Old Stories Ever New (Nov. 20)

Old Stories Ever New
When the cold winds howled about the thatched huts of the
German peasant, the mother drew her children to her side and
told them stories. Collected and retold by the Grimm brothers,
these stories have perennial charm.
Read from GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES Vol. 17, pp. 90-98

THE VALIANT LITTLE TAILOR

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

 

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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. H e
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. "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 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 at last 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 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.

92 FOLK-LORE AND FABLE
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 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. "Ho w 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 tailor to a
mighty oak tree which lay there felled on 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

 

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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 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 fellow 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 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 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

 

94 FOLK-LORE AND FABLE
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 court-yard
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 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 separate 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 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. H e 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 of his kingdom as a

 

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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 at 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 pocketsful of stones, and with these
climbed up the tree. When he was half-way 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 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 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

 

96 FOLK-LORE AND FABLE
given both of them 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 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 axe with him, went forth into the forest, and bade
those who were sent 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 stuck 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
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 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,

 

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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
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 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 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 bed-room
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 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 by a great
dread, and ran as if the wild huntsman were behind them, and none

 

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of them would venture anything further against him. So the little
tailor was a king, and remained one to the end of his life.

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