The Young Giant
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 with 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,
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 it away.
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 one blow.
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 onwards.
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 wood.
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
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.