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.
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.
- A dessert with a creamy consistency.
- 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.
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.