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The Tailor in Heaven
Grimm Märchen

The Tailor in Heaven - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 7 min

One very fine day it came to pass that the good God wished to enjoy himself in the heavenly garden, and took all the apostles and saints with him, so that no one stayed in heaven but Saint Peter. The Lord had commanded him to let no one in during his absence, so Peter stood by the door and kept watch. Before long some one knocked. Peter asked who was there, and what he wanted? „I am a poor, honest tailor who prays for admission,“ replied a smooth voice.

„Honest indeed,“ said Peter, „like the thief on the gallows! Thou hast been light-fingered and hast snipped folks‘ clothes away. Thou wilt not get into heaven. The Lord hath forbidden me to let any one in while he is out.“ – „Come, do be merciful,“ cried the tailor. „Little scraps which fall off the table of their own accord are not stolen, and are not worth speaking about. Look, I am lame, and have blisters on my feet with walking here, I cannot possibly turn back again.

Only let me in, and I will do all the rough work. I will carry the children, and wash their clothes, and wash and clean the benches on which they have been playing, and patch all their torn clothes.“ Saint Peter let himself be moved by pity, and opened the door of heaven just wide enough for the lame tailor to slip his lean body in. He was forced to sit down in a corner behind the door, and was to stay quietly and peaceably there, in order that the Lord, when he returned, might not observe him and be angry.

The tailor obeyed, but once when Saint Peter went outside the door, he got up, and full of curiosity, went round about into every corner of heaven, and inspected the arrangement of every place. At length he came to a spot where many beautiful and delightful chairs were standing, and in the midst was a seat all of gold which was set with shining jewels, likewise it was much higher than the other chairs, and a footstool of gold was before it.

The tailor in heaven Fairy Tale

It was, however, the seat on which the Lord sat when he was at home, and from which he could see everything which happened on earth. The tailor stood still, and looked at the seat for a long time, for it pleased him better than all else. At last he could master his curiosity no longer, and climbed up and seated himself in the chair. Then he saw everything which was happening on earth, and observed an ugly old woman who was standing washing by the side of a stream, secretly laying two veils on one side for herself.

The sight of this made the tailor so angry that he laid hold of the golden footstool, and threw it down to earth through heaven, at the old thief. As, however, he could not bring the stool back again, he slipped quietly out of the chair, seated himself in his place behind the door, and behaved as if he had never stirred from the spot. When the Lord and master came back again with his heavenly companions, he did not see the tailor behind the door, but when he seated himself on his chair the footstool was missing.

He asked Saint Peter what had become of the stool, but he did not know. Then he asked if he had let anyone come in. „I know of no one who has been here,“ answered Peter, „but a lame tailor, who is still sitting behind the door.“ Then the Lord had the tailor brought before him, and asked him if he had taken away the stool, and where he had put it? „Oh, Lord,“ answered the tailor joyously, „I threw it in my anger down to earth at an old woman whom I saw stealing two veils at the washing.“

„Oh, thou knave,“ said the Lord, „were I to judge as thou judgest, how dost thou think thou couldst have escaped so long? I should long ago have had no chairs, benches, seats, nay, not even an oven-fork, but should have thrown everything down at the sinners. Henceforth thou canst stay no longer in heaven, but must go outside the door again. Then go where thou wilt. No one shall give punishment here, but I alone, the Lord.“ Peter was obliged to take the tailor out of heaven again, and as he had torn shoes, and feet covered with blisters, he took a stick in his hand, and went to „Wait-a-bit,“ where the good soldiers sit and make merry.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Tailor in Heaven“

„The Tailor in Heaven“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their famous book, „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales,“ also known as „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales). It was first published in 1812 and went through several editions, with the final version published in 1857. The tale is also known as „KHM 35“ referring to its number in the collection.

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, were German scholars and linguists who sought to collect and preserve the rich oral tradition of German and European folklore. They aimed to present an authentic representation of the stories that were passed down through generations, while also providing moral guidance for children and promoting a sense of national identity. The story has its roots in German and European folklore, with similar tales found in other cultures as well. Its themes of trickery and resourcefulness are common in folktales and often feature characters like the tailor who use their wits to overcome adversity or deceive others.

The Brothers Grimm collected their stories from various sources, including friends, acquaintances, and literary works. It is likely that „The Tailor in Heaven“ was derived from multiple sources, combining various oral traditions and existing tales. Their collection of fairy tales includes over 200 stories, some of which have become universally popular, such as „Cinderella,“ „Snow White,“ and „Hansel and Gretel.“ These tales often feature elements of magic, enchantment, and supernatural beings, and convey moral lessons or cautionary messages.

„The Tailor in Heaven“ is not as well-known as some of the other tales in the Grimm’s collection, but it still offers valuable insights into human nature, divine authority, and moral values. Like many other Grimm’s fairy tales, the story has been passed down through oral tradition, and various versions of the tale exist across different cultures and regions. The story has since been adapted and retold in many different forms, including theater productions, television shows, and children’s literature.

Similar fairy tales: „The Heavenly Weaver“ (India): This story shares similarities with „The Tailor in Heaven“ and features a humble weaver who is transported to heaven and given a task to complete. The weaver uses his skills to complete the task and earns the admiration of the gods. „The Heavenly Wedding“ (China): This story features a poor peasant who is given the chance to attend a heavenly wedding. While there, he is given a task to complete and uses his wit and skills to succeed. „The Weaver’s Reward“ (Persia): This story features a poor weaver who is given a task to complete by a king. The weaver uses his skills to complete the task and is eventually rewarded for his hard work. „The Brave Little Tailor“ by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: This is another tale featuring a tailor who uses his wit and skills to outsmart powerful figures. While it is not a direct adaptation of „The Tailor in Heaven,“ it shares some similarities with the story.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Tailor in Heaven“

„The Tailor in Heaven“ offers several interpretations and themes that can be analyzed from different perspectives. Here are some of the most common interpretations found in the story:

Trickery and resourcefulness: The story centers around the tailor’s cunning and resourcefulness. He is a character who manages to outwit both God and the Devil, making it impossible for them to decide where he should go in the afterlife. This can be seen as a celebration of human ingenuity and the power of wit and cleverness to overcome adversity.

Ambiguity and moral complexity: The tailor is neither a purely good nor evil character. He possesses qualities of both. This moral ambiguity is reflected in the indecision over his fate in the afterlife. The tale highlights the complexity of human nature and can serve as a reminder that life is not always black and white. The tailor’s perspective is shaped by his earthly experiences and values, which differ from the divine values and wisdom found in heaven. His inability to adapt to the heavenly realm ultimately leads to his expulsion, emphasizing the importance of spiritual growth and understanding in order to attain a higher state of being.

Reward and punishment: The story contains elements of Christian morality and the idea of reward and punishment in the afterlife. It is a cautionary tale warning against deceit and trickery, as the tailor’s fate is ultimately a form of eternal punishment for his misdeeds on Earth.

Social critique: The tailor’s trickery could be interpreted as a critique of social structures and power dynamics. By deceiving both God and the Devil, the tailor challenges the traditional hierarchies and upends the status quo, which could be seen as a subversive act against established authority.

Humor and light-heartedness: „The Tailor in Heaven“ is a humorous and playful story that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The light-hearted tone adds entertainment value to the tale and makes it a fun and enjoyable read.

The power of storytelling: The story of the tailor and his clever tricks has been passed down through generations and is a testament to the power of storytelling. It demonstrates how tales can capture the imagination and endure the test of time, while also reflecting the values and beliefs of the culture from which they originate.

Divine judgment and mercy: The story highlights the difference between divine and human judgment. While the tailor quickly condemns and punishes the old woman for her transgression, the Lord demonstrates a more merciful approach. The tale reminds readers that it is not their place to judge or punish others, as only the divine possesses the wisdom and authority to do so.

The consequences of curiosity: The tailor’s curiosity leads him to explore heaven, eventually sitting on the Lord’s chair and ultimately getting himself expelled. This serves as a cautionary tale about the potential dangers of curiosity and the importance of respecting boundaries.

Forgiveness and redemption: Although the tailor is not allowed to stay in heaven, he is not punished further for his actions. Instead, he is given a chance to continue his life elsewhere. This can be interpreted as an act of forgiveness and an opportunity for the tailor to learn from his mistakes and seek redemption.

The importance of humility: The tailor’s actions in heaven demonstrate a lack of humility, as he takes it upon himself to punish the old woman and usurps the Lord’s seat. The story serves as a reminder to recognize one’s own limitations and to approach situations with humility and reverence.

In summary, „The Tailor in Heaven“ offers a rich tapestry of interpretations and themes that can be explored from various angles. The story’s blend of humor, moral ambiguity, and social critique has made it a popular and enduring tale in the Brothers Grimm collection.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Tailor in Heaven“

„The Tailor in Heaven“ is a German fairy tale collected and published by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, in their famous collection of folktales, „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales). First published in 1812, the collection has since become one of the most well-known and enduring works of folklore in Western literature. While „The Tailor in Heaven“ might not be as well-known or as frequently adapted as some of the other Grimm fairy tales, it has still inspired various adaptations and retellings over the years. Here are a few examples:

Theater: Local and regional theater groups have adapted „The Tailor in Heaven“ into stage plays, often combining the story with other Grimm fairy tales to create a unique theatrical experience. For example, the story has been performed as part of a compilation of Brothers Grimm stories in theatrical productions like „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ or „The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon.“

Literature: There have been many illustrated children’s books that retell „The Tailor in Heaven,“ often simplifying the story or emphasizing its humorous aspects to appeal to young readers. These retellings can be found in various fairy tale collections or as standalone picture books, allowing children to engage with the story in a more accessible format.

Animated adaptations: Though there isn’t a prominent, well-known animated adaptation of „The Tailor in Heaven,“ it is possible to find short, independent animated versions on online platforms like YouTube. These adaptations often emphasize the story’s humor and whimsy, making it appealing to a younger audience.

Educational materials: „The Tailor in Heaven“ has also been used as a basis for educational materials, such as lesson plans and teaching resources. Teachers may use the story to explore themes like trickery, moral ambiguity, and the consequences of one’s actions, as well as to introduce students to the Brothers Grimm and the broader tradition of European folklore.

While „The Tailor in Heaven“ may not have the same level of recognition as some other Grimm fairy tales, its enduring appeal and adaptability have led to various retellings and adaptations over the years, introducing new generations to the clever tailor and his heavenly adventures. Overall, „The Tailor in Heaven“ has inspired several adaptations and variations in different cultures, each with its own unique twists and interpretations.

Summary of the plot

„The Tailor in Heaven“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a curious tailor who, despite his past misdeeds, finds himself granted temporary entry to heaven by Saint Peter. While in heaven, the tailor disobeys Saint Peter’s instructions to stay put and instead explores the heavenly realm. He discovers a magnificent golden chair, the Lord’s own seat from which He can see everything happening on Earth.

Overcome by curiosity, the tailor sits on the chair and sees an old woman stealing veils on Earth. In his anger, he throws the golden footstool down at her, but fails to retrieve it afterward. When the Lord returns to heaven and notices the missing footstool, the tailor admits to his actions. The Lord chastises the tailor for taking it upon himself to punish the old woman, emphasizing that only He has the authority to do so. As a result, the tailor is expelled from heaven and, with torn shoes and blistered feet, he sets off towards „Wait-a-bit“.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 35
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 800
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson32.5
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index77
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level7.9
Gunning Fog Index10.3
Coleman–Liau Index8
SMOG Index8.6
Automated Readability Index8.4
Character Count4.099
Letter Count3.150
Sentence Count36
Word Count778
Average Words per Sentence21,61
Words with more than 6 letters85
Percentage of long words10.9%
Number of Syllables992
Average Syllables per Word1,28
Words with three Syllables32
Percentage Words with three Syllables4.1%
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