Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales: The Gallant Tailor
“One summer morning a little tailor was sitting on his board near the window, and working cheerfully with all his might…”
The Gallant Tailor is the tale of a cunning tailor who by the end of the story becomes king. This is my first reading of this fairy tale; I am more familiar with the English character Jack the Giant Killer, who is somewhat similar.
Additional titles for this fairy tale include “The Brave Little Tailor” and “The Valiant Little Tailor;” Das tapfere Schneiderlein is the original German. The beginning of the story begins with our tailor ordering a minute (disappointing) amount of jelly from a poor woman. I immediately guessed that this was going to come back to bite our protagonist on the……was going to lead to some bad karma for our protagonist. I guessed incorrectly; this was the beginning of the setup of our protagonist as the antihero.
Deciding his social status was not a comfortable rung to be sitting on, our tailor decides to climb his way up the ladder and make his way to the king using cunning acts and a belt boasting “seven at one blow.” The giants he fought and the king’s soldiers believed this meant seven men, when really the tailor fought seven flies off of his sweet jelly. His deceit and trickery, however, do not wind up hurting him. The king believes the tailor is more brave, valiant, and gallant than the tailor actually is, and decides to kill him. The tailor finds out, and one last trick causes the king, his daughter, and his soldiers to flee in fear, putting the tailor on top as king.
Sure, this may seem like the deceitful bird gets the worm, but the bigger idea is that with determination and…resourcefulness…one can break through the rules of social class to become something greater (even if one is deceitful the entire way). And, with the use of an antihero, that unconventional or bad decisions doesn’t mean one is rotten to the core.
Joseph Jacobs, an infamous fairy tale adapter of the 19th-century, left the tailor-made-king his bride in his version, to live happily ever after, of course. This is similar to a change made in The Frog Prince for its English audience; English readers were such prudes, what with their need for non-violence and characters needing love to live happily. Oh well.
- Aarne-Thompson classification system – 1640: The Valiant Little Tailor (ANECDOTES AND JOKES, Stories About a Man, Lucky Accidents)
- Joseph Jacobs