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Grimms' Fairy Tales

Grimms' Fairy Tales


by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Grimms' Fairy Tales Tales 31-40 Summary

Tale 31: The Maiden Without Hands

  • A miller is extremely poor so he makes a bargain with the devil: riches in exchange for whatever's behind his mill. That's totally, like, an apple tree or something, right? Nope, turns out the miller's daughter was standing behind the mill. Oops.
  • The miller knows he screwed up, but can't back out, so he has to go through with it. The daughter is so pious that the devil can't touch her, so he makes the miller chop off his own daughter's hands. 
  • This dude is so spineless that he actually does it. 
  • But his daughter weeps on her stumps so much that she remains pure. 
  • The devil gives up, and the daughter leaves home, because who would want to stay with the family member who mutilated you?
  • She wanders around and manages to eat because angels appear and cause fruit trees to bend down so she can get at the fruit. 
  • She winds up doing this in a king's garden, which totally freaks out the gardener at first. 
  • He tells the king, and they spy on this ghostly maid. When they finally talk to her, the king falls in love with her and marries her. He has some silver hands made for her, Luke Skywalker style.
  • But then the king goes to war, and things take a turn for the worse.
  • The devil is still annoyed about not getting his hands on her, so he rewrites a message and has it looking like the king is ordering her to be killed, even though she totally just had a baby. 
  • The king's mother (a sympathetic stepmother for once) instead exiles the queen, tying her baby to her back (remember, no hands).
  • The woman wanders until she reaches a place in the forest where, again, the angels take care of her. She also wins the piety lottery, causing her hands to grow back. Bonus.
  • The king returns and is angsty to find his wife and child gone. He goes looking for them, and they recognize him before he recognizes them. 
  • An awkward but happy reunion ensues.

Tale 32: Clever Hans

  • "This tale is told entirely in dialogue." 
  • "How clever!" 
  • "Unlike the main character Hans, who courts a girl named Gretel but is so stupid the entire time that she decides not to marry him after all and runs away." 
  • "Sucks for him."

Tale 33: The Three Languages

  • A stupid young son spends a lot of time studying but only learns three languages: those of dogs, of birds, and of frogs. 
  • The father tells his men to kill the son, but they take pity on him and leave him in the forest. 
  • He uses his linguistic skills to complete tasks and get rich, but then the frogs prophesize that he will become the next pope, which happens when he goes to Rome and some white doves land on his shoulders. 
  • Because that's a sign from God to pope-ify someone…who can only talk to animals.

Tale 34: Clever Else

  • Spoiler alert: Clever Else does not live up to her name.
  • In fact, she's so dumb while being courted that she sits in the cellar and weeps over the possibility that her future baby might be killed by an ax hanging in the cellar. What?
  • Her intended, Hans, weds her anyway. 
  • Then he plays a trick on her while she naps instead of working, covering her with a net of bells, such that she believes she's not herself anymore and runs away forever.
  • Yeah, see? Not so clever.

Tale 35: The Tailor in Heaven

  • A sly tailor talks his way into heaven, then makes a nuisance of himself. 
  • The Lord kicks him out and he has to walk to purgatory. Bummer.

Tale 36: The Magic Table, the Golden Donkey, and the Club in the Sack

  • A tailor kicks each of his three sons out of the house because the family goat lied about each one malnourishing it. 
  • The sons each get apprenticeships, and each gets a magical item: a table that will be instantly covered with gourmet foods, a donkey that spits gold, and a club that will leap from a sack and beat the snot out of people.
  • Each son wants to go home and show off to dad, but each one stays at an inn where the crooked innkeeper tricks them into showing off their new toys, while sneakily substituting false ones for the real ones. 
  • The first two sons are humiliated when they reach home with their duds, but the third son has his club beat the innkeeper until he gives everything back. 
  • Then everyone is happy (except for the innkeeper, who's bruised).

Tale 37: Thumbling

  • A farmer and his wife wish for a child even if he's no bigger than a thumb. Seriously, they'll take anything.
  • But we all know how wishing turns out in fairy tales. Badabing badaboom, they've got a son who's thumb-sized. What do they call him? Thumbling, of course.
  • Thumbling tags along with his dad and persuades his dad to sell him to two strangers who want to make money off the novelty of a thumb-sized dude, and adventures ensue: 
  • Thumbling taunts them and runs away. 
  • He befriends some thieves, then betrays them while they're robbing a house. 
  • Then he gets swallowed by a cow after sleeping in some hay. 
  • The cow is slaughtered, and a wolf swallows the cow's stomach, with Thumbling inside. 
  • He directs the wolf to his parents' home so they can kill the wolf and rescue him. 
  • Sure, Thumbling's kind of a jerk but he gets to live happily with his parents after all his exploits.

Tale 38: The Wedding of Mrs. Fox

  • In the first tale (yes; there are tales within tales; no, don't ask us why) a fox with nine tails thinks his wife's cheating on him. So he plays dead to see what she does, and as soon as another nine-tailed fox comes along, she's all set to hook up with him, except her husband revives and beats everyone up first.
  • In the second tale, Mr. Fox actually dies, and a wolf and a bunch of other animals court the now-widowed Mrs. Fox. She's picky and rejects each of them until another fox shows up. Then they get married and have a festive wedding.

Tale 39: The Elves

  • In the first tale, a poor shoemaker finds his shoes being completed each morning when he hasn't had time to finish them. He and his wife prosper from this additional labor, so they stay up one night to see what's actually happening. They see two naked little elves working on the shoes, so out of pity they sew some clothes for the little elves. The elves decide not to work anymore now that they look so dashing, but the shoemaker and his wife continue to thrive.
  • In the second tale, a poor servant girl goes to be godmother to the elves, and enjoys the festivities under a hollow mountain. She parties for three days, which turn out to be seven years when she returns to normal-people-land. Those tricky elves and their mucked-up sense of time.
  • In the third tale, elves steal a baby and replace it with a changeling. The mother's advised to boil water in eggshells, which makes the changeling laugh and reveal itself. The elves reappear with the normal baby and the exchange is made.

Tale 40: The Robber Bridegroom

  • A miller's beautiful daughter is betrothed to a rich suitor, but he totally creeps her out. She accepts his invitation to go back to his place one day, despite all these ominous signs—like birds telling her that she's entering a murderer's den.
  • When she gets there, an old woman takes pity on her and hides her just as her suitor enters with a bunch of other dudes. They kill a maiden they've brought with them and chop her up to eat. 
  • Her finger, bearing a ring, falls in the girl's lap and she obviously is grossed out but stays quiet so she and the old woman can get away once the robbers fall asleep.
  • Fast forward to the wedding. 
  • Everyone is sitting around and telling stories, and the girl tells what she's seen, framing it as a dream. 
  • The bridegroom squirms as the truth is revealed. When she produces the finger as evidence, the bridegroom and his band of robbers are killed.

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