StoryFest: Conrad’s Fitting

Warning: gruesome violence towards a child

Conrad was a naughty boy and never paid Ma any mind. She worked hard to keep him fed and clothed since Pa was gone. The ole man got himself killed trying to break up a bar fight, so Ma left him alone in their rented room over the saloon every night.

One night, she warned him to behave, and since the saloon was so loud nobody could hear him running up and down the hall, Conrad just nodded and shoved his thumb in his mouth.

But Ma yanked his hand away and warned him, “Don’t suck your thumb while I’m away. The great tall tailor will run in here with his big ole scissors and cut your thumbs clean off!”

Conrad knew Ma was fibbing, so after he watched her shadowed silhouette disappear down the street from their broken window, he sucked on his thumb while he planned a secret visit to the saloon. But someone came pounding up the rickety stairs, and a tall, skinny man dressed in the shiniest red suit the boy had ever seen burst into his room. Conrad figured he was one of those peddlers selling some medicine, until out came a pair of shiny scissors. Oh no, he worried that Ma had told the truth!

“Oh, oh, oh” Conrad cried when the tailor man snipped and snapped off both his thumbs! The tailor pocketed poor Conrad’s flesh and bones and ran back out the door without a word.

In shock and in pain, Conrad waited for Ma to come home. Hours later, she came across a rusty stain and followed the dried trail to find Conrad hidden behind the bed. He turned over —eyes red and crusted— and when he unwrapped his hands, she said, “I knew he’d come to naughty little Suck-a-Thumb.”

When Conrad became a man, he burnt down every tailors’ shop he passed. Thumbless, perhaps, but never again opposable.


This was based on the prompt for Day 13 of Story A Day.

Rework a nursery rhyme in another author’s voice. 

I attempted to rewrite Heinrich Hoffmann’s The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb in Louis L’Amour fashion. Here’s the English translation of the original.

One day, Mamma said, “Conrad dear,
I must go out and leave you here.
But mind now, Conrad, what I say,
Don’t suck your thumb while I’m away.
The great tall tailor always comes
To little boys that suck their thumbs.
And ere they dream what he’s about
He takes his great sharp scissors
And cuts their thumbs clean off, – and then
You know, they never grow again.”

Mamma had scarcely turn’d her back,
The thumb was in, alack! alack!

The door flew open, in he ran,
The great, long, red-legged scissorman.
Oh! children, see! the tailor’s come
And caught our little Suck-a-Thumb.

Snip! Snap! Snip! the scissors go;
And Conrad cries out – Oh! Oh! Oh!
Snip! Snap! Snip! They go so fast;
That both his thumbs are off at last.
Mamma comes home; there Conrad stands,
And looks quite sad, and shows his hands;-
“Ah!” said Mamma “I knew he’d come
To naughty little Suck-a-Thumb.”

Check out more StoryFest submissions over at StoryADay!

Tweet me at @cmckane if you’d like to share your love for Louis L’Amour or your opinion of Struwwelpeter.

4 thoughts on “StoryFest: Conrad’s Fitting

  1. Oh, please name drop anytime! I imagine you have many great tales from that summer. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  2. Gruesome violence in the grand tradition of classic fairy tales! I’m not familiar with Louis L’Amour, but one summer I worked for his lawyer. Not to be name-dropping, of course. Great job, Courtney!

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