The Brave Little Tailor: Conspiracies and Connections

Girdle Up.jpg

In episode 4, "The Unicorn Situation," we read "The Brave Little Tailor" (AT 1620 Lucky Accidents/Valiant Little Tailor with elements of 1060, 1062, 1052, 1051, and 1115).  In this tale, a tailor buys some jam from a peasant woman and then leaves it spread on toast while he finishes a jacket.  The jam attracts some flies, and he manages to kill seven of them with one blow.  Real chuffed at his accomplishment, he then abandons his current project and instead sews himself a girdle, then abandons his entire life to take an old cheese and a live bird into the world to show off his accomplishment.  In a series of lucky accidents/clever trickery (or at least more clever than the giants and wildlife he's tricking) he manages to survive a series of increasingly unlikely challenges to land a kingdom and a wife who wants him dead after learning that he's a tailor.  Truly a dream we can all aspire to achieve.

This story hits on a few areas of interest in the overall WTFolklore universe.  We see some more insight into the culture of giants, there's a possibility of Project Birdfall interference, we're strong-arming the Cherry Man into here, and there might even be a loose connection to one of those Bony daughter transformation sequence stories.

The Culture of Giants

We know from the Mastermaid that giants collect taxes from Hell and we know from a much later reading that they are at odds with fairies.  As it stands now Giants are their own cultural entity separate from fairy-kind and trolls, though perhaps related to/another name for/in allegiance with Ogres, which are named interchangeably in the Aarne Thompson index.  Giants, while easily tricked, are not entirely unintelligent or uneducated (the giant the Brave Little Tailor encounters at the beginning of his story is literate enough to read his girdle).  As a species, they seem to have two great weaknesses: they have very poor vision and they believe what they see, likely due to a lack of an imagination.  The giant sees a very weak looking man and requires a lot of evidence to the contrary to believe that he's strong, but easily believes every trick shown to him as proof.  The combination of these two weaknesses makes this a species that is often swindled and frequently tricked into death, which likely affects their worldview.  They seem to operate by the specific rule that killing someone outright is wrong (unless they're trespassing on your home), but if you can trick them they're fair game.  A giant's trick is never nuanced or subtle, because they lack imagination, but without this cultural belief it makes no sense to invite the Brave Little Tailor to a giant party only to try to kill him in his sleep later.

Poor vision and a lack of imagination also leads to the downfall of the giants encountered later in the story (who are possibly some of the same giants from giant party earlier).  When being awakened by pelting rocks every few minutes they are both unable to see the true source of the projectiles or imagine that someone they cannot see might be nearby.  As a result of this imagination blind spot, they both assume it's the other at fault and kill each other.

The Culture of Kings

This king blows.  He takes a man's accessorizing at its word, makes a terrible deal with him, and tries to weasel out of the deal twice before aiding in an assassination plot.  Kings have about the same amount of imagination as giants and can apparently only think big when it comes to rewards.  You can't go straight to daughter+half my kingdom with every service provider you contract!  What happens if you have a plumbing project or hear about a really cool coat?  Some kings seem not to value their kingdom/daughters that highly and don't mind bargaining them away for some new outerwear, but others (this one included) seem to operate on a gambling mentality, just hoping the service will fail so they don't have to uphold their end of the bargain.  Imagine if that's how normal people managed things.  "Yeah, I need new brakes but I really hope you screw up my car so that I don't have to pay you."

Kings are infant children and I hate them.

Project Birdfall

What self respecting bird lets itself get caught in a bush and allows itself to be manhandled and shoved in a wallet with a dripping old cheese without a fuss?

A planted agent, that's who.

Birds have a huge intelligence network (they're everywhere, after all) and seem to know exactly where to push to make a kingdom fall or rise.  The majority of bird intervention we've seen is fairly subtle; a word here, a weird fight in a castle there.  This particular bird agent's job was simple: ride along with this cocky fool until he runs into one of the giants who appear to infest this general area and wait for basic giant psychology to take hold, then aid the fool in tricking the giant to give him that early boost of confidence he needs to bluff and blunder his way into a kingdom.  Giants seem to issue the same sets of challenges, so it's not unreasonable to assume birds know what to expect from them.

We still don't know the overall bird strategy for king-making, but they seem to be particularly focused on common folk of no magical ability.  We'll have to see if some general personality traits are favored, because thus far the Brave Little Tailor does not seem like a personality capable of running a kingdom well.  He has something of a tactical mind that may be helpful in warfare, but his arrogance and flippant attitude does seem to alienate enough people that it wasn't too hard to scrounge up a large number of folks willing to try to murder him in his sleep.  So perhaps the birds need his particular set of skills in a war to weaken some magical kingdom or enemy, or perhaps birds are also working to weaken human kingdoms as well.  My guess is the first option at this point; he's already dispatched with three magical entities by the time he takes the throne and that may be more valuable to them than human leadership skills.

The Cherry Man

We have decided that the peasant woman selling jam is definitely the Cherry Man.  This immortal entity held to no known laws or creeds just sort of shows up like a CMOT Dibbler character, selling ordinary wares that change the outcome of fate.  He sold the cherry that killed a princess and the jam that upended a line of succession.

Is Cherry Man working with the birds?  Possibly, though it's also possible he has his own agenda that just happened to line up with theirs at this point.  It's also possible he has no agenda and is just a force of chaos, like the weather, that the birds have learned to figure into their plans.  Cherry Man does how Cherry Man wants.


Finally, not a very strong connection but one that amuses me to think about.  We found it odd that there was just a random unused chapel in the middle of the forest that the Tailor was able to trap the wild boar within.  Since reading this tale, we've encountered a few stories (and there are others we haven't read yet that also feature this trope) that feature a magic flight transformation sequence that includes transforming into a chapel.  I'd like to think that this story briefly intersected with one of those and that the person transformed into a chapel just transformed back with an unexpected pork dinner in their belly.

Things to Watch Out For

  • A very overconfident king with a wife who hates him or has mysteriously vanished
  • More unicorns
  • The Cherry Man agenda
  • The style of king birds seem to like