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THE VALIANT LITTLE TAILOR

from Types Of Children's Literature - Traditional





Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm


One summer's morning a little tailor was sitting on his table by
the window; he was in good spirits, and sewed with all his might.
Then came a peasant woman down the street, crying, "Good jams,
cheap! Good jams, cheap!" This rang pleasantly in the tailor's
ears; he stretched his delicate head out of the window, and called,
"Come up here, dear woman; here you will get rid of your goods."
The woman came up the three steps to the tailor with her heavy
basket, and he made her unpack the whole of the pots for him. He
inspected all of them, lifted them up, put his nose to them, and at
length said, "The jam seems to me to be good, so weigh me out
four ounces, dear woman, and if it is a quarter of a pound that is
of no consequence." The woman, who had hoped to find a good
sale, gave him what he desired, but went away quite angry and
grumbling. "Now God bless the jam to my use," cried the little
tailor, "and give me health and strength;" so he brought the bread
out of the cupboard, cut himself a piece right across the loaf and
spread the jam over it. "That won't taste bitter," said he, "but I
will just finish the jacket before I take a bite." He laid the bread
near him, sewed on, and, in his joy, made bigger and bigger stitches.

In the meantime the smell of the sweet jam ascended so to the
wall, where the flies were sitting in great numbers, that they were
attracted and descended on it in hosts. "Hola! who invited you?"
said the little tailor, and drove the unbidden guests away. The
flies, however, who understood no German, would not be turned
away, but came back again in ever increasing companies.

Then the little tailor lost all patience, and got a bit of cloth from
the hole under his work table, and saying, "Wait, and I will give it
to you," struck it mercilessly on them. When he drew it away
and counted, there lay before him no fewer than seven, dead and
with legs stretched out.

"Art thou a fellow of that sort?" said he, and could not help
admiring his own bravery. "The whole town shall know of this!"
And the little tailor hastened to cut himself a girdle, stitched it, and
embroidered on it in large letters, "Seven at one stroke!" "What,
the town!" he continued, "the whole world shall hear of it!" and
his heart wagged with joy like a lamb's tail. The tailor put on
the girdle, and resolved to go forth into the world, because he
thought his workshop was too small for his valor.

Before he went away, he sought about in the house to see if there
was anything which he could take with him; however, he found
nothing but an old cheese, and that he put in his pocket. In front
of the door he observed a bird which had caught itself in the thicket.
It had to go into his pocket with the cheese.

Now he took to the road boldly, and as he was light and nimble,
he felt no fatigue. The road led him up a mountain, and when he
had reached the highest point of it, there sat a powerful giant looking
about him quite comfortably.

The little tailor went bravely up, spoke to him, and said, "Good
day, comrade, so thou art sitting there overlooking the wide-spread
world! I am just on my way thither, and want to try my luck. Hast
thou any inclination to go with me?" The giant looked contemptuously
at the tailor, and said, "Thou ragamuffin! Thou miserable creature!"

"Oh, indeed?" answered the little tailor, and unbuttoned his coat
and showed the giant the girdle. "There mayst thou read what
kind of a man I am!" The giant read, "Seven at one stroke!" and
thought that they had been men whom the tailor had killed, and
began to feel a little respect for the tiny fellow. Nevertheless he
wished to try him first, and took a stone in his hand and squeezed
it together so that the water dropped out of it. "Do that likewise,"
said the giant, "if thou hast strength." "Is that all?"
said the tailor, "that is child's play with us!" and put his hand into
his pocket, brought out the soft cheese, and pressed it until the
liquid ran out of it. "Faith," said he, "that was a little better,
wasn't it?"

The giant did not know what to say and could not believe it of the
little man. Then the giant picked up a stone and threw it so high
that the eye could scarcely follow it. "Now, little mite of a man,
do that likewise." "Well thrown," said the tailor, "but after all
the stone came down to earth again; I will throw you one which shall
never come back at all," and he put his hand into his pocket, took
out the bird, and threw it into the air. The bird, delighted with its
liberty, rose, flew away, and did not come back. "How does that
shot please you, comrade?" asked the tailor.

"Thou canst certainly throw," said the giant, "but now we will
see if thou art able to carry anything properly." He took the little
tailor to a mighty oak tree which lay there felled to the ground,
and said, "If thou art strong enough, help me to carry the tree
out of the forest." "Readily," answered the little man; "take thou
the trunk on thy shoulders, and I will raise up the branches and
twigs; after all, they are the heaviest." The giant took the trunk on
his shoulder, but the tailor seated himself on a branch, and the
giant, who could not look round, had to carry away the whole tree
and the little tailor into the bargain. He, behind, was quite merry
and happy and whistled the song, "Three tailors rode forth from the
gate," as if carrying the tree were child's play. The giant, after
he had dragged the heavy burden part of the way, could go no
further, and cried, "Hark you, I shall have to let the tree fall!"
The tailor sprang nimbly down, seized the tree with both arms as if
he had been carrying it, and said to the giant, "Thou art such a
great fellow, and yet thou canst not even carry the tree!"

They went on together; and as they passed a cherry tree, the
giant laid hold of the top of the tree where the ripest fruit was
hanging, bent it down, gave it into the tailor's hand, and bade him
eat. But the little tailor was much too weak to hold the tree;
and when the giant let it go, it sprang back again, and the tailor
was hurried into the air with it. When he had fallen down again
without injury, the giant said, "What is this? Hast thou not
strength enough to hold the weak twig?" "There is no lack of
strength," answered the little tailor. "Dost thou think that could
be anything to a man who has struck down seven at one blow?
I leapt over the tree because the huntsmen are shooting down there
in the thicket. Jump as I did, if thou canst do it." The giant
made the attempt, but could not get over the tree, and remained
hanging in the branches, so that in this also the tailor kept the
upper hand.

The giant said, "If thou art such a valiant fellow, come with me
into our cavern and spend the night with us." The little tailor was
willing, and followed him. When they went into the cave, other
giants were sitting there by the fire, and each of them had a roasted
sheep in his hand and was eating it. The little tailor looked round
and thought, "It is much more spacious here than in my workshop."
The giant showed him a bed and said he was to lie down in it and
sleep. The bed was, however, too big for the little tailor; he did
not lie down in it but crept into a corner. When it was midnight,
and the giant thought the little tailor was lying in a sound sleep,
he got up, took a great iron bar, cut through the bed with one blow,
and thought he had given the grasshopper his finishing stroke. With
the earliest dawn the giants went into the forest, and had quite
forgotten the little tailor, when all at once he walked up to them
quite merrily and boldly. The giants were terrified; they were afraid
that he would strike them all dead, and ran away in a great hurry.

The little tailor went onwards, always following his own pointed
nose. After he had walked for a long time, he came to the courtyard
of a royal palace, and as he felt weary he lay down on the grass
and fell asleep. Whilst he lay there, the people came and inspected
him on all sides, and read on his girdle, "Seven at one stroke!"
"Ah!" said they, "what does a great warrior here in the midst
of peace? He must be a mighty lord." They went and announced
him to the King, and gave it as their opinion that if war should
break out, this would be a weighty and useful man, who ought on no
account to be allowed to depart. The counsel pleased the King, and
he sent one of his courtiers to the little tailor to offer him military
service when he awoke. The ambassador remained standing by the sleeper,
waited until he stretched his limbs and opened his eyes, and then
conveyed to him this proposal. "For this very reason have I come here,"
the tailor replied; "I am ready to enter the King's service." He was
therefore honorably received, and a separate dwelling was assigned to
him.

The soldiers, however, were set against the little tailor, and wished
him a thousand miles away. "What is to be the end of this?" they
said amongst themselves. "If we quarrel with him and he strikes
about him, seven of us will fall at every blow; not one of us can
stand against him." They came therefore to a decision, betook
themselves in a body to the King, and begged for their dismissal.
"We are not prepared," said they, "to stay with a man who kills
seven at one stroke." The King was sorry that for the sake of one he
should lose all his faithful servants, wished that he had never set
eyes on the tailor, and would willingly have been rid of him again.
But he did not venture to give him his dismissal, for he dreaded lest
he should strike him and all his people dead and place himself on the
royal throne. He thought about it for a long time and at last found
good counsel. He sent to the little tailor and caused him to be informed
that as he was such a great warrior, he had one request to make to him.
In a forest of his country lived two giants, who caused great mischief
with their robbing, murdering, ravaging, and burning, and no one could
approach them without putting himself in danger of death. If the tailor
conquered and killed these two giants, he would give him his only
daughter to wife and half his kingdom as a dowry, likewise one hundred
horsemen should go with him to assist him. "That would indeed be a fine
thing for a man like me!" thought the little tailor. "One is not
offered a beautiful princess and half a kingdom every day of one's
life!" "Oh, yes," he replied, "I will soon subdue the giants, and do
not require the help of the hundred horsemen to do it; he who can hit
seven with one blow has no need to be afraid of two."

The little tailor went forth, and the hundred horsemen followed
him. When he came to the outskirts of the forest, he said to his
followers, "Just stay waiting here, I alone will soon finish off the
giants." Then he bounded into the forest and looked about right
and left. After a while he perceived both giants. They lay sleeping
under a tree and snored so that the branches waved up and
down. The little tailor, not idle, gathered two pocketfuls of stones
and with these climbed up a tree. When he was halfway up, he
slipped down by a branch until he sat just above the sleepers, and
then let one stone after another fall on the breast of one of the
giants. For a long time the giant felt nothing, but at last he awoke,
pushed his comrade, and said, "Why art thou knocking me?"
"Thou must be dreaming," said the other; "I am not knocking
thee." They laid themselves down to sleep again, and then the
tailor threw a stone down on the second. "What is the meaning of
this?" cried the other. "Why art thou pelting me?" "I am not
pelting thee," answered the first, growling. They disputed about
it for a time, but as they were weary they let the matter rest, and
their eyes closed once more. The little tailor began his game again,
picked out the biggest stone, and threw it with all his might on the
breast of the first giant. "That is too bad!" cried he, and sprang
up like a madman, and pushed his companion against the tree until
it shook. The other paid him back in the same coin, and they got
into such a rage that they tore up trees and belabored each other so
long that at last they both fell down dead on the ground at the
same time. Then the little tailor leapt down. "It is a lucky
thing," said he, "that they did not tear up the tree on which I was
sitting, or I should have had to spring on to another like a squirrel;
but we tailors are nimble." He drew out his sword and gave each of
them a couple of thrusts in the breast, and then went out to the
horsemen and said, "The work is done; I have given them both their
finishing stroke, but it was hard work! They tore up trees in
their sore need, and defended themselves with them, but all that is
to no purpose when a man like myself comes, who can kill seven
at one blow." "But are you not wounded?" asked the horsemen.
"You need not concern yourself about that," answered the tailor.
"They have not bent one hair of mine." The horsemen would not
believe him, and rode into the forest; there they found the giants
swimming in their blood, and all round about lay the torn-up
trees.

The little tailor demanded of the King the promised reward; he,
however, repented of his promise, and again bethought himself
how he could get rid of the hero. "Before thou receivest my daughter
and the half of my kingdom," said he to him," thou must perform
one more heroic deed. In the forest roams a unicorn which
does great harm, and thou must catch it first." "I fear one unicorn
still less than two giants. Seven at one blow is my kind of affair."
He took a rope and an ax with him, went forth into the forest, and
again bade those who went with him to wait outside. He had not to
seek long. The unicorn soon came towards him and rushed directly
on the tailor, as if it would spit him on its horn without more
ceremony. "Softly, softly; it can't be done as quickly as that,"
said he, and stood still and waited until the animal was quite close,
and then sprang nimbly behind the tree. The unicorn ran against
the tree with all its strength, and struck its horn so fast in the
trunk that it had not strength enough to draw it out again, and
thus it was caught. "Now I have got the bird," said the tailor, and
came out from behind the tree and put the rope round its neck, and
then with his ax he hewed the horn out of the tree, and when all
was ready he led the beast away and took it to the King.

The King still would not give him the promised reward, and made
a third demand. Before the wedding the tailor was to catch him a
wild boar that made great havoc in the forest, and the hunts--
men should give him their help. "Willingly," said the tailor, "that
is child's play!" He did not take the huntsmen with him into the
forest, and they were well pleased that he did not, for the wild boar
had several times received them in such a manner that they had
no inclination to lie in wait for him. When the boar perceived the
tailor, it ran on him with foaming mouth and whetted tusks, and
was about to throw him to the ground, but the active hero sprang into
a chapel, which was near, and up to the window at once, and in one
bound was out again. The boar ran in after him, but the tailor
ran round outside and shut the door behind it, and then the raging
beast, which was much too heavy and awkward to leap out of the
window, was caught. The little tailor called the huntsmen thither,
that they might see the prisoner with their own eyes. The hero, however,
went to the King, who was now, whether he liked it or not, obliged to
keep his promise, and gave him his daughter and the half of his kingdom.
Had he known that it was no warlike hero but a little tailor who was
standing before him, it would have gone to his heart still more than
it did. The wedding was held with great magnificence and small joy,
and out of the tailor a king was made.

After some time the young Queen heard her husband say in his
dreams at night, "Boy, make me the doublet and patch the pantaloons,
or else I will rap the yard measure over thine ears." Then
she discovered in what state of life the young lord had been born,
and next morning complained of her wrongs to her father, and
begged him to help her to get rid of her husband, who was nothing
else but a tailor. The King comforted her and said, "Leave thy
bedroom door open this night, and my servants shall stand outside,
and when he has fallen asleep shall go in, bind him, and take him
on board a ship which shall carry him into the wide world." The
woman was satisfied with this; but the King's armor-bearer, who
had heard all, was friendly with the young lord, and informed him of
the whole plot. "I'll put a screw into that business," said the little
tailor. At night he went to bed with his wife at the usual time, and
when she thought that he had fallen asleep, she got up, opened the
door, and then lay down again. The little tailor, who was only
pretending to be asleep, began to cry out in a clear voice, "Boy, make
me the doublet and patch me the pantaloons, or I will rap the yard
measure over thine ears. I smote seven at one blow, I killed two
giants, I brought away one unicorn and caught a wild boar, and am I to
fear those who are standing outside the room?" When these men
heard the tailor speaking thus, they were overcome with a great
dread, and ran as if the wild huntsman were behind them, and none
of them would venture anything further against him. So the little
tailor was a king and remained one, to the end of his life.





Next: CINDERELLA OR THE LITTLE GLASS SLIPPER

Previous: HANS IN LUCK



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Viewed: 1906