IT is not over fifty years since the Heinzelmänchen, as they are called, used to live and perform their exploits in Cologne. They were little naked mannikins, who used to do all sorts of work; bake bread, wash, and such like house-work. So it is said, but no one ever saw them.
In the time that the Heinzelmänchen were still there, there was in Cologne many a baker, who kept no man, for the little people used always to make over-night, as much black and white bread as the baker wanted for his shop. In many houses they used to wash and do all their work for the maids.
Now, about this time, there was an expert tailor to whom they appeared to have taken a great fancy, for when he married he found in his house, on the wedding-day, the finest victuals and the most beautiful vessels and utensils, which the little folk had stolen elsewhere and brought to their favourite. When, with time, his family increased, the little ones used to give the tailor's wife considerable aid in her household affairs; they washed for her, and on holidays and festival times they scoured the copper and tin, and the house from the garret to the cellar. If at any time the tailor had a press of work, he was sure to find it all ready done for him in the morning by the Heinzelmänchen. But curiosity began now to torment the tailor's wife, and she was dying to get one sight of the Heinzelmänchen, but do what she would she could never compass it. She one time strewed peas all down the stairs that they might fail and hurt themselves, and that so she might see them next morning. But this project missed, and since that time the Heinzelmänchen have totally disappeared, as has been everywhere the case, owing to the curiosity of people, which has at all times been the destruction of so much of what was beautiful in the world. The Heinzelmänchen, in consequence of this, went off all in a body out of the town with music playing, but people could only hear the music, for no one could see the mannikins themselves, who forthwith got into a boat and went away, whither no one knows. The good times, however, are said to have disappeared from Cologne along with the Heinzelmänchen. [a]
[a] Oral. Cölns Vorzeit. CöIn. 1826.