Every year Karen Chace –also known as ” Storybug”– an award winning professional storyteller based in Massachusetts, provides me with a Christmas story I can share with you. I know you will enjoy this year’s heartwarming story.
The Wooden Shoes of Little Wolff – French
Once upon a time, — so long ago that the world has forgotten the date, — in a city of the North of Europe, — the name of which is so hard to pronounce that no one remembers it, — there was a little boy, just seven years old, whose name was Wolff. He was an orphan and lived with his aunt, a hard-hearted, avaricious old woman, who never kissed him but once a year, on New Year’s Day; and who sighed with regret every time she gave him a bowlful of soup.
The poor little boy was so sweet-tempered that he loved the old woman in spite of her bad treatment. Since she had a house of her own and a woolen stocking full of gold, she did not dare to send her nephew to the school for the poor. But she argued so that the schoolmaster of the rich boys’ school was forced to lower his price and admit little Wolff among his pupils. The schoolmaster was irritated to have a boy so poorly dressed and who paid so little. He punished little Wolff severely without cause, ridiculed him, and even incited the other boys, who were the sons of rich citizens to do the same.
On Christmas Eve the schoolmaster planned to take all his pupils to midnight mass.The night was very cold, snow covered the streets and houses so the boys all dressed warmly, with fur-lined caps, padded jackets, gloves and knitted mittens, and good strong shoes with thick soles. Only little Wolff was shivering in his thin everyday clothes, and wearing socks and wooden shoes on his feet.
The other children teased and mocked him by Woolf was so busy warming his hands by blowing on them, and was suffering so much from the cold that he paid no heed.When they reached the church was comfortable and warm, brilliant with lighted tapers. As the choir sang the boys began to quietly boast of the midnight treats awaiting them at home. The son of the Mayor had seen a monstrous goose for their Christmas day dinner, another boy told of the beautiful tree waiting for him, on the branches hung oranges and sweet sugar-plums. They talked about what the Christ Child would leave in their shoes, which they would place before the fire when they went to bed. Their eyes danced as they thought of the many gifts they would find on Christmas morning. Little Wolff knew that his miserly old aunt would send himto bed without any supper; but since he had been good all the year he trusted that the Christ Child would not forget him and would set his wooden shoes on the hearth as well.
The midnight mass was ended and the boys followed the schoolmaster out of the church. As they made their way home each one saw a sleeping child under the porch, seated on a stone bench. He was dressed in a white with his bare feet exposed to the cold and on the ground beside him and tied in a cloth were the tools of a carpenter’s apprentice. Under the light of the stars, his face was soft and sweet. His curling blond hair seemed to form a golden circle of light about his forehead but his tender feet were blue with the cold and pitiful to see!
The warmly clad boys passed by him without so much as a glance but little Wolff stopped before the beautiful, sleeping child. “How awful! This poor little without stockings in weather so cold! And, what is worse, he has no shoe to leave beside him while he sleeps, so that the Christ Child may place something in it to comfort him.”
Little Wolff took off the wooden shoe from his right foot, placed it before the sleeping child; and as best as he good hopped and limped back home.
When she saw him she raged, “You good-for-nothing! “What have you done with your shoe, little beggar?”
Little Wolff did not know how to lie, and, though shivering with terror he told her what he had done. But the old woman burst into frightful laughter. “Ah! The sweet young master takes off his shoe for a beggar! This is something new,indeed! I will place the shoe that is left in front of the fireplace and tonight the Christ Child will put in a rod to whip you when you wake. And to-morrow you shall have nothing to eat but water and dry bread. We shall seeif you give your shoe away again!”
Little Woolf went to bed heartbroken and cried himself to sleep. But in the morning,when Woolf and his aunt awoke they saw the great fireplace filled with bright toys, magnificent boxes of sugar-plums,, and the wooden shoe which he had given to the beggar, standing beside the other shoe.
Suddenly they heard great shouts of laughter from the street. The old woman and the little boy went out to learn what it was all about and saw the gossips gathered around the public fountain. What could have happened? The children of all the rich men of the city, whose parents wished to surprise them with the most beautiful gifts, had found nothing but switches in their shoes!
Then the old woman and little Wolff remembered all the riches that were in front of their own fireplace. Just then they saw the pastor of the parish church walking towards them, his face full of confusion. He told everyone that above the bench near the church door, in the very spot where child, dressed in white, with bare feet exposed to the great cold, had rested his sleeping head, there was now a golden circle formed into the old stones. Then all the people knew that the beautiful, sleeping child was the Christ Child himself, and that he had rewarded the faith and charity of little Wolff.
For more information about storyteller Karen Chace, visit her Web site: http://www.storybug.net