Tom Thumb

In the days of King Arthur, Merlin, the most learned enchanter of his

time, was on a journey; and being very weary, stopped one day at the

cottage of an honest ploughman to ask for refreshment. The ploughman's

wife, with great civility, immediately brought him some milk in a

wooden bowl, and some brown bread on a wooden platter. Merlin could

not help observing, that although everything within the cottage was

particularly neat and clean, and in good order, the ploughman and his

wife had the most sorrowful air imaginable: so he questioned them on

the cause of their melancholy, and learned that they were very

miserable because they had no children. The poor woman declared, with

tears in her eyes, that she should be the happiest creature in the

world, if she had a son, although he were no bigger than his father's

thumb. Merlin was much amused with the notion of a boy no bigger than

a man's thumb; and as soon as he returned home, he sent for the queen

of the fairies (with whom he was very intimate), and related to her

the desire of the ploughman and his wife to have a son the size of his

father's thumb. She liked the plan exceedingly, and declared their

wish should be speedily granted. Accordingly, the ploughman's wife

had a son, who in a few minutes grew as tall as his father's thumb.

The queen of the fairies came in at the window as the mother was

sitting up in bed admiring the child. Her majesty kissed the infant,

and, giving it the name of Tom Thumb, immediately summoned several

fairies from Fairyland, to clothe her new little favourite:--

An oak-leaf hat he had for his crown,

His shirt it was by spiders spun:

With doublet wove of thistledown,

His trousers up with points were done;

His stockings, of apple-rind, they tie

With eye-lash pluck'd from his mother's eye:

His shoes were made of a mouse's skin,

Nicely tann'd with hair within.

Tom was never any bigger than his father's thumb, which was not a

large thumb neither; but as he grew older, he became very cunning, for

which his mother did not sufficiently correct him: and by this ill

quality he was often brought into difficulties. For instance, when he

had learned to play with other boys for cherry-stones, and had lost

all his own, he used to creep into the boys' bags, fill his pockets,

and come out again to play. But one day as he was getting out of a bag

of cherry-stones, the boy to whom it belonged chanced to see him.

Ah, ha, my little Tom Thumb! said he, have I caught you at your bad

tricks at last? Now I will reward you for thieving. Then drawing the

string tight round his neck, and shaking the bag, the cherry-stones

bruised Tom's legs, thighs, and body sadly; which made him beg to be

let out, and promise never to be guilty of such things any more.

Shortly afterwards Tom's mother was making a batter-pudding, and that

he might see how she mixed it, he climbed on the edge of the bowl; but

his foot happening to slip, he fell over head and ears into the

batter, and his mother, not observing him, stirred him into the

pudding, and popped him into the pot to boil. The hot water made Tom

kick and struggle; and his mother, seeing the pudding jump up and down

in such a furious manner, thought it was bewitched; and a tinker

coming by just at the time, she quickly gave him the pudding; he put

it into his budget, and walked on.

As soon as Tom could get the batter out of his mouth, he began to cry

aloud, which so frightened the poor tinker, that he flung the pudding

over the hedge, and ran away from it as fast as he could. The pudding

being broken to pieces by the fall, Tom was released, and walked home

to his mother, who gave him a kiss and put him to bed.

Tom Thumb's mother once took him with her when she went to milk the

cow; and it being a very windy day, she tied him with a needleful of

thread to a thistle, that he might not be blown away. The cow, liking

his oak-leaf hat, took him and the thistle up at one mouthful. While

the cow chewed the thistle, Tom, terrified at her great teeth, which

seemed ready to crush him to pieces, roared, Mother, mother! as loud

as he could bawl.

Where are you, Tommy, my dear Tommy?' said the mother.

Here, mother, here in the red cow's mouth.

The mother began to cry and wring her hands; but the cow, surprised at

such odd noises in her throat, opened her mouth and let him drop out.

His mother clapped him into her apron, and ran home with him. Tom's

father made him a whip of a barley straw to drive the cattle with, and

being one day in the field he slipped into a deep furrow. A raven

flying over picked him up with a grain of corn, and flew with him to

the top of a giant's castle by the sea-side, where he left him; and

old Grumbo, the giant, coming soon after to walk upon his terrace,

swallowed Tom like a pill, clothes and all. Tom presently made the

giant very uncomfortable, and he threw him up into the sea. A great

fish then swallowed him. This fish was soon after caught, and sent as

a present to King Arthur. When it was cut open, everybody was

delighted with little Tom Thumb. The king made him his dwarf; he was

the favourite of the whole court; and, by his merry pranks, often

amused the queen and the knights of the Round Table. The king, when he

rode on horseback, frequently took Tom in his hand; and if a shower of

rain came on, he used to creep into the king's waist-coat-pocket, and

sleep till the rain was over. The king also sometimes questioned Tom

concerning his parents; and when Tom informed his majesty they were

very poor people, the king led him into his treasury, and told him he

should pay his friends a visit, and take with him as much money as he

could carry. Tom procured a little purse, and putting a threepenny

piece into it, with much labour and difficulty got it upon his back;

and after travelling two days and nights, arrived at his father's

house. His mother met him at the door, almost tired to death, having

in forty-eight hours travelled almost half a mile with a huge silver

threepence upon his back. Both his parents were glad to see him,

especially when he had brought such an amazing sum of money with him.

They placed him in a walnut-shell by the fireside, and feasted him for

three days upon a hazel-nut, which made him sick, for a whole nut

usually served him for a month. Tom got well, but could not travel

because it had rained: therefore his mother took him in her hand, and

with one puff blew him into King Arthur's court; where Tom entertained

the king, queen, and nobility at tilts and tournaments, at which he

exerted himself so much that he brought on a fit of sickness, and his

life was despaired of. At this juncture the queen of the fairies came

in a chariot, drawn by flying mice, placed Tom by her side, and drove

through the air, without stopping till they arrived at her palace;

when, after restoring him to health and permitting him to enjoy all

the gay diversions of Fairyland, she commanded a fair wind, and,

placing Tom before it, blew him straight to the court of King Arthur.

But just as Tom should have alighted in the courtyard of the palace,

the cook happened to pass along with the king's great bowl of

furmenty (King Arthur loved furmenty), and poor Tom Thumb fell plump

into the middle of it, and splashed the hot furmenty into the cook's

eyes. Down went the bowl.

Oh dear! oh dear! cried Tom.

Murder! murder! bellowed the cook; and away poured the king's nice

furmenty into the kennel.

The cook was a red-faced, cross fellow, and swore to the king that Tom

had done it out of mere mischief; so he was taken up, tried, and

sentenced to be beheaded. Tom hearing this dreadful sentence, and

seeing a miller stand by with his mouth wide open, he took a good

spring, and jumped down the miller's throat, unperceived by all, even

by the miller himself.

Tom being lost, the court broke up, and away went the miller to his

mill. But Tom did not leave him long at rest: he began to roll and

tumble about, so that the miller thought himself bewitched, and sent

for a doctor. When the doctor came, Tom began to dance and sing; the

doctor was as much frightened as the miller, and sent in great haste

for five more doctors and twenty learned men. While all these were

debating upon the affair, the miller (for they were very tedious)

happened to yawn, and Tom, taking the opportunity, made another jump,

and alighted on his feet in the middle of the table. The miller,

provoked to be thus tormented by such a little creature, fell into a

great passion, caught hold of Tom, and threw him out of the window

into the river. A large salmon swimming by snapped him up in a minute.

The salmon was soon caught and sold in the market to a steward of a

lord. The lord, thinking it an uncommon fine fish, made a present of

it to the king, who ordered it to be dressed immediately. When the

cook cut open the salmon, he found poor Tom, and ran with him directly

to the king; but the king, being busy with state affairs, desired that

he might be brought another day. The cook resolving to keep him safely

this time, as he had so lately given him the slip, clapped him into a

mouse-trap, and left him to amuse himself by peeping through the wires

for a whole week; when the king sent for him, he forgave him for

throwing down the furmenty, ordered him new clothes, and knighted


His shirt was made of butterflies' wings,

His boots were made of chicken skins;

His coat and breeches were made with pride:

A tailor's needle hung by his side;

A mouse for a horse he used to ride.

Thus dressed and mounted, he rode a-hunting with the king and

nobility, who all laughed heartily at Tom and his fine prancing steed.

As they rode by a farmhouse one day, a cat jumped from behind the

door, seized the mouse and little Tom, and began to devour the mouse;

however, Tom boldly drew his sword and attacked the cat, who then let

him fall. The king and his nobles, seeing Tom falling, went to his

assistance, and one of the lords caught him in his hat; but poor Tom

was sadly scratched, and his clothes were torn by the claws of the

cat. In this condition he was carried home, when a bed of down was

made for him in a little ivory cabinet. The queen of the fairies came

and took him again to Fairyland, where she kept him for some years;

and then, dressing him in bright green, sent him flying once more

through the air to the earth, in the days of King Thunstone. The

people flocked far and near to look at him; and the king, before whom

he was carried, asked him who he was, whence he came, and where he

lived? Tom answered:--

My name Is Tom Thumb,

From the Fairies I come;

When King Arthur shone,

This court was my home.

In me he delighted,

By him I was knighted;

Did you never hear of

Sir Thomas Thumb?

The king was so charmed with this address, that he ordered a little

chair to be made, in order that Tom might sit on his table, and also a

palace of gold a span high, with a door an inch wide, for little Tom

to live in. He also gave him a coach drawn by six small mice, This

made the queen angry, because she had not a new coach too: therefore,

resolving to ruin Tom, she complained to the king that he had behaved

very insolently to her. The king sent for him in a rage. Tom, to

escape his fury, crept into an empty snail-shell, and there lay till

he was almost starved; when, peeping out of the hole, he saw a fine

butterfly settle on the ground: he now ventured out, and getting

astride, the butterfly took wing, and mounted into the air with

little Tom on his back. Away he flew from field to field, from tree to

tree, till at last he flew to the king's court. The king, queen, and

nobles, all strove to catch the butterfly, but could not. At length

poor Tom, having neither bridle nor saddle, slipped from his seat, and

fell into a watering-pot, where he was found almost drowned. The queen

vowed he should be guillotined; but while the guillotine was getting

ready, he was secured once more in a mouse-trap; when the cat, seeing

something stir, and supposing it to be a mouse, patted the trap about

till she broke it, and set Tom at liberty. Soon afterwards a spider,

taking him for a fly, made at him. Tom drew his sword and fought

valiantly, but the spider's poisonous breath overcame him:--

He fell dead on the ground where late he had stood,

And the spider suck'd up the last drop of his blood.

King Thunstone and his whole court went into mourning for little Tom

Thumb. They buried him under a rosebush, and raised a nice white

marble monument over his grave, with the following epitaph:--

Here lies Tom Thumb, King Arthur's knight,

Who died by a spider's cruel bite.

He was well known in Arthur's court,

Where he afforded gallant sport;

He rode at tilt and tournament,

And on a mouse a-hunting went;

Alive he fill'd the court with mirth,

His death to sorrow soon gave birth.

Wipe, wipe your eyes, and shake your head,

And cry, 'Alas! Tom Thumb is dead.'

Tom Hickathrift Tom Thumb facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail