One day God goes for a walk and Saint Peter stays behind to guard the door of heaven. A tailor arrives and is let in. Mmmm… was that such a good idea?
The Tailor in Heaven is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a tailor who arrives at the door of heaven. God is absent and Saint Peter lets him in. The tailor sits on the chair of God and throws a footstool to an old woman he sees stealing. God comes back and puts him out of heaven.
Complete text The Tailor in Heaven
Saint Peter guards the door of heaven
One very fine day the good Lord God wished to enjoy himself in the heavenly garden. He took all the apostles and saints with him.
No one stayed in heaven but Saint Peter. The Lord had commanded him to let no one in during his absence, so Peter stood by the door and kept watch.
It was not long before someone knocked. Peter asked who was there, and what he wanted?
“I am a poor, honest tailor who prays for admission,” replied a smooth voice.
“Honest indeed,” said Peter, “like the thief on the gallows! You have been light-fingered and have robbed people of their cloth. You will not get into heaven. The Lord has forbidden me to let anyone in while he is out.”
“Please be merciful,” cried the tailor.
“Little scraps which fall off the table of their own accord are not stolen and are not worth speaking about. Look, I am lame and have blisters on my feet from walking here. I cannot possibly turn back again. Just let me in and I will do all the rough work. I will carry the children, wash their clothes, wash and clean the benches on which they have been playing and patch all their torn clothes.”
The tailor is allowed into heaven
Saint Peter was moved by pity and opened the door of heaven just wide enough for the lame tailor to slip his lean body in. He was forced to sit down in a corner behind the door, to stay quietly and peaceably there, in order that the Lord, when he returned, might not see him and get angry.
The tailor obeyed. However once Saint Peter went outside the door, he got up. Full of curiosity he went round about into every corner of heaven, inspecting the arrangement of every place.
At last he came to a spot where many beautiful and delightful chairs were standing. In the midst was a seat all of gold which was set with shining jewels. It was much higher than the other chairs and a footstool of gold was before it. It was the seat on which the Lord sat when he was at home. From that seat he could see everything which happened on earth.
The tailor stood still and looked at the seat for a long time. He liked it more than anything else he saw. At last he could master his curiosity no longer. He climbed up and seated himself in the chair.
From there he saw everything which was happening on earth. He observed an ugly old woman who was standing washing by the side of a stream, secretly laying two scarfs on one side for herself. This made the tailor so angry that he laid hold of the golden footstool and threw it down to earth through heaven, at the old thief.
Because he could not bring the stool back again, he slipped quietly out of the chair, seated himself in his place behind the door and behaved as if he had never stirred from the spot.
The Lord returns to heaven
When the Lord came back again with his heavenly companions, he did not see the tailor behind the door. However when he seated himself on his chair the footstool was missing. He asked Saint Peter what had become of the stool, but he did not know.
Then he asked if he had let anyone come in. “I know of no one who has been here,” answered Peter, “except a lame tailor, who is still sitting behind the door.”
The Lord had the tailor brought before him and asked him if he had taken away the stool and where he had put it?
“Oh, Lord,” answered the tailor joyously, “I threw it in my anger down to earth at an old woman whom I saw stealing two scarfs at the washing.”
“Oh, you scoundrel,” said the Lord, “if I would judge as you did, do you think you could have escaped for so long? Long ago I would have had run out of chairs, benches, seats and even oven forks, everything would have been thrown down at sinners. You can no longer stay in heaven, but must go outside the door again. Go where you want. The only one who gives punishment here is me.”
Peter was obliged to take the tailor out of heaven again. As he had torn shoes and feet covered with blisters, he took a stick in his hand and went to “Wait-a-bit,” where the good soldiers sit and make merry.
Tips for Telling The Tailor in Heaven
- This tale is interesting because it gives an idea of how people thought about heaven, God and all that was going on there. You might want to give your listeners a hint like: “this story is from hundreds of years ago, when Saint Peter was still standing guard at the door of heaven.”
- How do you imagine heaven to look? Maybe a strange question. However you need to have images of what you are telling about. Take the time to imagine how the surroundings of the tailor look.
- The feeling the tailor has when he sees the old woman stealing two scarfs is very strong. Try to find this feeling in yourself when you are telling this part.
All Questions Answered
The tale was published by the Brothers Grimm in the second edition of their Grimms’ Fairy Tales. Their source was anecdotal material from the Renaissance time. It was edited in later editions.
The Brothers Grimm included it in the second edition (1819) of their Grimm’s Fairy Tales.