by Lisa Ruping Cheng
Let’s see if the woman who came and opened the door was kind or mean.
Little Thumb (Part Three)
Below is the third part of the Mother Goose Fairytale – Little Thumb:
She ran immediately to let them in, and said as she embraced them:
“She asked them what they wanted. Little Thumb told her they were poor children who were lost in the forest, and desired to lodge there for charity’s sake. The woman, seeing them all so very pretty began to weep and said to them: “Alas! Poor babies, where do you come from? Do you know that this house belongs to a cruel Ogre who eats little children?”
“Alas! dear madam, ” answered Little Thumb (who, with his brothers, was trembling in every limb), “what shall we do? The wolves of the forest surely will devour us tonight if you refuse us shelter in your house; and so we would rather the gentleman eat us. Perhaps he may take pity upon us if you will be pleased to ask him to do so.”
The Ogre’s wife, who believed she could hide them from her husband till morning, let them come in, and took them to warm themselves at a very good fire; for there was a whole sheep 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, who was come home. His wife quickly hid them under the bed and went to open the door. The Ogre at once asked if supper was ready and the wine drawn, and then sat himself down to table. The sheep was as yet all raw, but he liked it the better for that. He sniffed about to the right and left, saying:
“I smell fresh meat.”
“What you smell,” said his wife, “must be the calf which I have just now killed and flayed.”
“I smell fresh meat, I tell you once more,” replied the Ogre, looking crossly at his wife, “and there is something here which I do not understand.”
As he spoke these words he got up from the table and went straight to the bed.
“Ah!” said he, “that is how you would cheat me; I know not why I do not eat you, too; it is well for you that you are tough.”
He dragged them out from under the bed, one by one. The poor children fell upon their knees and begged his pardon, but they had to do with one of the most cruel of Ogres, who, far from having any pity on them, was already devouring them in his mind, and told his wife they would be delicate eating when she had made a good sauce.
He then took a great knife, and coming up to these poor children, sharpened it upon a great whetstone which he held 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? Will you not have time enough tomorrow?
“But you have so much meat already, ” replied his wife; “here are a calf, two sheep and a half a pig.”
“Hold your prating, ” said the Ogre; “they will eat the tenderer.”
“That is true, ” said the Ogre; “give them a good supper that they may not grow thin and put them to bed.”
The good woman was overjoyed at this, and gave them a good supper; but they were so much afraid that they could not eat. As for the Ogre, he sat down again to drink, being highly pleased that he had the wherewithal to threat 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, who were still little children. These young Ogresses had all of them very fine complexions; but they all had little gray eyes, quite round, hooked noses, a very large mouth, and very long, sharp teeth, set far part. They were not as yet wicked, but they promised well to be, for they had already bitten little children.
They had been put to bed early, all seven in one bed, with every one a crown of gold upon her head. There was in the same chamber a bed of the like size, and the Ogre’s wife put the seven little boys into this bed, after which she went to bed herself.
Little Thumb, 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 them that evening, 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’, so that the Ogre might take them for his daughters, and his daughters of the little boys whom he wanted to kill.
Things turned out just as he had thought; for the Ogre, waking about midnight, regretted that he had deferred till morning to do that which he might have done overnight, and jumped quickly out of bed, 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 to the bed where the little boys lay, and who were all fast asleep, except Little Thumb, who was terribly afraid when he found the Ogre fumbling about his head, as he had done about his brothers’, he felt the golden crowns, and said:
“I should have made a fine piece of work of it, truly; it is clear I drank too much last night.”
Then he went to the bed where the girls lay, and having found the boys’ little bonnets:
“Ah!” said he, “my merry lads, are you there? Let us work boldly.”
And saying these words, without more ado, he cruelly murdered all his seven daughters. Well pleased with what he had done, he went to bed again.
So soon as Little Thumb heard the Ogre snore, he waked his brothers, and bade them put on their clothes quickly and follow him. They stole softly into the garden and got over the wall. They ran about, all night, trembling all the while, without knowing which way they went.
The Ogre, when he woke, said to his wife: “Go upstairs and dress those young rascals who came here last night.” The Ogress was very much surprised at this goodness of her husband, not dreaming after what manner she should dress them; but, thinking that he had ordered her to go up and put on their clothes, she went, and was horrified when she perceived her seven daughters all dead.
She began by fainting away, as was only natural in such a case. The Ogre, fearing his wife was too long in doing what he had ordered, went up himself to help her. He was no less amazed than his wife at this frightful spectacle.
“Ah! what have I done?” cried he. “The wretches shall pay for it, and that instantly.”
He threw a pitcher of water upon his wife’s face, and having brought her to herself, “Give me quickly,” cried he, “my seven-leagued boots, that I may go and catch them.”
He went out into the country, and after running in all directions, he came at last into the very road where the poor children were, and not above a hundred paces from their father’s house. They spied the Ogre, who went at one step from mountain to mountain, and over rivers as easliy as the narrowest brooks. Little Thumb, seeing a hollow rock near the place where they were, hid his brothers in it, and crowded into it himself, watching always what would become of the Ogre.
Will Little Thumb be able to escape from the danger of being caught by the Ogre? The story is to be continued in the next post.