The valiant dressmaker

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The valiant dressmaker; Depiction by Alexander Zick

The brave little tailor is a fairy tale ( ATU 1640, 1051, 1052, 1060, 1062, 1115). It is in the children's and house fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm at position 20 (KHM 20). In the first edition, the title was From a brave tailor . The Schwankmärchen is based on Von einer König, Schneyder, Rysen, Einhorn and Wildschwein in Martin Montanus ' Wegkuerzer (1557–1566). Clemens Brentano also edited it after Montanus as a fairy tale from Schneider Siebentodt in one fell swoop in Die Mährchen vom Rhein (1810–1812). Even Ludwig Bechstein took it by Montanus in his German storybook as from brave little tailor (1845 no. 2, 1853 no. 1).


The brave little tailor outwits the giants - 19th century picture postcard

According to version I in the first edition from 1812, which essentially also follows Bechstein, the main character is a poor tailor who is disturbed at the beginning of the story by flies that were attracted by an apple lying next to him (in version II and since 2nd edition from 1819, which offers a unified text, replaced by mush that he bought from a farmer's wife). He furiously beats the animals with a cloth and kills all seven. Enthusiastic about his deed, he had an armor made for himself , on which he had the words "Seven struck in one stroke" written in gold letters (in variant II and since the second edition replaced by a belt that he made himself and with the inscription embroidered: "29 at one stroke!" or "Seven at one stroke!"), and goes out into the world so that everyone can experience it. However, the ambiguous inscription is misunderstood and the tailor is believed to be a war hero who killed seven men in one fell swoop.

The king heard about it and took the tailor into his service as commander of the cavalry troops. The other riders fear him and ask everyone for a leave of absence. The king therefore regrets his decision, but for fear of the hero of the story does not dare to dismiss him. He is therefore looking for a way to get rid of the tailor. He lets him come to himself and promises him the hand of his daughter and half the kingdom as " marriage tax " if he will free him from two cruel giants who have devastated his country. Secretly, however, the king's intention is to get rid of the dangerous tailor, since he firmly expects that he will perish in a fight with the monsters.

The tailor soon finds the two looters sleeping under a tree. He immediately has an idea. He collects stones, climbs into the tree under which the giants lie, and throws a stone at the first. He wakes up and thinks his friend is the culprit. He wakes him up, but the sleeper denies the act. When both have fallen asleep again, the tailor meets the second. Even now, after a brief argument, the giants continued their sleep. Now the tailor throws violently at the first one, who, when awakened again, becomes angry and begins to hit his friend. This defends itself, they tear up trees and beat each other with it until both are dead. When he reports his success to the riders, whom he has stopped in front of the forest, they don't believe him, and only when they see the dead giants lying are they convinced of the tailor's heroism.

But the king sets another condition and sends the hero off again to catch a unicorn that roams the country. Here, too, the ingenuity of the tailor shows, because when he challenges the wild animal to a fight and attacks it with the horn first, he jumps to the side so that the unicorn rams its horn into a tree. He puts a rope around his neck and after he has (from the 3rd edition of 1837) cut the horn out of the tree with an ax, he can bring it to the king. However, this demands another test of his skills, namely that a terrible wild boar is caught alive. Here, too, the Nadelschwinger remains sovereign: He lets the monster run into an abandoned chapel, jumps out of the window himself, runs around the chapel and then locks it there.

Illustration by Carl Offterdinger

Now the king cannot help but give his daughter and the kingdom to the poor tailor. When the king's daughter suspects the tailor's true identity on the basis of sentences he has spoken in a dream and informs her father, the latter tries to clear up the matter through his servants. The tailor, however, warned by a loyal lover, put them to flight through threats uttered in feigned sleep and thus can maintain his kingship in the long run.

According to variant II, the little tailor demonstrates his shrewdness through three trials against a giant, whom he meets before arriving at the royal court, by throwing a bird into the air instead of the alleged stone that does not return to earth and instead of another alleged one Steines crushed an old cheese by hand. A third test consists in holding down the branches of a cherry tree, from which it is thrown upwards, which he reinterprets as a deliberate jump over the tree, where the giant fails when trying to imitate him. From the 2nd edition of 1819, the third rehearsal is preceded by tree carrying, which the tailor decides for himself by pretending that he is carrying the tree crown, and this is followed by an adventure in the giant's house, who tries in vain to kill his overnight guest, whereby However, the prevailing triple scheme (three trials before the giant, three phases of the dispute between the giants, three trials before the king) is broken. The first two samples can also be found in Ernst Meiers in many details (30 flies, milk as a lure, paper that is attached to the hat as a reason to write the inscription; commissioning of the tailor by a traveling count, then bravery test in front of three grand; three Attempted murder; no scene with the sleeping giants in the forest; no adventure with unicorn and wild boar) different version in German folk tales from Swabia [1852] as well as in Adalbert Kuhns also in many details (12 flies; beer as a lure; inscription "right twelve "and" left elf "on the sides of the blade of a deer catcher; adventure with a bear; war campaign on a white horse ; killing of the giant after his attempted murder; sinking of the tailor in the swamp trying to follow the sun) different version in Märkische sagas and fairy tales [1843]. The adventure in the giant's house can also be found in Ernst Meier [s. above], who has three attempts to murder the giants, after which they are killed by the tailor.

Text history

Illustration by Otto Ubbelohde , 1909

In 1809 Wilhelm Grimm excerpted the fairytale of a king, tailor, giant, unicorn from Clemens Brentano's copy of Montanus' Wegkinderer . In it, the flies sit on an apple, the musfrau is missing, as are the rehearsals with the giant. The hero is given a suit of armor with gold letters ("Syben auff one stroke beaten to death"). In the end, the servants should simply kill him, which Grimm mitigates. The copy modernized the text in detail, it was in the first print of 1812 under the title Von einer brave Schneider in modern German. The fact that the unicorn damages the king to “fish and people” is a misprint in the underlying Montanus edition, meaning “cattle and people”. Brentano criticized the retention of old language forms as incomprehensible to children, which probably motivated the further processing. Below that was a separate text (probably by the Hassenpflug family ) only with the mush, the flies (“29 in one go!”) And the giant's samples without carrying the tree. From the 2nd edition this serves as an input with another (according to the note "Hessian"), so that the plot corresponds to the final version known today.

The 3rd edition has been further revised. It was omitted that the hero “lets his little eyes go back and forth after them” on a giant hunt, then says “Won the game!”, Wants to “ask” the king for the wages, and further down: “I caught the sow and the king's daughter with it too. ”The quarter pound becomes four lots . To the hero, the workshop seems “too small for his bravery”, “Before he left ...” (like an army). He is “light and nimble”, “did not feel tired”, “courageously” he speaks to the giant. It is explained that the bird can be caught because it is caught in the bushes, the giant cannot look around with the trunk on his shoulder. The tailor whistles “three tailors rode out of the gate” (probably the song: three riders rode out of the gate ). The giants eat roasted sheep in the cave, the tailor finds it much more spacious than his workshop, the bed is too big for him. The messenger stops by the sleeper, waits "until he stretched his limbs and opened his eyes". He finds that the king's daughter and half a kingdom “is not offered to one every day” (instead of: “… that is not bitter”, as was the case before). The hero throws at the giants several times and finally remarks: “Just lucky,”… “that they did not uproot the tree I was sitting on, otherwise I would have had to jump like a squirrel on another: but our one is fleeting! “He fears the unicorn even less. The horn is freed from the tree with the ax. The "fleeting hero" jumps into the chapel. If the king had known that he was a tailor, “it would have gone to his heart even more” (instead of “he would have preferred to give him a rope”). The servants should now “bind him and carry him to a ship that will take him away” (instead of “overwhelm”), he wants to “put a stop to it” (instead of “... steer well”). He calls (before: speaks) in a clear voice, the servants run as if “the wild army” (before: “a thousand devils”) were behind them. So it is partly about explanatory additions, partly character drawing of the hero. The text then hardly changed. What is new for the 4th edition: “The giant felt nothing for a long time”, for the 7th edition: “When it fell down again without damage, the giant spoke ...”, and further down: “and when everything was in order, he led the animal and brought it to the king. "


Illustration by Otto Ubbelohde , 1909

Many of the formulations remain close to Montanus' original. “Seven in one go!” It says already there. There was even the “why are you throwing me?” Of the giant (Montanus: “... and says why he throwing me”). For the 2nd and 3rd edition the text was embellished with many proverbs and sayings: The little tailor “was in good spirits” and the puree will “not taste bitter” are both u. a. Common phrases with Goethe and Hebel . But after the flies “didn't understand German” (they couldn't say anything), “the little tailor finally ran, as they say, the louse over the liver” - entries for both can be found in Grimm's dictionary. His "heart shook with joy like a lamb's tail" (as in Christian Weises Erznarren , 1673), so "he bravely took the path between his legs" (as in KHM 45 Daumerling's wandering ). He boasted: “This is our toy”, again he is “very funny and in good spirits ... as if carrying a tree were child's play”. It "always follows its pointy nose". The hewn giant “paid with the same coin” ( Rev 18.6  EU ). Common expressions are also: "There are good ways to do it," ... "They didn't bend a hair on me." The king wants to "get rid of the hero", had he known the truth, "it would have touched his heart even more" , only the woman notices "in which street the young gentleman was born" (cf. the closing punch line in KHM 4 fairy tales of one who set out to learn to be afraid ). The hero says: “I want to put a stop to this thing”, the servants run “as if the wild army were after them”.

Grimm's note

Illustration by Otto Ubbelohde , 1909

According to Grimm's comment, the beginning is based on “two complementary Hessian stories” (one of which is probably by the Hassenpflug family ), the episode at the royal court on Montanus' shorter journey . In Fischart's Gargantua (254b) it says “I want to kill you like mosquitos, nine in one go, like that tailor”, in Fleahatz (Dornavius ​​39b) “don't listen to the brave tailor / the three in one stroke too bad to death”, in Simplicissimus (2. Cap. 28) “and the titul of a tailor, seven in one go! had exceeded ”, in Johann Balthasar Schupps Fabelhans (16, 3)“ five in one go! ”. About the water from the stone they mention “a place with the brother Wernher (MS 2, 164b)”, and with the cheese Freibergs Tristan . The Brothers Grimm give a "Lower Austrian story" at Ziska "S. 9 ”, which they also used as The Giant and the Tailor in Grimm's Fairy Tales. The fairy tale is widespread throughout Germany, they still call Ludwig Aurbacher's little book for young people “S. 174-180, " Kuhn Nos. 11, Stöber Alsace. Volksb. "S. 109 ", Bechstein " S. 5 ", Ernst Meyer No. 37, Vonbun " p. 9 ", Zingerle " S. 12 ”, Pröhle's children's fairy tale no. 47, in Swedish by Cavallius “ S. 1–8 ", in Norwegian by Asbjörnsen " S. 40 ". You describe a Danish text at Etlar “S. 29 "after Nyerups " Writing on the Danish folk books "(" Almindelig, Morskapsläsning i Dannemark og Norge. Kiöbenh. 1816 ")" S. 241, 242 ". They give a story from an Amsterdam folk book Van klepn Kobisje alias Koningh sonder Onderzaten “S. 7-14 "again, it is listed as Hans Onversagt in the Dutch folk book Clement Marot , as an appendix" S. 132-133 ". Related is the English " fairy tale of Jack the Giant Dead " ( Tabart 3, 1–37) and at Müllenhof No. 17, furthermore a Tyrolean fairy tale at Zingerle "S. 108 ”, the Persian fairy tale of“ Amint the wise ”in Kletke's Märchensaal 3, 54, in Lappish in Nilsson's natives of the Scandinavian north (Stockh. 1843)“ S. 31 ". In the Russian "Song of Vladimir", Tugarin throw a stone so that it does not return. The boar can also be found in the “Book of the Seven Wise Masters” “S. 36. 37. "


Illustration by Otto Ubbelohde , 1909

In KHM 114 The Clever Little Tailor tricked a bear. The nature of the tailor is otherwise similar in Grimm's fairy tales (KHM 35 , 45 , 107 , 163 , 170 , 182 , 183 , 61a ). Cf. in Giambattista Basiles Pentameron I, 2 The small myrtle .

The brave little tailor is a narrative type AaTh 1640 in West and Central European editors, which appears first in Montanus' Wegkürtzer . Based on motifs known in Europe such as 'seven in one go', boar catching, unicorn hunt and the episode of the involuntary hero on the battlefield (missing in Grimm), according to Jurjen van der Kooi , she parodied popular novels of chivalry in early modern literature . Other versions were perhaps a calendar text about the hero Hans / Jan / Schuster Onverzaagt ( Een Kouszen-Verzoolder tot Koning Verkooren , 1596), one in the Dutch translated Schwankbuch Der Geist by Jan Tambaur (approx. 1660), but also a Danish one and Swedish folk book versions ( Historie om en Skomager-Svend i Rysz-Land , late 18th century; Storkjerta, eller Den tapper Skrädderen , 1824). Since Grimm's 2nd edition, the competition with the monster has been an integral part, usually a sequence of motifs from AaTh 1000 - 1200 ( Tales of the Stupid Ogre ). The attempted murder with an ax, regionally also fire, is followed by a food contest, in which the giant slashes his stomach, or the dragon carries the hero's money home and flees from the children who supposedly want to eat him. In special forms there is a dragon fight (AaTh 300), or the duped giant helps with the later tasks and then wants to marry the princess, but the hero makes the giant stink. The popular, worldwide spread editorial also influenced various stories of South and East Asia, which are assigned to the narrative type and z. T. are older. In the Po-Yu-King the woman wants to get rid of the man, gives him poison pills, robbers die from it and he has defeated them, flees from a lion on a tree, drops the knife and kills him. In the Bhīmasena-Jātaka , the bodhisattva helps a fearful weaver kill a tiger and buffalo, and leads him to victory in the army. The campaign appears in the Siddhi freestyle . In addition, the very diverse Indian tradition knows the poisoned food and the tiger killing with the knife falling from the tree. This episode in particular radiated across Asia and southern Europe.


Schneider are considered weak, the breakneck actions do not fit and, according to Hans-Jörg Uther, can only succeed in fear of death. To let the mythical beast run against the tree, he finds mediaeval sources, but without a unicorn. It is not the miraculous that dominates, but cunning and the reader is happy that the weak wins over the strong. Walter Scherf , after reviewing the many versions compiled by Bolte / Polívka , quotes Waldemar Liungman's statement that the hero is always "cowardice and boasting itself," which the young woman alone exposes. The trickster is a possibility for every boy, this is what the thumb stands for (AaTh 700, thumb fat ). Scherf compares Puss in Boots (AaTh 545 B), where the upstart reveals himself through ingratitude towards the helper who was his " alter ego ". Other versions emphasize a confrontation with the father demon going to the death (AaTh 328, Jack and the Beanstalk ), or the main figure is overlaid by the image of the immensely strong (AaTh 650 A, The young giant ).

The tailor with his scissors is often a picture of keen understanding; he fights with cunning and adaptability and makes people with clothes . See also KHM 114 The Clever Little Tailor , KHM 183 The Giant and the Tailor . Like Tom Thumb (KHM 37 , 45 ), he personifies the trickster . Wilhelm Salber initially sees a tendency towards the greater, surpassing the giant, which in turn determines the small through fear of destruction and, for fear of consequence, the need to see through and fear of being seen through. To do this, the braggart has to cover up, blame others and make them his own, devalue or skip things, follow chance. Development changes circumstances and does not follow rigid laws. The tailor knows how to take advantage of this, but must not deny the tailor or just be superior. Salber compares Gottfried Keller's story Pankraz, der Schmoller . The homeopath Martin Bomhardt compares the fairy tale with the drug picture of Lycopodium clavatum .


The “brave little tailor” is one of the not uncommon figures like a swineherd, a soldier who has abdicated or someone who set out to learn to fear, always someone “from far away” who wins a king's daughter and inherits the father (“that half empire ”or the like). It is about the story of a matrilineal line of succession in which the crown is passed on to the daughters and not to the sons, but to the daughter's husband. So the sons have to move out and seek their happiness elsewhere. If history moves on to a patrilineal society, a strong explanation is needed there to understand this success. With the "Brave Little Tailor" it is the exceptional cunning and audacity of the title figure.

Receptions and parodies

Clemens Brentano edited the fairy tale in Die Mährchen vom Rhein from 1810 to 1812 as a fairy tale by the Schneider Siebentodt in one fell swoop .

From the brave little tailor in Ludwig Bechstein's German book of fairy tales , No. 1 adheres exactly to Montanus' text, which he also specifies. The language has been adapted and embellished a bit. As with Grimm, the cloth rag comes from “hell”, that is the leftover waste (also in Bechstein's Die Sharp Scissors ). Bechstein scoffs that the knights are "witty and acumen cut a little short" that they can think of nothing better than to ask everyone to be released. It remained that one giant asked the other “why he was throwing him”, with Montanus: “why he was throwing him” (also with Grimm: “why are you throwing me?”). The brave beggar man in Bechstein's New German Book of Fairy Tales is similar . The dialog of the giants is similar in The Dog's Distress and The Hoffed Bride .

In Janosch's parody, the tailor is used in war, better and better weapons can be constructed that he can operate from the sofa, and he receives medals of bravery until he destroys the whole world.


  • The brave little tailor . A children's fairy tale game in 3 pictures by Robert Bürkner .
  • Robert Bürkner's brave little tailor . New version by Rolf B. Wessels.


  • L'Histoire du petit tailleur ( The brave little tailor ; based on the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm), composed by Tibor Harsanyi for a puppet theater piece for speakers, 7 instruments and percussion (1939), as a suite 1950
  • The valiant dressmaker. Small opera based on the Brothers Grimm , music: Wolfgang Mitterer , label: col legno (2007)
  • The composer and author Roland Zoss set the brave little tailor to music in Swiss dialect in the fairy tale series Liedermärli



  • Hans-Jörg Uther: Handbook to the children's and house fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. de Gruyter, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-11-019441-8 , pp. 47-49.
  • Heinz Rölleke (Ed.): Grimm's fairy tales and their sources. The literary models of Grimm's fairy tales are synoptically presented and commented on (= literature series literary studies. Volume 35). 2nd Edition. Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, Trier 2004, ISBN 3-88476-717-8 , pp. 38–55, 553–554.
  • Alice Dassel: Interpretations of three Grimm fairy tales: The spirit in the glass. The Sterntaler. The valiant dressmaker. Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2014.
  • Gereon Becht-Jördens: The brave little tailor - a model interpretation informed by material theory. (Science satire ) Collaborative Research Center 933 Materials Texxtkulturen Blog
  • Heidi Anne Heiner: The Annotated Brave Little Tailor [1] (with English bibliography)

Web links

Wikisource: The Brave Little Tailor  - Sources and full texts
Commons : The brave little tailor  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. See the various editions in full text in Wikisource below under web links.
  2. ^ Ernst Meier : German folk tales from Swabia. Scheidlin, Stuttgart 1852, pp. 129-134 (Wikisourceals, as no. 37 ).
  3. Adalbert Kuhn : Märkische Sagen und Märchen together with an appendix of customs and superstitions collected and published. Reimer, Berlin 1843, pp. 289-293 ( Google Books ).
  4. Heinz Rölleke (Ed.): Grimm's fairy tales and their sources. The literary models of Grimm's fairy tales are synoptically presented and commented on (= literature series literary studies. Volume 35). 2nd Edition. Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, Trier 2004, ISBN 3-88476-717-8 , pp. 38–55, 553–554.
  5. Heinz Rölleke (ed.): The oldest fairy tale collection of the Brothers Grimm. Synopsis of the handwritten original version from 1810 and the first prints from 1812. Edited and explained by Heinz Rölleke. Cologny-Geneve 1975 (Fondation Martin Bodmer, Printed in Switzerland), pp. 22-31, 349.
  6. Hans-Jörg Uther: Handbook on the children's and house tales of the Brothers Grimm. de Gruyter, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-11-019441-8 , pp. 47-49.
  7. Lothar Bluhm and Heinz Rölleke: “Popular speeches that I always listen to”. Fairy tale - proverb - saying. On the folk-poetic design of children's and house fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm. New edition. S. Hirzel Verlag, Stuttgart / Leipzig 1997, ISBN 3-7776-0733-9 , pp. 57-62.
  8. Jurjen van der Kooi: Brave Little Tailor. In: Encyclopedia of Fairy Tales. Volume 13. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2010, ISBN 978-3-11-023767-2 , pp. 210-219.
  9. Hans-Jörg Uther: Handbook on the children's and house tales of the Brothers Grimm. de Gruyter, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-11-019441-8 , pp. 47-49.
  10. Walter Scherf: The fairy tale dictionary. Volume 2. CH Beck, Munich 1995, ISBN 978-3-406-51995-6 , pp. 1171-1175.
  11. Hedwig von Beit: Contrast and Renewal in Fairy Tales. Second volume of «Symbolism of Fairy Tales». 2nd Edition. A. Francke, Bern 1956. pp. 498-501, 511.
  12. ^ Wilhelm Salber: Märchenanalyse (= Armin Schulte (Hrsg.): Work edition Wilhelm Salber, psychological morphology. Volume 12). 2nd Edition. Bouvier, Bonn 1999, ISBN 3-416-02899-6 , pp. 36-39, 53, 76-78.
  13. ^ Martin Bomhardt: Symbolic Materia Medica. 3. Edition. Verlag Homeopathie + Symbol, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-9804662-3-X , p. 815.
  14. Janosch: From the brave tailor. In: Janosch tells Grimm's fairy tale. Fifty selected fairy tales, retold for today's children. With drawings by Janosch. 8th edition. Beltz and Gelberg, Weinheim and Basel 1983, ISBN 3-407-80213-7 , pp. 35-44.
  15. Cf. The story of the brave little tailor by Tibor Harsanyi on CD by Discant music production Hilger Kespohl , Bünde (DSC 2014); listed u. a. June 10, 1990 in the Folkwang Museum Essen to the setting of Tibor Harsanyi performed by the soloists of the Philharmonia Hungarica under the direction of Helmut Imig with the puppet theater director Karin Lübben as speaker.