By Basheer Ahmad Frémaux-Soormally
(adapted from “Le Petit Poucet » of Charles Perrault)
For my little Angels Jumaymah and Aïshah Frémaux-Soormally
Tom Thumb’s family and the wicked landlord who stole their wages and food
Once upon a time, there was a very poor family, a father wood cutter, a mother and their seven young children, four boys and three girls. Tom, the youngest, was only five years old. When he was born, he was not much bigger than the thumb of his father, so he was nicknamed Tom Thumb. They had no food, no God in their hearts, no family, and no neighbour to help them. They lived in a wooden cottage in the forest.
Because of his small size, TOM was ridiculed even by his brothers and sisters who never suspected that this same little boy would one day save their lives. One night, the poor father could not bear it anymore and decided to abandon all his seven children in the forest. His wife started crying. She said wolves will eat them. But, the husband convinced her that they cannot feed the children anymore.
But, TOM was not sleeping, and heard his parents talking and crying through the thin wall that separated their bed rooms and again from behind the bench near the fire place. They said rich people were wicked, and would never help the poor.
Tom heard how the rich Lords flogged and starved many helpless people, and how wicked were the Kings, Queens and Lords.
Some poor people were put in dungeons with rats for the rest of their lives because they disobeyed the Lords. God was absent in the hearts and in the everyday way of life of the rich people. Tom listened and was terrified by such wickedness.
But, TOM did not move and waited until both his father and mother fell asleep. Then, he got up, and went slowly down the hallway. He picked up his shoulder bag, and opened the front door. Once outside, he filled his bag with white and shiny pebbles, and hurried back to his room.
He hid the bag under his bed and went straight to sleep.
Tom never really worshipped God before, but he went to the village church with his parents every Sunday to sing hymns. It was obligatory. HE never liked it because the priest sang in Latin and loved only rich people. TOM was now resolved to ask God’s help. So, with all his heart, he addressed a prayer to God asking Him to save his family, and protect poor people like his parents.
The next morning, his father rushed into their room and woke them all up saying:
“Hurry up, children! We are all going to the forest where we may find some fruits to eat!”
The children were so happy that they jumped out of bed, and, without brushing their teeth, they ran in all directions and quickly put on their clogs and their ragged clothes.
TOM THUMB was ready too with his now heavy shoulder bag. He followed his father, brothers and sisters whistling as if everything was alright.
When Tom passed his mother, she waved them good-bye and he noticed tears in her eyes. he was the only one to know why! BUT, he was hoping his plan to rescue his brothers and sisters would work.
As soon as they reached some distance from the cottage, without being seen by the others, TOM retrieved a pebble from his bag and dropped it in the pathway, but making sure that he would see it from a distance when he returned the same way and lead his brothers and sisters home. Tom was very carefully watching his way in every detail.
Because he always lagged behind as he could not walk fast enough, nobody noticed what he was doing.
As they went deeper and deeper into the forest, TOM used all his pebbles in order to leave marks visible enough for him to find them when they would be returning home on their own, by the grace and will of God, and without their father to guide them.
He did not tell his brothers and sisters what he heard the previous night because they would not have believed him anyway. Once, they had reached far enough in the heart of the forest, their father asked them to stop and have some rest, and try to find some fruits to eat. They were lucky as they found some berries.
But, they were afraid to climb up the trees to pick some apples because some landlord might pass by and see them. If they were caught, they would be whipped and even thrown in the dungeon because all the trees in the forest belonged to the landlords. Each one of them had a basket, and they filled them quickly with whatever fruits and herbs they could find. Some of them were chasing butterflies; others were playing near the river, or picking up beautiful yellow daffodils.
Their father gathered a basket full of berries for their mother. When he saw his children were all busy enjoying themselves and eating, the father quietly made his way home, reluctantly abandoning his seven helpless children to the hazards of the forest. But, he sincerely hoped the wolves would not eat them. The poor father even hoped his innocent children might be found by some good people who would take care of them. If he only knew that God Himself was protecting them through Tom’s prayers and efforts! But, prayers are useless without the required efforts.
His eyes blinded by tears, the poor father reached his home exhausted. He gave his wife the basket full of berries, but, she too was crying profusely and refused to eat. Her sobbing would echo in the night. “What have I done? What have I done? Oh, my God!” lamented the father, hugging his wife in desperation. They were very sad.
Suddenly, they heard a knock on their door. They were frightened. “Who might that be?” they asked. For one moment they thought their children had found their way home, and they were so happy that they both rushed to open the door to greet them. But, all they saw was a huge figure in red wearing a hideous mask.
The sight was horrible. The ogre-like figure was wearing red gloves. When he raised his right hand, they were scared to death. But, he immediately removed his ugly mask and addressed them in a soft voice.
They suddenly recognised their landlord, the same person who had stolen their money and food and made them so miserable. The landlord said to them gently: “Please, do not be afraid. I have repented for my sins and asked forgiveness to God. Here is your money, and I have also brought food for you and your children - plenty of food and drinks.”
His two servants who had accompanied him went into the cottage and placed plenty of food, fruits, and drinks on their dining table as well as a purse containing a few gold coins. But, at seeing all this food, the husband and wife burst into tears. The landlord was surprised.
“Why are you crying, now that you are not going to die?” The husband explained to the landlord how he had abandoned his seven children in the forest in the early hours of the morning, and because it was too dark now he would not be able to go and get them. The landlord calmed him down and asked him to pray to God, and promised he would send his people to look for them, and then he left with his servants.
He promised he would pray too for the safe return of his poor children. So, both husband and wife fell on their knees and prayed to God. They promised they would always worship and remember God from now on, and begged God to return all their children safe and sound. They wept so loud that even the birds on the trees were disturbed. Very far away from the cottage, in the heart of the forest, the children had suddenly realised that their father was gone! They started crying!
but, TOM did not cry because he had faith in GOD. The sun was already setting and they were so afraid because they did not know how to get back home. “Why are you not crying like all of us?” asked the eldest brother to TOM who was even whistling, and seemed quite happy and not worried at all.
His brothers and sisters did not pray to God in their desperation because their parents did not teach them enough about religion and God. They were so poor that God was rarely on their minds or in their hearts even when they were forced to go to church on an empty stomach. They could not read or write and did not even have a Holy Bible in their house.
“I know how to get home!” TOM said. They all laughed at him. They had always teased him because of his small size, made fun of him and ridiculed him. But, now, they had to listen to him as they were confused and had nobody else to turn to for help. “Maybe he really can take us all home!” they said, and they all gathered around him and pleaded with LITTLE TOM THUMB begging him to show them the way home. It was a really funny scene to see a little five year old boy leading six scared children, and telling them not to worry at all, but to start looking for white pebbles. He promised that by the will of God and their efforts they would all be home soon, safe and sound. “Trust me !” he insisted. “God will never abandon us if we have faith in Him and do the right thing!”
They were so afraid that they obeyed him and started looking for white pebbles. Suddenly, the eldest brother screamed at the top of his voice saying: “I have found one pebble! I have found one, a white one!” They all rushed to him, and he waved the white pebble with joy. TOM took it and hastily put it in his bag. “Look for more!” TOM yelled. They continued to look for more white pebbles when one of his sisters shouted: “I have found another one!” They finally found all the pebbles and TOM’s shoulder bag was now full to the brim and quite heavy to carry.
“There are no more pebbles, TOM, and we still cannot see our house!” they cried. TOM asked them to be patient. He climbed up a tree and looked for their house. Suddenly he shouted: “There, over there, a light and smoke! We have to go in that direction!” Yes, it was the cottage of their parents. They had let a candle and a fire burn all night hoping that God would grant their prayers and return their children to them guided by the light and smoke. They did the right thing.
How could their parents ever think that little Tom Thumb was at that very moment leading them safely home, at times even holding one of his sisters by the hand?
After the parents had prayed, they heard a knock on the door. “It was past midnight, who could that be? Maybe the landlord has come back with news of our children!” said the husband. They were both trembling with fear. But, they heard the knock again. The husband finally decided to go and open the door, but, as a precaution, he armed himself with his wood cutter’s axe just in case he had to defend himself against any strangers or robbers.
He slowly opened the door, but found no one outside. It was pitch dark, and he could not see anything moving.
Suddenly, he felt somebody grabbing him by the thighs, and he stretched out his arms to see who it was.
“Oh,my God, it’s you, my boy! Mother, mother, come quick, it’s our little TOM !”
With infinite joy, he picked up TOM and kissed him on his face, on his head, on his forehead, on his cheeks, everywhere, everywhere! He was so happy that he kept repeating: “Thank you, God! Thank you, God !”
His wife joined him on the door step and hugged her little boy and kissed him and kissed him, and thanked God many, many times.
“God has listened to our prayers! Halleluiah! Halleluiah!” she kept chanting!
Her joy was so great that she nearly forgot all her other missing children, but she suddenly remembered them.
“But, my God, where are the others? Did the wolves eat them?” asked his mother.
“They are all here, safe and sound as I promised,” answered TOM.
Looking towards the bushes with her light, the weeping mother saw six pairs of eyes glowing in the darkness of the night. AS they came nearer, she heard several voices in unison:
“Mother, father, it’s us!”
The happy parents grabbed their seven children and dragged them inside the house, hugged them, kissed them, and thanked God for his Mercy. “But, how did you manage to come home from so far away?” they asked. They were all crying tears of joy and were very happy. “It was very easy, because TOM showed us the way !” they all said in one voice.
The children were so tired that they wanted to go straight to bed. But, their parents said:
“No, we will have to thank God first.”
So, they all prostrated on the ground and worshipped God with a sincere heart and promising to never lose Faith again.
It was the very first time that they really felt God’s presence. They understood, now, that God is Beneficent and Merciful, that He provides for all living creatures, including birds, insects, fish and even microbes, and that they should never despair and always have faith, put their trust in God, and follow the guidance of His Prophets, Messengers, and of righteous inspired men and women.
THEY also understood that they were wrong to despair and abandon their children, but had to persevere in their efforts, and be patient. THEY asked God to forgive them because GOD is All-Loving and All-Forgiving. They promised to work hard in order to free themselves.
Many people do not believe in GOD saying He is just a figment of our imagination, and many are arrogant, ungrateful, and despair in hard times or do wrong things, and even kill themselves. But, the truth is that we should always remember GOD and never remove Him from our minds, hearts and daily actions, as He is our Sole Protector for ever.
GOD brings so much hope and happiness to millions of people who are oppressed and in great need of providence, and protection for their freedom, life and property? The Arabic word for THE God is allah.
The lesson and morality of this story is that we should never forget GOD and be grateful for all His Bounties, always do right and never despise the little ones, because one day it may be that those same little ones would save us and the world from total destruction.
Our schools should teach us good morals.
Our children should remain our most precious treasures AND THE LIGHT OF OUR EYES, and we owe them THE PROPER moral AND SPIRITUAL upbringing.
For my little Angels Jumaymah and Aïshah, and all children.
From Basheer Ahmad
23rd of December 2009
On his 64th birthday
N.B. The Charles Perrault’s episode about the blood-curdling and macabre children-eating ogre had to be omitted because it is simply unacceptable.
Adapted from “Le Petit Poucet” of Charles Perrault) – Short Version
by Basheer Ahmad Frémaux-Soormally – 23 December 2009
Life is sacred and a gift from GOD Almighty
Do not abandon or kill your babies or children
Because of poverty, lack of means or Godless values