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Tom Thumb (Tale)

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Tom Thumb
Tom Thumb 1888

Real Name

Tom Thumb

First Appearance

Unknown

Created by

English Folklore

Origin

In the days of King Arthur, old Thomas of the Mountain, a plowman and a member of the King's Council, wants nothing more than a son, even if he is no bigger than his thumb. He sends his wife to consult with Merlin and in three months time she gives birth to the diminutive Tom Thumb. The "Queene of Fayres" and her attendants act as midwives. She provides Tom with an oak leaf hat, a shirt of cobweb, a doublet of thistledown, stockings of apple rind, and shoes of mouse's skin.

Tom cheats at games with other boys and, because of his many tricks, the boys will not associate with him. Tom retaliates by using magic to hang his mother's pots and glasses from a sunbeam and, when his fellows try the same, their pots and glasses fall and are broken. Thereafter, Tom stays home under his mother's supervision. At Christmas, she makes puddings, but Tom falls into the batter, and is boiled into one of them. When a tinker comes begging, Tom's mother inadvertently gives him the pudding containing her son. The tinker farts while crossing a stile but Tom calls out about the farting and the frightened tinker drops the pudding. Tom eats himself free and returns home to tell his mother and father of his adventure.

His mother thereafter keeps a closer watch upon him but, one day he accompanies her to the field to milk the cows. He sits under a thistle but a red cow swallows him. The cow is given a laxative and Tom passes from her in a "cowturd." He is taken home and cleaned. Another day, he accompanies his father for the seed sowing and rides in the horse's ear. Tom is set down in the field to play the scarecrow but a raven carries him away. His parents search for him but are unable to find him. The raven drops Tom at the castle of a giant. The cruel giant swallows the tiny boy like a pill. Tom thrashes about so much in the giant's stomach that he is vomited into the sea. There, he is eaten once more, this time by a fish, which is caught for King Arthur's supper. The cook is astonished to see the little man emerge from the fish. Tom then becomes King Arthur's Dwarf.

Tom becomes a favourite at court, especially among the ladies. There is revelry; Tom joins the jousting and dances in the palm of a Maid of Honour. He goes home briefly to see his parents, taking some money from the treasury with the king's permission, then returns to court. The Queene of Fayres finds him asleep on a rose and leaves him several gifts: an enchanted hat of knowledge, a ring of invisibility, a shape-changing girdle, and shoes to take him anywhere in a moment. Tom falls seriously ill when a lady blows her nose, but is cured by the physician to King Twaddell of the Pygmies. He takes a ride in his walnut shell coach and meets Gargantua. Each boasts of his many powers, but when Gargantua threatens to harm Tom, he is cast under an enchantment and Tom hurries home to safety. King Arthur listens with amazement to Tom's many adventures.

Later, Tom exhausted himself with jousting but recovered in Fairyland. When he returned to Arthur's court, he accidentally landed in a bowl of the king's frumenty. Tom enrages the cook and is threatened with beheading. He seeks refuge in the mouth of a passing slack-jawed miller. Sensing tiny voices and movements within him, the man believes he is possessed. He yawns and Tom emerges but the Miller is so angry he tosses Tom into a river where he is swallowed by a salmon. The fish is caught, taken to the King's kitchen, and Tom is found and kept in a mousetrap until the king forgives him.

The court goes hunting and Tom joins them upon his steed, a mouse. A cat catches the mouse and Tom is injured. He is carried to Fairyland where he recovers and dwells for several years. When he returns to court, King Thunston now reigns. Charmed by the little man, the king gives Tom a tiny coach pulled by six mice. This makes the queen jealous, as she received no such gifts, and she frames Tom with being insolent to her. Tom attempts to escape on a passing butterfly but is caught and imprisoned in a mousetrap. He is freed by a curious cat and once more wins back the favour of his king. Sadly, he does not live to enjoy it as he is killed by a spider bite. Tom is laid to rest beneath rosebush and a marble monument is raised to his memory with the epitaph:

Here lies Tom Thumb, King Arthur’s knight,
Who died by a spider’s cruel bite.
He was well known in Arthur’s court,
Where he afforded gallant sport;
He rode at tilt and tournament,
And on a mouse a-hunting went;
Alive he fill’d the court with mirth,
His death to sorrow soon gave birth.
Wipe, wipe your eyes, and shake your head,
And cry, ‘Alas! Tom Thumb is dead.

Public Domain Comic Appearances

  • Fairy Tale Parade #2
  • Four Color #68, 972
  • Frisky Fables v2 #3
  • Thrilling Comics #9

Public Domain Comic Appearances of Modern Day Tom Thumbs

  • Crack Comics #45
  • Doll Man (1941 series) #16, 22, 28
  • Doll Man (1963 series) #17
  • Feature Comics #114, 128
  • Thrilling Comics #23

Notes

  • The tale of Tom Thumb was the first English fairy tale in print.

See Also

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