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The Valiant Little Tailor

One summer’s morning a little tailor was sitting on his table bythe window; he was in good spirits, and sewed with all h...

The Valiant Little Tailor

One summer’s morning a little tailor was sitting on his table bythe window; he was in good spirits, and sewed with all his might. Thencame a peasant woman down the street crying: «Good jams, cheap!Good jams, cheap!» This rang pleasantly in the tailor’s ears; hestretched his delicate head out of the window, and called: «Come uphere, dear woman; here you will get rid of your goods.» The woman cameup the three steps to the tailor with her heavy basket, and he made herunpack 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 begood, so weigh me out four ounces, dear woman, and if it is a quarter ofa pound that is of no consequence.»

The woman who had hoped to find agood sale, gave him what he desired, but went away quite angry andgrumbling. «Now, this jam shall be blessed by God,» cried the littletailor, «and give me health and strength’; so he brought the bread outof the cupboard, cut himself a piece right across the loaf and spreadthe jam over it. «This won’t taste bitter,» said he, «but I will justfinish 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 themeantime the smell of the sweet jam rose to where the flies weresitting in great numbers, and they were attracted and descended on itin hosts. «Hi! who invited you?» said the little tailor, and drovethe unbidden guests away.

The flies, however, who understood no German,would not be turned away, but came back again in ever-increasingcompanies. The little tailor at last lost all patience, and drew apiece 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 hedrew 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 townshall know of this!» And the little tailor hastened to cut himself agirdle, stitched it, and embroidered on it in large letters: «Sevenat one stroke!» «What, the town!» he continued, «the whole worldshall 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. Beforehe went away, he sought about in the house to see if there wasanything which he could take with him; however, he found nothing but anold cheese, and that he put in his pocket. In front of the door heobserved a bird which had caught itself in the thicket. It had to gointo his pocket with the cheese. Now he took to the road boldly, and ashe was light and nimble, he felt no fatigue. The road led him up amountain, and when he had reached the highest point of it, there sata powerful giant looking peacefully about him. The little tailor wentbravely up, spoke to him, and said: «Good day, comrade, so you aresitting there overlooking the wide-spread world! I am just on my waythither, and want to try my luck. Have you any inclination to gowith 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 manI am!» The giant read: «Seven at one stroke,» and thought that they hadbeen men whom the tailor had killed, and began to feel a littlerespect for the tiny fellow. Nevertheless, he wished to try him first,and took a stone in his hand and squeezed it together so that waterdropped out of it. «Do that likewise,» said the giant, «if you havestrength.» «Is that all?» said the tailor, «that is child’s play withus!» and put his hand into his pocket, brought out the soft cheese, andpressed it until the liquid ran out of it. «Faith,» said he, «that wasa little better, wasn’t it?» The giant did not know what to say, andcould not believe it of the little man. Then the giant picked up astone and threw it so high that the eye could scarcely follow it.«Now, little mite of a man, do that likewise,» «Well thrown,» saidthe tailor, «but after all the stone came down to earth again; Iwill throw you one which shall never come back at all,» and he put hishand into his pocket, took out the bird, and threw it into the air. Thebird, delighted with its liberty, rose, flew away and did not comeback. «How does that shot please you, comrade?» asked the tailor.«You can certainly throw,» said the giant, «but now we will see if youare able to carry anything properly.» He took the little tailor to amighty oak tree which lay there felled on the ground, and said: «Ifyou are strong enough, help me to carry the tree out of the forest.’«Readily,» answered the little man; «take you the trunk on yourshoulders, and I will raise up the branches and twigs; after all, theyare the heaviest.» The giant took the trunk on his shoulder, but thetailor seated himself on a branch, and the giant, who could not lookround, had to carry away the whole tree, and the little tailor intothe bargain: he behind, was quite merry and happy, and whistled thesong: «Three tailors rode forth from the gate,» as if carrying the treewere child’s play. The giant, after he had dragged the heavy burdenpart of the way, could go no further, and cried: «Hark you, I shallhave to let the tree fall!» The tailor sprang nimbly down, seized thetree with both arms as if he had been carrying it, and said to thegiant: «You are such a great fellow, and yet cannot even carry thetree!»

They went on together, and as they passed a cherry-tree, the giantlaid 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. Butthe little tailor was much too weak to hold the tree, and when thegiant let it go, it sprang back again, and the tailor was tossed intothe air with it. When he had fallen down again without injury, thegiant said: «What is this? Have you not strength enough to hold theweak twig?» «There is no lack of strength,» answered the littletailor. «Do you think that could be anything to a man who hasstruck down seven at one blow? I leapt over the tree because thehuntsmen are shooting down there in the thicket. Jump as I did, if youcan do it.» The giant made the attempt but he could not get over thetree, and remained hanging in the branches, so that in this also thetailor kept the upper hand.

The giant said: «If you are such a valiant fellow, come with me intoour cavern and spend the night with us.» The little tailor waswilling, and followed him. When they went into the cave, othergiants were sitting there by the fire, and each of them had a roastedsheep in his hand and was eating it. The little tailor looked roundand thought: «It is much more spacious here than in my workshop.» Thegiant 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 liedown in it, but crept into a corner. When it was midnight, and thegiant thought that the little tailor was lying in a sound sleep, hegot up, took a great iron bar, cut through the bed with one blow, andthought he had finished off the grasshopper for good. With theearliest dawn the giants went into the forest, and had quiteforgotten the little tailor, when all at once he walked up to themquite merrily and boldly. The giants were terrified, they were afraidthat he would strike them all dead, and ran away in a great hurry.

The little tailor went onwards, always following his own pointednose. After he had walked for a long time, he came to the courtyard ofa royal palace, and as he felt weary, he lay down on the grass andfell asleep. Whilst he lay there, the people came and inspected him onall sides, and read on his girdle: «Seven at one stroke.» «Ah!» saidthey, «what does the great warrior want here in the midst of peace? Hemust be a mighty lord.» They went and announced him to the king, andgave it as their opinion that if war should break out, this would be aweighty and useful man who ought on no account to be allowed todepart. The counsel pleased the king, and he sent one of his courtiersto the little tailor to offer him military service when he awoke. Theambassador remained standing by the sleeper, waited until he stretchedhis limbs and opened his eyes, and then conveyed to him this proposal.«For this very reason have I come here,» the tailor replied, «I amready to enter the king’s service.» He was therefore honourablyreceived, and a special dwelling was assigned him.

The soldiers, however, were set against the little tailor, and wishedhim a thousand miles away. «What is to be the end of this?» they saidamong 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 againsthim.» They came therefore to a decision, betook themselves in a bodyto the king, and begged for their dismissal. «We are not prepared,’said they, «to stay with a man who kills seven at one stroke.» Theking was sorry that for the sake of one he should lose all his faithfulservants, wished that he had never set eyes on the tailor, and wouldwillingly have been rid of him again. But he did not venture to givehim his dismissal, for he dreaded lest he should strike him and allhis people dead, and place himself on the royal throne. He thoughtabout it for a long time, and at last found good counsel. He sent tothe little tailor and caused him to be informed that as he was a greatwarrior, he had one request to make to him. In a forest of hiscountry lived two giants, who caused great mischief with theirrobbing, murdering, ravaging, and burning, and no one could approachthem without putting himself in danger of death. If the tailorconquered and killed these two giants, he would give him his onlydaughter to wife, and half of his kingdom as a dowry, likewise onehundred horsemen should go with him to assist him. «That would indeedbe a fine thing for a man like me!» thought the little tailor. «Oneis not offered a beautiful princess and half a kingdom every dayof one’s life!» «Oh, yes,» he replied, «I will soon subdue thegiants, 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. Aftera while he perceived both giants. They lay sleeping under a tree, andsnored so that the branches waved up and down. The little tailor, notidle, gathered two pocketsful of stones, and with these climbed upthe tree. When he was halfway up, he slipped down by a branch,until he sat just above the sleepers, and then let one stone afteranother fall on the breast of one of the giants. For a long time thegiant felt nothing, but at last he awoke, pushed his comrade, andsaid: «Why are you knocking me?» «You must be dreaming,» said theother, «I am not knocking you.» They laid themselves down tosleep again, and then the tailor threw a stone down on the second.«What is the meaning of this?» cried the other «Why are you peltingme?» «I am not pelting you,» answered the first, growling. Theydisputed about it for a time, but as they were weary they let thematter rest, and their eyes closed once more. The little tailor beganhis game again, picked out the biggest stone, and threw it with allhis might on the breast of the first giant. «That is too bad!» criedhe, and sprang up like a madman, and pushed his companion against thetree until it shook. The other paid him back in the same coin, andthey got into such a rage that they tore up trees and belaboured eachother so long, that at last they both fell down dead on the ground atthe same time. Then the little tailor leapt down. «It is a luckything,» said he, «that they did not tear up the tree on which I wassitting, 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 thema couple of thrusts in the breast, and then went out to the horsemen andsaid: «The work is done; I have finished both of them off, but it washard work! They tore up trees in their sore need, and defendedthemselves with them, but all that is to no purpose when a man likemyself comes, who can kill seven at one blow.» «But are you notwounded?» asked the horsemen. «You need not concern yourself aboutthat,» answered the tailor, «they have not bent one hair of mine.» Thehorsemen would not believe him, and rode into the forest; there theyfound the giants swimming in their blood, and all round about lay thetorn-up trees.

The little tailor demanded of the king the promised reward; he,however, repented of his promise, and again bethought himself how hecould get rid of the hero. «Before you receive my daughter, and thehalf of my kingdom,» said he to him, «you must perform one moreheroic deed. In the forest roams a unicorn which does great harm, andyou must catch it first.» «I fear one unicorn still less than twogiants. Seven at one blow, is my kind of affair.» He took a rope andan axe with him, went forth into the forest, and again bade thosewho were sent with him to wait outside. He had not long to seek. Theunicorn soon came towards him, and rushed directly on the tailor, asif it would gore him with its horn without more ado. «Softly, softly; itcan’t be done as quickly as that,» said he, and stood still and waiteduntil the animal was quite close, and then sprang nimbly behind thetree. The unicorn ran against the tree with all its strength, andstuck its horn so fast in the trunk that it had not the strengthenough to draw it out again, and thus it was caught. «Now, I have gotthe bird,» said the tailor, and came out from behind the tree and putthe rope round its neck, and then with his axe he hewed the horn outof the tree, and when all was ready he led the beast away and took it tothe king.

The king still would not give him the promised reward, and made athird demand. Before the wedding the tailor was to catch him a wildboar that made great havoc in the forest, and the huntsmen shouldgive him their help. «Willingly,» said the tailor, «that is child’splay!» He did not take the huntsmen with him into the forest, andthey were well pleased that he did not, for the wild boar had severaltimes received them in such a manner that they had no inclination tolie in wait for him. When the boar perceived the tailor, it ran onhim with foaming mouth and whetted tusks, and was about to throw himto the ground, but the hero fled and sprang into a chapel which wasnear and up to the window at once, and in one bound out again. Theboar ran after him, but the tailor ran round outside and shut thedoor behind it, and then the raging beast, which was much too heavyand awkward to leap out of the window, was caught. The little tailorcalled the huntsmen thither that they might see the prisoner with theirown eyes. The hero, however, went to the king, who was now, whetherhe liked it or not, obliged to keep his promise, and gave hisdaughter and the half of his kingdom. Had he known that it was nowarlike hero, but a little tailor who was standing before him, it wouldhave gone to his heart still more than it did. The wedding washeld with great magnificence and small joy, and out of a tailor a kingwas made.

After some time the young queen heard her husband say in his dreamsat night: «Boy, make me the doublet, and patch the pantaloons, or else Iwill rap the yard-measure over your ears.» Then she discovered in whatstate of life the young lord had been born, and next morningcomplained of her wrongs to her father, and begged him to help herto get rid of her husband, who was nothing else but a tailor. Theking comforted her and said: «Leave your bedroom door open thisnight, and my servants shall stand outside, and when he has fallenasleep shall go in, bind him, and take him on board a ship whichshall carry him into the wide world.» The woman was satisfied withthis; but the king’s armour-bearer, who had heard all, was friendly withthe young lord, and informed him of the whole plot. «I’ll put a screwinto that business,» said the little tailor. At night he went to bedwith his wife at the usual time, and when she thought that he hadfallen asleep, she got up, opened the door, and then lay down again.The little tailor, who was only pretending to be asleep, began to cryout in a clear voice: «Boy, make me the doublet and patch me thepantaloons, or I will rap the yard-measure over your ears. I smote sevenat one blow. I killed two giants, I brought away one unicorn, andcaught a wild boar, and am I to fear those who are standing outside theroom.» When these men heard the tailor speaking thus, they wereovercome by a great dread, and ran as if the wild huntsman werebehind them, and none of them would venture anything furtheragainst him. So the little tailor was and remained a king to theend of his life.

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