There once lived a man and his wife who were not rich. Well - they were not rich with money, or jewels or land. But they were rich with CHILDREN! In fact they were SO rich with children that they couldn’t feed them all. So, one day, inspired by the well-known fairy story about murdering witches in their houses made of gingerbread and covered with sweets, these parents abandoned their three youngest children in the woods. Not all of their children, you see - it could have been worse.
Two of the children were not very special at all so history doesn’t even tell us their names. We will call them Child One and Child Two. They cried a bit and they got scared. Fair enough you might say. But Child Three was not like them and so we get to find out what her name was. And no, it was not Child Three. It was Mollie Whuppie. And Mollie Whuppie was extraordinary. She did not cry because she was BOLD. She told her sisters to cheer up, that crying would only get the attention of the bears and that they should try to find somewhere to sleep for the night.
Off went the three girls, Child One, Child Two and Mollie Whuppie. Deep deep deep into the dark dark woods. Not one little house could they see. Child one and child two started to whimper with hunger and even Mollie was starting to feel a little faint. But - hooray - just as the last of the sun light disappeared, they saw ahead of them a house with a light in the window. A large house. A very large house. “Aha!” said Mollie Whuppie. “A giant’s house.”
“Oh, no!” wailed the sisters. “Oh, YES!” grinned Mollie. “I want to have my dinner!” and she marched up the the front door and banged on it three times.
The door opened and there stood a giant’s wife and at her back were her three daughters. “Hello!” said Mollie. “We’re hungry - and tired. Would you please give us some food?”
“I can’t,” said the giant’s wife. “My husband’s a giant, and when he comes home he will kill you and eat you!”
The sisters were ready to run for the hills at this point but not Molly.
“That’s ok,” she said, “if you feed us straight away, we’ll be finished before he gets back - what do you think?”
Now the giant's wife was not a horrible woman and her daughters were keen for someone to play with so she invited Mollie and her sisters to come in, sat them by the fire, and gave them each a bowl of bread and milk. But they had hardly begun to gobble it up before the door burst open, and a fearful giant strode in, saying: “Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the stink of an earthly one.”
“Now now, husband, it’s just three tiny girlies who needed some food and they’re just about to leave. Be a good giant and please don't touch them. They’re our guests!”
The giant said only this: “Umph!" but then added, “Well, it’s late. Share our daughters’ room and you can stay the night.”
“Thank you,” said Mollie and her sisters. “That’s very kind.”
The giant didn’t seem so scary after all and he even made Mollie and her sisters little necklaces of straw to wear round their necks, very like the gold chains his daughters had. Then he wished them all pleasant dreams and sent them to bed.
But Molly Whuppie was smart. She lay awake, thinking. Then very, very quietly, she got up, took off her own and her sisters' straw necklaces, put them round the neck of the giant’s daughters, and placed their gold chains round her own and her sisters' necks. Then she lay awake to see what happened.
And yes - in the very middle of the night, when everybody else was dead asleep and it was pitch dark, in crept the giant. He put his fat giant fingers on each girl’s neck and felt for the gold chains - Child One, a gold chain. Child Two, a gold chain. Mollie Whuppie, a gold chain. Mollie and her sisters were safe. Sadly, though, the three girls wearing straw chains were not. Before the giant realised he was about to put his own daughters in the oven, Mollie woke up her sisters and they crept out of the house and ran as fast as they could 'til the sun rose over the forest, and they reached another great house.
This great house was surrounded by a wide, deep moat with a drawbridge, which was up. But next to it was a rope made of just one single hair, which only someone very, very light could use.
It won’t surprise you to hear that Molly's sisters were too afraid to try to use this slightly hairy bridge. And it won’t surprise you to hear they thought this could also be a giant’s house. “You never know 'til you try!” said Mollie with a laugh and she crossed the hair bridge easily, with a smile on her face.
Now this was not the castle of a giant, but of a King. And the drawbridge was kept up to keep the kingdom safe from the terrible giant that Molly had tricked - and he could never cross the Bridge of a Single Hair. And when Mollie crossed the bridge and told the castle guard her story, he took her to the King and said: "My lord! Here is a girlie who has tricked the giant!” And the King said, "You are a clever girl, Molly Whuppie, and you managed very well; but if you could manage still better, and steal the giant's sword, in which part of his strength lies, I will give my eldest son in marriage to your eldest sister - if she wants him!” Molly Whuppie thought her sister might like that very much, so she said she would try.
The evening, Mollie ran across the Bridge of One Single Hair, and ran and ran all the way back to the giant's house. She crept into the house and sneaked into the giant's room, then crept behind his bed, waiting until he came home. After a while, the giant got home, ate his dinner and climbed the stairs for bed.
Molly held her breath until she could hear him snore. Then she crept out from under the bed, up the bed, past his fat snory face, and took hold of the sword that hung above him. But when she jumped off the bed, the sword made a noise in its holder. The giant woke up and chased Molly who ran as hard as she could all the way to the Bridge of One Single Hair, where she ran over it with the giant’s sword.
He stood at the bank of the moat, shouting and angry and said, “I hope horrible things happen to you, Molly Whuppie! Don’t you dare visit me again!”
And she laughed and said, “Oh, I will you know, you ugly old giant!”
As she had promised, Molly gave the sword to the King, and as Child Number One really liked the prince, there was a wedding and they lived happily ever after. After the wedding, the King turned to Molly Whuppie and said, “You’ve done so well, Mollie. You know what? If I had the giant's purse - where he keeps some of his strength, your second sister could marry my second son - if she wants? But the giant sleeps with the purse under his pillow! It won’t be easy!”
Well! Molly Whuppie thought Child Number Two would like this greatly, because she had seen her sister smiling at the second prince. So she thought she would see if she could get the giant’s purse. That very evening, again at sunset, she did it all again. Over the bridge, ran through the forest, reached the giant’s house, crept inside, hid behind his bed and waited 'til he came home, ate, went to bed and snored.
She slipped out from under the bed, crept up his bed-clothes, sneaked her hand under his pillow and got her hands on his purse. But his fat head was so heavy she had to tug quite hard. Finally, she got it out from under the pillow, but she had yanked so hard she fell backwards, the purse fell and the money crashed onto the floor making a huge noise. The giant woke up, she grabbed the money and again ran and ran and ran all the way to the Bridge of One Single Hair. Purse in one hand, money in the other, she sped across it while the giant shook his fist at her and cried: "“I hope horrible things happen to you, Molly Whuppie! Don’t you dare visit me again!” And she laughed and said, “Oh, I will you know, you ugly old giant!” And she took the purse to the King, and an excellent wedding was held for Child Number Two and Prince Number Two and they also lived happily ever after.
But guess what? After the wedding was over the King said, "Molly! You know the giant keeps all his remaining strength in the ring on his finger? And I do have one more son…If you would like to marry him…?”
Now I forgot to mention that Molly really liked the last, unmarried son. He was funny and kind and smart. They were very much alike and had become quite good friends. So she said yes, she may as well try to get the giant’s ring - why not?
Over the bridge, through the forest, into the castle, and into the bedroom she went. Home came the giant, ate lots of food, fell into bed and started to snore. Really - almost suspiciously - loudly.
And then Molly began to tug at the ring on his finger and - he GRABBED her! The ring fell to the floor and the giant roared, "Molly Whuppie, you are a very clever girl! You have done very bad things to me - what should I do to you?” Molly thought for a second, then said:
"I'd put you in a sack, put a cat inside with you, then a dog as well, then add a needle and thread and a pair of shears. Then I'd hang you up on the back of the door, go to the wood and cut the thickest stick I could get. When I got back, I’d hit you in the bag with my stick - bang, bang, bang!”
"Right you are!" cried the giant gleefully, "that's just what I'll do!”
So he got a sack. And he put Molly inside, with a dog and a cat, and a needle and thread and shears. And he hung her on the back of the door and went to the woods to choose a stick.
And while he was gone, Molly Whuppie began to laugh, and the dog joined in with barks, and the cat joined in with mews. Now the giant's wife was sitting in the next room, and when she heard the commotion she went in to see what was up. “What is the fuss?" she said.
"Nothing, Ma'am," said Molly from inside the sack, laughing like anything. "Ho, ho! Ha, ha! If you saw what we see you'd laugh too. Ho, ho! Ha, ha!”
“Tell me, tell me!” said the giant's wife. But all Molly would say was, "Ho, ho! Ha, ha! If only you could see what I see!!!”
The giant's wife BEGGED Molly to let her see what was so funny, so Molly said, “Oh, alright then,” and with the shears, cut a hole in the sack, jumped out, helped the giant's wife in, and sewed up the hole with the needle and thread. Then she hid behind the door just as the giant came home with his big stick.
He hit the sack. "Stop! stop!" cried his wife. "It's me! It's me!” But the cat and the dog were so upset and so loud that he did not recognise his wife’s voice. Luckily for the giant’s wife, the giant spotted Molly Whuppie as she ran out the house, with the ring that he had dropped on the floor!
He dropped his stick and ran after Mollie as fast as he could. They ran, and ran, til they reached Bridge of One Single Hair. She ran into the castle, as the giant shouted and her sisters, the princes and the king all applauded her safe return home.
“I hope horrible things happen to you, Molly Whuppie! Don’t you dare visit me again!” said the giant.
And she laughed and said, “Why would I, mean giant? You have nothing I want!” So she took the ring to the King, she married her prince and spent her life encouraging people to be bold, to laugh and be strong.
From English Fairy Tales by Flora Annie Steel, 1918: adapted by Gill Kirk
What made Mollie different?
Who was the most powerful person in the story?
Why do you think Mollie was the way she was?
Are there any of Mollie’s qualities that you would like to have? Humour, calm, bravery, confidence, kindness, thoughtfulness?