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 the whole of the pots for him. He inspected all of them, lifted them up, put his nose to them, and at length said, "The jam seems to me to be good, so weigh me out four ounces, dear woman, and if it is a quarter of a pound that is of no consequence." The woman who had hoped to find a good sale, gave him what he desired, but went away quite angry and grumbling. "Now, God bless the jam to my use," 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 ascended so to the wall, where the flies were sitting in great numbers, that they were attracted and descended on it in hosts. "Hola! who invited you?" said the little tailor, and drove the unbidden guests away. The flies, however, who understood no German, would not be turned away, but came back again in ever-increasing companies. The little tailor at last lost all patience, and got a bit 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, dead and with legs stretched out. "Art thou a fellow of that sort?" said he, and could not help admiring his own bravery. "The whole town shall know of this!" And the little tailor hastened to cut himself a girdle, stitched it, and embroidered on it in large letters, "Seven at one stroke!" "What, the town!" he continued, "The whole world shall 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. Before he went away, he sought about in 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 fatigue. The road led him up a mountain, and when he had reached the highest point of it, there sat a powerful giant looking about him quite comfortably. The little tailor went bravely up, spoke to him, and said, "Good day, comrade, so thou art sitting there overlooking the wide-spread world! I am just on my way thither, and want to try my luck. Hast thou any inclination to go with me?" The giant looked contemptuously at the tailor, and said, "Thou ragamuffin! Thou miserable creature!"
"Oh, indeed?" answered the little tailor, and unbuttoned his coat, and showed the giant the girdle, "There mayst thou read what kind of a man I am!" The giant read, "Seven 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 likewise," said the giant, "if thou hast strength?" "Is that all?" said the tailor, "that is child's play with us!" and put his hand into his pocket, brought out the soft cheese, and pressed it until the liquid ran out of it. "Faith," said he, "that was a little better, wasn't 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 likewise." "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. "Thou canst certainly throw," said the giant, "but now we will see if thou art 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 thou art strong enough, help me to carry the tree out of the forest." "Readily," answered the little man; "take thou the trunk on thy 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, "Hark you, 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, "Thou art such a great fellow, and yet canst not even carry the tree!"
They went on together, and as they passed a cherry-tree, the giant laid 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. But the little tailor was much too weak to hold the tree, and when the giant let it go, it sprang back again, and the tailor was hurried into the air with it. When he had fallen down again without injury, the giant said, "What is this? Hast thou not strength enough to hold the weak twig?" "There is no lack of strength," answered the little tailor. "Dost thou think that could be anything to a man who has struck down seven at one blow? I leapt over the tree because the huntsmen are shooting down there in the thicket. Jump as I did, if thou canst do it." The giant made the attempt, but could not get over the tree, and remained hanging in the branches, so that in this also the tailor kept the upper hand.
The giant said, "If thou art such a valiant fellow, come with me into our cavern 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 round 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; 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 given the grasshopper his finishing stroke. 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 onwards, 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, and read on his girdle, "Seven at one stroke." "Ah," said they, "What does the great warrior here in the midst of peace? He must be a mighty lord." They went and announced him to the King, and gave it as their opinion that if war should break out, this would be a weighty and useful man who ought on no account to be allowed to depart. The counsel pleased the King, and he sent one of his courtiers to the little tailor to offer him military service when he awoke. The ambassador remained standing by the sleeper, waited until he stretched his limbs and opened his eyes, and then conveyed to him this proposal. "For this very reason have I come here," the tailor replied, "I am ready to enter the King's service." He was therefore honorably received and a special dwelling was assigned him.
The soldiers, however, were set against the little tailor, and wished him a thousand miles away. "What is to be the end of this?" they said amongst 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 against him." They came therefore to a decision, betook themselves in a body to the King, and begged for their dismissal. "We are not prepared," said they, "to stay with a man who kills seven at one stroke." The King was sorry that for the sake of one he should lose all his faithful servants, wished that he had never set eyes on the tailor, and would willingly have been rid of him again. But he did not venture to give him his dismissal, for he dreaded lest he should strike him and all his people dead, and place himself on the royal throne. He thought about it for a long time, and at last found good counsel. He sent to the little tailor and caused him to be informed that as he was such a great warrior, he had one request to make to him. In a forest of his country lived two giants who caused great mischief with their robbing, murdering, ravaging, and burning, and no one could approach them without putting himself in danger of death. If the tailor conquered and killed these two giants, he would give him his only daughter to wife, and half of his kingdom as a dowry, likewise one hundred horsemen should go with him to assist him. "That would indeed be a fine thing for a man like me!" thought the little tailor. "One is not offered a beautiful princess and half a kingdom every day of one's life!" "Oh, yes," he replied, "I will soon subdue the giants, 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. After a while he perceived both giants. They lay sleeping under a tree, and snored so that the branches waved up and down. The little tailor, not idle, gathered two pocketsful of stones, and with these climbed up the tree. When he was half-way up, he slipped down by a branch, until he sat just above the sleepers, and then let one stone after another fall on the breast of one of the giants. For a long time the giant felt nothing, but at last he awoke, pushed his comrade, and said, "Why art thou knocking me?" "Thou must be dreaming," said the other, "I am not knocking thee." They laid themselves down to sleep again, and then the tailor threw a stone down on the second. "What is the meaning of this?" cried the other. "Why art thou pelting me?" "I am not pelting thee," answered the first, growling. They disputed about it for a time, but as they were weary they let the matter rest, and their eyes closed once more. The little tailor began his game again, picked out the biggest stone, and threw it with all his might on the breast of the first giant. "That is too bad!" cried he, and sprang up like a madman, and pushed his companion against the tree until it shook. The other paid him back in the same coin, and they got into such a rage that they tore up trees and belabored each other so long, that at last they both fell down dead on the ground at the same time. Then the little tailor leapt down. "It is a lucky thing," said he, "that they did not tear up the tree on which I was sitting, or I should have had to spring on to another like a squirrel; but we tailors are nimble." He drew out his sword and gave each of them a couple of thrusts in the breast, and then went out to the horsemen and said, "The work is done; I have given both of them their finishing stroke, but it was hard work! They tore up trees in their sore need, and defended themselves with them, but all that is to no purpose when a man like myself comes, who can kill seven at one blow." "But are you not wounded?" asked the horsemen. "You need not concern yourself about that," answered the tailor, "They have not bent one hair of mine." The horsemen would not believe him, and rode into the forest; there they found the giants swimming in their blood, and all round about lay the torn-up trees.
The little tailor demanded of the King the promised reward; he, however, repented of his promise, and again bethought himself how he could get rid of the hero. "Before thou receivest my daughter, and the half of my kingdom," said he to him, "thou must perform one more heroic deed. In the forest roams a unicorn which does great harm, and thou must catch it first." "I fear one unicorn still less than two giants. Seven at one blow, is my kind of affair." He took a rope and an axe with him, went forth into the forest, and again bade those who were sent with him to wait outside. He had to seek long. The unicorn soon came towards him, and rushed directly on the tailor, as if it would spit him on his horn without more ceremony. "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 struck its horn so fast in the trunk that it had not strength enough to draw it out again, and thus it was caught. "Now, I have got the bird," 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.
The King still would not give him the promised reward, and made a third demand. Before the wedding the tailor was to catch him a wild boar that made great havoc in the forest, and the huntsmen should give him their help. "Willingly," said the tailor, "that is child's play!" He did not take the huntsmen with him into the forest, and they were well pleased that he did not, for the wild boar had several times received them in such a manner that they had no inclination to lie in wait for him. When the boar perceived the tailor, it ran on him with foaming mouth and whetted tusks, and was about to throw him to the ground, but the active hero sprang into a chapel which was near, and up to the window at once, and in one bound out again. The boar ran in after him, but the tailor ran round outside and shut the door behind it, and then the raging beast, which was much too heavy and awkward to leap out of the window, was caught. The little tailor called the huntsmen thither that they might see the prisoner with their own eyes. The hero, however went to the King, who was now, whether he liked it or not, obliged to keep his promise, and gave him his daughter and the half of his kingdom. Had he known that it was no warlike hero, but a little tailor who was standing before him, it would have gone to his heart still more than it did. 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 doublet, and patch the pantaloons, or else I will rap the yard-measure over thine ears." Then she discovered in what state of life the young lord had been born, and next morning complained of her wrongs to her father, and begged him to help her to get rid of her husband, who was nothing else but a tailor. The King comforted her and said, "Leave thy bed-room 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 doublet and patch me the pantaloons, or I will rap the yard-measure over thine ears. I smote seven at one blow. I killed two giants, 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 dread, and ran as if the wild huntsman were behind them, and none of them would venture anything further against him. So the little tailor was a king and remained one, to the end of his life.
The first half is taken from two stories from Hesse, which compliment each other. The second from the place where the Tailor leaves th giants, and betakes himself to the King's court, is from a somewhat rare little book, Wegkürzer, a very amusing and unusually diverting little book by Martinus Montanus of Strasburg (1557, in l2mo. p. 18-25). This part can stand alone, but as it fits naturally to what has gone before, it is here joined to it, and therefore re-written. In the first edition may be seen the unaltered copy. Allusion is made to the story by Fischart, in Gargantua (254b), "I will kill you like the midges, nine at one blow, as the tailor did," and in Flohhatz (Dornavius), 39b.
"Horst nicht vom tapfern Schneiderknecht ,
Der drei in einem Streich zu todt schlecht."
Also in Simplicissimus (chap. ii. 28), "and has surpassed the tailor's title, 'seven at one blow.'" And in Fabelhans (16, 3) "five at one blow." The number naturally changes; we likewise hear of "nine-and-twenty at one blow." If the giant here squeezes water out of a stone, it perhaps has some reference to a passage in Bruder Wernher (M.S. 2. 164b):
"und weiz doch wol e ich ein argen zagen 
getwunge uf milten muot,
daz ich mit riemen liehter twunge einen stein,
daz man in an der ader lieze bluot."
And a passage in Freiberg's Tristan alludes to the tailor's cunning when he takes a cheese instead of a stone,
5190. "und nam den kaese in sine hant ,
der wiiletôre Tristrant
grief sô grimmeclich dar in
daz im durch die vinger sin
ran daz kaesewazzer."
A part of this story is from a Lower Austrian story in Ziska, p. 9. The little tailor begins his journey, and enters the service of the giant, whom in the distance he had taken for a mountain. "What wages am I to have?" he asks. "Three hundred and sixty-five days every year, and, when it is leap-year, one day more," answers the giant, "does that satisfy thee?" "Yes, all right, one must cut one's coat according to one's cloth." The giant orders him to fetch a pitcher of water. "What! a jug of water! why not bring the well itself, and the spring too;" says the boastful little tailor. "What!" growls the giant "the fellow can do more than roast apples!-he has a mandrake in his body." After this he tells the tailor to cut some logs of wood in the forest, and to bring them home. "Hey day, and why not bring the whole forest?" When he has brought the wood, the giant desires him to shoot a couple of wild boars. "And why not rather shoot a thousand of them at once with one shot, and thyself as well?" "What," says the giant in a fright, "that is enough for to-day; go to bed and sleep." The next morning the giant goes with the tailor to a marsh which is thickly overgrown with willows. "Now my man, seat thyself on a branch like this, and let me see if thy weight will bend it down." The tailor seats himself, holds his breath, and makes himself heavy in order to bend the branch; but as he is obliged to breathe again, and as he unfortunately has not got his goose with him, to the giant's delight it springs up with him so high in the air that he is never seen again. The story is spread over the whole of Germany. It is found in the Büchlein für die Jugend, p 171-180. In Kuhn, No. 11. In Stober's elsass: Volksbuch, p. 109; in Bechstein, p. 5; in Ernst Meyer, No. 37; Vonbun, p. 9; Zingerle, p. 12; Pröhle's Kindermärchen, No. 47; in Swedish in Cavallius, pp. 1-8; in Norwegian in Asbjörnsen, p. 40; in Danish in Etlar, p. 29, in the tale of a valiant young shoe maker's apprentice. Nyerup describes the rhymed treatment of this version in his work on the Danish Volkbücher (Almindelig Morskabsläsning i Dannemark og Norge. Kiobenhavn, 1816), pp. 241, 242. The hero strikes fifteen flies dead at one blow with his garter, the renown of which great deed is so spread abroad, that a prince takes him into his service, that he may deliver his country from a wild boar. The animal devours a fruit which causes sleep, and is easily killed by the shoemaker. He then overcomes the unicorn, and lastly a bear, which he shuts up in a brickmaker's oven. There is likewise the following characteristic story in Dutch, from a book on folk-lore published in Amsterdam. Van Kleyn Kobisje, alias Koningh sonder Onderzaten, p. 7. 14. (King without subjects). It is to be found also as a supplement, in an almost identical form in another Dutch book on folk-lore; Clement Marot, pp. 132-133, under the title of Hans Onversagt. "Little Kobisje was sitting by his cutting-board peeling an apple, and left the parings lying on it. He made a fly-killer, and when the flies settled on the apple-parings to eat them; he killed seven at one stroke. He leapt up from the table, imagining that he had performed a valiant deed, and had thus become a great man; sold all he had, and caused a pretty shield to be made for himself on which he had inscribed, "My name is young Kobis the dauntless, I slew seven at one stroke." Then he went to a far-off country where a King ruled; placed his shield on his breast, went behind the King's palace, and lay down on a high hill, where he knew he was accustomed to pass.
At length the sun began to shine brightly, and the King could not imagine what it was that was glittering so, and immediately sent a nobleman thither. When the nobleman came up, he was alarmed when he read, "My name is young Kobis, the Dauntless; I slew seven at one blow." He went back and told the King what he had seen, who instantly sent two or three companies of soldiers thither with the nobleman, to give him courage, and conduct the stranger to court with the respect and honour due to such a knight. They went thither as the King had ordered, and approached and examined him, but none of them would be the first to speak to him. At last one of the crowd was bold enough to take a spear and touch the sole of his shoe with it. Up he sprang with great vigour, and they fell on their knees, and entreated him to be pleased to go to the King, which he did. When he came to the King, he was treated with great respect. Meanwhile he was informed that he might become the King's son-in-law, but that there were three difficult things which he must first do for him. In the first place there was a wild boar which did a great deal of mischief, and no one could capture it. Secondly, there were three giants, who had made the King's forest so dangerous that any one who traversed it was a dead man. Thirdly, several thousand foreigners had invaded the land, and the realm appeared to be in great peril. He accepted these conditions, and they told him the way to the place where the wild boar lurked. Full of courage he left the court. He was, however, so terrified when he heard the wild boar that he wished himself back again by his cutting-board. The wild boar came rushing on him with such fury that he looked for a safe place to escape to, espied a ruined chapel, and took refuge in it. The wild boar followed him, but with all speed he sprang through the window over the wall, and shut the door of the chapel. No sooner was the wild boar secured, than Kobisje went to the King, who said to him, "How didst thou catch the wild boar?" The other replied, "I seized it with great force by its bristles and flung it into the chapel, but I would not kill it, for I wanted to present it to you." Then there were great rejoicings at court, and he went in search of the giants, and had the good fortune to find them asleep. He took his bag and filled it with stones, climbed up a high tree, and threw a stone at one of them, who thought one of the others had done it, and began to scold, and tell him to leave off throwing stones, or he would box his ears soundly. He threw stones at the second, who likewise began to swear. The third was treated in the same way. He got up, drew his sword, flew at the other, and stabbed him and he fell down on the ground. Then he attacked the other and after a long struggle both fell to the earth exhausted. Kobisje seized the opportunity, came down and took the sword of the dead one and stabbed the two others, cut off their heads, and went back to court again. The King asked him if he had performed the task? He answered, "Yes." On this the King enquired how he had done it. He answered thus, "I took one giaut by his legs and belaboured the other with him till he dropped down dead, and I paid off the other in the same coin. And as the one I was holding by the legs was half dead, I struck him with such force against a tree that it flew up six feet high into the air.' Again there was great joy at court, and he was held to be the greatest man there. Then he once more made ready, and the nobles of the court with him, and he had an army of brave men of whom he was the general. Having taken leave, he began his third task. He bade the troops march onwards, and followed on horse back. But as he had never cidden on horseback he had great difficulty in keeping his seat. When they had arrived at the place where the enemy was, he ordered his troops to draw up in order of battle, and was soon told that all was ready. He did not know how to turn his horse round, drew the wrong side of the bridle, spurred his horse, and it went off with him full gallop towards the enemy. As he could not hold the bridle fast, he clutched at a wooden cross by the wayside, which broke off and he held it tightly in his arms. When the enemy perceived him, they thought that he was the Devil, and began to fly, and those who could not escape were drowned. The others unloosed their ships from their moorings and sailed away. After this victory, he returned to his noblemen, and the whole army, and told them of his conquest, and how he had completely routed the enemy. He went to the King, and informed him of the victory, and the King thanked him. Moreover he had him proclaimed his suc cessor to the throne. The wedding-day was fixed, and great preparations were made for it. When the wedding had taken place, he was held in high esteem, and always placed next the King. It hap pened however that nearly every night Kobisje dr that he was sitting by his cutting-board once more, and his mind was always filled with this or that thought about his work, and he cried aloud, "Courage, courage, bestir yourselves, in six or seven hours you will leave off work," for he was fancying that he was giving his apprentices something to cut or sew. The princess was alarmed, for she thought that he must be possessed by the Devil, as he was always babbling, "Courage! Courage!" She accused her father of having given her to a book-binder, and not a great lord. The father resolved to place a company of soldiers by his bed-side who were to take him prisoner or kill him if they heard him say this. He however, was warned, and when he was in bed he thus exclaimed, "I have overcome a wild boar, I have killed three giants; I have slain an army of a hundred thousand men, and shall I be afraid of two or three companies of soldiers to-night?" and he jumped out of bed and went fiercely towards them. On hearing him, they fell head over heels from the top of the stairs to the bottom. Those who lay dead, or had lost legs and arms, were very numerous, and those who ran away, took such news to the King, that he said, "My daughter ought to be wiser than to affront such a great knight!" Soon after this, the King became ill and died, leaving the throne to Kobisje, which he accepted, and ruled over the kingdom in peace. The English story ofJack the Giant Killer is allied (Tabart Collection, 3. 1-37); and No. 17 in Müllenhoff. Also some incidents in a Tyrolese story, Zingerle, p. 108. The Persian story, Amint the wise (Kletke's Märchensaal, 3. 54) likewise belongs to this group. It is even known among Laplanders (see Nilsson' Ureinwohner des skand: Nordens (Stockh. 1843), p. 31. In a Russian ballad in Wladimir's Tafelrunde (see further on), Tugarin performs in earnest what the little tailor only pretends to do, and throws a stone so far that it never comes back at all. The saga of the conquered wild-boar is also to be found in the Buch von den sieben weisen Meistern, p. 36, 37.
[A very good story, The Giant and his Boy, which is told in Rae's White Sea Peninsula, ought to be given here. "A boy once served a giant who, wanting to try his strength, took him into the forest. The giant proposed that they should strike their heads against the fir-trees. The boy anticipating this, had made a hole in a tree and covered it with bark. They both ran, the boy burying his head in the tree while the giant only split the bark. 'Well,' said the giant, 'now I have found a boy who is strong.'
"Then the giant wished to try who could shout the loudest. The giant roared till the mountains trembled, and great rocks tumbled down. The boy cut a branch from a tree, saying he would bind it round the giant's head for fear it should burst when he shouted. The giant prayed him not to shout, and said they would try instead who could throw the farthest. He produced a great hammer which he threw so high in the air, that it appeared no larger than a fly. The boy said he was considering which sky to throw the hammer into, and the giant, fearing to lose his hammer, asked the boy not to throw at all.
"In the evening the giant asked him when he slept the soundest, and he answered, at midnight. At midnight the giant came and aimed heavy blows at the bed. In the morning when the boy, in reply to the giant's enquiries, said he had felt some chips falling on his face during the night, the giant thought he had better send him away. This he did, giving him as much money as he could carry."-TR.]