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HERE was once a wood-cutter and his wife who had seven
children, all boys. The eldest was only twelve years
old, and the youngest was five, and none of them was
large enough to do much toward earning a living, so
that their parents had to work very hard to get food
and clothing for them. What made matters worse was that
the youngest child was sickly and weak, and he was so
small that his father and mother called him
Hop-o'-my-Thumb. Yet the little, weak boy was gifted
with a great deal of sense, and though he never had
much to say, he noticed all that went on around him.
The year that he was five the harvest failed and the
wood-cutter and his wife found it more and more
difficult to supply their large family with food.
Finally they had spent their last penny and there was
only a single loaf of bread left in the house, and when
that was eaten they knew they must starve.
That evening, after the children were all in bed, the
father and mother sat by the fire thinking sadly
 of the dismal fate that awaited them. "My dear wife,"
said the wood-cutter at length, "I have something to
propose to you. It is plain that we must perish, but I
cannot bear to see our children die of hunger, and I am
resolved to lose them to-morrow in the forest. They
cannot be worse off than they are at home, and perhaps
the fairies will take care of them. We will go very
deep into the woods, and while the children are busy
tying up fagots we will slip away and leave them."
"No, no," said the wife, "I could never do such a
"But if we don't do that," said the wood-cutter, "they
will die here before our eyes, crying with hunger," and
he argued until his wife consented to his plan, and
then she went weeping to bed.
The parents thought the children were all asleep while
they talked. However, Hop-o'-my-Thumb was wide awake
and he heard what was said and he never slept any that
night for thinking of what he should do. Early in the
morning he crept out of bed and ran to a brook near the
house and filled his pockets with small white pebbles.
Then he went back indoors, and by and by the family ate
half of the one loaf of bread and started as usual for
their day's work in the forest.
 The father led the way and Hop-o'-my-Thumb, who
came along behind all the others, dropped the white
pebbles one by one from his pockets. The wood-cutter
kept on into the very thickest of the woods, and then
he began chopping with his ax, and the mother and
children picked up the brush and tied it into bundles.
They worked thus until toward nightfall, when the
parents stole away, and as soon as they were out of
their children's sight they hurried back to their home.
There they sat silent in the lonely house for a long
time, and the sun went down and it was getting dark.
Then came a rap at the door, and in walked a man who
had been sent by the lord of the manor with a present
of ten crowns and a haunch of venison.
"My lord, the baron, is sorry for the distress of his
people," said the man, "and he is going to help them,
and those who have large families like you are to get
The man then departed to convey assistance to another
suffering household. "Oh!" cried the wife, "if only our
children were here to eat of this good food. Let us go
to the forest and find them."
"No," responded the husband sorrowfully, "it would do
no good to seek them now. If the fairies
 have not
taken care of them they must have been eaten by wolves
before this time."
Then the mother wept and would not be comforted. "I
want my children," she wailed.
But the children had not been eaten by wolves. As soon
as they discovered that they were alone, Peter, the
oldest boy, began to call, "Father and mother, where
No voice answered him, and then he and all the little
boys except Hop-o'-my-Thumb ran hither and thither
shouting for their parents and crying. Hop-o'-my-Thumb
waited until he could make himself heard, and then
said, "Fear not, brothers, our father and mother have
left us here, but I will lead you safely home."
"And why did they leave us?" asked Peter.
Hop-o'-my-Thumb told them what he had overheard and how
he had strewed the white pebbles to guide them back."
Just follow me," said he; "and let us start at once,
for it will soon be dark."
So keeping his eyes on the line of pebbles, he hurried
along, and the others followed him. They reached home,
but because their parents had abandoned them they were
afraid they would not be welcome, and instead of going
in they huddled under a window at the back of the house
to listen. They
 heard the man come with the money
and the venison, and when their mother began to cry
they ran around to the front of the house and in at the
door, shouting, "Here we are, mother!"
She hugged them every one, and now, instead of crying
for sorrow, she cried for gladness. The wood-cutter was
rejoiced, too, and he helped start a fire, and soon
some slices of venison were broiling before the flames
and the family was presently eating the best supper
they had had for a long time.
Several weeks passed, and while the venison and the
money lasted the wood-cutter got along very well, but
the famine grew worse and worse, and the lord of the
manor could not send his tenants any more supplies. So
at last the wood-cutter thought his family must surely
starve, and he and his wife talked the matter over late
one night and decided they would take the children
again into the forest and lose them.
They talked in whispers, that Hop-o'-my-Thumb might not
know what they said even if he chanced to be awake, but
he had very keen ears and he heard in spite of their
caution. He thought he would get some more pebbles in
the morning, but when morning came the parents kept a
sharp watch of him and would not let him go out of the
 He was much troubled by this at first. However,
the mother gave them each a slice of dry bread for
their breakfast, and Hop-o'-my-Thumb said to himself,
"I can use bread crumbs instead of pebbles," and he put
his slice of bread into his pocket.
They went deeper than ever into the forest this time,
and Hop-o'-my-Thumb followed behind the others and
scattered bread crumbs all the way. The day was spent
in working, as was their custom, but toward evening the
father proposed the children should play a game of hide
and seek, and while they were playing he and the mother
hurried off and left them.
When the children found that they had been deserted
again there was much bitter crying, but Hop-o'-my-Thumb
said, "Do not weep, my dear brothers. I will take you
They then started to follow the trail of bread crumbs,
but the birds had eaten them all up, and the children
were very much distressed. "Well," said Hop-o'-my-Thumb
after thinking a minute, "we must not waste the
twilight in tears. Come along, and we will see if we
can find some shelter for the night."
So Hop-o'-my-Thumb led the way. Night came
and the wind among the trees seemed to them like the
howling of wolves, so that every moment they thought
they would be eaten up. They hardly dared speak a word.
Presently Hop-o'-my-Thumb climbed to the top of a tall
tree to look about for some path out of the forest. He
saw no path, but far away was a light shining." There
must be a house where that light is," said he, and
though he could not see the light when he returned to
the ground, he knew which direction to take.
The little boys hurried along and by and by they came
out of the forest, and there stood a great castle. The
light Hop-o'-my-Thumb had seen shone through an open
door. They went to the door and looked in and saw a
woman busy at a fireplace roasting a whole sheep.
Hop-o'-my-Thumb rapped to attract her attention.
"What do you want?" said she, turning and looking at
"We are poor children who have lost our way in the
forest," replied Hop-o'-my-Thumb, "and we beg you for
charity's sake to grant us a night's lodging."
"Alas! my little darlings," said the woman, "you do not
know where you are come. This is the house of an ogre
who would like nothing better
 than to eat you. I
am the cook here and I know very well what he likes to
"Then what can we do?" said Hop-o'-my-Thumb; "for if
you refuse to give us shelter the wolves will tear us
to pieces in the forest."
"Well, perhaps I can hide you," the old woman
responded; "so you may come in," and as soon as they
entered the room she shut the door.
The children went to the fire and sat down to warm
themselves. Just as they were beginning to get warm
they heard heavy footsteps outside.
"That is the ogre," said the woman in a whisper. "Make
haste and crawl under the bed."
No sooner were they out of sight than the ogre walked
in." Is my supper ready?" he asked, and sat down at
The old woman called in another servant and the two of
them lifted the sheep that was roasting before the fire
onto a great platter, and then took up the platter and
placed it before the ogre. The sheep was half raw, but
he liked it that way. When he had finished he began to
sniff right and left. "I smell fresh meat!" he said.
"It must be the calf I have skinned and hung in the
pantry for your breakfast," explained the old woman.
 Then the ogre looked toward the fireplace and saw
a little shoe lying there that one of the boys had
taken off. The ogre stamped over to the fireplace and
picked up the shoe. "What is this?" he asked in a
"Why, that must be a shoe which belongs to your oldest
daughter's doll," said the cook.
At that moment poor Peter, who happened to have a bad
"Ah!" exclaimed the ogre shaking his fist at the cook,
"you have been deceiving me, and I would eat you if you
were not so old and tough."
Then he dragged the children from under the Bed and
never paid the least heed to their appeals for mercy.
He would have eaten one or two of them that night, but
the old woman said, "See how lean they are. They have
been half starved. They will be much fatter if we feed
them for a few days."
The ogre took up Hop-o'-my-Thumb and pinched his arms.
"You are right," said he; "this child is nothing but
Then the woman gave the boys a good supper and put them
to bed, and they were so tired that they fell asleep at
once and did not wake till morning. Hop-o'-my-Thumb was
on the watch
 all that day for some chance to
escape, but the ogre had seven daughters and he ordered
them to keep the boys from straying. The daughters had
small gray eyes and large mouths and long sharp teeth.
They were young and not very vicious as yet; but they
showed what they would be, for they had already begun
to bite little boys, and their captives did not in the
least enjoy their company.
When night came and all the family had gone to bed,
Hop-o'-my-Thumb lay awake until every one else was
asleep, and then he roused his brothers and whispered,
"Come, we must be off."
They all dressed quickly and quietly and followed him,
and he led the way downstairs and out a back door into
the garden, and by climbing up some vines that grew on
the wall they got outside. They did not dare go far for
fear of wolves, and they crept into a heap of straw
that lay beside the wall and waited for daylight.
Hop-o'-my-Thumb thought he could find the way home by
keeping along the edge of the forest, and as soon as
there was light enough for them to see they started.
The ogre was not an early riser and he did not think of
the boys until after he had eaten breakfast. He was
very angry when they were not to be found. "Quick!" he
shouted to his cook,
 "get me my seven-league
boots, that I may go and catch them."
With those magic boots he could go a great distance at
a single step, and he would have caught the little boys
at once if he had known just where to look for them. As
it was, he hunted in every direction. He strode from
hill to hill and stepped over wide rivers as easily as
if they had been brooks. Late in the afternoon the boys
had arrived within about a mile of home, and they were
hurrying along a hillside when they saw the ogre coming
in their direction. Luckily he had not seen them and
they scurried into a cave that chanced to be close by.
The ogre had done so much racing about that he was
tired, and when he came to the hillside where the boys
were he lay down over the very cave in which they had
taken refuge, and there he went to sleep and snored
with a sound like thunder that frightened the little
boys very much. "Now," said Hop-o'-my-Thumb to his
brothers, "the rest of you run away home. I'm going to
see if I can get those boots."
When they had gone he crept up to where the ogre lay
and gently pulled off his boots and got into them
himself. The boots as worn by the ogre
 were very
large and heavy, but they were magic boots that fitted
themselves to whatever feet were put into them, and so
they were just right for Hop-o'-my-Thumb.
The ogre had been partly awakened when his boots were
pulled off, and Hop-o'-my-Thumb scarcely had time to
get them on his own feet before the giant suddenly
opened his eyes and sat up. He saw what had happened
and he roared with anger. Off went Hop-o'-my-Thumb and
the ogre jumped to his feet and gave chase. But he was
no match for the speed of the little lad with the
seven-league boots. Not far from where the giant had
lain down was a precipice, and Hop-o'-my-Thumb stepped
off this cliff to a hilltop opposite. The ogre, who was
rushing after him, forgot that he did not have the
boots on and must be cautious, and he fell from the
 a crash that made the rocks echo far
and near, and that was the end of him.
While Hop-o'-my-Thumb had been at the ogre's house he
had found out where the ogre kept his money, and there
was a little window to the treasure-room too small for
any ordinary person to get through, but which would
admit Hop-o'-my-Thumb easily. "Unless I can get some of
that money to buy food with," said he, "my father and
mother and all the rest of us will starve;" and he
decided he would go and see what he could do.
His boots took him to the ogre's house in a twinkling,
and he slipped in at the little window of the
treasure-room and loaded himself down with all the gold
he could carry. Then he went home, and his father and
mother were very happy to have their children all back,
and with the money Hop-o'-my-Thumb brought they got all
the food they needed and passed through the famine