'Tom Tit Tot' PARENT & CHILD


June 10, 1998

Editor's note: An old English folk tale that spins a similar yarn

to the better-known German story, 'Rumpelstiltskin'.

For eleven months the girl had all she liked to eat, and all the gowns she liked to get, and all the company she liked to keep. But when the time was getting over, she began to think about the skeins and to wonder if he had 'em in mind. But not one word did he say about 'em, and she thought he's wholly forgotten 'em.

However, the last day of the eleventh month he takes her to a room she'd never set eyes on before. There was nothing in it but a spinning wheel and a stool. And says he, "Now my dear, here you'll be shut in tomorrow with some victuals and flax, and if you haven't spun five skeins by the night, your head'll go off." And away he went about his business.

Well, she was that frightened that she didn't so much know how to spin, and what was she to do tomorrow with no one to come nigh and help her? She sat down on the stool and law, how she did cry!

However, all of a sudden she heard a sort of knocking low down on the door. She upped and opened it, and what should she see but a small little black thing with a long tail. That looked up at her right curious, and that said, "What are you a-crying for?" and she upped and told everything.

"This is what I'll do," says the little black thing. "I'll come to your window every morning and take the flax and bring it spun at night."

"What's your pay?" says she.

That looked out of the corner of that's eyes, and that said, "I'll give you three guesses every night to guess my name, and if you haven't guessed it before the month's up you shall be mine."

Well, the next day, her husband took her into the room, and there was the flax and the day's food. "Now there's the flax," says he, "and if that ain't spun up this night, off goes your head." And then he went out and locked the door.

He'd hardly gone, when there was a knocking against the window. She upped and oped it, and there sure enough was the little old thing sitting on the ledge.

"Where's the flax?" says he.

"Here it be," says she. And she gave it to him.

And all day the girl sat trying to think of names to say to it when it came at night. But she never hit on the right one. And as it got towards the end of the month, the impet began to look so maliceful, and that twirled that's tail faster and faster each time she gave a guess.

At last it came to the last day but one.

She heard the king coming along the passage. In he came, and when he sees the five skeins, he says, says he, "Well, my dear," says he, "I don't see but what you'll have your skeins ready tomorrow night as well, and as I reckon I shan't have to kill you, I'll have supper in here tonight." So they brought supper, and another stool for him, and down the two sate.

Well, he hadn't eaten but a mouthful or so, when he stops and begins to laugh.

"I was out a-hunting today, and I got away to a place in the wood I'd never seen before. And there was an old chalk pit. And I heard a kind of a sort of humming. So I got off my hobby, and I went right quiet to the pit, and I looked down. Well, what should there be but the funniest little black thing you ever set eyes on. And what was that doing, but that had a little spinning wheel, and that was spinning wonderful fast, and twirling that's tail. And as that span, that sang: "Nimmy nimmy not, my name's Tom Tit Tot."

Well, when the girl heard this, she felt as if she could have jumped out of her skin for joy, but she didn't say a word.

Next day that there little thing looked so maliceful when he came for the flax. And when night came she heard that knocking against the windowpanes. She oped the window, and that come right in on the ledge. That was grinning from ear to ear, and oo that's tail was twirling round so fast.

"Take time, woman," that says. "Next guess, and you're mine." And that stretched out that's black hands at her.

Well, she backed a step or two, and she looked at it, and then she laughed out, and says she, pointing her finger at it:

"Nimmy nimmy not your name's Tom Tit Tot."

Well, when that heard her, that gave an awful shriek and away that flew into the dark, and she never saw it any more.

Excerpted from the book TOM TIT TOT, illustrated by Evaline Ness. Illustrations copyright 1965, by Evaline Ness. Copyright renewed. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., Children's Publishing Division. All rights reserved.

Pub date: 6/10/98

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