|Relations||Unnamed adoptive human mother|
Flower Prince (husband)
|Height||Slightly less than an inch|
|Diet||Known to enjoy seeds and honey|
|Behind the Scenes|
|Created by||Hans Christian Andersen|
Thumbelina (Tommelise in the original) is a tiny girl born from a tulip-like flower. She lived a long adventure and was eventually made princess of the flower people and received a new name, Maia.
The story begins with a woman who desperately wanted a child, but couldn't have one, so she consults with a magical entity (a fairy or a witch depending on the translation) who offers her what looks like an ordinary barleycorn. However, she warns the woman that this is not the same kind of barleycorn that farmers plant and that chickens eat. It's in fact a rather different plant, which she tells the woman to tend for.
As the plant grows it develops a beautiful flower which opens to reveal the miniature girl inside. As she was no more than an inch in height, the woman named her Thumbelina. She was very pretty and very delicate, and spent most of the day on the table next to the window, where she rowed a leaf-boat on a plate of water filled with flowers, which to her seemed like a pleasant lake. At afternoons she would often sing by the window. At night she slept in a walnut cradle covered in violet petals.
One night, a toad leaped through the window and kidnapped Thumbelina, figuring she would make a good wife for his son. He brought her to the nearby stream and left her on a water-lily - where he knew she would be helpless. When she realized what was intended for her, Thumbelina cried desperately, unable to escape the great water-lily which seemed to her like an island.
Fortunately, the fish who inhabited the stream came to her rescue and gnawed the stem of the water-lily, allowing Thumbelina to sail away on it. She traveled a great distance away from where the toads resided. However, a large cockchafer flied by and took Thumbelina away, also intending to marry her. The henchafers advised him against it, as - since she had only two legs, and hair instead of antennae -, they found her appearance unpleasant. As a result, the cockchafer abandoned her alone in the woods. Unable to find her way back, Thumbelina spent the next months there, singing and making friends with the birds. She made a bed of straws for herself and sustained herself by eating honey from the flowers and drinking morning dew from the leaves.
Eventually came the winter, and the whole forest froze over. With no food and no proper shelter available, Thumbelina almost froze to death, but was fortunately helped by a field mouse who offered that she could stay in his den. In return, she would keep the den clean and tidy and tell stories to the field mouse, who enjoyed them greatly. As the days went by, the field mouse and Thumbelina were frequently visited by the field mouse's friend and neighbor, an intellectual blind mole who lived perpetually underground and who harbored a dislike for the sun, the flowers and the surface world in general. Like the toad's son and the cockchafer, the mole also fell in love with Thumbelina and intended to marry her, an offer which she found disgusting, despite the field mouse's pleas that the mole was very well-off and very learned and thus would make a good husband.
One day, as they walked through the mole's tunnels, they came across a poor frozen swallow who the mole dismissed as dead. Thumbelina was sad, figuring that the swallow must have been one of her friends during the summer months. But as she approached the bird, she realized its heart was still beating. For many days, Thumbelina secretly nurtured the swallow back to health and later took a ride on his back when he was ready to fly southwards to meet with his fellows. As the swallow took her to a vast flower field, Thumbelina discovered that each flower there was inhabited by a miniature fairy-person just like her. The flower people embraced Thumbelina, recognizing her as one of them. The next summer, she married their prince and was given a pair of wings and a new name, Maia.
- Although she's most well-known in English as Thumbelina, there have been numerous names given to her by translators over the decades, with some keeping the original Tommelise and some using variants such as Tiny, Little Ellie, Little Tottie, Inchelina and Thumbelisa.