I'm remembering a winter day, I gazed into the fire, and there, the pictures of the past are dancing. It is December, right before Christmas. Monsieur Ravel comes to visit us. He has dressed in a new dark green topcoat, and his arms are full of gifts. There're something dull in adult for my parents, new music for my brother, and for me, the most wonderful little man made out of tin. When he's wound up, he can walk all around the table.
Monsieur Ravel loves these mechanical marvels. He laughs at the little tin man as loud as my own. "I know a story about a boy who was this tiny", he says to me, "Oh he was not made out of tin, he was as real as you or I!" So I jump onto his lap and beg him to tell me the story of Tom Thumb.
Once upon a time, deep in a forest, there lived a woodcutter and his wife. They had seven children, all red-hair boys. When business was going well, the woodcutter was delighted with his large family. But when things were going poorly, he was not so happy. "There're too many bellies to feed", he would complain, "Too many feet to keep shod; Too many backs to covered with clothing; And not enough money to do it."
One cold winter, things became unbearable. Meals got plainer and leaner, clothes got smaller and more patched, and the wood cutter got more and more miserable. "Wife", he said one night: “I cannot sit by and watch my sons starve. Tomorrow, when I take them out into the forest, I would leave them there. Perhaps a wealthy merchant will find them and provide a better home."
"Huh!" the wife wept and refused to go along the plan at first, but finally she too gave in. The woodcutter went to sleep, not feeling at all happy with himself, but believing that he was doing the only thing he could. What he did not know was that one of the sons had overheard every word he said. This was the youngest son-Tom.
Now everyone, including the woodcutter, thought Tom was foolish, simply because he never spoke. And everyone also thought Tom was a weakling, simply because he was small. When he was born, in fact Tom had been no bigger than a man's thumb, and so everyone called him Tom Thumb.
When Tom heard his father's plans, he realized he had to save his brothers and himself. He sneaked out of the house, and went to the stream that lays beside it. In the moonlight, the white stones on the bank glittered like a treasure chest full of undersea jewels. Tom filled his pockets with stones and returned to bed.
The next morning, the woodcutter took his seven sons deep into the forest. Every few feet, Tom took a pebble out of his pocket. In the daytime they look like ordinary brown rocks, and dropped it on the ground. At noon, the woodcutter gave each boy a piece of bread and left them. "For a while", he said.
None of the brothers except Tom noticed him weeping as he said it. The little while turned into hours, and soon it was night. The brothers came to realize that their father was not coming back, and they began to weep. Tom waited politely until they were finished, and then he said: “Don’t cry, I will save you."
His brothers had never heard Tom speak before, and they were amazed! Tom pointed proudly to the stones he had dropped. In the moonlight, they shone like a path of fallen stars. He and his brothers followed the path and soon they were back home!
The woodcutter, who had feel terribly guilty at what he had done, was glad to see them. and his wife nearly fainted with joy. "No matter how poor we become", the woodcutter said, "We will all stay together. I had learned my lesson." But unfortunately, he forget again soon afterwards.
February came, the iciest, hungriest, most wolf-like February that had ever been. There was no work, no money, no food. "I can't stand seeing the children go hungry", the woodcutter roared, "Tomorrow I'm taking the children out and leaving them in the forest." Again his wife pleaded and wept; Again he was stubborn; And Again, little Tom heard every word.
Tom went outside in the freezing night, looking for more stones. But the snow had fall so heavily that stoned were buried beneath it, and he could not find even one. So he crept back to the house, not knowing what he was going to do.
The next morning, the mother gave the children each a slice of bread for breakfast. Tom put his in his pocket. When the father took the boys out into the forest, Tom crushed his bread in his hands, and every few feet, he threw down a few crumbs. Again the father let the children deep into the woods; Again he said he would return in a little while; And again he brushed away tears as he said it.
When night fell, and no father came. The boys all began to cry, except Tom. "Don't be frightened", he said, "I will show you the way back." He looked for the trail of bread crumbs, but it was no longer there! The birds in the forest had pounced on the crumbs, and had eaten them, everyone! So the seven children had to find their own way home.
They walked and they walked, through the heavy freezing night. Suddenly Tom cried: “I see a light!" Yes, it was a small flickering light through the trees! The boys rushed forward and found themselves with the door of a huge dark house.
They knocked, and the door was open by a woman. She had once been pretty, but fear had chased all her good-looks away. "Oh! Children! You must go!" she said, "You've come to the house of a terrible ogre, a monster who eats little boys!"
Tom sighed:" Madam, we have just come from a forest, which is full of wolves who also eats little boys. I would rather take my chances with the ogre."
The ogre's wife, for that was who she was, sighed. “My husband is out for a little while", she said, "Come inside and at least warm yourselves before the fire." The seven boys ran inside. And what a joy it was to rest exhausted legs in the huge castle, and warm the chilly back to the big fire. The ogre's wife warned them to stay awake, but they're tired of spoke in a louder voice, and soon they were fast asleep.
Suddenly, there was a huge wind and a huge earthquake, and each little boy found themselves caught up in a giant's fist, and gazing into a giant glaring eye. The ogre had returned.
"What is this!" the ogre roared, “human boys? What a good woman you are, wife! You have caught me a fine supper."
The wife was very frightened, but she pretended to go along with the ogre's idea. "Thank you, husband", she said, “but I meant these boys to be for your breakfast. As you can see, they are too thin and frozen for you to enjoy now. I thought that if they were given a good dinner and a good night sleep, they will be delicious with your pancakes tomorrow.”
The giant was disappointed, but he agreed, because his wife was really an excellent cook, and she knew best about these things. The ogre's wife winked at Tom, and he winked back. She gave the boys an excellent dinner and Put them to bed. After a sleep of several hours, Tom woke and nudged his brothers.
"Let's go," he said. And the seven children escaped. The ogre was light sleeper, however, and he felt in his giant bones that something was wrong. In the middle of the night, he tiptoed in and found that his breakfast had escaped. Furious, he put on his boots and ran out of the house to search for them.
Tom and his brothers had been running as fast as they could. But when Tow saw the ogre coming up so quickly behind them, he knew it was useless to keep on. He pushed his brothers and himself inside an old hollow log and waited.
The ogre was getting tired from all his chasing. And as a log came ahead him, he sat down to rest on the same hollow log where the boys were hiding. He felt so good to sit down that he took of his boots, lay them beside him, and had a little nap.
Tom crept out of the hollow log, and stepped into the boots himself. Now don't ask me how his feet fit the same boot that the ogre's feet has also fit. These boots were very magic, I suppose. But in a few moments, Tom was striding away, across the fields, and was back at the ogre's castle.
"Oh, Mrs. Ogre," he said to the wife, "your husband has sent me with a terrible message. He has been attacked by robbers. And he says, that the less you give me all your jewels and plate and gold coins to give to them, he will be killed."
The wife was terrified, and she gave him all that he asked for. Tom returned to his brothers, got them out of the wood, and they all returned home with the ogre's treasure. Their parents were overjoyed to see them.
The family was rich now, and there was no more talk about leaving the children to be raised by others. And as for the ogre, he may still be napping on the hollow log. So watch out next time you go into the woods.
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