The Teeny-Tiny Woman

Welcome, October! It's that time of the year, dear readers. It's time to turn this blog over to all things spooky and scary, or at least, beautifully autumnal. I've already started working my way through some seasonal reads and I can't wait to share! Let's start things off with a look at a very old English folk tale.

Last year, Little Sis read the two Alvin Schwartz early readers, In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories and Ghosts! Ghostly Tales from Folklore. During her reading, she was introduced to the story "Teeny-Tiny," about a teeny tiny woman who takes a teeny tiny bone home from the graveyard. Someone uploaded the entire text of Joseph Jacobs's English Fairy Tales (1890) onto Wikisource. This is the story of "Teeny-Tiny."

Once upon a time there was a teeny-tiny woman who lived in a teeny-tiny house in a teeny-tiny village. Now, one day this teeny-tiny woman put on her teeny-tiny bonnet, and went out of her teeny-tiny house to take a teeny-tiny walk. And when this teeny-tiny woman had gone a teeny-tiny way, she came of a teeny-tiny gate; so the teeny-tiny woman opened the teeny-tiny gate, and went into a teeny-tiny churchyard. And when this teeny-tiny women had got into the teeny-tiny churchyard, she saw a teeny-tiny bone on a teeny-tiny grave, and the teeny-tiny woman said to her teeny-tiny self, "This teeny-tiny bone will make me some teeny-tiny soup for my teeny-tiny supper." So the teeny-tiny woman put the teeny-tiny bone into her teeny-tiny pocket, and went home to her teeny-tiny house.
Now when the teeny-tiny woman had got home to her teeny-tiny house, she was a teeny-tiny bit tired; so she went up her teeny-tiny stairs to her teeny-tiny bed, and put the teeny-tiny bone into a teeny-tiny cupboard. And when this teeny-tiny woman had been to sleep a teeny-tiny time, she was awakened by a teeny-tiny voice from the teeny-tiny cupboard, which said: "Give me my bone!"
And this teeny-tiny woman was a teeny-tiny frightened, so she hid her teeny-tiny head under the teeny-tiny clothes and went to sleep again. And when she had been to sleep again a teeny-tiny time, the teeny-tiny voice again cried out from the teeny-tiny cupboard a teeny-tiny louder, "Give me my bone!"
 This made the teeny-tiny woman a teeny-tiny more frightened, so she hid her teeny-tiny head a teeny-tiny further under the teeny-tiny clothes. And when the teeny-tiny woman had been to sleep again a teeny-tiny time, the teeny-tiny voice from the teeny-tiny cupboard said again a teeny-tiny louder, "Give me my bone!"
And this teeny-tiny woman was a teeny-tiny bit more frightened, but she put her teeny-tiny head out of the teeny-tiny clothes, and said in her loudest teeny-tiny voice, "Take it!" 
You can also find the story at SurLaLune Fairy Tales. Hers was taken from an 1849 book called Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales by James Orchard Halliwell, but it's the exact same story. It seems to have been passed on by oral tradition for many years, and is most effective when the phrase "Take it!" is very, very loud.

It isn't the scariest of stories, but it's just creepy enough for small children. Because of this, there are quite a few picture books and kids' compilations that feature it. I found three illustrated editions to feature today, from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. All three are ever-so-slightly different in their retellings, but the story never changes much. The idea of a "teeny-tiny woman in a teeny-tiny house" lends itself to some cute illustrations, which help keep the creepiness at bay for little ones.

The Teeny Tiny Woman: An Old English Ghost Tale, retold and illustrated by Barbara Seuling. Viking Juvenile, 1976.

Barbara Seuling's version of the tale is vintage '70s country girl adorable. I love the oversized flowers outside of the woman's teeny-tiny house.

Paul Galdone's version is wonderful, as usual. My favorite detail is the moon in the window. It changes expression with each page turn. The book is slated to be reprinted in hardcover next year. [The new Galdone editions are quite beautiful, by the way. Great job, HMH!]

The Teeny-Tiny Woman by Paul Galdone. Clarion Books, 1984.

The Teeny-Tiny Woman was one of Galdone's last books, by the way.

The last book we checked out is another early reader, part of the Viking Easy-to-Read series (now Penguin Young Readers.) 

The Teeny-Tiny Woman (Viking Easy-to-Read Level 2) by Harriet Ziefert,
illustrated by Laura Rader. Viking, 1995.

The simplicity and repetition of the tale does make it ideal for younger children to practice their reading skills.

Now let's talk about what I find creepy about this story. It isn't the tininess of everything, nor is it the ghostly voice. It's the fact that this woman finds a bone in the graveyard, presumably human, and plans to use it for soup! Granted, it's a very old tale and perhaps in desperate times, people wouldn't find the idea disagreeable in the least. But, all I can think is, "Ewww!"

Stay tuned for more Halloween and October goodness on Silver Shoes & Rabbit Holes!

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  1. Lovely! They are both on book dep over here - I think I may have to get the Galdone one.

    1. I love Galdone. After this, I went to the library website searching for some of his older out-of-print books. :)

  2. Eww indeed! A fun story though, and the books are so cute. Happy October and yay for all the spooky and autumnal things to come!

    1. Look at Friday's post, to see the story retold as "The Hairy Toe." Thank goodness she only buried it, and didn't think to make soup from it! Double eww! :) Happy, happy October to you, too!


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