The Brave Little Tailor

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The Brave Little Tailor
Das tapfere Schneiderlein.jpg
The tailor provokes the giants.
Illustration by Alexander Zick
Folk tale
NameThe Brave Little Tailor
Also known asThe Valiant Little Tailor
Aarne-Thompson groupingATU 1640 (The Brave Tailor)
Published inGrimm's Fairy Tales
Related"Jack and the Beanstalk",
"Jack the Giant Killer",
"The Boy Who Had an Eating Match with a Troll"

"The Brave Little Tailor" or "The Valiant Little Tailor" or "The Gallant Tailor" (German: Das tapfere Schneiderlein) is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm (KHM 20). "The Brave Little Tailor" is a story of Aarne–Thompson Type 1640, with individual episodes classified in other story types.[1]

Andrew Lang included it in The Blue Fairy Book.[2] The tale was translated as Seven at One Blow.[3] Another of many versions of the tale appears in A Book of Giants by Ruth Manning-Sanders.

It is about a humble tailor who tricks many giants and a ruthless king into believing in the tailor's incredible feats of strength and bravery, leading to him winning wealth and power.


The Brothers Grimm published this tale in the first edition of Kinder- und Hausmärchen in 1812, based on various oral and printed sources, including Der Wegkürzer (ca. 1557) by Martinus Montanus.[1][4]


The tailor prepares to squash the flies. Illustration from Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book (1899).

A tailor is preparing to eat some jam, but when flies settle on it, he kills seven of them with one blow of his hand. He makes a belt describing the deed, reading "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 milk, or whey, from cheese. The giant throws a rock far into the air, and it eventually lands. The tailor counters the feat by tossing a bird that flies away into the sky; the giant believes the small bird is a "rock" which is thrown so far that it never lands. Later, the giant asks the tailor to help him 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, but it appears as if the tailor is supporting the branches.

Impressed, 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 tailor by bashing the bed. However, the tailor, having found the bed too large, had slept in the corner. Upon returning and seeing the tailor alive, the other giants flee in fear of the small man.

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 attempts to get rid of the tailor by sending him to defeat two giants along with a hundred horsemen, offering him half his kingdom and his daughter's hand in marriage if the tailor can kill the giants. By throwing rocks at the two giants while they sleep, the tailor provokes the pair into fighting each other until they kill each other, at which time the tailor stabs the giants in their hearts.

The ferocious unicorn trapped in the tree. Illustration by John Batten for Joseph Jacobs's Europa's Fairy Book (1916).

The king, surprised the tailor has succeeded, balks on his promise, and requires more of the tailor before he may claim his rewards. The king next sends him after a unicorn, another seemingly impossible task, 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 a similar luring technique.

Duly impressed, the king relents, marries the tailor to the princess, and makes the tailor the ruler of half the original kingdom. The tailor's new wife hears him talking in his sleep and realizes with fury that he was merely a tailor and not a noble hero. Upon the princess's demands, the king promises to have him killed or carried off. A squire warns the tailor of the king's plan. While the king's servants are outside the door, the brave little tailor pretends to be talking in his sleep and says "Boy, make the jacket for me, and patch the trousers, or I will hit you across your ears with a yardstick! I have struck down seven with one blow, killed two giants, led away a unicorn, and captured a wild boar, and I am supposed to be afraid of those who are standing just outside the bedroom!" Terrified, the king's servants leave. The king does not try to assassinate the tailor again and so the tailor lives out his days as a king in his own right.


In the Aarne–Thompson–Uther system of folktale classification, the core of the story is motif type 1640, named The Brave Tailor for this story.[5] It also includes 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).[1]

"The Brave Little Tailor" has close similarities to other folktales collected around Europe, including "The Boy Who Had an Eating Match with a Troll" (Norway) and "Stan Bolovan" (Romania). It also shares many elements with "Jack the Giant Killer" (Cornwall and England, with ties to "Bluebeard" folktales of Brittany, and earlier Arthurian stories of Wales), though the protagonist in that story uses his guile to actually kill giants. Both the Scandinavian and British variants feature a recurring stock character fairy-tale hero, respectively: Jack (also associated with other giant-related stories, such as "Jack and the Beanstalk"), and Askeladden, also known as Boots. It is also similar to the Greek myth of Hercules in which Hercules is promised the ability to become a god if he slays the monsters, much like the main character in "The Brave Little Tailor" is promised the ability to become king through marrying the king's daughter if he kills the beasts in the story.[citation needed]

The technique of tricking the later giants into fighting each other is identical to the technique used by Cadmus, in Greek mythology and a related surviving Greek folktale, to deal with the warriors who sprang up where he sowed dragon's teeth into the soil.[6] In the 20th-century fantasy novel The Hobbit, a similar strategy is also employed by Gandalf to keep three trolls fighting among themselves, until the rising sun turns them to stone.


Folklorist Joseph Jacobs, in European Folk and Fairy Tales (or Europa's Fairy Book) tried to reconstruct the protoform of the tale, which he named "A Dozen at One Blow".[7]


A variant has been reported to be present in Spanish folktale collections,[8] specially from the folktale compilations of the 19th century.[9] The tale has also been attested in American sources.[10]

A scholarly inquiry by Italian Istituto centrale per i beni sonori ed audiovisivi ("Central Institute of Sound and Audiovisual Heritage"), produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s, found twenty-four variants of the tale across Italian sources.[11]

A Danish variant, Brave against his will ("Den tapre Skrædder"), was collected by Jens Christian Bay.[12]

Joseph Jacobs located an English version from Aberdeen, named Johnny Gloke,[13] which was first obtained by Reverend Walter Gregor with the name John Glaick, the Brave Tailor and published in The Folk-Lore Journal.[14] Jacobs wondered how the Grimm's tale managed to reach Aberdeen, but he suggests it might have originated from an English compilation of the brothers' tales.[15] The tale was included in The Fir-Tree Fairy Book.[16]

Irish sources also contain a tale of lucky accidents and a fortunate fate that befalls the weaver who squashes the flies in his breakfast: The legend of the little Weaver of Duleek Gate (A Tale of Chivalry).[17] The tale was previously recorded in 1846 by Irish novelist Samuel Lover.[18]

In the Hungarian tale Százat egy ütéssel ("A Hundred at One Blow"), at the end of the tale, the tailor mumbles in his sleep about threads and needles, and his wife, the princess, hears it. When confronted by his father-in-law, the tailor dismisses any accusations by saying he visited earlier a tailor's shop in the city.[19]


A similar story, Kara Mustapha (Mustafa), the Hero, was collected by Hungarian folklorist Ignác Kúnos, from Turkish sources.[20]

Francis Hindes Groome proposed a parallel between this tale with Indian story of Valiant Vicky, the Brave Weaver.[21] Valiant Vicky was originally collected by British author Flora Annie Steel from a Punjabi source, with the title Fatteh Khân, Valiant Weaver.[22][23]

Sometime the weaver or tailor does not become a ruler, but still gains an upper station in life (general, commander, prime minister). One such tale is Sigiris Sinno, the Giant, collected in Sri Lanka.[24] Other variant is The Nine-killing Khan.[25]

Character Analysis[edit]

  • Tailor – this character is clever, intelligent, and confident. He uses misdirection and other cunning to trick other characters. For example, various forms of psychological manipulation to influence the behavior of others, such as turning the pair of giants against each other, and playing on the assassins' and the earlier giants' assumptions and fears. Similarly, he uses decoy tactics to lure the quest animals (unicorn, boar) into his traps, and to avoid being killed in the first giant's bed. This reliance on trickery and manipulation by the protagonist is a feature of the stock character of the antihero.
  • King – this character is very mistrusting and judgmental, who uses the promise of half the kingdom to persuade the protagonist to take on seemingly deadly tasks. The king is one-dimensional as a character, and is essentially a plot device, the source of challenges for the protagonist to overcome to achieve the desired goal.
  • Princess – the prize for completing all these challenges is the hand in marriage of the princess, and along with it, half the kingdom. She sets great store by the social class of royal birthright, so when she finds out that the man she has married is no more than a poor tailor, she is furious, and tries to have him killed. Her self-absorbed vindictiveness, and its easy defeat, is consistent with the stock character of the shrewish bride.



  1. ^ a b c Ashliman, D. L. (2017). "The Brave Little Tailor". University of Pittsburgh.
  2. ^ Andrew Lang, The Blue Fairy Book, "The Brave Little Tailor"
  3. ^ Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith; Smith, Nora Archibald. Tales of Laughter : A Third Fairy Book. New York: McClure. 1908. pp. 138-145.
  4. ^ Cosquin, Emmanuel (1876). "Contes populaires lorrains recueillis dans un village du Barrois à Montiers-sur-Saulx (Meuse) (suite)". Romania (in French). 5 (19): 333–366. doi:10.3406/roma.1876.7128. ISSN 0035-8029.
  5. ^ Kinnes, Tormod (2009). "The ATU System". AT Types of Folktales. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
  6. ^ Richard M. Dorson, "Foreword", p xxii, Georgias A. Megas, Folktales of Greece, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1970
  7. ^ Joseph Jacobs, European Folk and Fairy Tales, "A Dozen at One Blow"
  8. ^ Boggs, Ralph Steele. Index of Spanish folktales, classified according to Antti Aarne's "Types of the folktale". Chicago: University of Chicago. 1930. p. 136.
  9. ^ Amores, Monstserrat. Catalogo de cuentos folcloricos reelaborados por escritores del siglo XIX. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Departamento de Antropología de España y América. 1997. pp. 293–294. ISBN 84-00-07678-8
  10. ^ Baughman, Ernest Warren. Type and Motif-index of the Folktales of England and North America. Indiana University Folklore Series No. 20. The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton & Co 1966. p. 42.
  11. ^ Discoteca di Stato (1975). Alberto Mario Cirese; Liliana Serafini (eds.). Tradizioni orali non cantate: primo inventario nazionale per tipi, motivi o argomenti [Oral and Non Sung Traditions: First National Inventory by Types, Motifs or Topics] (in Italian and English). Ministero dei beni culturali e ambientali. p. 273.
  12. ^ Bay, J. Christian. Danish Fairy & Folk Tales. New York and London: Harper and Brothers Publishers. 1899. pp. 175-188.[1]
  13. ^ Jacobs, Joseph. More English Fairy Tales. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1894. pp. 71-74.
  14. ^ The Folk-Lore Journal. Vol. VII. (January–December 1889). 1889. London: Published for the Folk-Lore Society by Elliot Stock pp. 163-165.
  15. ^ Jacobs, Joseph. More English Fairy Tales. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1894. p. 227.
  16. ^ Johnson, Clifton. The fir-tree fairy book; favorite fairy tales. Boston: Little, Brown. 1912. pp. 179-183.
  17. ^ Graves, Alfred Perceval. The Irish fairy book. London: T. F. Unwin. 1909. pp. 167-179.
  18. ^ Lover, Samuel. Legends And Stories of Ireland. Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard. 1846. pp. 211-219.
  19. ^ János Erdélyi. Magyar népmesék. Pest: Heckenast Gusztáv Sajátja. 1855. pp. 128-134.
  20. ^ Kunos, Ignacz. Forty-four Turkish fairy tales. London: G. Harrap. pp. 50-57.
  21. ^ Groome, Francis Hindes. Gypsy folk-tales. London: Hurst and Blackett. 1899. pp. lxviii–lxix.
  22. ^ Steel, Flora Annie Webster. Tales of the Punjab: told by the people. London: Macmillan. 1917. pp. 80-88 and 305.
  23. ^ Steel, Flora Annie; Temple, R. C. Wide-awake Stories. London: Trübner & Co. 1884. pp. 89-97.
  24. ^ Village Folk-Tales of Ceylon. Collected and translated by H. Parker. Vol. I. New Delhi/Madras: Asian Educational Services. 1997 [1910]. pp. 289-292.
  25. ^ Swynnerton, Charles. Indian nights' entertainment; or, Folk-tales from the Upper Indus. London: Stock. 1892. pp. 208-212.
  26. ^ "সাতমার পালোয়ান : উপেন্দ্রকিশোর রায়চৌধুরী (ছোটোগল্প), SATMAR PALOAN (Page 1) — STORY (ছোটগল্প) — Banglalibrary". Retrieved 2016-12-26.[dead link]


  • Bolte, Johannes; Polívka, Jiri. Anmerkungen zu den Kinder- u. hausmärchen der brüder Grimm. Erster Band (NR. 1-60). Germany, Leipzig: Dieterich'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung. 1913. pp. 148–165.
  • Gregor, Walter. "John Glaick, the Brave Tailor." The Folk-Lore Journal 7, no. 2 (1889): 163-65.
  • Jacobs, Joseph. European Folk and Fairy Tales. New York, London: G. P. Putnam's sons. 1916. pp. 238–239.
  • Thompson, Stith. The Folktale. University of California Press. 1977. pp. 215–217. ISBN 0-520-03537-2

Further reading[edit]