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After many adventures, a tiny boy, no bigger than his father’s thumb, earns a place as the smallest Knight of the Round Table. Also includes “The Cat and the Mouse” and “Fire! Fire! Burn Stick!”
14 pages, with a reading time of ~0.25 hours (3,704 words), and first published in 1621. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2009.
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It is said that in the days of the famed Prince Arthur, who was king of Britain, in the year 516, there lived a great magician, called Merlin, the most learned and skilful enchanter in the world at that time.
This great magician, who could assume any form he pleased, was travelling in the disguise of a poor beggar, and being very much fatigued, he stopped at the cottage of an honest ploughman to rest himself, and asked for some refreshment.
The countryman gave him a hearty welcome, and his wife, who was a very good–hearted, hospital woman, soon brought him some milk in a wooden bowl, an some coarse brown bread on a platter.
Merlin was much pleased with this homely repast and the kindness of the ploughman and his wife; but he could not help seeing that though everything was neat and comfortable in the cottage, they seemed both be sad and much cast down. He therefore questioned them on the cause of their sadness, and learned they were miserable because they had no children.
The poor woman declared, with tears in her eyes, that she should be the happiest creature in the world if she had a son; and although he was no bigger than her husband’s thumb, she would be satisfied.
Merlin was so much amused with the idea of a boy no bigger than a man’s thumb, that he made up his mind to pay a visit to the queen of the fairies, and ask her to grant the poor woman’s wish. The droll fancy of such a little person among the human race pleased the fairy queen too, greatly, and she promised Merlin that the wish should be granted. Accordingly, a short time after, the ploughman’s wife had a son, who, wonderful to relate! was not bigger than his father’s thumb.
The fairy queen, wishing to see the little fellow thus born into the world, came in at the window while the mother was sitting up in 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 favorite as she bade them.
An oak–leaf hat he had for his crown; His shirt of web by spiders spun; With jacket wove of thistle's down; His trowsers 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.
It is remarkable that Tom never grew any larger than his father’s thumb, which was only of an 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 unseen, would again join in the game.
One day, however, as he was coming out of a bag of cherrystones, where he had been pilfering as usual, the boy to whom it belonged chanced to see him. “Ah, ha! my little Tommy,” said the boy, “so I have caught you stealing my cherrystones at last, and you shall be rewarded for your thievish tricks.” On saying this, he drew the string tight around his neck, and gave the bag such a hearty shake, that poor little Tom’s legs, thighs, and body were sadly bruised. He roared out in pain, and begged to be let out, promising never to be guilty of such bad practices 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 unfortunately his foot slipped and he plumped over head and ears into the batter, unseen by his mother, who stirred him into the pudding–bag, and put him in the pot to boil.
The batter had 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, instantly pulling it out of the pot, she threw it to the door. A poor tinker, who was passing by, lifted up the pudding, and, putting it into his budget, he then 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 broke to pieces by the fall, Tom crept out covered over with the batter, and with difficulty walked home. His mother, who was very sorry to see her darling in such a woeful state, put him into a tea–cup, 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, fearing lest he should be blown away, she tied him to a thistle with a piece of fine thread. The cow soon saw the oak–leaf hat, and, liking the look 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: