Select the desired text size
History of Tom Thumb.
From English Fairy Tales, by Joseph Jacobs (coll. & ed.)
Press F5 to hear again
Start of Story
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!