© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Grimms' Fairy Tales

Grimms' Fairy Tales

by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Grimms' Fairy Tales Summary

How It All Goes Down

FYI, the tales don't go in any particular order, so feel free to skip around. That being said, a lot of the better-known tales are clustered in the beginning, so keep that in mind as you poke around.

The details differ in each tale, but in most of 'em, the good guys win and the bad guys are punished. It sounds stale until you start looking at who's good, who's bad, and why. We see a lot of wicked witches, evil stepmothers, and mean fairies, but not so many straight-up evil dudes. Well, except for some giants and cannibals. But you get the idea. A lot of the antagonists are "bad" because they violate a social more or two, and they're punished horribly at the tales' ends.

The protagonists are the downtrodden, the innocent, and mostly young characters. You know 'em when you see 'em: youngest sons and daughters, orphaned kids, usually clever, sometimes adorably naïve. If you're a girl, it helps to be beautiful, patient, and domestically skilled, because, gee, how else would you nab yourself a husband? If you're a guy, you'd better be aggressive and paranoid, because your brothers will try to leave you in a ditch or poke out your eyes or otherwise dispose of you. There aren't a lot of king's daughters to go around, you know.

Usually what gets the protagonist from awful to awesome is the intervention of a helper figure. We're not just talking fairy godmothers, either. For example, if you bury a dead dude then his ghost will totally help you out when you encounter roadblocks. Being nice to animals also does the trick. And if you're lucky, you'll get yourself a talking horse who helps you figure stuff out.

What are these assorted helpers' motivations for being nice? Sometimes they're enchanted or disguised and hoping they'll get a favor in return. Sometimes they're the spirit of a dead relative or a representative of God. Wherever they come from, do not tick them off, because they're usually crazy-powerful, and do not suffer jerks.

So that's the gist. Most tales follow the formula of downtrodden hero + helper + trials - antagonist = happy ending. But some, especially the tales with animal protagonists or those that dwell on clever peasants, read like lengthy narrative jokes or picture books for kids. That's okay, too. Keep an eye out for some kind of power exchange or trickery, because fairy tales generally are often about the tensions between high and low social status, youth and maturity, and men and women. In other words, someone's gonna get ahead somehow, usually at someone else's expense. Which is a great message to be sending kids, right?

Grimms' Guide

For all you Shmoopers out there, here's a breakdown of the tale numbers and titles. This should help you keep it all straight:

  • Tale 1: The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich
  • Tale 2: The Companionship of the Cat and the Mouse
  • Tale 3: The Virgin Mary's Child
  • Tale 4: A Tale About the Boy Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was
  • Tale 5: The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids
  • Tale 6: Faithful Johannes
  • Tale 7: The Good Bargain
  • Tale 8: The Marvelous Minstrel
  • Tale 9: The Twelve Brothers
  • Tale 10: Riffraff
  • Tale 11: Brother and Sister
  • Tale 12: Rapunzel
  • Tale 13: The Three Little Gnomes in the Forest
  • Tale 14: The Three Spinners
  • Tale 15: Hansel and Gretel
  • Tale 16: The Three Snake Leaves
  • Tale 17: The White Snake
  • Tale 18: The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean
  • Tale 19: The Fisherman and His Wife
  • Tale 20: The Brave Little Tailor
  • Tale 21: Cinderella
  • Tale 22: The Riddle
  • Tale 23: The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage
  • Tale 24: Mother Holle
  • Tale 25: The Seven Ravens
  • Tale 26: Little Red Cap
  • Tale 27: The Bremen Town Musicians
  • Tale 28: The Singing Bone
  • Tale 29: The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs
  • Tale 30: The Louse and the Flea
  • Tale 31: The Maiden Without Hands
  • Tale 32: Clever Hans
  • Tale 33: The Three Languages
  • Tale 34: Clever Else
  • Tale 35: The Tailor in Heaven
  • Tale 36: The Magic Table, the Golden Donkey, and the Club in the Sack
  • Tale 37: Thumbling
  • Tale 38: The Wedding of Mrs. Fox
  • Tale 39: The Elves
  • Tale 40: The Robber Bridegroom
  • Tale 41: Herr Korbes
  • Tale 42: The Godfather
  • Tale 43: Mother Trudy
  • Tale 44: Godfather Death
  • Tale 45: Thumbling's Travels
  • Tale 46: Fitcher's Bird
  • Tale 47: The Juniper Tree
  • Tale 48: Old Sultan
  • Tale 49: The Six Swans
  • Tale 50: Brier Rose
  • Tale 51: Foundling
  • Tale 52: King Thrushbeard
  • Tale 53: Snow White
  • Tale 54: The Knapsack, the Hat, and the Horn
  • Tale 55: Rumpelstiltskin
  • Tale 56: Sweetheart Roland
  • Tale 57: The Golden Bird
  • Tale 58: The Dog and the Sparrow
  • Tale 59: Freddy and Katy
  • Tale 60: The Two Brothers
  • Tale 61: Little Farmer
  • Tale 62: The Queen Bee
  • Tale 63: The Three Feathers
  • Tale 64: The Golden Goose
  • Tale 65: All Fur
  • Tale 66: The Hare's Bride
  • Tale 67: The Twelve Huntsmen
  • Tale 68: The Thief and His Master
  • Tale 69: Jorinda and Joringel
  • Tale 70: The Three Sons of Fortune
  • Tale 71: How Six Made Their Way in the World
  • Tale 72: The Wolf and the Man
  • Tale 73: The Wolf and the Fox
  • Tale 74: The Fox and His Cousin
  • Tale 75: The Fox and the Cat
  • Tale 76: The Pink Flower
  • Tale 77: Clever Gretel
  • Tale 78: The Old Man and His Grandson
  • Tale 79: The Water Nixie
  • Tale 80: The Death of the Hen
  • Tale 81: Brother Lustig
  • Tale 82: Gambling Hans
  • Tale 83: Lucky Hans
  • Tale 84: Hans Gets Married
  • Tale 85: The Golden Children
  • Tale 86: The Fox and the Geese
  • Tale 87: The Poor Man and the Rich Man
  • Tale 88: The Singing, Springing Lark
  • Tale 89: The Goose Girl
  • Tale 90: The Young Giant
  • Tale 91: The Gnome
  • Tale 92: The King of the Golden Mountain
  • Tale 93: The Raven
  • Tale 94: The Clever Farmer's Daughter
  • Tale 95: Old Hildebrand
  • Tale 96: The Three Little Birds
  • Tale 97: The Water of Life
  • Tale 98: Doctor Know-It-All
  • Tale 99: The Spirit in the Glass Bottle
  • Tale 100: The Devil's Sooty Brother
  • Tale 101: Bearskin
  • Tale 102: The Wren and the Bear
  • Tale 103: The Sweet Porridge
  • Tale 104: The Clever People
  • Tale 105: Tales About Toads
  • Tale 106: The Poor Miller's Apprentice and the Cat
  • Tale 107: The Two Travelers
  • Tale 108: Hans My Hedgehog
  • Tale 109: The Little Shroud
  • Tale 110: The Jew in the Thornbush
  • Tale 111: The Expert Huntsman
  • Tale 112: The Fleshing Flail From Heaven
  • Tale 113: The Two Kings' Children
  • Tale 114: The Clever Little Tailor
  • Tale 115: The Bright Sun Will Bring It to Light
  • Tale 116: The Blue Light
  • Tale 117: The Stubborn Child
  • Tale 118: The Three Army Surgeons
  • Tale 119: The Seven Swabians
  • Tale 120: The Three Journeymen
  • Tale 121: The Prince Who Feared Nothing
  • Tale 122: The Lettuce Donkey
  • Tale 123: The Old Woman in the Forest
  • Tale 124: The Three Brothers
  • Tale 125: The Devil and His Grandmother
  • Tale 126: Faithful Ferdinand and Unfaithful Ferdinand
  • Tale 127: The Iron Stove
  • Tale 128: The Lazy Spinner
  • Tale 129: The Four Skillful Brothers
  • Tale 130: One-Eye, Two-Eyes, and Three-Eyes
  • Tale 131: Pretty Katrinelya and Pif Paf Poltree
  • Tale 132: The Fox and the Horse
  • Tale 133: The Worn-out Dancing Shoes
  • Tale 134: The Six Servants
  • Tale 135: The White Bride and the Black Bride
  • Tale 136: Iron Hans
  • Tale 137: The Three Black Princesses
  • Tale 138: Knoist and His Three Sons
  • Tale 139: The Maiden from Brakel
  • Tale 140: The Domestic Servants
  • Tale 141: The Little Lamb and the Little Fish
  • Tale 142: Simelei Mountain
  • Tale 143: Going Traveling
  • Tale 144: The Donkey
  • Tale 145: The Ungrateful Son
  • Tale 146: The Turnip
  • Tale 147: The Rejuvenated Little Old Man
  • Tale 148: The Animals of the Lord and the Devil
  • Tale 149: The Beam
  • Tale 150: The Old Beggar Woman
  • Tale 151: The Three Lazy Sons
  • Tale 151a: The Twelve Lazy Servants
  • Tale 152: The Little Shepherd Boy
  • Tale 153: The Star Coins
  • Tale 154: The Stolen Pennies
  • Tale 155: Choosing a Bride
  • Tale 156: The Leftovers
  • Tale 157: The Sparrow and His Four Children
  • Tale 158: The Tale About the Land of Cockaigne
  • Tale 159: A Tall Tale from Ditmarsh
  • Tale 160: A Tale With a Riddle
  • Tale 161: Snow White and Rose Red
  • Tale 162: The Clever Servant
  • Tale 163: The Glass Coffin
  • Tale 164: Lazy Heinz
  • Tale 165: The Griffin
  • Tale 166: Strong Hans
  • Tale 167: The Peasant in Heaven
  • Tale 168: Lean Lisa
  • Tale 169: The House in the Forest
  • Tale 170: Sharing Joys and Sorrows
  • Tale 171: The Wren
  • Tale 172: The Flounder
  • Tale 173: The Bittern and the Hoopoe
  • Tale 174: The Owl
  • Tale 175: The Moon
  • Tale 176: The Life Span
  • Tale 177: The Messengers of Death
  • Tale 178: Master Pfriem
  • Tale 179: The Goose Girl at the Spring
  • Tale 180: Eve's Unequal Children
  • Tale 181: The Nixie in the Pond
  • Tale 182: The Gifts of the Little Folk
  • Tale 183: The Giant and the Tailor
  • Tale 184: The Nail
  • Tale 185: The Poor Boy in the Grave
  • Tale 186: The True Bride
  • Tale 187: The Hare and the Hedgehog
  • Tale 188: Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle
  • Tale 189: The Peasant and the Devil
  • Tale 190: The Crumbs on the Table
  • Tale 191: The Little Hamster From the Water
  • Tale 192: The Master Thief
  • Tale 193: The Drummer
  • Tale 194: The Ear of Corn
  • Tale 195: The Grave Mound
  • Tale 196: Old Rinkrank
  • Tale 197: The Crystal Ball
  • Tale 198: Maid Maleen
  • Tale 199: The Boots of Buffalo Leather
  • Tale 200: The Golden Key
  • Tale 201: Saint Joseph in the Forest
  • Tale 202: The Twelve Apostles
  • Tale 203: The Rose
  • Tale 204: Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven
  • Tale 205: God's Food
  • Tale 206: The Three Green Twigs
  • Tale 207: The Blessed Virgin's Little Glass
  • Tale 208: The Little Old Lady
  • Tale 209: The Heavenly Wedding
  • Tale 210: The Hazel Branch
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement