Hop o’ My Thumb – A Charles Perrault Fairy Tale

A Boy, an Ogre and a pair of magic boots – this week we bring you the popular tale of Hop O’ My Thumb. It tells the tale of a sparky young boy who endeavours to help his siblings, saving them all from the clutches of an Ogre and his subservient wife….

This story was originally published in 1697 in Histoires ou Contes du temps passé, a book containing eight fairy tales by Charles Perrault. It was titled Le Petit Poucet, meaning Little Thumb, and shares many similarities with fairy tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk and Hansel and Gretel. The story was first translated into English in 1729 in Robert Samber’s Histories or Tales of Past Times.

We hope you enjoy it!


Hop o’ My Thumb

A Charles Perrault Fairy Tale

A VERY poor couple once lived in a village near a wood, where they used to work; but as they had a family of seven little children, all boys, they could hardly manage to get food enough. The least boy was so tiny that he was called HOP o’ MY THUMB; but though so small, he was very clever. One night, when all the children were lying in bed, their parents were crying sadly, because there was no food in the house; and Hop o’ my Thumb was quite in a fright, when he heard them say, that they would take all their little ones into the wood next day, and there leave them, that they might not see them die of hunger. So he got up very early in the morning, and filled his pockets with pebbles; and when he and his brothers went into the wood, he dropped the stones one by one as he walked along, and by this means, when it was getting dark, they found the way home again. But the next time the poor couple took their children to the wood, the little fellow could not get pebbles, for he had been locked up all night, and had nothing but a few crumbs to drop on the road, and these the birds soon ate up. The wind howled, and the rain fell, and the poor children thought they should all perish; but they still kept moving on, in the hope of getting help.

Hop o’ my Thumb kept a good look out, and at last he saw a light not far off. So he cheered up his brothers, and on they went, till they reached a large house, from which the light was seen to come. After they had knocked at the door, a pleasant looking dame opened it; and Hop o’ my Thumb told how they had lost their way in the wood, and were very tired and hungry. As soon as she heard their story, she told them to go away as fast as they could, because her husband, who was an Ogre, and very fond of eating children, would soon be home. But they all cried so much, and begged so hard for food and shelter, that at last she let them in.

Hop o’ my Thumb, fearing mischief, could not sleep ; so he got out of bed, and, on looking about, saw that the Ogre’s daughters all had crowns on their heads; he then changed these for the nightcaps worn by his brothers and himself, and when the Ogre came up in the dark, with his great knife to kill the poor boys, he cut the throats of his own children, instead! At peep of day, Hop o’ my Thumb awoke his brothers, and made them quickly get away with him from the house. After they were gone, the Ogre, grinning savagely, went up to the bedroom; but he became almost mad when he found he had killed his daughters, and the little boys were all gone.

The Ogre now put on his magic boots, with which he could take seven leagues at a stride, and set off in pursuit of the poor runaway boys ; but Hop o’ my Thumb had made them all hide in a hole under a rock. By-and-by the Ogre came back tired and in a very bad humour, and threw himself on this very rock to sleep. A kind Fairy now appeared to the children, and gave Hop o’ my Thumb a nut to crack as soon as he should reach the Ogre’s house; but the Fairy told him he must first take off the Ogre’s boots, and send his brothers home, and afterwards put on the magic boots himself, and make the best of his way to the Ogre’s house.

Hop o’ my Thumb, with the help of the kind Fairy, soon removed the Ogre’s seven-leagued boots while he was asleep, and put them on his own little legs; but as they were magic boots, they fitted him as well as the Ogre, just, indeed, as if they had been made for him. He now called his brothers out of the hole in the rock, and put them in the way to reach home. He then strode on in his magic boots, till he came to the Ogre’s house, and, on cracking the nut, he found inside a paper with these words :

“Go unto the Ogre’s door,

These words speak, and nothing more;
‘Ogress, Ogre cannot come ;

Great key give to Hop o’ my Thumb.’ “

When the Ogre’s wife first saw Hop o’ my Thumb, she was ready to kill him for having caused the death of her daughters; but no sooner did he utter the magic words

“Ogress, Ogre cannot come ;

Great key give to Hop o’ my Thumb.”

than she gave him the key of the gold chest, and told him to take as much as he chose. When he saw the great heap of money in the chest, he thought, like a good subject, he should like to help the King to some of the treasure; and so he made the Ogre’s wife give him as many bags full of gold as he could take away in several journeys.

Hop o' My Thumb by Arthur Rackham

Hop o’ My Thumb by Arthur Rackham

While Hop o’ my Thumb was so well employed in taking away the wicked Ogre’s treasure, that monster was still sleeping, after his useless journey in search of the poor children, on the rock, where Hop o’ my Thumb left him. When he awoke, and found his magic boots gone, and his limbs so stiff that he could not move, he made a hideous noise, which aroused all the wild beasts of the forest, and they all flew at him in great fury, and gored him to death.

Hop o’ my Thumb now went to Court, laden with his hard-won spoil, and paid his respects to the King, who did him the favor to accept of his rich gifts, and rewarded him by making him his Head Forester, and his father and brothers foresters under him; and whenever the King went out hunting, the little fellow used to ride by his side, on a pretty, high-spirited little horse, with rich velvet clothing. The Ogre’s kind-hearted wife was also invited to Court, and created Duchess of Dollalolla; and she shared the rest of her husband’s wealth with Hop o’ my Thumb, who was greatly beloved by all for his spirit and good sense; indeed, his Majesty at last dubbed him a Knight, and made him his chief Privy Councillor, saying, that as he had been always so shrewd and clever in helping his brothers, he must surely be able to give him good advice whenever he might need it.



Books Featuring the tale of Hop O’ My Thumb