
hold a child for them at its christening.
The girl did not know what to do, but, at length,
after much persuasion, and as they told her that it was not
right to refuse an invitation of this kind, she consented.
Then three elves came and conducted her to a hollow
mountain, where the little folks lived. Everything there
was small, but more elegant and beautiful than can be
described. The baby's mother lay in a bed of black ebony ornamented with pearls, the covers were embroidered
with gold, the cradle was of ivory, the bath-tub of gold.
The girl stood as godmother, and then wanted to go
home again, but the little elves urgently entreated her to stay three days with them. So she stayed, and passed the
time in pleasure and gaiety, and the little folks did all
they could to make her happy. At last she set out on her way home. But first they filled her pockets quite full of money,
and then they led her out of the mountain again.
When she got home, she wanted to to begin her work,
and took the broom, which was still standing in the corner,
in her hand and began to sweep.
Then some strangers came out of the house, who asked
her who she was, and what business she had there.
And she had not, as she thought, been three days
with the little men in the mountains, but seven years,
and in the meantime her former masters had died.
A certain mother had her child taken out of its
cradle by the elves, and a changeling with a large head
and staring eyes, which would do nothing but eat and drink,
lay in its place. In her trouble she went to her neighbor,
and asked her advice. The neighbour said that she was
to carry the changeling into the kitchen, set it down on the hearth, light a fire, and boil some water in two egg-shells,
which would make the changeling laugh, and if he laughed,
all would be over with him. The woman did everything
that her neighbor bade her. When she put the egg-shells
with water on the fire, goggle-eyes said, I am as old now
as the wester forest, but never yet have I seen anyone boil anything in an egg-shell. And he began to laugh at it.
Whilst he was laughing, suddenly came a host of little
elves, who brought the right child, set it down on the
hearth, and took the changeling away with them.
by The Brothers Grimm