The Disobedient Kids and other Czecho-Slovak fairy tales/A Story about Palecek, "Little Thumb"
A Story about Palecek, "Little Thumb".
Once upon a time, there was a man and his wife, who had no children. They were very lonely and unhappy. Then they determined to pray to God for a little son. Perhaps He would hear them, it they prayed with all their hearts. "Dear God", they prayed. "You know how much we long for a little boy to be the joy and comfort of our old age. We pray you to have pity on us and send us a son."
The man felt sure that God would listen and went to his work in a contented frame of mind. One day the man went off to the fields to plow. While he was away, a little son was born, no larger than a thumb. His mother called him, "little thumb". Hardly had he been born, before he was all over the house, hopping, skipping and running. He was full at joy and singing all the time.
What was the mother's surprise when the little fellow said that noon. "Mother, give me father's dinner, so that I can take it to him in the field".
The mother made the sign of the cross. She was superstitious and did not know what to make of the boy. She had never in all her life ever heard of a boy like him. Really she was afraid to give him the basket, heavy with the father's dinner, for he was such a tiny mite. He insisted and insisted. Amused at his funny antics, as he gave her no peace, she packed the dinner in the basket and gave it to the boy.
Wonder of wonders! he took the basket on his head and ran with it to the fields. He could not be seen for the basket which covered him completely. It was such a funny sight to see this basket go along all by itself, as it were. The dust in the road was as high as his waist and almost smothered the little man, but do you think that he would give up? No sir! he trudged along, sneezing and puffng like a little engine.
After a while he came to the brook over which there was no bridge. Now what was he going to do? He was a wise, clever little chap and remembered that there was a big wooden spoon in the basket, so he reached for it and placing it on the water, it became a little boat on which he gaily crossed over, towing the basket after him.
When he came to the field where his father was plowing, he bagan to call from far off,
"Father, father, here I am with your dinner".
But the father did not hear the thin little voice. Besides he did not even know that a son had been born to him that morning, and then he would not have believed that a newly born son could take his father's dinner to him that same day.
Palecek kept on calling. When he stood at his father's feet, the father fumed to see where that buzzing sound came from. Then he saw the basket behind him, but did not see Palecek. The father stared at the wonderful basket that had come to the field all alone, as he thought. Then for the first time, he saw a little boy no bigger than a thumb. Imagine his surprise to see such a little boy. Had anybody ever seen one like him before? And then to hear him talk. It was such a cunning sound. He could not believe his ears when Palecek said, "I am your son!""Born this morning and bringing my dinner! You are a wonder, a very miracle of a son", laughed the father, as sitting down he began to eat his dinner.
While his father was eating. Palecek said that he would like to plow a bit for him. He also asked for the whip to drive the oxen.
"How can you drive the oxen, my little son, when you can't even carry the whip". laughed the father?
"I will make them go without a whip", answered the boy, as with one bound, he jumped on the nearest ox and crept into his ear. As he did so, he cried as loud as he could, "Hoi! Heiso! Hwi!"
The boy's voice sounded like thunder in the ear of that ox, as he started off in a mad race, dragging his mate with him. The oxen ran up and down, over that field so fast, that Palecek plowed more that noon than the father had the whole morning.
Around the field where Palecek was plowing, wound the main road. About that time a rich merchant, who had been to market, was on his way home. When he saw the oxen plowing alone, he was greatly astonished. He could hardly believe his eyes and went up closer to see what it all meant. Then for the first time, he heard the voice of Little Thumb urging them on. With amazement he listened to see where the voice came from. Then he heard it say, "Here I am in the ear of the ox".
Looking in the ear of the ox, there he spied Palecek. He was delighted with the little chap and wished that he might have him for his own. "Ha, ha", he said, "that's the lad for me. He's so small, that he won't eat very much." That suited him, for he was a very stingy man."Will you enter my service", he asked Little Thumb?
"Why not, if my father is willing", he replied. Then he sprang like a shot from the ear of the ox, and running to his father, whispered, "Father, the merchant wants to hire me, but don't let him have me too cheap. Have no fear for me. I shall return to you very soon, but you must be sure to follow us as soon as he takes me."
When the merchant came to the father to ask if he could hire the clever little chap, the father asked,
"How much will you pay?"
"How much do you want?"
Twenty-one ducats is the wages", said the father.
The merchiant at once consented and paid the price. Then he caught up Palecek carefully and put him in his pocket and off they went.
The father followed them afar off, as Palecek had urged. He soon learned why, for all along the road he found one piece of money after another that had fallen from the merchant's pockets.
Little Thumb, as soon as the merchant had put him so carefully in his pocket, had bitten a hole in it, so that all the money ran out. Then he slipped through the hole himself and hurrying on to meet his father, they went home rejoicing.
The merchant arriving home, called out to his wife before he had reached the gate. "Come and see the marvel I have brought you!"
"What is it", she said, as she ran out to meet him?"
"A wonderful little man, who can do magic work for us. He is worth much gold."
The wife looked around, wondering where he could be. Not seeing any one, "where is he", she asked?
Then the merchant thrusting his hand in his pocket to pull out Palecek, found alas, no Little Thumb, nothing but a great big hole! Not only was Palacek gone, but all his money too.
Then the merchant knew that Palecek had outwitted him.