|A Child's Book of Stories|
|by Penrhyn W. Coussens|
|A choice collection of favorite fairy tales, to delight children of all ages. The 86 stories selected for this collection include folk tales from England, Norway, and India, as well as the best fairy tales from Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault. The volume also contains a handful of fables from Aesop and several tales from the Arabian Nights. Ages 5-9 |
HERE was, once upon a time, a man and his wife, fagot-makers
by trade, who had seven children, all boys. The eldest
was but ten years old and the youngest only seven.
They were very poor, and their seven children
incommoded them greatly, because not one of them was
able to earn his bread. That which gave them yet more
uneasiness was that the youngest was of a very puny
constitution and scarce ever spoke a word, which made
them take that for stupidity which was a sign of good
sense. He was very little, and, when born no bigger
than one's thumb, which made him be called Little
The poor child bore the blame of whatsoever was done
amiss in the house, and guilty or not, was always in
the wrong; he was, notwithstanding, more cunning and
had a far greater share of wisdom than all his brothers
put together; and if he spoke little, he heard and
thought the more.
There happened now to come a very bad year, and the
famine was so great that these poor people resolved to
rid themselves of their children. One evening, when
they were all in bed and the fagot-maker was sitting
with his wife at the fire, he said to her, with his
heart ready to burst with grief:
"Thou seest plainly that we are not able to keep our
children, and I cannot see them starve to death before
my face. I am resolved to lose them in the wood
to-morrow, which may very easily be done; fore while
they are busy in tying up the fagots,
 we may run
away and leave them, without their taking any notice."
"Ah!" cried out his wife; "and canst thou thyself have
the heart to take thy children out along with thee on
purpose to lose them?"
In vain did her husband represent to her their extreme
poverty: she would not consent to it; she was indeed
poor, but she was their mother. However, having
considered what a grief it would be to her to see them
perish with hunger, she at last consented, and went to
bed all in tears.
Little Thumb heard every word that had been spoken; for
observing, as he lay in his bed, that they were talking
very busily, he got up softly and hid himself under his
father's stool, that he might hear what they said
without being seen. He went to bed again, but did not
sleep a wink all the rest of the night, thinking on
what he had to do. He got up early in the morning and
went to the river side, where he filled his pockets
full of small white pebbles, and then returned home.
They all went abroad, but Little Thumb never told his
brothers one syllable of what he knew. They went into a
very thick forest, where they could not see one another
at ten paces distance. The fagot-maker began to cut
wood and the children to gather up the sticks and make
fagots. Their father and mother, seeing them busy at
their work, got away from them insensibly and ran away
from them all at once along a by-way through the
When the children saw they were left alone, they began
to cry as loud as they could. Little Thumb let them cry
on, knowing very well how to get home again, for as he
came he took care to drop all along the way the little
white pebbles he had in his pockets. Then he said to
"Be not afraid, brothers: father and mother have left
us here, but I will lead you home again; only follow
 They did so, and he brought them home by the very
same way they came into the forest. They dared not go
in, but sat themselves down at the door, listening to
what their father and mother were talking.
The very moment the fagot-maker and his wife were got
home the lord of the manor sent them 10 crowns, which
he had owed them a long while, and which they never
expected. This gave them new life, for the poor people
were almost famished. The fagot-maker sent his wife
immediately to the butcher's. As it was a long while
since they had eaten a bit, she bought thrice as much
meat as would sup two people. When they had eaten the
"Alas! Where are now our poor children? They would make
a good feast of what we have left here; but it was you,
William, who had a mind to lose them: I told you we
should repent of it. What are they now doing in the
forest? Alas! dear God, the wolves have perhaps already
eaten them up: thou art very inhuman thus to have lost
The fagot-maker grew at last quite out of patience, for
she repeated it above twenty times that they should
repent of it and that she was in the right of it for so
saying. He threatened to beat her if she did not hold
her tongue. It was not that the fagot-maker was not,
perhaps, more vexed than his wife, but that she teased
him, and that he was of the humor of a great many
others, who love wives who speak well, but think those
very importunate who are continually doing so. She was
half-drowned in tears, crying out:
"Alas! Where are now my children, my poor children?"
She spoke this so very loud that the children, who were
at the gate, began to cry out all together:
"Here we are! Here we are!"
She ran immediately to open the door, and said, hugging
 "I am glad to see you, my dear children; you are
very hungry and weary; and, my poor Peter, thou art
horribly bemired; come in and let me clean thee."
Now, you must know that Peter was her eldest son, whom
she loved above all the rest, because he was somewhat
carroty, as she herself was. They sat down to supper,
and ate with such a good appetite as pleased both
father and mother, whom they acquainted how frightened
they were in the forest, speaking almost always all
together. The good folks were extremely glad to see
their children once more at home, and this joy
continued while the 10 crowns lasted; but when the
money was all gone they fell again; and that they might
be the surer of doing it, to carry them to a much
greater distance than before.
The could not talk of this so secretly but they were
overheard by Little Thumb, who made account to get out
of this difficulty as well as the former; but though he
got up very betimes in the morning to go and pick up
some little pebbles, he was disappointed, for he found
the house door double-locked, and was at a stand what
to do. When their father had given each of them a piece
of bread for their breakfast, he fancied he might make
use of this instead of the pebbles, by throwing it in
little bits all along the way they should pass; and so
he put it in his pocket.
Their father and mother brought them into the thickest
and most obscure part of the forest, when, stealing
away into a by-path, they there left them. Little Thumb
was not very uneasy at it, for he thought he could
easily find the way again by means of his bread, which
he had scattered all along as he came; but he was very
much surprised when he could not find so much as one
crumb: the birds had come and had eaten it up, every
bit. They were now in great affliction, for the further
they went the more
 they were out of their way and
were more and more bewildered in the forest.
Night now came on, and there arose a terrible high
wind, which made them dreadfully afraid. They fancied
they heard on every side of them the howling of wolves
coming to eat them up. They scarce dared to speak or
turn their heads. After this it rained very hard, which
wetted them to the skin; their feet slipped at every
step they took, and they fell into the mire, whence
they got up in a very dirty pickle; their hands were
Little Thumb climbed up to the top of a tree to see if
he could discover anything; and having turned his head
about on every side, he saw at last a glimmering light,
like that of a candle, but a long way from the forest.
He came down, and when upon the ground he could see it
no more, which grieved him sadly. However, having
walked for some time with his brothers toward that side
on which he had seen the light, he perceived it again
as he came out of the wood.
They came at last to the house where this candle was,
not without an abundance of fear: for very often they
lost sight of it, which happened every time they came
into a bottom. They knocked at the door, and a good
woman came and opened it; she asked them what they
Little Thumb told her they were poor children who had
been lost in the forest, and desired to lodge there.
The woman, seeing them so very pretty, began to weep
and said to them:
"Alas! poor babies; whither are ye come? Do ye know
that this house belongs to a cruel ogre who eats up
"Ah! dear madam," answered Little Thumb (who trembled
every joint of him, as well as his brothers). "what
shall we do? To be sure the wolves of the forest will
devour us to-night if you
 refuse us to lie here;
and so we would rather the gentleman should eat us; and
perhaps he may take pity upon us, especially if you
please to beg it of him."
The ogre's wife, who believed she could conceal them
from her husband till morning. Let them come in, and
brought them to warm themselves at a very good fire;
for there was a whole sheep upon the spit, roasting for
the ogre's supper.
As they began to be a little warm they heard three or
four great raps at the door; this was the ogre, who was
come home. Upon this she hid them under the bed and
went to open the door. The ogre presently asked if
supper was ready and the wine drawn, and then sat
himself down to table. The sheep was as yet all raw and
bloody; but he liked it the better for that. He sniffed
about to the right and left, saying:
"I smell fresh meat."
"What you smell so," asked his wife, "must be the calf
which I have just now killed and flayed."
"I smell fresh meat, I tell thee once more," replied
the ogre, looking crossly at his wife; "and there is
something here which I do not understand."
As he spoke these words he got up from the table and
went directly to the bed.
"Ah! ah!" said he; "I see then how thou wouldst cheat
me, thou cursed woman; I know not why I do not eat thee
up too, but it is well for thee that thou art a tough
old carrion. Here is a good game, which comes very
luckily to entertain three ogres of my acquaintance who
are to pay me a visit in a day or two."
With that he dragged them out from under the bed one by
one. The poor children fell upon their knees and begged
his pardon; but they had to do with one of the most
cruel ogres in the world, who, far from having any pity
on them, had already devoured them with his eyes, and
told his wife they would be
 delicate eating when
tossed up with good savory sauce. He then took a great
knife, and coming up to these poor children, whetted it
upon a great whetstone which he held in his left hand.
He had already taken hold of one of them when his wife
said to him:
"What need you do it now? Is it not time enough
"Hold your prating," said the ogre; "they will eat the
"But you have so much meat already," replied his wife,
"you have no occasion; here are a calf, two sheep, and
half a hog."
"That is true," said the ogre; "give them their belly
full that they may not fall away, and put them to bed."
The good woman was overjoyed at this, and gave them a
good supper; but they were so much afraid they could
not eat a bit. As for the ogre, he sat down again to
drink, being highly pleased that he had got wherewithal
to treat his friends. He drank a dozen glasses more
than ordinary, which got up into his head and obliged
him to go to bed.
The ogre had seven daughters, all little children, and
these young ogresses had all of them very fine
complexions, because they used to eat fresh meat like
their father; but they had little gray eyes, quite
round, hooked noses, and very long sharp teeth,
standing at a good distance from each other. They were
not as yet over and above mischievous, but they
promised very fair for it, for they had already bitten
little children, that they might such their blood.
They had been put to bed early, with every one a crown
of gold upon her head. There was in the same chamber a
bed of the like bigness, and it was into this bed the
ogre's wife put the seven little boys, after which she
went to bed to her husband.
 Little Thumb, who had observed that the ogre's
daughters had crowns of gold upon their heads, and was
afraid lest the ogre should repent his not killing
them, got up about midnight, and taking his brothers'
bonnets and his own, went very softly and put them upon
the heads of the seven little ogresses, after having
taken off their crowns of gold, which he put upon his
own head and his brothers', that the ogre might take
them for his daughters, and his daughters for the
little boys whom he wanted to kill.
All this succeeded according to his desire; for, the
ogre waking about midnight, and sorry that he deferred
to do that till morning which he might have done
overnight, threw himself hastily out of bed, and taking
his great knife—
"Let us see," said he, "how our little rogues do, and
not make two jobs of the matter."
He then went up, groping all the way, into his
daughters' chamber, and coming to bed where the little
boys lay, and who were every should of them fast
asleep, except Little Thumb, who was terribly afraid
when he found the ogre fumbling about his head as he
had done about his brothers', the ogre, feeling the
golden crowns, said:
"I should have made a fine piece of work of it, truly.
I find I drank too much last night."
Then he went to the bed where the girls lay; and having
found the boys' little bonnets—
"Ah!" said he, "my merry lads, are you there? Let us
work as we ought."
And saying these words, without more ado, he cut the
throats of all his seven daughters.
Well pleased with what he had done, he went to bed
again to his wife. So soon as Little Thumb heard the
ogre snore, he waked his brothers and bade them put on
their clothes presently and follow him. They stole down
softly into the garden and got
 over the wall.
They kept running about all night, and trembled all the
while, without knowing which way they went.
The ogre, when he awoke, said to his wife: "Go upstairs
and dress those young rascals who came here last
The ogress was very much surprised at this goodness of
her husband not dreaming after what manner she should
dress them; but thinking that he had ordered her to go
and put on their clothes, she went up, and was
strangely astonished when she perceived her seven
daughters killed and weltering in their blood.
She fainted away, for this is the first expedient
almost all women find in such cases. The ogre, fearing
his wife would be too long in doing what he had
ordered, went up himself to help her. He was no less
amazed than his wife at this frightful spectacle.
"Ah! what have I done?" cried he. "The wretches shall
pay for it, and that instantly."
He threw a pitcher of water upon his wife's face, and
having brought her to herself—
"Give me quickly," cried he, "my boots of seven
leagues, that I may go and catch them." He went out,
and having run over a vast deal of ground, both on this
side and that, he came at last into the very road where
the poor children were, and not above a hundred paces
from their father's house. They espied the ogre, who
went at one step from mountain to mountain and over
rivers as easily as the narrowest kennels. Little
Thumb, seeing a hollow rock near the place where they
were, made his brothers hide themselves in it, and
crowded into it himself, minding always what would
become of the ogre. The ogre, who found himself much
tired with his long and fruitless journey (for these
boots of seven leagues greatly fatigued the wearer),
had a great mind to rest himself, and by chance went to
sit down upon the rock where the little boys had hid
themselves. As it
 was impossible he could be more
weary than he was he fell asleep, and after reposing
himself some time began to snore so frightfully that
the poor children were no less afraid of him than when
he held up his great knife and was going to cut their
throats. Little Thumb was not so much frightened as his
brothers, and told them that they should run away
immediately toward home while the ogre was asleep so
soundly, and that they should not be in any pain about
him. They took his advice and got home presently.
Little Thumb came up to the ogre, pulled off his boots
gently, and put them on his own legs. The boots were
very long and large, but as they were fairies they had
the first of becoming big and little, according to the
legs of those who wore them; so that they fitted his
feet and legs as well as if they had been made on
purpose for him. He went immediately to the ogre's
house, where he saw his wife crying bitterly for the
loss of her murdered daughters.
"Your husband," said Little Thumb, "is in very great
danger, being taken by a gang of thieves, who have
sworn to kill him if he does not give them all his gold
and silver. The very moment they held their daggers at
his throat he perceived me, and desired me to come and
tell you the condition he is in, and that you should
give me whatsoever he has of value, without retaining
any one thing; for otherwise they will kill him without
mercy; and as his case is very pressing, he desired me
to make use (you see I have them on) of his boots, that
I might make the more haste and to show you that I do
not impose upon you."
The good woman, being sadly frightened, gave him all
she had: for this ogre was a very good husband, though
he used to eat up little children. Little Thumb, having
thus got all the ogre's money, came home to his
father's house, where he was received with abundance of
There are many people who do not agree in this
circumstance, and pretend that Little Thumb never
robbed the ogre
 at all, and that he only thought
he might very justly, and with a safe conscience, take
off his boots of seven leagues, because he made no
other use of them but to run after little children.
These folks affirm that they are very well assured of
this, and the more as having drunk and eaten often at
the fagot-maker's house. They aver that when Little
Thumb had taken off the ogre's boots he went to court,
where he was informed that they were very much in pain
about a certain army, which was two hundred leagues
off, and the success of a battle. He went, say they, to
the king, and told him that if he desired it he would
bring him news from the army before night.
The king promised him a great sum of money upon that
condition. Little Thumb was a good as his word, and
returned that very same night with the news; and this
first expedition causing hem to be known, he got
whatever he pleased, for the king paid him very well
for carrying his orders to the army. After having for
some time carried on the business of a messenger and
gained thereby great wealth, he went home to his
father, where it was impossible to express the joy they
were all in at this return. He made the whole family
very easy, bought places for his father and brothers,
and by that means settled them very handsomely in the
world, and in the mean time made his court to
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