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Literature / The Brave Little Tailor

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The Brave Little Tailor (or The Valiant Little Tailor) is a German fairy tale collected by The Brothers Grimm, listed as tale number 20.

A tailor is preparing to eat some jam, but when flies land on it, he kills seven of them with one blow. He later makes a belt describing the deed: "Seven with one blow", then sets out into the world to seek his fortune. The tailor encounters a giant in his travels that assumes the phrase on the belt refers to the slaying of seven men. The giant issues a challenge to the tailor, and the tailor handily defeats the giant in the challenges by use of simple wit. The giant then takes him to other giants and makes plans to kill the tailor in his sleep. The plan fails, however, as the tailor decides to sleep in the corner, having found the guest bed too large. Upon finding the tailor alive, all of the giants decide to flee in fear.

The tailor later joins the royal service, but is feared by the royal guards. The guards appeal to the king to remove the tailor from service. The king responds by sending him on a chain of difficult quests. After completing the quests, the tailor returns, receiving half the kingdom and the king's daughter in marriage. His wife later hears him mutter in his sleep that he is a simple tailor. A squire later warns him and he decides to speak of legendary deeds while sleeping as well to remedy things.

The critically acclaimed Walt Disney cartoon, "Brave Little Tailor" starring Mickey Mouse, was later based on this tale.

Not to be confused with The Brave Little Toaster.

Tropes associated with this tale:

  • Adaptational Species Change: As is common in folk tales, the species of certain animals can vary depending on the version in each country and culture as the story is spread. For instance, in one of the Brazilian versions of the tale known as Mata-Sete ("Seven-Killer"), the unicorn that the tailor is tasked with capturing in the Brothers Grimm's version is a bull instead, and the beast he traps in his final trial is a jaguar rather than a boar.
  • Deadly Dodging: One of the king's quests involved capturing a unicorn. The tailor captures the unicorn by dodging it when it charges, letting it get stuck in a tree.
  • Enemy Civil War: The tailor pulled this on the giants in the first quest given by the king by throwing pebbles at one of them while they were sleeping next to a tree. This caused the giant to accuse the other of the act, allowing the tailor to complete the quest.
  • Full-Boar Action: The last trial consist in hunting a fierce, large boar.
  • Guile Hero: The tailor solves several difficult challenges through his wit and cunning.
  • Mistaken for Badass: The tailor takes great pride in killing seven flies at once and even wears a belt with the phrase "Seven at one blow" to commemorate his achievement. However, both a giant and a king mistakenly interpret the belt as a reference to seven men, mistaking him for a strong and fierce warrior instead of a humble tailor. Although unintentional, the tailor later uses this to his own gain.
  • One-Hit Polykill: Seven at one blow!
  • Poor Communication Kills: If the tailor had mentioned it was seven flies in one blow from the very first second he boasted about it, we would have no story.
  • Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: Exploited by the tailor in the final part of the story, when the king sends men to slay him in his sleep. The tailor (while pretending to be talking in his sleep) mentions all of the mighty beasts he's slain (or being more specific swindled to kill themselves) and that mere men are no match for him. The assassins decide to not risk their luck.
  • Rhino Rampage: The unicorn is basically a rhino with the horn on his forehead.
  • Standard Hero Reward: The king offers the tailor half of his kingdom and his daughter's hand in marriage as a reward for completing all of the dangerous quests. In this way, the king also hopes to get rid of the tailor.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: The princess hears her husband muttering in his sleep and realizes he's just a tailor. Later, the tailor pretends to talk in his sleep, rambling about how he's done all manner of impressive things and doesn't need to fear the people waiting outside his door. This scares them off, and he lives happily ever after.
  • Tree Buchet: A giant the tailor encounters bends a tree nearly to the ground and puts the fruit in the tailor's hands so he can eat. When the giant lets go the tailor is sent flying and the giant belittles him for his lack of strength, to which he retorts that he jumped over the tree to avoid being shot by a couple of hunters.
  • Unicorn: The tailor is sent after one as part of the Impossible Tasks by the King, but is defeated by tricking it into getting its horn stuck. It's notable because 1) it's of the aggressive kind seen in the earlier european myths, and 2) it's one of the few fairy tales that actually has unicorns in it.
  • With This Herring: The king's quests were this; the tailor was sent to face giants, hostile unicorns and other hazards armed with only his wit.

Alternative Title(s): The Valiant Little Tailor