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This story is suitable for children age 6 to 8 approx.
History of Tom Thumb.
From English Fairy Tales, by Joseph Jacobs (coll. & ed.)
Start of Story
In the days of the great Prince Arthur, there lived a mighty magician,
called Merlin, the most learned and skilful enchanter the world has
This famous magician, who could take any form he pleased, was
travelling about as a poor beggar, and being very tired, he stopped at
the cottage of a ploughman to rest himself, and asked for some food.
The countryman bade him welcome, and his wife, who was a very good-
hearted woman, soon brought him some milk in a wooden bowl, and some
coarse brown bread on a platter.
Merlin was much pleased with the kindness of the ploughman and his
wife; but he could not help noticing that though everything was neat
and comfortable in the cottage, they seemed both to be very unhappy.
He therefore asked them why they were so melancholy, and learned that
they were miserable because they had no children.
The poor woman said, with tears in her eyes: "I should be the happiest
creature in the world if I had a son; although he was no bigger than
my husband's thumb, I would be satisfied."
Merlin was so much amused with the idea of a boy no bigger than a
man's thumb, that he determined to grant the poor woman's wish.
Accordingly, in a short time after, the ploughman's wife had a son,
who, wonderful to relate! was not a bit bigger than his father's
The queen of the fairies, wishing to see the little fellow, came in at
the window while the mother was sitting up in the bed admiring him.
The queen kissed the child, and, giving it the name of Tom Thumb, sent
for some of the fairies, who dressed her little godson according to
"An oak-leaf hat he had for his crown;
His shirt of web by spiders spun;
With jacket wove of thistle's down;
His trowsers were of feathers done.
His stockings, of apple-rind, they tie
With eyelash from his mother's eye
His shoes were made of mouse's skin,
Tann'd with the downy hair within."
Tom never grew any larger than his father's thumb, which was only of
ordinary size; but as he got older he became very cunning and full of
tricks. When he was old enough to play with the boys, and had lost all
his own cherry-stones, he used to creep into the bags of his
playfellows, fill his pockets, and, getting out without their noticing
him, would again join in the game.
One day, however, as he was coming out of a bag of cherry-stones,
where he had been stealing as usual, the boy to whom it belonged
chanced to see him. "Ah, ah! my little Tommy," said the boy, "so I
have caught you stealing my cherry-stones at last, and you shall be
rewarded for your thievish tricks." On saying this, he drew the string
tight round his neck, and gave the bag such a hearty shake, that poor
little Tom's legs, thighs, and body were sadly bruised. He roared out
with pain, and begged to be let out, promising never to steal again.
A short time afterwards his mother was making a batter-pudding, and
Tom, being very anxious to see how it was made, climbed up to the edge
of the bowl; but his foot slipped, and he plumped over head and ears
into the batter, without his mother noticing him, who stirred him into
the pudding-bag, and put him in the pot to boil.
The batter filled Tom's mouth, and prevented him from crying; but, on
feeling the hot water, he kicked and struggled so much in the pot,
that his mother thought that the pudding was bewitched, and, pulling
it out of the pot, she threw it outside the door. A poor tinker, who
was passing by, lifted up the pudding, and, putting it into his
budget, he then walked off. As Tom had now got his mouth cleared of
the batter, he then began to cry aloud, which so frightened the tinker
that he flung down the pudding and ran away. The pudding being broke
to pieces by the fall, Tom crept out covered all over with the batter,
and walked home. His mother, who was very sorry to see her darling in
such a woeful state, put him into a teacup, and soon washed off the
batter; after which she kissed him, and laid him in bed.
Soon after the adventure of the pudding, Tom's mother went to milk her
cow in the meadow, and she took him along with her. As the wind was
very high, for fear of being blown away, she tied him to a thistle
with a piece of fine thread. The cow soon observed Tom's oak-leaf hat,
and liking the appearance of it, took poor Tom and the thistle at one
mouthful. While the cow was chewing the thistle Tom was afraid of her
great teeth, which threatened to crush him in pieces, and he roared
out as loud as he could: "Mother, mother!"
"Where are you, Tommy, my dear Tommy?" said his mother.
"Here, mother," replied he, "in the red cow's mouth."
His mother began to cry and wring her hands; but the cow, surprised at
the odd noise in her throat, opened her mouth and let Tom drop out.
Fortunately his mother caught him in her apron as he was falling to
the ground, or he would have been dreadfully hurt. She then put Tom in
her bosom and ran home with him.
Tom's father made him a whip of a barley straw to drive the cattle
with, and having one day gone into the fields, he slipped a foot and
rolled into the furrow. A raven, which was flying over, picked him up,
and flew with him over the sea, and there dropped him.
A large fish swallowed Tom the moment he fell into the sea, which was
soon after caught, and bought for the table of King Arthur. When they
opened the fish in order to cook it, every one was astonished at
finding such a little boy, and Tom was quite delighted at being free
again. They carried him to the king, who made Tom his dwarf, and he
soon grew a great favourite at court; for by his tricks and gambols he
not only amused the king and queen, but also all the Knights of the
It is said that when the king rode out on horseback, he often took Tom
along with him, and if a shower came on, he used to creep into his
majesty's waistcoat-pocket, where he slept till the rain was over.
King Arthur one day asked Tom about his parents, wishing to know if
they were as small as he was, and whether they were well off. Tom told
the king that his father and mother were as tall as anybody about the
court, but in rather poor circumstances. On hearing this, the king
carried Tom to his treasury, the place where he kept all his money,
and told him to take as much money as he could carry home to his
parents, which made the poor little fellow caper with joy. Tom went
immediately to procure a purse, which was made of a water-bubble, and
then returned to the treasury, where be received a silver threepenny-
piece to put into it.
Our little hero had some difficulty in lifting the burden upon his
back; but he at last succeeded in getting it placed to his mind, and
set forward on his journey. However, without meeting with any
accident, and after resting himself more than a hundred times by the
way, in two days and two nights he reached his father's house in
Tom had travelled forty-eight hours with a huge silver-piece on his
back, and was almost tired to death, when his mother ran out to meet
him, and carried him into the house. But he soon returned to Court.
As Tom's clothes had suffered much in the batter-pudding, and the
inside of the fish, his majesty ordered him a new suit of clothes, and
to be mounted as a knight on a mouse.
Of Butterfly's wings his shirt was made,
His boots of chicken's hide;
And by a nimble fairy blade,
Well learned in the tailoring trade,
His clothing was supplied.
A needle dangled by his side;
A dapper mouse he used to ride,
Thus strutted Tom in stately pride!
It was certainly very diverting to see Tom in this dress and mounted
on the mouse, as he rode out a-hunting with the king and nobility, who
were all ready to expire with laughter at Tom and his fine prancing
The king was so charmed with his address that he ordered a little
chair to be made, in order that Tom might sit upon his table, and also
a palace of gold, a span high, with a door an inch wide, to live in.
He also gave him a coach, drawn by six small mice.
The queen was so enraged at the honours conferred on Sir Thomas that
she resolved to ruin him, and told the king that the little knight had
been saucy to her.
The king sent for Tom in great haste, but being fully aware of the
danger of royal anger, he crept into an empty snail-shell, where he
lay for a long time until he was almost starved with hunger; but at
last he ventured to peep out, and seeing a fine large butterfly on the
ground, near the place of his concealment, he got close to it and
jumping astride on it, was carried up into the air. The butterfly flew
with him from tree to tree and from field to field, and at last
returned to the court, where the king and nobility all strove to catch
him; but at last poor Tom fell from his seat into a watering-pot, in
which he was almost drowned.
When the queen saw him she was in a rage, and said he should be
beheaded; and he was again put into a mouse trap until the time of his
However a cat, observing something alive in the trap, patted it about
till the wires broke, and set Thomas at liberty.
The king received Tom again into favour, which he did not live to
enjoy, for a large spider one day attacked him; and although he drew
his sword and fought well, yet the spider's poisonous breath at last
He fell dead on the ground where he stood,
And the spider suck'd every drop of his blood.
King Arthur and his whole court were so sorry at the loss of their
little favourite that they went into mourning and raised a fine white
marble monument over his grave with the following epitaph:
Here lies Tom Thumb, King Arthur's knight,
Who died by a spider's cruel bite.
He was well known in Arthur's court,
Where he afforded gallant sport;
He rode at tilt and tournament,
And on a mouse a-hunting went.
Alive he filled the court with mirth;
His death to sorrow soon gave birth.
Wipe, wipe your eyes, and shake your head
And cry,--Alas! Tom Thumb is dead!