Tom Tit Tot

tom tit totIn this , a woman lies to a king about her daughter being good at using a spinning-wheel. For some reason this is just the kind of girl the king wants to marry. The girl, who doesn’t seem to be good at anything except eating, then needs the help of a strange creature in order to keep her head. However, to avoid an even worse fate, she must guess the creature’s name. In his book “English Fairy Tales”, Joseph Jacobs wrote: “The story of Tom Tit Tot …is one of the best folk-tales that have ever been collected, far superior to any of the continental variants of this tale with which I am acquainted.” I am afraid that we can’t agree. To learn why, we suggest that you read the story and then have a look at our Comments below.

  • Original Text with Audio (1700 words)
  • Elementary Level Story
  • General Understanding Quiz
  • Rumpelstiltskin
  • Elementary Vocabulary Help / Exercises

    The words and expressions in our Elementary level Simplified English story which are not in our 800 word list are: , , , , , , , , , and .

    There is also a word that is in our Elementary word list but has a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used. We are told that for eleven months the girl had all she liked to eat, and all the beautiful clothes she liked to wear, and all the company she liked to keep. The word here has nothing to do with a kind of business, but means the people you spend time with.

    General Comments on the Story

    english fairy talesOur source for the story was a children’s book called English Fairy Stories by Australian folktale collector Joseph Jacobs, first published in 1890. The book can be downloaded in various forms from Project Gutenberg here. An is available from Librivox here.

    Jacobs’ source was a folktale of the same name which appeared in the “Suffolk Notes and Queries” section of the Ipswich Journal in 1877. It was contributed by Victorian poet Anna Walter-Thomas ( Fison), who had heard it from her nurse as a child.

    As mentioned above, we can’t agree with Joseph Jacobs’s assessment that the story is “unequalled among all other folk-tales… for its combined sense of humour and dramatic power.” There are a number of unanswered questions which greatly reduce the dramatic power of Tom Tit Tot. For example: Why does the king want a wife who can spin five skeins of flax every day? And why does he wait until they have been married for eleven months before putting the girl to the test? These make it much less of a story than the Brothers Grimm “continental variant” Rumpelstiltskin, where the greedy king gets the girl to spin straw into gold. It likely that either Anna Walter-Thomas (who was married to a church minister) cut some pieces out of the story that she thought were improper when she submitted it to the Ipswitch Journal, or the nurse who told her the story did so.

    For comparison, we have included a version of Rumpelstiltskin for anyone who is interested. There are many English versions of the books that we know today as “Grimms’ Fairy Tales”. First published in 1812-15 under the name “Children’s and Household Tales”, six further editions were released during the Grimm brothers’ lifetime. With each new edition, stories were added and subtracted and some of those that remained were changed substantially to make them more socially acceptable and/or reflect the fact the target audience was changing from general readers to children. In the 1812-15 editions there were 156 stories; in the last there was 200 plus 10 legends. Then we have the translators, many of whom also changed details of the stories. The version of Rumpelstiltskin presented here is from the first ever (1823) English translation by Edgar Taylor. This is not as true as it might be to the original story. Wherever possible, our objective is to provide listening material along with original stories. When doing this, we don’t look for the best translation, but rather the one with the clearest supporting audio track.


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(n: fairytale pl fairytales) A children's story that has people or creatures in it with magical powers. (เทพนิยายน) 14000
(n: fairy pl fairies) An imaginary creature having magical powers. (นางฟ้า) 4000
(n: tale pl tales) A story about real or imaginary events; an exciting or dramatic story that may not be completely true. (นิทาน)

cruel(adj: cruel, crueler, cruelest) Used to describe someone who hurts others and does not feel sorry about it (โหดร้าย), or something that causes or helps to cause pain or suffering. (ซึ่งก่อให้เกิดความเจ็บปวด)
(n: cruelty pl cruelties) 1. Something which causes pain or suffering. 2. The quality or state of being cruel. (การกระทำที่โหดร้าย) 3000

dishes(n: dishes, plural) All the things [such as plates, forks, glasses, pans, cooking utensils, etc.] that are used to prepare, serve, and eat a meal. We put all the dishes in the sink after dinner. Will you wash the breakfast dishes, please? (ถ้วยชาม) 2000

(adj: either) 1. The one or the other of two things, people etc. You can choose either answer. (อย่างใดอย่างหนึ่ง) 2. The one and the other of two things, people etc; both. Either answer is correct.. (สิ่งหนึ่งและอีกสิ่งหนึ่ง)
(adv: either) 1. [after a negative statement] In addition; also. He is not wise or handsome either. (เช่นกัน) 2. Used for emphasis. If you don't go, I won't either. (เช่นกัน)
(conj: either.. or..) Used with or to indicate choices or possibilities. Either go to see him or send a message. (ไม่อย่างนี้...ก็...)
(phrase: me either) Used in informal U.S. speech to say that you agree with a negative statement that someone has made. “I didn't like the movie.” “Me either.” 1000

flax(n: flax, noncount) 1. A plant that has blue flowers and is grown for its fiber and its seed. The fiber of flax is used to make linen and the seed is used to make linseed oil. 2. The fiber of the flax plant. (พืชที่ใช้ทำผ้าลินิน) 12000

imp(n: imp pl imps) 1. A small creature that plays harmful tricks in children's stories. (ภูตน้อย; ปีศาจน้อย; เทพธิดาน้อย) 2. A child who causes trouble in a playful way; a mischievous child. He's a lovable imp. (เด็กซุกซน) 7000

knock(v: knock, knocks, knocked, knocking) To make a loud, sharp noise by hitting or tapping something (especially a door to get someone to open it). (เคาะ) 1000

skein(n: skein pl skeins) A long piece of yarn or thread that is ​collected together into the ​shape of a ​loose ​ring. (กลุ่มด้ายที่พันกันยุ่งเหยิง) 13000

spinspinning-wheel(v: spin, spins, spun, spinning) 1. To turn or cause someone or something to go round and round repeatedly. The car hit a patch of ice and spun into the wall. The children were spinning a top. (หมุน) 2. To form threads from (wool, cotton etc) by drawing out and twisting, especially using a machine such as a spinning-wheel They spun the wool into yarn. (กรอ) 3000

supper(n: supper pl suppers) A usually light meal taken at the end of the day. (อาหารมื้อเย็น) 3000

twirl(v: twirl, twirls, twirled, twirling) To turn (something) around and around quickly. To twirl a baton/drumstick. (วน) 11000

business(n: company pl companies) 1. A business organization. He runs his own trucking company. (บริษัท) 2. [noncount] The people you spend time with. You can tell a lot about people by the company they keep. (กลุ่มคน) 2. [noncount] The state or condition of being with another person. I enjoy her company. (ความเป็นเพื่อน) 1000

e-book(n: e-book pl e-books) A book whose contents are in an electronic format so that it can be downloaded and read.

audiobook(n: audiobook pl audiobooks) A book that is read out loud and recorded on a CD or as a computer file so that it can be listened to. (หนังสือเสียง)

(adj: née or nee) Born; used to state what a woman's name was before she married. Mrs Jane Brown, née Black. (คำเรียกตามหลังชื่อและนามสกุลของหญิงที่แต่งงานแล้ว) 12000