Tom Thumb




With Illustrations from Original Drawings




Copyright, 1923 By Howard E. Altemus

A Note for Parents

This story, early attached to the Arthurian legend, is of Scandinavian origin: the Swedish tomt, having its final t silent, means “thumb.” The tale’s first printed appearance is in Richard Johnson’s “History of Tom Thumbe, the Little,” 1621; it turns up as a ballad in 1630. That same year Charles Per-rault, immortalizer of “Puss-in-Boots,” published his French version, Le Petit Poucel. Tom appears in the “Nymphidia” of Drayton (1563-1631), and is often erroneously confused with this author’s “Tomalin.” Fielding wrote a play about Tom (1730) and Kane O’Hara an opera (1778). The present version is a selection from these sources. Barnum’s “Tom Thumb” was Charles S. Stratton, of Bridgeport, Conn., 1832-79.

Printed in the United States of America

Tom Thumb

T ONG years ago, when fairies lived,

And giants wandered wild,

A farmer and his wife were sad Because they had no child.

our small fortune,” sighed the ^ wife,

‘Td gladly give the sum To have a baby, even if No bigger than my thumb!”

IX/TERLIN, a passing wizard, tall ~L*J- And grim, heard what she said;

His eyes were bright, his beard was white,

His cloak was long and red.

“May I come in and warm myself?’" He asked. “My cloak is thin, And, oh, the winter wind is cold!” The farmer said: “Come in.”

A LAS, the farmer’s wife said: “No!

This house was built for two; We can’t have strangers hanging ’round:

There isn’t room for you.”

“No room?” The wizard raised his wand

And almost struck her dumb: “Then you shall have a baby-boy No bigger than your thumb!”

A ND so it was. The boy was born And cradled in a cup,

For, though he grew in wit and strength,

He never did grow up.

HPHE years were long, but not the 1 boy;

He was so small a chap,

They made his coat of apple-skins; A roseleaf was his cap.


HTHEY wove his shirts of spiders webs;

They named the mite Tom Thumb;

But I regret to say that he Was sly and meddlesome.

On picnics with the other boys,

No lunch along he’d take:

He’d hide inside their baskets—and He’d nibble at their cake.



I    /~\NE day he tired his mother so,

I    ^ She napped upon her chair;

I    Tom climbed the kitchen table-leg:

She didn’t see him there.


GIIE’D just been mixing dough for ^ bread;

Tom thought he’d like to know What loaves are like inside: he dug His way into the dough.

She woke—began to knead the bread: Tom couldn’t get his breath;

He kicked; the dough jumped up and down

And scared her ’most to death.



“npHIS dough’s bewitched!” the woman cried;

She picked it up before Young Tom could tell her where he was—

And threw it out the door.


A PASSING beggar snatched it np; Tom shouted:    “Stop, there!


The beggar dropped it, shouting too: “There’s magic in that dough!”


Q 0, damp and sticky, Tom trudged ^ home;

His mother wept in vain:

He promised to be good, but soon Was mischievous again.


CHE went to milk the cow; but ° Tom Ran after her, alas!

She tied him with a piece of thread Tight to a blade of grass.

Tom broke the thread and danced and sang:

“Ho, ho, I am a rover!”

He played he was a giant, and He shook a stalk of clover.


T^HE clover broke; Tom fell and grabbed A yellow buttercup;

The cow bit off the flower and took Both boy and flower up.

HPHE pasture lay upon a hill Beside a sunlit sea:

Outside ’twas bright; but in the cow ’Twas dark as dark can be.

So there was Tom in that big mouth!

Whatever could he doP He sat upon a tooth—and then The cow began to chew!


npOM jumped: it made the big cow sneeze;

She hadn’t any notion There was a boy inside her mouth— She sneezed him in the ocean!

HP H E waves seemed high as moun-tains, but Tom tried his best to swim,

When suddenly a mighty fish With one gulp swallowed him.


TYING ARTHUR’S fisher caught the fish And took it to the King:

“Good day, your Majesty,” said Tom;

“I’ve come a-visiting.”

King Arthur was surprised to see A boy so small and bright:

“You’ll live with me!” he vowed, and so

He made Tom Thumb a Knight.


“CTAY just as long as you are ^ good,”

The King laughed. “Never fear: We’ll see you want for nothing—but We want no mischief here.

“Two things especially beware—

My good Queen loves her cat;

No trouble, now, with Princess Puss: Sir Tom, remember that!


“HPHE other thing: my Wizard-1 Chief

And I have had a fuss—

Merlin: I packed him off. because I found him mischievous;

“And he has sent a spider-squad Up here; their very breath Is poisonous to tiny things:

They’d scare you, Tom, to death.

“So, when you pass the royal cat, Don’t mock her or deride her; Another thing: call loud for help Each time you meet a spider.”


HPHEN everybody bowed to Tom And always said, “My lord”; He had a mouse to ride upon,

A needle for his sword.


rPHEY built a golden throne for A him,

An inch or two in height;

They stood it by King Arthur’s plate; Tom dined there every night.

f'PHEY gave Tom’s parents, at the court,

A house both clean and neat,

With all the richest clothes to wear And richest food to eat.

And both his parents said to Tom:

4‘The King’s so good to us:

Do mind your p’s and q’s, dear boy, And don’t be mischievous!”


OUT Tom, when Princess Puss came by And none was there to see,

Would strew her way with carpet-tacks

And hurt her dreadfully.


TLTE hid behind the dish of cream Intended for the cat,

And, when a spider came along,

He tripped it into that.

The spider swam around and cried:

. “Say, what are you about?

If I get out—” Puss lapped the , cream

And coughed the spider out!


T^OM ran; the spider panted close Behind; it blew its breath:

Sir Thomas Thumb went stiff and numb

And laid there, still as death.



ING ARTHUR called his wizard

The red-cloaked Merlin tall, Whose eyes were bright, whose beard was white,

Who’d made poor Tom so small;

Then Merlin said: ‘Til charm the


To life, 0 King, provided You’ll make me Wizard-Chief again”—

And so it was decided.


BUT,” cried the King, “I cannot let

This tricky youngster roam Around my palace: Tom, get out— You’ll have to go back home!”


THOM’S parents took him tc farm;


He learned his lesson thus, And never, never once again Was sly or mischievous.


Q 0, when your folks complain that you

Are growing troublesome,

And say you're full of mischief, stop:—

Just think about Tom Thumb!




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