A Grimm Review: Little People are not Nice

A Grimm Review: Little People are not NiceA Grimm Review: Little People are not Nice

In former times, we would have called a Little Person a midget or a dwarf, which isn’t very nice. We’ve moved towards the term Little Person to describe someone possessing one of several forms of dwarfism. Yes, there are multiple forms of the genetic condition. The Grimm’s Fairy Tales were not that nice. The Grimm’s tales often described little people as “manikins.” Yes, the word does roughly look like the word mannequin, which is what we call the creepy human-like forms we put clothes on in stores to demonstrate how the clothes you’re looking at would fit on a plastic person with no bones or muscle tone.

In the Grimm’s tales little people come in one of three varieties. A little person can be Thumbling; a little person can be Rumpelstiltskin, but the most common type of little person in the Grimm’s Fairy Tales is the little person who is black. I wish I was joking about that, but I’m not. No skin color is mentioned for Thumbling or Rumpelstiltskin, but any other mention of a little person in the Grimm’s tales is described as “a black manikin.”

Obviously dwarfism wasn’t unheard of to the Bavarian people because they created Thumbling and Rumpelstiltskin, but it wasn’t common. It’s still not very common today, but we have learned enough about the condition to be able to classify it into several types, treat related health problems, and prolong the lives of anyone who happens to have been born with one of the varieties. We’re more aware of it today, but people back in the day just weren’t as knowledgeable about the wider world, but even so, they had probably heard of pygmies.

Pygmy is really a catch-all term. When someone says pygmy it doesn’t mean one specific people. It may actually refer to different peoples from all over the world. Pygmies were first described by Homer in talking about a certain tribe of people in India. Homer lived a long time ago so we know this word has been circulating around for a while. As people traveled the world more and explored, they came across all kinds of other people. When they found an especially short native tribe, they called those people pygmies. Pygmies always have darker skin, they’re not all necessarily African, but they do have dark skin. I’ve never encountered any reference to a short group of people of European descent. People argue over what the correct definition of pygmy is. Some people say it’s when the average height for men in the group is only 4’11” and others say it’s when the average height is only 5’1″. Essentially, we’re looking at a native group of people who are quite short.

I explain all of this because this term started circulating around. Everyone didn’t travel, but stories of travel traveled on their own. When sailors came home and talked about the black pygmies they saw in “insert country here” everyone told two friends and those friends told two friends, until lots of people knew that pygmies were a thing. The idea was exotic and even if it wasn’t true, people probably would have taken it for the truth because it was so exciting. When they told their stories they inserted the idea of the pygmy into those stories. They didn’t know anything about these people other than they were short and dark-skinned. That’s why we get so many random descriptions of what these little people can do in the Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

I have now explained the “why” as to why most of the little people in the Grimm’s Fairy Tales are black, so let’s move onto the post topic. I mention that little people are not nice. That’s not true, we know that, but in the Grimm’s Fairy Tales it certainly seems that way.

We have Thumbling who is a young person, but he’s constantly getting into all kinds of mischief. He causes his parents to worry without need. He plays tricks on people, all the time. He’s not really nice to anyone.

Then we have Rumpelstiltskin, who will do you a favor, but then demand your first-born child. That’s just not very nice. Can’t a favor just be a favor? Then he’ll play a wild guessing game with you and get so ticked off in the end that he rips himself in half.

Then we move onto our black manikins, or pygmies as the case may be. These little people aren’t nice. They’re always performing some type of enchantment to trap a person. They taunt people. They beat people up. They hold people captive. The list goes on and on and on. If you read a story with a black manikin, he’s not going to offer to walk your dog for you.

I don’t know why the people who created these stories felt the need to make little people jerks. I may not have a lot of experience with little people, but I’ve never once come to the conclusion that they’re not nice. They don’t have to be nice all the time; they’re people and they have fluctuating emotions just like the rest of us, but never have I had reason to believe little people go around being complete jerks to everyone they come across, but for some reason the good people of Bavaria thought that that’s how little people behaved.

I don’t know if this is a case of one little people giving all little people a bad name. It could be something like that. We can be prone to make assumptions on entire groups based on the actions of one person from that group. We’ll probably never know why this assumption was floating around, unless someone has a TARDIS we can borrow. If that’s the case, we can totally hop in that TARDIS and travel back to the time in which these stories were created and ask a person why they thought little people were jerks.

Yet again, we have an example of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales being extremely politically incorrect.


The Young Giant

The Young giantSummary

The Young Giant is a tale I have never heard before, but I have heard of someone in this tale and so have you. That someone is Thumbling, yes, he’s back with all his mischievous ways. He takes plenty of opportunities in this tale to be a jerk.

Once upon a time there was a man who had a son who was no bigger than his thumb. That was as much as he had grown. One day the man was going to go out and plow the field and his son, Thumbling, begged to go. The man said that Thumbling would only be in the way and could not help plow, but he was insistent. The man finally decided to take his son.

He set Thumbling down in a freshly plowed furrow and got to work. As it so happened, a giant was nearby. The father jokingly said to his son that if he was not a good little boy the giant would come and grab him up. Well, it turns out the giant had, in fact, seen Thumbling and thought he was pretty neat. The giant picked Thumbling up, to the horror of his father, and carried him away. What the giant, the male giant, does next is a little strange. The giant let Thumbling suckle at his breast for two years. Thumbling grew tall and strong. The giant took him into the woods to test him. He told him to pull up a stick for himself. Thumbling pulled a young tree up out of the Earth by the roots. The giant was not satisfied and took Thumbling back and suckled him for two more years.

After this period of two years was up, the giant wanted to test Thumbling again. He took him back to the woods and asked him to pull up a stick. He pulled up a large oak-tree, roots and all, as if it were nothing. The giant was still not pleased at this, so he took him back for another two years and suckled him again. Upon the next test, Thumbling pulled up the largest tree in the forest as if it were nothing. The giant said he was ready and quit breast-feeding him and also took him home to his real parents.

Thumbling wanted to see his parents and also wanted to show off all the good giant breast milk could do a body. His father did not believe that this giant was his son. Thumbling had been very tiny. Thumbling offered to plow the field for his father. It was nothing, it would take him no time at all. Thumbling tried plowing the first time and the plow went deep into the Earth. His father was starting to get a little irritated, but there was really nothing he could do about it. He told Thumbling that if he must plow, not to plow so hard. Thumbling told his father not to worry and told him to tell his mother to make up lots and lots of food for him.

Well, Thumbling plowed the field, then he harrowed the field without the aid of horses. He went inside to eat and his mother had made enough food to feed herself and the father for a week. Thumbling ate all of it in no time and asked for more. She soon made enough food to fill the pig’s trough, which Thumbling soon ate, but he was still hungry. He told his parents that he could not stay because there would never be enough food for him. He told his father to get him a great iron bar, that he could not break, that he might take on his journey.

His father went to the blacksmith and had a large iron staff made. He had two horses harnessed to the great staff and they could barely pull it. Thumbling took up the staff and broke it in two. His father went back to the blacksmith and got an ever larger staff. This time he harnessed it to four horses, which could barely pull it. Thumbling took it up and broke it in two. His father went back to the blacksmith and got a staff so large that eight horses had to be harnessed to it. Thumbling was able to break off the end of this staff, but decided to leave.

Thumbling then decided to apprentice himself to a blacksmith. The blacksmith was pleased that such a big, strong man wanted to work for him. He asked Thumbling what wages he would like for his pay and Thumbling said that he did not want any money, but that he wanted to hit the blacksmith as hard as he could, twice. The blacksmith thought he could save a lot of money and withstand the blows from Thumbling.  Thumbling tried out a bit of blacksmithing. He hit the anvil so hard that it sunk down into the Earth. The smith wasn’t very pleased with this. Thumbling soon decided to give him one of his blows. He struck the blacksmith in such a way that he flew over four loads of hay. Thumbling took the thickest iron bar from the smith and left.

Thumbling then decided to be a headman for a bailiff. The bailiff asked Thumbling what he wanted for wages and Thumbling told him that he did not want any money, but he wanted to hit the bailiff as hard as possible, twice. The bailiff agreed to this payment schedule. Thumbling did not start off work on a good foot. He was ordered into the forest, but he wanted to sleep some more. Everyone was like, “No, dude, you’ve got to get up now.” Thumbling was like, “Well, I”m going to sleep another hour and I’ll still make it there before you do.” Well, Thumbling was right. He made it back and the bailiff was proud to have such a good employee.

Thumbling served the bailiff for a year. At the end of that year, it was time for him to get his payment. The bailiff was afraid. He offered Thumbling all kinds of other things including money. The bailiff finally begged for a two weeks delay. He talked to his clerk. They told him, that he should tell Thumbling to clean a well. When he was inside the well, they could drop a millstone on him and he would never come out. The bailiff thought this was a fine idea.

They got Thumbling down the well and they threw the largest millstone they could on him. Well, Thumbling was not dead. He complained of hens scratching sad down the well into his eyes. He came out of the well with a new necklace, it was the millstone.

Thumbling wanted his wages for the year, but the bailiff begged for another two weeks. The clerks met again. They decided that they must give Thumbling a lot of grain to grind in a haunted mill. No one had ever come out who had went in at night. They told Thumbling it was dangerous, but he brushed it off. He simply loaded two bushels of corn in one pocket, two bushels in the other pocket, and several more bushels around his person. He headed off to the mill.

Thumbling poured his grain out at the mill and sat down to rest. All of the sudden, the door swung open and in came a table. The table was laid with wine and all kinds of food. The chairs soon followed of their own accord. There were no people, but suddenly, there were fingers and Thumbling could see them. These fingers used their knives and forks to eat food. Thumbling decided that he was going to eat as well and pulled a chair up to the table.

After a bit, Thumbling felt he had gotten a box to the ear. Well, he wasn’t going to take that, so he hit back. He got another box on the ear, again, he hit back. This went on and on for the whole night. In the morning, Thumbling was still alive and all his grain was ground. The miller was so happy that his mill was no longer haunted and offered Thumbling lots of money. Thumbling didn’t want any money and went back to the bailiff.

The bailiff was quite surprised and scared to see Thumbling. He opened a window to get some fresh air. Well, Thumbling decided to collect his payment. He gave the bailiff such a hard kick that he went flying way away. He then told the bailiff’s wife that if the bailiff did not come back, she would have to take the other blow. Well, now she was scared and opened a different window. Thumbling kicked her too, but she was lighter, so she flew further. Her husband cried to her that she should come to him, but she told him that she could not come to him. Both of them were both hovering in the air and they might still be hovering there. Thumbling took up his iron bar and went on his way, presumably to be a jerk to some more people.

The End

The Young GiantObservations

Probably the strangest thing about this tale is the face that a giant, a male giant, breastfeeds another man, for six years. I may be totally wrong about this whole mammalian thing, but I’m pretty sure only the females can breastfeed. This giant has some special boobs. Not only do they lactate, when male mammals clearly aren’t supposed to lactate, but they also secrete a super-growth hormone. Steroids? Roid-rage might actually explain some of Thumbling’s behavior. I have heard that sometimes when men take too many steroids they begin to lactate. Perhaps that is why this giant can lactate and he’s lactating a super-concentrated form of steroid. Maybe he should get a breast pump or maybe he’s gay and he enjoys another man…you know what, I’m not even going to finish that sentence, this is family website…sort of. Let’s not go into the possible homoerotic undertones of this story, well, right now anyway, maybe we’ll address that at a later date.

Part of me wonders if the giant himself was once puny like Thumbling. We’re going to pump you up! But imagine that in the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Thumbling is still a jerk, but now he’s a bigger jerk. Thanks steroids! All the people who Thumbling is beating up, really appreciate what you’ve done.

The Young GiantThemes

A theme I see in this story is “don’t give a jerk power.” I don’t know if that’s a true moral that grandmothers whisper to their grandchildren, but maybe it should be. That’s right, don’t give a jerk power. Let’s talk about a couple of historical jerks. You know who was a jerk? Hitler, but also You Know Who, but he’s not real. Let’s leave Lord Voldemort out of this, although, the same argument I’m going to make about some real-life historical jerks, could just as easily apply to him.

So Hitler was a jerk. He was probably always a jerk. It wasn’t until he had power that it was a problem. I’m sure he bullied other kids in kindergarten, German man, German word, but he couldn’t really do that much harm. When people were like, “No, we like this dude,” and started giving him power was when he was able to start doing harm.

You know who else was a jerk? Napoleon. He had a short man complex, these days know as a Napoleon complex, just for him. He was a jerk, not as much of a jerk as Hitler, but he was still kind of a jerk. Before he had power, was his jerkiness any harm? Maybe a little, but not enough to do anything much, he was a short guy after all. When he got power, just look what happened. He went all over the place, conquering all sorts of things. At least no one could say that he did not have big ambitions.

These are my examples. Why do I mention them? I mention them to draw real-life parallels to Thumbling. Thumbling is a jerk. He was a jerk when he was little. We’ve already evidenced that in several stories about him. Thumbling likes to play tricks and make people worry. When he turns into a big, giant, Brawny-style man, that jerkiness is amplified and he is able to do a lot of harm. He uses his new size to push a lot of people around. Sure, he could cause trouble when he was little, but the power he gets from being large, opens up a whole other world of, “WTF, run for your lives!”

Just because power is bestowed upon someone does not mean that person is going to use that power to empower human kind. If that person is a jerk, that person will use that power to continue being a jerk. If that person is a good person, they might do some good things, for a while, until the entire idea of power and red-tape has beaten them down, then they’ll do jerk things. “To whom much is given, much is required,” doesn’t always work.


This tale is strange and Thumbling is a jerk, so I really do not like the story.

Thumbling’s Travels

Thumbling's travelsSummary

Thumbling’s Travels brings an old friend back to us. We know Thumbling. We encountered him in another tale. It’s the same Thumbling, but the tale is a bit different. I would not call this a sequel to the first tale of Thumbling, I rather think it’s an alternative story.

Once upon a time there was a tailor who had a son who was no bigger than his thumb. His name was Thumbling. Thumbling decided that it was time for him to go out and see the world. His father made him a sword out of a darning needle and a bit of wax. Thumbling wanted to have one last meal with his family before he left. The food was already cooked and sitting on the hearth. He asked his mother what it was, but she told him to look for herself. Well, he did, but he leaned too far over and the steam of the dish carried him up the chimney. Thumbling started his journey a little earlier than he wanted.

First, he tried apprenticing himself to a master of some craft. This didn’t work out the way Thumbling wanted it to. The mistress of the house put too many potatoes in the food and not enough meat. He left this house calling the master Mr. Potato King. Well, the mistress wasn’t happy about this and called Thumbling a grasshopper. I guess she couldn’t think of a better insult. She grabbed a dishcloth and she was going to hit him, but he jumped under a thimble. There he was able to hide and also stick his tongue out at the mistress. He then got into a crack in the table and then into a drawer. The mistress eventually caught him and threw him out.

Thumbling journeyed for a while and came to a great forest, where he took up with some robbers. They thought because he was so small he could help them liberate some goods from a local king’s treasury. They addressed him as Goliath, which he liked, so he agreed to help them out. At the treasury he snuck in through some cracks. One of the guards inside did see him moving, but thought he was a spider. The other guard wanted to kill him, but the first guard told him to let the spider live.

Thumbling started sneaking out one taler at a time through cracks in the treasure. After a while the robbers had quite a bit. The king came in to check the treasury, but noticed that there were some talers missing. He didn’t know how they had gone missing considering all the doors were closed and all the locks were locked. He told the guards to be on an extra-special lookout because some of the money was disappearing. The guards were extra vigilant and almost caught Thumbling when he was sneaking another gold piece out of the treasury. Thumbling is fast though and hid behind a taler. He called out to the guards saying he was here and there and they chased his voice all over the room. Thumbling made fun of the guards for a while, but finally hopped out of the window.

The robbers were very impressed and wanted Thumbling to be their king. Thumbling said, “No,” because he wanted to see more of the world.

Thumbling tries, yet again, to work with some masters. That didn’t work out to well so he tried being a manservant in an inn. That didn’t work out too well either because the maids who worked there cheated their employer and Thumbling told of all their misdeeds because he was tiny and could hide. They offered to pay him off for his silence and one day they played a trick on him.

They grabbed Thumbling up and threw him in the yard. Another maid was mowing and mowed Thumbling right up. Then she fed that grass to the cows. A large black cow swallowed Thumbling up. Thumbling didn’t like being inside of a cow at all. When the cow was being milked he said:

“Strip, strap, strull

When will the pail be full.”

But, it was too noisy and no one heard him. He tried again when there was more silence and the master did hear Thumbling and asked where he was. Thumbling said he was in the large black one, but the master didn’t know what that meant.  The next day the large black cow was killed. Thumbling tried to make his voice heard, but he couldn’t. Luckily, he was able to dodge the blows of the knife and was safe, for just a bit. He ended up in some sausage meat and skin, and then he ended up in a pudding. He didn’t like being in a pudding.

After a while, the pudding had been smoked, and was taken down. The hostess started cutting it into slices and Thumbling hopped out. He didn’t want to stay in a pudding anymore.

He set out again on a journey. A fox ate him, almost immediately. Thumbling called out to the fox and asked him to let him go. The fox was like, “Well, ok but only if I can eat all the fowl’s in your father’s yard.” Done. The fox lets Thumbling go, he goes home and the fox eats all the chickens and roosters at Thumbling’s house. Thumbling’s family is very glad to have him back and Thumbling’s father was more than willing to part with his chickens for his son’s safety.

The End

Thumbling's TravelsObservations

This story is similar to the other Thumbling story in many ways. In both stories Thumbling manages to get himself eaten by a cow and by a dog-like wild animal. In this tale it’s a fox in the other tale it’s a wolf. The fox doesn’t meet a bad end in this tale though.

I still think Thumbling is kind of a brat. He makes trouble for himself and basically acts like a little imp. He uses his small size to play tricks on people. I don’t necessarily think that Thumbling does any good things in his travels except return home to his family. He uses his travels to make fun of other people and even aid and abet some crimes, which were surely treasonous by the way.

Pudding, that’s something we should discuss. Thumbling gets put in a pudding and he does not die. In the United States, we generally think of pudding as this gloppy substance sweet in nature and usually chocolate or vanilla. There are other flavors of pudding, but we generally just think of chocolate and vanilla. Pudding, to us. is a milk based creation. It’s got milk, sugar, and flour essentially. If you make it from scratch it’s a little more involved than your packet of pudding from the store.

Now pudding is not the same thing in other countries.


  1. A dessert with a creamy consistency.
  2. A sweet or savory steamed dish made with flour: “Yorkshire pudding”.

See the second definition? That’s what pudding is in other countries and that is what kind of pudding Thumbling ends up in. Cooks would mix all sorts of things, with a liquid and flour. This mixture would be baked, boiled, or smoked. I actually tried to find the video from Victorian Farm where Ruth makes a Christmas pudding, but I couldn’t find just that clip. That’s a great show by the way, you should watch it. The story actually says that Thumbling ends up in a “black-pudding.” This is probably a blood pudding, which is exactly what it sounds like. Blood was one of the main ingredients. A farmer would butcher an animal then the blood would be reserved to make a pudding. When it’s cooked, the blood congeals. They would flavor it with all sorts of things. I know it sounds gross and I’m actually eating lunch right now, it’s kind of grossing me out.

Now you know. The next time you read one of these old stories and it’s talking about pudding, it’s not the Bill Cosby kind of pudding.

Thumbling's TravelsThemes

We’ve got this theme that family is important. Thumbling wants to see the world, which he does, but he also returns home to his family. He doesn’t let the allure of foreign ports call him away from home permanently. His father is so glad to have him home that he sacrifices all of his yard fowl to a fox. Your yard chickens were important if you lived in this era. Your chickens were not only where you got your chicken from, but also where you got your eggs from. They lived in your yard and you chopped of their heads when you needed chicken. All parts of the chicken were used. Chicken fat would be used for various purposes and chicken bones would be cooked to make chicken stock. Your chickens were a big deal. This was no small sacrifice on the part of Thumbling’s father.

We see Thumbling getting into a lot of trouble. Notice his trouble causes him to leave these places he’s at. He can’t stay. When you make trouble for yourself in one location, it’s hard for you to stay there. Thumbling doesn’t build any relationships with these people, he just gets himself into trouble and then leaves. Back in the day, if you made enough trouble, people were going to chase you out-of-town with pitchforks if you didn’t leave first. They didn’t want you in town making trouble.

Things have changed over time. We don’t really run people out-of-town these days, that’s not to say it doesn’t still happen. If your reputation gets bad enough in a town, people aren’t going to provide you with any services that you may need. You can make life impossible for yourself if you screw over enough people. You pretty have no choice, but to leave. That’s what Thumbling is doing this entire tale. The only people who actually want to keep him are his family and the robbers. Isn’t that kind of sad?

Just remember, that you can be so much of a brat that only your mother loves you.


I still think Thumbling is a major brat. He’s a little jerk. The only people who love him are his parents and robbers, go figure.





Thumbling sounds like another well-known story, Thumbilina, but this is not about Thumbilina.

Once upon a time there was a couple who had no children. They really wanted kids and after many years the wife became pregnant. She was pregnant for seven months when she went into labor. The baby that was born was only about as big as one of their thumbs. They called him Thumbling and even though they fed him plenty he never grew to be any bigger than a thumb.

*A baby born at seven months will be much bigger than a thumb. I’ve known a baby born at 28 weeks and it was small, but still bigger than a thumb. This story is a little inaccurate in its estimates of size.*

The couple cherishes Thumbling, but it’s kind of hard of them having a child who can’t pull his weight around the farm. One day the husband is going to into the woods to cut some lumber, but needs someone to bring him the cart and the horses. He laments, if only he had a son that could do this. Thumbling says that he will do it. He says to harness the horses up and he will do the rest. Thumbling sits in the horse’s ear and tells the horse where it should go.

Along the way someone sees a horse and cart going along as if someone is driving it, but no one is there. They follow the horse and cart to see where it goes. When the cart gets to Thumbling’s father, he takes Thumbling out of the horse’s ear. The two men, because it is two men who follow Thumbling, are amazed and offer to buy the little man for lots of money. The father doesn’t want to sell his pride and joy, but Thumbling convinces him to. He tells his father that he will soon be back. Thumbling’s father gets lots of money and Thumbling gets to ride on the brim of someone’s hat.

After a while, Thumbling tells the guy that he needs to get on the ground, like yesterday. They’re like no stay up there. Thumbling insists. I don’t know if he tells the man he has diarrhea or what, but the man is finally convinced that Thumbling can be put on the ground. Well, once Thumbling is on the ground, he runs into a mouse-hole. The men try to get him out, but they cannot. They leave without the little man they paid so much money for.

Thumbling gets out of the mouse-hole and realizes that it is dangerous for someone so tiny to walk the road at night. He finds a snail-shell and gets inside. After a while, in which Thumbling was trying to sleep, he hears a couple of thieves walk by. They are discussing the best way to get the silver from the rich pastor. Thumbling pipes up and says that he has the answer. The two thieves wonder who is saying this and they look down and find Thumbling. Thumbling tells them that he will slip in between the grates of the pastor’s window and pass them out the good stuff. They soon agree.

They get to the pastor’s house, where Thumbling creeps in between the grates. Once inside Thumbling asks loudly, “Do you want everything that is here?” The thieves are all like, “Quiet, he’s going to hear you,” but Thumbling keeps on asking this rather loudly. He tells them to stick their arms in between the grates. They did this, but the maid had heard someone speaking loudly so she rushed to the door. The thieves were scared so they ran away. Thumbling decides to hide in the granary, a place where you store your grain.

After that, he decides to hide in the hay to sleep. The maid woke up in the morning and decided to feed the cows. With such terrible luck, she happened to pick up the exact handful of hay where Thumbling was trying to sleep. The cow soon gobbled up the hay including Thumbling. He started lamenting at the idea of being a cow’s stomach. He soon starting calling loudly, “Bring me no more fodder.” The maid hears this and runs to tell the pastor that the cow is talking. The pastor actually goes to check this out and also hears the cow talking. So he’s like, ‘That’s it, this cow is the devil.” He has the cow killed. The stomach of the cow was thrown in the dunghill. There Thumbling managed to almost get out of the cow’s stomach before a wolf came and gobbled up the cow’s stomach.

Once again, Thumbling finds himself inside of an animal’s stomach. He plays it a little smarter this time. He asks loudly if the wolf would like a magnificent feast. The wolf is like, “Sure.” So Thumbling gives the wolf directions to his own father’s house. There the wolf gets in and eats all kinds of stuff, but he eats so much that he is too fat to fit back out again. Thumbling started screaming loudly. The wolf wants the little man to be quiet, but that’s not going to happen.

Thumbling’s parents wake up and Thumbling’s father immediately wants to kill the wolf, but Thumbling screams, “Dear Father, I am here; I am in the wolf’s body.” The dad kills the wolf with a blow and then the mom and dad cut the wolf’s body open with scissors. The parents were very happy to have Thumbling back. They had went through a lot of grief over selling him. I am sure the husband received some harsh words when he got home from his wife.

They gave Thumbling some food and some new clothes because his had been spoiled along the journey.

The End


I already made one important observation about this story. A baby born at seven months gestation is going to be quite a bit bigger than a thumb. A baby the size of a thumb, well a human baby the size of a thumb, isn’t possible, outside of the womb anyway. This inaccuracy is partly fancy. This is a fairy tale. It’s meant to be wonderful and unbelievable in some senses, but the inaccuracy is also due to ignorance. As long as babies have been born, there have been babies being born prematurely. Before the advent of incubators and steroids to develop the lungs, a lot of these babies didn’t make it. They died. There were always a few exceptions of course. Premature babies surviving was not something people had a lot of experience with during the time period in which this story was created.

The idea of Thumbling staying the same size is an inaccuracy that is inaccurate for the same reasons. People didn’t have a lot of experience with the situation and the story is a fairy tale. Does a tiny baby stay tiny? Will the baby always be tiny? These were questions people could not answer. A few of these people might know of a little person and not really understand the whole concept. Little people can often have congenital problems which cause them to die at a younger age, especially when medicine wasn’t what it is today. So someone might have heard about a little person, but didn’t understand exactly what a little person was.

The fact that someone offered to buy Thumbling is not far-fetched. Before the age in which we live physical deformities were not accepted. People would have all kinds of crazy reasons why these things happened. It’s the devil’s work. A witch cursed you. You ate the wrong foods. I told you not to have sex in that position. That sort of thing. People like Little People or someone who was born without any legs were not accepted in society. They couldn’t go to the local blacksmith and say, “Hey, I would like to be your apprentice.” It didn’t happen. These people really had no choice but to rely on their family members for support. These family members might have already been stretched to the limit with ten other children.

It was not uncommon for a person with a physical deformity to go and join a freakshow. That’s what people called it back in the day, and still sometimes today. If you were really tall, if you were really short, if you were really fat, or if you were a woman who could grow a beard, one of the only ways you could provide any income to yourself and maybe your family was to exhibit yourself to other people to satiate their curiosity, or perhaps spark even more curiosity. There were people who would organize these shows and they would go around offering parents money for their deformed children, P.T. Barnum  and Robert Ripley being two of the most well-known men to do this. This sort of thing definitely was not unheard of when this story was created.

Obviously, if Thumbling were real and was eaten by a cow and a wolf, he would not survive. This part of the story is purely fancy.

Notice the story says “pastor” instead of priest. A pastor is generally a protestant thing. Protestant meaning any Christian religion which spawned out of the original protest against the Catholic Church. So we’re not talking Catholicism in this story. That’s different. Martin Luther, the original protestant, started protesting the Catholic church around the year 1516. The Grimm’s fairy tales were first published in 1812. As you can see, there are almost three-hundred years between these two dates. People were protestant, but it wasn’t really this accepted thing. It was beginning to be an accepted thing though. It was still kind of a big deal in some areas of Europe if you weren’t Catholic. If you were Jewish, God forbid, people had hissy-fits. The two factions would be against each other at times, actively. There was violence in some areas. The two factions would also poke fun at one another.

I think someone was trying to poke fun at the protestants in this story. Notice that most of the stories in the Grimm’s anthology that have any religious influence are heavily Catholic influenced. Do you think that is going to change from tale to tale? From what I have encountered so far, it hasn’t changed. Every religious minded story in the Grimm’s book so far has been heavy on the Catholic influence. This is the first one that mentions anything about another religion, well besides that one anti-Semitic tale. Notice that the story says “the rich pastor.” The rich pastor, meaning that someone thinks this pastor has too much money. If someone calls you rich, there is someone who thinks you have too much money. Someone thinks that maybe this pastor is rich because he’s putting donations in his pocket instead of into the church, which happens even today. Notice how this pastor is also quick to think his cow has befallen some ill of the devil. That screams puritan to me.

Someone who was Catholic decided to poke fun at the protestants in this tale. They presented it in this humorous manner to get a few laughs, but really, they’re saying that they think protestants are weird.


By small and simple things, great things shall come to pass. That’s your theme right there. Thumbling is small. He’s downright miniscule, but he manages to make his family considerably better off than they were before. Even as a tiny, tiny person, he brings joy to his parents in their childless marriage. He’s tiny and you think he can’t do much of anything, but he totally does. I happen to think that Thumbling is a little trickster. There is no telling what kind of almost heart attacks he gave his mother growing up when he hid in things when he wasn’t supposed to.

Thumbling does stuff despite his tiny size and appearance. You know that this leads to? It leads to the idea that despite a disability or an appearance that you don’t like, a person can still do great things. A person is still valuable. Thumbling is pretty awesome, but that doesn’t mean only Thumbling is awesome. Everybody is awesome and special in their own way. Just watch an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, he’ll say exactly the same thing. You may believe someone who doesn’t look like you isn’t as awesome as you are. You are fooling yourself. Someone who doesn’t look like you may be ten times more awesome than you are.

Deep down, this story is about acceptance even after the crack about protestants. You are supposed to value a person for who they are and not for what it appears they can or cannot do. Let’s all hold hands and sing Kum-ba-ya now.

See, there were some people even back in the day, who thought that you were supposed to accept others no matter what they looked like or what deformities they had. Those people are awesome. We don’t have their names and someone who will forever remain anonymous probably made up this story, but we should be glad we have their example, or at least their stories.

Oh, yeah, the number three, well, you could also look at it as the number four, since Thumbling did actually escape from four would-be jailers.


It’s not Thumbilina, but it will do. That’ll do pig. That’ll do.