Hop O’ My Thumb or Little Poucet

From “The Classic Fairy Tales” by Iona and Peter Opie

“Little Poucet” Charles Perrault’s “Mother Goose” anthology (1697)

This is the First English Translation: 1729.

There was once upon a time a man and his wife, who made faggots for their livelihood, they had seven children all boys. The eldest was but ten years old, and the youngest but seven. People were amazed, that the faggot-maker had so many children in so small a time; but it was because his wife went quick about her business, and brought never less than two at a time. They were very poor, and their seven children incommoded them very mllch, because not one of them was able to get his bread. That which gave them yet more uneasiness, was, that the youngest was of a very tender 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 was no bigger when he was born than one's thumb, which made him be called Little Poucet, which signifies little Thumb.

The poor child bore the blame of every thing that was done amiss in the house, and he was always in the wrong: he was, notwithstanding all this, 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 happen'd 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 faggot-maker was sitting with his wife at the fire, he said to her, with his heart ready to break with grief, Thou seest, Mary, that we cannot keep our children, and I cannot see them die before my face; I am resolved to lose them in the wood to morrow, which may very easily be done; for while they are busy in tying up the faggots, we may run away, and leave them, without their taking the least notice. Ah! cried out his wife, and canst thou thy self, Nicholas, have the heart to take the 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 poor it was true, but she was their mother. However, having considered what a grief it would be to her to see them die with hunger, she at last consented, and went to bed all in tears.

Little Poucet heard every thing that was said; for having understood, as he lay in his bed, by some certain words, what they were talking of, he got up very softly, and slid himself under his father's stool, that he might hear what they said, without being seen himself. 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's side, where he filled his pockets full of small white pebbles, and then returned home. They all went abroad, but Little Poucet 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 feet distance.

The Faggot-maker began to cut wood, and the children to gather up the branches to make faggots. Their father and mother seeing them busy at their work, got from them insensibly, and then ran away from them all at once, through the winding bushes. When the children saw they were left alone, they began to cry as loud as they could. Little Poucet let them cry on, knowing very well how to get home again; for as he came out, he dropt all along the way the little white pebbles he had in his pockets. Then he said to them, don't be afraid, Brothers, Father and Mother have left us here, but I'll bring you home again, onIy follow me; they did so, and he brought them home by the very same way that they came into the forest: they dared not go in, but sat themselves down at the door, to hear what their Father and Mother said.

The very moment that the Faggot-maker and his Wife came home, the lord of the manor sent them ten crowns which he had owed them a long while, and which they never expected to see. This gave them new life; for the poor people were dying for hunger. The Faggot-maker sent his Wife immediately to the butchers. As it was a long while since they had eaten any thing, they bought three times as much meat as would sup two people: when they had eaten their fill, his wife said, Alas 1 where are now our poor children? they would make a good feast of what we have left; but as it was you, Nicholas, 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 eaten them up: thou hast been very inhumane thus to have lost thy children.

The Faggot-maker grew at last extremely angry, 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 Faggot-­maker was not perhaps more sorry than his Wife, but that she continually teased him, and that he was of the humour of a great many others, who love those wives who speak well, but think those very importunate that have always done so.

She was all in tears: Alas! where are now my children, my poor children? She spoke this once, so very loud, that the children who were at the door, began to cry out altogether, Here we are, here we are: she ran immediately to open the door, and said to them as she kissed them, I am glad to see you, my dear children, you are very hungry and weary; and Billy, you are very dirty, come in and let me clean you. Now, you must know, that Billy was her eldest son, which she loved above all the rest, because he was somewhat red-hair'd, as she herself was.

They sat down to supper, and eat with such an appetite as pleased both father and mother, to whom they told how much afraid they were in the forest, speaking almost always all together. This good couple were extremely glad to see their children once more at home; and this joy continued as long as the ten crowns lasted; but when the money was all gone, they fell again into their former uneasiness, and resolved to lose them once more; and that they might be the more certain of it, to carry them at a much greater distance than they had done before. They could not talk of this so secretly, but Little Poucet heard it, 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 the door of the house was double-locked.

He 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 his piece in stead of the pebbles, by throwing it in little bits all along the way they should pass; he put it up therefore very close into his pocket. Their Father and Mother brought them into the thickest and most obscure part of the forest, and when they were there, they got to a by-path, and left them there. Little Paucet was not uneasy at it; for he thought he could very easily find the way again, by means of his bread which he had scattered all the way he went; but he was very much surprised, when he could not find so much as one crumb; the birds came and had eaten it up every bit.

They were now in a great deal of trouble; for they wandered still more and more out of their way, and were more and more bewildered in the forest. Night now came on, and there arose a very great wind, which made them dreadfully afraid; they fancied they heard on every side of them the howling of wolves that were 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 condition, and were forced to go upon all four.

Little Paucet climbed up to the top of a tree, to see if he could discover any thing; having turned his head about on every side, he saw at last a glimmering light, as it were of a candle, but a long way from the forest: he came down, and then he could see nothing of it; which made him very comfortless. However, having walked for some time with his brothers towards that side on which he had seen the light; he perceived it again when they came out of the wood.

They came at last to a house where this candle was, not without 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 would have; Little Paucet told her, they were poor children, that had been lost in the forest, and desired to lodge there for God's sake

The woman seeing them so very pretty, began to weep, and said to them,  Poor children, whence came ye; do you know that this house belongs to an Ogre, that eats up little children? Ah! dear Madam, answered Little Paucet, who trembled every joint of him, as well as his brothers, what shall we do? it is most certain, that the wolves of the forest will not fail to eat us tonight, if you refuse us to lie here; we would rather the gentleman your husband should eat us, and perhaps he may take pity upon us, especially if you intercede with him

The Ogre's wife, who believed she could conceal them from her husband till the morning, let them come in, and brought them .into the kitchen, that they might 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 warm themselves, they heard three or four great raps at the door; this was the Ogre that was come home. Upon this she hid them under the bed, and went to open the door. The Ogre then 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 upon the right hand and upon the left, saying, he smelt fresh meat; what you smell so, said his wife, must be the calf which I have just now killed and flead. I smell fresh meat, I tell thee once more, replied the Ogre, looking crossly at his wife, and there is something here that I don't understand;

As he spoke these words, he got up from the table, and went directly to the bed. Ah, ha! said he, I see then how thou would'st cheat me, thou cursed woman, I don't know why I don't eat up thee too, but thou art an old beast. Here is good game that comes very luckily to entertain three Ogres of my acquaintance, who are to come to see me in a day or two

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 an anchovie, and caper sauce.

He then took a great knife, and coming up to these poor children, whetted it upon a great whet-stone that he had 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 to morrow? Hold your prating, said the Ogre, they will eat the tenderer. But you have so much victuals already, replied his wife, you have no occasion; here is 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 overjoy'd 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 gotten 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 little Ogresses had all of them very fine complexions, because they used to eat fresh meat like their father; but they had little grey eyes and intirely round, hooked noses, very large mouths, and very long sharp teeth, standing at a pretty distance from each other.

They were not yet very wicked, but they promised it very much, for they had already bitten several little children, that they might suck their blood. They were put to bed very early, and they lay all seven in a great bed, with everyone a crown of gold upon her head. There was in the same chamber another bed of the same 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 Paucet, 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 of 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 that he had a mind to kill.

All this succeeded according to his desire; for the Ogre waking a little after, and sorry he deferred to do that till the morning, which he might have done over night, he 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 up to the bed where the little boys lay, and who were every soul of them fast asleep, except Little Poucet, who was terribly afraid when he found the Ogre feeling about his head, as he had done about his brothers. The Ogre, who felt the crowns of gold, said, I should have made a fine piece of work of it truly, I find I have taken too much of the bottle last night, that is certain. Then he went to the bed where the girls lay; and having felt the boys little Bonnets. Hah! said he, my merry little lads, are you there? let us work hard; and saying these words, he cut, without more ado, the throats of all his seven little daughters.

Well pleased with what he had done, he went to bed again to his wife. As soon as Little Poucet 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 almost all night, and continually trembled, without knowing which way they went.

The Ogre, when he awoke, said to his wife, Go up stairs, and dress the little rogues that came here last night: the Ogress was very much surprised at this goodness of her husband, not dreaming after what manner he intended she should dress them; but thinking that he had ordered her to go and put on their clothes, went up, and was very much surprised, when she perceived her seven daughters killed, and weltering in their own blood.

She fainted away; for this is the first expedient almost all women find in the like misfortunes. The Ogre fearing his wife would be too long in doing what he had commanded her, went up himself to help her. He was no less astonished than his wife, at this frightful spectacle. Ah! what have I done? cried he, the cursed rogues shall pay for it, and that presently too.

He threw then a pitcher of water upon his wife's face; and having brought her to herself; give me quickly, said he, my boots of seven leagues, that I may go and catch them. He went out into the high way; and having run over a great deal of ground both on this side and that; he came at last into the very road where the poor children were, who were not above an hundred paces from their father's house. They spied the Ogre, who went at one step from mountain to mountain, and over rivers as easily as the narrowest gutters.

Little Foucet seeing a hollow rock near the place where they were, made his brothers hide themselves in it, and crept into it himself, minding always what would become of the Ogre. The Ogre, who found himself very weary, after so long a journey, to no manner of purpose (for these same boots of seven leagues, fatigue their man very much) had a great mind to rest himself, and by chance went to sit down upon the rock where these little boys had hidden 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 Poucet was not so much frightened as .his brothers, and told them, that they should run away immediately towards home,while the Ogre slept so soundly, and that they should not be in any pain about him.

They took his advice, and got home presently. Little Poucet came up to the Ogre, pulled off his boots, and put them on upon his own legs; the boots were very long and large; but as they were Fairies, they were capable of growing big and little, according to the legs of those that 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 children that were murdered. Your husband, said Little Poucet, 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 every thing he has that is valuable, without exception; for otherwise they will kill him without mercy: and as his case is very pressing, he desires me to make use (you see I have them on) of his boots of seven leagues, that I might make the more haste, and to shew you that I do not impose upon you.

The good woman being very much affrighted, gave him all she had: for this Ogre was a very good husband, though he used to eat up little children. Little Poucet having thus gotten all the Ogre's money, came home to his father's house, where he was received with a great deal of Joy.

There are a great many Authors, who do not agree in this last circumstance, and pretend, that Little Paucet never robbed the Ogre of his cash, and that he only thought he might very equitably, and according to good conscience, take off his boots of seven leagues, because he made use of them for no other end, but to run after little children. These Gentlemen say, that they are very well assured of this, and the more, as having drank and eaten often at the Faggot-maker's house.

They say further, that when Little Poucet had taken off the Ogre's boots, he went to Court, where he was informed that they were very much in pain about an army that 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 Poucet was as good as his word, and returned that same very night with the news; and this first expedition causing him to be known, he got whatever he pleas'd; for the King paid him very well for carrying his orders to the army, and abundance of ladies gave him what he would to bring them news from their lovers; and that this was his greatest gain.

There were some married women too, who sent Letters by him to their husbands, but they paid him so ill, that it was not worth his while, and turned to no manner of account. After having for some time carried on the business of a messenger, and gained thereby a great deal of money, he went home to his father, where it was impossible to express the joy they were all in at his 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 own court to perfection.

This page was last updated 31st July 2008

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