This story has a silly title. Not only that, but it features a character who sounds thumb-sized. This is deeply worrying to anyone who's quite small themselves, ie me a long time ago.
I'm still not completely happy, either, about where the apostrophes and capital letters should go in Hop o'my Thumb's name.
The good news is that Hop o'my Thumb himself, although the youngest of seven brothers and really rather weedy, is pretty much of normal size. The other good news is that he gets to wear seven-league boots and have a battle of wits with a particularly nasty ogre.
The ogre has a very kind wife. And seven daughters.
These young Ogresses had fair skins, because they fed on raw meat like their
father; but they had small grey eyes, quite round, and sunk in their heads,
hooked noses, wide mouths, and very long sharp teeth standing a great way off
each other. They were too young as yet to do much mischief; but they showed that
if they lived to be as old as their father, they would grow quite as cruel as he
was, for they took pleasure already in biting young children, and sucking their
I can't help but admit that Hop o'my Thumb is a rather nasty and hypocritical story. Hop o'my Thumb's parents twice try to abandon him and his brothers to the howling wolves:
Illustration by Peter Newell.
and Hop o'my Thumb, though he never actually hurts anyone, takes after his father in being quite happy to arrange the deaths of people as long as he doesn't have to be around when the actual deed is taking place.
The story was first written down by Charles Perrault in 1697. The beautifully nasty version quoted above is by Dinah Maria Mullock.
Word To Use Today: thumb. This word comes from the Old English thūma, from the Old Norse thumall, which means the thumb of a glove, from the Latin tumēre, which means to swell.