FILE UNDER: AT 503, Migratory legend type 7015, Kinder- und Hausmärchen (KHM) 39
The shoemaker, truth be told, was poor for a very good reason: he was just no good at making shoes.
“My shoes are awful,” he cried. I poured beer into his mug and ignored the evil look the owner was throwing my way. The tavern was busy like it always was that time of night, with thirsty off-shift apprentices and exhausted tradesmen packed at the long tables. They were hollering for beer, and I was ignoring them. I was only working the place to get to the shoemaker, and after two weeks of waiting for him to show up, voila, here he was. I asked him for some nice shoes, and he folded in seconds.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” I said, pushing the pewter tankard into his chest. “Drink and listen. I have a proposition for you.”
That perked him up quickly. He probably thought…well, I have no idea what he thought.
“You need to get *a lot better* at making shoes. I need some good shoes. I have some friends who are prepared to help you make good shoes. All you have to do is leave the window to your shop cracked tonight at midnight, they’ll let themselves in and get to work. Then you study what they’ve done, you sell me the shoes cheap, and bang, we’re all winning.”
He sniffed, and damn if it wasn’t the cutest thing I’d ever seen. He was a young guy, kind of square-shaped, with a bad haircut, a ratty leather apron and an off-smell of tanning fluids and urine.
“I don’t know, I don’t want to get robbed…”
“Tell you what, how about you go home tonight, kiss the wife, and then you cut out some blanks and leave them on your workbench. If you’re feeling worried, hide in a closet or something. Just keep your mouth shut, and whatever you do, do *not* interrupt them. You can sell those shoes to buy some better leather. Trade up a few times. Then make me something…pretty.”
I smiled again and leaned forward, staring in his eyes. His eyes wandered south.
“Do we have a deal?”
He spilled the beer down his chin in his hurry to nod.
“There you go. You’ve got talent, shoemaker. Come here tomorrow with the shoes and we’ll talk about it, OK?”
What I didn’t tell him wouldn’t hurt him, unless he screwed up. Which was always a risk.
I patted him on the cheek and went back to working the room, taking orders and dodging pinches. If everything went according to plan, in three days he’d be ready.