The brave little tailor kills seven flies with one blow, and manages to convince both giants and kings that he is indeed a force to be reckoned with. The hero in this story by the Brothers Grimm is armed with whit, cunning and a sense of humour. He conquers all before him, including a giant, a unicorn, and a princess.
One summer’s morning a little tailor was sitting on his table by the window. He was in good spirits, and sewed with all his might. Then came a peasant woman down the street crying, “Good jams, cheap! Good jams, cheap!” This rang pleasantly in the tailor’s ears. He stretched his delicate head out of the window, and called, “Come up here, dear woman; here you will get rid of your goods.” The woman came up the three steps to the tailor with her heavy basket, and he made her unpack 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 be good. I’ll buy a jar.” The woman, who had hoped to sell far more jam, gave him what he wanted, but went away grumbling.
“Now, this jam shall be blessed by God,” cried the little tailor, “and give me health and strength,” so he brought the bread out of the cupboard, cut himself a piece right across the loaf and spread the jam over it. “This won’t taste bitter,” said he, “but I will just finish 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 the meantime the smell of the sweet jam rose to where the flies were sitting in great numbers, and they were attracted and descended on it in hosts. “Hey! Who invited you?” Said the little tailor, and drove the unbidden guests away. The flies, however, understood no German, and came back again in ever increasing companies. The little tailor at last lost all patience, and drew a piece 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 he drew it away and counted, there lay before him no fewer than seven flies, dead and with legs stretched out.
The tailor looked at the flies that he had killed, and could not help admiring his own bravery. “The whole town shall know of this!” The little tailor hastened to cut himself a belt, stitched it, and embroidered on it in large letters, “Seven dead at one stroke!” “What, the town? The whole world shall hear of it!” He exclaimed. 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. Before he went away, he looked around the house to see if there was anything which he could take with him; however, he found nothing but an old cheese, and that he put in his pocket. In front of the door he observed a bird which had caught itself in the thicket. It had to go into his pocket with the cheese. Now he took to the road boldly, and as he was light and nimble, he felt no tiredness. The road led him up a mountain, and when he had reached the highest point of it, there sat a powerful giant looking peacefully about him. The little tailor went bravely up, spoke to him, and said, “Good day, comrade. So you are sitting there overlooking the widespread world! I am just on my way there, and want to try my luck. How about you come with me?” The giant looked contemptuously at the tailor, and said, “You wretch! You miserable creature!”
“Oh, indeed?” Answered the little tailor, and unbuttoned his coat, showing the giant the belt. “There may you read what kind of a man I am!” The giant read, “Seven dead at one stroke,” and thought that they had been men whom the tailor had killed, and began to feel a little respect for the tiny fellow. Nevertheless, he wished to try him first, and took a stone in his hand and squeezed it together so that water dropped out of it. “Do that,” said the giant, “if you have strength.”
“Is that all?” Said the tailor. “That is child’s play!” He put his hand into his pocket, brought out the soft cheese, and pressed it until the liquid ran out of it. The giant did not know what to say, and could not believe it of the little man. Then the giant picked up a stone and threw it so high that the eye could scarcely follow it. “Now, little mite of a man, do that,”
“Well thrown,” said the tailor, “but after all the stone came down to earth again. I will throw you one which shall never come back at all,” and he put his hand into his pocket, took out the bird, and threw it into the air. The bird, delighted with its liberty, rose, flew away and did not come back. “How does that shot please you, comrade?” Asked the tailor. “You can certainly throw,” said the giant, “but now we will see if you are able to carry anything properly.” He took the little tailor to a mighty oak tree which lay there felled on the ground, and said, “If you are strong enough, help me to carry the tree out of the forest.”
“Readily,” answered the little man, “take you the trunk on your shoulders, and I will raise up the branches and twigs; after all, they are the heaviest.” The giant took the trunk on his shoulder, but the tailor seated himself on a branch, and the giant, who could not look round, had to carry away the whole tree, and the little tailor into the bargain: he behind, was quite merry and happy, and whistled the song, “Three tailors rode forth from the gate,” as if carrying the tree were child’s play. The giant, after he had dragged the heavy burden part of the way, could go no further, and cried, “Now I shall have to let the tree fall!” The tailor sprang nimbly down, seized the tree with both arms as if he had been carrying it, and said to the giant, “You are such a great fellow, and yet cannot even carry the tree!”
The giant said, “If you are such a brave fellow, come with me into our cave and spend the night with us.” The little tailor was willing, and followed him. When they went into the cave, other giants were sitting there by the fire, and each of them had a roasted sheep in his hand and was eating it. The little tailor looked around and thought, “It is much more spacious here than in my workshop.” The giant 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 so he did not lie down in it, but crept into a corner. When it was midnight, and the giant thought that the little tailor was lying in a sound sleep, he got up, took a great iron bar, cut through the bed with one blow, and thought he had finished off the grasshopper of a man for good. With the earliest dawn the giants went into the forest, and had quite forgotten the little tailor, when all at once he walked up to them quite merrily and boldly. The giants were terrified, they were afraid that he would strike them all dead, and ran away in a great hurry.
The little tailor went onward, always following his own pointed nose. After he had walked for a long time, he came to the courtyard of a royal palace, and as he felt weary, he lay down on the grass and fell asleep. Whilst he lay there, the people came and inspected him on all sides. They read on his belt, “Seven dead with one stroke.”
“Ah!” Said they. “What does the great warrior want here in the midst of peace? He must be a mighty lord.” Soon the tailor was brought before the king who had a request to make of him.
“In the forest roams a magical horse with one horn – a unicorn, which does great harm attacking people all around. If you can can rid me of this unicorn, you shall have the hand of my daughter in marriage and half my kingdom.” The tailor thought to himself, “It is not every day that I receive an offer such as that,” and he replied, “I do not fear one unicorn. Seven at one blow, is my kind of affair.”
He took a rope and an axe with him, went forth into the forest. The unicorn soon came towards him, and rushed directly on the tailor, as if it would gore him with its horn without more ado. “Softly, softly; it can’t be done as quickly as that,” said he, and stood still and waited until the animal was quite close, and then sprang nimbly behind the tree. The unicorn ran against the tree with all its strength, and stuck its horn so fast in the trunk that it had not the strength enough to draw it out again – and thus it was caught. “Now, I have got it,” said the tailor, and came out from behind the tree and put the rope round its neck, and then with his axe he hewed the horn out of the tree, and when all was ready he led the beast away and took it to the king. But the king was sorry that he had promised his daughter to the little man, and made another demand. Before the wedding the tailor was to catch him a wild boar that made great havoc in the forest. And so the taylor went into the forest where the boar was roaming.
When the boar saw the tailor, it ran on him with foaming mouth and sharp tusks, and was about to throw him to the ground, but the hero fled and sprang into a chapel which was near and up to the window at once, and in one bound, out again. The boar ran after him, but the tailor ran around outside and shut the door behind it. The raging beast, which was much too heavy and awkward to leap out of the window, was caught. The hero went to the king, who was now, whether he liked it or not, obliged to keep his promise, and gave his daughter and the half of his kingdom. The wedding was held with great magnificence and small joy, and out of a tailor a king was made.
After some time the young queen heard her husband say in his dreams at night, “Boy, make me the jacket, and patch the trousers.” The next morning complained of her wrongs to her father, and begged him to help her get rid of her husband, who was nothing else but a tailor. The king comforted her and said, “Leave your bedroom door open this night, and my servants shall stand outside, and when he has fallen asleep shall go in, bind him, and take him on board a ship which shall carry him into the wide world.” The woman was satisfied with this; but the king’s armour-bearer, who had heard all, was friendly with the young lord, and informed him of the whole plot. “I’ll put a screw into that business,” said the little tailor. At night he went to bed with his wife at the usual time, and when she thought that he had fallen asleep, she got up, opened the door, and then lay down again. The little tailor, who was only pretending to be asleep, began to cry out in a clear voice, “Boy, make me the jacket, and patch the trousers… I smote seven at one blow, I brought away one unicorn, and caught a wild boar, and am I to fear those who are standing outside the room?” When these men heard the tailor speaking thus, they were overcome by a great fear, and ran as if the wild huntsman were behind them, and none of them would venture anything further against him. So the little tailor remained a king to the end of his life.