German philologist, jurist and mythologist
THE VALIANT LITTLE TAILOR
Narrated by Beth Richmond
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running time is 22 minutes
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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
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.
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
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
'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
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.'
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 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 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
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.
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
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