LONG, long ago, there lived in a land far away a poor cobbler who had a large hump on his back. One day he went to town to sell some boots. The way home was long, and the poor man was tired. As he entered the forest, he was overtaken by the darkness.
“There is no use in trying to go on,” he said. “I would only run into the trees and hurt myself. There is a big hollow tree somewhere near here. I will creep into it and sleep there all night. In the morning I will hurry home.”
The cobbler soon found the tree, crept into the hollow, and fell fast asleep.
About midnight he was awakened by a noise. He peeped out of his hollow. The moon was shining brightly, and to his great surprise he saw many little elves dancing in the moonlight.
At first the man was afraid and lay very still. But as he watched the queer little folk, he saw that they all looked happy and kind; so he crawled out of his hollow and joined them.
The elves were glad to see him, and soon he found himself having a jolly good time. He danced with the elves, told them stories, and sang to them.
At last the king of the elves said: “It is nearly time for us to say good-by, for you know we must go as soon as we hear the first cock crow. Before we go, I want to tell you how much we all like you. You are such a jolly good fellow that we want you to come and visit us again.”
Quickly the elf king snatched the hump from the man’s back, saying: “I will keep this to make sure that you will come back. Visit us again when the moon is full, and I will give you back your beautiful hump.”
The elf king did this, because he thought the hump was something to be proud of and that the man would be sorry to lose it. Before the cobbler could answer, they heard the first cock crow, and at once the elves vanished.
You may be sure the poor cobbler lost no time in hurrying home. How glad he was to be rid of his hump, and how tall and straight he walked!
When the neighbors saw him coming, they rushed to meet him. He told them his wonderful story, and they were all glad for him—all but the tailor. This man envied his good luck.
The very next time that the moon was full, the envious man went to the hollow tree. As he crawled into it, he said to himself: “I shall sing and dance and tell stories to the elves. Then, when I see that they are pleased, I shall ask for gold—much gold.”
At midnight, when the moon was at its brightest, the elves appeared. Out from the hollow tree stepped the tailor. The elves made him welcome, for they thought he was their friend, the cobbler, come back.
The tailor danced with the elves, sang songs, and told them stories, and they all had a jolly time.
Just before cockcrow, the king called the tailor to him.
“Now is my chance,” thought the tailor; “I will soon be a very rich man.”
“You are a good fellow,” said the elf king, “and you have kept your promise to me, so I will keep my promise to you. Here is your hump.”
So saying, he stuck the cobbler’s hump on the tailor’s back, and before the tailor could say a word, the cock crowed and the elves vanished.
Thus was the tailor punished for envying his good neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.” ~ Exodus 20:17