There was, once upon a time, a man and his wife fagot-makers by trade, who
had several children, all boys. The eldest was but ten years old, and the
youngest only seven.
They were very poor, and their seven children incommoded them greatly,
because not one of them was able to earn his bread. That which gave them yet
more uneasiness was that the youngest was of a very puny constitution, and
scarce ever spoke a word, which made them take that for stupidity which was a
sign of good sense. He was very little, and when born no bigger than one's
thumb, which made him be called Little Thumb.
The poor child bore the blame of whatsoever was done amiss in the house, and,
guilty or not, was always in the wrong; he was, notwithstanding, more cunning
and had a far greater share of wisdom than all his brothers put together; and,
if he spake little, he heard and thought the more.
There happened now to come a very bad year, and the famine was so great
that these poor people resolved to rid themselves of their children. One
evening, when they were all in bed and the fagot-maker was sitting with his wife
at the fire, he said to her, with his heart ready to burst with grief:
"Thou seest plainly that we are not able to keep our children, and I cannot
see them starve to death before my face; I am resolved to lose them in the wood
to-morrow, which may very easily be done; for, while they are busy in tying up
fagots, we may run away, and leave them, without their taking any notice."
"Ah!" cried his wife; "and canst thou thyself have the heart to take thy
children out along with thee on purpose to lose them?"
In vain did her husband represent to her their extreme poverty: she would not
consent to it; she was indeed poor, but she was their mother. However, having
considered what a grief it would be to her to see them perish with hunger, she
at last consented, and went to bed all in tears.
Little Thumb heard every word that had been spoken; for observing, as he lay
in his bed, that they were talking very busily, he got up softly, and hid
himself under his father's stool, that he might hear what they said without
being seen. He went to bed again, but did not sleep a wink all the rest of the
night, thinking on what he had to do. He got up early in the morning, and went
to the river-side, where he filled his pockets full of small white pebbles, and
then returned home.
They all went abroad, but Little Thumb never told his brothers one syllable
of what he knew. They went into a very thick forest, where they could not
another at ten paces distance. The fagot-maker began to cut wood, and the
children to gather up the sticks to make fagots. Their father and mother, seeing
them busy at their work, got away from them insensibly, and ran away from them
all at once, along a by-way through the winding bushes.
When the children saw they were left alone, they began to cry as loud as they
could. Little Thumb let them cry on, knowing very well how to get home again,
for, as he came, he took care to drop all along the way the little white pebbles
he had in his pockets. Then he said to them:
"Be not afraid, brothers; father and mother have left us here, but I will
lead you home again, only follow me."
They did so, and he brought them home by the very same way they came into the
forest. They dared not go in, but sat themselves down at the door, listening to
what their father and mother were saying.
The very moment the fagot-maker and his wife reached home the lord of the
manor sent them ten crowns, which he had owed them a long while, and which they
never expected. This gave them new life, for the poor people were almost
famished. The fagot-maker sent his wife immediately to the butcher's. As it was
a long while since they had eaten a bit, she bought thrice as much meat as would
sup two people. When they had eaten, the woman said:
"Alas! where are now our poor children? they would make a good feast of what
we have left here; but it was you, William, who had a mind to lose them: I told
you we should repent of it. What are they now doing in the forest? Alas! dear
God, the wolves have perhaps already eaten them up; thou art very inhuman thus
to have lost thy children."
The fagot-maker grew at last quite out of patience, for she repeated it above
twenty times, that they should repent of it, and that she was in the right of it
for so saying. He threatened to beat her if she did not hold her tongue. It was
not that the fagot-maker was not, perhaps, more vexed than his wife, but that
she teased him, and that he was of the humor of a great many others, who love
wives to speak well, but think those very importunate who are continually doing
so. She was half-drowned in tears, crying out:
"Alas! where are now my children, my poor children?"
She spoke this so very loud that the children, who were at the gate, began to
cry out all together:
"Here we are! Here we are!"
She ran immediately to open the door, and said, hugging them:
"I am glad to see you, my dear children; you are very hungry and weary; and
my poor Peter, thou art horribly bemired; come in and let me clean thee."
Now, you must know that Peter was her eldest son, whom she loved above all
the rest, because he was somewhat carroty, as she herself was. They sat down
to supper, and ate with such a good appetite as pleased both father and mother,
whom they acquainted how frightened they were in the forest, speaking almost
always all together. The good folks were extremely glad to see their children
once more at home, and this joy continued while the ten crowns lasted; but, when
the money was all gone, they fell again into their former uneasiness, and
resolved to lose them again; and, that they might be the surer of doing it, to
carry them to a much greater distance than before.
They could not talk of this so secretly but they were overheard by Little
Thumb, who made account to get out of this difficulty as well as the former;
but, though he got up very early in the morning to go and pick up some little
pebbles, he was disappointed, for he found the house- door double-locked, and
was at a stand what to do. When their father had given each of them a piece of
bread for their breakfast, Little Thumb fancied he might make use of this
instead of the pebbles by throwing it in little bits all along the way they
should pass; and so he put the bread in his pocket.
Their father and mother brought them into the thickest and most obscure part
of the forest, when, stealing away into a by-path, they there left them. Little
Thumb was not very uneasy at it, for he thought he could easily find the way
again by means of his bread, which he had scattered all along as he came; but he
was very much surprised when he could not find so much as one crumb; the birds
had come and had eaten it up, every bit. They were now in great affliction, for
the farther they went the more they were out of their way, and were more and
more bewildered in the forest.
Night now came on, and there arose a terribly high wind, which made them
dreadfully afraid. They fancied they heard on every side of them the howling of
wolves coming to eat them up. They scarce dared to speak or turn their heads.
After this, it rained very hard, which wetted them to the skin; their feet
slipped at every step they took, and they fell into the mire, whence they got up
in a very dirty pickle; their hands were quite benumbed.
Little Thumb climbed up to the top of a tree, to see if he could discover
anything; and having turned his head about on every side, he saw at last a
glimmering light, like that of a candle, but a long way from the forest. He came
down, and, when upon the ground, he could see it no more, which grieved him
sadly. However, having walked for some time with his brothers toward that side
on which he had seen the light, he perceived it again as he came out of the
They came at last to the house where this candle was, not without an
abundance of fear: for very often they lost sight of it, which happened every
time they came into a bottom. They knocked at the door, and a good woman came
and opened it; she asked them what they would have.
Little Thumb told her they were poor children who had been lost in the
forest, and desired to lodge there for God's sake.
The woman, seeing them so very pretty, began to weep, and said to them:
"Alas! poor babies; whither are ye come? Do ye know that this house belongs
to a cruel ogre who eats up little children?"
"Ah! dear madam," answered Little Thumb (who trembled every joint of him, as
well as his brothers), "what shall we do? To be sure the wolves of the forest
will devour us to-night if you refuse us to lie here; and so we would rather the
gentleman should eat us; and perhaps he may take pity upon us, especially if you
please to beg it of him."
The Ogre's wife, who believed she could conceal them from her husband till
morning, let them come in, and brought them to warm themselves at a very good
fire; for there was a whole sheep upon the spit, roasting for the Ogre's
As they began to be a little warm they heard three or four great raps at the
door; this was the Ogre, who had come home. Upon this she hid them under the bed
and went to open the door. The Ogre presently asked if supper was ready and the
wine drawn, and then sat himself down to table. The sheep was as yet all raw and
bloody; but he liked it the better for that. He sniffed about to the right and
"I smell fresh meat."
"What you smell so," said his wife, "must be the calf which I have just now
killed and flayd."
"I smell fresh meat, I tell thee once more," replied the Ogre, looking
crossly at his wife; "and there is something here which I do not
As he spoke these words he got up from the table and went directly to the
"Ah, ah!" said he; "I see then how thou wouldst cheat me, thou cursed woman;
I know not why I do not eat thee up too, but it is well for thee that thou art a
tough old carrion. Here is good game, which comes very quickly to entertain
three ogres of my acquaintance who are to pay me a visit in a day or two."
With that he dragged them out from under the bed one by one. The poor
children fell upon their knees, and begged his pardon; but they had to do with
one of the most cruel ogres in the world, who, far from having any pity on them,
had already devoured them with his eyes, and told his wife they would be
delicate eating when tossed up with good savory sauce. He then took a great
knife, and, coming up to these poor children, whetted it upon a great whet-stone
which he held in his left hand. He had already taken hold of one of them when
his wife said to him:
"Why need you do it now? Is it not time enough to- morrow?"
"Hold your prating," said the Ogre; "they will eat the tenderer."
"But you have so much meat already," replied his wife, "you have no occasion;
here are a calf, two sheep, and half a hog."
"That is true," said the Ogre; "give them their belly full that they may not
fall away, and put them to bed."
The good woman was overjoyed at this, and gave them a good supper; but they
were so much afraid they could not eat a bit. As for the Ogre, he sat down again
to drink, being highly pleased that he had got wherewithal to treat his friends.
He drank a dozen glasses more than ordinary, which got up into his head and
obliged him to go to bed.
The Ogre had seven daughters, all little children, and these young ogresses
had all of them very fine complexions, because they used to eat fresh meat like
their father; but they had little gray eyes, quite round, hooked noses, and very
long sharp teeth, standing at a good distance from each other. They were not as
yet over and above mischievous, but they promised very fair for it, for they had
already bitten little children, that they might suck their blood.
They had been put to bed early, with every one a crown of gold upon her head.
There was in the same chamber a bed of the like bigness, and it was into this
bed the Ogre's wife put the seven little boys, after which she went to bed to
Little Thumb, who had observed that the Ogre's daughters had crowns of gold
upon their heads, and was afraid lest the Ogre should repent his not killing
them, got up about midnight, and, taking his brothers' bonnets and his own, went
very softly and put them upon the heads of the seven little ogresses, after
having taken off their crowns of gold, which he put upon his own head and his
brothers', that the Ogre might take them for his daughters, and his daughters
for the little boys whom he wanted to kill.
All this succeeded according to his desire; for, the Ogre waking about
midnight, and sorry that he deferred to do that till morning which he might have
done over-night, threw himself hastily out of bed, and, taking his great knife,
"Let us see," said he, "how our little rogues do, and not make two jobs of
He then went up, groping all the way, into his daughters' chamber, and,
coming to the bed where the little boys lay, and who were every soul of them
fast asleep, except Little Thumb, who was terribly afraid when he found the Ogre
fumbling about his head, as he had done about his brothers', the Ogre, feeling
the golden crowns, said:
"I should have made a fine piece of work of it, truly; I find I drank too
much last night."
Then he went to the bed where the girls lay; and, having found the boys'
"Ah!" said he, "my merry lads, are you there? Let us work as we ought."
And saying these words, without more ado, he cut the throats of all his seven
Well pleased with what he had done, he went to bed again to his wife. So soon
as Little Thumb heard the Ogre snore, he waked his brothers, and bade them all
put on their clothes presently and follow him. They stole down softly into the
garden, and got over the wall. They kept running about all night, and trembled
all the while, without knowing which way they went.
The Ogre, when he awoke, said to his wife: "Go upstairs and dress those young
rascals who came here last night."
The wife was very much surprised at this goodness of her husband, not
dreaming after what manner she should dress them; but, thinking that he had
ordered her to go and put on their clothes, she went up, and was strangely
astonished when she perceived her seven daughters killed, and weltering in their
She fainted away, for this is the first expedient almost all women find in
such cases. The Ogre, fearing his wife would be too long in doing what he had
ordered, went up himself to help her. He was no less amazed than his wife at
this frightful spectacle.
"Ah! what have I done?" cried he. "The wretches shall pay for it, and that
He threw a pitcher of water upon his wife's face, and, having brought her
to herself, said:
"Give me quickly my boots of seven leagues, that I may go and catch
He went out, and, having run over a vast deal of ground, both on this side
and that, he came at last into the very road where the poor children were, and
not above a hundred paces from their father's house. They espied the Ogre, who
went at one step from mountain to mountain, and over rivers as easily as the
narrowest kennels. Little Thumb, seeing a hollow rock near the place where they
were, made his brothers hide themselves in it, and crowded into it himself,
minding always what would become of the Ogre.
The Ogre, who found himself much tired with his long and fruitless journey
(for these boots of seven leagues greatly fatigued the wearer), had a great mind
to rest himself, and, by chance, went to sit down upon the rock where the little
boys had hid themselves. As it was impossible he could be more weary than he
was, he fell asleep, and, after reposing himself some time, began to snore so
frightfully that the poor children were no less afraid of him than when he held
up his great knife and was going to cut their throats. Little Thumb was not so
much frightened as his brothers, and told them that they should run away
immediately toward home while the Ogre was asleep so soundly, and that they
should not be in any pain about him. They took his advice, and got home
presently. Little Thumb came up to the Ogre, pulled off his boots gently and put
them on his own legs. The boots were very long and large, but, as they were
fairies, they had the gift of becoming big and little, according to the legs of
those who wore them; so that they fitted his feet and legs as well as if they
had been made on purpose for him. He went immediately to the Ogre's house, where
he saw his wife crying bitterly for the loss of the Ogre's murdered
"Your husband," said Little Thumb, "is in very great danger, being taken by a
gang of thieves, who have sworn to kill him if he does not give them all his
gold and silver. The very moment they held their daggers at his throat he
perceived me, and desired me to come and tell you the condition he is in, and
that you should give me whatsoever he has of value, without retaining any one
thing; for otherwise they will kill him without mercy; and, as his case is very
pressing, he desired me to make use (you see I have them on) of his boots, that
I might make the more haste and to show you that I do not impose upon you.
The good woman, being sadly frightened, gave him all she had: for this Ogre
was a very good husband, though he used to eat up little children. Little Thumb,
having thus got all the Ogre's money, came home to his father's house, where he
was received with abundance of joy.
There are many people who do not agree in this circumstance, and pretend that
Little Thumb never robbed the Ogre at all, and that he only thought he might
very justly, and with a safe conscience, take off his boots of seven leagues,
because he made no other use of them but to run after little children. These
folks affirm that they are very well assured of this, and the more as having
drunk and eaten often at the fagot-maker's house. They aver that when Little
Thumb had taken off the Ogre's boots he went to Court, where he was informed
that they were very much in pain about a certain army, which was two hundred
leagues off, and the success of a battle. He went, say they, to the King, and
told him that, if he desired it, he would bring him news from the army before
The King promised him a great sum of money upon that condition. Little Thumb
was as good as his word, and returned that very same night with the news; and,
this first expedition causing him to be known, he got whatever he pleased, for
the King paid him very well for carrying his orders to the army. After having
for some time carried on the business of a messenger, and gained thereby great
wealth, he went home to his father, where it was impossible to express the joy
they were all in at his return. He made the whole family very easy, bought
places for his father and brothers, and, by that means, settled them very
handsomely in the world, and, in the meantime, made his court to
Adapted from Charles Perrault by Andrew Lang for The Blue Fairy Book, 1889.