Perrault's Fairy Tales
Little Tom Thumb
Perrault's Fairy Tales
by Charles Perrault
Illustrated By Gustave Dore
Little Tom Thumb
We can no longer feed our children
Once upon a time
there lived a woodcutter and his wife, who had seven children,
all boys. The eldest was only ten years old, and the youngest was
seven. People were astonished that the woodcutter had had so
many children in so short a time, but the reason was that his
wife delighted in children, and never had less than two at a time.
They were very poor, and their seven children were a great
tax on them, for none of them was yet able to earn his own
living. And they were troubled also because the youngest was
very delicate and could not speak a word. They mistook for
stupidity what was in reality a mark of good sense.
This youngest boy was very little. At his birth he was
scarcely bigger than a man's thumb, and he was called in
consequence "Little Tom Thumb." The poor child was the
scapegoat of the family, and got the blame for everything. All
the same, he was the sharpest and shrewdest of the brothers,
and if he spoke but little he listened much.
There came a very bad year, when the famine was so great
that these poor people resolved to get rid of their family. One
evening, after the children had gone to bed, the woodcutter
was sitting in the chimney corner with his wife. His heart was
heavy with sorrow as he said to her:
"It must be plain enough to you that we can no longer feed
our children. I cannot see them die of hunger before my eyes,
and I have made up my mind to take them tomorrow to the
forest and lose them there. It will be easy enough to manage,
for while they are amusing themselves by collecting fagots we
have only to disappear without their seeing us."
In the morning he went to the edge of the brook
"Ah!" cried the woodcutter's wife, "do you mean to say you
are capable of letting your own children be lost?"
In vain did her husband remind her of their terrible poverty;
she could not agree. She was poor, but she was their mother.
In the end, however, reflecting what a grief it would be to see
them die of hunger, she consented to the plan, and went
weeping to bed.
Little Tom Thumb had heard all that was said. Having
discovered, when in bed, that serious talk was going on, he
had got up softly, and had slipped under his father's stool in
order to listen without being seen. He went back to bed, but
did not sleep a wink for the rest of the night, thinking over
what he had better do. In the morning he rose very early and
went to the edge of a brook. There he filled his pockets with
little white pebbles and came quickly home again.
They all set out, and little Tom Thumb said not a word to
his brothers of what he knew.
On the way he had dropped the little white stones from his pocket
They went into a forest which was so dense that when only
ten paces apart they could not see each other. The woodcutter
set about his work, and the children began to collect twigs to
make fagot~ Presently the father and mother, seeing them
busy at their task, edged gradually away, and then hurried off
in haste along a little narrow footpath.
When the children found they were alone they began to cry
and call out with all their might. Little Tom Thumb let them
cry, being confident that they would get back home again.
For on the way he had dropped the little white stones which he
carried in his pocket all along the path.
"Don't be afraid, brothers," he said presently; "our parents
have left us here, but I will take you home again. Just follow
They fell in behind him, and he led them straight to their
house by the same path which they had taken to the forest.
At first they dared not go in, but placed themselves against the
door, where they could hear everything their father and
mother were saying.
Now the woodcutter and his wife had no sooner reached
home than the lord of the manor sent them a sum of ten
crowns which had been owing from him for a long time, and of
which they had given up hope. This put new life into them,
for the poor creatures were dying of hunger.
The woodcutter sent his wife off to the butcher at once, and
as it was such a long time since they had had anything to eat,
she bought three times as much meat as a supper for two
When they found themselves once more at table, the wood-
cutter's wife began to lament.
When the children found they were alone they began to cry
"Alas! where are our poor children now?" she said; "they
could make a good meal off what we have over. Mind you,
William, it was you who wished to lose them: I declared over
and over again that we should repent it. What are they doing
now in that forest? Merciful heavens, perhaps the wolves have
already eaten them! A monster you must be to lose your
children in this way!"
At last the woodcutter lost patience, for she repeated more
than twenty times that he would repent it, and that she had
told him so. He threatened to beat her if she did not hold her
It was not that the woodcutter was less grieved than his wife,
but she browbeat him, and he was of the same opinion as many
other people, who like a woman to have the knack of saying
the right thing, but not the trick of being always in the right.
"Alas!" cried the woodcutter's wife, bursting into tears,
"where are now my children, my poor children?"
She said it once so loud that the children at the door heard
it plainly. Together they all cried out:
"Here we are! Here we are!"
She rushed to open the door for them, and exclaimed, as she
"How glad I am to see you again, dear children! You must
be very tired and very hungry. And you, Peterkin, how muddy
you are-come and let me wash you!"
This Peterkin was her eldest son. She loved him more than
all the others because he was inclined to be redheaded, and she
herself was rather red.
They ate with an appetite it did their parents good to see
They sat down at the table and ate with an appetite which
it did their parents good to see. They all talked at once, as they
recounted the fears they had felt in the forest.
The good souls were delighted to have their children with
them again, and the pleasure continued as long as the ten
crowns lasted. But when the money was all spent they relapsed
into their former sadness. They again resolved to lose the
children, and to lead them much further away than they had
done the first time, so as to do the job thoroughly. But though
they were careful not to speak openly about it, their conver-
sation did not escape little Tom Thumb, who made up his
mind to get out of the situation as he had done on the former
But though he got up early to go and collect his little stones,
he found the door of the house doubly locked, and he could
not carry out his plan.
He could not think what to do until the woodcutter's wife
gave them each a piece of bread for breakfast. Then it
occurred to him to use the bread in place of the stones, by
throwing crumbs along the path which they took, and he
tucked it tight in his pocket.
Their parents led them into the thickest and darkest part of
the forest, and as soon as they were there slipped away by a
side path and left them. This did not much trouble little Tom
Thumb, for he believed he could easily find the way back
wherever he walked. But to his dismay he could not discover a
single crumb. The birds had come along and eaten it all.
They were in sore trouble now, for with every step they
strayed further, and became more and more entangled in the
forest. Night came on and a terrific wind arose, which filled
them with dreadful alarm. On every side they seemed to hear
nothing but the howling of wolves which were coming to eat
them up. They dared not speak or move.
In addition it began to rain so heavily that they were soaked
to the skin. At every step they tripped and fell on the wet
ground, getting up again covered with mud, not knowing what
to do with their hands.
Little Tom Thumb climbed to the top of the tree
Little Tom Thumb climbed to the top of a tree, in an
endeavor to see something. Looking all about him he espied,
far away on the other side of the forest, a little light like that of
a candle. He got down from the tree, and was terribly dis-
appointed to find that when he was on the ground he could see
nothing at all.
After they had walked some distance in the direction of the
light, however, he caught a glimpse of it again as they were
nearing the edge of the forest. At last they reached the house
where the light was burning, but not without much anxiety,
for every time they had to go down into a hollow they lost
sight of it.
They knocked at the door, and a good dame opened to them.
She asked them what they wanted.
Little Tom Thumb explained that they were poor children
who had lost their way in the forest, and begged her, for pity's
sake, to give them a night's lodging.
Noticing what. bonny children they all were, the woman
began to cry.
"Alas, my poor little dears!" she said; "you do not know
the place you have come to! Have you not heard that this is
the house of an ogre who eats little children?"
"Alas, madam!" answered little Tom Thumb, trembling
like all the rest of his brothers, "what shall we do? One thing
is very certain: if you do not take us in, the wolves of the forest
will devour us this very night, and that being so we should
prefer to be eaten by your husband. Perhaps he may take pity
on us, if you will plead for us."
A good dame opened to them
The ogre's wife, thinking she might be able to hide them
from her husband till the next morning, allowed them to come
in, and put them to warm near a huge fire, where a whole
sheep was cooking on the spit for the ogre's supper.
Just as they were beginning to get warm they heard two or
three great bangs at the door. The ogre had returned. His
wife hid them quickly under the bed and ran to open the door.
The first thing the ogre did was to ask whether supper was
ready and the wine opened. Then without ado he sat down to
table. Blood was still dripping from the sheep, but it seemed
all the better to him for that. He sniffed to right and left,
declaring that he could smell fresh flesh.
"Indeed!" said his wife. "It must be the calf which I have
just dressed that you smell."
"I smell fresh flesh, I tell you," shouted the ogre, eying his
wife askance; "and there is something going on here which I
do not understand."
With these words he got up from the table and went straight
to the bed.
"Aha!" said he; "so this is the way you deceive me, wicked
woman that you are! I have a very great mind to eat you too!
It's lucky for you that you are old and tough! I am expecting
three ogre friends of mine to pay me a visit in the next few days,
and here is a tasty dish which will just come in nicely for them!"
One after another he dragged the children out from under
The poor things threw themselves on their knees, imploring
mercy; but they had to deal with the most cruel of all ogres.
Far from pitying them, he was already devouring them with
his eyes, and repeating to his wife that when cooked with a
good sauce they would make most dainty morsels.
Off he went to get a large knife, which he sharpened, as he
drew near the poor children, on a long stone in his left hand.
He had already seized one of them when his wife called out
to him. "What do you want to do it now for?" she said; "will
it not be time enough tomorrow?"
One after another he dragged them from under the bed
"Hold your tongue," replied the ogre; "they will be all the
"But you have such a lot of meat," rejoined his wife; "look,
there are a calf two sheep, and half a pig."
"You are right," said the ogre; "give them a good supper to
fatten them up, and take them to bed."
The good woman was overjoyed and brought them a
splendid supper; but the poor little wretches were so cowed
with fright that they could not eat.
As for the ogre, he went back to his drinking, very pleased to
have such good entertainment for his friends. He drank a
dozen cups more than usual, and was obliged to go off
to bed early, for the wine had gone somewhat to his head.
Now the ogre had seven daughters who as yet were only
children. These little ogresses all had the most lovely complexions,
for, like their father, they ate fresh meat. But they
had little round gray eyes, crooked noses, and very large
mouths, with long and exceedingly sharp teeth, set far apart.
They were not so very wicked at present, but they showed
great promise, for already they were in the habit of killing
little children to suck their blood.
They had gone to bed early, and were all seven in a great
bed, each with a crown of gold upon her head.
In the same room there was another bed, equally large. Into
this the ogre's wife put the seven little boys, and then went to
sleep herself beside her husband.
Little Tom Thumb was fearful lest the ogre should suddenly
regret that he had not cut the throats of himself and his brothers
the evening before. Having noticed that the ogre's daughters
all had golden crowns upon their heads, he got up in the middle
of the night and softly placed his own cap and those of his
brothers on their heads. Before doing so, he carefully removed
the crowns of gold, putting them on his own and his brothers?
heads. In this way, if the ogre were to feel like slaughtering
them that night he would mistake the girls for the boys, and
Things fell out just as he had anticipated. The ogre, waking
up at midnight, regretted that he had postponed till the morrow
what he could have done overnight. Jumping briskly out of
bed, he seized his knife, crying: "Now then, let's see how the
little rascals are; we won't make the same mistake twice!"
He groped his way up to his daughters' room, and approached
the bed in which were the seven little boys. All were
sleeping, with the exception of little Tom Thumb, who was
numb with fear when he felt the ogre's hand, as it touched the
head of each brother in turn, reach his own.
"Upon my word," said the ogre, as he felt the golden
crowns; "a nice job I was going to make of it! It is very
evident that I drank a little too much last night!"
Forthwith he went to the bed where his daughters were, and
here he felt the little boys' caps.
"Aha, here are the little scamps!" he cried; "now for a
smart bit of work!"
He cut the throats of his seven little daughters
With these words, and without a moment's hesitation, he
cut the throats of his seven daughters, and well satisfied with
his work went back to bed beside his wife.
No sooner did little Tom Thumb hear him snoring than he
woke up his brothers, bidding them dress quickly and follow
him. They crept quietly down to the garden, and jumped from
the wall. All through the night they ran in haste and terror,
without the least idea of where they were going.
When the ogre woke up he said to his wife:
"Go upstairs and dress those little rascals who were here
The ogre's wife was astonished at her husband's kindness,
never doubting that he meant her to go and put on their
clothes. She went upstairs, and was horrified to discover her
seven daughters bathed in blood, with their throats cut.
She fell at once into a swoon, which is the way of most
women in similar circumstances.
The ogre, thinking his wife was very long in carrying out his
orders, went up to help her, and was no less astounded than
his wife at the terrible spectacle which confronted him.
"What's this I have done?" he exclaimed. "I will be
revenged on the wretches, and quickly, too!"
He threw a jugful of water over his wife's face, and having
brought her round ordered her to fetch his seven-league boots,
so that he might overtake the children.
He set off over the countryside, and strode far and wide
until he came to the road along which the poor children were
traveling. They were not more than a few yards from their
home when they saw the ogre striding from hilltop to hilltop,
and stepping over rivers as though they were merely tiny
Go upstaires and dress those little rascals
Little Tom Thumb espied near at hand a cave in some rocks.
In this he hid his brothers, and himself followed them in,
while continuing to keep a watchful eye upon the movements
of the ogre.
Now the ogre was feeling very tired after so much fruitless
marching (for seven-league boots are very fatiguing to their
wearer), and felt like taking a little rest. As it happened, he
went and sat down on the very rock beneath which the little
boys were hiding. Overcome with weariness, he had not sat
there long before he fell asleep and began to snore so terribly
that the poor children were as frightened as when he had held
his great knife to their throats.
Little Tom Thumb was not so alarmed. He told his
brothers to flee at once to their home while the ogre was still
sleeping soundly, and not to worry about him. They took his
advice and ran quickly home.
Little Tom Thumb now approached the ogre and gently
pulled off his boots, which he at once donned himself The
boots were very heavy and very large, but being enchanted
boots they had the faculty of growing larger or smaller accord-
ing to the leg they had to suit. Consequently they always
fitted as though they had been made for the wearer.
He went straight to the ogre's house, where he found the
ogre's wife weeping over her murdered daughters.
"Your husband," said little Tom Thumb, "is in great
danger, for he has been captured by a gang of thieves, and
the latter have sworn to kill him if he does not hand over all his
gold and silver. Just as they had the dagger at his throat, he
caught sight of me and begged me to come to you and thus
rescue him from his terrible plight. You are to give me every-
thing of value which he possesses, without keeping back a thing,
otherwise he will be slain without mercy. As the matter is
urgent he wished me to wear his seven-league boots, to save
time,and also to prove to you that Jam no impostor."
He pulled the ogre's boots off and donned them himself
The ogre's wife, in great alarm, gave him immediately all
that she had, for although this was an ogre who devoured little
children, he was by no means a bad husband.
Little Tom Thumb, laden with all the ogre's wealth, forth-
with repaired to his father's house, where he was received with
Many people do not agree about this last adventure, and
pretend that little Tom Thumb never committed this theft from
the ogre, and only took the seven-league boots, about which
he had no compunction, since they were only used by the ogre
for catching little children. These folks assert that they are in a
position to know, having been guests at the woodcutter's
cottage. They further say that when little Tom Thumb had
put on the ogre's boots, he went off to the Court, where he
knew there was great anxiety concerning the result of a battle
which was being fought by an army two hundred leagues
They say that he went to the king and undertook, if desired,
to bring news of the army before the day was out; and that the
king promised him a large sum of money if he could carry out
Little Tom Thumb brought news that very night, and this
first errand having brought him into notice, he made as much
money as he wished. For not only did the king pay him hand-
somely to carry orders to the army, but many ladies at the
court gave him anything he asked to get them news of their
lovers, and this was his greatest source of income. He was
occasionally entrusted by wives with letters to their husbands,
but they paid him so badly, and this branch of the business
brought him in so little, that he did not even bother to reckon
what he made from it.
After acting as courier for some time, and amassing great
wealth thereby, little Tom Thumb returned to his father's
house, and was there greeted with the greatest joy imaginable.
He made all his family comfortable, buying newly created
positions for his father and brothers. In this way he set them
all up, not forgetting at the same time to look well after himself.
Children are a pride to all
When they're handsome, straight, and tall.
But how many homes must own
Some odd mite who's seldom shown-
Just a little palefaced chap,
No One thinks is worth a rap!
Parents brothers laugh him down
Keep him mute with sneer and frown.
Yet it's Little thumbling may
Bring them fortune one line day!
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The text for "Perrault's Fairy Tales", by Charles Perrault (1628-1703) were first published in France in 1687.
The illustrations are by Gustave Dore(1832-1883) which where first published in 1862 by Hetzel in Paris.