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Tom Thumb

from Grimms' Fairy Tales





A poor woodman sat in his cottage one night, smoking his pipe by the
fireside, while his wife sat by his side spinning. 'How lonely it is,
wife,' said he, as he puffed out a long curl of smoke, 'for you and me
to sit here by ourselves, without any children to play about and amuse
us while other people seem so happy and merry with their children!'
'What you say is very true,' said the wife, sighing, and turning round
her wheel; 'how happy should I be if I had but one child! If it were
ever so small--nay, if it were no bigger than my thumb--I should be very
happy, and love it dearly.' Now--odd as you may think it--it came to
pass that this good woman's wish was fulfilled, just in the very way she
had wished it; for, not long afterwards, she had a little boy, who was
quite healthy and strong, but was not much bigger than my thumb. So
they said, 'Well, we cannot say we have not got what we wished for, and,
little as he is, we will love him dearly.' And they called him Thomas
Thumb.

They gave him plenty of food, yet for all they could do he never grew
bigger, but kept just the same size as he had been when he was born.
Still, his eyes were sharp and sparkling, and he soon showed himself to
be a clever little fellow, who always knew well what he was about.

One day, as the woodman was getting ready to go into the wood to cut
fuel, he said, 'I wish I had someone to bring the cart after me, for I
want to make haste.' 'Oh, father,' cried Tom, 'I will take care of that;
the cart shall be in the wood by the time you want it.' Then the woodman
laughed, and said, 'How can that be? you cannot reach up to the horse's
bridle.' 'Never mind that, father,' said Tom; 'if my mother will only
harness the horse, I will get into his ear and tell him which way to
go.' 'Well,' said the father, 'we will try for once.'

When the time came the mother harnessed the horse to the cart, and put
Tom into his ear; and as he sat there the little man told the beast how
to go, crying out, 'Go on!' and 'Stop!' as he wanted: and thus the horse
went on just as well as if the woodman had driven it himself into the
wood. It happened that as the horse was going a little too fast, and Tom
was calling out, 'Gently! gently!' two strangers came up. 'What an odd
thing that is!' said one: 'there is a cart going along, and I hear a
carter talking to the horse, but yet I can see no one.' 'That is queer,
indeed,' said the other; 'let us follow the cart, and see where it
goes.' So they went on into the wood, till at last they came to the
place where the woodman was. Then Tom Thumb, seeing his father, cried
out, 'See, father, here I am with the cart, all right and safe! now take
me down!' So his father took hold of the horse with one hand, and with
the other took his son out of the horse's ear, and put him down upon a
straw, where he sat as merry as you please.

The two strangers were all this time looking on, and did not know what
to say for wonder. At last one took the other aside, and said, 'That
little urchin will make our fortune, if we can get him, and carry him
about from town to town as a show; we must buy him.' So they went up to
the woodman, and asked him what he would take for the little man. 'He
will be better off,' said they, 'with us than with you.' 'I won't sell
him at all,' said the father; 'my own flesh and blood is dearer to me
than all the silver and gold in the world.' But Tom, hearing of the
bargain they wanted to make, crept up his father's coat to his shoulder
and whispered in his ear, 'Take the money, father, and let them have me;
I'll soon come back to you.'

So the woodman at last said he would sell Tom to the strangers for a
large piece of gold, and they paid the price. 'Where would you like to
sit?' said one of them. 'Oh, put me on the rim of your hat; that will be
a nice gallery for me; I can walk about there and see the country as we
go along.' So they did as he wished; and when Tom had taken leave of his
father they took him away with them.

They journeyed on till it began to be dusky, and then the little man
said, 'Let me get down, I'm tired.' So the man took off his hat, and
put him down on a clod of earth, in a ploughed field by the side of the
road. But Tom ran about amongst the furrows, and at last slipped into
an old mouse-hole. 'Good night, my masters!' said he, 'I'm off! mind and
look sharp after me the next time.' Then they ran at once to the place,
and poked the ends of their sticks into the mouse-hole, but all in vain;
Tom only crawled farther and farther in; and at last it became quite
dark, so that they were forced to go their way without their prize, as
sulky as could be.

When Tom found they were gone, he came out of his hiding-place. 'What
dangerous walking it is,' said he, 'in this ploughed field! If I were to
fall from one of these great clods, I should undoubtedly break my neck.'
At last, by good luck, he found a large empty snail-shell. 'This is
lucky,' said he, 'I can sleep here very well'; and in he crept.

Just as he was falling asleep, he heard two men passing by, chatting
together; and one said to the other, 'How can we rob that rich parson's
house of his silver and gold?' 'I'll tell you!' cried Tom. 'What noise
was that?' said the thief, frightened; 'I'm sure I heard someone speak.'
They stood still listening, and Tom said, 'Take me with you, and I'll
soon show you how to get the parson's money.' 'But where are you?' said
they. 'Look about on the ground,' answered he, 'and listen where the
sound comes from.' At last the thieves found him out, and lifted him
up in their hands. 'You little urchin!' they said, 'what can you do for
us?' 'Why, I can get between the iron window-bars of the parson's house,
and throw you out whatever you want.' 'That's a good thought,' said the
thieves; 'come along, we shall see what you can do.'

When they came to the parson's house, Tom slipped through the
window-bars into the room, and then called out as loud as he could bawl,
'Will you have all that is here?' At this the thieves were frightened,
and said, 'Softly, softly! Speak low, that you may not awaken anybody.'
But Tom seemed as if he did not understand them, and bawled out again,
'How much will you have? Shall I throw it all out?' Now the cook lay in
the next room; and hearing a noise she raised herself up in her bed and
listened. Meantime the thieves were frightened, and ran off a little
way; but at last they plucked up their hearts, and said, 'The little
urchin is only trying to make fools of us.' So they came back and
whispered softly to him, saying, 'Now let us have no more of your
roguish jokes; but throw us out some of the money.' Then Tom called out
as loud as he could, 'Very well! hold your hands! here it comes.'

The cook heard this quite plain, so she sprang out of bed, and ran to
open the door. The thieves ran off as if a wolf was at their tails: and
the maid, having groped about and found nothing, went away for a light.
By the time she came back, Tom had slipped off into the barn; and when
she had looked about and searched every hole and corner, and found
nobody, she went to bed, thinking she must have been dreaming with her
eyes open.

The little man crawled about in the hay-loft, and at last found a snug
place to finish his night's rest in; so he laid himself down, meaning
to sleep till daylight, and then find his way home to his father and
mother. But alas! how woefully he was undone! what crosses and sorrows
happen to us all in this world! The cook got up early, before daybreak,
to feed the cows; and going straight to the hay-loft, carried away
a large bundle of hay, with the little man in the middle of it, fast
asleep. He still, however, slept on, and did not awake till he found
himself in the mouth of the cow; for the cook had put the hay into the
cow's rick, and the cow had taken Tom up in a mouthful of it. 'Good
lack-a-day!' said he, 'how came I to tumble into the mill?' But he soon
found out where he really was; and was forced to have all his wits about
him, that he might not get between the cow's teeth, and so be crushed to
death. At last down he went into her stomach. 'It is rather dark,' said
he; 'they forgot to build windows in this room to let the sun in; a
candle would be no bad thing.'

Though he made the best of his bad luck, he did not like his quarters at
all; and the worst of it was, that more and more hay was always coming
down, and the space left for him became smaller and smaller. At last he
cried out as loud as he could, 'Don't bring me any more hay! Don't bring
me any more hay!'

The maid happened to be just then milking the cow; and hearing someone
speak, but seeing nobody, and yet being quite sure it was the same voice
that she had heard in the night, she was so frightened that she fell off
her stool, and overset the milk-pail. As soon as she could pick herself
up out of the dirt, she ran off as fast as she could to her master the
parson, and said, 'Sir, sir, the cow is talking!' But the parson
said, 'Woman, thou art surely mad!' However, he went with her into the
cow-house, to try and see what was the matter.

Scarcely had they set foot on the threshold, when Tom called out, 'Don't
bring me any more hay!' Then the parson himself was frightened; and
thinking the cow was surely bewitched, told his man to kill her on the
spot. So the cow was killed, and cut up; and the stomach, in which Tom
lay, was thrown out upon a dunghill.

Tom soon set himself to work to get out, which was not a very easy
task; but at last, just as he had made room to get his head out, fresh
ill-luck befell him. A hungry wolf sprang out, and swallowed up the
whole stomach, with Tom in it, at one gulp, and ran away.

Tom, however, was still not disheartened; and thinking the wolf would
not dislike having some chat with him as he was going along, he called
out, 'My good friend, I can show you a famous treat.' 'Where's that?'
said the wolf. 'In such and such a house,' said Tom, describing his own
father's house. 'You can crawl through the drain into the kitchen and
then into the pantry, and there you will find cakes, ham, beef, cold
chicken, roast pig, apple-dumplings, and everything that your heart can
wish.'

The wolf did not want to be asked twice; so that very night he went to
the house and crawled through the drain into the kitchen, and then into
the pantry, and ate and drank there to his heart's content. As soon as
he had had enough he wanted to get away; but he had eaten so much that
he could not go out by the same way he came in.

This was just what Tom had reckoned upon; and now he began to set up a
great shout, making all the noise he could. 'Will you be easy?' said the
wolf; 'you'll awaken everybody in the house if you make such a clatter.'
'What's that to me?' said the little man; 'you have had your frolic, now
I've a mind to be merry myself'; and he began, singing and shouting as
loud as he could.

The woodman and his wife, being awakened by the noise, peeped through
a crack in the door; but when they saw a wolf was there, you may well
suppose that they were sadly frightened; and the woodman ran for his
axe, and gave his wife a scythe. 'Do you stay behind,' said the woodman,
'and when I have knocked him on the head you must rip him up with the
scythe.' Tom heard all this, and cried out, 'Father, father! I am here,
the wolf has swallowed me.' And his father said, 'Heaven be praised! we
have found our dear child again'; and he told his wife not to use the
scythe for fear she should hurt him. Then he aimed a great blow, and
struck the wolf on the head, and killed him on the spot! and when he was
dead they cut open his body, and set Tommy free. 'Ah!' said the father,
'what fears we have had for you!' 'Yes, father,' answered he; 'I have
travelled all over the world, I think, in one way or other, since we
parted; and now I am very glad to come home and get fresh air again.'
'Why, where have you been?' said his father. 'I have been in a
mouse-hole--and in a snail-shell--and down a cow's throat--and in the
wolf's belly; and yet here I am again, safe and sound.'

'Well,' said they, 'you are come back, and we will not sell you again
for all the riches in the world.'

Then they hugged and kissed their dear little son, and gave him plenty
to eat and drink, for he was very hungry; and then they fetched new
clothes for him, for his old ones had been quite spoiled on his journey.
So Master Thumb stayed at home with his father and mother, in peace; for
though he had been so great a traveller, and had done and seen so many
fine things, and was fond enough of telling the whole story, he always
agreed that, after all, there's no place like HOME!





Next: Rumpelstiltskin

Previous: The Robber Bridegroom



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