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Grimms' Fairy Tales

Grimms' Fairy Tales


by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Grimms' Fairy Tales Tales 171-180 Summary

Tale 171: The Wren

  • All of the birds decide to elect a king, but the wren cheats on every contest, such as hiding itself in an eagle's feather when the goal is to fly as high as possible. 
  • The wren is imprisoned, then runs away to stay in the hedges, away from the wrath of the other birds. 
  • It's nicknamed the king of the hedges, and there are lots of references to why other birds are the way they are and do the things they do, for all you budding ornithologists out there.

Tale 172: The Flounder

  • The fish decide to hold a swimming contest to elect their new king. 
  • The flounder gets jealous of the herring being ahead of him, and makes some unkind remarks. 
  • As a punishment, the flounder speaks from one side of its mouth.

Tale 173: The Bittern and the Hoopoe

  • "This tale is told in dialogue." 
  • "It's about a cowherd saying why he prefers grass that is neither too lean nor too rich for his cows, since one will make cows too weak and the other will make cows too wild. The cowherds who made these mistakes were changed into birds, the bittern and the hoopoe, who make sounds corresponding to those types of complaints about their cows."

Tale 174: The Owl

  • A horned owl takes shelter in a barn, and scares the crap out of everyone who comes into the barn. 
  • The whole town gets worked up about a monster in the barn, and decides to burn the whole thing down. 
  • Clearly they weren't very bright.

Tale 175: The Moon

  • There is a land where the moon never shines, so people stumble around in the dark during the nighttime. 
  • Four youths from this land journey outside it, and are so struck by the moon's ability to cast light at night that they steal it and bring it back to their land.
  • People are pumped
  • When the first of the four grows old and dies, he demands that a quarter of the moon be buried with him. 
  • It goes like this for the rest of the youths, until the moon is entirely in the underworld, which causes the dead to rise and wreak havoc, so Saint Peter restores order by hanging the moon back in the sky.

Tale 176: The Life Span

  • Here's a fairy tale take on aging.
  • God is telling each animal its life span will be thirty years; the donkey, the dog, and the monkey complain that that's too long a span because their lives all suck, while man complains that it's too short for him. 
  • So God shortens the lives of all the other critters, while man gets their life spans tacked on to his.
  • This explains why after thirty years of normal human productivity, man then gets kicked around and burdened (like the donkey), growls in a corner (like a dog), and finally is rendered foolish and silly (like the monkey).

Tale 177: The Messengers of Death

  • A giant kicks the crap out of Death, so that he can no longer go around taking people's lives. 
  • A compassionate man nurses Death back to health, so Death promises he'll only come for the man after sending his messengers. 
  • The man lives for a while, then gets sick, but is surprised when Death comes for him. 
  • Death says that sickness, infirmity, and sleep are his messengers, so the dude relents and goes with Death.

Tale 178: Master Pfriem

  • This guy named Master Pfriem is a know-it-all and a pain-in-the-you-know-where to be around. He dreams he goes to heaven and Saint Peter tells him to settle down and not be so annoying. Obviously that doesn't last very long, and he wakes up as they're giving him the boot. 
  • As far as we can tell, he's going to continue being a pain to everyone around him.

Tale 179: The Goose Girl at the Spring

  • A rich young count runs into an old woman carrying a huge burden, so he offers to help her out.
  • But once it's on his back, it becomes heavier and heavier, and she even leaps on top of the pack, weighing him down further. He's totally exhausted when he reaches her place in the mountains.
  • The old woman keeps a bunch of geese around, plus there's a maiden who looks big and strong, and also happens to be totally ugly. 
  • The old woman teases the count about falling in love with the maiden, but he's like, ugh, as if. Finally the old woman sends him away with an emerald box, saying it'll bring him good luck.
  • The count wanders around the wilderness until he comes upon a large city. When he meets the king and queen, he presents them with the box as a gift. 
  • The queen promptly faints—not because it's a crummy gift, but because the box contains a pearl just like the one her youngest daughter, presumed dead, would weep.
  • Flashback: the king and queen had three daughters, and the father asked each one how much she loved him. 
  • The first two gave generic answers (as much as sweets, as much as her favorite clothes), but the third daughter said that she loved him like she loved salt. 
  • Being compared to something so common was totally insulting to the king, so he exiled the youngest daughter, and they all assumed she'd been eaten by wild animals.
  • Flashback over.
  • Meanwhile, back at the old woman's place, the maiden removes the ugly old skin covering her face, and is young and beautiful again. She washes herself at a spring. 
  • The old woman tells her that their time together is almost up, so they start cleaning the cottage, like ya do.
  • The king and queen decide to seek out the old woman to see if she knows anything about their missing daughter, so they take the count with them. 
  • The count manages to spy on the maiden while she's at the spring, and sees that she's actually beautiful. 
  • The old woman reveals to the king and queen that their daughter is alive and well.
  • Everyone weeps for joy, and since the maiden wept a lot during her exile, she has enough pearls to be rich (since her dad divided the kingdom among her elder sisters). She marries the count, too.

Tale 180: Eve's Unequal Children

  • Adam and Eve have a bunch of kids after being driven out of paradise. 
  • When they find out the Lord is coming for a visit, Eve hides all the ugly kids, kind of like how you cover up your husband's ugly recliner when the in-laws come to town.
  • The Lord bestows blessings on all the beautiful children he sees, making them princes and knights and the like. 
  • So Eve gets the rest of the (ugly) kids out of hiding, hoping for the same treatment for them. However, God tells them they'll be farmers, blacksmiths, and other sorts of common folks. 
  • Wait a second. Eve reprimands the Lord for unevenly distributing blessings, but he reprimands her right back for not understanding that in his design, there must be common people to support the noble people. 
  • She apologizes for being rude and questioning him, and Shmoop cringes in horror at the offensive implications of this little tale.

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