‘The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage‘ is a little tale about a mouse, bird and sausage who all live together. To make their household a cohesive unit, they each have a specific role within the home: the bird collects wood for the fire; the mouse is in charge of collecting water, lighting the fire and setting the table; and the sausage keeps everyone well fed. One day, the bird decides they should change roles since he does all the hard work, and it quickly backfires. The sausage goes out to collect wood but becomes a dog’s snack, while the mouse tries to cook like the sausage by throwing her body in the pot to season everything and dies. And the bird? He falls into the well when collecting water and drowns. Moral of the story: they were great in their original roles and should have been happy with that.
This little story doesn’t have a moral per se, but offers a bleak view of the world. A cat and mouse decide to live together and buy a pot of fat to get them through the winter; however, they decide to keep the pot in a safe place – under an altar at a church – and only use it if necessary. Cats being cats, the cat makes up a story and says she’s becoming a godmother in order to secretly visit the church, so she asks the mouse to stay and watch their place. The cat comes home and eventually becomes a ‘godmother’ two more times. Each time, the mouse asks the name of the godchildren, and the cat’s responses are ‘Top-off,’ ‘Half-done,’ and ‘All-gone,’ of course, referring to the fat. The mouse doesn’t catch on until they go to the church and saw the empty pot. The cat turns and eats the mouse. The end.
‘The Juniper Tree‘ is a disturbing account of a young boy who is murdered by his stepmother – clearly, stepmothers are often evil in these stories. Knowing that the son will inherit everything upon his father’s death, the stepmother decapitates the young boy when he reaches into a box for an apple. Not wanting anyone to know what happen, the stepmother devises a plan to make her daughter believe she did it, and then, the stepmother cooks the poor boy and feeds him to his father! The young girl then buries the bones underneath the juniper tree where the little boy’s mother is also buried. The boy turns into a bird and sings his story to various people, who give him a gold chain, red shoes, and a millstone. The bird gives the father the chain, the little girl the shoes, and the stepmother – well, the bird drops the millstone on her head. The little boy is, once again, alive, and he, along with his father and sister, enter the house and have dinner.
‘Cinderella‘ is a beloved story found all over the world, with various writers creating many different versions. The Brothers Grimm’s version is twisted and gruesome, unlike the Disney version, which almost every young girl has seen and adored. The premise is the same, in that Cinderella has an evil stepmother and two horrid stepsisters who make her life miserable by making her do awful chores (like picking lentils out of ashes), and she meets a handsome prince and lives happily ever after. However, in this version, her fairy godmother is a magical tree with little birds who help her out, and when the stepsisters don’t fit into the golden shoe, one hacks off a toe and the other a heel. And their punishment for mistreating Cinderella? The birds peck out their eyeballs.
A man and his wife are so desperate a child that they even wish for a hedgehog. Well, their wish comes true when the wife gives birth to a half-hedgehog, half-boy baby – not what they were expecting. Not wanting to have anything to do with him, the parents pile some straw behind a stove and leave him there. Hans knows he’s not wanted, so he asks his father for some bagpipes and the cock shod (rooster) and tells him if he can have those two things, he will leave and never return. While living in a tree and playing his bagpipes, he helps two kings find their way back home, but only if they promise him their daughters. The first king is sneaky and says yes but really means no, while the other agrees. Hans injures the first king’s daughter and marries the second king’s daughter. Come wedding night, Hans sheds his hedgehog skin to become a very handsome man. He also forgives his father.
‘Rapunzel‘ is another tale of a couple who want a child to call their own – but with a different outcome. While the woman is pregnant, she has a strong craving for rampion, which grows in her neighbor’s yard, and her husband frequently sneaks into the yard to take some rampion for his wife. Eventually, he gets caught and is forced to promise the child to their neighbor, Dame Gothel. This evil enchantress locks their beautiful daughter Rapunzel in a tower – a tower that can only be entered by climbing Rapunzel’s long, golden locks. One day, the king’s son goes by and figures out how to get inside, and he and Rapunzel fall in love. When the Dame finds out, she cuts off Rapunzel’s hair and banishes her to the desert, where she gives birth to twins. The Dame also blinds the king’s son, but he eventually finds his way to Rapunzel and is healed. They live happily ever after.
A young princess will only marry if her intended agrees to one thing: if she dies first, he will be buried alive with her. A young man from a poor family leaves his home so that he can earn his keep and not be a burden to his father. He meets the princess and falls madly in love with her, agreeing to her demand. They are married, but after a while, she becomes ill and dies. He follows through on his word and is placed in the vault with her coffin. While in there, a snake appears and he hacks it into three pieces. Another snake appears and heals the dead snake with three leaves, and they both leave. The husband then places the leaves on his wife, and she comes back from the dead! However, she no longer loves him and throws him overboard, with the help of her lover, while on a sea voyage. His servant rescues him, and they tell the king everything. The princess and her lover are sent out to sea on a sinking ship. The end.
‘The Ungrateful Son‘ is a succinct story that is about a paragraph long. A greedy son who is about to sit down to a dinner of roasted chicken sees his elderly father coming to the door. Not wanting to share his meal, he hides the chicken. Once his father leaves, the son goes to retrieve his meal; unfortunately for him, the chicken has become a frog and latches on to his face, never letting go. Maybe he should have shared his meal.
Many people are familiar with the story of ‘Rumpelstiltskin,’ as it has been a popular children’s story for generations. However, are you familiar with the gruesome ending? A miller tells the king that his daughter can spin straw into gold, which, of course, is a complete lie. The king, who is intrigued, wants to see this girl, and subsequently locks her in a room and threatens her life if she doesn’t turn the straw into gold. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you want to look at it, a little creature-like man helps her out — once for her necklace, twice for her ring, and thrice for her first born. She marries the king, and when their first born arrives, so does the little man. He tells her that if she can figure out his name in within three days, she can keep her baby. On day three, someone overhears him speaking his name and tells the Queen: Rumpelstiltskin. He becomes so enraged that he tears himself in two!
The title, ‘The Strange Feast,’ describes the story well, as it is an odd little tale that may leave you scratching your head. There are two sausages – one blood and one liver – who are friends. The blood sausage invites the liver sausage over for dinner, but when the liver sausage arrives, she gets an uneasy feeling when she sees some disturbing sights: a broom and shovel fighting, and a monkey with an injury. She hears a voice telling to leave quickly, and so she goes. When she turns around, she sees the blood sausage with a sharp knife yelling, ‘If I had caught you, I would have had you!’ It is a very strange tale, indeed.
While many of the Brothers Grimm’s stories were strange, oftentimes very gruesome, and without a lesson, ‘Mother Holle’ was different, as it has a true moral behind it. There was a woman who had two daughters: one beautiful and hard-working and the other ugly and spoiled. One day, the beautiful girl is spinning by the well and injures her finger, causing her to drop the shuttle in the well. Her mother tells her to get it back, so she jumps in the well. She ends up in a beautiful meadow, where she helps a loaf of bread, an apple tree, and Mother Holle, who needed her help around the house. While her life is better there, she wants to go home, so Mother Holle rewards her by covering her in gold. When she returns home, her mother wants the same for the lazy daughter; however, being lazy, when her other daughter returns, she is covered in pitch, which never comes off. Remember, if you work hard, good things will happen.
‘The Death of the Little Hen’ is another rather short yet not sweet story, as you might deduce from the title. One day, a little hen and a little cock went on an adventure to the ‘nut-hill.’ The little hen finds a big nut, which she is supposed to share and doesn’t. She then proceeds to choke on it, and the little cock runs to get water, but has to jump through many obstacles to get it. By the time he returns, she has died. Wanting to bury her, the little cock sets out to do just that and has some guests hop on the back of a cart, which becomes too heavy. Near a stream, the cart tips over and all the animals drown, save for the little cock. He buries the little hen and is so sad that he dies as well. Once again, the end.
This may be a story with a happy ending, but it is an extremely bumpy road, to say the least. A poor miller comes across a man (the devil) who promises him great wealth if he can have what’s behind the man’s shed. Thinking that was an apple tree, the miller agrees; however, it was his daughter the devil wanted. The young girl is clean every time the devil comes for her, preventing him from taking her. He gives the miller an ultimatum — cut his daughter’s hands off, or the devil would take the miller instead, so the miller cuts his daughter’s hands off. Fast forward, and the daughter is free, marries the king, and has a son. The devil, once again, meddles and makes everyone believe the king wants the queen dead; the king’s mother refuses to kill the queen and baby and sets them free. The queen’s hands grow back, the king finds them safe seven years later, and they live happily ever after.