(see here Introduction to the Tunisian Stories and Overview)
Once upon a time, there was a tailor sewing in his shop. A woman selling jam passed him by, so he bought an ounce from her. He had some bread in his shop that he cut in two and spread the jam on one half to eat for breakfast. Before eating it though, he finished his sewing
Suddenly, flies started swarming over that piece of jam bread. The tailor started battling the flies away with his hands. With one hit, his hand was stuck to the jam and he found seven flies were stuck on it. He said to himself: “What? I have the strength of seven souls? In one blow I kill seven souls? And I’m still in this country? Me? A tailor among everything else? No way! This country cannot hold me down any longer!”
He took out a piece of fabric that he fashioned into a large belt and embroidered on it the words: “This man’s strength equals that of seven”. Funnily enough, the man was so thin and puny that you could send him flying with a single blow.
Before leaving the shop, he took a piece of cheese and put it in his pocket in case he got hungry on the way. As he was leaving, a bird got trapped in the shop and started flapping its wings on the walls. He blocked its way until he caught it.
As he strolled his way out of town, everyone who saw the writing on his belt ran in the other direction. He reached the gate and left the town.
He then entered a forest and saw a huge ogre who looked terrifying. The ogre started laughing.
“What is it?”, said the tailor.
“I thought I was going to find a full-grown man to feed on, and you…one tooth would eat and the other would remain hungry.” said the ogre mockingly.
“Do you think you can beat me? I am stronger than ten ogres the likes of you!”
“You?” said the ogre.
“Alright, wait. We shall see who is the strongest” added the ogre.
He kept turning around, searching for something, then he bent down, lifted a rock that he put in his palm and started squeezing until water came out of it.
“So, can you do that?” asked the ogre.
“Of course, I can, what do you take me for? Do not underestimate the son of a great woman!” said the tailor confidently.
He took out the piece of cheese and squeezed it till milk came out of it. He said: “I do not only squeeze water out of a rock, I take out its milk as well.”
The ogre started to look at him differently and said: “Fine. I am going to throw a stone and see who can throw it the highest.”
The ogre took a stone and threw it high up in the sky and after a few moments it came back down. The tailor said: “That is nothing to me.” He took out the bird from his pocket and threw it high up. It flew up in the sky and never came down.
He said: “The stone that I throw never comes back down; it goes upwards to its creator.”
The ogre grew to respect him more and more. He said to him: “Then, tonight, you are my guest.” “Why not?” answered the tailor. The ogre ripped up a tree trunk, and said he was going to make dinner.
“Can you help me carry it?”, he asked the tailor.
“Can I? of course I can! You take the end bit and I’ll take the top.” answered the tailor confidently. The ogre lifted the tree and our fellow held on top of one of its branches so that the ogre was carrying him without knowing it. When they arrived, the ogre threw the tree down and the tailor jumped in front of it.
On the front of the ogre’s cave, there was a garden and trees; among which there was a prune tree. The prunes were ripe. The ogre pulled out a branch and they started eating the prune. When the ogre got full, he let go of the branch he was holding with his hand and of which the tailor was holding onto. It sprang back into the air and the tailor who weighed about thirty kilos or so flew over the tree and fell to the ground.
He said to the ogre: “Can you jump like that over a tree?” The ogre tried, but he couldn’t, he respected the tailor even more.
Once they went into the cave, they found there a group of ogres and many slaughtered sheep. They started a fire and each one of them cooked a sheep and started eating it.
“I won’t be satisfied with only one sheep; I can only be satisfied with a whole cow’s head.”, said the tailor.
“Where will I find a cow’s head at this moment?” wondered the ogre.
“Alright. Now, where do I sleep?”
“There’s your bed!” said the ogres.
He laid down on the bed. Once they finished dinner, they blew out the candles to sleep. He then quietly descended from his bed and sat down in a corner. In the middle of the night, the ogre brought an iron rod, went to the bed and struck whoever was in it. He hit it with a strength that would have killed ten people. They woke up at dawn to stroll around, thinking the tailor was dead.
In the morning, the tailor came out. When they saw him, they were shocked and ran away, each one taking his own way. He then said; “Does anyone dare to compete against me?” There was only silence. The forest was empty.
He started walking until he reached a town. He came to the king’s troops and laid down on the ground. The guards saw him and said: “Who is this shameless man, sleeping in front of our master’s palace? Guard! Beat him up and take him away!”
The guard went to him, and as he bent down, he saw the writing on his belt. He ran quickly to the guards and said” His strength equals that of seven, I will not take part in this. I cannot handle him.”
A crowd formed in the distance, no one wanted to come close to him while he was in a deep sleep. The king came out and said: “Who is this? What is this man doing sleeping here? Take him to the guillotine!” The order travelled through the guards until it reached the officer.
They said to him: “This man’s strength equals that of seven men. It says so on his belt.”
“Seven?” said the officer, “A man like this should not be let go of, I will make him commander of my royal guard . Will he agree? Anyways, listen, do not touch a hair of his head, let him wake up on his own, he might get angry. Who knows if he causes us trouble with one of his bouts?”
They waited until he woke up, they approached him respectfully and said: “Sir, our master offers his greetings and asks whether you would like to have some coffee with him. “Very well”, said the tailor.
The guards aligned themselves, saluting. He went up the stairs aligned with guards. He entered the chamber. The king arose to meet him halfway through. They greeted each other and sat side by side. Maids came in with coffee, desserts and every other delicacy.
“Would you agree to become the commander of my royal guard?” demanded the King.
“Of course, Sir.”, answered the tailor obediently.
“However, you must rid us of those two ogres terrorizing the forest; killing and feeding off the livestock.”
“That is easy. Where are they?”
“My people will guide you to their place.”
They went with him until they reached the forest. He then said: “I want to go in alone. I do not need your help. Perhaps if it were something more serious, but this is a piece of cake for me. Just give me one of your swords.”
As he walked in, he found two ogres sleeping under a tree. He started picking up pebbles and putting them in his pocket. He climbed the tree and hid between its branches. He took out one pebble and started aiming for the ogre’s face. Once he threw it, the ogre woke up, scratched his eyes and woke his friend up.
“Why did you do that?” asked the ogre.
“Do what?”, said the other.
“Let me sleep! Why are you being annoying?” complained the ogre and soon went back to sleep.
The tailor threw another pebble.
“Have you no shame? What have I done to you?” burst out the ogre in anger.
They started quarreling. One of them pushed the other and they started fighting. They plowed the earth with their violent blows. Each tree that they slammed against was ripped out of its roots. There was a bloodbath as if it were a slaughterhouse and they ended up killing one another.
Once the tailor made sure they were dead, he came down from the tree, smothered his sword, his hands and his face with the blood and came back to the town.
His eyes were glistening and he looked so small. The guards went quickly to see the two dead ogres. They went back to the king stunned and dumbfounded. They told the king what had happened.
“Will I ever choose someone else over this fellow?”
In the end, the king married the tailor to his daughter and bequeathed him half of his property. This was the story of the ogre and the powerful tailor that we were told when we were young.