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The Brave Little Tailor

from The Blue Fairy Book





One summer's day a little tailor sat on his table by the
window in the best of spirits, and sewed for dear life. As
he was sitting thus a peasant woman came down the
street, calling out: "Good jam to sell, good jam to sell."
This sounded sweetly in the tailor's ears; he put his frail
little head out of the window, and shouted: "up here,
my good woman, and you'll find a willing customer." The
woman climbed up the three flights of stairs with her
heavy basket to the tailor's room, and he made her spread
out all the pots in a row before him. He examined them
all, lifted them up and smelled them, and said at last:
"This jam seems good, weigh me four ounces of it, my
good woman; and even if it's a quarter of a pound I won't
stick at it." The woman, who had hoped to find a good
market, gave him what he wanted, but went away
grumbling wrathfully. "Now heaven shall bless this jam
for my use," cried the little tailor, "and it shall sustain and
strengthen me." He fetched some bread out of a cupboard,
cut a round off the loaf, and spread the jam on it.
"That won't taste amiss," he said; "but I'll finish that
waistcoat first before I take a bite." He placed the bread
beside him, went on sewing, and out of the lightness of his
heart kept on making his stitches bigger and bigger. In
the meantime the smell of the sweet jam rose to the ceiling,
where heaps of flies were sitting, and attracted them
to such an extent that they swarmed on to it in masses.
"Ha! who invited you?" said the tailor, and chased the
unwelcome guests away. But the flies, who didn't understand
English, refused to let themselves be warned off,
and returned again in even greater numbers. At last the
little tailor, losing all patience, reached out of his chimney
corner for a duster, and exclaiming: "Wait, and I'll give
it to you," he beat them mercilessly with it. When he left
off he counted the slain, and no fewer than seven lay dead
before him with outstretched legs. "What a desperate
fellow I am!" said he, and was filled with admiration at
his own courage. "The whole town must know about
this"; and in great haste the little tailor cut out a girdle,
hemmed it, and embroidered on it in big letters, "Seven
at a blow." "What did I say, the town? no, the whole
world shall hear of it," he said; and his heart beat for joy
as a lamb wags his tail.

The tailor strapped the girdle round his waist and set
out into the wide world, for he considered his workroom
too small a field for his prowess. Before he set forth he
looked round about him, to see if there was anything in
the house he could take with him on his journey; but he
found nothing except an old cheese, which he took possession
of. In front of the house he observed a bird that had
been caught in some bushes, and this he put into his
wallet beside the cheese. Then he went on his way merrily,
and being light and agile he never felt tired. His way
led up a hill, on the top of which sat a powerful giant, who
was calmly surveying the landscape. The little tailor
went up to him, and greeting him cheerfully said: "Good-day,
friend; there you sit at your ease viewing the whole
wide world. I'm just on my way there. What do you say
to accompanying me?" The giant looked contemptuously
at the tailor, and said: "What a poor wretched little
creature you are!" "That's a good joke," answered the
little tailor, and unbuttoning his coat he showed the giant
the girdle. "There now, you can read what sort of a fellow
I am." The giant read: "Seven at a blow"; and thinking
they were human beings the tailor had slain, he conceived
a certain respect for the little man. But first he thought
he'd test him, so taking up a stone in his hand, he squeezed
it till some drops of water ran out. "Now you do the
same," said the giant, "if you really wish to be thought
strong." "Is that all?" said the little tailor; "that's child's
play to me," so he dived into his wallet, brought out the
cheese, and pressed it till the whey ran out. "My squeeze
was in sooth better than yours," said he. The giant
didn't know what to say, for he couldn't have believed it
of the little fellow. To prove him again, the giant lifted
a stone and threw it so high that the eye could hardly
follow it. "Now, my little pigmy, let me see you do that."
"Well thrown," said the tailor; "but, after all, your stone
fell to the ground; I'll throw one that won't come down
at all." He dived into his wallet again, and grasping the
bird in his hand, he threw it up into the air. The bird,
enchanted to be free, soared up into the sky, and flew
away never to return. "Well, what do you think of that
little piece of business, friend?" asked the tailor. "You
can certainly throw," said the giant; "but now let's see if
you can carry a proper weight." With these words he led
the tailor to a huge oak tree which had been felled to the
ground, and said: "If you are strong enough, help me to
carry the tree out of the wood." "Most certainly," said
the little tailor: "just you take the trunk on your shoulder;
I'll bear the top and branches, which is certainly the
heaviest part." The giant laid the trunk on his shoulder,
but the tailor sat at his ease among the branches; and the
giant, who couldn't see what was going on behind him,
had to carry the whole tree, and the little tailor into the
bargain. There he sat behind in the best of spirits, lustily
whistling a tune, as if carrying the tree were mere sport.
The giant, after dragging the heavy weight for some time,
could get on no further, and shouted out: "Hi! I must let
the tree fall." The tailor sprang nimbly down, seized the
tree with both hands as if he had carried it the whole way
and said to the giant: "Fancy a big lout like you not being
able to carry a tree!"

They continued to go on their way together, and as
they passed by a cherry tree the giant grasped the top of
it, where the ripest fruit hung, gave the branches into the
tailor's hand, and bade him eat. But the little tailor was
far too weak to hold the tree down, and when the giant
let go the tree swung back into the air, bearing the little
tailor with it. When he had fallen to the ground again
without hurting himself, the giant said: "What! do you
mean to tell me you haven't the strength to hold down a
feeble twig?" "It wasn't strength that was wanting,"
replied the tailor; "do you think that would have been
anything for a man who has killed seven at a blow? I
jumped over the tree because the huntsmen are shooting
among the branches near us. Do you do the like if you
dare." The giant made an attempt, but couldn't get over
the tree, and stuck fast in the branches, so that here too
the little tailor had the better of him.

"Well, you're a fine fellow, after all," said the giant;
"come and spend the night with us in our cave." The
little tailor willingly consented to do this, and following
his friend they went on till they reached a cave where
several other giants were sitting round a fire, each holding
a roast sheep in his hand, of which he was eating. The
little tailor looked about him, and thought: "Yes, there's
certainly more room to turn round in here than in my
workshop." The giant showed him a bed and bade him
lie down and have a good sleep. But the bed was too big
for the little tailor, so he didn't get into it, but crept away
into the corner. At midnight, when the giant thought the
little tailor was fast asleep, he rose up, and taking his big
iron walking-stick, he broke the bed in two with a blow,
and thought he had made an end of the little grasshopper.
At early dawn the giants went off to the wood, and quite
forgot about the little tailor, till all of a sudden they met
him trudging along in the most cheerful manner. The
giants were terrified at the apparition, and, fearful lest he
should slay them, they all took to their heels as fast as
they could.

The little tailor continued to follow his nose, and after
he had wandered about for a long time he came to the
courtyard of a royal palace, and feeling tired he lay down
on the grass and fell asleep. While he lay there the people
came, and looking him all over read on his girdle: "Seven
at a blow." "Oh!" they said, "what can this great hero
of a hundred fights want in our peaceful land? He must
indeed be a mighty man of valor." They went and told
the King about him, and said what a weighty and useful
man he'd be in time of war, and that it would be well to
secure him at any price. This counsel pleased the King,
and he sent one of his courtiers down to the little tailor,
to offer him, when he awoke, a commission in their army.
The messenger remained standing by the sleeper, and
waited till he stretched his limbs and opened his eyes,
when he tendered his proposal. "That's the very thing
I came here for," he answered; "I am quite ready to enter
the King's service." So he was received with all honor,
and given a special house of his own to live in.

But the other officers resented the success of the little
tailor, and wished him a thousand miles away. "What's
to come of it all?" they asked each other; "if we quarrel
with him, he'll let out at us, and at every blow seven will
fall. There'll soon be an end of us." So they resolved to
go in a body to the King, and all to send in their papers.
"We are not made," they said, "to hold out against a man
who kills seven at a blow." The King was grieved at the
thought of losing all his faithful servants for the sake of
one man, and he wished heartily that he had never set
eyes on him, or that he could get rid of him. But he
didn't dare to send him away, for he feared he might kill
him along with his people, and place himself on the
throne. He pondered long and deeply over the matter,
and finally came to a conclusion. He sent to the tailor and
told him that, seeing what a great and warlike hero he was,
he was about to make him an offer. In a certain wood of
his kingdom there dwelled two giants who did much
harm; by the way they robbed, murdered, burned, and
plundered everything about them; "no one could approach
them without endangering his life. But if he could overcome
and kill these two giants he should have his only
daughter for a wife, and half his kingdom into the bargain;
he might have a hundred horsemen, too, to back him up."
"That's the very thing for a man like me," thought the
little tailor; "one doesn't get the offer of a beautiful
princess and half a kingdom every day." "Done with
you," he answered; "I'll soon put an end to the giants.
But I haven't the smallest need of your hundred horsemen;
a fellow who can slay seven men at a blow need not
be afraid of two."

The little tailor set out, and the hundred horsemen
followed him. When he came to the outskirts of the wood
he said to his followers: "You wait here, I'll manage the
giants by myself"; and he went on into the wood, casting
his sharp little eyes right and left about him. After a
while he spied the two giants lying asleep under a tree,
and snoring till the very boughs bent with the breeze.
The little tailor lost no time in filling his wallet with
stones, and then climbed up the tree under which they lay.
When he got to about the middle of it he slipped along a
branch till he sat just above the sleepers, when he threw
down one stone after the other on the nearest giant. The
giant felt nothing for a long time, but at last he woke up,
and pinching his companion said: "What did you strike
me for?" "I didn't strike you," said the other, "you must
be dreaming." They both lay down to sleep again, and
the tailor threw down a stone on the second giant, who
sprang up and cried: "What's that for? Why did you
throw something at me?" "I didn't throw anything,"
growled the first one. They wrangled on for a time, till,
as both were tired, they made up the matter and fell
asleep again. The little tailor began his game once more,
and flung the largest stone he could find in his wallet with
all his force, and hit the first giant on the chest. "This is
too much of a good thing!" he yelled, and springing up
like a madman, he knocked his companion against the
tree till he trembled. He gave, however, as good as he
got, and they became so enraged that they tore up trees
and beat each other with them, till they both fell dead at
once on the ground. Then the little tailor jumped down.
"It's a mercy," he said, "that they didn't root up the tree
on which I was perched, or I should have had to jump
like a squirrel on to another, which, nimble though I am,
would have been no easy job." He drew his sword and
gave each of the giants a very fine thrust or two on the
breast, and then went to the horsemen and said: "The
deed is done, I've put an end to the two of them; but I
assure you it has been no easy matter, for they even tore
up trees in their struggle to defend themselves; but all
that's of no use against one who slays seven men at a
blow." "Weren't you wounded?" asked the horsemen.

"No fear," answered the tailor; "they haven't touched
a hair of my head." But the horsemen wouldn't believe
him till they rode into the wood and found the giants
weltering in their blood, and the trees lying around, torn
up by the roots.

The little tailor now demanded the promised reward
from the King, but he repented his promise, and pondered
once more how he could rid himself of the hero. "Before
you obtain the hand of my daughter and half my kingdom,"
he said to him, "you must do another deed of valor.
A unicorn is running about loose in the wood, and doing
much mischief; you must first catch it." "I'm even less
afraid of one unicorn than of two giants; seven at a blow,
that's my motto." He took a piece of cord and an axe
with him, went out to the wood, and again told the men
who had been sent with him to remain outside. He hadn't
to search long, for the unicorn soon passed by, and, on
perceiving the tailor, dashed straight at him as though
it were going to spike him on the spot. "Gently, gently,"
said he, "not so fast, my friend"; and standing still he
waited till the beast was quite near, when he sprang
lightly behind a tree; the unicorn ran with all its force
against the tree, and rammed its horn so firmly into the
trunk that it had no strength left to pull it out again, and
was thus successfully captured. "Now I've caught my
bird," said the tailor, and he came out from behind the
tree, placed the cord round its neck first, then struck the
horn out of the tree with his axe, and when everything
was in order led the beast before the King.

Still the King didn't want to give him the promised
reward and made a third demand. The tailor was to
catch a wild boar for him that did a great deal of harm
in the wood; and he might have the huntsmen to help
him. "Willingly," said the tailor; "that's mere child's
play." But he didn't take the huntsmen into the wood
with him, and they were well enough pleased to remain
behind, for the wild boar had often received them in a
manner which did not make them desire its further
acquaintance. As soon as the boar perceived the tailor
it ran at him with foaming mouth and gleaming teeth,
and tried to knock him down; but our alert little friend
ran into a chapel that stood near, and got out of the
window again with a jump. The boar pursued him into the
church, but the tailor skipped round to the door, and
closed it securely. So the raging beast was caught, for it
was far too heavy and unwieldy to spring out of the
window. The little tailor summoned the huntsmen
together, that they might see the prisoner with their own
eyes. Then the hero betook himself to the King, who was
obliged now, whether he liked it or not, to keep his promise,
and hand him over his daughter and half his kingdom.
Had he known that no hero-warrior, but only a little tailor
stood before him, it would have gone even more to his
heart. So the wedding was celebrated with much splendor
and little joy, and the tailor became a king.

After a time the Queen heard her husband saying one
night in his sleep: "My lad, make that waistcoat and
patch these trousers, or I'll box your ears." Thus she
learned in what rank the young gentleman had been born,
and next day she poured forth her woes to her father, and
begged him to help her to get rid of a husband who was
nothing more nor less than a tailor. The King comforted
her, and said: "Leave your bedroom door open to-night,
my servants shall stand outside, and when your husband
is fast asleep they shall enter, bind him fast, and carry
him on to a ship, which shall sail away out into the wide
ocean." The Queen was well satisfied with the idea, but
the armor-bearer, who had overheard everything, being
much attached to his young master, went straight to him
and revealed the whole plot. "I'll soon put a stop to the
business," said the tailor. That night he and his wife
went to bed at the usual time; and when she thought he
had fallen asleep she got up, opened the door, and then
lay down again. The little tailor, who had only pretended
to be asleep, began to call out in a clear voice: "My lad,
make that waistcoat and patch those trousers, or I'll box
your ears. I have killed seven at a blow, slain two giants,
led a unicorn captive, and caught a wild boar, then why
should I be afraid of those men standing outside my door?"
The men, when they heard the tailor saying these words,
were so terrified that they fled as if pursued by a wild
army, and didn't dare go near him again. So the little
tailor was and remained a king all the days of his life.





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