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The Young Giant
The Young Giant Märchen

The Young Giant - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 21 min

Once on a time a countryman had a son who was as big as a thumb, and did not become any bigger, and during several years did not grow one hair’s breadth. Once when the father was going out to plough, the little one said, „Father, I will go out with you.“ – „Thou wouldst go out with me?“ said the father. „Stay here, thou wilt be of no use out there, besides thou mightest get lost!“ Then Thumbling began to cry, and for the sake of peace his father put him in his pocket, and took him with him. When he was outside in the field, he took him out again, and set him in a freshly-cut furrow. Whilst he was there, a great giant came over the hill. „Do thou see that great bogie?“ said the father, for he wanted to frighten the little fellow to make him good; „he is coming to fetch thee.“ The giant, however, had scarcely taken two steps with his long legs before he was in the furrow. He took up little Thumbling carefully with two fingers, examined him, and without saying one word went away with him. His father stood by, but could not utter a sound for terror, and he thought nothing else but that his child was lost, and that as long as he lived he should never set eyes on him again. The giant, however, carried him home, suckled him, and Thumbling grew and became tall and strong after the manner of giants. When two years had passed, the old giant took him into the forest, wanted to try him, and said, „Pull up a stick for thyself.“ Then the boy was already so strong that he tore up a young tree out of the earth by the roots. But the giant thought, „We must do better than that,“ took him back again, and suckled him two years longer. When he tried him, his strength had increased so much that he could tear an old tree out of the ground. That was still not enough for the giant. He again suckled him for two years, and when he then went with him into the forest and said, „Now just tear up a proper stick for me,“ the boy tore up the strongest oak-tree from the earth, so that it split, and that was a mere trifle to him. „Now that will do,“ said the giant, „thou art perfect,“ and took him back to the field from whence he had brought him. His father was there following the plough. The young giant went up to him, and said, „Does my father see what a fine man his son has grown into?“

The farmer was alarmed, and said, „No, thou art not my son. I don’t want thee leave me!“ – „Truly I am your son; allow me to do your work, I can plough as well as you, nay better.“ – „No, no, thou art not my son; and thou canst not plough go away!“ However, as he was afraid of this great man, he left go of the plough, stepped back and stood at one side of the piece of land. Then the youth took the plough, and just pressed it with one hand, but his grasp was so strong that the plough went deep into the earth. The farmer could not bear to see that, and called to him, „If thou art determined to plough, thou must not press so hard on it, that makes bad work.“ The youth, however, unharnessed the horses, and drew the plough himself, saying, „Just go home, father, and bid my mother make ready a large dish of food, and in the meantime I will go over the field.“ Then the farmer went home, and ordered his wife to prepare the food; but the youth ploughed the field which was two acres large, quite alone, and then he harnessed himself to the harrow, and harrowed the whole of the land, using two harrows at once. When he had done it, he went into the forest, and pulled up two oak-trees, laid them across his shoulders, and hung on them one harrow behind and one before, and also one horse behind and one before, and carried all as if it had been a bundle of straw, to his parents‘ house. When he entered the yard, his mother did not recognize him, and asked, „Who is that horrible tall man?“ The farmer said, „That is our son.“ She said, „No that cannot be our son, we never had such a tall one, ours was a little thing.“ She called to him, „Go away, we do not want thee!“ The youth was silent, but led his horses to the stable, gave them some oats and hay, and all that they wanted. When he had done this, he went into the parlour, sat down on the bench and said, „Mother, now I should like something to eat, will it soon be ready?“ Then she said, „Yes,“ and brought in two immense dishes full of food, which would have been enough to satisfy herself and her husband for a week. The youth, however, ate the whole of it himself, and asked if she had nothing more to set before him. „No,“ she replied, „that is all we have.“ – „But that was only a taste, I must have more.“ She did not dare to oppose him, and went and put a huge caldron full of food on the fire, and when it was ready, carried it in. „At length come a few crumbs,“ said he, and ate all there was, but it was still not sufficient to appease his hunger. Then said he, „Father, I see well that with you I shall never have food enough. If you will get me an iron staff which is strong, and which I cannot break against my knees, I will go out into the world.“ The farmer was glad, put his two horses in his cart, and fetched from the smith a staff so large and thick, that the two horses could only just bring it away. The youth laid it across his knees, and snap! he broke it in two in the middle like a bean-stalk, and threw it away. The father then harnessed four horses, and brought a bar which was so long and thick, that the four horses could only just drag it. The son snapped this also in twain against his knees, threw it away, and said, „Father, this can be of no use to me, you must harness more horses, and bring a stronger staff.“ So the father harnessed eight horses, and brought one which was so long and thick, that the eight horses could only just carry it. When the son took it in his hand, he broke off a bit from the top of it also, and said, „Father, I see that you will not be able to procure me any such staff as I want, I will remain no longer with you.“

So he went away, and gave out that he was a smith’s apprentice. He arrived at a village, wherein lived a smith who was a greedy fellow, who never did a kindness to any one, but wanted everything for himself. The youth went into the smithy and asked if he needed a journeyman. „Yes,“ said the smith, and looked at him, and thought, „That is a strong fellow who will strike out well, and earn his bread.“ So he asked, „How much wages dost thou want?“ – „I don’t want any at all,“ he replied, „only every fortnight, when the other journeymen are paid, I will give thee two blows, and thou must bear them.“ The miser was heartily satisfied, and thought he would thus save much money. Next morning, the strange journeyman was to begin to work, but when the master brought the glowing bar, and the youth struck his first blow, the iron flew asunder, and the anvil sank so deep into the earth, that there was no bringing it out again. Then the miser grew angry, and said, „Oh, but I can’t make any use of you, you strike far too powerfully. What will you have for the one blow?“

Then said he, „I will only give you quite a small blow, that’s all.“ And he raised his foot, and gave him such a kick that he flew away over four loads of hay. Then he sought out the thickest iron bar in the smithy for himself, took it as a stick in his hand and went onwards.

When he had walked for some time, he came to a small farm, and asked the bailiff if he did not require a head-servant. „Yes,“ said the bailiff, „I can make use of one. You look a strong fellow who can do something, how much a year do you want as wages?“ He again replied that he wanted no wages at all, but that every year he would give him three blows, which he must bear. Then the bailiff was satisfied, for he, too, was a covetous fellow. Next morning all the servants were to go into the wood, and the others were already up, but the head-servant was still in bed. Then one of them called to him, „Get up, it is time. We are going into the wood, and thou must go with us.“ – „Ah,“ said he quite roughly and surlily, „you may just go, then. I shall be back again before any of you.“ Then the others went to the bailiff, and told him that the head-man was still lying in bed, and would not go into the wood with them. The bailiff said they were to awaken him again, and tell him to harness the horses. The head-man, however, said as before, „Just go there, I shall be back again before any of you.“ And then he stayed in bed two hours longer. At length he arose from the feathers, but first he got himself two bushels of peas from the loft, made himself some broth with them, ate it at his leisure, and when that was done, went and harnessed the horses, and drove into the wood. Not far from the wood was a ravine through which he had to pass, so he first drove the horses on, and then stopped them, and went behind the cart, took trees and brushwood, and made a great barricade, so that no horse could get through. When he was entering the wood, the others were just driving out of it with their loaded carts to go home. Then said he to them, „Drive on, I will still get home before you do.“ He did not drive far into the wood, but at once tore two of the very largest trees of all out of the earth, threw them on his cart, and turned round. When he came to the barricade, the others were still standing there, not able to get through. „Don’t you see,“ said he, „that if you had stayed with me, you would have got home just as quickly, and would have had another hour’s sleep?“ He now wanted to drive on, but his horeses could not work their way through, so he unharnessed them, laid them on the top of the cart, took the shafts in his own hands, and pulled it all through, and he did this just as easily as if it had been laden with feathers. When he was over, he said to the others, „There, you see, I have got over quicker than you,“ and drove on, and the others had to stay where they were. In the yard, however, he took a tree in his hand, showed it to the bailiff, and said, „Isn’t that a fine bundle of wood?“ Then said the bailiff to his wife, „The servant is a good one, if he does sleep long, he is still home before the others.“ So he served the bailiff for a year, and when that was over, and the other servants were getting their wages, he said it was time for him to take his too. The bailiff, however, was afraid of the blows which he was to receive, and earnestly entreated him to excuse him from having them. For rather than that, he himself would be head-servant, and the youth should be bailiff. „No,“ said he, „I will not be a bailiff, I am head-servant, and will remain so, but I will administer that which we agreed on.“ The bailiff was willing to give him whatsoever he demanded, but it was of no use, the head-servant said no to everything. Then the bailiff did not know what to do, and begged for a fortnight’s delay, for he wanted to find some way of escape. The head-servant consented to this delay. The bailiff summoned all his clerks together, and they were to think the matter over, and give him advice. The clerks pondered for a long time, but at last they said that no one was sure of his life with the head-servant, for he could kill a man as easily as a midge, and that the bailiff ought to make him get into the well and clean it, and when he was down below, they would roll up one of the mill-stones which was lying there, and throw it on his head; and then he would never return to daylight. The advice pleased the bailiff, and the head-servant was quite willing to go down the well. When he was standing down below at the bottom, they rolled down the largest mill-stone and thought they had broken his skull, but he cried, „Chase away those hens from the well, they are scratching in the sand up there, and throwing the grains into my eyes, so that I can’t see.“ So the bailiff cried, „Sh-sh,“ and pretended to frighten the hens away. When the head-servant had finished his work, he climbed up and said, „Just look what a beautiful neck-tie I have on,“ and behold it was the mill-stone which he was wearing round his neck. The head-servant now wanted to take his reward, but the bailiff again begged for a fortnight’s delay. The clerks met together and advised him to send the head-servant to the haunted mill to grind corn by night, for from thence as yet no man had ever returned in the morning alive. The proposal pleased the bailiff, he called the head-servant that very evening, and ordered him to take eight bushels of corn to the mill, and grind it that night, for it was wanted. So the head-servant went to the loft, and put two bushels in his right pocket, and two in his left, and took four in a wallet, half on his back, and half on his breast, and thus laden went to the haunted mill. The miller told him that he could grind there very well by day, but not by night, for the mill was haunted, and that up to the present time whosoever had gone into it at night had been found in the morning lying dead inside. He said, „I will manage it, just you go away to bed.“ Then he went into the mill, and poured out the corn. About eleven o’clock he went into the miller’s room, and sat down on the bench. When he had sat there a while, a door suddenly opened, and a large table came in, and on the table, wine and roasted meats placed themselves, and much good food besides, but everything came of itself, for no one was there to carry it. After this the chairs pushed themselves up, but no people came, until all at once he beheld fingers, which handled knives and forks, and laid food on the plates, but with this exception he saw nothing. As he was hungry, and saw the food, he, too, place himself at the table, ate with those who were eating and enjoyed it. When he had had enough, and the others also had quite emptied their dishes, he distinctly heard all the candles being suddenly snuffed out, and as it was now pitch dark, he felt something like a box on the ear. Then he said, „If anything of that kind comes again, I shall strike out in return.“ And when he had received a second box on the ear, he, too struck out. And so it continued the whole night. He took nothing without returning it, but repaid everything with interest, and did not lay about him in vain. At daybreak, however, everything ceased. When the miller had got up, he wanted to look after him, and wondered if he were still alive. Then the youth said, „I have eaten my fill, have received some boxes on the ears, but I have given some in return.“ The miller rejoiced, and said that the mill was now released from the spell, and wanted to give him much money as a reward. But he said, „Money, I will not have, I have enough of it.“ So he took his meal on his back, went home, and told the bailiff that he had done what he had been told to do, and would now have the reward agreed on. When the bailiff heard that, he was seriously alarmed and quite beside himself. He walked backwards and forwards in the room, and drops of perspiration ran down from his forehead. Then he opened the window to get some fresh air, but before he was aware, the head-servant had given him such a kick that he flew through the window out into the air, and so far away that no one ever saw him again. Then said the head-servant to the bailiff’s wife, „If he does not come back, you must take the other blow.“ She cried, „No, no I cannot bear it,“ and opened the other window, because drops of perspiration were running down her forehead. Then he gave her such a kick that she, too, flew out, and as she was lighter she went much higher than her husband. Her husband cried, „Do come to me,“ but she replied, „Come thou to me, I cannot come to thee.“ And they hovered about there in the air, and could not get to each other, and whether they are still hovering about, or not, I do not know, but the young giant took up his iron bar, and went on his way.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Young Giant“

„The Young Giant“ is a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that, despite being lesser-known, offers valuable interpretations and themes. Some key interpretations of this story include:

The process of self-discovery: The young boy, raised by a giant, discovers his extraordinary strength and abilities as he grows up. The story emphasizes the importance of self-discovery and understanding one’s true potential.

The power of inner strength: The protagonist possesses incredible physical strength, but the tale also highlights the importance of inner strength and resilience. It teaches readers the value of courage, determination, and self-confidence in overcoming challenges.

Nature versus nurture: The story explores the impact of upbringing on one’s character. Despite being raised by a giant, the young boy manages to maintain his humanity and good nature. This theme suggests that while our environment shapes us, we also have the power to choose our own path.

The importance of using one’s gifts wisely: The protagonist’s extraordinary abilities can be used for both good and evil. The story underscores the importance of using one’s talents responsibly and in the service of others, rather than for personal gain or destructive purposes.

Overcoming obstacles: The young giant faces various challenges and obstacles throughout the story, but he uses his strength and wit to overcome them. The tale serves as a reminder that with determination and resourcefulness, we can overcome the challenges we face in life.

The value of humility: Despite his incredible strength and abilities, the protagonist remains humble and grounded. This theme emphasizes the importance of humility in recognizing one’s limitations and remaining connected to others.

These interpretations highlight the depth and relevance of „The Young Giant,“ making it a valuable and thought-provoking tale within the Brothers Grimm collection.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Young Giant“

While „The Young Giant“ may not be as well-known as some other Grimm fairy tales, it has inspired adaptations and retellings in various forms, emphasizing its themes of self-discovery, inner strength, and the importance of using one’s gifts wisely. Some adaptations of this story include:

Literature: Retellings of „The Young Giant“ can be found in fairy tale collections and anthologies. Authors may reimagine the story to make it more appealing to modern readers or explore different perspectives, such as focusing on the giant’s motivations or the young boy’s experiences as he grows up.

Children’s Books: Simplified and illustrated versions of the story have been created for younger readers, making the tale accessible and engaging for children. These adaptations often focus on the themes of self-discovery, inner strength, and using one’s talents for good.

Radio Dramas: Audio adaptations of „The Young Giant“ have been produced for radio, allowing listeners to engage with the story in a different format. The tale’s strong narrative and engaging dialogue make it well-suited for a radio drama.

Stage Plays: The story has been adapted for the stage, often as part of a larger collection of Grimm fairy tales. These adaptations may emphasize the themes of self-discovery, inner strength, and the importance of using one’s gifts wisely, making for an entertaining theatrical experience.

Television and Film: While there may not be a direct adaptation of „The Young Giant“ as a standalone film or television show, the story’s themes and motifs have influenced other films and television series featuring protagonists with extraordinary abilities, as well as exploring the process of self-discovery and the impact of upbringing on one’s character.

Animated Series: Elements of „The Young Giant“ have been incorporated into animated television series and movies, particularly those that explore themes of self-discovery, inner strength, and using one’s talents for good. The story’s magical elements and engaging narrative make it well-suited for animated adaptations.

While „The Young Giant“ might not have as many direct adaptations as some other Grimm tales, its themes and motifs continue to inspire and influence various forms of media. The story’s emphasis on self-discovery, inner strength, and the importance of using one’s gifts wisely make it a timeless and universally appealing tale.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Young Giant“

„The Young Giant“ is a classic fairy tale that has inspired a number of adaptations and retellings over the years. Here are a few notable examples:

„The Young Giant“ (1979) – This animated film is a faithful adaptation of the original Grimm fairy tale. It was produced by Soyuzmultfilm, a Russian animation studio, and has been praised for its beautiful animation and storytelling.

„The Young Giant and the Sea“ (2009) – This children’s book by Matthew Cordell is a modern retelling of the fairy tale. It follows a young giant who discovers a small boat and sets out to sea, encountering various challenges along the way.

„Jack the Giant Slayer“ (2013) – Although not a direct adaptation of „The Young Giant,“ this Hollywood film shares similarities with the fairy tale. It follows a young farmhand named Jack who must rescue a princess from a race of giants.

„The Youth Who Wanted to Learn What Fear Was“ – This is another Grimm fairy tale that is similar to „The Young Giant.“ It follows a young man who sets out to learn what fear is and ends up encountering a series of terrifying creatures.

„Gulliver’s Travels“ – This classic novel by Jonathan Swift has been compared to „The Young Giant“ due to its exploration of themes of size and scale. Like the young giant, the protagonist of „Gulliver’s Travels“ encounters beings that are much larger or smaller than himself, prompting him to question his place in the world.

Overall, „The Young Giant“ has had a lasting impact on popular culture, inspiring adaptations and retellings in a variety of mediums.

Summary of the plot

„The Young Giant“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a young boy who is taken by a giant when he is just a baby. The boy grows up in the giant’s care and acquires extraordinary strength and abilities.

The tale begins with a poor couple who give birth to a baby boy. A giant comes to their home and takes the baby away, promising to care for him and provide him with a good life. The giant raises the boy, who grows up to be incredibly strong and capable of performing amazing feats, such as uprooting trees with ease.

When the boy reaches adulthood, the giant sends him back to his parents. On his way, the young giant encounters a blacksmith who challenges him to a test of strength. The young giant effortlessly wins the contest, impressing the blacksmith and others who witness the event.

The young giant returns home to his parents, who are overjoyed to see him again. He uses his strength and abilities to help his family and others in need. The tale concludes with the young giant continuing to use his gifts wisely and for the greater good, demonstrating the importance of self-discovery, inner strength, and responsible use of one’s talents.

„The Young Giant“ is a story that emphasizes the themes of self-discovery, the power of inner strength, and the importance of using one’s gifts wisely. It serves as a reminder to readers that everyone has unique abilities and that it is essential to use those talents responsibly and for the benefit of others.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Young Giant“

„The Young Giant,“ also known as „Der junge Riese“ in German, is a fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their anthology „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ (originally titled „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“). The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, were German scholars and linguists who collected and published numerous folk tales in the 19th century, many of which have become widely known and adapted into various media.

„The Young Giant“ tells the story of a boy named Thumbling, who is born to a poor couple after they wish for a child, even if he is only the size of a thumb. Thumbling is then taken away by a giant and raised in the giant’s home, where he grows to immense size and gains extraordinary strength. When he returns to the human world, Thumbling faces various challenges as people try to take advantage of his strength for their own purposes. Thumbling uses his cunning and intelligence to outwit those who try to exploit him and eventually secures a happy life for himself and his family.

The tale is not as widely known as some other Grimm stories, such as „Cinderella,“ „Snow White,“ or „Hansel and Gretel,“ but it still embodies many of the classic fairy tale elements and themes, including a protagonist with extraordinary abilities, challenges to overcome, and a moral lesson to be learned.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Young Giant“

„The Young Giant“ is a fairy tale that explores themes of strength, cunning, greed, and the consequences of underestimating others.

Strength and Cunning: The protagonist, Thumbling, demonstrates immense physical strength, but it is his cunning and intelligence that allows him to outwit those who seek to exploit him. His ability to use his strength strategically suggests that power should be wielded wisely and with restraint, rather than for the sake of intimidation or destruction.

Greed: The tale criticizes greed through the portrayal of the greedy smith and the miserly bailiff. Both characters prioritize their own self-interest above fairness and the welfare of others. Ultimately, their greed leads to their downfall, as they are outwitted by Thumbling.

Underestimating Others: Thumbling, initially underestimated by his father and later by the smith and the bailiff, consistently proves his worth and demonstrates that appearances can be deceiving. The tale encourages readers to be open-minded and not judge others based on their appearance or initial impressions.

Consequences: The tale also emphasizes the consequences of exploiting others for personal gain. The smith and bailiff each attempt to take advantage of Thumbling’s abilities, but ultimately face severe consequences for their actions. This theme underscores the importance of treating others fairly and respecting their contributions.

Overall, „The Young Giant“ serves as a cautionary tale that highlights the dangers of greed and exploitation, while celebrating the power of intelligence and cunning in overcoming adversity.

Summary of the plot

„The Young Giant“ is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale that tells the story of a young man who starts as small as a thumb but grows into a giant after being taken by a larger giant. The larger giant raises the boy for six years, during which he becomes tall and incredibly strong. The giant eventually returns the boy to his original father, but the young giant’s parents do not recognize him due to his size and strength.

Unwanted by his family, the young giant leaves and claims to be a blacksmith’s apprentice. He agrees to work for a greedy blacksmith for free, but on the condition that he would be allowed to strike the blacksmith twice every fortnight. After proving his immense strength, the blacksmith fears the strikes and tries to get out of the arrangement. The young giant then finds work with a greedy bailiff, agreeing to work as a head-servant in exchange for striking the bailiff thrice yearly.

Throughout the story, the young giant demonstrates his supernatural strength, effortlessly performing tasks that would be impossible for an ordinary man. When it is time to collect his wages, the bailiff tries to find a way to avoid being struck by the young giant. He consults his clerks who advise him to trap the young giant in a well and drop a millstone on his head. However, this plan fails as the young giant remains unharmed.

The clerks then suggest sending the young giant to a haunted mill to grind corn overnight, hoping that he would not survive the night. The young giant encounters several supernatural creatures during the night but manages to defeat them all. In the morning, he returns to the bailiff unharmed and demands his agreed-upon wages. The story ends without revealing whether the young giant receives his due or not, but he continues to exhibit his remarkable strength and resilience throughout the tale.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 90
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 650A
Translations DE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH,
Readability Index by Björnsson32.2
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index80.5
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level7.8
Gunning Fog Index10.3
Coleman–Liau Index7
SMOG Index7.7
Automated Readability Index8.4
Character Count15.858
Letter Count12.081
Sentence Count135
Word Count3.117
Average Words per Sentence23,09
Words with more than 6 letters285
Percentage of long words9.1%
Number of Syllables3.791
Average Syllables per Word1,22
Words with three Syllables82
Percentage Words with three Syllables2.6%
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