The Discontent of Santa’s Lazy Elf

The lazy elf pouted and made a grimace as he sanded wooden toy blocks. As the master elf passed by, he asked, “What’s wrong?” “Master, I want to work on mechanical dolls, not wooden blocks,” the lazy elf replied. The master elf stroked his beard and nodded his head. As he peered piercingly at the lazy elf he said, “To work on mechanical dolls, you must pass three tests: the Test of Intricate Design, the Test of Gears and Levers, and the Test of Electronic Contraptions.” And, then the master elf walked away.

This was awful! How would he pass those three tests? They were some of the most difficult elf tests written.

At this point, the sneaky elf who had overheard everything came up behind the lazy elf and whispered, “I can help you pass those tests. Meet me at the back door late tonight, when the moon is low.” The master elf looked over his shoulder knowingly, and went on with his inspections.

That night the sneaky elf and the lazy elf carefully picked the lock of Santa’s workshop and went into the master elf’s office. After several minutes, they found the test booklets for the three tests. As fortune would have it, the booklets were all in the same folder along with several other newly printed booklets. Excitedly, the lazy elf read, “Test of Intricate Design: The elf will successfully engrave Santa’s name on a clock face, with flourishes and a sunburst pattern in 10 minutes. Test of Gears and Levers: The elf will assemble a running electric train locomotive in 10 minutes. Test of Electronic Contraptions: The elf will take a digital photo of Santa’s workshop and embed within the photo Santa’s digital watermark.” As the two elves left Santa’s workshop, the sneaky elf smiled, while the lazy elf placed all his coin into the sneaky elf’s extended hand. “It was a pleasure doing business with you,” hissed the sneaky elf. And then expressing an afterthought he added, “I’m sure that you will remember me with gratitude when you are a master of mechanical dolls.”

The lazy elf was sleepy the next day as he sanded wooden blocks. In fact, he was sleepy most days because he was staying up late mastering the tasks of the three tests. Finally after several months, he told the master elf that he was ready to take the three tests. “Oh, really? Then, come with me,” said the master elf.

Amazingly, the lazy elf passed all the tests, and the next day he reported as an apprentice to the Mechanical Doll Department. But, it was all wrong. The intricate design for dolls was not the same as engraving clock faces. The gears and levers were not wheels with pulleys and cam shafts. The manipulation of electronics involved radio communications and audio pickups, not digital photos. The other elves in the Mechanical Doll Department began whispering and pointing and then finally laughing as the lazy elf struggled unsuccessfully to assemble even one doll.

Lazy elf assembling a doll

In shame and embarrassment at the close of the day, the lazy elf approached the master. “I cheated on those tests. I can’t do this work!” he blurted out.

The master elf replied, “Yes, I know. You are young and foolish. I needed you to learn three lessons: the Lesson of Hard Work, the Lesson of Being Honest, and the Lesson of Trusting your Teacher. Tomorrow, report to work in the Department of Marbles. You will polish marbles for the next six months.”

“But, master, polishing marbles is a waste of my ability!” protested the lazy elf.

“Yes, now you begin to see! Which is a greater waste of your ability: polishing marbles or cheating? Don’t you see that when you cheat you do not develop the ability that you desire to have?” asked the master elf, ever so gently.

Moral: He who cheats may appear to prosper but eventually his folly is seen by all.

Dennis Maynes

Chief Scientist, Caveon Test Security

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