Stories for children
There was once a woodcutter and his wife who lived in a tiny cottage deep in the forest. They had seven sons, the youngest of whom was so small that they called him Little Thumb. The family was very poor and didn't always have enough to eat. One evening, when he was hidden from view under the table, Little Thumb heard his father say to his mother, ''We haven't so much as a crust of bread left, and I haven't been able to find work. Since we can no longer feed our children, we'll take them to gather wood in the forest tomorrow and try to lose them. ''Little Thumb hurried outside and collected some white pebbles. He filled his pockets with them and went straight to bed.
Next morning, the woodcutter's wife woke her children and said, ''Get up quickly and come and help us gather wood in the forest.'' So they all set off. Little Thumb lagged behind scattering the white pebbles on the ground. That way he would be able to find the way back home. When they came to the middle of the forest, the woodcutter said, ''Your mother and I are going farther on to cut wood. Stay here and gather bundles of firewood until we come back.'' The children gathered plenty of wood, but when night fell their parents had still not returned. They could hear animal noises in the darkness and began to feel very frightened. ''We're lost,'' they sobbed. ''The wolves will come and eat us!''
''Don't worry,'' said Little Thumb. ''Follow me and I'll lead you back home.'' And thanks to the while pebbles shining in the moonlight, they found their way home quite easily. Their parents were delighted to see them. A friend had brought them a big loaf of bread and they shared it happily with their children. A week later, there was again no food and Little Thumb heard his parents say that they would try to lose their children again. But this time, the door was closed and he was unable to go outside to collect pebbles. ''Never mind,'' he said to himself. ''Tomorrow, I'll scatter breadcrumbs instead.'' So the next day he dropped crumbs of bread along the path as he went.
Again the woodcutter asked the boys to collect bundles of firewood, while he and their mother went deeper into the forest to cut wood. The boys were busy with their work until it became dark. They weren't afraid because Little Thumb told them about the trail of crumbs he had left on the path. But when they went to find their way home there were not crumbs to be seen. The birds had eaten them all up! ''We really are lost,'' sobbed the brothers. ''We can hear the wolves in the woods and they really are coming to eat us!'' ''Don't worry,'' said Little Thumb. ''I'm scared too, but I'll climb a tree and see what I can see.'' And from high in the tree he cried, ''I can see a light over there. Follow me and I'll lead you back home.'' But when they came closer to the light, they could see that it wasn't their house at all. ''What shall we do?' sobbed the boys.
''I'll knock at the door, ''said Little Thumb. ''Perhaps someone inside can help us.'' So he stepped up to big door and knocked loudly. ''Who's there?'' asked a woman's voice. ''Seven little boys who have lost their way. Could you give us shelter for the night?'' asked Little Thumb, politely. ''Oh my poor children, this is the ogre's house. If you stay here, he will eat you, ''replied the woman. ''But if we stay in the forest, the wolves will eat us!'' ''I'll try to hide you. Quickly, get into this big wardrobe. '' And she hurried them inside. A little later, the hungry ogre came home. He sniffed around and said, ''I can smell the smell of little boys!'' ''It must be the leg of lamb I have just cooked you, ''said his wife, laying his place at the table.
The ogre ate the leg of lamb, followed by two hams and six sausages from the pantry. But the ogre continued to sniff. ''You're hiding something!'' he roared. ''I can smell little boys!'' He hunted round the room and eventually found the boys hiding in the wardrobe. ''Yum, yum, seven little boys, I shall eat them straight away!'' ''Oh don't' do that,'' said his wife. ''You've already had a good meal and will give yours If in digestion. Why not save them for lunch tomorrow? I'll put them to bed upstairs for now!'' So the ogre's wife put Little Thumb and his brothers to bed. The ogre's seven daughters were already asleep in their bed, each with a little crown on her head. Before going to sleep, Little Thumb took off his night cap and those of his brothers' and swapped them with the little ogresses' crowns.
In the middle of the night, the ogre woke. ''I should have eaten those boys, I'll take my big knife and kill them ready for my breakfast!'' Just as he was going to chop off the boys' heads, his hand brushed on the crowns. ''I nearly killed my own daughters!'' he exclaimed. So he felt for the boys' nightcaps and chopped off the heads beneath them! Little Thumb woke his brothers early. They hurried away into the forest.
When the ogre woke up and realised he had killed his own daughters, he was very angry. He put on his magic seven- league boots and went after the seven brothers. But they had heard him coming and hid under a rock. The ogre soon grew tired of looking for them and fell asleep. Little Thumb crept up to him and very carefully took off his seven-league boots. They were magic boots and shrank to fit Little Thumb's feet when he put them on. ''We can take you wherever you want to go, '' whispered the boots.
He put on his magic seven- league boots and went after the seven brothers. But they had heard him coming and hid under a rock. The ogre soon grew tired of looking for them and fell asleep. Little Thumb crept up to him and very carefully took off his seven-league boots. They were magic boots and shrank to fit Little Thumb's feet when he put them on. ''We can take you wherever you want to go, '' whispered the boots. So Little Thumb hurried off to a castle, faraway on a hill. The king needed a messenger and was so pleased with Little Thumb that he gave him a bag of gold. Little Thumb went to fetch his brothers and, thanks to the gold, they never went hungry again.