The Tailor in Heaven

Folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther Type 800
translated and edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2009


  1. How a Tailor Came to Heaven and Threw Our Lord God's Footstool at an Old Woman (Germany, Jörg Wickram).

  2. The Tailor in Heaven (Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).

  3. The Tailor in Heaven (Germany, Ernst Meier).

  4. A Spanish Cavalryman (Switzerland, Otto Sutermeister).

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

How a Tailor Came to Heaven and Threw Our Lord God's Footstool at an Old Woman


It happened that one beautiful day our Lord God wanted to take a walk, and he took all of his apostles and saints with him, leaving only Saint Peter at home in heaven. Warning Saint Peter not to allow anyone into heaven while he was away, the Lord God left.

A tailor approached heaven and knocked at the gate. Saint Peter asked who was there and what he wanted.

The tailor said, "I am a tailor, and I very much wanted to get into heaven."

Saint Peter said, "I am not allowed to let anyone enter, for our Lord God is not at home, and he told me to be careful to not permit anyone inside while he is away.

But the tailor did not cease begging for admission, until finally Saint Peter gave in and allowed him to come in, but with the condition that he was to sit quietly and politely in a corner until our Lord God returned, so that no one would notice him and get angry.

The tailor promised to do this. He sat down in a corner behind the door, but as soon as Saint Peter left, he got up and began walking from one corner of heaven to another, looking at everything. Finally he came to some beautiful, expensive chairs surrounding a special chair set with many precious jewels. It stood much higher than the others. In front of it was a golden footstool. This was the chair where our Lord God sits when he is at home.

For a good while the tailor stood quietly before the chair, constantly looking at it, for he liked it better than any of the others. Finally he sat down on the chair. Seated there he could look down on the earth and see everything that was happening there.

Among other things he saw an old woman who was stealing a hank of yarn from her neighbor. This so angered the tailor that he picked up the golden footstool and threw it at the old woman down on earth.

No longer able to reach the footstool, the tailor crept down from the chair and returned to his old corner, remaining there as if he had gone nowhere else.

When our Lord God returned home he did not notice the tailor, but when he sat down in his chair he saw that the footstool was missing. He asked Saint Peter where his footstool was, and Saint Peter replied that he did not know.

"Who has been here? Did you allow anyone inside?" he asked further.

"I do not know of anyone who has been here, except for a tailor who is sitting over there behind the door."

Then our Lord God asked the tailor, "What did you do with my footstool? Have you seen it?"

The frightened tailor answered with fear and trembling, "I was sitting in your chair when I saw an old woman down on earth stealing a hank of yarn from her neighbor. This made me so angry that I threw the footstool at her."

Our Lord God became angry at the tailor, and he said, "Hey, you rogue, if I had thrown a footstool at you every time that you cut off too much cloth and kept it for yourself, there would not be any chairs or benches left in heaven."

Thus the tailor, his own shortcomings and misdeeds having been revealed, was forced to leave heaven.

We should learn from this not to prosecute and punish the small sins of others, while we ourselves are guilty of much larger ones.

The Tailor in Heaven


It came to pass that one beautiful day God wished to take a stroll in the heavenly garden, and took all the apostles and saints with him, leaving no one in heaven but Saint Peter. The Lord had commanded him to allow no one to enter during his absence, so Peter stood by the gate and kept watch. Before long someone knocked. Peter asked who was there, and what he wanted.

"I am a poor, honest tailor who is requesting admission," replied a pleasant voice.

"Honest indeed," said Peter. "Like the thief on the gallows. You have been sticky-fingered and have robbed people of their cloth. You will not get into heaven. The Lord has forbidden me to let anyone in as long he is out."

"Oh, please be merciful," cried the tailor. "Little scraps that fall off the table by themselves are not stolen, and are not worth mentioning. See here, I am limping and have blisters on my feet from walking here. I cannot possibly go back again. Just let me in, and I will do all the dirty work. I will tend the children, wash their diapers, wipe off and clean the benches on which they have been playing, and patch all their torn clothes."

Saint Peter let himself be moved by pity and opened heaven's gate just wide enough for the lame tailor to slip his lean body inside. He had to take a seat in a corner behind the door, and was told to stay there quietly and peacefully, so that the Lord would not notice him when he returned, and become angry.

The tailor obeyed, but one time when Saint Peter stepped outside the door, he got up, and full of curiosity, looked into every corner of heaven, seeing what was there. Finally he came to a place where there were many beautiful and costly chairs. At their center was a seat made entirely of gold and set with glistening precious stones. It stood much higher than the other chairs, and a golden footstool stood in front of it. This was the seat on which the Lord sat when he was at home, and from which he could see everything that was happening on earth.

The tailor stood still, and looked at the seat for a long time, for he liked it better than all the rest. Finally he could control his curiosity no longer, and he climbed up and sat down on it. From there he saw everything that was happening on earth.

He noticed an ugly old woman who was standing beside a stream doing the laundry. She secretly set two scarves aside. Seeing this made the tailor so angry that he took hold of the golden footstool and threw it at the old thief, through heaven down to earth. Unable to bring the stool back again, he quietly sneaked down from the seat, sat back down in his place behind the door, and pretended that he had done nothing at all.

When the Lord and Master returned with his heavenly attendants, he did not notice the tailor behind the door, but when he sat down on his seat, the footstool was missing. He asked Saint Peter what had become of the footstool, but he did not know. Then he asked if he had admitted anyone.

"I know of no one who has been here," answered Peter, "except for a lame tailor, who is still sitting behind the door."

Then the Lord had the tailor brought before him, and asked him if he had taken the footstool, and where he had put it.

"Oh, Lord," answered the tailor joyously, "In my anger I threw it down to earth at an old woman whom I saw stealing two scarves while doing the laundry."

"Oh, you scoundrel," said the Lord, "if I were to judge as you judge, how would it have gone with you? I would have long since had no chairs, benches, seats, no, not even a stove-poker, but would have thrown everything down at the sinners. You can no longer stay in heaven, but must go outside the gate again. From there watch where you are going. Here no one metes out punishment, except for me alone, the Lord."

Peter had to take the tailor out of heaven again, and because his shoes were worn out and his feet were covered with blisters, he took a stick in his hand and went to Wait-a-While, where the good soldiers sit and make merry.

The Tailor in Heaven


When the first tailor was admitted into heaven everyone there was very happy, because such an event was so rare and unexpected. Therefore God sponsored a festive procession in the tailor's honor. Because tailors are an unusual type, and are especially vain, our tailor felt himself too good to participate in the procession; instead he remained at home and looked around heaven.

He came to the divine throne, climbed onto it, and sat down. At the side he noticed a window, which he opened and looked down onto earth. From here he could see everything that was happening on earth. There he saw another tailor seated at his window who was just about to steal a small hank of yarn. This angered our tailor so much that he broke off the leg of a chair and threw it at the tailor's head.

When God returned and saw the broken chair he asked the tailor what he had done, to which the tailor eagerly described everything he had seen.

But then God said, "If I had acted this way every time that you stole something, throwing a chair leg at your head, there would not be another one here at all."

Then the tailor was forced out of heaven, and -- so they say -- another one has never been admitted. I would like to know if that is true.

A Spanish Cavalryman


On earth people have to die; otherwise there would not be enough room for the young ones. It is no wonder then that once a little tailor got sick and died.

So the tailor died, and just like a needle pulling a thread, his soul went straight toward heaven. He found the door and knocked ever so politely. After he had knocked a while the window opened, and Saint Peter asked who was there.

The needle-hero said, "Hey, it is little tailor, who -- with permission -- would like to enter heaven, Mr. Peter."

"A little tailor?" said the latter. "An ironing-board finch? We can't use the likes of you in heaven." And with that Peter shut the window.

While the tailor was standing there just outside of heaven, sorrowing and complaining, he saw an old woman who had also been told that they could not use her in heaven. The two comforted one another while seated outside there in the darkness. Meanwhile a mighty hussar approached and called out that he would like admission to heaven. Saint Peter did not make him wait long, because the latter had told someone that he was a Spanish cavalryman.

The little tailor took note of this, quickly ran over to the little old woman, and said to her, "How would it be, my friend, if the two of us were to smuggle ourselves into heaven? Not a bad idea, I believe. Quick now, little woman, I have a clever plan. I will be a Spanish cavalryman, and you will carry me up to heaven's door. I'll take care of the rest. The important thing is that we will both get into heaven!"

No sooner said than done. The needle-knight climbed onto the little woman just outside of Saint Peter's gate.

"Who is there?" the person with the keycalled out from inside.

"A Spanish cavalryman!" shouted the little tailor with all his might.

The door opened, and our Spanish knight proudly rode in and took his place with the other people in heaven.

So that is what the tailor did,
And everyone laughed at him,
And had a good time all around,
And they never had to leave again.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised March 29, 2009.