Dwarfs and gnomes

Linz 2012. Photo: Malcolm Wren
Linz 2012. Photo: Malcolm Wren

After dark the masters of the house returned home. They were the seven dwarfs who picked and dug for ore in the mountains. They lit their seven candles, and as soon as it was light in their house they saw that someone had been there, for not everything was in the same order as they had left it. 
The first one said, “Who has been sitting in my chair?” 
The second one, “Who has been eating from my plate?” 
The third one, “Who has been eating my bread?” 
The fourth one, “Who has been eating my vegetables?” 
The fifth one, “Who has been sticking with my fork?” 
The sixth one, “Who has been cutting with my knife?” 
The seventh one, “Who has been drinking from my mug?” 
Then the first one saw that there was a little imprint in his bed, and said, “Who stepped on my bed?” 
The others came running up and shouted, “Someone has been lying in mine as well.” 
But the seventh one, looking at his bed, found Snow-White lying there asleep. The seven dwarfs all came running up, and they cried out with amazement. They fetched their seven candles and shone the light on Snow-White. “Oh good heaven! Oh good heaven!” they cried. “This child is so beautiful!” 
They were so happy, that they did not wake her up, but let her continue to sleep there in the bed. The seventh dwarf had to sleep with his companions, one hour with each one, and then the night was done. 
The next morning Snow-White woke up, and when she saw the seven dwarfs she was frightened. But they were friendly and asked, “What is your name?” 
“My name is Snow-White,” she answered. 
“How did you find your way to our house?” the dwarfs asked further. 
Then she told them that her stepmother had tried to kill her, that the huntsman had spared her life, and that she had run the entire day, finally coming to their house. 
The dwarfs said, “If you will keep house for us, and cook, make beds, wash, sew, and knit, and keep everything clean and orderly, then you can stay with us, and you shall have everything that you want.” 
“Yes,” said Snow-White, “with all my heart.” 
So she kept house for them. Every morning they went into the mountains looking for ore and gold, and in the evening when they came back home their meal had to be ready. During the day the girl was alone. 
The good dwarfs warned her, saying, “Be careful about your stepmother. She will soon know that you are here. Do not let anyone in.”

From, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Schneewittchen (1812, revised 1857)
English translation by D. L. Ashliman, https://sites.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm053.html

In Germanic mythology the little people, like the seven dwarfs that befriended Snow-White, often work as miners. So did Mime and the other Nibelungen in Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

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