Thumb to Tibbs

Thumb (Tom), a dwarf no bigger than a man’s thumb. He lived in the reign of king Arthur, by whom he was knighted. He was the son of a common ploughman, and was killed by the poisonous breath of a spider in the reign of Thunstone, the successor of king Arthur.

Amongst his adventures may be mentioned the following:—He was lying one day asleep in a meadow, when a cow swallowed him as she cropped the grass. At another time, he rode in the ear of a horse. He crept up the sleeve of a giant, and so tickled him that he shook his sleeve, and Tom, falling into the sea, was swallowed by a fish. The fish being caught and carried to the palace, gave the little man his introduction to the king.

The oldest version extant of this nursery tale is in rhyme, and bears the following title:—Tom Thumb, His Life and Death; wherein is declared many marvailous acts of manhood, full of wonder and strange merriments. Which little knight lived in king Arthur’s time, and was famous in the court of Great Brittaine. London: printed for John Wright, 1630 (Bodleian Library). It begins thus—

In Arthur’s court Tom Thumbe did liue—
A man of mickle might,
The best of all the Table Round,
And eke a doughty knight.
His stature but an inch in height,
Or quarter of a span;
Then thinke you not this little knight
Was prou’d a valiant man?

N.B.—“Great Britain” was not a recognized term till 1701 (queen Anne), when the two parliaments of Scotland and England were united. Before that time, England was called “South Britain,” Scotland “North Britain,” and Brittany “Little Britain.” The date 1630 would carry us back to the reign of Charles I.

Fielding, in 1730, wrote a burlesque opera called Tom Thumb, which was altered in 1778 by Kane O’Hara. Dr. Arne wrote the music to it, and his “daughter (afterwards Mrs. Cibber), then only 14, acted the part of ‘Tom Thumb’ at the Haymarket Theatre.”—Davies: Life of Garrick.

N.B.—Here again the dates do not correctly fit in. Mrs. Cibber was born in 1710, and must have been 20 when Fielding produced his opera of Tom Thumb.

Thumb (General Tom), a dwarf exhibited in London in 1846. His real name was Charles S. Stratton. At the age of 25, his height was 25 inches, and his weight 25 lbs. He was born at Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States, in 1832, and died in January, 1879.

They rush by thousands to see Tom Thumb. They push, they fight, they scream, they faint, they cry, “Help!” and “Murder!” They see my bills and caravan, but do not read them. Their eyes are on them, but their sense is gone. … In one week 12,000 persons paid to see Tom Thumb, while only 133 paid to see my “Aristides.”—Haydon (the artist); MS. Diary.

Thunder prognosticates evil according to the day of the week on which it occurs.

Sondayes thundre shoulde brynge the deathe of learned men, judges, and others; Mondayes thundre, the deathe of women; Tuesdayes thundre, plentie of graine; Wednesdayes thundre, the deathe of harlottes and other blodshede; Thursdayes thundre, plentie of shepe and corne; Fridayes thundre, the slaughter of a great man and other horrible murders; and Saturdayes thundre, a generall pestilent plague and great deathe.—Digges: A Prognostication Everlasting of Ryght Good Effecte (1556).

Thunder (The Giant), a giant who fell into a river and was killed, because Jack cut the ropes which suspended a bridge that the giant was crossing.—Jack the Giant-Killer.

Thunder (The Sons of). James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were called “Boaner’gês.”—Luke ix. 54; Mark iii. 17.

Thunder and Lightning. Stephen II. of Hungary was surnamed Tonnant (1100, 1114–1131).

  By PanEris using Melati.

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