From "The Goldenrod Fairy Book" selected and translated by Esther Singleton; Dodd, Mead & Company; New York; pp. 108-122.
One year there was a terrible famine, which was so severe that these poor people determined to get rid of their children. One night, when the children were in bed and the woodcutter was 109 sitting by the fire with his wife, he said to her, his heart torn with grief: “I cannot see them die of hunger before my eyes, and I have decided to take them to the woods to-morrow and lose them, which will be easy enough, for while they are picking up the fagots, we have only to run away without their seeing us.”
“Ah!” cried his wife, “have you really the heart to lose your own children?” Her husband did what he could to show her their frightful poverty, yet she could not consent to It; she was poor, but then she was their mother. However, having imagined what grief it would be to see them die of hunger, she consented, and went crying to bed.
Hop o’ My Thumb, heard all that they said, for, having perceived that they were talking earnestly, he got up quietly and slipped beneath his father’s stool, so that he could listen without being seen. He went back to bed, but he did not sleep any more that night; he was thinking about what was the best thing to do. He got up very early and went to the brink of a stfeam, where he filled his pockets with little white pebbles, and then he went back to the house.110
They all went out together, but Hop o’ My Thumb did not breathe a word of what he knew to his brothers. They entered a very thick forest, where even ten feet away one was completely lost to sight. The woodcutter began to cut wood and his children to pick up twigs for fagots. The father and the mother, seeing them busily working, gradually moved away from them, and then suddenly they ran down a little winding path. When the children discovered that they were alone, they began to cry with all their might and main. Hop o’ My Thumb let them cry, knowing well enough how he could get back to the house; because he had dropped the little white pebbles that he had in his pockets all along the way they had come. Then he said: “Don’t be frightened, brothers, father and mother have left us here, but I can lead you back home. Follow me.” They followed him, and he led them back to the house by the same path by which they had come into the forest. They did not dare go in at first, so they all leaned up against the door to hear what their father and mother were saying.
The moment the woodcutter and his wife 111 arrived at home, the lord of the manor sent them ten crowns, which he had owed them for a long time, and which they had given up hopes of ever getting. This brought them back to life, for these poor people were really dying of hunger. The woodcutter sent his wife to the butcher’s at once. As it had been so long since they had eaten anything, she bought three times as much meat as was necessary for the supper of two persons. When they were satisfied, the mother said: “Alas! where are our poor children now? they could have had good cheer with what is left. Indeed, William, you are the once who wanted to lose them: I said we should repent. I wonder what they are doing now in that forest! Alas! oh, Heavens! perhaps the wolves have eaten them already! You are very inhuman to have gotten rid of your children like this!” At last the woodcutter grew very impatient, because she had repeated twenty times that she had said that they would repent. He threatened to beat her if she would not keep quiet. The wife was bathed in tears. “Alas! where are my children now? My poor children!” She said this so loud that the children at the door heard her, and 112 cried out together: “Here we are! Here we are!”
She ran quickly to open the door, and, embracing them, said: “How glad I am to see you, my dear children! You are very tired and you are very hungry! And you, Pierrot, you are so dirty! Come, let me wash you.” Pierrot was her eldest son, whom she loved more than the rest, because he had red hair like her own.
They sat down at the table and ate with an appetite that rejoiced the father and mother, to whom they described the fright they had had in the forest — nearly always speaking all at once. These good people were rejoiced to have their children with them once again, and this delight lasted as long as the money held out; but when the ten crowns were spent, the parents fell into their first grief, resolving to lose the children again, and, in order not to fail in their undertaking, to carry them much farther this time.
They could not discuss the matter quietly enough so as not to be overheard by Hop o’ My Thumb, who counted on getting out of the trouble as he had done before; but although he got up early in the morning to pick up the little 113 pebbles, he could not accomplish his purpose, for he found the outside door securely fastened. He did not know what to do until the mother gave them each a piece of bread for their breakfast, whereupon, thinking that he might scatter crumbs along the way instead of the pebbles, he put his bread in his pocket.
The father and mother led them into the densest and darkest part of the forest, and then, on a pretext, ran away and left them. Hop o’ My Thumb was not much distressed, because he believed that he could easily find the way home by means of the crumbs that he had scattered; but he was greatly surprised not to find a single crumb, for the birds had eaten them all. Now they were all greatly grieved, for the longer they walked, the more confused they became, and the more deeply buried in the forest. Night came, and with it a great wind, that frightened them terribly. They thought it was the howling of the wolves who were coming to eat them up. They hardly dared to speak or to move. Then there followed a heavy rain, which chilled them to the bone; they slipped and fell on the mud at every step, and then they got up all dirty 114 and did not know how to get their hands clean. Hop o’ My Thumb climbed to the top of a tree to see if he could discover anything; having looked all around him, he saw a little light like a candle, but this was very far away, far beyond the forest. He climbed down the tree, and when he got to the ground he could not see anything. He was in despair. However, having walked for some time with his brothers in the right direction, he saw it again as they went out of the forest. They finally reached the house with the light, but not without terror, for they had always lost sight of it when they descended the hills. They knocked at the door and a kind woman came to open it. She asked them what they wanted, and Hop o’ My Thumb told her that they were poor children who were lost in the forest, and who begged for a night’s lodging in the name of charity. Seeing how pretty they were, the woman began to cry, and said: “Alas! my poor children, where did you come from? Don’t you know that this house belongs to an Ogre who eats little children?”
“Alas, madam!” replied Hop o’ My Thumb, who, like his brothers, was trembling from head 115 to heels; “what can we do? It is very certain that the wolves will eat us up to-night, if you won’t let us sleep in your house. We would rather that Mr. Ogre should eat us; perhaps he will take pity on us, if you will ask it.” The Ogre’s wife, thinking she might be able to hide them from her husband till the next morning, let them come in, and made them warm themselves by a splendid fire, before which a whole sheep was being roasted on the spit for the Ogre’s supper. While they were getting warm, they heard three or four loud knocks at the door; it was the Ogre!
His wife made the children hide under the bed, and then she went to open the door. The Ogre first asked if his supper was ready and if the wine was there, and then he sat down at the table. The sheep was still very raw, and it could not have suited him better; but he flourished it about right and left, saying that he smelled fresh flesh. “It must be that veal that I am about to dress that you smell,” his wife explained.
“I smell fresh flesh! I tell this to you once again,” replied the Ogre, looking at his wife askance; “and there is something here that I do 116 not understand;” and, saying these words, he got up from the table and went straight to the bed. “Ah!” said he, “and this is how you want to deceive me, cursed woman. I don’t know what should prevent me from eating you, too; well, perhaps you are too old a beast. Here is some game that has come to me in season to treat my three Ogre friends who are coming to make me a visit.” He drew them, one after another, from underneath the bed.
The poor children fell on their knees before him asking his mercy, but they had to deal with the cruelest of all Ogres, who, far from having anypity for them, was already devouring them with his eyes, and remarked to his wife that they would be delicious morsels with a good sauce of her making. He got a great knife and approached these poor children, sharpening it upon a large stone which he held in his left hand. He had already seized one of them when his wife said to him: “Why do you wish to do this at such a time of night; won’t to-morrow morning be time enough?” “Hold your tongue,” replied the Ogre; “they will be better eating if I kill them now.”117
“But you still have enough meat,” replied his wife; “there are two sheep, veal, and the half of a pig.”
“You are right,” said the Ogre, “give them some supper, so that they will not thin, and put them to bed.” The good woman was overcome with joy, and brought them some supper, but they were far too frightened to eat. As for the Ogre, he began to eat again, delighted to have something so fine to regale his friends with. He drank a dozen more glasses than usual, which went to his head and obliged him to go to bed.
The Ogre had seven daughters, who were still little girls. These little Ogresses all had very beautiful complexions because they ate fresh meat, like their father; but they had little, round, grey eyes, hooked noses, and very large mouths with long, very pointed teeth set far apart one from the other. They were not very wicked as yet; but they promised much, for they already murdered little children to suck their blood. They had been put to bed early, and all seven of them were in a large bed, each one having a golden crown upon her head. There was another 118 bed of the same size in this room; it was in this bed that the Ogre’s wife put the seven little boys, after which she went to bed herself, by the side of her husband. Hop o’ My Thumb, who had noticed that the Ogre’s daughters had golden crowns on their heads, and who was afraid that the Ogre might repent of not having cut their throats that evening, got up in the middle of the night, and, taking off his brothers’ caps and his own as well, he placed them very gently on the heads of the Ogre’s seven daughters, after having removed their golden crown, which he put on the heads of his brothers and himself, so that the Ogre would mistake them for his daughters, and his daughters for the boys whose throats he wanted to cut.
The idea succeeded as he had imagined; the Ogre, waking at midnight, regretted having put off till to-morrow what could have been done the day before, jumped roughly out of bed, and picking up his great knife, “Let us see,” he said, “how our little rogues are.” He groped his way up to his daughters’ chamber, and went towards the bed in which lay the little boys, all of whom were asleep but Hop o’ My Thumb, who 119 was terribly frightened when he felt the hand of the Ogre examining his head as he had examined his brothers. The Ogre, feeling the crowns of gold, said: “Truly, I was about to do a fine thing. I see that I have drunk entirely too much this evening.”
Hethen went to the bed where his daughters lay, where, having felt the boys’ caps: “Ah! here they are,” he said, “our merry little fellows! To work, boldly!” So saying, he cut the throats of his seven daughters without stopping a moment. Quite delighted with this expedition, he went back to bed.
As soon as Hop o’ My Thumb heard the Ogre snoring, he woke his brothers up and told them to dress themselves quickly and follow him. They went out quietly through the garden and jumped over the walls. They ran nearly all the rest of the night, trembling all the time, and without knowing where they were going.
The Ogre on waking said to his wife: “Go now and dress those little rogues of last night.”
The Ogress was greatly astonished at the kindness of her husband, not having understood the manner in which she was to dress them. So, believing 120 that he ordered her to put their clothes on them, she went upstairs, where she was greatly surprised to see her seven daughters with their throats cut and swimming in their blood. She began to faint (for this is the first expedient the ladies always try in similar circumstances).
The Ogre, thinking that his wife was too long about the business he had sent her, went upstairs to help her. He was not less astonished than his wife when he saw the terrible sight.
“Ah! what have I done!” he cried. “They shall pay for this mishap, and at once.”
He threw a potful of water in the nostrils of his wife, and having made her come to: “Fetch me my Seven-League-Boots instantly,” he said to her, “so that I may catch them.”
He set out for the open country, and having run very far in every direction, he finally took the road where these poor children were walking, not more than a hundred feet from their father’s dwelling. They saw the Ogre stepping from mountain to mountain, crossing rivers as easily as if they were tiny brooks.
Hop o’ My Thumb, who saw a cavernous rock, hid his brothers in it and crept in himself, always 121 watching the Ogre, who was approaching. The Ogre, who was getting very tired from his long journey which he had made uselessly (for the Seven-League-Boots fatigue the wearer very much), wished to rest, and by chance, he sat himself on the very rock in which the little boys were hiding. As he was too tired to do anything more, he fell asleep after he had rested for a time; and began to snore so horribly that the poor children were just as frightened as they were when he held out his great knife to cut their throats. Hop o’ My Thumb was not quite as much afraid, and told his brothers to run quickly home while the Ogre was sleeping so soundly, and that they must not worry about him.
They followed his advice and quickly gained the house. Hop o’ My Thumb, approaching the Ogre, gently drew off his boots and put them on instantly; the boots were very long and very wide, but as they were fairy, they had the power of expanding, or of growing smaller, to suit the size of the leg of whosoever put them on, so that the fitted his foot and leg just as if they had been made for him.
He went straight back to the Ogre’s house, 122 where he found the Ogress weeping over her murdered daughters.
“Your husband,” Hop o’ My Thumb said to her, “is in great danger, for he has been captured by a band of thieves who have sworn to kill him unless he gives them all his gold and all his silver. At the very moment that they were holding their poniards at his throat, he saw me and begged me to come and inform you of the trouble he is in, and to tell you to give me all that he has of value, keeping back nothing, because otherwise they will kill him. As the matter is urgent, he wanted me to put on his Seven-League-Boots so as to get here quickly, and also to prove to you that I am not an impostor.”
The good woman was so frightened that she gave him instantly all that she had; for although this Ogre was in the habit of eating little children, that did not prevent him from being a good husband.
Hop o’ My Thumb, being charged with all the wealth of the Ogre, returned to his father’s dwelling, where he was received with great joy.