Thumbling As Journeyman

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Thumbling As Journeyman

     A certain tailor had a son, who happened to be small, and no bigger than
a Thumb, and on this account he was always called Thumbling. He had, however,
some courage in him, and said to his father, "Father, I must and will go out
into the world." "That's right, my son," said the old man, and took a long
darning-needle and made a knob of sealing-wax on it at the candle, "and
there is a sword for thee to take with thee on the way." Then the little
tailor wanted to have one more meal with them, and hopped into the kitchen to
see what his lady mother had cooked for the last time. It was, however, just
dished up, and the dish stood on the hearth. Then he said, "Mother, what is
there to eat to-day?" "See for thyself," said his mother. So Thumbling
jumped on to the hearth, and peeped into the dish, but as he stretched his
neck in too far the steam from the food caught hold of him, and carried him up
the chimney. He rode about in the air on the steam for a while, until at
length he sank down to the ground again. Now the little tailor was outside in
the wide world, and he travelled about, and went to a master in his craft, but
the food was not good enough for him. "Mistress, if you give us no better
food," said Thumbling, "I will go away and early to-morrow morning I will
write with chalk on the door of your house, 'Too many potatoes, too little
meat! Farewell, Mr. Potato-King?'" "What wouldst thou have forsooth,
grasshopper?" said the mistress, and grew angry, and seized a dish-cloth,
and was just going to strike him; but my little tailor crept nimbly under a
thimble, peeped out from beneath it, and put his tongue out at the mistress.
She took up the thimble, and wanted to get hold of him, but little Thumbling
hopped into the cloth, and while the mistress was opening it out and looking
for him, he got into a crevice in the table. "Ho, ho, lady mistress," cried
he, and thrust his head out, and when she began to strike him he leapt down
into the drawer. At last, however, she caught him and drove him out of the

     The little tailor journeyed on and came to a great forest, and there he
fell in with a band of robbers who had a design to steal the King's treasure.
When they saw the little tailor, they thought, "A little fellow like that can
creep through a key-hole and serve as a picklock to us." "Hollo," cried one
of them, "thou giant Goliath, wilt thou go to the treasure-chamber with us?
Thou canst slip thyself in and throw out the money." Thumbling reflected a
while, and at length he said "yes," and went with them to the treasure -
chamber. Then he looked at the doors above and below, to see if there was any
crack in them. It was not long before he espied one which was broad enough to
let him in. He was therefore about to get in at once, but one of the two
sentries who stood before the door, observed him, and said to the other, "What
an ugly spider is creeping there; I will kill it." "Let the poor creature
alone," said the other, "it has done thee no harm." Then Thumbling got safely
through the crevice into the treasure-chamber, opened the window beneath
which the robbers were standing, and threw out to them one thaler after
another. When the little tailor was in the full swing of his work, he heard
the King coming to inspect his treasure-chamber, and crept hastily into a
hiding-place. The King noticed that several solid thalers were missing, but
could not conceive who could have stolen them, for locks and bolts were in
good condition, and all seemed well guarded. Then he went away again, and said
to the sentries, "Be on the watch, some one is after the money." When,
therefore, Thumbling recommenced his labours, they heard the money moving, and
a sound of klink, klink, klink. They ran swiftly in to seize the thief, but
the little tailor, who heard them coming, was still swifter, and leaped into a
corner and covered himself with a thaler, so that nothing could be seen of
him, and at the same time he mocked the sentries and cried, "Here am I!" The
sentries ran thither, but as they got there, he had already hopped into
another corner under a thaler, and was crying, "Ho, ho, here am I!" The
watchmen sprang there in haste, but Thumbling had long ago got into a third
corner, and was crying, "Ho, ho, here am I!" And thus he made fools of them,
and drove them so long round about the treasure-chamber that they were weary
and went away. Then by degrees he threw all the thalers out, despatching the
last with all his might, then hopped nimbly upon it, and flew down with it
through the window. The robbers paid him great compliments. "Thou art a
valiant hero," said they; "wilt thou be our captain?"

     Thumbling, however, declined, and said he wanted to see the world first.
They now divided the booty, but the little tailor only asked for a kreuzer
because he could not carry more.

     Then he once more buckled on his sword, bade the robbers goodbye, and
took to the road. First, he went to work with some masters, but he had no
liking for that, and at last he hired himself as manservant in an inn. The
maids, however, could not endure him, for he saw all that they did secretly,
without their seeing him, and he told their master and mistress what they had
taken off the plates, and carried away out of the cellar, for themselves. Then
said they, "Wait, and we will pay thee off!" and arranged with each other to
play him a trick. Soon afterwards when one of the maids was mowing in the
garden, and saw Thumbling jumping about and creeping up and down the plants,
she mowed him up quickly with the grass, tied all in a great cloth, and
secretly threw it to the cows. Now amongst them there was a great black one,
who swallowed him down with it without hurting him. Down below, however, it
pleased him ill, for it was quite dark, neither was any candle burning. When
the cow was being milked he cried,

"Strip, strap, strull,
Will the pail soon be full?"

But the noise of the milking prevented his being understood. After this the
master of the house came into the cow-byre and said, "That cow shall be
killed to-morrow." Then Thumbling was so alarmed that he cried out in a
clear voice, "Let me out first, for I am shut up inside her." The master heard
that quite well, but did not know from whence the voice came. "Where art
thou?" asked he, "In the black one," answered Thumbling, but the master did
not understand what that meant, and went out.

     Next morning the cow was killed. Happily Thumbling did not meet with one
blow at the cutting up and chopping; he got among the sausage-meat. And when
the butcher came in and began his work, he cried out with all his might,
"Don't chop too deep, don't chop to deep, I am amongst it." No one heard this
because of the noise of the chopping-knife. Now poor Thumbling was in
trouble, but trouble sharpens the wits, and he sprang out so adroitly between
the blows that none of them touched him, and he got out with a whole skin. But
still he could not get away, there was nothing for it, and he had to let
himself be thrust into a black-pudding with the bits of bacon. His quarters
there were rather confined, and besides that he was hung up in the chimney to
be smoked, and there time did hang terribly heavy on his hands.

     At length in winter he was taken down again, as the black-pudding had
to be set before a guest. When the hostess was cutting it in slices, he took
care not to stretch out his head too far lest a bit of it should be cut off;
at last he saw his opportunity, cleared a passage for himself, and jumped out.

     The little tailor, however, would not stay any longer in a house where he
fared so ill, but at once set out on his journey again. But his liberty did
not last long. In the open country he met with a fox who snapped him up in a
fit of absence. "Hollo, Mr. Fox," cried the little tailor, "it is I who am
sticking in your throat, set me at liberty again." "Thou art right," answered
the fox. "Thou art next to nothing for me, but if thou wilt promise me the
fowls in thy father's yard I will let thee go." "With all my heart," replied
Thumbling. "Thou shalt have all the cocks and hens, that I promise thee." Then
the fox let him go again, and himself carried him home. When the father once
more saw his dear son, he willingly gave the fox all the fowls which he had.
"For this I likewise bring thee a handsome bit of money," said Thumbling, and
gave his father the kreuzer which he had earned on his travels.

     "But why did the fox get the poor chickens to eat?" "Oh, you goose, your
father would surely love his child far more than the fowls in the yard!"