One summer's day a little tailor sat on his table
by the window in the best of spirits, and sewed for dear life. As he was sitting
thus a peasant woman came down the street, calling out: "Good jam to sell, good
jam to sell."
This sounded sweetly in the tailor's ears; he put his frail
little head out of the window, and shouted: "Up here, my good woman, and you'll
find a willing customer."
The woman climbed up the three flights of stairs
with her heavy basket to the tailor's room, and he made her spread out all the
pots in a row before him. He examined them all, lifted them up and smelled them,
and said at last: "This jam seems good, weigh me four ounces of it, my good
woman; and even if it's a quarter of a pound I won't stick at it."
The woman, who had hoped to find a good market,
gave him what he wanted, but went away grumbling wrathfully. "Now heaven shall
bless this jam for my use," cried the little tailor, "and it shall sustain and
He fetched some bread out of a cupboard, cut a round off the loaf, and spread
the jam on it.
"That won't taste amiss," he said; "but I'll finish that waistcoat first before
I take a bite." He placed the bread beside him, went on sewing, and out of the
lightness of his heart kept on making his stitches bigger and bigger. In the
meantime the smell of the sweet jam rose to the ceiling, where heaps of flies
were sitting, and attracted them to such an extent that they swarmed on to it in
"Ha! who invited you?"
said the tailor, and chased the unwelcome guests away. But the flies, who didn't
understand English, refused to let themselves be warned off, and returned
again in even greater numbers. At last the little tailor, losing all patience,
reached out of his chimney corner for a duster, and exclaiming: "Wait, and
I'll give it to you," he beat them mercilessly with it. When he left off he
counted the slain, and no fewer than seven lay dead before him with outstretched
"What a desperate fellow I
am!" said he, and was filled with admiration at his own courage. "The whole town
must know about this"; and in great haste the little tailor cut out a girdle,
hemmed it, and embroidered on it in big letters, Seven at a
The tailor strapped the girdle round his waist and set
out into the wide world, for he considered his workroom too small a field for
his prowess. Before he set forth he looked round about him, to see if there was
anything in the house he could take with him on his journey; but he found
nothing except an old cheese, which he took possession of. In front of the house
he observed a bird that had been caught in some bushes, and this he put into his
wallet beside the cheese. Then he went on his way merrily, and being light and
agile he never felt tired. His way led up a hill, on the top of which sat a
powerful giant, who was calmly surveying the landscape. The little tailor
went up to him, and greeting him cheerfully said: "Good-day, friend; there you
sit at your ease viewing the whole wide world. I'm just on my way there. What do
you say to accompanying me?"
The giant looked contemptuously at the tailor,
and said: "What a poor wretched little creature you are!"
"That's a good
joke," answered the little tailor, and unbuttoning his coat he showed the giant
the girdle. "There now, you can read what sort of a fellow I am."
read: "Seven at a blow"; and thinking they were human beings the tailor had
slain, he conceived a certain respect for the little man. But first he thought
he'd test him, so taking up a stone in his hand, he squeezed it till some drops
of water ran out.
"Now you do the same," said the giant, "if you really wish
to be thought strong."
"Is that all?" said the little tailor; "that's
child's play to me," so he dived into his wallet, brought out the cheese, and
pressed it till the whey ran out. "My squeeze was in sooth better than yours,"
The giant didn't know what to say, for he couldn't have believed it
of the little fellow. To prove him again, the giant lifted a stone and threw
it so high that the eye could hardly follow it. "Now, my little pigmy, let me
see you do that."
"Well thrown," said the tailor; "but, after all, your
stone fell to the ground; I'll throw one that won't come down at all."
dived into his wallet again, and grasping the bird in his hand, he threw it up
into the air. The bird, enchanted to be free, soared up into the sky, and flew
away never to return. "Well, what do you think of that little piece of business,
friend?" asked the tailor.
"You can certainly throw," said the giant; "but
now let's see if you can carry a proper weight." With these words he led the
tailor to a huge oak tree which had been felled to the ground, and said: "If you
are strong enough, help me to carry the tree out of the wood."
certainly," said the little tailor: "just you take the trunk on your shoulder;
I'll bear the top and branches, which is certainly the heaviest part."
giant laid the trunk on his shoulder, but the tailor sat at his ease among the
branches; and the giant, who couldn't see what was going on behind him, had to
carry the whole tree, and the little tailor into the bargain. There he sat
behind in the best of spirits, lustily whistling a tune, as if carrying the tree
were mere sport. The giant, after dragging the heavy weight for some time, could
get on no further, and shouted out: "Hi! I must let the tree fall."
tailor sprang nimbly down, seized the tree with both hands as if he had carried
it the whole way and said to the giant: "Fancy a big lout like you not being
able to carry a tree! What did I say, the town? no, the whole world shall hear
of it," he said; and his heart beat for joy as a lamb wags his tail.
They continued to go on their way together, and as they
passed by a cherry tree the giant grasped the top of it, where the ripest
fruit hung, gave the branches into the tailor's hand, and bade him eat. But the
little tailor was far too weak to hold the tree down, and when the giant let go
the tree swung back into the air, bearing the little tailor with it. When he had
fallen to the ground again without hurting himself, the giant said: "What! do
you mean to tell me you haven't the strength to hold down a feeble twig?"
"It wasn't strength that was wanting," replied the tailor; "do you think that
would have been anything for a man who has killed seven at a blow? I jumped over
the tree because the huntsmen are shooting among the branches near us. Do you do
the like if you dare." The giant made an attempt, but couldn't get over the
tree, and stuck fast in the branches, so that here too the little tailor had the
better of him.
"Well, you're a fine fellow, after all," said the giant;
"come and spend the night with us in our cave."
The little tailor
willingly consented to do this, and following his friend they went on till they
reached a cave where several other giants were sitting round a fire, each
holding a roast sheep in his hand, of which he was eating. The little tailor
looked about him, and thought: "Yes, there's certainly more room to turn round
in here than in my workshop." The giant showed him a bed and bade him lie down
and have a good sleep. But the bed was too big for the little tailor, so he
didn't get into it, but crept away into the corner. At midnight, when the giant
thought the little tailor was fast asleep, he rose up, and taking his big iron
walking-stick, he broke the bed in two with a blow, and thought he had made an
end of the little grasshopper. At early dawn the giants went off to the wood,
and quite forgot about the little tailor, till all of a sudden they met him
trudging along in the most cheerful manner. The giants were terrified at the
apparition, and, fearful lest he should slay them, they all took to their
heels as fast as they could.
The little tailor continued to follow his nose,
and after he had wandered about for a long time he came to the courtyard of a
royal palace, and feeling tired he lay down on the grass and fell asleep. While
he lay there the people came, and looking him all over read on his girdle:
Seven at a blow.
"Oh!" they said, "what can this great hero
of a hundred fights want in our peaceful land? He must indeed be a mighty man of
They went and told the King about him, and said what a weighty
and useful man he'd be in time of war, and that it would be well to secure him
at any price. This counsel pleased the King, and he sent one of his courtiers
down to the little tailor, to offer him, when he awoke, a commission in their
army. The messenger remained standing by the sleeper, and waited till he
stretched his limbs and opened his eyes, when he tendered his proposal.
"That's the very thing I came here for," he answered; "I am quite ready to
enter the King's service." So he was received with all honour, and given a
special house of his own to live in.
But the other officers resented the success of the
little tailor, and wished him a thousand miles away. "What's to come of it all?"
they asked each other; "if we quarrel with him, he'll let out at us, and at
every blow seven will fall. There'll soon be an end of us."
So they resolved
to go in a body to the King, and all to send in their papers. "We are not made,"
they said, "to hold out against a man who kills seven at a blow."
was grieved at the thought of losing all his faithful servants for the sake of
one man, and he wished heartily that he had never set eyes on him, or that he
could get rid of him. But he didn't dare to send him away, for he feared he
might kill him along with his people, and place himself on the throne. He
pondered long and deeply over the matter, and finally came to a conclusion. He
sent to the tailor and told him that, seeing what a great and warlike hero he
was, he was about to make him an offer. In a certain wood of his kingdom there
dwelled two giants who did much harm; by the way they robbed, murdered, burned,
and plundered everything about them; "no one could approach them without
endangering his life. But if he could overcome and kill these two giants he
should have his only daughter for a wife, and half his kingdom into the
bargain; he might have a hundred horsemen, too, to back him up."
very thing for a man like me," thought the little tailor; "one doesn't get the
offer of a beautiful princess and half a kingdom every day."
you," he answered; "I'll soon put an end to the giants. But I haven't the
smallest need of your hundred horsemen; a fellow who can slay seven men at a
blow need not be afraid of two."
The little tailor set out, and the hundred horsemen
followed him. When he came to the outskirts of the wood he said to his
followers: "You wait here, I'll manage the giants by myself"; and he went on
into the wood, casting his sharp little eyes right and left about him. After a
while he spied the two giants lying asleep under a tree, and snoring till the
very boughs bent with the breeze. The little tailor lost no time in filling his
wallet with stones, and then climbed up the tree under which they lay. When he
got to about the middle of it he slipped along a branch till he sat just above
the sleepers, when he threw down one stone after the other on the nearest giant.
The giant felt nothing for a long time, but at last he woke up, and pinching his
companion said: "What did you strike me for?"
"I didn't strike you," said
the other, "you must be dreaming." They both lay down to sleep again, and the
tailor threw down a stone on the second giant, who sprang up and cried: "What's
that for? Why did you throw something at me?"
"I didn't throw anything,"
growled the first one. They wrangled on for a time, till, as both were tired,
they made up the matter and fell asleep again. The little tailor began his game
once more, and flung the largest stone he could find in his wallet with all
his force, and hit the first giant on the chest.
"This is too much of a good
thing!" he yelled, and springing up like a madman, he knocked his companion
against the tree till he trembled. He gave, however, as good as he got, and they
became so enraged that they tore up trees and beat each other with them, till
they both fell dead at once on the ground. Then the little tailor jumped down.
"It's a mercy," he said, "that they didn't root up the
tree on which I was perched, or I should have had to jump like a squirrel on to
another, which, nimble though I am, would have been no easy job." He drew his
sword and gave each of the giants a very fine thrust or two on the breast, and
then went to the horsemen and said: "The deed is done, I've put an end to the
two of them; but I assure you it has been no easy matter, for they even tore up
trees in their struggle to defend themselves; but all that's of no use against
one who slays seven men at a blow."
"Weren't you wounded?" asked the horsemen.
"No fear," answered the tailor; "they haven't touched a
hair of my head." But the horsemen wouldn't believe him till they rode into the
wood and found the giants weltering in their blood, and the trees lying around,
torn up by the roots. The little tailor now demanded the promised reward from
the King, but he repented his promise, and pondered once more how he could rid
himself of the hero. "Before you obtain the hand of my daughter and half my
kingdom," he said to him, "you must do another deed of valour. A unicorn is
running about loose in the wood, and doing much mischief; you must first catch
it." "I'm even less afraid of one unicorn than of two giants; seven at a blow,
that's my motto." He took a piece of cord and an axe with him, went out to the
wood, and again told the men who had been sent with him to remain outside. He
hadn't to search long, for the unicorn soon passed by, and, on perceiving the
tailor, dashed straight at him as though it were going to spike him on the spot.
"Gently, gently," said he, "not so fast, my friend"; and standing still he
waited till the beast was quite near, when he sprang lightly behind a tree; the
unicorn ran with all its force against the tree, and rammed its horn so firmly
into the trunk that it had no strength left to pull it out again, and was thus
successfully captured. "Now I've caught my bird," said the tailor, and he came
out from behind the tree, placed the cord round its neck first, then struck the
horn out of the tree with his axe, and when everything was in order led the
beast before the King.
Still the King didn't want to give him the promised reward and made a third demand. The tailor was to catch a wild boar for him that did a great deal of harm in the wood; and he might have the huntsmen to help him. "Willingly," said the tailor; "that's mere child's play." But he didn't take the huntsmen into the wood with him, and they were well
enough pleased to remain behind, for the wild boar had often received them in a manner which did not make them desire its further acquaintance. As soon as the boar perceived the tailor it ran at him with foaming mouth and gleaming teeth, and tried to knock him down; but our alert little friend ran into a chapel that stood near, and got out of the window again with a jump. The boar pursued him into the church, but the tailor skipped round to the door, and closed it securely. So the raging beast was caught, for it was far too heavy and unwieldy to spring out of the window. The little tailor summoned the huntsmen
together, that they might see the prisoner with their own eyes. Then
the hero betook himself to the King, who was obliged now, whether he
liked it or not, to keep his promise, and hand him over his daughter
and half his kingdom. Had he known that no hero-warrior, but only a
little tailor stood before him, it would have gone even more to his
heart. So the wedding was celebrated with much splendour and little joy,
and the tailor became a king.
After a time the Queen heard her husband saying one night
in his sleep: "My lad, make that waistcoat and patch these trousers, or I'll box
your ears." Thus she learned in what rank the young gentleman had been born, and
next day she poured forth her woes to her father, and begged him to help her to
get rid of a husband who was nothing more nor less than a tailor. The King
comforted her, and said: "Leave your bedroom door open to-night, my servants
shall stand outside, and when your husband is fast asleep they shall enter,
bind him fast, and carry him on to a ship, which shall sail away out into the
The Queen was well satisfied with the idea, but the
armour-bearer, who had overheard everything, being much attached to his young
master, went straight to him and revealed the whole plot.
"I'll soon put a
stop to the business," said the tailor. That night he and his wife went to bed
at the usual time; and when she thought he had fallen asleep she got up, opened
the door, and then lay down again. The little tailor, who had only pretended to
be asleep, began to call out in a clear voice: "My lad, make that waistcoat
and patch those trousers, or I'll box your ears. I have killed seven at a
blow, slain two giants, led a unicorn captive, and caught a wild boar, then
why should I be afraid of those men standing outside my door?"
The men, when
they heard the tailor saying these words, were so terrified that they fled as if
pursued by a wild army, and didn't dare go near him again. So the little tailor
was and remained a king all the days of his life.
Adapted by Andrew Lang for The Blue Fairy Book, 1889