Once upon a time, a woman lived all alone in a cute little cottage. This woman had a very kind heart. She spent all of her time tending to the flowers in her beautiful garden and singing to the birds, who bathed in the birdbath just outside her window.
She enjoyed the way the sky wonderfully changed colors throughout the day. She loved to watch the bumblebees lazily buzz from flower to flower.
“I am lucky to be surrounded by so many beautiful things,” the woman would say to herself. “I only wish that I had a child to share my joy.”
The woman knew that she would never have a child by herself. The more she thought about a child, the sadder she grew. Soon she began ignoring the songs of the birds and did not notice when her roses began to wilt.
One day, as the woman was crying in her garden, an old woman passed by her gate. This woman was a kind old witch. She heard the cries of the lonely woman. “Excuse me, dear lady,” the old witch said sweetly, “but I think I can help you.”
The woman dried her tears with her handkerchief. “You can help me?” the woman asked.
“I know you want a child more than anything,” said the witch. “I have something for you.” The old witch pulled a tiny bag out of her cloak.
The woman was puzzled. She looked at the little sack. “I don’t understand,” she told the witch.
The witch told the woman that inside the bag was a tulip bulb. This tulip bulb was unlike any other — it was magic! The witch told the woman to take the bulb and plant it in a flowerpot. As soon as she watered the bulb, her wish would come true!
The woman was so excited. She wondered how the witch knew so much about her and how planting a bulb would give her a child. But she hoped her wish for a child would come true. She quickly ran into the cottage and planted the
tulip bulb. The moment she watered the bulb, a beautiful tulip popped out of the dark soil.
“What a lovely flower!” said the woman. She bent down to sniff the delicate petals. The tulip smelled so wonderful, the woman leaned in closer and gave it a kiss. As soon as she kissed the flower, the petals burst open. Sitting in the center of the flower was the most beautiful little child she had ever seen. “My, child! You are no bigger than my thumb! I will call you Thumbelina.” The woman instantly knew she would love the little girl as her own. One day, the woman put Thumbelina into her walnut-shell bed for a nap. “But I’m not sleepy, Mother,” the wee girl said in her very small voice.
The woman was so overjoyed to hear the child call her “Mother,” she began to cry tears of joy. She did not want to upset Thumbelina by her tears, so she quickly told her to sing one of her sweet songs to help her fall asleep. The woman left the room to find a handkerchief to dry her tears. She could hear Thumbelina’s beautiful song as she walked away.
She was not the only one who heard Thumbelina’s singing, though. An ugly toad was hopping by the window. She heard the music, too. She wanted Thumbelina to come away with her and marry her son.
The toad quickly hopped into the cottage and stole Thumbelina from her bed. She took the poor child to a stream and placed her on a lily pad.
“Stay here,” demanded the toad. “I must get my son to have a look at you. You will make him a wonderful bride.”
As soon as the ugly toad dove under the water, Thumbelina began to cry. “I do not want to be the wife of a toad,” cried Thumbelina. “I miss my home and my mother!”
As she was crying, three fish swam by her lily pad. They could not let such a precious child marry an ugly toad. They began to nibble at the stem of the lily pad. Soon, the lily pad broke free! Thumbelina sailed swiftly down the stream.
When the lily pad came to rest on the bank of the stream, Thumbelina stepped off onto the soft moss. She was lost but happy to be far away from the toad and her son! She asked a butterfly if he had seen her mother’s garden and her cottage, but the butterfly was shy. He just fluttered away.
Thumbelina was very tired from her adventure. She began to make a bed out of soft blades of grass. As she worked, the butterfly came back to help her. He flew back and forth, weaving the blades of grass into a sturdy hammock. It was a perfect bed for Thumbelina!
“Thank you for your help, Butterfly,” said Thumbelina.
The butterfly flapped his wings happily and carried a leaf to the hammock to make a pillow for Thumbelina’s pretty head. Then he sat on a nearby flower to shade Thumbelina as she slept. Thumbelina lived between the stream and the forest for many days. She ate the sweet grass that grew near the river and drank the dew and rainwater that collected in leaves.
As pleasant as her life was, Thumbelina missed her mother very much. She wanted to go home very badly. But Thumbelina could not find her way home. Every day she walked a little bit in a different direction. But she was afraid to go too far, and her little legs would get very tired.
The weather began to get cold. Thumbelina knew that she must try to walk as far as she could to find her home, or a warm place to live. She walked to the edge of the forest. There she found a small door in the base of a tree. It was the home of a friendly field mouse.
The field mouse was very happy to see Thumbelina. She never had visitors when the weather grew colder. The field mouse quickly invited Thumbelina to stay with her during the cold winter months. Thumbelina happily agreed to stay.
One day, as Thumbelina and the field mouse sat in the cozy house, they heard a strange noise at the door. A sparrow had been flying south for the winter and had hurt his wing. He could not fly. Thumbelina and the field mouse knew that the sparrow would not survive the winter outside in the cold. They invited him inside.
The sparrow was surprised at the kindness of the field mouse and Thumbelina. He was also surprised to see such a tiny person living with a mouse.
“Are you a fairy princess?” the sparrow asked the tiny Thumbelina.
“What is a fairy?” she asked.
“Someday, when my wing is better, I will show you,” the sparrow said.
Thumbelina asked the sparrow if he had been one of the lovely birds that taught her to sing in the birdbath. The sparrow said that he was not, but that he had heard his cousin talking of how he used to sing with a tiny human girl in a garden.
“I did not believe my cousin, but now I do,” said the sparrow, twittering with laughter.
Thumbelina’s heart leapt when she heard the news of the sparrow’s cousin.
“Yes! Yes! It was I who sang with your cousin!” Thumbelina shouted. She jumped up and sang for the field mouse and the sparrow. Her voice was amazing! The field mouse and the sparrow insisted that Thumbelina sing for them every day. They even made her a singing stage from a human-sized thimble the field mouse had found outside her house.The winter days passed quickly, and the sparrow’s wing grew stronger. A warm spring air filled the house of the field mouse. The winter was ending!
Thumbelina and the sparrow were very happy to step outside again. The field mouse was sad, however. She knew that her friends would be leaving her soon, and she would be alone again.
Soon that day came. The sparrow’s wing felt as good as new. He could hear the calls of his friends and relatives coming back from their winter down south. They would be looking for him. “I must leave soon to find my family,” the sparrow said. “I would like to take you with me, Thumbelina.”
Thumbelina was delighted. She wanted to go to her own home, though. “Thank you, but I miss my mother.”
The sparrow laughed. “I meant that I would take you to your home,” he said. He was sure he could find his way to Thumbelina’s mother’s house.
Thumbelina was overjoyed! She thanked the field mouse and hugged her good-bye. She hopped onto the sparrow’s back and away they flew into the spring air. She smiled and giggled as they soared through the air.
“I have a special surprise for you,” the sparrow said to Thumbelina, as he landed on a flower.
It was the most beautiful place that Thumbelina had ever seen, but it was not her home.
“I’m sorry, but this is not where I live,” she said. A tiny tear fell from her eye.
The sparrow explained that this was where the fairies lived. He told Thumbelina to think back to the day they met. He had promised her that he would show her what a fairy was.
Just then, a big white flower opened. A perfect little boy stepped out from the petals. He was just as small as Thumbelina! He had the most wonderful wings on his back and a tiny crown on his head. He was the prince of the fairies!
The prince took one look at Thumbelina and knew he must have her for his bride. Thumbelina was very happy, for she longed to be with another person her own size. She found the prince of the fairies very charming and handsome. He placed a tiny golden crown on Thumbelina’s head while two smaller fairies fastened delicate wings on her back. “I will marry you, Prince,” said Thumbelina happily, “but you must come with me and live in my mother’s garden. I miss her terribly!”
The prince eagerly agreed to move with Thumbelina to her mother’s garden. The sparrow showed the tiny prince and princess the way to the woman’s
garden. The woman was so surprised to find not only her precious little daughter singing to her from her windowsill, but also a new little son-in-law!
The sparrow visited the tiny couple every summer at the birdbath. They all lived happily ever after.