The Valiant Little Tailor

Fairy Tale Fridays

Once more, another tale paraphrased from the Brothers Grimm! This week it is The Valiant Little Tailor which I knew as “The Brave Little Tailor” (thanks Disney) growing up.

The Valiant Little Tailor

My summary:

A little tailor buys some jam and sets it aside to eat after finishing his work.  The jam attracts some flies and he kills seven flies with one blow of a cloth.  Much impressed with himself, he makes a belt that reads “Seven at one stroke!” and sets off into the world to share his prowess.  Before leaving, he stocks his pockets with some old cheese and a small bird which he frees from some branches outside the window.

He meets a giant along the road, who looks at the little tailor with contempt.  When the giant reads the belt, he thinks that the tailor has killed seven men at once.  A little impressed, the giant sets to challenge him.  The giant takes a stone and squeezes it so that water drips out, then calls for the tailor to do the same. The tailor takes out the bit of cheese and (pretending it is a rock), squeezes it until it drips. The giant is impressed, but still seeks to test the tailor’s strength. The giant takes a stone and throws it high into the air, then challenges the tailor to do the same. The tailor declares he will throw a stone that will never come down again and throws the bird (pretending it is a rock) from his pocket. The bird, grateful to be free, flies off.  The giant is impressed but still seeks to challenge him, so tells the tailor to help him carry an oak tree.  The tailor tricks the giant once again and, convincing the giant to carry the trunk of the tree in the front, sits upon the branches in the back so that the giant is doing all the work but cannot turn around to see that the tailor does nothing. Eventually the giant tires and drops the tree.  They continue to travel along, until they come to a cherry tree with ripe fruit hanging down. The giant bends the tree and hands a branch to the tailor. Of course the tree springs back up, throwing the tailor over it. The giant exclaims that the tailor is much too weak to even hold a small tree such as that, but the tailor tricks him again.  The tailor explains that he had jumped to avoid the arrows of a hunter and challenges the giant to do the same.  The giant cannot jump over the tree and so is bested again.

The giant invites the tailor to come with him and spend the night in the cavern of the giants.  The tailor readily accepts and is given a great big bed to sleep upon.  The bed was much too large for the tailor, who sneaks away into a corner.  During the night the giant comes and smashes the bed in half with a great big iron bar, thinking he has smashed the tailor. In the morning, the giants amble out of the cavern and into the woods.  The tailor stealthily follows them and merrily greets them in the forest. The giants are terrified that the tailor will strike them all dead and run away.

The tailor continues on his way and eventually comes to the courtyard of a palace where he lies down in the grass to sleep.  People come and see his belt reading “Seven at one Stroke” and are impressed.  They bring news of the tailor to the King and counsel the King to offer this stranger military service when he awakes. This is done, and the tailor is much pleased with the proposal to enter the King’s service.

The tailor is given command of soldiers, who are much afraid and set against him.  They go to the King and beg to be dismissed from service. The King is very sad to lose all those faithful servants, but he does not wish to go against the tailor for he is afraid. Instead, he gives the tailor a mission to rid a nearby forest of two giants who are causing trouble.  The king gives the tailor a hundred horsemen and declares that if the two giants are conquered and killed then the tailor will get half of the kingdom and the hand of the princess.

The tailor sets out, leaving the horsemen at the edge of the woods.  He then goes into the forest and comes across the two giants, who are sleeping under a tree.  The tailor gathers up stones and climbs the tree.  He begins to drop stones on one of the giants, who wakes and accuses the other of hitting him.  The second giant denies it and the two fall back asleep.  Then the tailor throws a stone at the second giant, who wakes and accuses the first.  They fall back asleep and the tailor resumes his stone-throwing.  This time the giants wake in a fury, each convinced that the other is at fault.  The two giants get into a tremendous fight, ripping up trees and churning the ground. At the end, they both fall down dead. The tailor leaps out of his tree and stabs the (dead) giants in the chest a few times for good measure.  Then the tailor saunters back to the waiting horsemen and declares that the giants are dead. When the horsemen go to verify this claim, they see the giants and the churned up ground and are awed and afraid.

The King, however, regrets his promise, and gives the tailor a second task before he can claim the only princess and half the kingdom.  There is a unicorn that has been causing harm in a nearby forest and the King tells the tailor to go and catch it.  Again the tailor leaves his followers outside the forest, as he goes in to seek the unicorn.  He looks for the unicorn and before long the unicorn emerges from the trees and rushes at the tailor, head down.  The tailor nimbly leaps aside and the unicorn barrels into a tree where his horn becomes embedded with such force that it is trapped.  The tailor binds the unicorn with ropes, uses his axe to set the horn free, and returns to the King with his captured prey.

The King still regrets his earlier promise and tells the tailor that there is one more task he must do before getting his reward.  There is a wild boar that is wrecking havoc in the forest and the tailor is to catch him.  Leaving the huntsmen that are to help him at the edge of the forest, the tailor once again sets out.  He boar rushes him but the nimble tailor dashes into a nearby chapel.  The boar chases him inside but the tailor then leaps out the window, dashing around to shut the door and trap the boar inside.

The King now has no choice but to keep his promise and gives the tailor half his kingdom and the hand of the princess. The tailor, now king over his own land, is much pleased.

The new Queen overhears the tailor talking in his sleep and realizes his humble beginnings.  She begs her father to help her get rid of her new husband, who is nothing but a tailor.  The old King tells her to leave the bedroom door open during the night so that his servants can sneak in once the tailor has fallen asleep, bind him, and bring him to a ship to sail him away.  A servant friendly to the tailor overhears this plan and warns the tailor. That night, when the Queen thinks he is asleep and sneaks out of bed to open the door, the tailor murmurs, as if talking in his sleep.  He boasts of his feats, including slaying seven with one blow, killing two giants, catching the unicorn and trapping the killer boar.  The servants outside the door hear this and are overcome with fear.  They run away, and none will venture against the tailor.  Thus, the little tailor lives as King for the rest of his days.

It seems to me that the little tailor sure thinks highly of himself.  His huge ego, combined with sneaky tricks, carry him far! I’m not convinced he deserves his rewards!


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