Grimm's Household Tales with the
translated by Margaret Hunt
ONCE on a time a countryman had a
son who was as big as a thumb, and did not become any bigger, and during
several years did not grow one hair's breadth. Once when the father was
going out to plough, the little one said, "Father, I will go out
with you." "Thou wouldst go out with me?" said the father.
"Stay here, thou wilt be of no use out there, besides thou mightest
get lost!" Then Thumbling began to cry, and for the sake of peace
his father put him in his pocket, and took him with him. When he was outside
in the field, he took him out again, and set him in a freshly-cut furrow.
Whilst he was there, a great giant came over the hill. "Do thou see
that great bogie?" said the father, for he wanted to frighten the
little fellow to make him good; "he is coming to fetch thee."
The giant, however, had scarcely taken two steps with his long legs before
he was in the furrow. He took up little Thumbling carefully with two fingers,
examined him, and without saying one word went away with him. His father
stood by, but could not utter a sound for terror, and he thought nothing
else but that his child was lost, and that as long as he lived he should
never set eyes on him again.
The giant, however, carried him home, suckled him, and Thumbling grew and became tall and strong after the manner of giants. When two years had passed, the old giant took him into the forest, wanted to try him, and said, "Pull up a stick for thyself." Then the boy was already so strong that he tore up a young tree out of the earth by the roots. But the giant thought, "We must do better than that," took him back again, and suckled him two years longer. When he tried him, his strength had increased so much that he could tear an old tree out of the ground. That was still not enough for the giant; he again suckled him for two years, and when he then went with him into the forest and said, "Now just tear up a proper stick for me," the boy tore up the strongest oak-tree from the earth, so that it split, and that was a mere trifle to him. "Now that will do," said the giant, "thou art perfect," and took him back to the field from whence he had brought him. His father was there following the plough. The young giant went up to him, and said, "Does my father see what a fine man his son has grown into?"
The farmer was alarmed, and said, "No, thou art not my son; I don't want thee leave me!" "Truly I am your son; allow me to do your work, I can plough as well as you, nay better." "No, no, thou art not my son; and thou canst not plough go away!" However, as he was afraid of this great man, he left go of the plough, stepped back and stood at one side of the piece of land. Then the youth took the plough, and just pressed it with one hand, but his grasp was so strong that the plough went deep into the earth. The farmer could not bear to see that, and called to him, "If thou art determined to plough, thou must not press so hard on it, that makes bad work." The youth, however, unharnessed the horses, and drew the plough himself, saying, "Just go home, father, and bid my mother make ready a large dish of food, and in the meantime I will go over the field." Then the farmer went home, and ordered his wife to prepare the food; but the youth ploughed the field which was two acres large, quite alone, and then he harnessed himself to the harrow, and harrowed the whole of the land, using two harrows at once. When he had done it, he went into the forest, and pulled up two oak-trees, laid them across his shoulders, and hung on them one harrow behind and one before, and also one horse behind and one before, and carried all as if it had been a bundle of straw, to his parents' house. When he entered the yard, his mother did not recognize him, and asked, "Who is that horrible tall man?" The farmer said, "That is our son." She said, "No that cannot be our son, we never had such a tall one, ours was a little thing." She called to him, "Go away, we do not want thee!" The youth was silent, but led his horses to the stable, gave them some oats and hay, and all that they wanted. When he had done this, he went into the parlour, sat down on the bench and said, "Mother, now I should like something to eat, will it soon be ready?" Then she said, "Yes," and brought in two immense dishes full of food, which would have been enough to satisfy herself and her husband for a week. The youth, however, ate the whole of it himself, and asked if she had nothing more to set before him. "No," she replied, "that is all we have." "But that was only a taste, I must have more." She did not dare to oppose him, and went and put a huge caldron full of food on the fire, and when it was ready, carried it in. "At length come a few crumbs," said he, and ate all there was, but it was still not sufficient to appease his hunger. Then said he, "Father, I see well that with you I shall never have food enough; if you will get me an iron staff which is strong, and which I cannot break against my knees, I will go out into the world." The farmer was glad, put his two horses in his cart, and fetched from the smith a staff so large and thick, that the two horses could only just bring it away. The youth laid it across his knees, and snap! he broke it in two in the middle like a bean-stalk, and threw it away. The father then harnessed four horses, and brought a bar which was so long and thick, that the four horses could only just drag it. The son snapped this also in twain against his knees, threw it away, and said, "Father, this can be of no use to me, you must harness more horses, and bring a stronger staff." So the father harnessed eight horses, and brought one which was so long and thick, that the eight horses could only just carry it. When the son took it in his hand, he broke off a bit from the top of it also, and said, "Father, I see that you will not be able to procure me any such staff as I want, I will remain no longer with you."
So he went away, and gave out that he was a smith's apprentice. He arrived at a village, wherein lived a smith who was a greedy fellow, who never did a kindness to any one, but wanted everything for himself. The youth went into the smithy and asked if he needed a journeyman. "Yes," said the smith, and looked at him, and thought, "That is a strong fellow who will strike out well, and earn his bread." So he asked, "How much wages dost thou want?" "I don't want any at all," he replied, "only every fortnight, when the other journeymen are paid, I will give thee two blows, and thou must bear them." The miser was heartily satisfied, and thought he would thus save much money. Next morning, the strange journeyman was to begin to work, but when the master brought the glowing bar, and the youth struck his first blow, the iron flew asunder, and the anvil sank so deep into the earth, that there was no bringing it out again. Then the miser grew angry, and said, "Oh, but I can't make any use of you, you strike far too powerfully; what will you have for the one blow?"
Then said he, "I will only give you quite a small blow, that's all." And he raised his foot, and gave him such a kick that he flew away over four loads of hay. Then he sought out the thickest iron bar in the smithy for himself, took it as a stick in his hand and went onwards.
When he had walked for some time, he came to a small farm,
and asked the bailiff if he did not require a head-servant. "Yes,"
said the bailiff, "I can make use of one; you look a strong fellow
who can do something, how much a year do you want as wages?" He again
replied that he wanted no wages at all, but that every year he would give
him three blows, which he must bear. Then the bailiff was satisfied, for
he, too, was a covetous fellow. Next morning all the servants were to
go into the wood, and the others were already up, but the head-servant
was still in bed. Then one of them called to him, "Get up, it is
time; we are going into the wood, and thou must go with us." "Ah,"
said he quite roughly and surlily, "you may just go, then; I shall
be back again before any of you." Then the others went to the bailiff,
and told him that the head-man was still lying in bed, and would not go
into the wood with them. The bailiff said they were to awaken him again,
and tell him to harness the horses. The head-man, however, said as before,
"Just go there, I shall be back again before any of you." And
then he stayed in bed two hours longer. At length he arose from the feathers,
but first he got himself two bushels of peas from the loft, made himself
some broth with them, ate it at his leisure, and when that was done, went
and harnessed the horses, and drove into the wood. Not far from the wood
was a ravine through which he had to pass, so he first drove the horses
on, and then stopped them, and went behind the cart, took trees and brushwood,
and made a great barricade, so that no horse could get through. When he
was entering the wood, the others were just driving out of it with their
loaded carts to go home; then said he to them, "Drive on, I will
still get home before you do." He did not drive far into the wood,
but at once tore two of the very largest trees of all out of the earth,
threw them on his cart, and turned round. When he came to the barricade,
the others were still standing there, not able to get through. "Don't
you see," said he, "that if you had stayed with me, you would
have got home just as quickly, and would have had another hour's sleep?"
He now wanted to drive on, but his horeses could not work their way through,
so he unharnessed them, laid them on the top of the cart, took the shafts
in his own hands, and pulled it all through, and he did this just as easily
as if it had been laden with feathers. When he was over, he said to the
others, "There, you see, I have got over quicker than you,"
and drove on, and the others had to stay where they were. In the yard,
however, he took a tree in his hand, showed it to the bailiff, and said,
"Isn't that a fine bundle of wood?" Then said the bailiff to
his wife, "The servant is a good one, if he does sleep long, he is
still home before the others." So he served the bailiff for a year,
and when that was over, and the other servants were getting their wages,
he said it was time for him to take his too. The bailiff, however, was
afraid of the blows which he was to receive, and earnestly entreated him
to excuse him from having them; for rather than that, he himself would
be head-servant, and the youth should be bailiff. "No," said
he, "I will not be a bailiff, I am head-servant, and will remain
so, but I will administer that which we agreed on." The bailiff was
willing to give him whatsoever he demanded, but it was of no use, the
head-servant said no to everything. Then the bailiff did not know what
to do, and begged for a fortnight's delay, for he wanted to find some
way of escape. The head-servant consented to this delay. The bailiff summoned
all his clerks together, and they were to think the matter over, and give
him advice. The clerks pondered for a long time, but at last they said
that no one was sure of his life with the head-servant, for he could kill
a man as easily as a midge, and that the bailiff ought to make him get
into the well and clean it, and when he was down below, they would roll
up one of the mill-stones which was lying there, and throw it on his head;
and then he would never return to daylight. The advice pleased the bailiff,
and the head-servant was quite willing to go down the well. When he was
standing down below at the bottom, they rolled down the largest mill-stone
and thought they had broken his skull, but he cried, "Chase away
those hens from the well, they are scratching in the sand up there, and
throwing the grains into my eyes, so that I can't see." So the bailiff
cried, "Sh-sh," and pretended to frighten the hens away. When
the head-servant had finished his work, he climbed up and said, "Just
look what a beautiful neck-tie I have on," and behold it was the
mill-stone which he was wearing round his neck. The head-servant now wanted
to take his reward, but the bailiff again begged for a fortnight's delay.
The clerks met together and advised him to send the head-servant to the
haunted mill to grind corn by night, for from thence as yet no man had
ever returned in the morning alive. The proposal pleased the bailiff,
he called the head-servant that very evening, and ordered him to take
eight bushels of corn to the mill, and grind it that night, for it was
wanted. So the head-servant went to the loft, and put two bushels in his
right pocket, and two in his left, and took four in a wallet, half on
his back, and half on his breast, and thus laden went to the haunted mill.
The miller told him that he could grind there very well by day, but not
by night, for the mill was haunted, and that up to the present time whosoever
had gone into it at night had been found in the morning lying dead inside.
He said, "I will manage it, just you go away to bed." Then he
went into the mill, and poured out the corn. About eleven o'clock he went
into the miller's room, and sat down on the bench. When he had sat there
a while, a door suddenly opened, and a large table came in, and on the
table, wine and roasted meats placed themselves, and much good food besides,
but everything came of itself, for no one was there to carry it. After
this the chairs pushed themselves up, but no people came, until all at
once he beheld fingers, which handled knives and forks, and laid food
on the plates, but with this exception he saw nothing. As he was hungry,
and saw the food, he, too, place himself at the table, ate with those
who were eating and enjoyed it. When he had had enough, and the others
also had quite emptied their dishes, he distinctly heard all the candles
being suddenly snuffed out, and as it was now pitch dark, he felt something
like a box on the ear. Then he said, "If anything of that kind comes
again, I shall strike out in return." And when he had received a
second box on the ear, he, too struck out. And so it continued the whole
night. He took nothing without returning it, but repaid everything with
interest, and did not lay about him in vain. At daybreak, however, everything
ceased. When the miller had got up, he wanted to look after him, and wondered
if he were still alive. Then the youth said, "I have eaten my fill,
have received some boxes on the ears, but I have given some in return."
The miller rejoiced, and said that the mill was now released from the
spell, and wanted to give him much money as a reward. But he said, "Money,
I will not have, I have enough of it." So he took his meal on his
back, went home, and told the bailiff that he had done what he had been
told to do, and would now have the reward agreed on. When the bailiff
heard that, he was seriously alarmed and quite beside himself; he walked
backwards and forwards in the room, and drops of perspiration ran down
from his forehead. Then he opened the window to get some fresh air, but
before he was aware, the head-servant had given him such a kick that he
flew through the window out into the air, and so far away that no one
ever saw him again. Then said the head-servant to the bailiff's wife,
"If he does not come back, you must take the other blow." She
cried, "No, no I cannot bear it," and opened the other window,
because drops of perspiration were running down her forehead. Then he
gave her such a kick that she, too, flew out, and as she was lighter she
went much higher than her husband. Her husband cried, "Do come to
me," but she replied, "Come thou to me, I cannot come to thee."
And they hovered about there in the air, and could not get to each other,
and whether they are still hovering about, or not, I do not know, but
the young giant took up his iron bar, and went on his way.
Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London: George Bell, 1884, 1892. 2 volumes.
From the Leine district . This story betrays an unmistakable affinity to the saga of Siegfried, whose powerful giant-nature in youth and after-life is described in the poems in much the same way. He catches lions, ties them together by the tails, and hangs them over the wall (Rosengarten, 3; Siegfrieds Lied, 33). This affinity is much more evident in his labours with the smith, whom he here beats as unjustifiably (Lied 5). The smith, like Reigen, is greedy of gold, and from covetousness, desires to keep everything for himself alone; furthermore there is the cunning shown by the equally greedy bailiff, who would gladly be rid of him, which corresponds with that of Reigen, as the dangerous haunted mill corresponds with the dragon's lair to which he, being unacquainted with fear, goes courageously, and comes back victorious. (This is a point which is specially prominent in the Norse saga, for Brünhild had sworn she would marry no one who was not entirely without rear. See Sigurdrifas Lied.) The giant appears quite in the fashion described by ancient poems; his weapon is an iron bar, and he tests strength by tearing up trees (see note to the Altdän. Lieder, p. 493). We find a hero of the same kind in Tschurilo, in a Russian ballad in Fürst Wladimir und dessen Tafelrunde, and the Persian Guschtasp is rather like him (Görres' Firdusi, 2. 246, and following). Rustem also tears up a tree by the roots, and carries it as a stick (ibid. 1. 186). The throwing down the mill-stone without doing any injury, strongly reminds us of Thor's adventure with Skrimnir (Dämis, 38), and this again of the Bohemian saga, Giant Scharmack. Being educated by a giant is likewise an ancient and important incident; all heroes were trained by giants, or skilful dwarfs, as Sigurd was by Reigen, and Widga (Wittich), in the Wilkinasage. The giant's suckling the child himself is likewise an old incident; it appears also in No. 92. We are told in the Floamanna Sage, that in order to feed his delicate child whose mother had been murdered, Thorgil had his breast cut. First came blood, then whey, and finally milk, where with the child was suckled (see a Danish translation by B. Thorlacius, p. 94). See Humboldt's Relation Historique, 3, chap. 4, for the account of a man who himself suckled his child . Siegfried and Eulenspiegel have some points of contact and agreement with each other, which fact our story proves to a certainty; and we may just as much call the young hero of it a nobler giant Eulenspiegel, as a more waggish Horny Siegfried. (Simson and Morolf are heroes of the same sort, and, according to the genuine popular traditions, Gargantua is still more like. See Mémoires de l'Académie Celtique, 5. 392). Both Eulenspiegel and Siegfried go forth into the world, take service, and in their arrogance, ill-treat the merely human handicraftsmen; it is specially noteworthy that Eulenspiegel destroys the smith's utensils, and is set as a scullion to watch the roast meat, which he eats as Sigurd eats the heart of the dragon which he is to roast for Reigen. He goes on the Hartz Mountains and catches wolves, as Siegfried caught bears, to terrify people with them. Nibel. 888-89. The servant is a wag in speech, and the court-servant coincides with the court-fool. Soini, the Finnish Giant Eulenspiegel, was actually called Kalkki (servant) as well. When he was three nights old, he trampled on his swaddling-clothes, and as it was evident that he could not be trusted, he was discharged. A smith took him into his service, to look after his child, but he clawed the child's eyes out, then killed it, and burnt the cradle. The smith then set him to a fence, which he was to weave together, but he brought pines from the forest, and twisted them together with snakes. Then he had to take the cows to the pasture; and the housewife out of revenge baked a stone in his bread, which blunted his knife, so in his rage be called bears and wolves to devour the herd. He, however, made himself horns of the cows' bones and oxen's horns, and drove home the wolves and bears instead of the other herd. The Norse Grettir plays similar pranks when be has to tend geese and horses (Bernskubraugd Kinderstreiche). The hero-nature breaks forth in youthful rudeness and contempt for man's occupations; Florens destroys the oxen of Clemens in the same way in Octavian.
A story from Hesse is much more incomplete, but has a character of its own. Kürdchen Bingeling has been fed at his mother's breast for seven years, by which he has grown so immensely big, and is able to eat so much that there is no satisfying him; and there is no man whom he does not torment and befool. So the whole community assembles together to catch and kill him; he however observes this, and sits down beneath the door and blocks the way just as Gargantua creates Mount Gargant, near Nantes; no one is able to enter without spades and shovels; and he goes quietly away. Now he is in another village, but he is still the same rascal, and the whole community again rises to seize him, but as there is no door he leaps into a well. Then everyone in the village stands round it, and takes counsel what to do, and at length they decide to throw a mill-stone down on his head. With great difficulty one is brought, and is rolled down, but just when they think he must be dead, his head, which he has thrust through the hole in the mill-stone, which now rests on his shoulders, suddenly comes out of the well, and he cries, "What a fine plaited collar I have got on!" When they see that, they take counsel together anew, and send to fetch their great bell from the church- tower and throw it down on him, which must certainly hit him (just as with Giant Scharmack). However, just as they, feeling sure that he is lying killed down below, have separated, he suddenly leaps out of the well with the bell on his head, and says quite joyously, "Oh, what a fine rush cap!" and runs away. The ballad Strong Hans, by Wezel, in Seckendorf and Stoll's journal Prometheus, i. p. 79, is connected with this. He goes as apprentice to a smith, and strikes such a trial blow on the anvil, that it is driven into the earth. Then he tears up oak-trees by the roots, and flings a cart and horses over the door into the yard. Finally, he falls in with the Devil who is just amusing himself by throwing stones into the air; be says he is throwing them at the angels to drive them away. Hans wants to throw with him for a wager and the Devil agrees to it. It is arranged that if the Devil loses, he is to go away from the place, and a cross is to be set up there. The Evil One throws a fragment of rock as big as a church, and throws it so high that it does not come down till the evening. Hans lays hold of a stone which is thrice as large, and throws it in God's name. They wait there for three days, but the stone never comes down again. So the Devil seeks it, and at last finds it up above upon the moon, where it has fallen and stayed. They tell of Strong Hans in Schleswig also, see the Neues Jahrbuch der Berliner Gesellschaft, 1. 288, 290. In Holstein it is Hans with the Iron Staff (Müllenhoff, p. 437). In the Hartz, Johannes der Bär or Martisbär (Pröhle's Märchen für die Jugend, No. 29). In Kuhn and Schwartz, see No. 18.
A story from Hesse contains other adventures in the mill. When the youth enters it, a cat rims to him and asks, "What dost thou want here?" "I want to grind corn." Then another comes and says, "We will set on him!" A third cries," Aye, that we will!" But the young giant lays hold of them, and strikes them dead. Then he goes to another mill and spirits come against him and cry, "We will take off the mill-hopper and grind him." But he seizes the spirits themselves and grinds them between the great mill stones. At length he goes to a third mill, and once more twelve horrible great cats spring at him and surround him, and then they light a large fire, put on water, and say, "Thou shalt be boiled in the kettle." "All right," says he, "but first of all be merry for once, and fight and bite each other." So they begin to struggle and to bite each other, but he keeps watch, and just as the water boils, lifts off the whole kettle, empties it over them, and scalds them to death. Finally, it is to be observed, that in a story from Magdeburg, the Fearless One goes like St. Christopher to hell to the Devil, and wants to serve him. There he sees many pans standing stewing with imprisoned souls shut inside them. He lifts up all the lids and lets them out, whereupon the Devil at once discharges him from his service. From a remark of Von der Hagen's in the Viennese Jahrbuch 12, Anzeigeblatt, p. 58, the greater part of the story seems also to be known in the Ukermark, in Brandenburg, where the giant is called Knecht Sülwendal. In a version from the Zillerthal, given by Zingerle, p. 220, there is Strong Hänsl, who also appears in our story, No. 166, in a Swiss version. In Jutland also, there are stories about a Strong Hans, as is remarked by Peter Iversom, in his Schrift über das jütländische Volk bei Riba (published by C. Molbech, p. 28, 29). His good-nature is as great as his strength. The master whom he serves wants to get rid of him, so his daughter has to throw a gold ring into a deep well, and the man who will descend and bring it up again is to have her to wife. Strong Hans is quite ready to do it, but while he is below the master has a large and heavy millstone brought and thrown down the well. Fortunately, it falls in such a way that the hole in the middle of the millstone comes just above the head of Hans, and the stone stays on his neck. On another occasion, he forces the Devil and his associates to grind in the mill for him. In Netherlandish see the Wodana, No. 1, p. 47. In Servian there is Der Bärensohn (see further on), which is complete, and the monstrous element is excellently enhanced. See Wuk, No. 1.
1: The river Leine rises in
the Hartz Mountains in the S.W. part of the Province of Saxony, and formerly
gave its name to a department of which Göttingen was the chief town.-TR.
2: Narrative of Journeys
In the Equinoctial Regions of America. Translated by W. Macgillivray,