Tom Tit Tot

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This is an Anglish wending of the folk tale, Tom Tit Tot, first written by Edward Clodd for Folk-Lore (vol. vii), and later gathered together in English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs, and English Fairy and Other Folk Tales by Edwin Sidney Hartland. The tale is akin to Rumpelstiltskin as written by The Brothers Grimm.

This reading is set mostly on Jacobs's reading in which he did away with some of the Suffolk slang words. The writ is also made of words only of Old English and otherwise unknown springs. Went by Wordwork.

The Writ

Once upon a time there was a woman, and she baked five bakelings. And when they came out of the oven, they were that overbaked the rinds were too hard to eat. So, she says to her daughter:

'Darter,' says she, 'put you them there bakes on the shelf, an leave 'em there a little, and they'll come eft.' – She meant, you know, the rind would become soft.

But the girl, she says to herself: 'Well, if they'll come eft, I'll eat 'em now.' And she set to work and ate 'em all, first and last.

Well, come meal-time the woman said: 'Go you, and bring one o' them there bakes. I dare say they've come eft now.'

The girl went and she looked, and there was nothing but the dishes. So back she came and says she: 'Noo, they ain't come eft.'

'Not one of 'em?' says the mother.

'Not one of' 'em,' says she.

'Well, come eft, or not come eft,' said the woman, 'I'll have one for evening meal.'

'But you can't, if they ain't come,' said the girl.

'But I can,' says she. 'Go you, and bring the best of 'em.'

'Best or worst,' says the girl, 'I've ate 'em all, and you can't have one till that's come eft.'

Well, the woman she was done, and she took her spinning to the door to spin, and as she span she sang:

'My darter ha' ate five, five bakes today.
My darter ha' ate five, five bakes today.'

The king was coming down the street, and he heard her sing, but what she sang he couldn't hear, so he stopped and said:

'What was that you were singing, my good woman?'

The woman was ashamed to let him hear what her daughter had been doing, so she sang, instead of that:

'My darter ha' spun five, five leas today.
My darter ha' spun five, five leas today.'

'Stars o' mine!' said the king, 'I never heard tell of anyone that could do that.' Then he said: 'Look you here, I want a wife, and I'll wed your daughter. But look you here,' says he, 'eleven months out of the year she shall have all she likes to eat, and all the shrouds she likes to wear, and all the sitheship she likes to keep; but the last month of the year she'll have to spin five leas every day, and if she don't I shall kill her.'

'All right,' says the woman; for she thought what a great wedding that was. And as for the five leas, when the time came, there'd be wealth of ways of slipping out of it, and likeliest, he'd have forgotten all about it.

Well, so they were wed. And for eleven months the girl had all she liked to eat, and all the shrouds she liked to wear, and all the sitheship she liked to keep.

But when the time was coming over, she began to think about the leas and to wonder if he had 'em in mind. But not one word did he say about 'em, and she thought he'd wholly forgotten 'em.

However, the last day of the last month he takes her to a room she'd never set eyes on before. There was nothing in it but a spinning-wheel and a stool. And says he: 'Now, my dear, here you'll be shut in tomorrow with some eats and some flax, and if you haven't spun five leas by the night, your head'll go off.'

And away he went about his business.

Well, she was that frightened, she'd always been such a gatless girl, that she didn't so much as know how to spin, and what was she to do tomorrow with no one to come nigh her to help her? She sate down on a stool in the kitchen, and word! how she did weep!

However, shortly she heard a kind of a knocking low down on the door. She upped and oped it, and what should she see but a small little black thing with a long tail. That looked up at her right wily, and that said:

'What are you a-weeping for?'

'What's that to you?' says she.

'Never you mind,' that said, 'but tell me what you're a-weeping for.'

'That shan’t do me no good if I do,' says she.

'You don't know that,' that said, and twirled that's tail 'bout.

'Well,' says she, 'that shan’t do no harm, if that don't do no good,' and she upped and told about the bakes, and the leas, and everything.

A drawing of the The Imp, by John D. Batten.

'This is what I'll do,' says the little black thing. 'I'll come to your eyethurl every morning and take the flax and bring it spun at night.'

'What's your ask?' says she.

That looked out of the edge of that's eyes, and that said:

'I'll yield you three guesses every night to guess my name, and if you haven't guessed it before the month's up you shall be mine.'

Well, she thought, she'd be set to guess that's name before the month was up. 'All right,' says she, 'I swear.'

'All right,' that says, and word! how that twirled that's tail.

Well, the next day, her husband took her into the room, and there was the flax and the day's food.

'Now, there's the flax,' says he, 'and if that ain't spun up this night, off goes your head.' And then he went out and locked the door.

He'd hardly gone, when there was a knocking upon the eyethurl.

She upped and she oped it, and there well enough was the little old thing sitting on the ledge.

'Where's the flax?' says he.

'Here it be,' says she. And she yielded it to him.

Well, come the evening a knocking came eft to the eyethurl. She upped and she oped it, and there was the little old thing with five leas of flax on his arm.

'Here it be,' says he, and he yielded it to her.

'Now, what's my name?' says he.

'What, is that Bill?' says she.

'Noo, that ain't,' says he, and he twirled his tail.

'Is that Ned?' says she.

'Noo, that ain't,' says he, and he twirled his tail.

'Well, is that Mark?' says she.

'Noo, that ain't,' says he, and he twirled his tail harder, and away he flew.

Well, when her husband came in, there were the five leas ready for him. 'I see I shan't have to kill you tonight, my dear,' says he; 'you'll have your food and your flax in the morning,' says he, and away he goes.

Well, every day the flax and the food were brought, and every day that there little black imp would come mornings and evenings. And all the day the girl sate seeking to think of names to say to it when it came at night. But she never hit on the right one. And as it drew towards the end of the month, the imp began to look so hateful, and that twirled that's tail faster and faster each time she yielded a guess.

At last it came to the last day but one. The imp came at night along with the five leas, and that said:

'What, ain't you have my name yet?'

'Is that Nicodemus?' says she.

'Noo, 't ain't,' that says.

'Is that Sammle?' says she.

'Noo, 't ain't,' that says.

'A-well, is that Methusalem?' says she.

'Noo, 't ain't that neither,' that says.

Then that looks at her with that's eyes like a coal of fire, and that says: 'Woman, there's only tomorrow night, and then you'll be mine!' And away it flew.

Well, she felt that dreadful. However, she heard the king coming along the hall. In he came, and when he sees the five leas, he says, says he:

'Well, my dear,' says he. 'I don't see but what you'll have your leas ready tomorrow night as well, and as I reckon I shan't have to kill you, I'll have evening meal in here tonight.' So they brought food, and another stool for him, and down the two sate.

Well, he hadn't eaten but a mouthful or so, when he stops and begins to laugh. 'What is it?' says she.

'A-why,' says he, 'I was out a-hunting today, and I came away to a spot in the wood I'd never seen before. And there was an old chalk-pit. And I heard a kind of a like of humming. So, I came off my horse, and I went right hush to the pit, and I looked down. Well, what should there be but the funniest little black thing you ever set eyes on. And what was that doing, but that had a little spinning-wheel, and that was spinning wonderful fast, and twirling that's tail. And as that span that sang:

'Nimmy nimmy not,
My name's Tom Tit Tot.'

Well, when the girl heard this, she felt as if she could have leapt out of her hide for glee, but she didn't say a word.

Next day that there little thing looked so hateful when he came for the flax. And when night came she heard that knocking upon the eyethurl sheets. She oped the eyethurl, and that come right in on the ledge. That was grinning from ear to ear, and Oo! that's tail was twirling 'bout so fast.

'What's my name?' that says, as that yielded her the leas.

'Is that Solomon?' she says, letting on to be afeard.

'Noo, 'tain't,' that says, and that came further into the room.

'Well, is that Zebedee?' says she eft.

'Noo, 'tain't,' says the imp. And then that laughed and twirled that's tail till you couldn't hardly see it.

'Take time, woman,' that says; 'next guess, and you're mine.' And that stretched out that's black hands at her. Well, she backed a step or two, and she looked at it, and then she laughed out, and says she, wising her finger at it:

Nimmy nimmy not,
Your name's
Tom
Tit
TOT!

Page 8 illustration in English Fairy Tales.png

Well, when that heard her, that yielded a frightful howl and away that flew into the dark, and she never saw it any more.