The History of Tom Thumb by Unknown
IN the days of the great Prince Arthur there lived a
mighty magician, called Merlin, the most learned and
skillful enchanter the world has ever seen.
This famous magician, who could take any form he pleased,
was traveling about as a poor beggar, and being very tired,
he stopped at the cottage of a plowman to rest himself, and
asked for some food.
The countryman bade him welcome, and his wife, who was
a very good-hearted woman, soon brought him some milk in
a wooden bowl, and some coarse brown bread on a platter.
Merlin was much pleased with the kindness of the plowman
and his wife; but he could not help noticing that though everything
was neat and comfortable in the cottage, they both
seemed to be very unhappy. He therefore asked them why
they were so melancholy, and learned that they were miserable
because they had no children.
The poor woman said, with tears in her eyes: "I should be
the happiest creature in the world if I had a son; although
he was no bigger than my husband's thumb, I would be satisfied."
Merlin was so much amused with the idea of a boy no
bigger than a man's thumb that he determined to grant the
poor woman's wish. Accordingly, in a short time after, the
plowman's wife had a son, who, wonderful to relate, was not
a bit bigger than his father's thumb!
The queen of the fairies, wishing to see the little fellow,
came in at the window while the mother was sitting up in the
bed admiring him. The queen kissed the child, and, giving it
the name of Tom Thumb, sent for some of the fairies, who
dressed her little godson according to her orders:
An oak-leaf hat he had for his crown;
His shirt of web by spiders spun,
With jacket wove of thistle's down.
His trousers were of feathers done;
His stockings, of apple-rind, they tie
With eyelash from his mother's eye;
His shoes were made of mouse's skin,
Tann'd with the downy hair within.
Tom never grew any larger than his father's thumb, which
was only of ordinary size; but as he got older he became
very cunning and full of tricks. When he was old enough to
play with the boys, and had lost all his own cherry stones,
he used to creep into the bags of his playfellows, fill his pockets,
and, getting out without their noticing him, would again join
in the game.
One day, however, as he was coming out of a bag of
cherry stones, where he had been stealing as usual, the boy
to whom it belonged chanced to see him. "Ah, ah! my little
Tommy," said the boy, "so I have caught you stealing my
cherry stones at last, and you shall be rewarded for your
thievish tricks." On saying this, he drew the string tight
round his neck, and gave the bag such a hearty shake that
poor little Tom's legs, thighs, and body were sadly bruised.
He roared loud with pain, and begged to be let out, promising
never to steal again.
A short time afterwards his mother was making a batter-pudding,
and Tom, being very anxious to see how it was made,
climbed up to the edge of the bowl; but his foot slipped, and
he plumped over head and ears into the batter, without his
mother noticing him, who stirred him into the pudding-bag,
and put him in the pot to boil.
The batter filled Tom's mouth and prevented him from crying;
but, on feeling the hot water, he kicked and struggled
so much in the pot that his mother thought that the pudding
was bewitched, and, pulling it out of the pot, she threw it outside
the door. A poor tinker, who was passing by, lifted up the
pudding, and, then putting it into his budget, walked off.
As Tom had now got his mouth cleared of the batter, he then
began to cry aloud, which so frightened the tinker that he
flung down the pudding and ran away. The pudding being
broken to pieces by the fall, Tom crept out, covered all over
with the batter, and walked home. His mother, who was very
sorry to see her darling in such a woeful state, put him into a
teacup and soon washed off the batter; after which she kissed
him, and laid him in bed.
Soon after the adventure of the pudding, Tom's mother
went to milk her cow in the meadow, and she took him along
with her. As the wind was very high, for fear of being blown
away, she tied him to a thistle with a piece of fine thread. The
cow soon observed Tom's oak-leaf hat, and liking the appearance
of it, took poor Tom and the thistle at one mouthful.
While the cow was chewing the thistle, Tom was afraid of
her great teeth, which threatened to crush him in pieces, and
he roared out as loud as he could: "Mother, mother!"
"Where are you, Tommy, my dear Tommy?" said his
"Here, mother," replied he, "in the red cow's mouth."
His mother began to cry and wring her hands; but the cow,
surprised at the odd noise in her throat, opened her mouth
and let Tom drop out. Fortunately his mother caught him
in her apron as he was falling to the ground, or he would have
been dreadfully hurt. She then put Tom in her bosom and
ran home with him.
Tom's father made him a whip of a barley straw to drive
the cattle with, and having one day gone into the fields, Tom
slipped a foot and rolled into the furrow. A raven, which
was flying over, picked him up, and flew with him over the
sea, and there dropped him.
A large fish swallowed Tom the moment he fell into the
sea, which was soon after caught and bought for the table of
King Arthur. When they opened the fish in order to cook it,
everyone was astonished at finding such a little boy, and Tom
was quite delighted at being free again. They carried him
to the King, who made Tom his dwarf, and he soon grew a
great favorite at court; for by his tricks and gambols he not
only amused the King and Queen, but also all the Knights of
the Round Table.
It is said that when the King rode out on horseback he
often took Tom along with him, and if a shower came on
he used to creep into his majesty's waistcoat pocket, where he
slept till the rain was over.
King Arthur one day asked Tom about his parents, wishing
to know if they were as small as he was, and whether
they were well off. Tom told the King that his father and
mother were as tall as anybody about the court, but in
rather poor circumstances. On hearing this the King carried
Tom to his treasury, the place where he kept all his money,
and told him to take as much money as he could carry
home to his parents, which made the poor little fellow caper
with joy. Tom went immediately to procure a purse, which
was made of a water bubble, and then returned to the treasury,
where he received a silver threepenny-piece to put
Our little hero had some difficulty in lifting the burden upon
his back; but he at last succeeded in getting it placed to his
mind, and set forward on his journey. However, without
meeting with any accident, and after resting himself more
than a hundred times by the way, in two days and two nights
he reached his father's house in safety.
Tom had traveled forty-eight hours with a huge silver-piece
on his back, and was almost tired to death, when his mother
ran out to meet him, and carried him into the house. But he
soon returned to court.
As Tom's clothes had suffered much in the batter-pudding
and the inside of the fish, his majesty ordered him a new suit
of clothes and to be mounted as a knight on a mouse.
Of butterfly's wings his shirt was made,
His boots of chicken's hide;
And by a nimble fairy blade,
Well learned in the tailoring trade,
His clothing was supplied.
A needle dangled by his side;
A dapper mouse he used to ride,
Thus strutted Tom in stately pride!
It was certainly very diverting to see Tom in this dress and
mounted on the mouse as he rode out a-hunting with the King
and nobility, who were all ready to expire with laughter at
Tom and his fine prancing charger.
The King was so charmed with his address that he ordered
a little chair to be made, in order that Tom might sit upon his
table, and also a palace of gold, a span high, with a door an
inch wide, to live in. He also gave him a coach, drawn by
six small mice.
The Queen was so enraged at the honors conferred on Sir
Thomas that she resolved to ruin him, and told the King that
the little knight had been saucy to her.
The King sent for Tom in great haste, but being fully aware
of the danger of royal anger, he crept into an empty snail
shell, where he lay for a long time, until he was almost starved
with hunger; but at last he ventured to peep out, and seeing a
fine large butterfly on the ground near the place of his concealment,
he got close to it, and jumping astride on it was
carried up into the air. The butterfly flew with him from tree
to tree and from field to field, and at last returned to the court,
where the King and nobility all strove to catch him; but at
last poor Tom fell from his seat into a watering pot, in which
he was almost drowned.
When the Queen saw him she was in a rage, and said he
should be beheaded; and he was again put into a mouse trap
until the time of his execution.
However, a cat, observing something alive in the trap, patted
it about till the wires broke, and set Thomas at liberty.
The King received Tom again into favor, which he did not
live to enjoy, for a large spider one day attacked him; and
although he drew his sword and fought well, yet the spider's
poisonous breath at last overcame him.
He fell dead on the ground where he stood,
And the spider suck'd every drop of his blood.
King Arthur and his whole court were so sorry at the loss
of their little favorite that they went into mourning and raised
a fine white marble monument over his grave with the following
Here lies Tom Thumb, King Arthur's knight,
Who died by a spider's cruel bite.
He was well known in Arthur's court,
Where he afforded gallant sport;
He rode a tilt and tournament,
And on a mouse a-hunting went.
Alive he filled the court with mirth;
His death to sorrow soon gave birth.
Wipe, wipe your eyes, and shake your head
And cry,—Alas! Tom Thumb is dead!