Sacred Texts  Household Tales Index  Previous: Clever Elsie  Next: Thumbling As Journeyman 

      There was once a poor peasant who sat in the evening by the hearth and
 poked the fire, and his wife sat and span. Then said he, "How sad it is that
 we have no children! With us all is so quiet, and in other houses it is noisy
 and lively."
      "Yes," replied the wife, and sighed, "even if we had only one, and it
 were quite small, and only as big as a thumb, I should be quite satisfied, and
 we would still love it with all our hearts." Now it so happened that the woman
 fell ill, and after seven months gave birth to a child, that was perfect in
 all its limbs, but no longer than a thumb. Then said they, "It is as we wished
 it to be, and it shall be our dear child"; and because of its size, they
 called it Thumbling. They did not let it want for food, but the child did not
 grow taller, but remained as it had been at the first; nevertheless it looked
 sensibly out of its eyes, and soon showed itself to be a wise and nimble
 creature, for everything it did turned out well.
      One day the peasant was getting ready to go into the forest to cut wood,
 when he said as if to himself, "How I wish that there was any one who would
 bring the cart to me!" "Oh, father," cried Thumbling, "I will soon bring the
 cart, rely on that; it shall be in the forest at the appointed time." The man
 smiled and said, "How can that be done, thou art far too small to lead the
 horse by the reins?" "That's of no consequence, father, if my mother will only
 harness it, I will sit in the horse's ear, and call out to him how he is to
 go." "Well," answered the man, "for once we will try it."
      When the time came, the mother harnessed the horse, and placed Thumbling
 in its ear, and then the little creature cried "Gee up, gee up!"
      Then it went quite properly as if with its master, and the cart went the
 right way into the forest. It so happened that just as he was turning a
 corner, and the little one was crying "Gee up," two strange men came towards
 him. "My word!" said one of them. "What is this? There is a cart coming, and a
 driver is calling to the horse, and still he is not to be seen!" "That can't
 be right," said the other, "we will follow the cart and see where it stops."
 The cart, however, drove right into the forest, and exactly to the place where
 the wood had been cut. When Thumbling saw his father, he cried to him, "Seest
 thou, father, here I am with the cart; now take me down." The father got hold
 of the horse with his left hand, and with the right took his little son out of
 the ear. Thumbling sat down quite merrily on a straw, but when the two strange
 men saw him, they did not know what to say for astonishment. Then one of them
 took the other aside and said, "Hark, the little fellow would make our fortune
 if we exhibited him in a large town, for money. We will buy him." They went to
 the peasant and said, "Sell us the little man. He shall be well treated with
 us." "No," replied the father, "he is the apple of my eye, and all the money
 in the world cannot buy him from me." Thumbling, however, when he heard of the
 bargain, had crept up the folds of his father's coat, placed himself on his
 shoulder, and whispered in his ear, "Father, do give me away, I will soon come
 back again." Then the father parted with him to the two men for a handsome bit
 of money. "Where wilt thou sit?" they said to him. "Oh, just set me on the rim
 of your hat, and then I can walk backwards and forwards and look at the
 country, and still not fall down." They did as he wished, and when Thumbling
 had taken leave of his father, they went away with him. The walked until it
 was dusk, and then the little fellow said, "Do take me down, I want to come
 down." The man took his hat off, and put the little fellow on the ground by
 the wayside, and he leapt and crept about a little between the sods, and then
 he suddenly slipped into a mouse-hole which he had sought out. "Good
 evening, gentlemen, just go home without me," he cried to them, and mocked
 them. They ran thither and stuck their sticks into the mouse-hole, but it
 was all lost labour. Thumbling crept still farther in, and as it soon became
 quite dark, they were forced to go home with their vexation and their empty
      When Thumbling saw that they were gone, he crept back out of the
 subterranean passage. "It is so dangerous to walk on the ground in the dark,"
 said he; "how easily a neck or a leg is broken!" Fortunately he knocked
 against an empty snail-shell. "Thank God!" said he. "In that I can pass the
 night in safety," and got into it. Not long afterwards, when he was just going
 to sleep, he heard two men go by, and one of them was saying, "How shall we
 contrive to get hold of the rich pastor's silver and gold?" "I could tell thee
 that," cried Thumbling, interrupting them. "What was that?" said one of the
 thieves in a fright, "I heard some one speaking." They stood still listening,
 and Thumbling spoke again, and said, "Take me with you, and I'll help you."
      "But where art thou?" "Just look on the ground, and observe from whence
 my voice comes," he replied. There the thieves at length found him, and lifted
 him up. "Thou little imp, how wilt thou help us?" they said. "A great deal,"
 said he, "I will creep into the pastor's room through the iron bars, and will
 reach out to you whatever you want to have." "Come then," they said, "and we
 will see what thou canst do." When they got to the pastor's house, Thumbling
 crept into the room, but instantly cried out with all his might, "Do you want
 to have everything that is here?" The thieves were alarmed, and said, "But do
 speak softly, so as not to waken any one!" Thumbling, however, behaved as if
 he had not understood this, and cried again, "What do you want? Do you want to
 have everything that is here?" The cook, who slept in the next room, heard
 this and sat up in bed, and listened. The thieves, however, had in their
 fright run some distance away, but at last they took courage, and thought,
 "The little rascal wants to mock us." They came back and whispered to him,
 "Come, be serious, and reach something out to us." Then Thumbling again cried
 as loudly as he could, "I really will give you everything, only put your hands
 in." The maid who was listening, heard this quite distinctly, and jumped out
 of bed and rushed to the door. The thieves took flight, and ran as if the Wild
 Huntsman were behind them, but as the maid could not see anything, she went to
 strike a light. When she came to the place with it, Thumbling, unperceived,
 betook himself to the granary, and the maid, after she had examined every
 corner and found nothing, lay down in her bed again, and believed that, after
 all, she had only been dreaming with open eyes and ears.
      Thumbling had climbed up among the hay and found a beautiful place to
 sleep in; there he intended to rest until day, and then go home again to his
 parents. But he had other things to go through. Truly there is much affliction
 and misery in this world! When day dawned, the maid arose from her bed to feed
 the cows. Her first walk was into the barn, where she laid hold of an armful
 of hay, and precisely that very one in which poor Thumbling was lying asleep.
 He, however, was sleeping so soundly that he was aware of nothing, and did not
 awake until he was in the mouth of a cow, who had picked him up with the hay.
 "Ah, heavens!" cried he, "how have I got into the fulling mill?" but he soon
 discovered where he was. Then it was necessary to be careful not to let
 himself go between the teeth and be dismembered, but he was nevertheless
 forced to slip down into the stomach with the hay. "In this little room the
 windows are forgotten," said he, "and no sun shines in, neither will a candle
 be brought." His quarters were especially unpleasing to him, and the worst
 was, more and more hay was always coming in by the door, and the space grew
 less and less. Then, at length in his anguish, he cried as loud as he could,
 "Bring me no more fodder, bring me no more fodder." The maid was just milking
 the cow, and when she heard some one speaking, and saw no one, and perceived
 that it was the same voice that she had heard in the night, she was so
 terrified that she slipped off her stool, and spilt the milk. She ran in the
 greatest haste to her master, and said, "Oh, heavens, pastor, the cow has been
 speaking!" "Thou art mad," replied the pastor; but he went himself to the byre
 to see what was there. Hardly, however, had he set his foot inside than
 Thumbling again cried, "Bring me no more fodder, bring me no more fodder."
 Then the pastor himself was alarmed, and thought that an evil spirit had gone
 into the cow, and ordered he to be killed. She was killed, but the stomach, in
 which Thumbling was, was thrown on the midden. Thumbling had great difficulty
 in working his way; however, he succeeded so far as to get some room, but,
 just as he was going to thrust his head out, a new misfortune occurred. A
 hungry wolf ran thither, and swallowed the whole stomach at one gulp.
 Thumbling did not lose courage. "Perhaps," thought he, "the wolf will listen
 to what I have got to say," and he called to him from out of his stomach,
 "Dear wolf, I know of a magnificent feast for thee."
      "Where is it to be had?" said the wolf.
      "In such and such a house; thou must creep into it through the kitchen -
 sink, and wilt find cakes, and bacon, and sausages, and as much of them as
 thou canst eat," and he described to him exactly his father's house. The wolf
 did not require to be told this twice, squeezed himself in at night through
 the sink, and ate to his heart's content in the larder. When he had eaten his
 fill, he wanted to go out again, but he had become so big that he could not go
 out by the same way. Thumbling had reckoned on this, and now began to make a
 violent noise in the wolf's body, and raged and screamed as loudly as he
 could. "Wilt thou be quiet," said the wolf, "thou wilt waken up the people!"
 "Eh, what," replied the little fellow, "thou hast eaten thy fill, and I will
 make merry likewise," and began once more to scream with all his strength. At
 last his father and mother were aroused by it, and ran to the room and looked
 in through the opening in the door. When they saw that a wolf was inside, they
 ran away, and the husband fetched his axe, and the wife the scythe. "Stay
 behind," said the man, when they entered the room. "When I have given him a
 blow, if he is not killed by it, thou must cut him down and hew his body to
 pieces." Then Thumbling heard his parents' voices, and cried, "Dear father, I
 am here; I am in the wolf's body." Said the father, full of joy, "Thank God,
 our dear child has found us again," and bade the woman take away her scythe,
 that Thumbling might not be hurt with it. After that he raised his arm, and
 struck the wolf such a blow on his head that he fell down dead, and then they
 got knives and scissors and cut his body open, and drew the little fellow
 forth. "Ah," said the father, "what sorrow we have gone through for thy sake."
 "Yes, father, I have gone about the world a great deal. Thank heaven, I
 breathe fresh air again!" "Where hast thou been, then?" "Ah, father, I have
 been in a mouse's hole, in a cow's stomach, and then in a wolf's; now I will
 stay with you." "And we will not sell thee again, no, not for all the riches
 in the world," said his parents, and they embraced and kissed their dear
 Thumbling. They gave him to eat and to drink, and had some new clothes made
 for him, for his own had been spoiled on his journey.