This week we tackle the Brave little tailor.
The fairy tale demonstrates an unusual phenomenon in that it is possible to ascend to a higher station in life. The tailor, a simple commoner, is able to change from a simple commoner to marrying into royalty. The story clearly shows that such change is not natural, as the royalty who finds out about it wants the Tailor removed from their presence for his low station in life. The stratified society is a medieval staple, and one that should not be able to be transcended. Despite the tailor’s ability to make the change, he will never gain true acceptance.
Cleverness Trumps Skill
Repeatedly, the tailor is beset by challenges to which he overcomes through his cleverness and deception rather than the strength and skill the challengers think will be required. Since cleverness bests strength, the culture of the story values it more than raw strength. Moreover, the expectation when it comes to any challenge is that it must be physical in nature, demonstrating a limitation in how the characters of the story process the world around them. At no point do they conceive that there is a way to think through the challenge instead of power through it.
Mary Sue, Anyone?
The tailor conveniently has everything at hand to deceive his way through the challenges. The cheese, the bird, and the fact that he always has a plan, which goes exactly according to his calculations, puts him on a level of mary sue with Batman. The tailor can do no wrong. Even the most innocuous of actions turns out to benefit him, such as sleeping in the corner of the giant’s bed. Only the reader, with the behind-the-scenes peak knows that the tailor is a fraud favored by coincidence more than real skill.
The tale clearly highlights a staple of medieval society, that of the contest, and usually the contest takes place as something physical. Ascending the ladder of society can only be done through these challenges. Successful challenges demonstrate that the tailor is superior to the one issuing the challenge, and therefore worthy of being more than a simple tailor. Each challenge allows the tailor to move out of his current circumstances and up to where he can achieve entrance to a higher level of society.
Giants Are People too
Like with Rumpelstiltskin, this story demonstrates a world populated by fantastic creatures such as giants and unicorns. More importantly, the giants are scene as not evil, but simply a different kind of people with whom humanity must deal. The tailor repeatedly calls the first giant a comrade, and though the giants as a group are treacherous, that is no different from what ordinary people might do. The tailor, the king, and the hundred men also show no surprise at the presence of giants. In this world, giants are not a rarity, and may even be quite common given how often the tailor encounters them.
Confidence is Key
The tailor is an ordinary tailor until he kills the flies, giving him the boldness to publicly declare his deed to all the world. This boldness carries him through each of his various encounters, allowing him the courage to confront the world despite not having the strength and skill to realistically pull this off. In essence, the tailor has become a kind of confidence man, but the first person who falls for his honeyed words is himself. After convincing himself, he proceeds to push this confidence on all around him.