In the days of King Arthur, Merlin, the most learned enchanter of his time, was on a journey; and, being very weary, stopped one day at the cottage of an honest ploughman to ask for refreshment. The ploughman's wife, with great civility, immediately brought him some milk in a wooden bowl, and some brown bread on a wooden platter. Merlin could not help observing, that, although every thing within the cottage was particularly neat and clean, and in good order, the ploughman and his wife had the most sorrowful air imaginable. So he questioned them on the cause of their melancholy, and learned that they were very miserable because they had no children.
The poor woman declared, with tears in her eyes, that she should be the happiest creature in the world if she had a son, although he were no bigger than his father's thumb. Merlin was much amused with the thoughts of a boy no bigger than a man's thumb, and, as soon as he returned home, he sent for the queen of the fairies (with whom he was very intimate), and related to her the desire of the ploughman and his wife to have a son the size of his father's thumb. The queen of the fairies liked the plan exceedingly, and declared their wish should speedily be granted. Accordingly the ploughman's wife had a son, who in a few minutes grew as tall as his father's thumb.