The Frog Prince

Once there lived a king, the love of whose life was his precious young daughter.

He was forever giving the daughter presents; but, strange to say, her favorite was a simple silver ball, which she liked to play with while she was out walking through the gardens.

One fine day, while she was playing in the garden, tossing her ball up and down, she tossed it a bit too far, and it fell into a well. The young girl immediately burst into tears; firstly, because it was her favorite toy, and secondly, because she feared her father would scold her for losing his present to her.

Just then she heard a ribbity sound, and what should she see perched upon the side of the old stone well but a huge, hideous bullfrog.

“Why weepest thou, fair maiden?” asked the Frog. He was really a very cordial, polite fellow, she realized, for just being an ugly old bullfrog.

She wiped her eyes and said, “Because I have lost my ball down the well, and my father will be angry with me, and scold me and send me to bed without supper!”
And, at that she began to weep all the harder, until the Frog said, “Oh, fiddlesticks! Do not weep, fair maiden! I will retrieve thy ball for thee.”

And with that, the Frog dove face-first into the well, and, in no time, emerged with the silver ball held on the end of his snout.

At seeing this, the Princess was overjoyed, and said, “Oh, Mr. Bullfrog, whatever shouldst thou ask of me, I will give to thee!”

At this the Bullfrog curled up his froggy nose, and, ribbiting hard, said finally, “I ask that thou takest me back to thy palace. And when thou dost eat thy dinner, have me eat beside thee. And, when thou takest to thy bed, have me sleep beside the on thy pillow.”

And, not at all liking the terms, yet, honor-bound by her words, the young princess agreed to all of this. But, then, running off bouncing her ball, she just as quickly forgot her promises to the hideous bullfrog, “Who,” she considered, while being a rather nice fellow, is hideously ugly and warty, after all.”

It was many days later, while she was sitting down with her father and his courtiers to a hearty repast that, while the servants were serving, and her chops were fairly watering with hunger, a strange knock came at the dining room door.

At this, the courtiers and the guards were immediately put on alert, and men drew their swords and prepared to defend the King. How amazed they were, then, when, upon throwing open the door, they saw not some grim assassin waiting, but nothing more than a peculiar little bullfrog.

The Bullfrog quickly hopped inside, and the King asked him, “Mr. Bullfrog, eh, what exactly is it that brings you to our fair and humble abode?”

To this the Bullfrog replied, “Oh, Good My King, thy little daughter lost her silver ball the other day, and, whenI did retrieve it for her, promised to let me eat with her, and sleep on her pillow, and be her pet.”

Well, at seeing the ugly bullfrog come home to roost (as it were) the Princess was horrified. She began to protest, “Papa, I cannot do this thing of which he asks!”

But her father was resolute.

“Daughter, if thou hast so promised the Bullfrog these things, then, surely, thou must keep thy word. Come, friend Bullfrog, and share our meal with us!”
And so the Bullfrog, much to the Princess’s displeasure, sidled himself up to the edge of her plate, and nibbled a bit here and there, and made her feel increasingly ill. She put the best face on it, though, and somehow made it thorough dinner.

She carefully avoided the Bullfrog the rest of the evening, sitting with her father glumly as he was advised by his advisers. Finally, though, she became very tired and yawned and stretched, and decided it was time to go to bed.

Remembering that she would have to sleep with the bullfrog upon her pillow made bedtime seem a little less happy, but, she was too tired to care.

She went to her bed chamber and curled beneath the covers. In a moment, the Bullfrog made his appearance, and, hopping up on the coverlet, climbed to her pillow.

This made her skin crawl.

Soon, she was awakened by a ribbiting.

“Kiss me goodnight,” ribbited the Bullfrog.
The Princess, unable to believe her ears, said, “Oh, Mr. Bullfrog, thou dost ask too much of me. Why, what if thou givest me a wart on my nose?”

To which the Bullfrog replied, “Kiss me goodnight. Quickly. If thou so doest, thou wilt have for thy bedtime a surprise!”

And so, just to stop his infernal ribbiting, the Princess bent and gave the Bullfrog a little peck on his fat Bullfrog cheek.

Then, a strange thing occurred.

The Bullfrog began to grow in size, and change shape, and was soon transformed before the Princess’s astounded eyes. Soon, lying next to her on her pillow, was not a Bullfrog at all, but the figure of a tall, handsome man!

“Oh heavens,” she cried, “What trickery is this?”

But the young man said, “Oh, fair maiden! I did not mean to deceive thee! I am but a poor, unfortunate prince, who, owing to a horrible curse from an evil sorceress, was long ago transformed into a hideous frog. Thy dainty kiss has lifted this awful curse from me, and restored me to what once I was! Come, let us be married, as I feel I have fallen instantly in love with thee, and wish thee to be my queen!”

And so, the overjoyed princess married the handsome young prince.

And they all lived happily ever after. (Or, at least, we suppose they did.)
(Source: The Brothers Grimm)


The Foolish Husbands; or, “I Should Laugh, If I Were Not Dead!”

Once, two old women were trying to decide amongst tthemselves whose husband was the bigger fool. “Surely it is mine,” said the one, “as my husband is such a fool, he could go about naked, and not realize he wore no clothes!”

But the other protested this, saying, “Oh no, for it is my husband who is the bigger fool! Why, the man will be in his grave an hour before he even realizes he is dead!”

So the two women, not being able to decide exactly whose husband was indeed a bigger fool, decided to test it for the record.

One women got her spinning wheel, and, as her husband came in through the door that evening, was busily spinning…nothing. She simply operated the wheel with no cotton thread, and pretended she was spinning a beautiful set of breeches.

Her husband, indeed a monstrous fool, inquired curiously as to what she was doing.

“Can’t you see I’m spinning you a new suit of clothes?” she said crossly, continuing her bizarre work.

“But,” protested the foolish husband, “there is no thread on the loom!”

The wife smiled, and then replied, “Oh yes there is! It is just so fine you cannot see it! Why, with this thread, I’m making you a suit of clothes so fantastic, they will rival anything anyone is wearing out on the streets. And, they will be woven of thread so fine, you will scarce be able to catch a glimpse of them!”

Now the husband, who we must repeat, was a first-rate fool, accepted this explanation with a smile and a shrug. After a short time, his wife had woven her imaginary garments to her satisfaction, and so commanded him to strip bare so that she might put his new clothes upon him. For she said, “You look such a ragged mess in your old clothes, I want to see you in these new things I have made for you.”

So the monstrous, foolish husband stripped bare, and the scheming wife put his imaginary suit over his nakedness, and the fool really believed himself to be clothed in “magical” garments that were invisible to the human eye. (How he thought such garments would cover his nakedness, we can only guess.)
So, after that, he went about naked.

Now, down the lane, at the home of the other woman, the fool husband was greeted with a shudder by wife, who commanded him to get into bed at once, as “He looked peaked and sickly, like he was took with the pox!”

The worthless fool of a husband did as he was told, and the wife sat by his bedside. After he had fallen asleep, she suddenly sprang to her feet, waking him in terror and proclaiming, “I have to go find someone to perform last rites!”

The foolish husband (who felt, for all his “sickness,” absolutely fine) asked her whatever the reason for.

She asked, “Why are you speaking? Don’t you realize you died this morning?”

“No,” answered the colossal fool, “I wasn’t aware of it.”

And she flew out the door to find the undertaker.

Well, while she was out, she made arangements for his funeral the next day.

Her neightbor, the one with the husband so foolish he didn’t know he was naked, decided they must attend. So, the next day, she lead her naked husband to the chapel, and the coffin was brought in by the pall bearers and laid out on the catafalque, and the dead man (who could see his naked neighbor through a special window in the side of the casket) sat up and said, “Now, I should laugh at him, if I were not dead!”

Several mourners and nervous persons fainted. The village priest, realizing what had occured, ordered the two women to be jailed. It was later that they were soundly thrashed.

But, on the whole, as foolish as they were, they were still not bigger fools than their fool husbands.

Mother Holle

Once upon a time, there was a wicked old woman, a widow, who lived with her two daughters, one of whom was noble and good, the other being lazy and indolent.

The wicked woman, naturally, doted on her lazy daughter, as this was her natural daughter, and not simply the daughter of her late husband from a previous marriage.

Every day the wicked stepmother made the poor girl go out to fetch the water, do all the chores, and spin flax to boot. One morning, when the daughter was gone to fetch the water, she, quite by accident, managed to drop her spinner into the well. At this, the girl ran home crying. But, do you expect she got any sympathy for her plight? Not a bit of it.

“You ignoramus!” spat the cruel stepmother (at least, she spat something that approximated this), “now you must go and jump in the well and retrieve your spinner!” And the stepmother put her arm out and pointed out the door; and, weeping the young miss went to do as she was told.

Terrified, she jumped in the dark, dank well. However, she was amazed and astounded when, much to her surprise, she didn’t drown in the bottom of the well, but instead fell until she fell down upon the side of a hillock in a strange, upside-down land.

“Oh, where am I?” she asked herself, rubbing her bruised bottom as she crept carefully through the meadow, which was quite beautiful and covered with thousands of bright flowers.

Soon, she came to a huge oven, wherein the loaves of bread cried out to her, “Oh, mercy, take us out of here, for we have been baked long enough!” And so, carefully taking up the bread shovel, the young maiden took the loaves out of the oven, setting them in a careful pile.

She was then on her way. She soon came to an apple tree, the likes of which was bursting with tremendous apples larger than any she had ever before seen. The apples cried out, “Oh! pluck us! For we have hung here long enough, and are ready to burst!”

So, taking pity upon the apples, she carefully began to pluck them one by one from the branches, until she had before her a pile she could set aside. Then, tired, but too curious to rest, she was once again on her way.

After a short amount of time she came to a strange cottage. Knocking at the door, she was terrified to see the ugliest old woman she had ever seen in her life come to the door. The woman had tremendous tusk-like teeth, and the poor young maiden was so terrified she almost ran away. She could tell by the kindly look in the old woman’s eyes though, that she was not going to hurt her.

“Well, miss, it seems that fate has brought you to my door step. Now, you may stay here as long as you like, if you will simply do your chores. Also, make sure you shake the feathers out of my pillow every morning, as then it will be sure to snow. Got that?”

And she nodded yes. Well, this good, honest, hardworking girl worked hard, and cleaned, and cooked, and took care of Mother Holle, and turned down the covers, and scrubbed the tub, and cleaned out the oven, and baked the bread, and shook the feathers out of the pillows, so that it would snow.

And she was most content to do it all, as Mother Holle, despite her odd appearance, was very kind, and treated her to a sumptuous feast and all the fun she could handle.

Well, things went on like this for awhile, until, one day the girl, looking out on the lonely forest wherein Mother Holle resided, began to feel homesick.

Mother Holle, sensing this, said, “Child, I suppose it is high time you had better be sent home. But, before you go, I want to give you your reward for being such a good and faithful servant.”

And Mother Holle pushed her out the door. But, before she could go, she covered her with a bucket of gold dust, so that she was completely covered in the valuable stuff. Then she sent her on her way, closing the door in an instant.

The gold-covered girl wandered out of the magical forest, buck up the mouth of the old well, and home again. As she approached, the hens began to sing and cluck, “Cock-a-doodle-doo, your golden girl has come back to you!”

When her stepmother at first saw her she was very frightened, for the girl had been missing a long time and was presumed dead. Then, when she saw the fine gold flakes stuck to her skin, she became envious.

She told her lazy, stupid daughter, “Go to this Mother Holle, who lives down the mouth of the old well, and see if you can be her servant for a time. Then, thou shalt have thine own reward like unto thy sister!”

So the stupid, lazy girl did just that. She went to the old well, and pricked her finger exactly as her sister had done on the spinner. Then, she let a few drops of blood fall into the water, and dove down the mouth of the well.

She soon found herself in the upside-down enchanted land, wandering through the strange, dark forest, until she came to the ovens wherein the helpless bread screamed, “Oh, mercy, take us out of here, for we have baked long enough!”

And the lazy girl would have been only too happy to oblige. Except it seemed like an awful lot of work to bend over and take the brad from the ovens, and might make her frightfully hot and dirty to boot. So she simply passed on by, and listened to the dying screams of the bread loaves as they were baked to a crisp.

Next she came to the apple tree, where the overripe apples were hanging from their stems. The apples cried out to her, “Oh, pluck us! For we have hung here long enough, and are ready to burst!”

And the lazy, stupid girl would have obliged, except, well…plucking the apples so high up in the tree seemed like quite an awful lot of work, and she might fall and hurt herself, and become dirty and tired to boot. So she simply walked past the tree, listening to the apples scream as they burst from becoming too ripe.

Soon, she came to the strange cottage of Mother Holle. At first she was frightened when Mother Holle opened the door, as she had never seen anyone with teeth quite so big. But then she remembered that Mother Holle was supposed to be very kind, and this allayed her fears.

“Well, missy, it seems that fate has brought you to my door step. Now, you may stay here as long as you like, if you will simply do your chores. Also, make sure you shake the feathers out of my pillow every morning, as then it will be sure to snow. Got that?”

And the lazy, stupid girl agreed to do it all.

At first, she was careful to do her chores exactly as Mother Holle had said, and she worked diligently at everything. It was not long, however, before the lazy, stupid nature began to reassert itself, and she started slacking off work, disobeying, and not doing what she was told.

Soon, Mother Holle tired of this. She said to her, “Now, I am going to send you back home, as you must be very homesick by now!”

“Oh yes,” cried the lazy, stupid girl. “But, what about my reward?”

And Mother Holle said, “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll get exactly what is coming to you!”

And with that, she shoved her out the door, but before she could go, she emptied a bucket of pitch over her head, and laughed. Mother Holle said, “That is your reward, dearie! Wear it well! Wear it well! It really suits you!”

And she slammed the door and never came out again.

Well, the stupid, lazy girl, who was now quite covered with pitch, found her way back to her own home from out the magic portal. And, at her coming, the hens began to cluck, saying:

“Cock-a-doodle-doo, your pitchy girl’s come back to you!”

And, no matter how hard they scrubbed, they could not got the layer of pitch off of the lazy daughter, who was forced to go abotu that way until the day she died.


Once upon a time, in the Long Ago, there was a brave soldier returned from the war. Finding himself poor and alone, he went to his brothers and begged them to let him stay with them.

They refused, saying that he was of no use to them, as all he knew was soldiering and had no skill with which he could earn his keep. Thus, he was condemned to wander through the forest, hungry and alone.

Lamenting his fate, the aggrieved soldier sat down upon a log near the trail, and considered what to do. Soon, a shadow fell across his face, and he realized he was joined by a strange man in a green coat.

“My dear fellow,” said he, “Why art thou weeping so?”

To which the soldier replied, “Because the war is over, and I am out of money, and will surely die of starvation in this cruel forest.”

At this the man threw back his head in laughter, and exclaimed, “Nonsense! Thou wilt not surely die! Come, I will strike a deal with thee!”

And the soldier, having guessed the identity of the man (due, in large part, to the cloven hoof exposed beneath the heavy green coat of the stranger), said “As long as it does not endanger my salvation, state thy bargain.”

At this the man (or rather the Devil), rubbed his hands (we imagine the nails were long and sharp) together and said, “Thou must wander the earth for seven long years, and thou mayest not wash thy body, or cut thy hair, or nails, or clean thy face or clothing, or even sleep in a bed. Look–”

And the Devil pointed in the distance. Instantly, a huge black bear came charging through the brush. Panicked, the Soldier lifted his rifle and said, “I’ll tickle thy nose for thee!” He fired, killing the bear instantly.

The Devil stepped forward, grabbed handfuls of the dead bear’s flesh, and ripped off its skin. This he tied around the soldier’s neck for a cloak.

“Here,” he said, “from now on, thy name shall be ‘Bearskin.’ Also, put on my coat. Whenever thou reach into the pocket of this coat, thou wilt find money enough for all thy needs.

“Now,” continued the Devil, “If thou shouldst die in seven years, I own thy soul FOREVER. Otherwise, if thou survive the seven years of wandering, thou shalt have money and happiness beyond thy wildest dreams.”

And with that, the Devil (who smelled quite badly of sulfur) disappeared in a smelly burst of smoke and flame. The Soldier stood dumbfounded, unsure of the bargain he had made, but, reaching into his pocket, found the gold he had been promised, and was at least mollified now that he could afford room and board at the next inn he came to.

So began the “Seven Years of Wandering,” wherein Bearskin wandered East, and West, and North, and South, and up hill, and down hill, and through forest, and over rock and under yawning branches in the sun-dappled evening, and across moats and swamps, and through brambles and thicket-patches, and suchlike wild tarns.

The first year he did not look so frightening, nor smell so terrifically terrible, but by the second year, he looked an awful mess; and, by the end of the third year, he seemed to be an ogre. People often avoided him in fear and revulsion, or ran away outright. One night, when the rain was pouring hard against the ragged tatters of his clothing, and the immense bearskin was dripping wet against his form, he stopped by an inn for shelter, determined to, at the very least, spread the filthy, wet bearskin in front of a roaring fire.

The Innkeeper, upon seeing him, was seriously alarmed, and refused him entry. He even refused to let him sleep in the stables, for he feared, “A man with such a monstrous appearance as thou hast would surely upset the horses.”

Bearskin reached into the pocket of his green coat and produces a handful of ducats. The Innkeeper softened somewhat.

“Alright! If thou so desires it, thou shalt sleep thy sleep in the privy!”
And so Bearskin went to the outhouse to sleep, cursing his fate that he should be reduced so low. Curiously, though, he found that the stinking outhouse was already occupied by a weeping man.

“Sir,” began Bearskin, “Permit me to ask thee: why art thou weeping?”

The old man began, “Because I have lost all of my money, and my three daughters and I shall surely be turned out of house and home, and now, I do not even have the money to pay the innkeeper. Surely he will have me cast into prison!”

Upon hearing this, Bearskin felt so bad for the old man that he reached into his pocket and pulled out a fist full of the gold ducats. The old man’s face suddenly broke into a bright beam of happiness, and he exclaimed, “Oh, sir! Thou art too kind! Why, in thy hand is more than enough money to pay the innkeeper, and all my debts beside. I shall not fear being cast into prison now!”
And the old man went to pay the innkeeper. Upon returning, he said, “Come! I have three lovely daughters, and for thy kindness, thou shall have one for thy wife!”
And the old man took Bearskin by the (now admittedly long and dirty fingers), and lead him to his home, which was a small cottage set far back amidst a stand of trees.
Upon entering the home, the man introduced Bearskin to his daughters. His appearance was so frightening however that, immediately, the eldest ran away with her apron thrown over her head. The other looked at Bearskin with a look of disgust on her face, and crossing her arms over her chest in an insolent manner, refused to speak to him or even look at him.

The third daughter, the youngest, exclaimed, “Oh father, if thou didst promise this man the hand of thy daughter in marriage, because of his good deed to thee, then this thing must surely come to pass!”

And with that, she promised she would become Bearskin’s wife. She donned a black dress, becoming quite solemn and downcast, but realizing all the while that, since her sisters would not do it, it fell to her to fulfill her father’s wishes.

But Bearskin replied, “I must first wander a pace before I become thy husband. Here–”

And with that, he took her ring from her finger, and, breaking it in half, gave one half to her to keep, and kept the other half safe with himself. Then he tearfully bid her adieu, and went to finish the rest of his wanderings, as per his agreement with the Devil.

Thus after seven long, weary years, when Bearskin now resembled a great shaggy beast more than a man, he came to the same spot in the forest where, years before, the Devil had accosted him and struck his bargain. Sure enough, the Author of Evil was waiting there patiently, smoking his pipe, leaning against a log. He seemed not to have aged a day.

Upon seeing Bearskin however, his arrogant, grinning countenance turned very, very ugly. He spat and snarled, and stomped his feet, and gnashed his teeth, and shook his fist at Heaven, and shook his fist at Hell, and his eyes flamed and his hair stood on end, and he said, “Curse thee, thou stinkard! Get thee hence, and trouble me not with thy loathsome appearance!”

Bearskin realized that he had actually won the Devil’s bargain, and was determined to make the old monster abide by what he had promised. But, first, he demanded that the Arch-Fiend shave him and give him a bath.

This the Devil grudgingly did, sitting Bearskin down on an old log, humiliated by being reduced to the role of a humble barber! Then, Bearskin, now as polished and handsome as he had been seven years earlier, demanded a new suit of clothing. This the Devil speedily obtained, producing the clothes as if by magic.

Finally, Bearskin demanded the wealth that had been promised him, and the Devil told him his wishes would soon be fulfilled. However, first he must go and claim his bride.

So the Soldier (we can no longer really refer to him as “Bearskin,” can we?) set out for the village. When he arrived there, he asked about the whereabouts of the man and his family, and was directed to a great house on a hill, at the edge of town.

Perplexed, the Soldier rode out to the location he had been directed to, and hitching his horse, went up to peer through the large window overlooking the great hall.

Inside, a dinner party was being held for a seemingly bored group of young women. At first, he did not recognize them in their beautiful finery, but after a few moments, he recognized them as the two sisters who had refused to marry him when his identity had been that of “Bearskin.” And, coming through the doorway, he recognized the youngest daughter, whom he was to marry.

He went to the door at once, knocked, and strode confidently in past the perplexed servant. He asked for the master of the house, was told that the man was away on business, but was lead to the dining room, where he was greeted effusively by the now-interested older sisters.

They each spent the night trying to woo his affections, but, to no avail; they never suspected the dashing young soldier was none other than the hideous “Bearskin” whom they had refused to even speak to so many years before.

Finally, as daybreak came, the soldier went to the youngest daughter, and, to her great astonishment, asked her directly if she would immediately marry him!
He then produced his half of the ring, and her face brightened into a look of pure wonder. She held up her half of the golden crescent, and they fell into each other’s arms, kissing passionately as the sun rose above the trees.
They were married later that morning.

(Source: The Brothers Grimm)

Seven at a Blow

Once upon a time there was a poor tailor, who one day was interrupted in his work by a woman selling pots of delicious honey.

“Here,” he said to himself, “is a purchase that will make the day a little sweeter!”

And, reaching into his pocket, he brought forth a single guilder to give to the old woman, who was poor and blind and happy to get whatever she could.

Settling down to wait for his bread to bake, the cobbler went back to his craft. Suddenly, he found that he was not alone, but joined by seven horseflies attracted by the scent wafting up from the pots of honey.

“I’ll teach them to interrupt my work!” he said to himself angrily, and, grabbing up a rag, smashed his hand down on the lid of the pot, shattering it!

Of course, he lost some of his honey, but, as he pulled back the cloth, he was most pleased to find that he had managed to kill all of the pestiferous flies! “Ah ha!” he cried. “What a good man am I! Why, I’ve killed SEVEN AT A BLOW!”

Indeed, the little tailor was so impressed with himself that (as business was rather slow) he quickly set about embroidering a special sash with the phrase “Seven at a Blow!” written on it in large, flaming letters. Then, a beacon of pride, he took to wearing the thing everywhere.

He then went out into the street, brandishing his new belt, and all the people wondered after him. “Seven at a blow!” they exclaimed. “Why, it isn’t safe to even have such a man around us, if he could slay seven of us at one blow!”

In truth, the Tailor had decided to leave his little village and go in search of his fortune, reasoning that he was cut out for something a darn sight better than being a tailor. He had brought nothing with him except a brick of old cheese; for, in searching high and low in his little shop, he could find nothing worth taking along on his journey.

Along the way, while making his way through the weeds and brambles, he spied a little blackbird caught in the hedge.

He said to himself, “You might as well come along too, and keep my cheese company.” So he carefully rescued the little blackbird and put it in his pocket.

It was not long after, while scaling a large hill, he chanced to run across a terrible giant. The Tailor, however, was anything but afraid, and the giant, upon spying the belt the Tailor wore, shuddered to himself, saying “Seven at a blow, eh? That is a pretty grand number to kill in one blow, I must admit. But, here, let’s see if you can do this.”

And with that, the Giant picked up a stone and squeezed until water ran from between his great grimy fingers.

“Pshaw!” said the Tailor. “It is mere child’s play for some one who can slay seven at one blow!”

And with that, he thrust his hand into his pocket and brought out the cheese.

Squeezing this with all his might, he brought forth the milk from which it was made. The Giant, though, thought he had squeezed milk from a stone, and was duly impressed.

He said, “Well, now that is something. However, can you throw a stone so far it disappears into the sky?”

And with that, the Giant picked up a huge stone, and threw it so far it became a speck in the sky, and finally disappeared. The Tailor again laughed, and said “It is nothing! Not for a man who can slay seven at one blow!”

And with that he thrust his hand into his pocket and brought forth the blackbird, throwing the little curled-up thing into the sky. There it took flight, disappearing into the distance.

The Giant, though, thought that the Tailor had merely thrown a stone he had hidden in his pocket, and was even more impressed than before. He said, “Well, a man as mighty as you must come and stay the night in our cave! Come, be my guest!

“But first,” began the Giant, “One more test, to truly judge how strong a man you are. Here, help me lift this mighty tree.”

And so the giant hefted a felled oak. The wise little Tailor made sure to jump up in the branches of the tree when the Giant’s back was turned, and sat, happy as a clam in the branches, causing the Giant to strain under the extra weight.

And with that, the Giant lead the little Tailor into the mouth of a nearby cavern, wherein were sleeping seven more giants, each more terrible than the last. The little Tailor was given some tough, tasteless food, and shown to his bunk. There, he stretched out, but he did not sleep, for he did not like the maniacal glint that he saw in the Giant’s eye.

“He is surely waiting for me to sleep,” said the Tailor to himself, “and when I do, he will creep up on me, and kill me.”

And so the Tailor waited until the Giant’s family was all asleep. Then, he slipped quietly out of his bed, leaving some pillows under the blanket to make the giant think it was he sleeping under the covers. Then he slipped out of the mouth of the cave, into the night.

He journeyed long and far, and soon found himself drowsy and wanting to sleep.

He curled up next to a burbling brook. In time, some wandering servants of the King approached, and, seeing the little tailor and his magnificent belt which proclaimed “Seven at a Blow,” woke him saying, “Certainly, a man such as thee, who canst perform such a deed as is proclaimed on thy belt, belongs in the service of the King.”

And so the little Tailor was unceremoniously commanded to accompany the royal troupe back to the palace, where the King greeted with great amusement (and not a little fear) a man that could kill “seven at a blow.”

His royal guard, though, were all in a fit of trembles. “What are we to do,” they reasoned, “if he becomes angered? Why, the man can kill “seven at a blow”!

It says so right on his belt! We can not tolerate such a man in our midst: if it came down to it, he could strike seven of us dead at one time, leaving us no defense!”

The King, reasoning that there might be some dissension in the ranks of his troops (and no King would risk losing the support of his fighting men. Not if he were smart.) told the little Tailor, “I will accept thee into my service; but first, I ask of the to perform a task. In a neighboring kingdom live two giants, who sleep in the forest and terrorize the towns on the border of our own land. If thou canst slay seven at a blow, thou shouldst make of two giants short work.”

The Tailor, hitching his thumbs onto his fancy leather belt, agreed quite readily.

So the King sent him on his way. Along with him he sent one hundred of his bravest horsemen, who all rode far back of the Tailor, as they knew he was setting out to conquer the fearsome giants.

“Never fear,’ he told them. “What are two giants to a man that can conquer and claim ‘seven at a blow’? I shall return shortly, my saber washed in giants’ blood.”

And with that he was off, trudging through the forest and keeping his eyes and ears open, in case he should run into any fearsome giants.

He had not far to go before he found the two he was sent for. Both of them lie, arm-in-arm, upon the ground, both fast asleep. He quietly, stealthily climbed up in the branches of the tree, and, shielding his eyes from the blazing sun, pondered what to do.

Suddenly, it occurred to him exactly what he was going to do. Climbing down from the tree, he gathered together pocketsful of stones, and then climbed carefully back to his perch. Then, after few minutes deliberation, he threw one of the stones with all his might at the sleeping giant on the left, who quickly came awake.

“Ho, brother,” said the awakened giant. “Why art thou pelting me?”

His irritable, ugly brother (truth be told, both giants were quite hideous), snapped, “Thou fool! I would never pelt thee! Now, lie down and sleep, for we have much to do on the morrow!”

So both giants relaxed again. Soon, the little tailor let fly with another of the loose stones. The giant lying on the left suddenly snapped awake and said, “Durst thou pelt me with stones while yet I sleep?”

To which his companion replied, “I do not! Now, arise and take thy punishment for speaking falsely against me!”

And so the giants rose to their feet, making the earth tremble, and sending huge clods of dirt and stone flying everywhere, and shaking the trees, and breaking off their branches and hitting each other over the head with them.

It was not long before both of the fools were lying on the ground unconscious, dripping and wet in pools of their own blood. (Proving, once again, that, instead of fighting your enemies, it is often better to get them to destroy each other.)

The valiant Tailor stepped forward and thrust his saber into the breasts of the twin giants, making short work of them. Then he went back to the one hundred horsemen and said, “Go and see for yourselves! The two giants are dead.”

And so, fearfully the men went and saw. And lo! They saw the two giants swimming in pools of their own blood, and they were much amazed by the derring-do and the powerful fighting skills of the little tailor.

And thus they returned to the king, and their complaints were double what they were before, as they were now very much afraid of the Tailor, as they thought that, surely, one day they would manage to anger him, and he would kill them off “seven at a blow.”

So the king, wishing he could rid himself of the pesky problem told the Tailor, “Before I can accept thee into my service, I must needs have thee perform another task. In yonder woods there lives a terrible unicorn, the cause of much fear and trembling amongst my people. Go and capture this strange beast, and thou shalt have the hand of my own daughter in marriage, and half of my kingdom in the bargain!”

And so the Tailor was off again, and with him the hundred horsemen, and he went into yonder woods, which were enchanted, and wherein lived the terrible unicorn that put so many strong men in a fit of trembles.

“Hark!” said the little Tailor. “I shall go into yonder wood and seek out the unicorn! Stay and wait for one who is always ready to slay, be it giant, unicorn, or ‘seven at a blow’!”

And so he went into the deep woods, and, before long, while hiding in a duck blind, he spied the terrible unicorn; and he did, indeed, agree that it put one in a “fit of trembles.”

He carefully approached the beast, not knowing, exactly, what he should do. It snorted, bent its head, stomped its hoof and–charged!

He looked about in panic, and spying a skinny tree directly behind him, leapt suddenly for cover behind it. It was a foolish move he knew (the tree could hardly be considered proper cover), but it turned out to be the right one.

The beast, too enraged and moving too swiftly to avoid a collision, thrust her single horn into the skinny elm, where it was promptly caught. The Tailor, his chest heaving, backed away from the tree. Realizing that, through sheer luck, he had just managed to ensnare the dreaded unicorn, he smiled and took out his dagger. Then, he promptly slayed the beast, finally taking its horn (how did he get it out?) along with him as proof.

At this the hundred horsemen were astonished. They rode back to their king glumly, and then grumbled to him about the seemingly superhuman little tailor, who had slain not only two fearsome giants, but a unicorn, and the aforementioned “seven at a blow,” as well.

The King was sorely vexed, but finally came up with an idea that he thought to be foolproof. He told the Tailor, “Before I consent to give thee my daughter’s precious hand, and half my kingdom, I should have of thee one final test . In yonder forest, past the craggy dark hills, there doth live the Wild Boar, the presence of which does indeed put my most stout-hearted knights into a fit of trembles. Slay the beast, bring me back proof that thou hast done this, and the way is clear for thee to one day become king of this mighty land.”

And the Tailor, hitching his thumbs into his belt, said, “It is simplicity itself. For, what is a wild boar to a man who can slay two giants and a unicorn? Seven at a blow is MY kind of affair, after all.”

And so he set out once again with the one hundred horsemen (who must have, by this point, seemed an entirely useless retinue), and went past the craggy hills into the deep forest.

He said, “Hark! I go to slay the Wild Boar. It is the work of a moment for me. After all, am I not the man who once slew ‘seven at a blow’?”

And with that, he ventured on alone. Soon, in a clearing, he saw the Wild Boar grazing. His legs shaking like jelly, he approached the animal cautiously, hiding in the brush with his saber drawn.

The Boar, however, must have caught wind of him, for it turned, its eyes blazing and its snout belching fire, its razorback mane sticking straight up, as it gave a wild snort and a monstrous howl, charging forward, sending up dust and dirt.

The Tailor thought he might, this time, actually be done for; so he turned, and screaming, headed back through the brush and up a hill, and down a hillock, and across dips and over crags and tussles. Finally, on a low hill, he found what appeared to him to be an abandoned chapel.

It was a dark, drab, crumblingand evil-looking little place, but at that moment the Tailor didn’t care, as he was being chased by the angry boar. He flew through the decrepit doorway and into the musty, dusty dark, slamming the door behind him.

Just as quickly as he had entered, so entered the Wild Boar, whose little piggy eyes scanned the darkness for its prey.

The Tailor, however, had had other ideas. Rather than stay there trapped, and be most assuredly killed, he dived out of a small window.

Then, racing around to the entrance, he shut up the old wooden doors tightly, securing them with a stout branch. The Wild Boar, unable (because of being a boar) to climb from the windows, raced around in the gloomy old chapel, snorting in terrific anger, trapped.

Thus, the Tailor was able to return to the horsemen and proclaim, “He has not hurt a single hair on my head! Yet, I have captured the Wild Boar! Go to yonder chapel, and see!”

And so they did. And, astonished, they shot arrows through the windows to kill the monster, then took the carcass back to the king for proof.

The King finally hung his head in defeat and proclaimed, “I have given thee my word, and so must keep it. Thou shalt have my daughter’s hand in marriage, and half my kingdom too.”

And so the King prepared a royal wedding the likes of which had never before been seen in that land. The Tailor walked down the aisle arm-in-arm with the princess, and was soon her husband.

The reader might be forgiven for thinking that this was, by and by, the end of the story. BUT THE READER WOULD BE WRONG.

One night, as the little Tailor was sleeping, he began to talk in his sleep.

Upon awakening, and listening to him speak of “getting the measurements right.” and “preparing the yard cloth,” and “Boy! bring me my scissors and tape!”, the Princess realized he was no heroic character after all, but a simple tailor.

In anger she went to her father, and said, “Thou hast married me off to a common tailor, Father, and shamed me forever! Oh, whatever shall I do?”

To which the King replied, “Fear not! I have a plan. When thou has retired for the evening, I will send to thy bedchamber an assassin, who will slay the little Tailor, and rid us of his presence!”

And so, that night, when the little Tailor was asleep, his wife crept from bed and crept to the door, opening it when she heard the approach of the assassin.

The footpad crept inside with his sword drawn, ready to kill, when, suddenly, the little Tailor began to talk in his sleep again:

“Boy! Take the Lord Mayor’s coat to him, or I’ll box your ears! Have I not slain seven at a blow? What do I care for some assassin lurking near my bed? Have I not likewise slain two giants, a unicorn, and a wild boar?”

At hearing this, the assassin became so frightened he turned and ran for his life, never to be seen in the kingdom again. Upon the death of the King, the little Tailor ascended the throne; and it was known, far and wide, that he was the one and only killer of SEVEN AT A BLOW.

And they all lived happily ever after.

(Source: Brothers Grimm)

California (Is Weeping Tonight)

The Harelip was lying on his bunk, dozing in and out when I came into the room. The lights were off, with only the moon illuminating his physical ugliness from a shaft of light penetrating the grimy window. I was carrying my notebook. He suddenly leaned forward on his pillow as I pattered in. “California is weeping tonight,” he mumbled, incoherently, before the words were drowned out by additional snores. California is weeping tonight, I said to myself. CALIFORNIA…is weeping tonight. What, was there a wild fire? His hypnogogic babbling took on wide, eerie, cryptic significance. I sat down, and in the darkness I wrote: “California is weeping tonight,” in my notebook. And then I wrote: “AND SO AM I.”