The Brave Little Tailor

: 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
p 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.