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 sent 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 though, 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, and then 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.”
But his royal guard 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 rigjt 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.) he tol 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 giant’s blood.”
And with that he was off, trudging through the forest and keeping his eyes and ears open, in case he 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, 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 so 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 thou and capture this strange beast, and thy shall 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 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 tooo 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 daughters precious hand, and half my kingdom, I should have of thee one final test of thy mettle. In yonder forest, past the craggy dark hills, there dost live the Wild Boar, the presenc eof which doth 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),a nd 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, and it gave a wild snort and a monstrous howl before it charged forward, sending up dust and dirt.
The Tailor thought he might, this time, actually be done for, so, he turned, and screaming, headed back throgh the brush and up a hill, and down a hillock, and across dips and over crags and tussles, until, on a low hill, he found what appeared to him to be an abandoned chapel.
It was a dark, drab, crumbling, 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 mist 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 y 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 withe princes, and was soon her husband.
The reader migth 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 as 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!”, realized he was no heroic character, after all, but a simple tailor.
In anger she went to her father, and said, “Thou has 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)