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Literature: Hop-o'-My-Thumb
Don't worry, seven children die in this story, but they are not the protagonists!

"Hop-o'-My-Thumb" is a traditional fairy tale, first written down by Charles Perrault in 1697.

The set-up is similar to that of Hansel and Gretel. A poor woodchooper and his wife decide to abandon their children in the forest because they are no longer able to provide food for them. They have seven sons, one of them, the youngest, not bigger than a thumb and therefore called "Hop-o'-My-Thumb". Despite being tiny the boy is very smart and he hears about his parents' plans. In the middle of the night he goes outside and collects pebbles which he puts inside his pocket. When the parents take their children into the woods Hop-o'-My-Thumb throws a trail of pebbles, which causes them to find their way back. This scenario is repeated again the second time the parents try to leave their children behind in the forest. But the third time the door is locked and Hop-o'-My Thumb is unable to collect pebbles. Instead he uses a Trail of Bread Crumbs, but later it turns out that the birds have eaten everything.

The rest of the story is different: Hop-o'-My-Thumb and his brothers see a light in the distance. They walk towards it and discover a house. They knock and a woman opens the door, but warns the children that her husband is a man-eating giant. Hop-o'-My-Thumb explains their situation and the woman takes pity on them and lets the children in. Later the giant arrives home, discovers the children and plans to eat them. His wife convinces him to wait until next morning to which the giant agrees. The children are brought to a bed room where the seven daughters of the giant also spent the night. That night Hop-o'-My-Thumb fears that the giant might come out to get them and he switches his brothers' hats with the little crowns on the giants' daughters heads. And indeed, the giant gets hungry and leaves his bed to kill the children. In the dark he has to find them on the touch. When he feels the crowns on Hop-o'-My-Thumb and his brothers' heads he mistakes them for his daughters and leaves them alone. Then he goes to his daughters, feels their hats and slits their throats in their sleep. After that he unknowingly goes back to bed, planning to eat them in the morning.

Hop-o'-My-Thumb then wakes up his brothers and they flee back into the forest. The next morning the giant discovers he's been tricked and starts chasing them, using his special "seven mile boots", which allow the person wearing them to cross great distances in a small amount of time. Unable to find them he decides to take a nap, right next to a tree where Hop-o'-My-Thumb and his brothers are hiding. During the giant's rest Hop-o'-My-Thumb tells the others to run back home, while he steals the giant's boots. Hop-o'-My-Thumb puts the boots on and runs back to the giant's house. There he tells his wife that her husband was kidnapped by robbers and that she should give Hop-o'-My-Thumb all of the giants' treasure which Hop takes along with him. In some accounts of the story Hop-o'-My-Thumb then brings the treasure to the king and serves as his messenger for a while. Other accounts have Hop-o'-My-Thumb directly bringing the treasure to his family and all ends happily ever after.

The story is very well known on the European continent, but not in the English speaking world. There are many variants, including the Gender Flip Molly Whuppie.


"Hop-o'-My-Thumb" contains the following tropes:

  • Artistic License - Biology:
    • You have a boy not bigger than a thumb.
    • There is a giant with giant children, yet his wife is sometimes depicted as being a human of normal size.
    • Hop-o'-My-Thumb, not taller than a thumb, still manages to wear the giant's boots??? Though in some stories they claim the boots are able to take the size of the person wearing them.
    • And how does this little boy carry off all of the giant's treasure by himself?
  • Changeling Tale: Hop-o'-My-Thumb switches his brothers' headwear with those of the giants' daughters.
  • David Versus Goliath: The tiny Hop-o'-My-Thumb against the giant.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: The giants' wife helps Hop-o'-My-Thumb and his brothers and even begs her husband to keep them alive. How does Hop-o'-My-Thumb reward her for this? He lets the giant slaughter their own daughters and runs off with his brothers without thanking her for sheltering them for the night. Later Hop-o'-My-Thumb returns to the giant's wife and lies that her husband has been captured by robbers. He then asks her to give him all of the giant's treasure, which he steals away from them. And then the boy leaves her, not caring what will happen to her once the giant returns home and realizes what was happened...!
  • Eats Babies: The giant
  • Evil Is Bigger: A giant versus a boy whose already smaller than an average child.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: The giants' daughters.
  • Giant Food
  • Happily Ever After: Except for the giant's wife, who didn't do anything wrong but still lost both her daughters as her husbands' treasure.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The giant enjoys eating people.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • The giant lost his children, his wealth and his boots, but it's never implied what happens to him afterwards. He may be humiliated, but wasn't put into prison or killed.
    • The giant's wife, who was very friendly to the children, loses both her children and her husbands' wealth. One might imagine that the giant would not be very happy when he returns home to her...
    • The children's parents. They left their kids behind to starve in the woods on three occasions, but when Hop-o'-My-Thumb returns home with his wealth all seems to be forgotten and forgiven...
    • Hop-O-My-Thumb himself, due to Values Dissonance. Takes a woman's kindness for granted, condemns seven sleeping girls to death, steals, lies, steals some more, leaves the poor old lady to explain things when her murderous giant husband gets home. What a hero.
  • The Lost Woods
  • Meaningful Name: Hop-o'-My Thumb thanks his name due to his height, being not bigger than a thumb.
  • No Name Given: We only know Hop-o'-My-Thumb's name, not any of the other characters.
    • Perrault gives two names: Guillaume (the father) and Pierrot (the eldest son).
  • Offing the Offspring
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Parental Abandonment: The kids are left to starve in the Woods.
  • Parental Favoritism: Pierrot is his mother's favorite because he's a ginger like her.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: see Karma Houdini.
  • Rule of Seven: Seven brothers and the seven daughters of the giant.
  • Rule of Three: The third time Hop-o'-My-Thumb tries to collect pebbles the plan fails.
  • Slashed Throat: The giant unknowlingly slits his daughters' throats.
  • Sprint Shoes: The "seven mile" boots give the person who wears them Super Speed.
  • To Serve Man: The giant is a man eater.
  • Trail of Bread Crumbs: Hop-o'-My-Thumb uses this to find his way home.
  • The Trickster: Hop-o'-My-Thumb
  • The Un Favourite: Hop-o'-My-Thumb by his parents and brothers.
  • Wealthy Ever After: Hop-o'-My-Thumb and his brothers steal the giant's treasure.
  • Youngest Child Wins


CinderellaFrench LiteratureLittle Red Riding Hood
DonkeyskinClassic LiteratureLittle Red Riding Hood
Hansel and GretelFairy TaleIron Hans

alternative title(s): Hop O My Thumb
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