Tom Tit Tot – Elementary Level

Once upon a time there was a woman who loved to cook. One day she made five pies, but she had cooked them for a little too long. They were hard on the outside.

The woman knew that the pies would become soft enough to eat if she kept them for a day. “Put those pies in the cupboard,” she said to her daughter. “They are too hard on the outside to eat right now, but if we leave them for a day, they’ll soon come good again.”

“Well, if they’ll soon come good again,” thought the daughter, “it wouldn’t hurt if I tried one now.” First she ate one, and then another, and she kept eating until all five pies were gone.

“Go and get me one of those pies,” the woman said to her daughter at supper time. “I think they should have come good by now.”

The girl knew that there was nothing in the cupboard but dishes, but she went and looked anyway.

“No, they haven’t come good again yet,” she said when she came back.

“Not one of them?” asked the woman.

“Not one of them,” answered the girl.

“Well, come good again or not,” said the woman, “I’ll have one for supper.”

“But you can’t if they haven’t come good,” said the girl.

“Yes I can,” said the woman. “Go and bring the best of them to me.”

“There is no best any more,” said the girl, “I have eaten them all.”

The woman was not happy. She took her spinning-wheel to the door where there was more light and began to spin. As she worked she sang.

“My daughter has eaten five, five pies today. My daughter has eaten five, five pies.”

The king was coming down the street and heard the singing. But he couldn’t hear the words clearly, so he stopped.

“What was that you were singing, my good woman?” he asked.

The woman did not want to say anything bad about her daughter to the king, so she sang some different words.

“My daughter has spun five, five skeins today. My daughter has spun five, five skeins.”

“Stars of mine!” said the king, “I have never heard of any one who could do that.”

“Look,” he said, “I want a wife. I’ll marry your daughter. But I must tell you something. Eleven months out of the year she shall have all she likes to eat, and all the beautiful clothes she likes to wear, and all the company she likes to keep. But the last month of the year she’ll have to spin five skeins every day. And if she doesn’t, I shall cut off her head.”

“All right,” said the woman, for she thought what a grand marriage it would be. As for the five skeins, she thought the king would probably forget all about it. And if not, she was sure that her daughter could find some way to get out of it.

So they were married. And 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.

As the end of the eleventh month got nearer, the girl began to think about the skeins. Would the king still want her to spin them? He had not said a word, and she hoped that he had forgotten about them.

However, on the last day of the eleventh month, he took her to a room she’d never been in before. There was nothing in it but a spinning-wheel and a chair. “Now, my dear,” he said, “you’ll be shut in here tomorrow with some food to eat and a bag of flax. If you haven’t spun five skeins by the end of the day, I shall have to cut off your head.”

And away he went about his business.

Well, she was very scared. She had never helped her mother with work around the house and didn’t know how to spin. What was she to do without anyone to help her? She sat down on the chair and cried and cried and cried.

All of a sudden she heard a knocking sound low down on the door. She got up and opened it. And what should she see but a little black imp with a long tail. It looked up at her and asked why she was crying.

“What’s that to you?” she said.

“Never you mind,” it said. “Tell me why you are crying.”

“It won’t do me any good if I do,” she said.

“You don’t know that,” it said, and twirled its tail round and round.

“All right,” she said. “It won’t hurt to tell you, even if it doesn’t do any good.” So she told it all about the pies, and the skeins, and how she would have her head cut off if she did not spin them.

“I will tell you what I’ll do,” said the little black imp. “I’ll come to your window every morning and take the flax. Then I’ll bring it back all spun into five skeins that same evening.”

“What payment do you want?” she asked.

It looked at her strangely out of the corner of its eyes. “Every evening I’ll give you three tries to guess my name,” it said. “If you haven’t guessed it before the month’s up, you shall be mine.”

She was sure that she would be able to guess its name before the month was up. “All right,” she said, “I agree.”

“All right,” it said, and its tail twirled even faster.

The next day, the king took her into the room.

“Now there’s the flax,” he said. “If it isn’t spun up by this evening, off goes your head.” And then he went out and closed the door.

A short time after he had gone, there was a knocking sound on the window.

She got up and opened it. Sure enough, there was the little black imp.

“Where’s the flax?” it asked.

“Here it is,” she answered, and she gave it to it.

Well, come the evening there was again a knocking sound on the window. She got up and opened it. There was the little black imp with the five skeins.

“Here they are,” it said, and it gave them to her.

“Now, what’s my name?” it said.

“Is it Bill?” she asked.

“No, it isn’t,” it said, and it twirled its tail.

“Is it Ned?” she asked.

“No, it isn’t,” it said, and it twirled its tail.

“Well, is it Mark?” she asked.

“No, it isn’t that either,” it said. It twirled its tail even harder, and flew away.

When the king came in, she had the five skeins ready for him. “I am happy that I won’t have to cut off your head tonight, my dear,” he said. “You’ll have your food and more flax in the morning.”

Every day the food and the flax were brought, and every day the little black imp came mornings and evenings. And all the day the girl sat trying to think of names to say to it when it came. But she could not think of the right one. As it got towards the end of the month, she saw that when the imp came it had a cruel look in its eyes. And each time she gave a guess, it twirled its tail faster and faster .

At last it came to the last day but one. The imp came that evening along with the five skeins.

“Well, have you got my name yet?” it asked.

“Is it Nicodemus?” she asked.

“No, it isn’t,” it said, and it twirled its tail.

“Is it Sammle?” she asked.

“No, it isn’t,” it said, and it twirled its tail.

“Well, is it Methusalem?” she asked.

“No, it isn’t that either,” it said, and it twirled its tail even faster.

Then it looked at her with eyes that were as red as fire. “There’s only tomorrow,” it said, “and then you’ll be mine!” Then it flew away, leaving her feeling very scared.

Soon the king came into the room and saw the five skeins.

“Well, my dear,” he said. “I can’t see why you won’t be able to spin your five skeins tomorrow as well. It looks as if I won’t have to cut off your head, so I’ll have supper with you in here tonight.”

Food was brought in and, as they started to eat, he stopped and began to laugh.

“What is it?” she asked.

“I was thinking about when I was out hunting today,” he said. “We were in a part of the woods I’d never been in before. I heard a strange sound coming from a clearing among the trees, and got off my horse to see what it was. Well, what should be there but the funniest little black thing you ever saw. It was sitting at a small spinning-wheel, spinning very fast. And as it worked it twirled its tail and sang a strange song:

“Nimmy nimmy not! My name’s Tom Tit Tot!”

The girl was very excited when she heard this, but she didn’t say a word.

The next day the little black imp looked at her with very cruel eyes when it came for the flax. And when evening came and she opened the window, it came in with a big smile on its face.

“What’s my name?” it asked, as it gave her the skeins.

“Is it Solomon?” she asked, in a scared voice.

“No, it isn’t,” it said. And it twirled its tail as it came further into the room.

“Is it Zebedee?” she asked, speaking as if she were now very scared.

“No, it isn’t,” it said. And then it laughed and twirled its tail so fast that it was hard to see.

“Take your time, girl,” it said. “One more guess, and you’re mine.” And it held out its black hands for her to come to it.

Well, she backed a step or two, and she looked at it. Then she laughed out loud. Pointing her finger at it, she cried out:

“NIMMY NIMMY NOT! YOUR NAME’S TOM TIT TOT!”

When it heard her, it gave out a terrible cry and flew away into the darkness. And she never saw it again.