There was once a shoemaker, who hardly worked and was very dishonest: but still he was entitled to live like the rest of us. It happened one night that all he had left were the clothes he stood up in, half a pouch of baccy and barely leather enough to make one last pair of shoes.
Remarkably, when the shoemaker awoke the following morning, there on the work bench was a pair of classic leather uppers, men's size 9, very sellable. The shoemaker's left eyebrow arched in the style of the man who spied a lucrative exploitative opportunity; that day he sold the shoes to a mug punter, happy to pay three times their worth, then covered the work bench in spots of superglue by way of an elf trap. As bait, the shoemaker laid the leather out alongside two small thimbles of ale. He awoke to find two drunken naked elves, the size of his thumb, wriggling on the sticky workbench.
Job done. Happy days.
- Right you horrible little fidgets. Here's the deal.
And the entrepreneurial shoemaker laid out his terms and conditions. Under his employ, there would be none of that work for an indefinite period at unsociable hours until such time as a sympathetic spouse deigned to run up a costume fit for purpose. Instead, the elves would "run free as nature intended" until such time as they had accrued enough credit with the shoemaker. Credit theoretically gave them certain garment and other entitlements. No matter that under the scheme the elves had no legitimate right to union membership or legal representation, for nor did they seek any. From time, they had come to depend on the generosity of their host. But this one had no kindly wife or even a friendly neighbour. The shoemaker had no call for friends or other hangers on. The shoemaker had big plans.
Neither of the elves had felt more naked in their entire existence. The two folk tale creatures turned to face one another, each tiny Adam's apple gulped up and down in synchronous anticipation of the unhappy ever after of tithable serfdom.
Fortunately for the elves, Northern European shoe supermarkets were flooded with cheap trainers from the Kawasan Berikat Nusanter industrial zone which took the bottom out of the leather upper market and bankrupted the cobbler, who died of chronic pancreatitis.
The liberated elves sought solace in a less denaturised folkloric discourse. Their last known whereabouts: sharing an authentic, hand-made Native Indian Canadian Mukluk moccasin boot with an elderly single-parent and her brood. Social services have provided appropriate temporary clothing and a planning meeting has been pencilled in, in the hope of coming up with a suitable ending in line with the spirit of the Children Act 1989 (chapter 41).