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Bremen Town Musicians
by the Grimm Brothers
A certain man
had a donkey,
which had carried the corn-sacks to the mill indefatigably for
many a long year. But his strength was going, and he was growing
more and more unfit for work. Then his master began to consider
how he might best save his keep. But the donkey, seeing that no
good wind was blowing, ran away and set out on the road to Bremen.
There, he thought, I can surely be a town-musician.
When he had walked some distance, he found a hound lying on the
road, gasping like one who had run till he was tired. What are you
gasping so for, you big fellow, asked the donkey.
"Ah," replied the hound, as I am old, and daily grow weaker, and
no longer can hunt, my master wanted to kill me, so I took to
flight, but now how am I to earn my bread."
"I tell you what," said the donkey, "I am going to Bremen, and
shall be town-musician there. Go with me and engage yourself also
as a musician. I will play the lute, and you shall beat the
The hound agreed, and on they went. Before long they came to a
cat, sitting on the path, with a face like three rainy days. "Now
then, old shaver, what has gone askew with you," asked the donkey.
"Who can be merry when his neck is in danger," answered the cat.
"Because I am now getting old, and my teeth are worn to stumps,
and I prefer to sit by the fire and spin, rather than hunt about
after mice, my mistress wanted to drown me, so I ran away. But now
good advice is scarce. Where am I to go."
"Go with us to Bremen. You understand night-music, you can be a
The cat thought well of it, and went with them. After this the
three fugitives came to a farm-yard, where the cock was sitting
upon the gate, crowing with all his might.
"Your crow goes through and through one," said the donkey. "What
is the matter?"
"I have been foretelling fine weather, because it is the day on
which our lady washes the christ-child's little shirts, and wants
to dry them," said the cock. "But guests are coming for sunday, so
the housewife has no pity, and has told the cook that she intends
to eat me in the soup to-morrow, and this evening I am to have my
head cut off. Now I am crowing at the top of my lungs while still
"Ah, but red-comb," said the donkey, "you had better come away
with us. We are going to Bremen. You can find something better
than death everywhere. You have a good voice, and if we make music
together it must have some quality."
The cock agreed to this plan, and all four went on together. They
could not reach the city of Bremen in one day, however, and in the
evening they came to a forest where they meant to pass the night.
The donkey and the hound laid themselves down under a large tree,
the cat and the cock settled themselves in the branches. But the
cock flew right to the top, where he was most safe.
Before he went to sleep he looked round on all four sides, and
thought he saw in the distance a little spark burning. So he
called out to his companions that there must be a house not far
off, for he saw a light.
The donkey said, "If so, we had better get up and go on, for the
shelter here is bad." The hound thought too that a few bones with
some meat on would do him good.
So they made their way to the place where the light was, and soon
saw it shine brighter and grow larger, until they came to a
well-lighted robbers, house. The donkey, as the biggest, went to
the window and looked in.
"What do you see, my grey-horse?" asked the cock.
"What do I see?" answered the donkey. "A table covered with good
things to eat and drink, and robbers sitting at it enjoying
"That would be the sort of thing for us," said the cock.
Then the animals took counsel together how they should manage to
drive away the robbers, and at last they thought of a plan. The
donkey was to place himself with his fore-feet upon the
window-ledge, the hound was to jump on the donkey's back, the cat
was to climb upon the dog, and lastly the cock was to fly up and
perch upon the head of the cat.
When this was done, at a given signal, they began to perform their
music together. The donkey brayed, the hound barked, the cat
mewed, and the cock crowed. Then they burst through the window
into the room, shattering the glass.
At this horrible din, the robbers sprang up, thinking no otherwise
than that a ghost had come in, and fled in a great fright out into
The four companions now sat down at the table, well content with
what was left, and ate as if they were going to fast for a month.
As soon as the four minstrels had done, they put out the light,
and each sought for himself a sleeping-place according to his
nature and what suited him. The donkey laid himself down upon some
straw in the yard, the hound behind the door, the cat upon the
hearth near the warm ashes, and the cock perched himself upon a
beam of the roof. And being tired from their long walk, they soon
went to sleep.
When it was past midnight, and the robbers saw from afar that the
light was no longer burning in their house, and all appeared
quiet, the captain said, we ought not to have let ourselves be
frightened out of our wits, and ordered one of them to go and
examine the house.
The messenger finding all still, went into the kitchen to light a
candle, and, taking the glistening fiery eyes of the cat for live
coals, he held a lucifer-match to them to light it. But the cat
did not understand the joke, and flew in his face, spitting and
scratching. He was dreadfully frightened, and ran to the
back-door, but the dog, who lay there sprang up and bit his leg.
And as he ran across the yard by the dunghill, the donkey gave him
a smart kick with its hind foot. The cock, too, who had been
awakened by the noise, and had become lively, cried down from the
back as fast as he could to his captain, and said, "Ah, there is a
horrible witch sitting in the house, who spat on me and scratched
my face with her long claws. And by the door stands a man with a
knife, who stabbed me in the leg. And in the yard there lies a
black monster, who beat me with a wooden club. And above, upon the
roof, sits the judge, who called out, bring the rogue here to me.
So I got away as well as I could."
After this the robbers never again dared enter the house. But it
suited the four musicians of Bremen so well that they did not care
to leave it any more.