从前，有个农夫生了一个儿子，儿子的个头还没有他的大拇指长。 许多年过去了，他这儿子一点儿也没有长大。 一天，他父亲要到田野里去犁地，小家伙说道："爸爸，让我也去吧！"他爸爸说："不行，你还是待在家里吧。出去对你没有好处，要是你去了，说不定我会失掉你的。"大拇指儿一听，马上哭了起来，父亲为了让他安静下来，只好同意带他一起去，他将小家伙放在他的口袋里出门了。
来到地头，农夫把儿子从口袋里拿出来，将他安置在翻整过的新土上，以便让他可以四下瞧瞧。 大拇指在地里坐了一会儿，一个巨人跨过小山向这边走来。 父亲看见后，想吓唬自己的儿子，让他不要淘气，就说道："你看到那个巨大的怪物了吗？别顽皮，他会把你抓走的。"那巨人腿很长，只跨了二三步就来到了地头，他伸手捡起大拇指放在手掌上打量着他，然后像对待一个老朋友似地带着他走了。 农夫站在旁边吓得一句话也说不出来，眼睁睁地看着巨人把儿子带走了。
巨人把大拇指带回森林中他自己的屋子里，将他放在怀中，自己吃什么，也给他吃什么。 这一来，大拇指再也不是一个小矮人了 ，他长成一个又结实又强壮的高大巨人了。 过了两年，老巨人想试一试他的力气，他带着大拇指来到树林里，指着一棵树说："你拔出那棵桦树作自己走路的拐杖用吧。"少年力气很大，他把那棵树连根拔了起来。 但巨人认为少年的力气应该比这还要大得多，所以他又喂养了他二年多之后，才让他到树林里再去试他的力气。 这次他抱住一棵最粗的栎树把它拨了起来，那情形对他来说就像是在玩游戏一样。 老巨人说："不错！我的小家伙，你现在行了。"于是他把他带回到当初带走他的那块地头。
当年青的巨人出现在他父亲面前时，父亲正在犁地，他对父亲说："爸爸，来看看！看看我是谁吧！--你看出我是你儿子了吗？"望着这高大的巨人，农夫吓得大叫道："不，不！你不是我的儿子，你走开吧！""我的的确确是你的儿子，让我帮你犁一会儿地吧。我会犁得和你一样好的。""不，你走吧！"农夫面对高大的巨人，心里确实有点害怕，最后只好让他来犁地，自己坐到地头边上去了。 巨人用一只手抓起犁铧，只是随便往地里一推，犁头便深深地钻进了泥土中。 农夫大叫道："如果你一定要犁地的话，请你不要用那么大的力气，这样犁并没有什么益处。"儿子卸去拉犁的马儿，说道："爸爸，回家去告诉妈妈，给我准备一餐好饭吃，这会儿我要把这块地都犁完。"说完，他连拉犁的马也不要，直接用手推着犁铧，继续犁了起来。 犁完地后，他又把地耙松，独自干完了别人需要二个上午才能干完的活。 接着，他挟起犁铧、犁耙等全部农具，连马一起像挟着一捆麦秸一样回到了家里。 回到家后，他坐在长凳上说道："妈妈，饭做好了吗？"妈妈回答说："做好了。"她一点也不敢怠慢，马上端来了满满两大盆饭菜，足足可供她自己和丈夫两人吃上整整八天。 可这个巨人儿子三下五去二很快就吃完了。 吃完后还说自己只尝了一下味道，又问还有没有，父母无可奈何地摇摇头。 看到家里难以供给他这个巨人所吃的饭，他说道："爸爸，我看这样吧，在家里我吃不饱饭，你们就给我找一根我在膝上折不断的铁拐杖，我要再次出去闯荡。"父亲听了非常高兴，他到马棚牵来两匹马，到铁匠铺买回了一根又长又粗，要两匹马才能拖动的铁棒。 但少年拿起铁棒在膝头上一磕，"啪！"的一声，一下子就折断了，铁棒在他手上就像是一根豆杆一般。 "爸爸，我知道你找不到适合我的手杖了，"他说道，"我还是自己去试试运气吧。"
年青的巨人出门闯荡去了，他装作一个锻铁的伙计，来到一个村庄找活干。 这个村子里有一个铁匠，是个守财奴，他挣了不少钱，钱全都由他自己一人独吞了，给他干活的伙计几乎得不到什么工钱。 巨人来到村子里，首先走进了这个铁匠铺，他问铁匠要不要锻铁的伙计。 这个狡诈的家伙看了看他，心想这伙计是多么的结实，为了挣口饭吃，干起活来一定很卖力。 于是他回答说："要的，但你要多少工钱呢？""我不要工钱，但每过半个月，你给其他伙计发工钱的时候，让我在你的背上拍两下，乐呵乐呵就行了。"老铁匠满以为自己挨那两下子完全可以不在乎，并且能节省许多的开支，就满口答应了。
第二天早上，新来的这个伙计开始干活了。 当铁匠挟给他一块烧红了的铁坯时，他只一下就把铁坯砸成了碎块，连铁砧也深深地陷进地下去了，铁匠无法再把它取出来 ，这使老铁匠非常气愤，大叫道："喂！我不能要你这个伙计了，你太笨手笨脚的了，我们的合同必须告吹。"巨人回答说："那好吧，但你必须给我一点补偿，只要让我轻轻地拍你一下，我们的约定就算完了。"说完，他给了铁匠一巴掌，这一巴掌打得他飞了起来，从旁边的一大堆干草上一直飞了过去。 打过后，他在铁铺里拿了一根最粗的铁棒做手杖，咚咚地点着地面离去。
走了一段路程，他又到了一个农庄，他进去问庄主要不要一个工头，这庄主夫妇二人都是守财奴，庄主说："要的。"接着他们讲好工钱，这工钱和他在铁匠铺所讲的条件完全一样，时间是一年一次。 第二天早上，所有的工人都要去树林伐树。 当他们起床后准备出发时，巨人还在床上睡大觉。 有个工人喊道："快起来吧！到时候了，你必须和我们一道出发。""你们只管去吧！"他愠怒着含含糊糊地说道，"我干完活还要在你们之前回来呢。"说完，躺在床上又睡了二个小时之后才起来。 吃完早饭，他慢慢吞吞地套好马来到树林。 树林前面有一个洼坑，进出树林必须经过这个洼坑，他先把车子驱赶过去后，回过身来在那儿用树枝和荆棘做了一道大柴垛，使马不能过去。 做完之后，他赶着车正要走进树林，遇上了那些赶着马车往回走的工人们，他叫道："去吧！我还是会在你们之前回家的。"走了一会儿，他转过马车，在树林里拔起一棵最大的树放到马车上，转身向回路赶去。 当他来到那道柴垛跟前时，发现所有的工人都站在那儿没能过去，他说道："你们看，要是你们和我待在一起，不就很快可以回去了，而且还可以多睡一二个小时呢。"说着，他一个肩膀扛起那棵树，另一个肩膀扛着马车，就像是扛着羽毛一样，很轻松地跨了过去。 回到农庄大院子里，他把那棵树拿给庄主看，问他是不是一根很好的拐杖。 庄主很满意地对他妻子说："夫人，这个人很能干，尽管他睡了很久，但是他仍然比那些人干得要好。"
时间很快过去了，巨人给庄主干了整整一年的活。 当他的同伴们拿到工钱的时候，他说他也该得到报酬了。 到这时，庄主才感到害怕起来，他想出了一个主意，乞求巨人取消旧约，他愿意把整个农场和家畜都给他。 但巨人说："我不干，我不会当农庄主，我是一个伙计，我要你履行我们的合约。"知道他不会答应他的条件后，农庄主又乞求给他两个星期的宽限。 他召集了所有的朋友，向他们征询此事的对策。 这些朋友们商议了很久，最后都认为最简单的方法就是把这个令人讨厌的家伙杀死。 接着他们定好了计策，都赞同让巨人搬一些大磨盘石到院子里来，放在院内井口边上，然后要他下井去清理，待他下到底后把磨石推下去砸在他的头上。
一切布置好了，当这个巨人下到井里时，他们把石头滚了下去。 石头落到井底，水被溅起老高，他们认为巨人的头当然也一定被砸开了 ，不料井里却传出了他的叫喊声："把井边的鸡都赶走，它们扒落了一些沙子在我头上，快要掉到我的眼睛里去了，我简直都看不清了。"把井淘完后，他从井里跳出来，说道："你们看这儿，我有了一个多么漂亮的围巾啊！"说着，他指了指套在他脖子上的一块磨盘石，原来这块磨石落在他的头上，正巧套在了他的脖子上。
一计不成，农庄主又乞求巨人再给他两个星期的时间来考虑。 他再次召集他的朋友们商议，最后他们给他出了一个主意，要他把巨人送到一个晚上经常有鬼出没的磨坊磨麦。 因为到磨坊去过夜的人没有一个能活到第二天早晨。
这天，天已经很晚了，农庄主要巨人带八斗麦子去磨坊，晚上把它们都磨成面粉。 他到了阁楼，把两斗麦子装进右边口袋，两斗装进左边口袋，并四斗装在一个长背袋中挂在肩上，然后来到磨坊。 磨坊主告诉他磨麦子要在白天，不能在晚上，因为磨坊闹鬼，凡是晚上去了磨坊的人，第二天早上都已经死去了。 巨人说道："没关系，磨坊老板！我不会有事的，只要快点完事就行了，你去休息吧，明天早上再来找我。"
他走进磨坊，把麦子倒进漏斗中开始磨麦。 接近十二点钟时，他坐在磨坊主房子里的一条长凳子上想休息休息。 刚坐一会儿，门突然自己打开了，一张大桌子自动移进房子里 ，桌子上摆满了葡萄酒、烤肉以及别的许多好吃东西，似乎都是它们自己跑到那里来的。 接着椅子也自动移进来围在了桌子周围，可一直见不到一个客人，也没看到仆人进来。 仿佛是突然间，他看到有手指握着小刀和叉子把食物放进盘子里，但仍然看不见人。 这位巨人朋友看到这些吃的东西觉得自己肚子也有点饿了，便不管这些东西是谁的，自个儿坐在凳子上，拣他自己最喜欢的东西吃了起来。 当他吃饱之后，盘子里的东西都空了。 就在这时，忽然他听到有声音把灯吹灭了，房子里顿时一片漆黑，他感到头上挨了重重一击，马上说道："如果我的另一边耳朵再挨一拳的话，我就要开始回击了。"当他挨了第二击时，他真的开始回击了。 这一闹就闹了整整一个晚上，他根本不知道害怕，不断地向四周回击，而且在互相对打中还占了上风。
天亮了，一切都安静下来。 磨坊主早晨起来后来看他，发现他还活着，感到非常惊奇。 他对磨坊主说："磨坊老板，早上好！晚上我吃了一顿很满意的宵夜后，脸上挨了一些耳光，不过我也回敬了不少。"磨坊主非常高兴巨人帮他赶走了鬼怪，要给他很多的钱，但他拒绝道："我不要钱，我现在很满足。"吃过早餐后，他又回去找他的主人要工钱去了。
这一来可就愁坏了农庄主，他急得像热锅上的蚂蚁，知道怎样的计策对自己也是毫无帮助的了。 他不停地在房间里走来走去，汗水从前额滚落下来，他走过去打开窗户，吸了一点新鲜空气。 还没等清醒过来，巨人便进来先给了他一脚，踢得他从窗子口飞了出去，一直越过山岗，飞到很远很远的地方去了。 接着他又用同样的方式送走了庄主夫人，也许现在他们两个人仍然在天上飞着呢。 年青的巨人在得到他的报酬后，拿着铁拐杖离开农庄走了。
Once on a time a countryman had a son who was as big as a thumb, and did not become any bigger, and during several years did not grow one hair's breadth. Once when the father was going out to plough, the little one said, "Father, I will go out with you." - "Thou wouldst go out with me?" said the father. "Stay here, thou wilt be of no use out there, besides thou mightest get lost!" Then Thumbling began to cry, and for the sake of peace his father put him in his pocket, and took him with him. When he was outside in the field, he took him out again, and set him in a freshly-cut furrow. Whilst he was there, a great giant came over the hill. "Do thou see that great bogie?" said the father, for he wanted to frighten the little fellow to make him good; "he is coming to fetch thee." The giant, however, had scarcely taken two steps with his long legs before he was in the furrow. He took up little Thumbling carefully with two fingers, examined him, and without saying one word went away with him. His father stood by, but could not utter a sound for terror, and he thought nothing else but that his child was lost, and that as long as he lived he should never set eyes on him again.
The giant, however, carried him home, suckled him, and Thumbling grew and became tall and strong after the manner of giants. When two years had passed, the old giant took him into the forest, wanted to try him, and said, "Pull up a stick for thyself." Then the boy was already so strong that he tore up a young tree out of the earth by the roots. But the giant thought, "We must do better than that," took him back again, and suckled him two years longer. When he tried him, his strength had increased so much that he could tear an old tree out of the ground. That was still not enough for the giant; he again suckled him for two years, and when he then went with him into the forest and said, "Now just tear up a proper stick for me," the boy tore up the strongest oak-tree from the earth, so that it split, and that was a mere trifle to him. "Now that will do," said the giant, "thou art perfect," and took him back to the field from whence he had brought him. His father was there following the plough. The young giant went up to him, and said, "Does my father see what a fine man his son has grown into?"
The farmer was alarmed, and said, "No, thou art not my son; I don't want thee leave me!" - "Truly I am your son; allow me to do your work, I can plough as well as you, nay better." - "No, no, thou art not my son; and thou canst not plough go away!" However, as he was afraid of this great man, he left go of the plough, stepped back and stood at one side of the piece of land. Then the youth took the plough, and just pressed it with one hand, but his grasp was so strong that the plough went deep into the earth. The farmer could not bear to see that, and called to him, "If thou art determined to plough, thou must not press so hard on it, that makes bad work." The youth, however, unharnessed the horses, and drew the plough himself, saying, "Just go home, father, and bid my mother make ready a large dish of food, and in the meantime I will go over the field." Then the farmer went home, and ordered his wife to prepare the food; but the youth ploughed the field which was two acres large, quite alone, and then he harnessed himself to the harrow, and harrowed the whole of the land, using two harrows at once. When he had done it, he went into the forest, and pulled up two oak-trees, laid them across his shoulders, and hung on them one harrow behind and one before, and also one horse behind and one before, and carried all as if it had been a bundle of straw, to his parents' house. When he entered the yard, his mother did not recognize him, and asked, "Who is that horrible tall man?" The farmer said, "That is our son." She said, "No that cannot be our son, we never had such a tall one, ours was a little thing." She called to him, "Go away, we do not want thee!" The youth was silent, but led his horses to the stable, gave them some oats and hay, and all that they wanted. When he had done this, he went into the parlour, sat down on the bench and said, "Mother, now I should like something to eat, will it soon be ready?" Then she said, "Yes," and brought in two immense dishes full of food, which would have been enough to satisfy herself and her husband for a week. The youth, however, ate the whole of it himself, and asked if she had nothing more to set before him. "No," she replied, "that is all we have." - "But that was only a taste, I must have more." She did not dare to oppose him, and went and put a huge caldron full of food on the fire, and when it was ready, carried it in. "At length come a few crumbs," said he, and ate all there was, but it was still not sufficient to appease his hunger. Then said he, "Father, I see well that with you I shall never have food enough; if you will get me an iron staff which is strong, and which I cannot break against my knees, I will go out into the world." The farmer was glad, put his two horses in his cart, and fetched from the smith a staff so large and thick, that the two horses could only just bring it away. The youth laid it across his knees, and snap! he broke it in two in the middle like a bean-stalk, and threw it away. The father then harnessed four horses, and brought a bar which was so long and thick, that the four horses could only just drag it. The son snapped this also in twain against his knees, threw it away, and said, "Father, this can be of no use to me, you must harness more horses, and bring a stronger staff." So the father harnessed eight horses, and brought one which was so long and thick, that the eight horses could only just carry it. When the son took it in his hand, he broke off a bit from the top of it also, and said, "Father, I see that you will not be able to procure me any such staff as I want, I will remain no longer with you."
So he went away, and gave out that he was a smith's apprentice. He arrived at a village, wherein lived a smith who was a greedy fellow, who never did a kindness to any one, but wanted everything for himself. The youth went into the smithy and asked if he needed a journeyman. "Yes," said the smith, and looked at him, and thought, "That is a strong fellow who will strike out well, and earn his bread." So he asked, "How much wages dost thou want?" - "I don't want any at all," he replied, "only every fortnight, when the other journeymen are paid, I will give thee two blows, and thou must bear them." The miser was heartily satisfied, and thought he would thus save much money. Next morning, the strange journeyman was to begin to work, but when the master brought the glowing bar, and the youth struck his first blow, the iron flew asunder, and the anvil sank so deep into the earth, that there was no bringing it out again. Then the miser grew angry, and said, "Oh, but I can't make any use of you, you strike far too powerfully; what will you have for the one blow?"
Then said he, "I will only give you quite a small blow, that's all." And he raised his foot, and gave him such a kick that he flew away over four loads of hay. Then he sought out the thickest iron bar in the smithy for himself, took it as a stick in his hand and went onwards.
When he had walked for some time, he came to a small farm, and asked the bailiff if he did not require a head-servant. "Yes," said the bailiff, "I can make use of one; you look a strong fellow who can do something, how much a year do you want as wages?" He again replied that he wanted no wages at all, but that every year he would give him three blows, which he must bear. Then the bailiff was satisfied, for he, too, was a covetous fellow. Next morning all the servants were to go into the wood, and the others were already up, but the head-servant was still in bed. Then one of them called to him, "Get up, it is time; we are going into the wood, and thou must go with us." - "Ah," said he quite roughly and surlily, "you may just go, then; I shall be back again before any of you." Then the others went to the bailiff, and told him that the head-man was still lying in bed, and would not go into the wood with them. The bailiff said they were to awaken him again, and tell him to harness the horses. The head-man, however, said as before, "Just go there, I shall be back again before any of you." And then he stayed in bed two hours longer. At length he arose from the feathers, but first he got himself two bushels of peas from the loft, made himself some broth with them, ate it at his leisure, and when that was done, went and harnessed the horses, and drove into the wood. Not far from the wood was a ravine through which he had to pass, so he first drove the horses on, and then stopped them, and went behind the cart, took trees and brushwood, and made a great barricade, so that no horse could get through. When he was entering the wood, the others were just driving out of it with their loaded carts to go home; then said he to them, "Drive on, I will still get home before you do." He did not drive far into the wood, but at once tore two of the very largest trees of all out of the earth, threw them on his cart, and turned round. When he came to the barricade, the others were still standing there, not able to get through. "Don't you see," said he, "that if you had stayed with me, you would have got home just as quickly, and would have had another hour's sleep?" He now wanted to drive on, but his horeses could not work their way through, so he unharnessed them, laid them on the top of the cart, took the shafts in his own hands, and pulled it all through, and he did this just as easily as if it had been laden with feathers. When he was over, he said to the others, "There, you see, I have got over quicker than you," and drove on, and the others had to stay where they were. In the yard, however, he took a tree in his hand, showed it to the bailiff, and said, "Isn't that a fine bundle of wood?" Then said the bailiff to his wife, "The servant is a good one, if he does sleep long, he is still home before the others." So he served the bailiff for a year, and when that was over, and the other servants were getting their wages, he said it was time for him to take his too. The bailiff, however, was afraid of the blows which he was to receive, and earnestly entreated him to excuse him from having them; for rather than that, he himself would be head-servant, and the youth should be bailiff. "No," said he, "I will not be a bailiff, I am head-servant, and will remain so, but I will administer that which we agreed on." The bailiff was willing to give him whatsoever he demanded, but it was of no use, the head-servant said no to everything. Then the bailiff did not know what to do, and begged for a fortnight's delay, for he wanted to find some way of escape. The head-servant consented to this delay. The bailiff summoned all his clerks together, and they were to think the matter over, and give him advice. The clerks pondered for a long time, but at last they said that no one was sure of his life with the head-servant, for he could kill a man as easily as a midge, and that the bailiff ought to make him get into the well and clean it, and when he was down below, they would roll up one of the mill-stones which was lying there, and throw it on his head; and then he would never return to daylight. The advice pleased the bailiff, and the head-servant was quite willing to go down the well. When he was standing down below at the bottom, they rolled down the largest mill-stone and thought they had broken his skull, but he cried, "Chase away those hens from the well, they are scratching in the sand up there, and throwing the grains into my eyes, so that I can't see." So the bailiff cried, "Sh-sh," and pretended to frighten the hens away. When the head-servant had finished his work, he climbed up and said, "Just look what a beautiful neck-tie I have on," and behold it was the mill-stone which he was wearing round his neck. The head-servant now wanted to take his reward, but the bailiff again begged for a fortnight's delay. The clerks met together and advised him to send the head-servant to the haunted mill to grind corn by night, for from thence as yet no man had ever returned in the morning alive. The proposal pleased the bailiff, he called the head-servant that very evening, and ordered him to take eight bushels of corn to the mill, and grind it that night, for it was wanted. So the head-servant went to the loft, and put two bushels in his right pocket, and two in his left, and took four in a wallet, half on his back, and half on his breast, and thus laden went to the haunted mill. The miller told him that he could grind there very well by day, but not by night, for the mill was haunted, and that up to the present time whosoever had gone into it at night had been found in the morning lying dead inside. He said, "I will manage it, just you go away to bed." Then he went into the mill, and poured out the corn. About eleven o'clock he went into the miller's room, and sat down on the bench. When he had sat there a while, a door suddenly opened, and a large table came in, and on the table, wine and roasted meats placed themselves, and much good food besides, but everything came of itself, for no one was there to carry it. After this the chairs pushed themselves up, but no people came, until all at once he beheld fingers, which handled knives and forks, and laid food on the plates, but with this exception he saw nothing. As he was hungry, and saw the food, he, too, place himself at the table, ate with those who were eating and enjoyed it. When he had had enough, and the others also had quite emptied their dishes, he distinctly heard all the candles being suddenly snuffed out, and as it was now pitch dark, he felt something like a box on the ear. Then he said, "If anything of that kind comes again, I shall strike out in return." And when he had received a second box on the ear, he, too struck out. And so it continued the whole night. He took nothing without returning it, but repaid everything with interest, and did not lay about him in vain. At daybreak, however, everything ceased. When the miller had got up, he wanted to look after him, and wondered if he were still alive. Then the youth said, "I have eaten my fill, have received some boxes on the ears, but I have given some in return." The miller rejoiced, and said that the mill was now released from the spell, and wanted to give him much money as a reward. But he said, "Money, I will not have, I have enough of it." So he took his meal on his back, went home, and told the bailiff that he had done what he had been told to do, and would now have the reward agreed on. When the bailiff heard that, he was seriously alarmed and quite beside himself; he walked backwards and forwards in the room, and drops of perspiration ran down from his forehead. Then he opened the window to get some fresh air, but before he was aware, the head-servant had given him such a kick that he flew through the window out into the air, and so far away that no one ever saw him again. Then said the head-servant to the bailiff's wife, "If he does not come back, you must take the other blow." She cried, "No, no I cannot bear it," and opened the other window, because drops of perspiration were running down her forehead. Then he gave her such a kick that she, too, flew out, and as she was lighter she went much higher than her husband. Her husband cried, "Do come to me," but she replied, "Come thou to me, I cannot come to thee." And they hovered about there in the air, and could not get to each other, and whether they are still hovering about, or not, I do not know, but the young giant took up his iron bar, and went on his way.