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The Giant and the Tailor
Grimm Märchen

The Giant and the Tailor - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 6 min

A certain tailor who was great at boasting but ill at doing, took it into his head to go abroad for a while, and look about the world. As soon as he could manage it, he left his workshop, and wandered on his way, over hill and dale, sometimes hither, sometimes thither, but ever on and on. Once when he was out he perceived in the blue distance a steep hill, and behind it a tower reaching to the clouds, which rose up out of a wild dark forest. „Thunder and lightning,“ cried the tailor, „what is that?“ and as he was strongly goaded by curiosity, he went boldly towards it. But what made the tailor open his eyes and mouth when he came near it, was to see that the tower had legs, and leapt in one bound over the steep hill, and was now standing as an all powerful giant before him. „What dost thou want here, thou tiny fly’s leg?“ cried the giant, with a voice as if it were thundering on every side. The tailor whimpered, „I want just to look about and see if I can earn a bit of bread for myself, in this forest.“ If that is what thou art after,“ said the giant, „thou mayst have a place with me.“ – „If it must be, why not? What wages shall I receive?“ – „Thou shalt hear what wages thou shalt have. Every year three hundred and sixty-five days, and when it is leap-year, one more into the bargain. Does that suit thee?“ – „All right,“ replied the tailor, and thought, in his own mind, „a man must cut his coat according to his cloth. I will try to get away as fast as I can.“ On this the giant said to him, „Go, little ragamuffin, and fetch me a jug of water.“ – „Had I not better bring the well itself at once, and the spring too?“ asked the boaster, and went with the pitcher to the water. „What! the well and the spring too,“ growled the giant in his beard, for he was rather clownish and stupid, and began to be afraid. „That knave is not a fool, he has a wizard in his body. Be on thy guard, old Hans, this is no serving-man for thee.“ When the tailor had brought the water, the giant bade him go into the forest, and cut a couple of blocks of wood and bring them back. „Why not the whole forest, at once, with one stroke. The whole forest, young and old, with all that is there, both rough and smooth?“ asked the little tailor, and went to cut the wood. „What! the whole forest, young and old, with all that is there, both rough and smooth, and the well and its spring too,“ growled the credulous giant in his beard, and was still more terrified. „The knave can do much more than bake apples, and has a wizard in his body. Be on thy guard, old Hans, this is no serving-man for thee!“ When the tailor had brought the wood, the giant commanded him to shoot two or three wild boars for supper. „Why not rather a thousand at one shot, and bring them all here?“ inquired the ostentatious tailor. „What!“ cried the timid giant in great terror; „Let well alone to-night, and lie down to rest.“

The giant was so terribly alarmed that he could not close an eye all night long for thinking what would be the best way to get rid of this accursed sorcerer of a servant. Time brings counsel. Next morning the giant and the tailor went to a marsh, round which stood a number of willow-trees. Then said the giant, „Hark thee, tailor, seat thyself on one of the willow-branches, I long of all things to see if thou art big enough to bend it down.“ All at once the tailor was sitting on it, holding his breath, and making himself so heavy that the bough bent down. When, however, he was compelled to draw breath, it hurried him (for unfortunately he had not put his vgoose in his pocket) so high into the air that he never was seen again, and this to the great delight of the giant. If the tailor has not fallen down again, he must be hovering about in the air.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The giant and the tailor“

„The Giant and the Tailor“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm’s collection, „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales). Like other Grimm fairy tales, „The Giant and the Tailor“ is rooted in German folklore and oral tradition.

The Brothers Grimm collected stories like „The Giant and the Tailor“ from various sources, including oral traditions, written texts, and personal accounts from friends and acquaintances. Their primary goal was to preserve these stories as part of German cultural heritage and folklore.

„The Giant and the Tailor“ tells the story of a clever and cunning tailor who outwits a giant through his resourcefulness and quick thinking. The tale is filled with humor and trickery, as the tailor uses his intelligence to overcome the challenges posed by the giant.

This story shares some similarities with other trickster tales in the Brothers Grimm’s collection, such as „The Valiant Little Tailor“ and „The Brave Little Tailor.“ It explores themes of cleverness, resourcefulness, and the idea that intelligence and wit can triumph over brute strength.

As a lesser-known story among the Brothers Grimm’s collection, „The Giant and the Tailor“ may not have been as widely circulated or adapted as some of their more famous tales. However, its themes and motifs still resonate with readers, demonstrating the timeless appeal and relevance of the fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The giant and the tailor“

„The Giant and the Tailor“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, but it offers several themes and motifs that provide multiple interpretations. Here are some possible interpretations of the story:

Intelligence over brute strength: A central theme in „The Giant and the Tailor“ is the triumph of intelligence and wit over physical power. The tailor, being a small and seemingly weak character, uses his resourcefulness and quick thinking to outsmart the giant. This theme suggests that it is not always physical strength that prevails, but rather, cleverness and adaptability.

The trickster archetype: The tailor in the story is an example of the trickster archetype, a common character in folklore and mythology who uses cunning and deception to achieve their goals. The trickster often challenges the status quo and subverts the expectations of others, as the tailor does in outwitting the giant.

Resourcefulness and adaptability: The story celebrates the tailor’s resourcefulness and adaptability, as he finds creative solutions to the challenges posed by the giant. This theme emphasizes the importance of thinking outside the box and being able to adapt to different situations.

The underdog: The tale can be seen as an underdog story, with the tailor, a seemingly insignificant character, overcoming the much more powerful giant. This theme resonates with readers, as it demonstrates that even the most unlikely individuals can achieve great things when they use their strengths and talents.

Humor: „The Giant and the Tailor“ is a humorous tale that uses wit and trickery to entertain readers. The story’s humor lies in the tailor’s clever and unexpected ways of outsmarting the giant, making it an enjoyable and light-hearted read.

In summary, „The Giant and the Tailor“ is a thought-provoking tale that explores themes such as intelligence over brute strength, the trickster archetype, resourcefulness and adaptability, the underdog, and humor. These themes contribute to the timeless appeal and relevance of the story, making it a valuable addition to the Brothers Grimm’s collection of fairy tales.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The giant and the tailor“

While „The Giant and the Tailor“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, there have been some adaptations and works that draw inspiration from the story or incorporate its themes:

Children’s books: „The Giant and the Tailor“ has been included in various children’s books featuring retellings or adaptations of fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm. These versions often use simplified language and illustrations to make the story more accessible to young readers. Some adaptations might also emphasize the moral lessons or themes of the story, such as the triumph of intelligence over brute strength.

Fairy tale anthologies: As part of the Brothers Grimm’s collection, „The Giant and the Tailor“ has appeared in numerous fairy tale anthologies and compilations, alongside other stories by the Brothers Grimm and other authors. These collections often contain retellings or adaptations of the original stories, sometimes with updated language or additional commentary to provide context and analysis.

Theater and storytelling events: Local and amateur theatre groups or storytelling events occasionally include adaptations of „The Giant and the Tailor“ as part of a larger program of fairy tales or Brothers Grimm stories. These performances may use various storytelling techniques to bring the story to life, emphasizing its themes and moral lessons.

Thematic influence: While not a direct adaptation, the themes and motifs found in „The Giant and the Tailor“ may have influenced other works, such as novels, films, or television shows that feature stories centered around trickster characters or the triumph of intelligence over brute strength.

Overall, while „The Giant and the Tailor“ has not been adapted as widely as some other Brothers Grimm fairy tales, it remains an engaging story with valuable lessons and themes. The tale’s emphasis on the importance of intelligence, resourcefulness, and adaptability continues to resonate with readers and inspire various adaptations and works.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The giant and the tailor“

„The Giant and the Tailor“ is a classic fairy tale that has inspired numerous adaptations in various forms of media. Some of the most notable adaptations of the tale include:

„The Valiant Little Tailor“ (1938) – This animated short film by Walt Disney Productions follows the story of the tailor who outwits seven flies and gains the reputation of a giant killer.

„The Adventures of Pinocchio“ (1883) – This novel by Carlo Collodi features a chapter in which Pinocchio meets a giant who has been tricked by a small tailor.

„The BFG“ (1982) – This novel by Roald Dahl features a friendly giant who befriends a young girl and helps her fight against evil giants.

„Gulliver’s Travels“ (1726) – This novel by Jonathan Swift features a scene in which Gulliver is captured by a giant and uses his intelligence to escape.

„The Giant Killer“ (1818) – This play by George Peele is a reworking of the story, featuring a hero who slays a giant and wins the heart of a princess.

„The Brave Little Tailor“ (1938) – This animated short film by Disney features a similar story to „The Giant and the Tailor,“ with the tailor tricking two giants and becoming a hero.

„The Giant of Marathon“ (1959) – This film is a loose adaptation of the tale, featuring a Greek soldier who must defeat a Persian giant to save his people.

Overall, „The Giant and the Tailor“ has been adapted into various forms of media, each offering their own interpretation of the classic tale.

Summary of the plot

„The Giant and the Tailor“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a clever tailor who outwits a giant using his intelligence and resourcefulness. Here is a summary of the plot:

The story begins with a tailor who decides to leave his trade and seek adventure in the world. As he wanders, he encounters a giant who challenges him to prove his strength. The tailor, being small and physically weak, instead uses his wits to trick the giant.

The giant asks the tailor to help him carry a tree, and the cunning tailor offers to carry the branches, which he claims are the heavier part of the tree. The giant, not realizing the trick, agrees and carries the trunk, while the tailor sits on the branches, making the giant do all the work.

Next, the giant challenges the tailor to a stone-throwing contest. The tailor secretly fills a small bird’s bladder with sand and sews it up, pretending it’s a stone. The giant throws a real stone far away, but it lands back on the ground. When the tailor throws his „stone“ (the bladder filled with sand), it sinks into a pond, making it appear as if it went farther than the giant’s stone.

Finally, the giant challenges the tailor to bring him two bottles of water from a nearby spring. The tailor agrees but asks the giant to carry him on his shoulders, as he’s tired from their previous challenges. The giant agrees, and as they walk, the tailor secretly empties one bottle of water into the giant’s shoe. The giant, thinking the tailor has extraordinary strength, is awed and afraid of him.

After the final challenge, the giant acknowledges the tailor’s superior strength and cunning and allows him to go on his way. The tailor continues his adventures, having successfully outwitted the giant through his intelligence and resourcefulness.

The story highlights themes of cleverness and resourcefulness, as well as the idea that intelligence and wit can triumph over brute strength.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The giant and the tailor“

„The Giant and the Tailor“ is a lesser-known German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859) Grimm. The brothers were German academics, philologists, cultural researchers, and authors who are best known for their collection of folktales, which aimed to preserve the rich oral storytelling tradition of Germany and other European countries. Their work, known as „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ or „Children’s and Household Tales“ (Kinder- und Hausmärchen), was first published in 1812 and has since become a classic in Western literature.

The Brothers Grimm collected these tales from various sources, such as friends, acquaintances, and printed collections of folktales. Many of their stories, including „The Giant and the Tailor,“ have been passed down through generations and were influenced by the socio-cultural context of the time, reflecting the values and norms of the society in which they were created. Fairy tales like these were often shared orally and evolved over time, allowing for variations in different retellings.

„The Giant and the Tailor“ is a story about a boastful tailor who, through his cunning and wit, manages to outsmart a giant. The story showcases themes such as boasting, deception, intelligence, gullibility, and fear. Like many other fairy tales, it conveys moral lessons and highlights the importance of honesty, critical thinking, and the power of wit and resourcefulness in overcoming obstacles.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The giant and the tailor“

„The Giant and the Tailor“ can be interpreted in several ways, focusing on different aspects such as the themes of boasting, trickery, and fear.

Boasting and deception: The tailor’s consistent exaggerations of his abilities highlight the perils of boasting and dishonesty. Though his false claims initially help him gain an advantage, they eventually lead to his precarious situation when he is launched into the sky. This serves as a cautionary tale, suggesting that dishonesty and overconfidence may lead to one’s own downfall.

Overcoming fear through wit: Despite being significantly smaller and weaker than the giant, the tailor uses his cleverness to manipulate the situation to his advantage. By playing on the giant’s gullibility and fears, the tailor is able to avoid doing difficult tasks and maintain a sense of control. This interpretation emphasizes the power of wit and intelligence to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.

The danger of gullibility: The giant is easily swayed by the tailor’s claims, becoming increasingly frightened of the supposed sorcerer. The giant’s gullibility highlights the importance of critical thinking and skepticism when dealing with others, particularly those who make outlandish claims. In this sense, the story can be viewed as a warning to not blindly believe everything one hears.

Fear and misunderstanding: The giant’s growing fear of the tailor demonstrates how a lack of understanding or knowledge about someone can lead to misplaced anxiety and paranoia. The giant never truly attempts to understand or communicate with the tailor, which exacerbates the situation. This aspect of the story serves as a reminder to seek understanding and engage in open communication to avoid unnecessary fear and conflict.

Summary of the plot

„The Giant and the Tailor“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a boastful tailor who sets off on a journey to explore the world. One day, he discovers a tower with legs that jumps over a hill and transforms into a giant. The giant questions the tailor’s presence and, upon learning that the tailor seeks work, offers him a job with 365 days of wages per year.

Although intimidated, the tailor accepts the job and is given various tasks by the giant, including fetching water, cutting wood, and hunting wild boars. The tailor exaggerates his abilities to complete these tasks, leading the gullible giant to believe that he has a wizard inside him. This causes the giant to grow increasingly terrified of the tailor, whom he perceives as a dangerous sorcerer.

Unable to sleep due to fear, the giant devises a plan to get rid of the tailor. He takes him to a marsh surrounded by willow trees and asks the tailor to sit on a branch to see if he can bend it. The tailor holds his breath and manages to bend the branch, but when he has to breathe again, he is catapulted into the sky, disappearing from the giant’s sight. The giant is relieved to be rid of the supposed sorcerer, while the tailor’s fate remains unknown, as he is said to be hovering in the air if he has not yet fallen back to the ground.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 183
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 1049
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson24.8
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index85.9
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level5.4
Gunning Fog Index7.6
Coleman–Liau Index7.1
SMOG Index6.9
Automated Readability Index5.3
Character Count3.766
Letter Count2.856
Sentence Count44
Word Count733
Average Words per Sentence16,66
Words with more than 6 letters60
Percentage of long words8.2%
Number of Syllables901
Average Syllables per Word1,23
Words with three Syllables18
Percentage Words with three Syllables2.5%
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