Tale of a Tailor

Once upon a time there was a tailor – and a very fine tailor he was, too.

Took cloth – shaped it, cut it, made himself a coat – very fine coat, too.

Wore it for years – till coat was worn out.

Took coat – unpicked it – just enough cloth left to make waistcoat.

Took cloth – shaped it, cut it, made waistcoat – very fine, too.

Wore it for years – worn out.

Unpicked it – just enough cloth left to make hat.

Took cloth – shaped it, cut it, made hat – very fine, too.

Wore it for years – worn out.

Unpicked it – just enough left to make button.

Took cloth – shaped, cut, made – very fine, too.

Wore it for years – worn out.

Unpicked it – just enough cloth left to make – a story.

Listen to the complete tale: LoudspeakerThe Tale of a Tailor

For this recording, I used the present tense. Telling it, I usually use the past.


I heard this story from a valued friend, John Morgan – a great storyteller and teacher now sadly no longer with us.

The story has certainly been told for a long time in the Jewish tradition, but seems to have spread pretty widely from there. A Storytell friend tells me: As far as I’ve been able to piece things together (pardon pun) the story was turned loose on the storytelling community when Nancy Schimmel heard it in Yiddish folksong form from an elderly man. Just Enough to Make a Storywas the title of her handbook for beginning storytellers. The story traveled from mouth to mouth and even turned up in picture books. Eventually a new song was composed by Paul Kaplan. I think it’s a fine example of recycling!

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For those who are teachers: Telling stories in the classroom: basing language teaching on storytelling