Once upon a time there was an old woman who lived in a cottage on a hill, all by herself.
She never had any children of her own. No one ever came to visit and, thus, the woman took to caring for her garden of beautiful flowers. Eventually not even the old woman’s garden could keep her from feeling lonesome.
One day, as the old woman was watering her bright red roses, a witch came walking up the hill to the woman’s house. The old woman was skeptical of witches because she’d heard about all the apples and beans they tried to sell; however, this witch seemed nicer than what the old woman imagined. They talked for a long time, and each grew fond of the other. The woman finally told the witch that she had grown lonely in her old age. The witch, feeling sorry for the old woman, gave her a special seed for free. The witch told her to plant the seed in her best soil, to water her seed with her clearest water, and to give her seed some extra love.
The old woman did what the witch asked: she planted the seed in a small pot with the finest soil; she watered the seed with fresh rainwater; and one day, when the beautiful pink flower had sprouted up from the dirt, the old woman kissed its closed petals.
Suddenly, the flower petals opened up and inside sat a small girl with long golden hair. She was no larger than the old woman’s thumb. The old woman named her Thumbelina.
She took great care of Thumbelina as her own daughter. She made her a bed out of a polished walnut shell and each night she gathered flower petals from her garden for Thumbelina to use for warmth. Thumbelina would sing the old woman to sleep with a most beautiful singing voice.
After hearing Thumbelina’s lovely voice one warm summer night, a large toad hopped up to a window. Hop! Hop! Hop!
Once Thumbelina had fallen asleep, the toad crept in through the window.
“Oh my! This one will make the perfect wife for my son!” she exclaimed. The toad grabbed Thumbelina in the walnut shell and carried her off to the nearby river. Once near the river the toad said to her son, “Gaze at the lovely bride I found for you!”
Croak! Croak! Crooooooak! was all her son could reply.
Proudly, the mother toad took the still sleeping Thumbelina to a patch of lily pads and placed her on the smallest one. Then she went back to where her son was now lying in a large puddle of mud and the two of them began to construct a house of mud and reeds fit for the new bride.
Thumbelina awoke at the sound of hops and croaks and immediately began to sob at the thought of her mother all alone without the company of being sung to sleep.
Two orange fish heard Thumbelina weeping and saw the lily pad she was sitting on.
“We should help her,” both said at the same time. Immediately they swam over to Thumbelina’s lily pad and chewed at her lily stalk until she broke free.
“Oh! Thank you! Thank you so much,” Thumbelina exclaimed, waving goodbye to the fish as she began float away downstream.
As Thumbelina traveled down the river, her heart was filled with all the wonder of the world outside. She saw the beautiful stars in the sky; she heard the sounds of crickets chirping; and she could smell the lovely aroma of the flowers surrounding the river’s edge.
Suddenly a beautiful purple butterfly flew next to her, following her path down the river. Thumbelina gazed in surprise at the butterfly’s magnificent wings flapping beside her.
She cried out in joy and clapped her hands as the butterfly flew off into the rising sun. Thumbelina yawned and fell asleep once more until the sun had risen high above her.
When she awoke, she found herself at the river’s edge in a land even farther away from her dear old mother. Thumbelina tried to ignore her sadness during the summer months by surrounding herself with all the flowers and sun she could. She became friends with butterflies, and dragonflies, and bumblebees. She could hear the chirping of birds above her. She was happy once more.
But once autumn came, all the winged creatures began to fly away, leaving Thumbelina by herself. And once winter came, Thumbelina became very cold and even more alone. She could only warm herself with the dried leaves that had fallen off the trees during autumn.
One very snowy day, Thumbelina had become so cold and hungry that she decided to search for shelter and something to eat. She wandered farther than she ever had into the meadow beside a field of corn. There she found a small hole beside a tree. She climbed inside and was surprised to find a field mouse standing in a large room filled with pebbles of corn.
“Come inside, dear. You’re shaking. I will warm you. You will stay with me,” the field mouse said. The field mouse was kind to Thumbelina. She fed her all the corn Thumbelina desired and gave her a warm place to live and sleep. In return, the mouse asked that Thumbelina tend to the chores and tell her stories. Thumbelina told the mouse all the stories of her travels and eventually the mouse loved to be sung to sleep as well.
One morning Thumbelina awoke to the sounds of the field mouse scurrying around in a panic to spotlessly clean the hole where they lived.
When Thumbelina questioned this, the mouse replied, “Our neighbor is coming to visit. He is a very important visitor. He is rich, he wears a shiny black coat made of the finest velvet, and he will make the perfect husband for you. Unfortunately he is blind for he is a mole.”
The mole visited later that day and the mouse told Thumbelina to tell him a story. Thumbelina did. The mole became fond of Thumbelina. Then the mouse urged Thumbelina to sing for the blind mole. Thumbelina did. The mole immediately fell in love with Thumbelina.
He began to visit the mouse’s hole daily and often invited Thumbelina to walk through the tunnels he’d built. Thumbelina reluctantly did, but only to make the field mouse, who had been so kind to her, happy.
“Don’t mind that bird. It just lays in the middle of my tunnel. The stupid thing is gone and dead!” exclaimed the mole. Thumbelina was filled with sadness at the sight of the beautiful bird lying in the middle of the dirty tunnel. The mole kicked the bird grumpily as he walked past it.
“Come! Come!” he called to Thumbelina.
“I will be back for you,” Thumbelina whispered to the bird. She spent the rest of her day with the mole, unhappy.
That night Thumbelina tried to sleep, but all she could think about was the poor bird lying alone in the mole’s tunnel. She crept quietly as not to wake the field mouse. She grabbed her bed sheet, which the mouse had knit for her out of corn leaves and soft down, and ran through the tunnel to the bird. She covered the meek animal as much she could. She wept quietly and hugged the bird. Suddenly she could hear the bird’s heartbeat. Ba bump! Ba buMP! BA BUMP!
Thumbelina gasped as she saw the bird open its eyes. The bird was not dead! The winter’s air had only frozen the bird’s heartbeat. Her blanket had warmed the bird back to life.
For the rest of the winter Thumbelina nursed the bird back to full health. She kept this hidden from the field mouse and mole while they secretly planned to marry her off to the mole himself.
Once spring came around again, the ground began to warm up and the bird was back to full health just in time to leave the hole for summer. He asked Thumbelina to join him in the warm sun, flying around all day surrounded by flowers and other birds.
Thumbelina truly wished that she could, but she remembered how kind the field mouse had been to her during her time of need. Thus, Thumbelina sadly declined the bird’s offer. She wept as each bid farewell to the other. The bird wished her the best of luck and Thumbelina stood at the entrance of the hole as she watched him fly away, the sun shining splendidly on her face.
One day, when Thumbelina was tending the chores of the mouse’s hole, the field mouse said, “The mole has announced that he would like to marry you. With help, I will make you the nicest wedding dress. You will live a lavish life with him as your husband.”
The field mouse rounded up a group of spiders to weave the linen for Thumbelina’s wedding dress and other linens for her future life with the mole - all the while ignoring Thumbelina’s protests.
Thumbelina was not happy and much rather wished to live outside in the sun than inside in a dark and cold hole with the blind, boring mole.
When autumn arrived, Thumbelina sat at the edge of the hole and gazed at her beloved sun lowering behind the cornfield. She saw leaves upon the ground and her heart filled with a sudden sadness. Thumbelina began to sob. She told the field mouse that she did not wish to marry the mole. The mouse scampered around, ignoring Thumbelina’s sadness.
“You will live a good life with the mole. Don’t be ungrateful. You are lucky to have such a nice mole with such a nice velvet jacket who wants to marry you,” she stated. Thumbelina became sadder than ever and waited, dreading the day of her marriage.
One morning, she gazed up at the late autumn sun with tears in her eyes at the thought of never seeing it again. Suddenly she saw the bird that she had rescued. It flew down and landed beside her. The bird informed Thumbelina that he would be flying away for the winter to the land of summer, where the sun was always shining and the birds sang beautiful songs just like Thumbelina. He, once more, asked Thumbelina to fly away with him.
Without thinking twice Thumbelina hopped on the bird's back and the two flew towards the sun. They traveled for days across large mountains filled with snow, beautiful green fields, and patches upon patches of brilliant flowers. Finally, they arrived at a large flower-filled meadow. The air was warm and the sun was brighter than Thumbelina had ever seen. The bird landed on a high tree in a nest.
“You are more than welcome to stay with me, Thumbelina, but I suspect that you would enjoy being surrounded by the flowers below,” he said. Thumbelina nodded and kissed the kind bird’s feathers.
The bird swooped to the flowery meadow below and placed Thumbelina on a large pink flower, much like the one she came from. All of a sudden, behind a large pink petal, emerged a crowned man just a little bit larger than Thumbelina herself. He was alarmed at the size of the bird but once he saw Thumbelina standing next to it, he approached Thumbelina and immediately fell in love with her glowing happiness and the way her golden hair shone in the sun's light.
After spending many happy weeks together in the sunshine, he placed his brilliant crown upon Thumbelina's head and smiled warmly at her. He asked her to be his queen of the fairy kingdom.
Thumbelina pondered this for a moment. The fairy king was the first man to ask her. He was kinder to her than both the toad and the mole put together. She agreed to be his queen.
Seeing how happy Thumbelina was in the fairy king’s presence, the bird flew off and promised to return often to visit Thumbelina.
Once Thumbelina and the fairy king joined as king and queen, all of the flowers in the meadow each blossomed open to reveal one or two fairies sitting inside.
At the wedding, the fairy kingdom rejoiced in the king and queen’s newfound happiness. Thumbelina sang beautiful songs for all to hear. She was given many gifts, but her most favorite was a pair of gorgeous wings that reminded her of the butterfly’s she had first seen at the beginning of her journey.
The kingdom danced in the sunlight, drank sweet nectar, and befriended many of the birds that nested in the trees above thanks to Thumbelina. During the hot days the butterflies and dragonflies kept Thumbelina cool with their wings and in the evenings, Thumbelina sang her fairy king and the rest of the kingdom to sleep. Eventually all of the birds picked up on her song and sang along with her.
The bird that Thumbelina had rescued was always sad to leave Thumbelina, but he loved to travel and promised her that he would spread her story with the world.
One day he flew to an old woman’s cottage on a small hill and sang Thumbelina’s song. The old woman immediately recognized the song as Thumbelina’s as she was Thumbelina’s long lost mother. Her loneliness was forever removed for she knew that Thumbelina was safe and living happily in the far away sun. And if the old woman missed her dear Thumbelina, she would go to her window and see a bird perched on a tree, chirping Thumbelina’s song.
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About the Author:
My name is Tasha Guenther. I currently live in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada while I finish my PhD in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory with concentrations in digital cultures and Afrofuturism at McMaster University. I enjoy writing short stories and non-fiction pieces for grade school children. Learn more about me here or connect with me on my Instagram, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.