Sunday, May 11, 2014

Europa: A Dozen at a Blow

This story is part of the Europa unitStory source: Europa's Fairy Book by Joseph Jacobs and illustrated by John Batten (1916).


A Dozen at a Blow

A little tailor was sitting cross-legged at his bench and was stitching away as busy as could be when a woman came up the street calling out: "Home-made jam, home-made jam!"

So the tailor called out to her: "Come here, my good woman, and give me a quarter of a pound."

And when she had poured it out for him, he spread it on some bread and butter and laid it aside for his lunch. But, it being summertime, the flies commenced to collect around the bread and jam.

When the tailor noticed this, he raised his leather strap and brought it down upon the crowd of flies and killed twelve of them straightway. He was mighty proud of that. So he made himself a shoulder-sash, on which he stitched the letters: A Dozen at One Blow.

When he looked down upon this he thought to himself: "A man who could do such things ought not to stay at home; he ought to go out to conquer the world."

So he put into his wallet the cream cheese that he had bought that day and a favourite blackbird that used to hop about his shop, and went out to seek his fortune.

He hadn't gone far when he met a giant, and went up to him and said: "Well, comrade, how goes it with you?"

"Comrade," sneered the giant, "a pretty comrade you would make for me."

"Look at this," said the tailor pointing to his sash.

And when the giant read, "A Dozen at a Blow," he thought to himself: "This little fellow is no fool of a fighter if what he says is true. But let's test him."

So the giant said to the tailor: "If what you've got there is true, we may well be comrades. But let's see if you can do what I can do."

And he bent down in the road and took up a large stone and pressed it with his hand till it all crushed up and water commenced to pour out from it.

"Can you do that?" said the giant.

The tailor also bent down in the road, but took out from his wallet the piece of cheese and pretended to pick it up. When he took it in his hand, he pressed and pressed till the cream poured forth from it.

The giant said: "Well, you can do that fairly well. Let's see if you can throw."

He took another stone and threw it till it went right across the river by which they were standing.

So the little tailor took his blackbird in his hand and pretended to throw it, and of course when it felt itself in the air it flew away and disappeared.

The giant said: "That wasn't a bad throw. You may as well come home and stop with us giants, and we'll do great things together."

As they went along the giant said: "We want some twigs for our night fires. You may as well help me carry some home." And he pointed to a tree that had fallen by the wayside and said: "Help me carry that, will you?"

So the tailor said, "Why certainly," and went to the top of the tree, and said: "I'll carry these branches which are the heavier; you carry the trunk which has no branches."

And when the giant got the trunk on his shoulders the tailor seated himself on one of the branches and let the giant carry him along.

After a time the giant got tired and said: "Ho there, wait a minute, I'm going to drop the tree and rest awhile."

So the tailor jumped down and caught the tree around the branches again and said: "Well, you are easily tired."

At last they got to the giant's castle, and there the giant spoke to his brothers and told them what a brave and powerful fellow this little tailor was. They spoke together and determined to get rid of him lest he might do them some harm. But they determined to kill him in the night because he was so strong and might kill twelve of them at a blow.

But the tailor saw them whispering together and, guessing that something was wrong, went out into the yard and got a big bladder which he filled with blood and put it in the bed which the giants pointed out to him.

Then he crept under it, and during the night they brought their big clubs and hit the bed over and over again till the blood spurted out onto their faces.

Then they thought the tailor was dead and went back to sleep.

But in the morning there was the tailor as large as life. And they were so surprised to see him that they asked him if he had not felt anything during the night.

"Oh, I don't know, there seemed to be plenty of fleas in that bed," said the tailor. "I do not think I would care to sleep there again." And with that, he took his leave of the giants and went on his way.

After a time he came to the King's court and fell asleep under a tree. And some of the courtiers passing by saw written upon his sash, "A Dozen at One Blow."

They went and told the King who said: "Why, he's just the man for us; he will be able to destroy the wild boar and the unicorn that are ravaging our kingdom. Bring him to us."

So they woke up the little tailor and brought him to the King, who said to him: "There is a wild boar ravaging our kingdom. You are so powerful that you will easily be able to capture it."

"What shall I get if I do?" asked the little tailor.

"Well, I have promised to give my daughter's hand and half the kingdom to the man who can do it, and other things."

"What other things?" said the little tailor.

"Oh, it will be time to learn that when you have caught the boar."



(1000 words)









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