There was once a poor country man who used to sit in the chimney corner all evening and poke the fire, while his wife sat at the spinning wheel and used to say, "How dull it is that we have no children. With us our house is so quiet, and other people houses so noisy and merry." "Yes, replied the wife, and sighed, "even if we could have only one, and that one ever so little no bigger than my thumb, how happy I should be , it would indeed be having our hearts desire.
Now it happened that after a while the women had a child who was perfect in all its limbs, but no bigger than a thumb. Then the parents said, "He is just what we wished for and we love him very much" and they named him according to his stature Tom Thumb. And though they gave him plenty of nourishment he grew no bigger but remained exactly the same size as when he was first born, and he had very good faculties and was very quick and prudent so that all he did prospered.
One day his father made ready to go into the forest to cut wood, and he said as if to himself, "Now I wish that there was someone who would bring the cart to me." "Oh father," cried Tom Thumb, "If I can bring the card, let me alone for that and in proper time too. Then the father laughed and said, "How will you manage that you are much too little to hold the reins". That has nothing to do with it father, while my mother goes on with her spinning I will sit in the horses ear
"That's of no consequence, father, if my mother will only harness it, I shall sit in the horse's ear and tell him where to go." "Well," answered the father, "we will try it for once. "
When it was time to set off the mother went on spinning after setting Tom Thumb in the horse's ear, and so he drove off crying, "Gee up, gee up." So the horse went on quiet as if with its master were driving him, and drew the wagon the right road into the wood. Now it happened just as they turned a corner, the little fellow was calling up, "gee up," that two strange men passed by
Look," said one of them, "how is this? There goes a wagon and the driving his calling to the horse and yet he is no were to be seen. "
It is very strange," said the other, "we will follow the wagon and see where it belongs."
And the wagon right into the forest, upto the place where the wood had been hued . When Tom Thumb caught site of his father, he cried out , "Look father, here I am with the wagon, now take me down." The father helped the horse with his left hand and with the right he lifted down his little son out of the horse's ear, andTom Thumb sat down on a stunk quite happy and contend. When the two strangers saw him, they were struck dumb with wonder.
Atlast one of them taking the other aside and said to him, "Look here, the little chap will make our fortune if we were to show him into the town for money, suppose we buy him." So they went upto the woodcutter and said, "Sell the little man to us, we will take care he shall come to of no harm."
"No," answered the father, "he is the apple of my eye, and for not all the money in the world would i sell him."
But Tom Thumb, when he heard what was going on climbed up by his father's coat tails and perching himself on his shoulder, he whispered in his ear, "Father you might has give me away, I will soon come back again."
Then the father parted with him to the two men for a handsome sum of money. "Where will you 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 Tom Thumb had taken leave of his father, they went away with him. They walked until it was dusk, and then the little fellow said, "Do take me down, it is necessary."
"Just stay up there," said the man on whose hat he sat, "it makes no difference to me. The birds sometimes let things fall on me."
"No," said Tom Thumb, "I know what's manners, take me quickly up." 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 mousehole 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 mousehole, but it was all in vain. Tom Thumb crept still farther in, and as it soon became quite dark, they were forced to go home with their vexation and their empty purses.
When Tom Thumb 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 stumbled 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 set about getting hold of the rich pastor's silver and gold?"
"I could tell you that," cried Tom Thumb, interrupting them.
"What was that?" said one of the thieves in fright, "I heard someone speaking."
They stood still listening, and Tom Thumb spoke again, and said, "Take me with you, and I'll help you."
"But where are you?"
"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. "You little imp, how will you help us?" they said.
"Listen," 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 you can do."
When they got to the pastor's house, Tom Thumb 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."
Tom Thumb 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 Tom Thumb again cried as loudly as he could, "I really will give you everything, just 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, Tom Thumb, 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.
Tom Thumb 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 there were other things in store for him. Truly, there is much worry and affliction in this world. When the 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 Tom Thumb 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 the 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 he had to take care not to let himself go between the teeth and be dismembered, but he was subsequently 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 that more and more hay was always coming in by the door, and the space grew less and less. When 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 great haste to her master, and said, "Oh heavens, pastor, the cow has been speaking."
"You are mad," replied the pastor, but he went himself to the byre to see what was there. Hardly, however had he set his foot inside when Tom Thumb 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 her to be killed. She was killed, but the stomach, in which Tom Thumb was, was thrown on the dunghill. Tom Thumb had great difficulty in working his way out. 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.
Tom Thumb 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 belly, "Dear wolf, I know of a magnificent feast for you."
"Where is it to be had?" said the wolf.
"In such and such a house. You must creep into it through the kitchen-sink, and will find cakes, and bacon, and sausages, and as much of them as you can 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. Tom Thumb 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.
"Will you be quiet?" said the wolf, "you will waken up the people."
"What do I care?" replied the little fellow, "you have eaten your 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 the blow, if he is not killed by it, you must cut him down and hew his body to pieces."
Then Tom Thumb 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 Tom Thumb 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 your sake."
"Yes father, I have gone about the world a great deal. Thank heaven, I breathe fresh air again."
"Where have you been, then?"
"Ah, father, I have been in a mouse's hole, in a cow's belly, and then in a wolf's paunch. Now I will stay with you.
"And we will not sell you again, no not for all the riches in the world," said his parents, and they embraced and kissed their dear Tom Thumb. 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.