"The Brave Little Tailor" (German: "Das tapfere Schneiderlein"; also published in English as "The Gallant Little Tailor" and "The Valiant Little Tailor") is a German fairy tale. It is included in Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales), the 1812 anthology of German folktales compiled by the Brothers Grimm.
The story's title character and protagonist is a man whose life radically changes after he kills seven flies with a single strike with a piece of cloth. Believing that he must be an exceptional person in order to have accomplished such a feat, the tailor proudly makes a belt for himself with the words "Seven at one blow" sewn onto it. He then goes off in search of more adventures. Many of the other characters with whom the tailor interacts treat him with respect and fear because they assume that the words on his belt mean that he must have killed seven men at a single stroke. After getting the better of several giants, a unicorn and a wild boar through a combination of bravado, cunning and deception, the tailor eventually marries a princess and becomes a king.
There have been several adaptations of the story to other media.
One day in summer, a tailor spreads some jam on a piece of bread. He then leaves it aside and carries on with his work. The jam soon attracts a large number of flies. The tailor gets a piece of cloth and hits some of the flies with it. With a single strike with the piece of cloth, he kills seven flies. The tailor feels very proud of what he has done. He suddenly changes his opinion of himself and decides that he must be a very brave person. Believing that the whole world should know about his bravery, the tailor makes a belt for himself on which he stitches the words "Seven at one blow." He then decides to leave his workshop and go out into the world. He takes a piece of soft cheese with him in his pocket. Soon after going outside, the tailor finds a bird that is caught in a bush. He puts the bird in his pocket too.
The tailor comes across a giant. In a friendly manner, he asks the giant if he would like to accompany him on his travels. At first, the giant feels nothing but contempt for the little tailor. He then notices the words on the man's belt, assumes that the tailor must have killed seven men with a single blow and feels greater respect for him. Nevertheless, the giant still wants to test the tailor to see if he will make a suitable companion. The giant takes a rock and squeezes it until water comes out of it. He then throws a stone which goes very high up into the air before eventually coming down. He commands the tailor to do the same. The tailor squeezes his piece of soft cheese until liquid comes out of it. He takes the bird out of his pocket, throws it into the air and allows it to fly away. Believing that both the cheese and the bird are stones, the giant is suitably impressed. The giant asks the tailor to help him carry away a tree. The tailor agrees to this. The giant does not notice that the tailor simply sits in the tree's branches. As a result, the giant carries the weight of the entire tree and the tailor as well. Stopping at a cherry tree, the giant offers the tailor some of its fruit. He bends down the top of the tree for the tailor to hold. When the giant lets go of the tree, the tailor is unable to hold onto it. He goes flying through the air but lands unharmed. The tailor denies being too weak to hold onto the cherry tree. He claims that he chose to jump over the top of the tree. He asks the giant to do the same, something that the giant is unable to do.
The giant invites the tailor to spend the night with him and some other giants in a cave. The tailor is offered a bed which is much too big for him. He crawls into a corner of the bed and sleeps there. During the night, the giant decides that he has had enough of the tailor and wants to kill him. He splits the tailor's enormous bed in two with an iron bar. In his little corner of the bed, however, the tailor is completely unharmed. When the giant and his gigantic companions see the tailor still alive the following day, they run away from him in terror.
The little tailor travels on and eventually falls asleep in front of a king's castle. One of the king's courtiers sees the words "Seven at one blow" on the tailor's belt. Assuming the tailor to be a mighty warrior, the courtier persuades the king to employ the stranger as a military commander. Many of the king's other soldiers become frightened of the tailor, believing that he could kill them with ease if he so wished. As a result, they threaten to leave the army. Not wanting to lose so many good soldiers, the king comes up with a plan to get rid of the tailor.
The king tells the tailor that two dangerous giants live in the forest. If the tailor can kill the giants, he will be rewarded with the king's daughter's hand in marriage and be made ruler of half the kingdom.
The tailor finds the two giants sleeping under a tree. He climbs the tree and drops stones on the giants. In his sleepy state, the first giant assumes that the second giant is attacking him. The second giant denies this. He also accuses the first giant of attacking him, something which the first giant denies. The dispute between the two giants soon turns into a violent conflict in which both giants are killed.
After the two giants are killed, the king says that the tailor has to complete another task before he can marry the princess and rule half the kingdom. A dangerous unicorn lives in the forest and the tailor is told to capture it. The tailor allows the unicorn to run towards him so that it can spear him with its horn. When the unicorn is almost upon him, the tailor steps aside. The unicorn then gets its horn stuck in the trunk of a tree.
After the tailor captures the unicorn, the king says that the tailor has to carry out a third and final task before he can marry the princess and rule half the kingdom. A dangerous wild boar lives in the forest which the tailor is told to capture. The tailor tricks the boar into following him into a chapel in the forest. The tailor shuts the chapel's doors and jumps out of one of its windows. The boar is not able to jump out of the window and becomes trapped inside the building.
The tailor having completed all the tasks that he was set, the king very reluctantly allows him to marry the princess. The tailor is made king of half of the kingdom.
One night, the princess hears her husband talking in his sleep. What he says reveals that he used to be a tailor. The princess does not want to stay married to a person from such a lowly background. She goes to speak to her father. Her father says that he will arrange for some of his men to seize the tailor in his sleep. The tailor will then be put on a ship and taken far away. One of the tailor's servants warns him about this. On the night when he is to be abducted, the tailor remains awake and pretends to be asleep. He pretends to talk in his sleep. He first confirms that he used to be a tailor. He then goes on to say that he has killed two giants, captured a unicorn and a wild boar and is not afraid of the men that he knows are outside his bedroom door. Nobody tries to abduct the tailor that night or ever again. He remains a king for the rest of his life.
The short story "The Wrestler Who Kills Seven" by the 19th century Bengali-language Indian author Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury and the 2004 postmodernist novel Le Vaillant petit tailleur by the French writer Éric Chevillard were both inspired by "The Brave Little Tailor".
The fairy tale was loosely adapted as the 1938 animated short Brave Little Tailor from Walt Disney Productions. In the cartoon, Mickey Mouse as the tailor uses his tailoring skills to bind a giant which had been threatening the kingdom. Although Mickey had been appointed Royal High Killer of the Giant by the king, the giant is not killed but is kept prisoner. The final scene of the film shows a fun fair that is powered by a windmill worked by the snores of the chained sleeping giant.
"The Brave Little Tailor" was adapted as the nineteenth episode of the second season of the Japanese anime series Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics (Japanese: グリム名作劇場; Gurimu Meisaku Gekijō). The episode first aired on TV Asahi in Japan on February 26, 1989.
A version of the story is told by actor and comedian Rik Mayall in the fourth episode of the first season of the British children's TV series Grim Tales. The episode was first shown on the ITV network in the United Kingdom on May 5, 1989.
"The Valiant Little Tailor" is the third episode of the first season of the American animated TV series Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child. In the episode, the story is given a West African setting. The episode has a predominantly Africa-American voice cast. It features the voices of David Alan Grier as the tailor, Mark Curry as a giant, James Earl Jones as the king and Dawnn Lewis as the princess. It was first shown on HBO on May 7, 1995.
In 1950, the Hungarian-born French composer Tibor Harsányi adapted "The Brave Little Tailor" as a suite for narrator, seven instruments and percussion called L'Histoire du petit tailleur. Ore of the best known recordings of the suite was released in 1968. The music on the recording is provided by the Parisian orchestra the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire and the narrator is Peter Ustinov. The record was released in both English and French-language versions with Ustinov providing the narration in both versions.
- Versions of "The Brave Little Tailor" in German and English on Wikisource.
- Public domain audiobook of "The Brave Little Tailor" in English on YouTube.