Valiant Vicky, the Brave Weaver
by Flora Annie Steel
Once upon a time there lived a little weaver, by name Victor Prince,
but because his head was big, his legs thin, and he was altogether
small, and weak, and ridiculous, his neighbours called him
Vicky—Little Vicky the Weaver.
But despite his size, his thin legs, and his ridiculous appearance,
Vicky was very valiant, and loved to talk for hours of his
bravery, and the heroic acts he would perform if Fate gave him an
opportunity. Only Fate did not, and in consequence Vicky remained
little Vicky the valiant weaver, who was laughed at by all for his
Now one day, as Vicky was sitting at his loom, weaving, a mosquito
settled on his left hand just as he was throwing the shuttle from his
right hand, and by chance, after gliding swiftly through the warp, the
shuttle came flying into his left hand on the very spot where the
mosquito had settled, and squashed it. Seeing this, Vicky became
desperately excited: 'It is as I have always said,' he cried; 'if I
only had the chance I knew I could show my mettle! Now, I'd like to
know how many people could have done that? Killing a mosquito is
easy, and throwing a shuttle is easy, but to do both at one time is a
mighty different affair! It is easy enough to shoot a great hulking
man—there is something to see, something to aim at; then guns and
crossbows are made for shooting; but to shoot a mosquito with a
shuttle is quite another thing. That requires a man!'
The more he thought over the matter, the more elated he became over
his skill and bravery, until he determined that he would no longer
suffer himself to be called 'Vicky.' No! now that he had shown his
mettle he would be called 'Victor'—'Victor Prince'—or better still,
'Prince Victor'; that was a name worthy his merits. But when he
announced this determination to the neighbours, they roared with
laughter, and though some did call him Prince Victor, it was with such
sniggering and giggling and mock reverence that the little man flew
home in a rage. Here he met with no better reception, for his wife, a
fine handsome young woman, who was tired to death by her ridiculous
little husband's whims and fancies, sharply bade him hold his tongue
and not make a fool of himself. Upon this, beside himself with pride
and mortification, he seized her by the hair, and beat her most
unmercifully. Then, resolving to stay no longer in a town where his
merits were unrecognised, he bade her prepare some bread for a
journey, and set about packing his bundle.
'I will go into the world!' he said to himself. 'The man who can
shoot a mosquito dead with a shuttle ought not to hide his light under
a bushel' So off he set, with his bundle, his shuttle, and a loaf of
bread tied up in a kerchief.
Now as he journeyed he came to a city where a dreadful elephant came
daily to make a meal off the inhabitants. Many mighty warriors had
gone against it, but none had returned. On hearing this the valiant
little weaver thought to himself, 'Now is my chance! A great haystack
of an elephant will be a fine mark to a man who has shot a mosquito
with a shuttle!' So he went to the King, and announced that he
proposed single-handed to meet and slay the elephant. At first the
King thought the little man was mad, but as he persisted in his words,
he told him that he was free to try his luck if he chose to run the
risk; adding that many better men than he had failed.
Nevertheless, our brave weaver was nothing daunted; he even refused to
take either sword or bow, but strutted out to meet the elephant armed
only with his shuttle.
'It is a weapon I thoroughly understand, good people,' he replied
boastfully to those who urged him to choose some more deadly arm, 'and
it has done its work in its time, I can tell you!'
It was a beautiful sight to see little Vicky swaggering out to meet
his enemy, while the townsfolk flocked to the walls to witness the
fight. Never was such a valiant weaver till the elephant, descrying
its tiny antagonist, trumpeted fiercely, and charged right at him, and
then, alas! all the little man's courage disappeared, and forgetting
his new name of Prince Victor he dropped his bundle, his shuttle, and
his bread, and bolted away as fast as Vicky's legs could carry him.
Now it so happened that his wife had made the bread ever so sweet, and
had put all sorts of tasty spices in it, because she wanted to hide
the flavour of the poison she had put in it also; for she was a
wicked, revengeful woman, who wanted to be rid of her tiresome,
whimsical little husband. And so, as the elephant charged past, it
smelt the delicious spices, and catching up the bread with its long
trunk, gobbled it up without stopping an instant. Meanwhile fear lent
speed to Vicky's short legs, but though he ran like a hare, the
elephant soon overtook him. In vain he doubled and doubled, and the
beast's hot breath was on him, when in sheer desperation he turned,
hoping to bolt through the enormous creature's legs; being half blind
with fear, however, he ran full tilt against them instead. Now, as
luck would have it, at that very moment the poison took effect, and
the elephant fell to the ground stone dead.
When the spectators saw the monster fall they could scarcely believe
their eyes, but their astonishment was greater still when, running up
to the scene of action, they found Valiant Vicky seated in triumph on
the elephant's head, calmly mopping his face with his handkerchief.
'I had to pretend to run away,' he explained, 'or the coward would
never have engaged me. Then I gave him a little push, and he fell
down, as you see. Elephants are big beasts, but they have no strength
to speak of.'
The good folks were amazed at the careless way in which Valiant Vicky
spoke of his achievement, and as they had been too far off to see very
distinctly what had occurred, they went and told the King that the
little weaver was just a feaiful wee man, and had knocked over the
elephant like a ninepin. Ihen the King said to himself, 'None of my
warriors and wrestlers, no, not even the heroes of old, could have
done this. I must secure this little man's services if I can.' So he
asked Vicky why he was wandering about the world.
[Illustration: Vicky descending from the dead elephant]
'For pleasure, for service, or for conquest!' returned Valiant Vicky,
laying such stress on the last word that the King, in a great hurry,
made him Commander-in-Chief of his whole army, for fear he should take
So there was Valiant Vicky a mighty fine warrior, and as proud as a
peacock of having fulfilled his own predictions.
'I knew it!' he would say to himself when he was dressed out in full
fig, with shining armour and waving plumes, and spears, swords, and
shields; 'I felt I had it in me!'
Now after some time a terribly savage tiger came ravaging the country,
and at last the city-folk petitioned that the mighty Prince Victor
might be sent out to destroy it. So out he went at the head of his
army,—for he was a great man now, and had quite forgotten all about
looms and shuttles. But first he made the King promise his daughter
in marriage as a reward. 'Nothing for nothing!' said the astute
little weaver to himself, and when the promise was given he went out
as gay as a lark.
'Do not distress yourselves, good people,' he said to those who
flocked round him praying for his successful return; 'it is ridiculous
to suppose the tiger will have a chance. Why, I knocked over an
elephant with my little finger! I am really invincible! *'
But, alas for our Valiant Vicky! No sooner did he see the tiger
lashing its tail and charging down on him, than he ran for the nearest
tree, and scrambled into the branches. There he sat like a monkey,
while the tiger glowered at him from below. Of course when the army
saw their Commander-in-Chief bolt like a mouse, they followed his
example, and never stopped until they reached the city, where they
spread the news that the little hero had fled up a tree.
'There let him stay!' said the King, secretly relieved, for he was
jealous of the little weaver's prowess, and did not want him for a
Meanwhile, Valiant Vicky sat cowering in the tree, while the tiger
occupied itself below with sharpening its teeth and claws, and curling
its whiskers, till poor Vicky nearly tumbled into its jaws with
fright. So one day, two days, three days, six days passed by; on the
seventh the tiger was fiercer, hungrier, and more watchful than ever.
As for the poor little weaver, he was so hungry that his hunger made
him brave, and he determined to try and slip past his enemy during its
mid-day snooze. He crept stealthily down inch by inch, till his foot
was within a yard of the ground, and then? Why then the tiger, which
had had one eye open all the time, jumped up with a roar!
Valiant Vicky shrieked with fear, and making a tremendous effort,
swung himself into a branch, cocking his little bandy legs over it to
keep them out of reach, for the tiger's red panting mouth and gleaming
white teeth were within half an inch of his toes. In doing so, his
dagger fell out of its sheath, and went pop into the tiger's wide-open
mouth, and thus point foremost down into its stomach, so that it died!
Valiant Vicky could scarcely believe his good fortune, but, after
prodding at the body with a branch, and finding it did not move, he
concluded the tiger really was dead, and ventured down. Then he cut
off its head, and went home in triumph to the King.
'You and your warriors are a nice set of cowards!' said he,
wrathfully. 'Here have I been fighting that tiger for seven days and
seven nights, without bite or sup, whilst you have been guzzling and
snoozing at home. Pah! it's disgusting! but I suppose every one is
not a hero as I am!' So Prince Victor married the King's daughter,
and was a greater man than ever.
But by and by a neighbouring prince, who bore a grudge against the
King, came with a huge army, and encamped outside the city, swearing
to put every man, woman, and child within it to the sword. Hearing
this, the inhabitants of course cried with one accord, 'Prince
Victor! Prince Victor to the rescue!' so the valiant little weaver
was ordered by the King to go out and destroy the invading army, after
which he was to receive half the kingdom as a reward. Now Valiant
Vicky, with all his boasting, was no fool, and he said to himself,
'This is a very different affair from the others. A man may kill a
mosquito, an elephant, and a tiger; yet another man may kill
him. And here is not one man, but thousands! No, no!—what is
the use of half a kingdom if you haven't a head on your shoulders?
Under the circumstances I prefer not to be a hero!'
So in the dead of night he bade his wife rise, pack up her golden
dishes, and follow him—'Not that you will want the golden dishes at
my house,' he explained boastfully, 'for I have heaps and heaps, but
on the journey these will be useful.' Then he crept outside the city,
followed by his wife carrying the bundle, and began to steal through
the enemy's camp.
Just as they were in the very middle of it, a big cockchafer flew into
Valiant Vicky's face. 'Run! run!' he shrieked to his wife, in a
terrible taking, and setting off as fast as he could, never stopped
till he had reached his room again and hidden under the bed. His wife
set off at a run likewise, dropping her bundle of golden dishes with a
clang. The noise roused the enemy, who, thinking they were attacked,
flew to arms; but being half asleep, and the night being pitch-dark,
they could not distinguish friend from foe, and falling on each other,
fought with such fury that by next morning not one was left alive!
And then, as may be imagined, great were the rejoicings at Prince
Victor's prowess. 'It was a mere trifle!' remarked that valiant
little gentleman modestly; 'when a man can shoot a mosquito with a
shuttle, everything else is child's play.'
So he received half the kingdom, and ruled it with great dignity,
refusing ever afterwards to fight, saying truly that kings never
fought themselves, but paid others to fight for them.
Thus he lived in peace, and when he died every one said Valiant Vicky
was the greatest hero the world had ever seen.