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The Young Giant
Grimms Fairy Tales and German Folklore
Once upon a time a countryman had a son who was as big as a thumb,
and did not become any bigger, and during several years did not grow
one hair's breadth. Once when the father was going out to plough,
the little one said, father, I will go out with you. You would go out
with me, said the father. Stay here, you will be of no use out
there, besides you might get lost. Then thumbling began to cry, and
for the sake of peace his father put him in his pocket, and took him
When he was outside in the field, he took him out again, and set him
in a freshly cut furrow. Whilst he sat there, a great giant came
over the hill. Do you see that great bogie, said the father, for he
wanted to frighten the little fellow to make him behave well, he is
coming to fetch you. The giant, however, had scarcely taken two
steps with his long legs before he was in the furrow.
He took up little thumbling carefully with two fingers, examined him,
and without saying one word went away with him. His father stood by,
but could not utter a sound for terror, and he thought nothing else
but that his child was lost, and that as long as he lived he should
never set eyes on him again.
But the giant carried him home, let him suckle at his breast, and
thumbling grew and became tall and strong after the manner of giants.
When two years had passed, the old giant took him into the forest,
wanted to test him, and said, pull up a stick for yourself. Then the
boy was already so strong that he tore up a young tree out of the
earth by the roots. But the giant thought, we must do better than
that, took him back again, and suckled him two years longer. When he
tested him, his strength had increased so much that he could tear an
old tree out of the ground.
That was still not enough for the giant, he again suckled him for two
years, and when he then went with him into the forest and said, now
just tear up a real stick, the boy tore up the biggest oak-tree from
the earth, so that it cracked, and that was a mere trifle to him.
Now that will do, said the giant, you are perfect. And took him back
to the field from whence he had brought him. His father was there
following the plough. The young giant went up to him, and said, does
my father see what a fine man his son has grown into.
The farmer was alarmed, and said, no, you are not my son. I don't
want you - leave me. Truly I am your son, allow me to do your work,
I can plough as well as you, nay better. No, no, you are not my son,
and you can not plough - go away. However, as he was afraid of this
great man, he let go of the plough, stepped back and sat down at the
side of the land. Then the youth took the plough, and just grasped
it with one hand, but his pressure was so strong that the plough went
deep into the earth.
The farmer could not bear to see that, and called to him, if you are
determined to plough, you must not press so hard on it, that makes
bad work. The youth, however, unharnessed the horses, and drew the
plough himself, saying, just go home, father, and bid my mother make
ready a large dish of food, and in the meantime I will go over the
field. Then the farmer went home, and ordered his wife to prepare
the food, but the youth ploughed the field which was two acres large,
quite alone, and then he harnessed himself to the harrow, and
harrowed the whole of the land, using two harrows at once. When he
had done it, he went into the forest, and pulled up two oak-trees,
laid them across his shoulders, and hung on them one harrow behind
and one before, and also one horse behind and one before, and carried
all as if it had been a bundle of straw, to his parents, house.
When he entered the yard, his mother did not recognize him, and
asked, who is that horrible tall man. The father said, that is our
son. She said, no that cannot be our son, we never had such a tall
one, ours was a little thing. She called to him, go away, we do not
want you. The youth was silent, but led his horses to the stable,
gave them some oats and hay, and all that they wanted. When he had
done this, he went into the parlor, sat down on the bench and said,
mother, now I should like something to eat, will it soon be ready?
She said, yes, and brought in two immense dishes full of food, which
would have been enough to satisfy herself and her husband for a week.
The youth, however, ate the whole of it himself, and asked if she had
nothing more to set before him. No, she replied, that is all we
have. But that was only a taste, I must have more.
She did not dare to oppose him, and went and put a huge pig's trough
full of food on the fire, and when it was ready, carried it in. At
length come a few crumbs, said he, and gobbled all there was, but it
was still not sufficient to appease his hunger. Then said he,
father, I see well that with you I shall never have food enough, if
you will get me an iron staff which is strong, and which I cannot
break against my knees, I will go out into the world. The farmer was
glad, put his two horses in his cart, and fetched from the smith a
staff so large and thick, that the two horses could only just bring
The youth laid it across his knees, and snap, he broke it in two in
the middle like a bean-stalk, and threw it away. The father then
harnessed four horses, and brought a bar which was so long and thick,
that the four horses could only just drag it. The son snapped this
also in twain against his knees, threw it away, and said, father,
this can be of no use to me, you must harness more horses, and bring
a stronger staff. So the father harnessed eight horses, and brought
one which was so long and thick, that the eight horses could only
just carry it. When the son took it in his hand, he immediately
snapped off the end of it, and said, father, I see that you will not
be able to procure me any such staff as I want, I will remain no
longer with you.
So he went away, and gave out that he was a smith's apprentice. He
arrived at a village, wherein lived a smith who was a stingy fellow,
who never did a kindness to any one, but wanted everything for
himself. The youth went into the smithy and asked if he needed a
journeyman. Yes, said the smith, and looked at him, and thought,
that is a strong fellow who will strike out well, and earn his bread.
So he asked, how much wages do you want.
I don't want any at all, he replied, only every fortnight, when the
other journeymen are paid, I will give you two blows, and you must
bear them. The miser was heartily satisfied, and thought he would
thus save much money. Next morning, the strange journeyman was to
begin to work, but when the master brought the glowing bar, and the
youth struck his first blow, the iron flew asunder, and the anvil
sank so deep into the earth, that there was no bringing it out again.
Then the miser grew angry, and said, oh, but I can't make any use of
you, you strike far too powerfully. How much will you have for the
Then said he, I will give you only quite a small blow, that's all.
And he raised his foot, and gave him such a kick that he flew away
over four loads of hay. Then he sought out the thickest iron bar in
the smithy for himself, took it as a stick in his hand and went
When he had walked for some time, he came to a small farm, and asked
the bailiff if he did not require a head-man. Yes, said the bailiff,
I can make use of one. You look a capable fellow who can do
something, how much a year do you want as wages. He again replied
that he wanted no wages at all, but that every year he would give him
three blows, which he must bear. Then the bailiff was satisfied, for
he, too, was a covetous fellow. Next morning all the servants were
to go into the wood, and the others were already up, but the head-man
was still in bed. Then one of them called to him, get up, it is
time, we are going into the wood, and you must go with us. Ah, said
he quite roughly and surlily, you may just go, then, I shall be back
again before any of you. Then the others went to the bailiff, and
told him that the head-man was still lying in bed, and would not go
into the wood with them. The bailiff said they were to awaken him
again, and tell him to harness the horses. The head-man, however,
said as before, just go there, I shall be back again before any of
you. And then he stayed in bed two hours longer. At length he arose
from the feathers, but first he got himself two bushels of peas from
the loft, made himself some broth, ate it at his leisure, and when
that was done, went and harnessed the horses, and drove into the
Not far from the wood was a ravine through which he had to pass, so
he first drove the horses on, and then stopped them, and went behind
the cart, took trees and brushwood, and made a great barricade, so
that no horse could get through. When he was entering the wood, the
others were just driving out of it with their loaded carts to go
home. Then said he to them, drive on, I will still get home before
you do. He did not drive far into the wood, but at once tore two of
the very largest trees of all out of the earth, threw them on his
cart, and turned round. When he came to the barricade, the others
were still standing there, not able to get through. Don't you see,
said he, that if you had stayed with me, you would have got home just
as quickly, and would have had another hour's sleep. He now wanted
to drive on, but his horeses could not work their way through, so he
unharnessed them, laid them on the top of the cart, took the shafts
in his own hands, and pulled it all through, and he did this just as
easily as if it had been laden with feathers. When he was over, he
said to the others, there, you see, I have got over quicker than you.
And drove on, and the others had to stay where they were. In the
yard, however, he took a tree in his hand, showed it to the bailiff,
and said, isn't that a fine cord of wood.
Then said the bailiff to his wife, the servant is a good one - even
if he does sleep long, he is still home before the others. So he
served the bailiff for a year, and when that was over, and the other
servants were getting their wages, he said it was time for him to
take his too. The bailiff, however, was afraid of the blows which he
was to receive, and earnestly entreated him to excuse him from having
them, for rather than that, he himself would be head-man, and the
youth should be bailiff. No said he, I will not be a bailiff, I am
head-man, and will remain so, but I will administer that which we
agreed on. The bailiff was willing to give him whatsoever he
demanded, but it was of no use, the head-man said no to everything.
Then the bailiff did not know what to do, and begged for a
fortnight's delay, for he wanted to find some way of escape. The
head-man consented to this delay. The bailiff summoned all his
clerks together, and they were to think the matter over, and give him
advice. The clerks pondered for a long time, but at last they said
that no one was sure of his life with head-man, for he could kill a
man as easily as a midge, and that the bailiff ought to make him get
into the well and clean it, and when he was down below, they would
roll up one of the mill-stones which was lying there, and throw it on
his head, and then he would never return to daylight.
The advice pleased the bailiff, and the head-man was quite willing to
go down the well. When he was standing down below at the bottom,
they rolled down the largest mill-stone and thought they had broken
his skull, but he cried, chase away those hens from the well, they
are scratching in the sand up there, and throwing the grains into my
eyes, so that I can't see. So the bailiff cried, sh-sh, - and
pretended to frighten the hens away. When the head-man had finished
his work, he climbed up and said, just look what a beautiful neck-tie
I have on. And behold it was the mill-stone which he was wearing
round his neck.
The head-man now wanted to take his reward, but the bailiff again
begged for a fortnight's delay. The clerks met together and advised
him to send the head-man to the haunted mill to grind corn by night,
for from thence as yet no man had ever returned in the morning alive.
The proposal pleased the bailiff, he called the head-man that very
evening, and ordered him to take eight bushels of corn to the mill,
and grind it that night, for it was wanted. So the head-man went to
the loft, and put two bushels in his right pocket, and two in his
left, and took four in a wallet, half on his back, and half on his
breast, and thus laden went to the haunted mill. The miller told him
that he could grind there very well by day, but not by night, for the
mill was haunted, and that up to the present time whosoever had gone
into it at night had been found in the morning lying dead inside. He
said, I will manage it, just you go and put your head on the pillow.
Then he went into the mill, and poured out the corn. About eleven
o'clock he went into the miller's room, and sat down on the bench.
When he had sat there a while, a door suddenly opened, and a large
table came in, and on the table, wine and roasted meats placed
themselves, and much good food besides, but everything came of
itself, for no one was there to carry it.
After this the chairs pushed themselves up, but no people came, until
all at once he beheld fingers, which handled knives and forks, and
laid food on the plates, but with this exception he saw nothing. As
he was hungry, and saw the food, he, too, place himself at the table,
ate with those who were eating and enjoyed it. When he had had
enough, and the others also had quite emptied their dishes, he
distinctly heard all the candles being suddenly snuffed out, and as
it was now pitch dark, he felt something like a box on the ear. Then
he said, if anything of that kind comes again, I shall strike out in
return. And when he had received a second box on the ear, he, too
And so it continued the whole night. He took nothing without
returning it, but repaid everything with interest, and did not slay
about him in vain. At daybreak, however, everything ceased. When
the miller had got up, he wanted to look after him, and wondered if
he were still alive. Then the youth said, I have given some in
return. The miller rejoiced, and said that the mill was now released
from the spell, and wanted to give him much money as a reward. But
he said, money, I will not have, I have enough of it. So he took his
meal on his back, went home, and told the bailiff that he had done
what he had been told to do, and would now have the reward agreed on.
When the bailiff heard that, he was seriously alarmed and quite
beside himself. He walked to and fro in the room, and drops of sweat
ran down from his forehead. Then he opened the window to get some
fresh air, but before he was aware, the head-man had given him such a
kick that he flew through the window out into the air, and so far
away that no one ever saw him again.
Then said the head-man to the bailiff's wife, if he does not come
back, you must take the other blow. She cried, no, no I cannot bear
it. And opened the other window, because drops of sweat were running
down her forehead. Then he gave her such a kick that she, too, flew
out, and as she was lighter she went much higher than her husband.
Her husband cried, do come to me, but she replied, come you to me, I
cannot come to you.
And they hovered about there in the air, and could not get to each
other, and whether they are still hovering about or not, I do not
know, but the young giant took up his iron bar, and went on his way.