Select the desired text size
Age Rating 8 Plus.
From The The blue fairy book by Andrew lang
Press F5 to hear again
Start of Story
There was, once upon a time, a man and his wife fagot-makers by trade,
who had several 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 spake 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
"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; for, while
they are busy in tying up fagots, we may run away, and leave them,
without their taking any notice."
"Ah!" cried 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 to 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 winding bushes.
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 them:
"Be not afraid, brothers; father and mother have left us here, but I
will lead you home again, only follow me."
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 saying.
The very moment the fagot-maker and his wife reached home the lord of
the manor sent them ten 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 thy children."
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 to 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 them:
"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