Once upon a time, there was a lonely childless widow who wished with all her heart for a family. Some fairies overhearing her plea, conspired to help and give the lovely lady a daughter of her own. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the kingdom, a plowman wanting nothing more than a son, sent his wife to consult Merlin, a great wizard.
Merlin listened to the lady and agreed to help. He studied his books and conjured a spell, transforming an ordinary barleycorn into an enchantment. The fairies, who had been watching, stole the barleycorn, whilst the wizard slept and when the woman returned in the morning Merlin had nothing ready.
The plowman's wife was distraught. She pleaded with Merlin. The couple were desperate for a son, even if no bigger than a thumb. Understanding, the wizard gave the woman a potion to drink and sure enough, shortly after she became pregnant.
The fairies gave the magic barleycorn to the widow and told her to plant it in her garden. From the tiny grain, a plant began to grow. The widow watered it and cared for it until a beautiful magic flower grew. It's aroma and colour attracted birds and insects for miles. The widow had to fend off slugs and crows but she was determined to protect this precious gift.
When the flower bloomed, an amazing miracle happened. A tiny girl emerged from the flower. The widow promised to raise the girl as her own and gave her the name Thumbelina.
Thumbelina grew into a beautiful young woman, her adopted mother's pride and joy. They were happy together but the tiny lady felt she never really fitted in with everyone else. People were always amazed by her appearance but never treated her the same.
One day Thumbelina was singing in the garden when she was spied by a toad. Mrs Toad, astonished by the beautiful lady before her, decided to grab Thumbelina. Although the tiny lady protested loudly, Mrs Toad carried her off to her home where she would introduce Thumbelina to her son.
Thumbelina shouted but no one came to help her. At the home of the toads, Mrs Toad's son was also full of admiration for Thumbelina and proposed marriage on the spot. Thumbelina didn't like to judge anyone on first appearances and she knew that ugly creatures could be handsome inside but she didn't think the young toad was a very good suitor for her. Her protests were ignored by Mrs Toad who began to plan the wedding.
Meanwhile, the plowman's wife had given birth to a boy who had now grown up. Well, not quite grown up. Tom had never grown taller than the plowman's thumb, although true to their promise, the couple loved him all the more. Tom Thumb, as he was called was very small but fast and strong with magical powers gifted to him from his godmother, the fairy queen herself. Although it was most unusual for the fairy queen to take on such a role, she couldn't help but feel responsible for poor wee Tom.
Always getting into danger as is easy for someone so small, Tom Thumb nevertheless survived many scrapes and falls. One day, he fell into the batter as his mother was mixing, without her realising. Poor Tom was baked into the pudding and had to eat himself out. Afterwards, he had a telling off from his mother for having ruined her baking.
Back at the house of the toads, Thumbelina was growing less and less fond of her captives but had agreed to marry if only to be let out of the house. On the day of the wedding, she finally managed to escape but Mrs Toad was soon on the warpath. In a nearby field Thumbelina met a kind field-mouse, who agreed to let her take refuge in her home.
Mrs Field-Mouse was so lovely but the house was small and cramped even for Thumbelina. She told Mrs Field-Mouse how she had been captured and was nearly forced to marry a toad. The mouse listened sympathetically and agreed that the toads were not good marriage material. She suggested that Thumbelina should marry her neighbour instead, the lovely Mr Mole, who was a charming and handsome character.
The next day, Tom Thumb was travelling with his father to work when he fell from his horse. His father didn't hear him cry out and as he ran to catch up, a swallow flew down and gobbled him up. The swallow flew high into the air and circled the nearby fields. Suddenly, something caught his eye in the field below and he swooped down to look.
Thumbelina fled from her former confident, the field mouse. She would not listen when Thumbelina told her that she simply did not want to marry Mr Mole. The swallow above thought that Thumbelina was the most beautiful human woman he'd ever seen. Diving down, he caught her and gently lifted her off the ground, carrying her back to his nest.
Thumbelina screamed but the swallow did not let her go. At the nest, Thumbelina saw the swallow had three hungry looking chicks. The swallow dropped her in the nest and the diminutive girl cowered. The swallow approached the chicks and opened his mouth.
Suddenly, from the bird's open mouth, a small boy popped out and landed in the nest. The swallow seemed puzzled. In the confusion, Tom Thumb leapt from the nest and the swallow followed.
Thumbelina was equally befuddled. She had never seen any human person as small as she before. Tom doubled back to the nest to rescue Thumbelina. He had never seen anyone so beautiful. They escaped the nest and headed back to the village.
Thumbelina and Tom Thumb fell in love and were soon married. All the fairies of the land were in attendance. They received special magical gifts from Tom's godmother, the queen of the fairies. Tom received magical shoes to transport him anywhere and Thumbelina, her own special pair of magical fairy wings.