From the Finnish


Once upon a time there was a peasant, who had three sons, Peter, Paul, and John. Peter was tall, stout, rosy and good-natured, but a stupid fellow; Paul was thin, yellow, envious, and surly; while Jack was full of mischief, pale as a girl, but so small that he could stow himself away in his father's jack-boots; and so he was called Thumbling.

All the wealth the poor peasant had was his family; and so poor was he, that it was a very feast-day in his cottage if only a penny happened to jingle there. Food was very high then, and wages low; so, as soon as the three boys were big enough to work for themselves, the good father was obliged to urge them to leave the cottage where they were born, and to go out into the world to seek their fortune.

“In foreign lands,” he said, “across the sea, bread could always be had, even if it took hard work to get it; while at home, in spite of all their toil, they were never sure of a crust for the morrow.”

Now it happened that, not a mile from the woodman's hut, there was a magnificent wooden palace, with twenty balconies and six beautiful windows. And directly opposite these windows there sprang up, one fine summer's night, without the least warning, an immense oak, whose leaves and branches were so thickly clustered together, that one could hardly see in the king's house. It was no easy task to cut down this enormous tree, for it was so tough that it turned the edge of every axe that was wielded against it; and for every branch that was lopped off, or root that was plucked up, two instantly grew in its place. In vain did the king promise three bags of golden crowns to any one who would rid him of his troublesome neighbor; it was of no use at all; and he had at last to light his palace with candles, in broad daylight.

Nor was this the poor king's only trouble. Although the surrounding country was so rich in springs and brooks, that they frequently gushed out of the solid rock itself, yet in the royal gardens they couldn't get a drop of water. In summer time, the king and all his court had to wash their hands in beer, and their faces with mead, which was not convenient, if it was pleasant. So that at last the king promised broad lands, heaps of money, and the title of Lord Marquis, to anybody who would dig a well in his court-yard deep enough to give a supply of water all the year round. In spite, however, of these magnificent promises, no one could get the reward; for the palace was on a lofty hill, and after digging a foot under ground there was a solid granite rock, as hard as flint.

Now these two troubles disturbed the king so much, that he couldn't get them out of his head. Although he was not a very great monarch, yet he was as obstinate as the Emperor of China himself. So one fine day he hit upon this wise plan. He caused an enormous placard to be prepared, with the royal arms magnificently displayed at the top; and in it he promised, to whoever would cut down the troublesome oak-tree, and dig him a satisfactory well, no less rewards than the hand of his only daughter, and the half of his kingdom. This placard was posted up on the palace-gate, and copies all over the kingdom. Now, as the princess was as beautiful as the morning, and the half of a kingdom by no means to be despised, the offer was enough to tempt any one; and there shortly came to the palace, from Sweden and Norway, from Denmark and Russia, from the continent and from the islands, a host of sturdy suitors, with axe on shoulder and pick in hand, ready to undertake the task. But all that they hacked and hewed, picked and hollowed, was labor lost. At every stroke the oak grew harder, and the granite no softer; so that the most persevering had at last to give up in despair.


One fine day, about this time, when everybody all over the land was talking of this wonderful affair, and everybody's head was full of it, our three brothers began to ask each other why, since their father wished them to do so, they shouldn't go out into the world to seek their fortune. They didn't hope for any great success, nor did they expect the hand of the princess, or the half of the kingdom. All they wished for was a good place and a kind master; and who could say they wouldn't find them both somewhere at the court? So they decided to try their luck; and after receiving the blessing of their good father, they started off, with stout hearts, on their way to the king's palace.

Whilst the two older brothers were slowly trudging along, Thumbling scampered up and down the road like a wild thing, running backwards and forwards like a sportive dog, spying here, there, and everywhere, and noticing everything that was to be noticed. Nothing was too small for his sharp little eyes, and he kept constantly stopping his brothers to ask the why and the wherefore of everything: why the bees dived into the fragrant flower-cups? why the swallows skimmed along the rivers? why the butterflies zigzagged capriciously along the fields? To all these questions Peter only answered with a burst of stupid laughter; while the surly Paul shrugged his shoulders, and crossly bade the little Thumbling hold his tongue, telling him he was an inquisitive little simpleton.

As they were going along, they came to a dense forest of pines, that covered the crest of a mountain, on the top of which they heard the sound of a woodman's axe, and the crackling of branches as they fell to the ground.

“That is a very strange thing,” said Thumbling, “to be cutting trees on the top of a mountain like this.”

“It would astonish me very much to find that you were not astonished at everything,” answered Peter, in a sour tone; “everything is wonderful to simpletons. I suppose you never heard of woodcutters.”

“It's all the same to me what you say,” said Thumbling; “but I am going to see what is going on up there.”

“Be off with you!” cried Paul; “tire yourself all out, and that will be a good lesson to you, for wanting to know more than your big brothers.”

Thumbling didn't trouble himself much with what his big brothers said, but started for the place whence the noise seemed to come, and, after much hard climbing and running, he arrived at the top of the mountain. And what do you suppose he found there? You would never guess, and so I will tell you. A MAGIC AXE, that all by itself was hacking away at one of the tallest trees on the mountain.

“Good morning, Mistress Axe,” cried Thumbling. “Doesn't it tire you to be chopping all alone there at that old tree?”

“Many long years I have been waiting for you, my son,” replied the axe.

“Very well, ma'am, here I am!” said Thumbling; and without being astonished at anything, he seized the axe, put it in the stout leather bag he carried over his shoulder, and gayly descended to overtake his brothers.

“What marvel did Master Moonstruck see up there?” asked Paul, looking at Thumbling with a very scornful air.

“It was an axe that we heard,” answered Thumbling, slyly.

“I could have told you so beforehand,” said Peter; “and here you are now, all tired out, for nothing. You had better stay with us another time.”

A little farther along, they came to a place where the road was hollowed with extreme difficulty out of a mass of solid rock; and here, in the distance, the brothers heard a sharp noise, like that of iron striking against stone.

“It is very wonderful that anybody should be hammering away at rocks away up there!” remarked Thumbling.

“Truly,” said Paul, “you must have been fledged yesterday! Didn't you ever hear a woodpecker pecking at the trunk of an old tree?”

“He is right,” added Peter, laughing; “it must be a woodpecker. Stay with us, you foolish fellow.”

“It's all the same to me,” answered Thumbling; “but I am very curious to see what is going on up there.” So he began to climb the rocks on his hands and knees, while his two brothers trudged along, making as much fun of him as possible.

When he got up to the top of the rock, which was only after a deal of hard work, what do you suppose he found there? A MAGIC PICKAXE, that, all alone by itself, was digging at the hard stone as if it were soft clay; and digging so well, that at every blow it went down more than a foot in the rock.

“Good morning, Mistress Pickaxe,” said Thumbling. “Doesn't it tire you to be delving alone there, hollowing away at that old rock?”

“Many long years I have been waiting for you, my son,” answered the pickaxe.

“Very well, ma'am! here I am,” replied Thumbling; and, without being astonished at anything, he seized the pick, took it off its handle, put the two pieces in the stout leather bag he carried over his shoulder, and gayly descended to overtake his brothers.

“What miracle did his Worship see this time?” asked Paul, in a surly tone.

“It was a pickaxe that we heard,” answered Thumbling, slyly; and he plodded along, without any more words.

A little farther along, they came to a brook. The water was clear and fresh, and, as the travellers were thirsty, they all stopped to drink out of the hollows of their hands.

“It is very wonderful,” said Thumbling, “that there should be so much water in this little valley. I should like to see where this brook starts from.”

But to this the only answer was from Paul, who said gruffly to his brother, “We shall soon see this inquisitive fellow climbing up to Heaven, and asking questions of the angels themselves.”

“Very well!” says Thumbling; “it's all the same; and I am very curious to see where all this water comes from.”

So saying, he began to follow up the streamlet, in spite of the jeers and scoldings of his brothers. And lo and behold! the farther he went, smaller and smaller grew the brook, and less and less the quantity of water. And when he came to the end, what do you think he found? A simple nut-shell, from the bottom of which a tiny stream of water burst out and sparkled in the sun.

“Good morning, Mistress Spring,” cried Thumbling. “Doesn't it tire you to be gushing away there all alone in your little corner?”

“Many long years I have been waiting for you, my son,” replied the spring.

“Very well, ma'am! here I am,” said Thumbling; and without being astonished at anything, he seized the nut-shell, plugged it up with moss, so that the water shouldn't run out, put it in the stout leather bag he carried over his shoulder, and gayly descended to overtake his brothers.

“Do you know now where the brook starts from?” shouted Peter, as soon as he saw him.

“Yes, brother Peter,” replied Thumbling; “it came out of a little hole.”

“This boy is too bright to live,” grumbled Peter.

But Thumbling quietly said to himself, and rubbed his hands meanwhile, “I have seen what I wanted to see, and I know what I wanted to know; let those laugh who wish.”


Shortly after this, the brothers arrived at the king's palace. The oak was stouter and thicker than ever; there was no sign of a well in the court-yard; and at the gate of the palace still hung the imposing placard that promised the hand of the princess, and the half of the kingdom, to whoever, noble, gentleman, or peasant, should accomplish the two things his Majesty so ardently desired. Only, as the king was weary of so many fruitless attempts, which had only resulted in making him more despairing than before, he had ordered a second and smaller placard to be pasted directly above the large one. On this placard was written, in red letters, the following terrible words:

Be it known, by these presents, that, in his inexhaustible goodness, his Majesty, the King, has deigned to order, that whosoever does not succeed in cutting down the oak, or in digging the well, shall have his ears promptly stricken off, in order to teach him the first lesson of wisdom,—TO KNOW HIMSELF.”

And, in order that everybody should profit by this wise and prudent counsel, the king had caused to be nailed around this placard thirty bleeding ears, belonging to the unfortunate fellows who had proved themselves ignorant of the first lesson of wisdom.

When Peter read this notice, he laughed to himself, twisted his mustaches, looked proudly at his brawny arms, whose swollen veins looked like so many pieces of blue whipcord, swung his axe twice around his head, and with one blow chopped off one of the biggest branches of the enchanted tree. To his horror and dismay, however, there immediately sprang forth two more branches, each bigger and thicker than the first; and the king's guards thereupon immediately seized the unlucky woodcutter, and, without any more ado, sliced off both his ears.

“You are an awkward booby, and deserve your punishment,” said Paul to his brother. Saying this, he took his axe, walked slowly around the tree, and, seeing a large root that projected from the soil, he chopped it off with a single blow. At the same instant, two enormous new roots broke from the ground; and, wonderful to relate, each one immediately shot out a trunk, thickly covered with foliage.

“Seize this miserable fellow,” shouted the furious king; “and, since he did not profit by the example of his brother, shave off both his ears, close to his head!”

No sooner said than done. But now Thumbling, undismayed by this double misfortune, stepped bravely forward to try his fortune.

“Drive this little abortion away,” cried the king; “and if he resists, chop off his ears. He will have the lesson all the same, and will spare us the sight of his stupidity.”

“Pardon, gracious Majesty!” interrupted Thumbling. “The king has passed his word, and I have the right to a trial. It will be time enough to cut off my ears when I fail.”

“Away, then, to the trial,” said the king, with a heavy sigh; “but be careful that I don't have your nose cut off to boot.”

Thumbling now drew his magic axe from the bottom of his stout leather bag. It was almost as big as he was, and he had no little difficulty and trouble in standing it up, with the handle leaning against the enchanted tree. At last, however, all was accomplished; and stepping back a few steps, he cried out, “Chop! chop!! chop!!!” And lo and behold! the axe began to chop, hew, hack, now right, now left, and up and down! Trunk, branches, roots, all were speedily cut to bits. In fact, it only took a quarter of an hour, and yet there was such a heap, a monstrous heap of wood, that the whole court had nothing else to burn for a whole year.

When the tree was entirely cut down and cleared away, Thumbling approached the king, (who, in the mean time, had sent for the princess, and caused her to sit down by his side, to see the wonderful thing,) and, making them both a low bow, said:—

“Is your Majesty entirely satisfied with his faithful subject?”

“Yes, so far so good,” answered the king; “but I must have my well, or look out for your ears!”

All went then into the grand court-yard. The king placed himself on an elevated seat. The princess sat a little below, and looked with some anxiety at the little husband that Heaven seemed to have sent her. He was not the spouse she had dreamed of, certainly. Without troubling himself the least in the world, Thumbling now drew the magic pickaxe from his stout leather bag, calmly put it together, and then, laying it carefully on the ground in the proper place, he cried:—

“Pick! Pick!! Pick!!!”

And lo and behold! the pick began to burst the granite to splinters, and in less than a quarter of an hour had dug a well more than a hundred feet deep, in the solid rock.

“Does your Majesty think,” asked Thumbling, bowing profoundly, “that the well is sufficiently deep?”

“Certainly,” answered the king; “but where is the water to come from?”

“If your Majesty will grant me a moment longer,” rejoined Thumbling, “your just impatience shall be satisfied.” So saying, he drew from his stout leather bag the nut-shell, all covered as it was with moss, and placed it on a magnificent fountain vase, where, not having any water, they had put a bouquet of flowers.

“Gush! Gush!! Gush!!!” cried Thumbling.

And lo and behold! the water began to burst out among the flowers, singing with a gentle murmur, and falling down in a charming cascade, that was so cold that it made everybody present shiver; and so abundant, that in a quarter of an hour the well was filled, and a deep trench had to be dug to take away the surplus water; otherwise the whole palace would have been overflowed.

“Sire!” now said Thumbling, bending gracefully on one knee before the royal chair, “does your Majesty find that I have answered your conditions?”

“Yes! my Lord Marquis Thumbling,” answered the king; “I am ready to give you the half of my kingdom, or to pay you the value of it, by means of a tax my loyal subjects will only be too happy to pay. As to giving you the princess, however, and calling you my son-in-law, that is another question; for that doesn't depend upon me alone.”

“And what must I do for that?” asked Thumbling proudly, ogling the princess at the same time.

“You shall know to-morrow,” replied the king; “and meanwhile you are my guest, and the most magnificent apartment in the palace shall be prepared for you.”

After the departure of the king and princess, Thumbling ran to find his two brothers, who, with their ears cut off, looked like cropped curs. “Ah! my boys,” said he, “do you think now I was wrong in being astonished at everything, as you said, and in trying to find out the why and wherefore of it?”

“You have had the luck,” answered Paul coldly; “Fortune is blind, and doesn't always choose the most worthy upon whom to bestow her favors.”

But Peter said, “You have done well, brother; and with or without ears, I am delighted at your good fortune, and only wish our poor old father was here to see it also.”

Thumbling took his two brothers along with him, and, as he was in high favor at court, that very day he secured them good situations.


Meanwhile, the king was tossing uneasily on his magnificent bed, and broad awake. Such a son-in-law as Thumbling didn't please him overmuch, so he tried to see if he couldn't think of some way of breaking his word, without seeming to do so. For people that call themselves honest, this is by no means an easy task. Put a thief between honor and interest, you won't find him hesitate; but that is because he is a thief. In his perplexity, the king sent for Peter and Paul, since the two brothers were the only ones who could enlighten him on the birth, character, and disposition of our hero. Peter, who, as you remember, was good-natured, praised his brother warmly, which didn't please the king overmuch; but Paul put the king more at his ease, by trying to prove to him that Thumbling was nothing but an adventurer, and that it would be ridiculous that so great a monarch should be under obligations to such a contemptible fellow.

“The scamp is so vain,” continued the malicious Paul, “that he thinks he is stout enough to manage a giant; and you can use this vanity of his to get rid of him. In the neighboring country there is an ugly Troll, who is the terror of the whole neighborhood. He devours all the cattle for ten leagues about, and commits unheard-of devastation everywhere. Now Thumbling has said a great many times that, if he wanted to, he would make this giant his slave.”

“We shall see about this,” said the king, who caught at the insinuation of the wicked brother, and thereupon sent the two brothers away, and slept tranquilly the rest of the night.

The next morning, when the whole court was called together, the king ordered Thumbling to be sent for; and presently he made his appearance, white as a lily, ruddy as a rose, and smiling as the morn.

“My good son-in-law,” said the king, emphasizing these words, “a hero like yourself cannot marry a princess without giving her a present worthy of her exalted rank. Now there is in the neighboring woods a Troll, who, they say, is twenty feet high, and who eats a whole ox for his breakfast. This fine fellow, with his three-cornered hat, his golden epaulettes, his braided jacket, and his staff, fifteen feet long, would make a servant indeed worthy of a king. My daughter begs you to make her this trifling present, after which she will see about giving you her hand.”

“That is not an easy task,” answered Thumbling; “but, if it please your Majesty, I will try.”

So saying, he went down to the kitchen, took his stout leather bag, put in it the magic axe, a loaf of bread, some cheese, and a knife, and then, throwing all over his shoulder, started off for the woods. Peter whimpered, but Paul chuckled, thinking that, his brother once gone, he should never see him back again.

Once fairly in the forest, Thumbling looked around to right and left; but the grass was so thick that he couldn't see anything, so he began to sing at the top of his voice,—

“Master Troll, Master Troll!
I defy you to appear!
I must have you, body and soul,
Master Troll, Master Troll!
Show yourself, for I AM HERE!”

And I am here!” cried the giant, with a terrible shout. “Wait a minute, and I will only make a mouthful of you!”

“Don't be in a hurry, my good fellow,” replied Thumbling, in a little squeaking voice, “I have a whole hour to give you.”

When the Troll came to the place where Thumbling was, he looked around on every side, very much astonished at not seeing anything. At last, lowering his eyes to the ground, he discovered what appeared to be a little child, sitting on a fallen tree, with a stout leather bag between his knees.

“Is it you, pigmy, who woke me up from my nap?” growled the Troll, rolling his great red eyes.

“I am the very one,” replied Thumbling, “I have come to take you into my service.”

“He! he!” laughed the giant, who was as stupid as he was big, “that is a good joke indeed. But I am going to pitch you into that raven's nest I see up there, to teach you not to make a noise in my forest.”

Your forest!” laughed Thumbling. “It is as much mine as it is yours, and if you say a word more, I will cut it down in a quarter of an hour.”

“Ha! ha!” shouted the giant, “and I should like to see you begin, my brave fellow.”

Thumbling carefully placed the axe on the ground, and said, “Chop! chop!! chop!!!”

And lo and behold! the axe begins to chop, hew, hack, now right, now left, and up and down, till the branches tumble on the Troll's head like hail in autumn.

“Enough, enough!” said the Troll, who began to be alarmed. “Don't destroy my forest. But who the mischief are you?”

“I am the famous sorcerer Thumbling,” answered our hero, in as gruff a voice as his little body was capable of; “and I have only to say a single word to chop your head off your shoulders. You don't know yet with whom you have to do.”

The giant hesitated, very much disturbed at what he saw. Meanwhile, Thumbling, who began to be hungry, opened his stout leather bag, and took out his bread and cheese.

“What is that white stuff?” asked the Troll, who had never seen any cheese before.

“That is a stone,” answered Thumbling. He began to eat as eagerly as possible.

“Do you eat stones?” asked the giant.

“O yes,” replied Thumbling, “that is my ordinary food, and that is the reason I am not so big as you, who eat oxen; but it is also the reason why, little as I am, I am ten times as strong as you are. Now take me to your house.”

The Troll was conquered; and, marching before Thumbling like a dog before a little child, he led him to his monstrous cabin.

“Now listen,” said Thumbling to the giant, after they were fairly seated, “one of us has got to be the master, and the other the servant. Let us make this bargain: if I can't do whatever you do, I am to be your slave; if you are not able to do whatever I do, you are to be mine.”

“Agreed,” said the Troll; “I should admire to have such a little servant as you are. It is too much work for me to think, and you have wit enough for both; so begin with the trial. Here are my two buckets,—go and get the water to make the soup.”

Thumbling looked at the buckets. They were two enormous hogsheads, ten feet high and six broad. It would have been much easier for him to drown himself in them than to move them.

“O, ho!” shouted the giant, as he saw his hesitation; “and so you are stuck at the first thing, my boy! Do what I do, you know, and get the water.”

“What is the good of that?” replied Thumbling, calmly; “I will go and get the spring itself, and put that in the pot.”

“No! no!” said the Troll; “that won't do. You have already half spoiled my forest, and I don't want you to take my spring away, lest to-morrow I shall go dry. You may attend to the fire, and I will go and get the water.”

After having hung up the kettle, the giant put into it an ox cut into pieces, fifty cabbages, and a wagon-load of carrots. He then skimmed the broth with a frying-pan, tasting it every now and then, to see if it was done. When all was ready, he turned to Thumbling, and said:—

“Now to the table. We'll see if you can do what I can there. I feel like eating the whole ox, and you into the bargain. I think I will serve you for dessert.”

“All right,” said Thumbling; but before sitting down to the table, he slipped under his jacket his stout leather bag, which reached down to his feet.

The two champions now set to work. The Troll ate and ate, and Thumbling wasn't idle; only he pitched everything, beef, cabbage, carrots, and all, into his bag, when the giant wasn't looking.

“Ouf!” at last grunted the Troll; “I can't do much more; I have got to unbutton the lower button of my waistcoat.”

“Eat away, starveling!” cried Thumbling, sticking the half of a cabbage into his bag.

“Ouf!” groaned the giant; “I have got to unbutton another button. But what sort of an ostrich's stomach have you got, my son? I should think you were used to eating stones!”

“Eat away, lazy-bones!” said Thumbling, sticking a huge junk of beef into his bag.

“Ouf!” sighed the giant, for the third time; “I have got to unbutton the third button. I am almost suffocated; and how is it with you, sorcerer?”

“Bah!” answered Thumbling; “it is the easiest thing in the world to relieve yourself; and so saying he took his knife, and slit his jacket and the bag under it the whole length of his stomach.

“It is your turn now,” he said to the giant; “do as I do, you know, if you can.”

“Your humble servant,” replied the Troll; “pray excuse me! I had rather be your servant than do that; my stomach don't digest steel!”

No sooner said than done; the giant kissed Thumbling's hand in token of submission, and taking his little master on one shoulder, and a huge bag of gold on the other, he started off for the king's palace.


They were having a great feast at the palace, and thinking no more of Thumbling than if the giant had eaten him up a week before; when, all of a sudden, they heard a terrible noise that shook the palace to its very foundations. It was the Troll, who, finding the great gateway too low for him to enter, had overturned it with a single kick of his foot. Everybody ran to the windows, the king among the rest, and there saw Thumbling quietly seated on the shoulder of his terrible servant.

Our adventurer sprang lightly to the balcony of the second story, where he saw his betrothed, and, bending gracefully on one knee, he said:—

“Princess, you asked me for a slave; I present you two.”

This gallant speech was published the next morning in the Court Gazette; but at the moment it was said it was quite embarrassing to the poor king; and as he didn't know how to reply to it, he drew the princess one side, and thus addressed her:—

“My child, I have now no possible excuse for refusing your hand to this daring young man; sacrifice yourself, my darling, to your country; remember that princesses do not marry to please themselves.”

“Pardon me, father,” answered the princess, courtesying; “princess or not, every woman likes to marry according to her taste. Let me defend my rights as I think best.”

“Thumbling,” added she, aloud, “you are brave and lucky; but that is not enough alone to please women.”

“I know that,” answered Thumbling; “it is necessary besides to do their pleasure, and submit to their caprices.”

“You are a witty fellow,” said the princess; “and since you understand me so well, I am going to propose another trial to you. You need not be alarmed, for this time you will only have me for an antagonist. Let us try and see who will be the sharpest and quickest, and my hand shall be the prize of the battle.”

Thumbling assented, with a low bow, and followed the court into the great hall of audience, where the trial was to take place. There, to the affright of all, the Troll was found, sprawling on the floor; for, as the hall was only fifteen feet high, the poor fellow couldn't get up. On a sign of his young master, he crawled humbly to him, happy and proud to obey. It was Force itself, in the service of Wit.

“Now,” said the princess, “let us begin with some nonsense. It is an old story that women are not afraid to lie; and we will see which of us will stand the biggest story without objection. The first one who says, 'That is too much,' will be beaten.”

“I am always at the service of your Royal Highness,” answered Thumbling; “whether to lie in sport, or to tell the truth in sober earnest.”

“I am sure,” began the princess, “that you haven't got a farm half as beautiful as ours; and it is so large, that, when two shepherds are blowing their horns at each end of it, neither can hear the other.”

“That is nothing at all,” said Thumbling; “my father's farm is so large, that, if a heifer two months old goes in at the gate on one side of it, when she goes out at the other she takes a calf of her own with her.”

“That don't surprise me,” continued the princess; “but you haven't got a bull half as big as ours; a man can sit on each of his horns, and the two can't touch each other with a twenty-foot pole.”

“That is nothing at all,” replied Thumbling; “my father's bull is so large, that a servant sitting on one of his horns can't see the servant sitting on the other.”

“That don't surprise me,” said the princess; “but you haven't got half so much milk at your farm as we have; for we fill, every day, twenty hogsheads, a hundred feet high; and every week, we make a pile of cheese as high as the big pyramid of Egypt.”

“That is nothing at all,” said Thumbling. “In my father's dairy they make such big cheeses, that once, when my father's mare fell into the press, we only found her after travelling seven days, and she was so much injured that her back was broken. So to mend that I made her a backbone of a pine-tree, that answered splendidly; till one fine morning the tree took it into its head to grow, and it grew and grew until it was so high that I climbed up to Heaven on it. There I looked down, and saw a lady in a white gown spinning sea-foam to make gossamer with. I went to take hold of it, and snap! the thread broke, and I fell into a rat-hole. There I saw your father and my mother spinning; and as your father was clumsy, lo and behold, my mother gave him such a box on the ear, that it made his old wig shake——”

That is too much!” interrupted the princess. “My father never suffered such an insult in all his life.”

“She said it! she said it!” shouted the giant “Now, master, the princess is ours!”


But the princess said, blushing: “Not quite yet. I have three riddles to give you, Thumbling; guess them, and I will obey my father, and become your wife without any more objections. Tell me, first, what that is which is always falling, and is never broken?”

“Oh!” answered Thumbling, “my mother told me that a long time ago; it is a waterfall.”

“That is so,” interrupted the giant; “but who would have thought of that.”

“Tell me, next,” continued the princess, with a slight trembling in her voice, “what is that that every day goes the same journey, and yet never returns on its steps?”

“Oh!” answered Thumbling, “my mother told me that a long time ago; it is the sun.”

“You are right,” said the princess, pale with emotion. “And now for my last question, which you will never guess. What is that that you think, and that I don't think? What is that we both think, and what is that we neither of us think?”

Thumbling bent his head, and seemed embarrassed; and the Troll whispered to him: “Master, don't be disturbed. If you can't guess it, just make a sign to me, and I will carry off the princess, and make an end of the matter at once.”

“Be silent, slave!” answered Thumbling. “Force alone can do nothing, my poor friend, and no one ought to know it better than you. Let me have my own way.”

“Madame,” said he then to the princess, in the midst of a profound silence, “I hardly dare guess; and yet in this riddle I plainly perceive my own happiness. I dared to think that your questions would have no difficulty for me, while you thought the contrary; you have the goodness to believe that I am not unworthy to please you, while I have hardly the boldness to think so; finally,” added he, smilingly, “what we both think is, that there are bigger fools in the world than you and I; and what we neither of us think is, that the king, your august father, and this poor giant have as much—”

“Silence!” interrupted the princess; “here is my hand.”

“What were you thinking about me?” asked the king; “I should be delighted to know.”

“My dear father,” said the princess, embracing him, “we think that you are the wisest of kings, and the best of fathers.”

“It is well!” replied the king, loftily; “and now I must do something for my subjects. Thumbling, from this moment you are a Duke!”

“Long live Duke Thumbling! long live my master!” shouted the giant, with a terrific roar, that sounded like a clap of thunder breaking over the palace. But, luckily, there was no harm done, save badly frightening everybody, and breaking all the windows.


It would be unnecessary to give a full account of the wedding of the princess and Duke Thumbling. All weddings are alike; the difference is in what follows after them. Nevertheless, it would be improper in a truthful historian not to say that the presence of the Troll added a great deal to the magnificent display. For instance, when the happy couple were returning from the church, the giant, in the excess of his joy, found nothing better to do than to take the royal carriage on the top of his head, and to carry the wedded pair back to the palace. This is an incident worth noting, because it doesn't happen every day.

At night there was a splendid feast at the palace, with suppers, orations, poems, fireworks, illuminations, and everything. Nothing was wanting, and the joy was universal. Everybody in the palace laughed, sung, ate, or drank, save one man, who, seated sullenly alone in a dark corner, amused himself in a very different way from everybody else. It was the surly Paul, who rejoiced that his ears had been cut off, because he had become deaf, and consequently couldn't hear the praises all were showering on his brother. On the other hand, he was unhappy, because he couldn't help seeing the happiness of the bride and bridegroom. So he rushed out into the forest, where the bears speedily made an end of him; and I wish a like punishment to all envious people like him.

Thumbling was such a little fellow that it was hard work for his subjects to respect him; but he was so wise, so affable, and so kind, that he very soon conquered the love of his wife, and the affection of all his people.

After the death of his father-in-law, he succeeded to the throne, which he occupied fifty-two years, without anybody ever having thought of a revolution; a fact that would be incredible, if it were not attested by the official records of his reign. He was so wise, says history, that he always divined what could best serve or please the humblest of his subjects, while he was so good, that the pleasures of others constituted his greatest happiness. He only lived for others.

But why praise his goodness? Is not that the virtue of all men of intelligence and wit? Whatever others may say, I don't believe there are such things as good brutes here on earth; I speak now of featherless brutes that go on two legs. When a man is brutal, he cannot be kind and good; when a man is good, he cannot be brutal;—believe my long experience, which has learned it. If all blockheads are not vicious,—and I think they are,—all wicked men are necessarily foolish. And that is the moral of this story, if you can't find a better one. If you will find me a better, I will go and tell it to the Pope of Rome himself.