The Tailor in Heaven

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

It came to pass that one beautiful day God wished to take a stroll in the heavenly garden, and took all the apostles and saints with him, leaving no one in heaven but Saint Peter. The Lord had commanded him to allow no one to enter during his absence, so Peter stood by the gate and kept watch. Before long someone knocked. Peter asked who was there, and what he wanted.

"I am a poor, honest tailor who is requesting admission," replied a pleasant voice.

"Honest indeed," said Peter. "Like the thief on the gallows. You have been sticky-fingered and have robbed people of their cloth. You will not get into heaven. The Lord has forbidden me to let anyone in as long he is out."

"Oh, please be merciful," cried the tailor. "Little scraps that fall off the table by themselves are not stolen, and are not worth mentioning. See here, I am limping and have blisters on my feet from walking here. I cannot possibly go back again. Just let me in, and I will do all the dirty work. I will tend the children, wash their diapers, wipe off and clean the benches on which they have been playing, and patch all their torn clothes."

Saint Peter let himself be moved by pity and opened heaven's gate just wide enough for the lame tailor to slip his lean body inside. He had to take a seat in a corner behind the door, and was told to stay there quietly and peacefully, so that the Lord would not notice him when he returned, and become angry.

The tailor obeyed, but one time when Saint Peter stepped outside the door, he got up, and full of curiosity, looked into every corner of heaven, seeing what was there. Finally he came to a place where there were many beautiful and costly chairs. At their center was a seat made entirely of gold and set with glistening precious stones. It stood much higher than the other chairs, and a golden footstool stood in front of it. This was the seat on which the Lord sat when he was at home, and from which he could see everything that was happening on earth.

The tailor stood still, and looked at the seat for a long time, for he liked it better than all the rest. Finally he could control his curiosity no longer, and he climbed up and sat down on it. From there he saw everything that was happening on earth.

He noticed an ugly old woman who was standing beside a stream doing the laundry. She secretly set two scarves aside. Seeing this made the tailor so angry that he took hold of the golden footstool and threw it at the old thief, through heaven down to earth. Unable to bring the stool back again, he quietly sneaked down from the seat, sat back down in his place behind the door, and pretended that he had done nothing at all.

When the Lord and Master returned with his heavenly attendants, he did not notice the tailor behind the door, but when he sat down on his seat, the footstool was missing. He asked Saint Peter what had become of the footstool, but he did not know. Then he asked if he had admitted anyone.

"I know of no one who has been here," answered Peter, "except for a lame tailor, who is still sitting behind the door."

Then the Lord had the tailor brought before him, and asked him if he had taken the footstool, and where he had put it.

"Oh, Lord," answered the tailor joyously, "In my anger I threw it down to earth at an old woman whom I saw stealing two scarves while doing the laundry."

"Oh, you scoundrel," said the Lord, "if I were to judge as you judge, how would it have gone with you? I would have long since had no chairs, benches, seats, no, not even a stove-poker, but would have thrown everything down at the sinners. You can no longer stay in heaven, but must go outside the gate again. From there watch where you are going. Here no one metes out punishment, except for me alone, the Lord."

Peter had to take the tailor out of heaven again, and because his shoes were worn out and his feet were covered with blisters, he took a stick in his hand and went to Wait-a-While, where the good soldiers sit and make merry.

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Revised March 26, 2009.