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Grimms' Fairy Tales

Grimms' Fairy Tales


by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Grimms' Fairy Tales Tales 11-20 Summary

Tale 11: Brother and Sister

  • A brother and sister wander away from home because their stepmother's mean to them. Sounds about right.
  • Here's the problem: she follows them into the woods and puts a curse on every spring in the forest, because she's mean. Yep, mean
  • The brother is super-thirsty and wants to stop for a drink, but the sister hears each spring saying it'll turn him into an animal like a tiger or wolf. 
  • Finally the brother just can't not drink, and sips from the spring that turns him into a deer.
  • The sister and her deer brother find an empty cabin to live in, which is totally idyllic until the deer hears the sounds of the hunt and wants to join in. 
  • This leads the king straight to their cabin, and he falls in love with the girl and asks her to marry him. She agrees so long as she can bring her fawn with her.
  • They get married and live in the castle, which is awesome until the stepmother hears about it, and wants to put her ugly one-eyed daughter in the girl's place of honor—the throne of the queen. 
  • The stepmother sneaks in after the queen's given birth and suffocates her by making a fire in the bathroom. The ugly daughter is installed in the queen's bed but they keep the room dark so the king won't notice the switch.
  • Every midnight, the queen manifests to nurse her baby and stroke her brother (who's still a deer). The baby's nurse notices and tells the king. 
  • He embraces the apparition, she comes to life again, and they punish the stepmother and her daughter with death, which restores the brother to his human form. Problem solved.

Tale 12: Rapunzel

  • A pregnant woman notices some tasty-looking Rapunzel lettuce in a sorceress's garden and gets some massive cravings for it. 
  • She makes her husband sneak in to get her some, which she eats, and makes him go back for more. The sorceress catches him and only releases him when he agrees to give her the child when it's born.
  • The sorceress takes the girl and names her Rapunzel. 
  • When she turns twelve, the sorceress locks her in a tower without doors or stairs, having to climb Rapunzel's long, golden hair each time she wants to get in.
  • This goes on for a few years until a king's son passes the tower and hears her beautiful singing. You know where this is headed.
  • He spies on the tower until he sees the sorceress ascend the hair-ladder. He thinks, hey, that looks promising, and then gives it a go.
  • At first, Rapunzel's scared because she's never seen a man before, but he talks her down and she agrees to marry him. They arrange for him to bring materials to make a ladder so they can escape together.
  • One day Rapunzel stupidly blurts to the sorceress that she's so much heavier than the prince. 
  • Uh oh. The sorceress is Not Happy. So she shears Rapunzel's hair and takes her to a desert. When the prince comes calling, the sorceress uses the braids to let him up, then tells him that they'll never see each other again. 
  • The prince jumps out the tower and is blinded on the thorns.
  • Rapunzel, meanwhile, has born twins, so those tower visits must not have been all that innocent. The prince wanders blindly until he finds her, and her tears heal his eyes. 
  • You can guess what happens next: they go back to his kingdom and live happily ever after.

Tale 13: The Three Little Gnomes in the Forest

  • This poor girl is stuck with a really awful stepmother, who puts her in a dress of paper and sends her out into the snow to look for strawberries. 
  • Out wandering about, she stumbles upon a cottage where there are three little gnomes, and she shares her meager food with them.
  • The gnomes each give her a gift for being so polite and kind: she'll become more beautiful every day, gold pieces will fall from her mouth each time she talks (which frankly doesn't sound all that awesome to Shmoop—more uncomfortable, really), and a king will marry her. 
  • That, and she actually finds strawberries in the snow, which means stepmom doesn't have an excuse to beat her for once. All in all, a good day.
  • Her stepsister wants to go out and get some awesome gifts too, but she's rude to the little gnomes so they curse her with increasing ugliness, toads falling from her mouth each time she speaks, and a miserable death. 
  • This obviously ticks off the stepmother even more, so she punishes the good girl by making her rinse yarn in a frozen river. Luckily a king comes by in a carriage and offers her a lift, which turns into a marriage proposal, because that's how things usually go.
  • You'd think the poor girl would finally get a break when she marries a king, but her stepmother and stepsister show up right after she gives birth and chuck her into a river. 
  • No worries. She manifests as a ghost, gives the stable boy directions on how the king should revive her, and then they punish the stepmother and stepsister with a horrible, gruesome death.

Tale 14: The Three Spinners

  • A woman beats her lazy daughter for refusing to spin, but is embarrassed when the queen (who's passing by, just for kicks) asks what's going on. 
  • The woman lies and says her daughter is crazy about spinning and she can't actually afford enough flax. 
  • It turns out the queen is really into spinning, so she takes the girl to her castle, puts her in a room of flax, and says that if she spins it all she can marry the prince.
  • Understandably, the maiden spends a lot of time crying. Luckily, three super-ugly women show up and promise to help her if she'll acknowledge them as guests at the wedding. 
  • Perfect. She agrees, everything gets spun, and the maiden gets to marry the prince.
  • Her three "cousins" show up and are so tremendously ugly that everyone's like, ew
  • They explain that each of their defects is related to spinning, so that the bridegroom promises that his lovely new bride will never have to spin again. And she lives lazily ever after.

Tale 15: Hansel and Gretel

  • A woodcutter and his wife can't afford to feed their kids, so the wife suggests ditching them in the forest. Sadly, they didn't have Child Protective Services in those days.
  • The kids, Hansel and Gretel, overhear this and freak out. Hansel sneaks out and gathers rocks so they can leave a trail and find their way back home. 
  • That's good news for the dad, since he didn't actually want his kids to die in the forest anyway. 
  • Unfortunately, the food gets tight again, so the 'rents ditch their kids in the forest. Again. 
  • Hansel wasn't able to get rocks this time, so he leaves breadcrumbs. Yeah, we all know this doesn't work out so well. 
  • The two kiddos are on the brink of starvation when they find a witch's house made of bread, cake, and sugar. Of course they chow down. Sounds delish.
  • The witch sweet-talks them into staying, and that's when she locks up Hansel to fatten him up and intimidates Gretel into doing chores. 
  • This goes on for a while until the witch decides to eat them both. She tries to get Gretel to check on the oven's heat from the inside, but Gretel fakes not knowing how and tricks the witch into leaning in instead.
  • That Gretel is one smart cookie. The witch is burned up and the kids go home with a bunch of her treasure. A duck helps them cross a river. 
  • And not-so-sadly, the wife has died, so the kids and their dad get to live happily and richly ever after.

Tale 16: The Three Snake Leaves

  • A young man leaves home and fights bravely in a war. The king wants to reward him with treasures, including his daughter. 
  • The problem is, she has this weird thing where anyone she marries has to pledge to also be buried alive with her to prove his love. 
  • No big deal to this guy, apparently. They're married, but the young queen dies pretty soon. 
  • Understandably, the dude's not exactly thrilled at the prospect of being buried alive in her crypt with her, but he has to go. 
  • While there, he witnesses snakes reviving each other with the use of some leaves. So he uses the leaves to resurrect his wife and they're happy for a while.
  • Things are good until the queen betrays her husband with a sea captain. 
  • Luckily a faithful servant uses the snake leaves to bring the guy back to life, and they punish the queen and captain with death. 
  • Lesson learned: better not betray anyone in a fairy tale.

Tale 17: The White Snake

  • One servant eats a bite of the king's special white snake dish and instantly understands the language of animals, which is handy when he's accused of stealing the queen's ring. 
  • He overhears a duck complaining about its irritated stomach, and manages to prove his innocence upon slaughtering the duck (who chowed down on the bling).
  • Then the servant takes some money and splits. 
  • On his journey, he's nice to fish, ants, and ravens. 
  • All of these animals help him complete a princess's impossible tasks in order to marry her. 
  • Even though she'd executed all the previous suitors who'd failed, she falls in love with his dude and so they are happy together.

Tale 18: The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean

  • A straw and coal each leap out of a fire, while a bean leaps out of a stew pot, and they all go traveling together. The straw and coal get extinguished in a river, which makes the bean laugh so hard that it bursts (sadistic much?). A tailor stitches the bean back together, which is why beans have seams going down them.

Tale 19: The Fisherman and His Wife

  • A fisherman and his wife live in a crappy little shack by the sea. 
  • One day the fisherman catches a flounder who says that he's actually an enchanted prince who can grant wishes—as though being a talking fish isn't strange enough. 
  • The fisherman agrees to let him go.
  • The wife berates her husband for not taking advantage of the wish, and tells him go back and ask for a cottage. This works, but the cottage isn't nice enough so the wife then sends the fisherman back to wish for a castle, then to wish that they were rulers of the country, and then to be emperor, and then to be the pope.
  • This whole time the sea gets choppier and scarier each time the fisherman goes back for a wish. Finally the wife wants to be like God, and that propels them back to their humble hovel.

Tale 20: The Brave Little Tailor

  • A tailor kills seven flies in one swoop, and makes himself a belt embroidered with the words "Seven in one blow." 
  • He goes out walking and meets a giant who challenges him, having misinterpreted the phrase to mean that the tailor killed seven men in one blow.
  • The giant squeezes a rock until it drips (now that's strong), and the tailor does the same by squeezing a hunk of cheese. The giant throws a stone farther than the eye can see; the tailor throws a bird that flies out of sight. 
  • This goes on until the giant invites the tailor to spend the night with them, intending to kill the guy. The tailor evades this, too, and wanders on.
  • He finds a king who assigns him to kill two troublesome giants, which he does by tricking them into thinking one is poking the other. Enraged, they fight until they're both dead. 
  • A couple more tasks, and the tailor gets to marry the king's daughter.
  • She overhears him talking in his sleep one night about tailor-y stuff like sewing and mending, and is super-annoyed that she married a commoner. 
  • Men are sent to kill him, but he outwits them and lives on happily as fake royalty.

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