The Valiant Little Tailor

: Grimms' Fairy Tales

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 all the pots

for him. He inspected each one, lifted it up, put his nose to it, 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, this jam

shall be blessed by God,' 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. 'This 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

rose to where the flies were sitting in great numbers, and they were

attracted and descended on it in hosts. 'Hi! 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. The little tailor at last lost all

patience, and drew a piece 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. 'Are you 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 valour. 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

peacefully about him. The little tailor went bravely up, spoke to him,

and said: 'Good day, comrade, so you are sitting there overlooking the

wide-spread world! I am just on my way thither, and want to try my luck.

Have you any inclination to go with me?' The giant looked contemptuously

at the tailor, and said: 'You ragamuffin! You miserable creature!'

'Oh, indeed?' answered the little tailor, and unbuttoned his coat, and

showed the giant the girdle, 'there may you 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 water dropped out

of it. 'Do that likewise,' said the giant, 'if you have 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. 'You can certainly throw,' said the giant,

'but now we will see if you are able to carry anything properly.' He

took the little tailor to a mighty oak tree which lay there felled on

the ground, and said: 'If you are strong enough, help me to carry the

tree out of the forest.' 'Readily,' answered the little man; 'take you

the trunk on your 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: 'You are such a great fellow, and yet cannot 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 tossed into the air with it.

When he had fallen down again without injury, the giant said: 'What is

this? Have you not strength enough to hold the weak twig?' 'There is no

lack of strength,' answered the little tailor. 'Do you 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 you can do it.' The giant made the attempt but he

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 you are 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, however, was 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 that 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 finished off the

grasshopper for good. 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

the great warrior want 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 honourably received, and a special dwelling

was assigned 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

among 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 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 of 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


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 pocketsful of stones, and with these climbed up the

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 are you

knocking me?' 'You must be dreaming,' said the other, 'I am not knocking

you.' 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 are you pelting me?' 'I am not pelting you,' 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

belaboured 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 sprint 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 finished both of them

off, 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 you receive my daughter, and the half of my

kingdom,' said he to him, 'you must perform one more heroic deed. In

the forest roams a unicorn which does great harm, and you 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 axe with him, went

forth into the forest, and again bade those who were sent with him to

wait outside. He had not long to seek. The unicorn soon came towards

him, and rushed directly on the tailor, as if it would gore him with its

horn without more ado. '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 stuck its horn so fast in the trunk

that it had not the 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

axe 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 huntsmen 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 hero

fled and sprang into a chapel which was near and up to the window at

once, and in one bound out again. The boar ran 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 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 a 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 your 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 your 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 armour-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 your

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 by 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 and remained a king to the end of his