In the Danish fairy tale “Tommelise” (1835) by Hans Christian Andersen, Tommelise is a tiny girl who has adventures with a toad, a butterfly, some stag beetles, a field mouse, a mole, a swallow, and finally a tiny prince.
In the earliest English translations of “Tommelise” the main character is renamed Little Ellie, Little Totty, and Little Maja. It wasn’t until 1864 that translator Henry W. Dulcken came up with the name Thumbelina.
(Both names, Tommelise and Thumbelina, were probably influenced by the name of folklore character Tom Thumb.)
Now for the important question: Have any babies ever been named Thumbelina?
Yes, at least a few dozen.
One example is Fabiola Thumbelina Blonigen, born in Minnesota in 1935. She was mentioned in the book Big Pants, Burpy and Bumface…and Other Totally True Names! by Russell Ash. (Her 5 siblings also had interesting names: Elaine Enid, Fabian Adrian, Quentin Phillip, Verdi Georgio and Twyla Delilah.)
Most of the Thumbelinas I’ve found were born in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. The parents of these babies were likely inspired by the song “Thumbelina” from the movie musical Hans Christian Andersen (1952).
The song, sung by Danny Kaye, starts at about 1:20 in this clip:
Believe it or not, “Thumbelina” was one of the nominees for Best Original Song at the 25th Academy Awards.
The most interesting Thumbelina name-combo I’ve spotted so far? “Tiny Thumbelina.” It was given to a North Carolina baby born in 1969.
So what do you think of Thumbelina as a baby name?
And, bonus question: At the end of the original fairy tale, the prince tells Tommelise [pron. tom-meh-lee-seh] that he doesn’t like her name. “It’s an ugly name, and you are so beautiful.” So he gives her a new one: Maja [pron. mie-ah]. Which name do you prefer, Tommelise or Maja?
Source: Tommelise – H.C. Andersen