Thumb-sized tailor's son escapes employer, steals from king and returns home safely with good luck and thanks to his size.
A tailor had a son who was small and no bigger than a thumb, so he was called Thumbling. But he had courage in his body and said to his father, "Father, I should and must go out into the world." "That's right, my son," said the old man, taking a long darning needle and tying a knot of sealing wax on it at the light, "you'll have a rapier with you on the way." Now the little tailor wanted to join in the meal once more and hopped into the kitchen to see what his mother had cooked in the end. But the meal had just been prepared, and the dish was on the stove. Then he said, "Mother, what's for dinner today?" "You see for yourself," said the mother. Then Thumbling jumped onto the stove and peered into the bowl, but because he stretched his neck too far into it, the steam from the food caught him and drove him out into the chimney. For a while he rode around on the steam in the air, until at last he sank back down to earth. Now the little tailor was out in the wide world, moving about, also going to work for a master, but the food was not good enough for him. "Madam Master, if she doesn't give us better food," said the Thumbling, "I'll go away and write on her front door in the morning with chalk Potato too much, Meat too little, Adieu, Mr. Potato King." "What do you want, grasshopper?" said the mistress, getting angry, grabbing a rag and wanting to strike at it: my little tailor crawled nimbly under the thimble, peeked out from underneath and stuck out his tongue at the mistress. She picked up the thimble and wanted to grab him, but the little thumb jumped into the rags, and as the master threw the rags apart and searched for him, he made a dash for the table. "Hey, hey, Frau Meisterin," he cried, sticking his head up in the air, and when she was about to strike, he jumped down into the drawer. At last, however, she caught him after all and chased him out to the house.
The little tailor was wandering and came to a large forest: there he met a bunch of robbers who were planning to steal the king's treasure. When they saw the little tailor, they thought, "Such a little fellow can crawl through a keyhole and serve us as a lockpick." "Heda," cried one, "you giant Goliath, will you go with us to the treasury? You can sneak in, and throw the money out." The Thumbling thought it over, finally he said "yes" and went with him to the treasure chamber. He looked at the door above and below to see if there was a crack in it. Not long after, he discovered one wide enough to let him in. He was about to go through, but one of the two guards standing in front of the door noticed him and said to the other, "What ugly spider is crawling there? I want to kick it to death." "Let the poor animal go," said the other, "it has done you no harm."
Now the little tailor happily entered the treasury through the crack, opened the window under which the robbers were standing, and threw them out one thaler after the other. When the little tailor was at his best, he heard the king coming to inspect his treasury and hurriedly hid himself away. The king noticed that many hard thalers were missing, but could not understand who should have stolen them, since the locks and bolts were in good condition and everything seemed to be well kept. So he went away again and said to the two guards, "Be careful, there is someone behind the money." As the thumblings began their work anew, they heard the money inside stirring and clinking, clanging, clanging. They quickly jumped in and wanted to grab the thief. But the little tailor, who heard them coming, was even quicker, jumped into a corner and covered a thaler over himself so that nothing could be seen of him, while he teased the guards and shouted "Here I am. The guards ran to it, but when they arrived, it had already jumped into another corner under a thaler and shouted "Hey, here I am." The guards hurriedly jumped over, but Thumbling had long since gone to a third corner and called out, "Hey, here I am." And so it had them for fools and drove them around in the treasury until they were tired and went away. Now he threw the thalers out one by one: the last one he snatched with all his might, then jumped on it himself and flew down with it through the window. The robbers gave him great praise, "you are a mighty hero," they said, "will you become our captain?" But Thumbling thanked them and said he wanted to see the world first. They now divided the booty, but the little tailor asked for only one kreuzer, because he could carry no more.
Then he buckled his sword around his body again, said good day to the robbers and took the road between his legs. He went to work for some masters, but he did not like it: finally he hired himself out as a servant in an inn. The maids, however, could not stand it, because without them being able to see it, it saw everything that they did secretly, and stated to the master what they had taken from the plates and taken away from the cellar for themselves. Then they said, "Wait, we will drink it into you," and agreed among themselves to play a trick on him. Soon after, when one of the maids was mowing in the garden, and saw the little thumb jumping around and crawling up and down the herbs, she quickly mowed him together with the grass, tied everything in a large cloth and secretly threw it to the cows. Now there was a big black one under it, which swallowed him down without hurting him. But he didn't like it down there, because it was completely dark and there was no light. When the cow was milked, he called out:
"strip, strap, stroll,
is the bucket about to be full?"
But at the sound of milking he was not understood. Then the master of the house entered the stable and said, "Tomorrow the cow is to be slaughtered. Then the little thumb became afraid, so that he called out with a bright voice, "Let me out first, I'm sitting in it." The master probably heard this, but did not know where the voice came from. "Where are you?" he asked. "In the black one," he answered, but the gentleman did not understand what that meant and went away.
The next morning the cow was slaughtered. Fortunately, during the chopping and butchering, no blow hit the thumb, but it got under the sausage meat. As the butcher approached and began his work, he shouted at the top of his lungs, "Don't chop too deeply, don't chop too deeply, I'm underneath." No one heard this before the noise of the choppers. Now poor Thumbling had his troubles, but troubles make legs, and so he jumped so nimbly between the choppers that none of them touched him, and he escaped with his skin intact. But he could not escape either: there was no other information, he had to let himself be stuffed down into a blood sausage with the lumps of bacon. The quarters were a bit tight, and in addition he was hung up in the chimney for smoking, where time and a while became very long for him. Finally, in winter, it was brought down because the sausage was to be served to a guest. When the landlady cut the sausage into slices, he was careful not to stick his head out too far, lest his neck be cut off with it: finally he saw his advantage, gave vent and jumped out.
But the little tailor did not want to stay any longer in the house where he had suffered so badly, but immediately set off on his wanderings again. But his freedom did not last long. In the open field he came in the way of a fox, who snatched him up in his thoughts. "Well, Mr. Fox," cried the little tailor, "it's me who's stuck in your throat, let me go free again." "You are right," answered the Fox, "I have as much as nothing in you; if you promise me the chickens in your father's yard, I will let you go." "With all my heart," answered the Thumbling, "you shall have all the chickens, I promise you that." Then the fox let him go again and carried him home himself. When the father saw his dear little son again, he gladly gave the fox all the chickens he had. "I'll bring you a nice piece of money in return," said the Thumbling, handing him the dime he had earned on his wanderings.
"But why did the fox get to eat the poor peeping hens?" "Well, you fool, I suppose your father would rather have his child than the chickens on the farm."