Tapfere Schneiderlein (Valiant Little Tailor) by Brothers Grimm

This is a seriously long tale and I’ll post it in 2 parts. It’s a lovely story of misunderstandings, how important your reputation (true or false) is, and how to manipulate your environment to get what you want. In the first part, our hero goes along with not much autonomy and takes in his stride what’s thrown at him. In the second part, the tailor shapes his own destiny. Great story!

Das tapfere Schneiderlein or The Valiant Little Tailor

Part 1

Three men inside A. V. Ljungkuist tailor shop, 1811 West Superior Street, Duluth. Creator: Duluth Photo Company Photograph Collection, Gelatin Silver 1908.
Three men inside A. V. Ljungkuist tailor shop, 1811 West Superior Street, Duluth.
Creator: Duluth Photo Company
Photograph Collection, Gelatin Silver 1908.

One summer morning a little tailor was sitting on his table near the window, sewing cheerfully as quickly as he could. A farmer woman came down the street crying, “Good jam for sale! Selling good jam!”

That sounded lovely in the little tailor’s ears and he stuck his head out of the window, and called out:

“Come up here, good woman, if she wants to sell her goods!”

The woman climbed  three stairs with her heavy basket up to the tailor’s shop and he obliged her to unpack all her pots in front of him. He inspected them all, lifted them up, sniffed them and finally said:

“The jam seems  good; she may weigh me out four ounces, or I don’t mind having a quarter of a pound.”

The woman, who had hoped to make a good sale, gave him what he asked for, but left grumbling angrily.

“Well now, may God bless the jam”, cried the little tailor; ” and may it give me power and strength.” He fetched some bread from the cupboard, cut a whole round of the loaf, and spread the jam on it.

“This won’t taste bitter”, he said, “but first I want to finish this jacket before I take a bite.”

He put the bread next to him, continued sewing and his stitches grew larger the more he looked forward to his treat. All the while the scent of the sweet jam was spreading up the wall, where a large number of flies sat so that they were attracted and descended on it in large quantities.

“Who invited you?” said the tailor, and chased the unbidden guests off. But the flies who didn’t understand German, couldn’t be driven off but continued returning in larger and larger numbers. Finally the little tailor lost his temper entirely. He grabbed a rag out of a corner and “Just wait, I’ll get you!” beat down onto the flies without mercy.

When he stopped and counted, there were no less than seven dead before him, their legs stretched out.

“What a hero you are!” he said and admired his own bravery. “The whole town shall know this.”

In haste he cut out a belt, sewed it and stitched onto it with large letters: “Seven at one blow!”

“Nevermind the town!” he continued. “The whole world shall know it!” And his heart quivered with joy, like a lamb’s tail.


The tailor tied the belt round him, and decided to travel into the world because his workshop was too small for his bravery. Before leaving he searched the house for anything he could take. He only found an old cheese, which he put in his pocket. Before his gate he noticed a bird that  had got caught in the bushes, and it had to join the cheese in his pocket.

Now he took the path under his legs and because he was so light and nimble, he felt no fatigue. The way led him onto a mountain, and when he reached the highest peak, he saw a powerful giant sitting there, looking calmly around him. The little tailor approached him bravely and said:

“Hello, comrade, well, are you sitting there, looking at the wide world? I am on the way to it to prove myself. Would you like to join me?”

The giant looked at the tailor contemptuously and said:

“You rascal! You miserable fellow!”

“That may be!” answered the little tailor, opened his coat and showed his belt to the giant:

“You can read here what kind of man I am.”

The giant read: “Seven at one blow!” and thinking it meant men that the tailor had slain, felt at once some respect for the little fellow. First he wanted to test him though, so picked up a stone and squeezed it so that water dripped out of it.

“Now you do it”, he said, “if you’re strong enough.”

“That’s not much”, said the little tailor. “That’s child’s play for the likes of us”, put his hand in his pocket, pulled out the soft cheese and squeezed it so that juice ran out of it.

“Well”, he said, “was that a little better?”

The giant did not know what to say and he could not believe it of the little man. So he picked up a stone and threw it so high that one could barely see it with the naked eye.

“Now, little drake man, you do that.”

“Well thrown”, said the tailor, “but the stone fell back to earth again. I will throw you one that will never come back.” He felt in his pocket, took out the bird, and threw it into the air. The bird, happy with his freedom, rose up, flew off, and did not return.

“What do you think of that, comrade?”, asked the tailor.

“You can throw alright”, said the giant, “but now we want to see if you can carry something big.”

He led the little tailor to a mighty oak tree which had been felled and lay on the ground, and said:

“If you are strong enough, so help me carry the tree out of the forest.”

“Sure”, answered the little man, “you just take the trunk on your shoulder, I will lift the branches with all their foliage and carry them, that is the he

aviest after all. ”

The giant took the trunk on his shoulder, but the tailor sat on a branch. And the giant, who could not look back, had to carry the whole tree and the little tailor on top of it as well. He was very cheerful and merry, and whistled the tune: “There were three tailors riding by”, as if carrying the tree was child’s play.

The giant, when he had struggled under his heavy load a part of the way, couldn’t continue and cried:

“Listen, I have to drop the tree!”

The tailor jumped off quickly, grabbed the tree with both arms, as if he were carrying it, and said to the giant:

“You’re such a big guy and you can’t even carry the tree.”

They continued together. And when they passed a  cherry tree, the giant grabbed the crown of the tree where the ripest fruit hung, bent it down, gave it to the tailor and told him to eat. When the giant let go, the tree bounced back and the tialor was thrown into the air. When he came back down unhurt, the giant said:

“What is this, don’t you have the strength to hold down this weak branch?”

“It is not strength that is lacking”, answered the little tailor, “do you think this would concern one who has slain seven at one blow? I jumped over the tree because the hunters are shooting down there in the bushes. You jump it too, if you can.”

"Das tapfere Schneiderlein" by Alexander Zick
“Das tapfere Schneiderlein” by Alexander Zick

The giant tired, but couldn’t make it over the tree but got stuck in the branches. So once more the little tailor got the better of him.

The giant said: “If you’re such a brave fellow, come with me into our cave and stay the night.”

The tailor was quite willing and followed him.

When they reached the cave, there sat other giants by the fire, and each had a roasted sheep in his hand, and was eating it. The little tailor looked round and thought: this is a lot more spacious than my workshop. The giant showed him a bed and told him to lie down and get some rest. The bed was too big for the tailor though. He didn’t lie down in it but crept into a corner.

When it was midnight and the giant thought that the little tailor was fast asleep, he got up, took a great staff of iron and beat the bed through with one stroke. And he thought he made an end of that grasshopper.

Very early in the morning the giants went into the wood and forgot all about the little tailor. Suddenly he came walking after them alive and merry. The giants were terribly frightened, fearing that he was going to beat them to death, and ran away in all haste.


PART 2 to follow

As usual, if you have any comments, let me know below!


Dornröschen (Sleeping Beauty) by the Brothers Grimm

Given that my new novel Spirit Elfen is at least partly inspired by my German heritage, I thought it would be fun to translate some of the original stories from German to English. The old Grimm, Bechstein or Hauff stories are a treat to read but far more brutal than the sanitized Disney versions might make you believe. So hold on to your hats and join me for the original telling of Dornröschen (Sleeping Beauty to you Anglophones)!


Sleeping Beauty
“Dornröschen” by Fritz Kredel

A long time ago, there lived a King and a Queen who said every day: “Oh, if only we had a child!” but they couldn’t conceive. One day, when the Queen sat in her bath, a frog crawled from water to land and said to her:

“Your wish shall be fulfilled. Before a year has passed, you will bear a daughter into this world.”

As the frog said, so it happened. The Queen gave birth to a girl that was so beautiful that the King was beside himself with joy and prepared a large feast.  He did not just invite his relations, friends and acquaintances but also the Wise Women so that they would favor the child and help her. There were thirteen in the kingdom. But because he only had twelve golden plates, one of them had to stay at home.

The feast was celebrated with all pomp and circumstance and when it was over, the Wise Women blessed the child with their wondrous gifts: one gave her Virtue, one Beauty, the third Wealth, and everything else that could be wished for in this world. Just as eleven had finished their blessings, the thirteenth Wise Woman suddenly entered. Without offering a greeting or even looking at anybody, she called out with a loud voice:

“The King’s daughter shall prick herself on a spindle in her fifteenth year and fall down dead.”

And without another word, she turned around and left the room.

Everybody was horrified but then the twelfth Woman stepped forward who still had her wish. And because she couldn’t lift the curse but only lessen it, she said:

“It shall not be death but a deep sleep lasting a 100 years that will fall upon the King’s daughter.”

The King who wanted to protect his beloved child from all evil that might befall her, decreed that all spindles in the whole kingdom should be burnt. All blessings that were bestowed on the girl came true because she was so beautiful, virtuous, friendly and sensible that everybody who looked at her had to love her.

So it happened that on the day of her fifteenth birthday, the King and Queen weren’t at home and the girl was left alone. She went around everywhere, visited rooms and chambers as she pleased and finally came to an old tower.

She climbed up the steep spiral staircase and reached a small door. In the lock was a rusted old key. When she turned it,

"Dornröschen" by Alexander Zick
“Dornröschen” by Alexander Zick

the door sprang open and in the little chamber sat an old woman with a spindle, spinning her flax.

“Good morning, grandma”, said the Princess, “what are you doing?”

“I’m spinning”, said the old woman and nodded her head.

“What is that thing that jumps around so merrily?” said the girl, took the spindle and tried to spin as well. She had barely touched the spindle when the curse fulfilled itself and she stabbed her finger.

In that same moment that she felt the prick, she fell onto the bed that stood there and lay in a deep sleep. And this sleep spread throughout the entire castle. The King and Queen that had just come home and entered the throne room, began to sleep and their whole court with them. The horses slept in their stables, the dogs in the yard, the doves on the roof, the flies on the wall. Even the fire flickering in the stove became still and fell asleep, and the roast stopped sizzling. The cook who meant to pull the servant’s hair because he had forgotten something, let get of him and slept. And the wind quieted down and not even a leaf stirred on the trees in front  of the castle.

A thicket of thorns began to grow around the castle. Every year it grew higher, finally surrounding the whole castle so nothing was visible anymore, not even the flag on top of the roof.

A tale spread around the country of the beautiful sleeping Dornröschen (lit. Little Thorny Rose) – because that’s what people called her – so that Princes came from time to time and tried to penetrate the hedge of thorns. They didn’t succeed because the thorns stuck so closely together as if they were hands. The young men got stuck in them, couldn’t get loose and died a pitiful death.

After many long, long years, another Prince entered the country and heard an old man tell of the hedge of thorns.  A castle was to be behind it in which slept a beautiful Princess named Dornröschen for the last 100 years, and with her the King and Queen and their whole court. He knew from his grandfather that many Princes had come and tried to break through the hedge. But that they had got stuck and died a sad death.

The young man said: “I’m not afraid, I want to go and see beautiful Dornröschen.” The good old man tried to discourage him as much as he could but he wouldn’t listen.

It just so happened that 100 years had passed and the day had come that Dornröschen was to wake again.

When the Prince approached the hedge, it was covered in large pretty flowers. They parted by themselves and allowed him to enter unhurt and behind him, the hedge closed again. In the yard he saw horses and piebald hunting dogs asleep and on the roof sat turtle doves with their little heads stuck under their wings.

And when he entered the house, the flies slept on the wall, the cook in the kitchen held his hand as if he wanted the grab the boy and the maid sat in front of the black rooster that was supposed to be plucked. Then he continued on and saw in the throne room all members of the Court lying down asleep and near the throne lay the King and Queen.

Sleeping Beauty by Henry Meynell Rheam
Sleeping Beauty by Henry Meynell Rheam

He went even further and all was so still that he could hear his breath. Finally he arrived at the tower and opened the door to the little chamber in which Dornröschen slept. There she lay and was so beautiful that he couldn’t turn his gaze from her. And he bent down and gave kissed her.

When he touched her with his kiss, Dornröschen opened her eyes, woke up and looked at him with a friendly smile. They went to the throne room together and the King awoke and the Queen and the whole Court and looked at each other with big eyes. And the horses in the yard stood up and shook themselves; the hunting dogs jumped and wagged their tails; the doves on the roof pulled their heads out from  underneath their wings, looked around, then flew into the field; the flies on the walls crawled away; the fire in the kitchen rose up and flickered; and the cook slapped the boy so that he yelped; and the maid finished plucking the rooster.

And the wedding of the Prince with Dornröschen was celebrated in all its glory and they lived happily ever after.


And that’s the end of the first original Grimms fairytale. Personally, not one of my favourites. There are sooo many things wrong with this – don’t get me started on the poor kids dying in the hedge or the young princess being forced into marriage with some dude on her 15th birthday just because he happened to come along at the right time. Yeah, I know, there’s no point super-imposing modern sensibilities onto old stories but seriously, come on!

Anyway, what do you think? Did you enjoy the story? Wanna hear more? Let me know below!



Introducing Spirit Elfen

German-Cheyenne Crossover? Seriously?

winnetouoldshatterhandThe working title Spirit Elfen gives you a clue to my own background (Elfen is German for Elves).

I’m German bred and raised but always had a huge interest in American Indian mythology and history. Which isn’t as weird as it sounds – there is a massive interest in US Western history in Germany, mainly due to late 19th century writer Karl May who strangely never made it to North America. His main heroes are blood brothers Old Shatterhand and Winnetou, Chief of the Apaches. The books are still as popular today as they were 120 years ago. Doesn’t hurt that the 1960 actors Pierre Brice and Lex Barker (of Tarzan fame) were seriously gorgeous!

I don’t personally know any Cheyenne people and while I will do my best to be respectful to beliefs and culture, Spirit Elfen is fiction. So if any Cheyenne out there feel like they want to help me with local and tribal knowledge, please contact me! I would be very appreciative 🙂

So What is Spirit Elfen About?

I got up early, wrote 1500 words yesterday, feel motivated to write more today and generally, had a blast researching images for my pinterest board Spirit Elfen. So here is my quick and dirty summary:

Adi who dreams of earning her hostile family’s respect, begins to suffer from hallucinations that rapidly drive her to the edge of sanity. Honiahaka, a young Cheyenne  student, has the answer to her problems but isn’t sure that helping Adi is worth interrupting his studies. Soon the situation spirals out of control and both Adi and Honi are drawn into a whirlwind of spiritual and physical danger. Can the knowledge of Cheyenne and German mythology offer the answer to survival? Or is the difference in their backgrounds too large to overcome?

I love the tension between the heroine’s mundane life and her heritage. She’s been forced to fight against her family’s and her own expectations. Even harder to find out that everything she thought she knew, doesn’t apply anymore. Good thing she meets a mysterious boy who might help her?

Ooooh, I’m excited to write this!

Meet the Romantic Leads of Spirit Elfen

The images are representative of the casting I envisage, should this book ever be optioned for a movie (one can dream, no?) Obviously they’re totally cliche, but hey, it’s my Kopfkino (cinema inside my head) as we say here 🙂

Adi Gutseel

KateMaraAdi’s mom was German and her dad is from a very wealthy family. When he married beneath his station, his family wasn’t happy and particularly his mother (Adi’s Grandmother) hated her daughter-in-law. Adi stayed in Germany for most of her childhood and teenage years because of the friction. Her father wisely set up a trust-fund in her name that his family can only access if Adi is declared mentally unfit toKateMara2 handle her own finances.

The story begins as Adi pursues a German degree to fulfill her dream of one day teaching the language and culture herself.

Adi is very plain looking (at least at the beginning), a hard-working student who suffered some trauma in her childhood when she experienced visions. Her parents were so worried about the mental health that Adi had to undergo psychiatric treatment until her hallucinations went away. She has very low self-esteem and is desperate to gain respect from her peers, her teachers and above all, her family.

Honiahaka Clearsight Fisher

Martin Sensmeier3 Honi is a young Cheyenne student whose studies are financed by his extended family and tribe. He is mentored by a family friend who understands Honi’s gift of being able to see Spirit Animals. In this ‘verse, Spirit Animals represent people’s souls and character, and Honi has spent years of rigorous training learning to control his gift. He is a gorgeous dork, isolated from the rest of the students who think he’s weird. When he’s with his family, he comes into his own, proud, self-confident but at Uni, he’s introvert and ill at ease.

When he meets Adi, he sees her for who she is but has to take a decision whether helping her is worth interrupting his studies and potentially disappointing his sponsors.

The two are such odd-balls, pushed apart because of totally different backgrounds and goals in life, but drawn together because of their shared Gift but also very very strong chemistry. Yep, there will be physical reactions like lighting strikes!

And yes, I will allow my kids to read an edited version of the final book 🙂

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