Illustration by Alexander Zick
Illustration by Alexander Zick

Today’s tale, another from the Grimms, “The Brave Little Tailor” features a man whose cleverness makes up for his lack of strength, a common fairytale theme. He uses his wits to defeat those who are bigger and more powerful than he is. And in the end, he of course marries a princess, completing his quest.

A woman comes past a tailor’s home, calling she has jam for sale. The tailor calls her up, but only buys a little. Tailors were usually poor and he had to be frugal with his money. He spread the jam on the bread but sets it aside to continue with his work, although the thought of it waiting keeps him from concentrating and his stitches get larger and larger. some flies start pestering around and when they settle bread, he kills seven of them with one blow. He makes a belt describing the deed, “Seven at one blow”. Inspired, he sets out into the world to seek his fortune, taking with him a hunk of cheese and a bird he finds tangled in a bush. I’m not sure that this was the brightest thing to do. Why would you think that since you killed flies you’re capable of going out and conquering the world? Apparently at that time, tailors moved around a lot any way; it was a tough way to make a living. The tailor meets a giant, who assumes that “Seven at one blow” refers to seven men. The giant challenges the tailor three times. When the giant squeezes water from a boulder, the tailor squeezes water from cheese, reminiscent of “Boots Who Ate a Match with a Troll.” The giant throws a rock far into the air, and it eventually lands. The tailor counters the feat by releasing a bird that flies away; the giant believes the small bird is a “rock” which is thrown so far that it never lands. I guess the tailor was pretty lucky that he happened to grab those two things, and smart for using them as he did. The giant asks the tailor to help carry a tree. The tailor directs the giant to carry the trunk, while the tailor will carry the branches. Instead, the tailor climbs on, so the giant carries him as well.

The giant brings the tailor to the giant’s home, where other giants live as well. During the night, the giant attempts to kill the man. However, the tailor, having found the bed too large, sleeps in the corner. The next morning the giants head out into the forest and are amazed when the tailor walks up to them. They are terrified he will kill them and flee.

The second half of the story, the tailor comes to a palace and falls asleep in the courtyard. The people see his belt and tell the king. The tailor enters the royal service, but the other soldiers are afraid that he will lose his temper someday, and then seven of them might die with every blow. The king is afraid to send him away, lest his whole family be killed. The king instead sends the tailor to defeat two giants, offering him half his kingdom and his daughter’s hand in marriage. By throwing rocks at the two giants while they sleep, the tailor provokes the pair into fighting each other. Task one completed, but the king goes back on his promise. He just can’t allow a lowly tailor marry his daughter. The king then sends him after a unicorn, but the tailor traps it by standing before a tree, so that when the unicorn charges, he steps aside and it drives its horn into the trunk. The ties a rope around the unicorn, cuts the horn out of the tree and brings the animal back to the king. Task two finished. Lastly, the king sends him after a wild boar, but the tailor traps it in a chapel.

With that, the king finally marries him to his daughter, although there is little joy at the wedding. His wife hears him talking in his sleep and from what he says realizes that he is merely a tailor. The king promises to have him carried off the next night when he is asleep. A squire however warns the tailor of the plan, and the tailor only pretends to be asleep and calls out that he has done all these deeds and is not afraid of the men behind the door. Terrified, the men leave, and the king does not try again. Somehow I doubt this is actually a happy ever after. Somehow I don’t think the princess was pleased in the end.

And of course, there’s  always the Mickey version.


Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.


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