The Brothers Grimm – The Valiant Little Tailor

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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 valor. 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 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 can 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 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 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
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
reason have I come here, the tailor replied, I am ready to enter
the king's service. He was therefore honorably 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 such a great warrior, he had one request to make of 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 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
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 belabored 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 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 you are 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
struck 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 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 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 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
armor-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 life.

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