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Thirteenth (fairy tale) facts for kids

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Folk tale
Name Thirteenth
Aarne-Thompson grouping 328
Country Italy
Published in Italian Popular Tales

"Thirteenth" is an Italian fairy tale collected by Thomas Frederick Crane in Italian Popular Tales. It is Aarne-Thompson type 328, the boy steals the giant's treasures.


A mother of thirteen sons motivates them to become fast runners, by arranging a competition each night: whoever reaches home first will enjoy the soup made from herbs their father has gathered. The youngest son, called Thirteenth, always wins, and as a result his brothers envy him and try to get rid of him. One day, the king promises a prize of gold for the hero who manages to steal the blanket of a giant in the vicinity. The brothers approach the king and tell him that Thirteenth boasts to be able to perform the feat. The king then asks that Thirteenth be brought before him, and demands that he do what he has bragged about. Thirteen, who never has pretended to be a monster slayer, protests, but to no avail. He has no choice but to head for the house of the giant.

The monster is out, and only his wife is at home, but Thirteenth sneaks inside and hides under the bed. At night, the giant returns, eats his supper and goes to bed, where he tells his wife he can smell a human, and wants to eat it. The giantess thinks he is stupid; there are no humans around, so the giant goes to sleep. During the night Thirteenth pulls at the blanket to try to steal it, but the giant is stirred. The boy mews like a cat, and the giant is calmed, and falls asleep again. Thirteenth then seizes the blanket quickly and runs out. The giant wakes again, and notices the sound of the thief’s steps.

After some time the king issues another reward if someone will bring him the giant’s horse. Thirteenth presents himself and asks for a silk ladder and a bag of cakes. At night he approaches the giant's stable. The horse neighs on seeing him, but Thirteenth calms it by offering it cake, and manages to ride it all the way to the king.

Then the king declares that he wants the giant’s bolster. Thirteenth protests, since the bolster is full of little bells, which makes it impossible to steal it and sneak away unnoticed. The king insists and Thirteenth departs. He creeps under the ogre's bed and waits for the couple to retire. At midnight the couple is asleep, and Thirteenth stretches out his hand for the bolster, but the bells chime and the giant wakes. The giant’s wife believes that it is the wind that has stirred them, and the giant seemingly agrees and goes back to sleep. In reality he is pretending, since he now feels that it is time to catch the burglar. When Thirteenth stretches out his hand for the bolster again, the giant seizes his arm.

To punish Thirteenth for his three crimes, the giant imprisons him in a barrel, fattening him up in order to eat him. Every few days the ogre feels Thirteenth’s finger, to measure the fattening process. The boy is steadily becoming fatter, and Thirteenth realises that his finger will reveal that he is fat enough for the giant to eat. He thus presents a mouse tail instead of the finger for the giant, who cannot tell, and believes the boy is not ready for slaughter. A few days later the giant wants to measure again, and this time Thirteenth uses a spindle to the same end. By the end of the month, Thirteenth cannot find anything else to use as a substitute for his finger, and had no choice but to stick it out. The giant is satisfied that the boy is fat enough, and calls his wife to prepare the boy for dinner, while he invites their relatives for the feast.

When the stove is heated, the giantess releases Thirteenth from the barrel, asking him to help her prepare a lamb for dinner. But Thirteenth understands that he is in fact the lamb, and tricks the giantess to fall into the oven. When she is cooked, Thirteenth carves her up and serves her legs as a meal; and places her upper body in the bed, with strings attached to the head and hands, covered under a blanket. When the relatives arrive, the giant finds the table ready, and goes to the bedroom to invite his wife to dinner: Thirteenth answers no, by pulling the strings, but one of the relatives come to look for them, and notices that something is not right with the giantess. Thirteenth escapes from under the bed and manages to steal the bolster and reach the king.

The king wants Thirteenth to complete his exploits by bringing back the giant himself. Thirteenth orders a very strong chest and disguises himself as a monk. At the giant's home, he pretends to be a man hunting for the evil Thirteenth to capture him in the chest. The monk asks the giant to test the strength of the chest, thus tricking the giant to climb into the chest. Thirteenth brings the giant to the king, who imprisons the giant, and rewards Thirteenth with all the riches and honour of the kingdom.

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