The Valiant Little Tailor
|The Valiant Little Tailor|
|The tailor provokes the giants
Illustration by Alexander Zick
|Name:||The Valiant Little Tailor|
|Published in:||Grimm's Fairy Tales|
|Related:||Jack and the Beanstalk
Jack the Giant Killer
The Valiant Little Tailor or The Brave Little Tailor is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, tale number 20. Joseph Jacobs collected another variant A Dozen at One Blow in European Folk and Fairy Tales. Andrew Lang included it in The Blue Fairy Book. Another of many versions of the tale appears in A Book of Giants by Ruth Manning-Sanders.
In the Aarne-Thompson classification system of classifying folktales, it is type 1640. It also include episodes of type 1060, Squeezing Water from a Stone; type 1062, A Contest in Throwing Stones; type 1052, A Contest in Carrying a Tree; type 1051, Springing with a Bent Tree; and type 1115, Attempting to Kill the Hero in His Bed.
A tailor is preparing to eat some jam, but when flies settle on it, he kills seven of them with one blow. He makes a belt describing the deed, "Seven at one blow". Inspired, he sets out into the world to seek his fortune. The tailor meets a giant, who assumes that "Seven at one blow" refers to seven men. The giant challenges the tailor. When the giant squeezes water from a boulder, the tailor squeezes water (or whey) from cheese. The giant throws a rock far into the air, and it eventually lands. The tailor counters the feat by releasing a bird that flies away; the giant believes the small bird is a "rock" which is thrown so far that it never lands. The giant asks the tailor to help carry a tree. The tailor directs the giant to carry the trunk, while the tailor will carry the branches. Instead, the tailor climbs on, so the giant carries him as well.
The giant brings the tailor to the giant's home, where other giants live as well. During the night, the giant attempts to kill the man. However, the tailor, having found the bed too large, sleeps in the corner. On seeing him still alive, the other giants flee, never to be seen again.
The tailor enters the royal service, but the other soldiers are afraid that he will lose his temper someday, and then seven of them might die with every blow. They tell the king that either the tailor leaves military service, or they will. Afraid of being killed for sending him away, the king instead sends the tailor to defeat two giants, offering him half his kingdom and his daughter's hand in marriage. By throwing rocks at the two giants while they sleep, the tailor provokes the pair into fighting each other. The king then sends him after a unicorn, but the tailor traps it by standing before a tree, so that when the unicorn charges, he steps aside and it drives its horn into the trunk. The king subsequently sends him after a wild boar, but the tailor traps it in a chapel.
With that, the king marries him to his daughter. His wife hears him talking in his sleep and realizes that he is merely a tailor. The king promises to have him carried off. A squire warns the tailor, who pretends to be asleep and calls out that he has done all these deeds and is not afraid of the men behind the door. Terrified, they leave, and the king does not try again.
The technique of tricking the giants into fighting each other is identical to the technique used by Cadmus, in Greek mythology, to deal with the warriors who sprang up when he sowed dragon's teeth.
Tibor Harsányi composed a suite for narrator, 7 instruments and percussion in 1950. One of the most famous recordings of this work was performed by the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire conducted by Georges Prêtre with Peter Ustinov as the narrator reading in both English (Angel Records, 1966) and French (Pour les Enfants, EMI Classics France, 2002).
See also 
- Jacob and Wilheim Grimm, Household Tales,"The Brave Little Tailor"
- Joseph Jacobs, European Folk and Fairy Tales, "A Dozen at One Blow"
- Andrew Lang, The Blue Fairy Book, "The Brave Little Tailor"
- Heidi Anne Heiner, "Tales Similar to the Brave Little Tailor"
- D. L. Ashliman, "The Grimm Brothers' Children's and Household Tales"
- Richard M. Dorson, "Foreword", p xxii, Georgias A. Megas, Folktales of Greece, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1970