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Doctor Know-all
Doctor Know-all Märchen

Doctor Know-all - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 6 min

There was once on a time a poor peasant called Crabb, who drove with two oxen a load of wood to the town, and sold it to a doctor for two thalers. When the money was being counted out to him, it so happened that the doctor was sitting at table, and when the peasant saw how daintily he ate and drank, his heart desired what he saw, and he would willingly have been a doctor too. So he remained standing a while, and at length inquired if he too could not be a doctor. „Oh, yes,“ said the doctor, „that is soon managed.“ – „What must I do?“ asked the peasant. „In the first place buy thyself an A B C book of the kind which has a cock on the frontispiece: in the second, turn thy cart and thy two oxen into money, and get thyself some clothes, and whatsoever else pertains to medicine; thirdly, have a sign painted for thyself with the words, „I am Doctor Knowall,“ and have that nailed up above thy house-door.“ The peasant did everything that he had been told to do. When he had doctored people awhile, but not long, a rich and great lord had some money stolen. Then he was told about Doctor Knowall who lived in such and such a village, and must know what had become of the money. So the lord had the horses put in his carriage, drove out to the village, and asked Crabb if he were Doctor Knowall? Yes, he was, he said. Then he was to go with him and bring back the stolen money. „Oh, yes, but Grethe, my wife, must go too.“ The lord was willing and let both of them have a seat in the carriage, and they all drove away together. When they came to the nobleman’s castle, the table was spread, and Crabb was told to sit down and eat. „Yes, but my wife, Grethe, too,“ said he, and he seated himself with her at the table. And when the first servant came with a dish of delicate fare, the peasant nudged his wife, and said, „Grethe, that was the first,“ meaning that was the servant who brought the first dish. The servant, however, thought he intended by that to say, „That is the first thief,“ and as he actually was so, he was terrified, and said to his comrade outside, „The doctor knows all: we shall fare ill, he said I was the first.“ The second did not want to go in at all, but was forced. So when he went in with his dish, the peasant nudged his wife, and said, „Grethe, that is the second.“ This servant was just as much alarmed, and he got out. The third did not fare better, for the peasant again said, „Grethe, that is the third.“ The fourth had to carry in a dish that was covered, and the lord told the doctor that he was to show his skill, and guess what was beneath the cover. The doctor looked at the dish, had no idea what to say, and cried, „Ah, poor Crabb.“ When the lord heard that, he cried, „There! he knows it, he knows who has the money!“

On this the servants looked terribly uneasy, and made a sign to the doctor that they wished him to step outside for a moment. When therefore he went out, all four of them confessed to him that they had stolen the money, and said that they would willingly restore it and give him a heavy sum into the bargain, if he would not denounce them, for if he did they would be hanged. They led him to the spot where the money was concealed. With this the doctor was satisfied, and returned to the hall, sat down to the table, and said, „My lord, now will I search in my book where the gold is hidden.“ The fifth servant, however, crept into the stove to hear if the doctor knew still more. The Doctor, however, sat still and opened his A B C book, turned the pages backwards and forwards, and looked for the cock. As he could not find it immediately he said, „I know you are there, so you had better show yourself.“ Then the fellow in the stove thought that the doctor meant him, and full of terror, sprang out, crying, „That man knows everything!“ Then Dr. Knowall showed the count where the money was, but did not say who had stolen it, and received from both sides much money in reward, and became a renowned man.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „Doctor Know-all“

„Doctor Know-all“ (also known as „Doktor Allwissend“ in German) is another fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their anthology „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (originally titled „Children’s and Household Tales“). As with many other stories in the collection, „Doctor Know-all“ has its roots in European folktales and oral storytelling traditions. The tale is numbered as KHM 98 (Kinder- und Hausmärchen 98) in the collection.

This particular story follows the adventures of a poor peasant named Crabb, who, after observing the wealth and respect of a doctor, decides to become one himself despite having no medical knowledge or training. The story is a comical and satirical take on the concept of accidental wisdom and the notion that appearances can be deceiving.

The central theme of „Doctor Know-all“ revolves around the idea that sometimes people who seem to possess great wisdom or expertise may not actually have any real knowledge or skill. The story conveys this message through humor and irony, as Crabb finds himself in a series of increasingly absurd situations where his apparent „knowledge“ helps him solve problems or uncover the truth. In doing so, the story pokes fun at societal conventions and the gullibility of those who blindly follow authority figures based on their titles or social standing.

As with other Grimm fairy tales, „Doctor Know-all“ has its roots in the oral storytelling traditions of various European cultures. The tale has been passed down through generations and adapted in different forms, reflecting the values and sensibilities of the societies that shared it. The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, sought to preserve these stories by collecting and documenting them in their famous anthology, ensuring their continued relevance and resonance with readers around the world.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Doctor Know-all“

„Doctor Know-all“ is a humorous and satirical tale that offers various interpretations and lessons, highlighting the follies of human nature and societal conventions. Some of the key themes and interpretations include:

The illusion of wisdom: The story revolves around the idea that appearances can be deceiving and that someone who seems wise or knowledgeable may not actually have any real expertise. Crabb’s success in various situations is based more on luck and circumstance than actual knowledge, emphasizing the importance of questioning appearances and not blindly trusting authority figures.

The power of confidence: Crabb’s unwavering confidence in himself, despite his lack of knowledge, allows him to navigate difficult situations and achieve success. This demonstrates that self-belief can be a powerful tool in overcoming challenges and gaining the respect of others.

Satire of societal conventions: The story pokes fun at societal norms and conventions, particularly the respect and admiration given to individuals with prestigious titles or social standing, regardless of their actual abilities. By highlighting the absurdity of these conventions, the tale encourages readers to think critically about the people and institutions they trust and admire.

The role of luck and chance: Crabb’s success in the story is largely the result of luck and fortunate circumstances. This theme highlights the unpredictable nature of life and the role that chance can play in shaping one’s fortunes, regardless of one’s skills or knowledge.

The importance of resourcefulness: Despite his lack of knowledge, Crabb is able to navigate challenging situations through his resourcefulness and quick thinking. This theme demonstrates the value of adaptability and the ability to think on one’s feet when faced with difficult circumstances.

The folly of gullibility: The story showcases the gullibility of people who are willing to believe in Crabb’s supposed wisdom, simply because he presents himself as a knowledgeable authority figure. This theme serves as a cautionary reminder to question the credentials and intentions of those in positions of power or influence.

Overall, „Doctor Know-all“ is a humorous and satirical tale that offers valuable insights into human nature and societal conventions, encouraging readers to think critically about the people and institutions they trust and the importance of questioning appearances.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Doctor Know-all“

„Doctor Know-all,“ also known as „Doktor Allwissend“ in German, is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm. Although it hasn’t been adapted as extensively as some of the more popular Grimm tales, there are a few adaptations and retellings of this humorous story in various forms of media:

Literature: „Doctor Know-all“ has been included in various fairy tale collections and anthologies. These retellings may adapt the story slightly to make it more accessible to modern audiences or to emphasize certain themes or morals. Some examples include „Grimm’s Fairy Stories“ by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm (with illustrations by John B. Gruelle) and „Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales“ published by Barnes & Noble.

Theater and puppet shows: „Doctor Know-all“ has been adapted for the stage as part of larger productions featuring multiple Grimm fairy tales or as stand-alone plays. The humorous nature of the story lends itself well to live performances, and audiences can enjoy the comical situations and ironic lessons presented in the tale.

Storytelling and oral performances: Due to its roots in the oral storytelling tradition, „Doctor Know-all“ can be adapted and shared through live storytelling performances. Professional storytellers and performers may use their skills to bring the story to life and engage audiences with its amusing anecdotes and lessons about wisdom and human folly.

Animation: „Doctor Know-all“ was adapted into a short animated film titled „Доктор Всезнайка“ (Doctor Know-all) by the Soviet animation studio Soyuzmultfilm in 1985. Directed by Aleksandr Tatarskiy, the film features the story’s central character, Crabb, as he pretends to be a wise doctor and solves a theft mystery.

Educational materials: The story’s themes of wisdom, cleverness, and human folly can be used in educational contexts to teach children about the importance of humility, critical thinking, and the limitations of self-perceived wisdom. „Doctor Know-all“ can be included in lesson plans, study materials, or discussion prompts to encourage reflection and critical thinking.

While specific examples of adaptations of „Doctor Know-all“ may be limited due to its lesser-known status, the story’s humorous nature and valuable lessons make it a fitting candidate for retellings and reinterpretations across various forms of media.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Doctor Know-all“

The fairy tale „Doctor Know-all“ has been adapted in various forms over the years, including in literature, film, and television. Here are some notable adaptations:

„The Doctor Knowall“ (play, 1918): This play by German playwright Carl Zuckmayer is based on the Grimm Brothers‘ fairy tale and was first performed in 1918. The play updates the story to the early 20th century and adds political commentary about the rise of fascism in Germany.

„Der kluge Bauer“ (opera, 1940): This opera by German composer Carl Orff is based on the Grimm Brothers‘ fairy tale and was first performed in 1940. The opera is known for its use of traditional German folk melodies and its minimalist staging.

„The Doctor Know-all“ (animated short, 1950): This animated short film was produced by the British animation studio Halas and Batchelor and features the story of Doctor Know-all in a comedic, cartoonish style.

„The Storyteller: Doctor Know-all“ (television episode, 1988): This episode of the Jim Henson-produced television series „The Storyteller“ features actor John Hurt telling the story of Doctor Know-all, with puppets and live actors portraying the characters.

„Doctor Knowall“ (film, 2011): This German film, directed by Florian David Fitz, updates the story to modern times and features a successful businessman who is forced to prove his intelligence in order to win the heart of his girlfriend’s father.

These adaptations demonstrate the enduring appeal of the story of Doctor Know-all and its ability to be reimagined in various forms and settings.

Summary of the plot

„Doctor Know-all“ is a humorous fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm that follows the story of a poor peasant named Crabb who decides to become a doctor despite having no medical knowledge or training. Inspired by the wealth and respect given to doctors, Crabb convinces his wife to refer to him as „Doctor Know-all,“ and he begins to practice as a physician.

Soon, Crabb is invited to a wealthy nobleman’s house to find the thief who had stolen a large sum of money. Crabb, despite his lack of expertise, agrees to help. Through a series of fortunate accidents and misunderstandings, he manages to identify the guilty party – the nobleman’s own servant – and recover the stolen money.

As a result, Crabb’s reputation as „Doctor Know-all“ grows, and he becomes even more respected and admired in his community. The story concludes with Crabb continuing to enjoy his newfound status and wealth, despite his lack of genuine knowledge or skill.

The tale serves as a satirical commentary on societal conventions, gullibility, and the illusion of wisdom. Through humor and irony, „Doctor Know-all“ encourages readers to question appearances and to think critically about the people and institutions they trust.

———–

Backgrounds to fairy tale „Doctor Know-all“

„Doctor Know-all“ is a German fairy tale collected and popularized by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, in their compilation „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales), first published in 1812. The Brothers Grimm were renowned linguists, cultural researchers, and authors who collected and preserved numerous folk tales from oral traditions and older written sources. Their collection of folk tales has become a significant part of European cultural heritage, with many stories adapted into various forms of media and entertainment worldwide.

The Brothers Grimm were part of the larger Romantic movement in the early 19th century, which focused on folklore, mythology, and the past as a source of inspiration for literature and art. They aimed to capture the essence of German culture and national identity through their collection of stories, which were primarily passed down orally from generation to generation.

„Doctor Know-all“ is one of over 200 stories included in their collection and represents a classic trickster tale, where a seemingly foolish or lowly character outwits others through cunning and chance. The story’s charm and humor lie in the protagonist’s transformation and the series of fortunate misunderstandings that lead to his success. While not as well-known as some of the other Grimm’s fairy tales, „Doctor Know-all“ continues to be an entertaining and engaging story that offers insights into human nature and society.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Doctor Know-all“

„Doctor Know-all“ can be interpreted in several ways, providing insights into human nature, social hierarchy, and the power of appearances. Some possible interpretations are:

Power of appearances: The story demonstrates how appearances can be deceiving and that people are often quick to believe in someone’s abilities based on their appearance or title. Crabb’s transformation into „Doctor Knowall“ is a prime example of this, as he gains credibility and trust simply by dressing like a doctor and displaying a sign outside his house.

Luck and chance: Crabb’s success and fame are largely based on luck and fortunate misunderstandings. His lack of real knowledge is repeatedly misinterpreted as extraordinary insight, which in turn helps him solve the case and become renowned. The story highlights the unpredictable nature of life and how chance can play a significant role in shaping one’s destiny.

Cunning and resourcefulness: Crabb’s ability to seize opportunities and make the most of his circumstances showcases his resourcefulness. He quickly adapts to his new persona and uses his wits to maintain the facade, ultimately gaining wealth and status in the process.

Social commentary: The story can also be interpreted as a critique of social hierarchy and the arbitrary nature of societal positions. Crabb, a humble peasant, effortlessly assumes the role of a respected doctor and exposes the shortcomings of those in higher social positions. This could be seen as a commentary on the disparities and injustices present within society.

The power of belief: The characters in the story, including Crabb himself, begin to believe in his abilities as a doctor. This shared belief, though based on a falsehood, sets the stage for Crabb’s successes. The story highlights the power of belief in shaping people’s perceptions and actions, and how that belief can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Summary of the plot

„Doctor Know-all“ is a fairy tale by Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a poor peasant named Crabb, who aspires to become a doctor after observing one enjoying a lavish meal. Following the doctor’s advice, Crabb buys an A B C book with a cock on the frontispiece, sells his cart and oxen to buy clothes and other medical items, and puts up a sign outside his house that reads „I am Doctor Knowall.“

A rich lord who has had money stolen from him hears about Crabb’s new persona and seeks his help in finding the lost money. Crabb agrees to help, but insists that his wife Grethe must accompany him. They are taken to the nobleman’s castle, where a feast is prepared. As the servants bring in each dish, Crabb refers to them as „the first,“ „the second,“ and so on, but they misunderstand him, thinking he is identifying them as the thieves.

The lord presents a covered dish to Crabb, asking him to guess what is beneath it. Crabb, having no idea, exclaims, „Ah, poor Crabb.“ The lord misinterprets this as Crabb identifying the thief. Panicked, the guilty servants confess to Crabb outside and agree to return the stolen money and pay him extra in exchange for his silence.

Upon re-entering the hall, Crabb pretends to consult his A B C book for the location of the hidden money. A fifth servant, hiding in the stove, overhears him and mistakenly thinks that Crabb knows about his hiding place, exclaiming that Crabb knows everything. Finally, Crabb reveals the location of the money without identifying the thieves, earning great rewards from both the lord and the servants, and becoming a renowned figure.

Informations for scientific analysis


Fairy tale statistics
Value
NumberKHM 98
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 1641
Translations DE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, FI, HU, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH,
Readability Index by Björnsson31.5
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index81.8
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level7
Gunning Fog Index9.6
Coleman–Liau Index7.3
SMOG Index8
Automated Readability Index7.5
Character Count3.981
Letter Count3.033
Sentence Count37
Word Count772
Average Words per Sentence20,86
Words with more than 6 letters82
Percentage of long words10.6%
Number of Syllables948
Average Syllables per Word1,23
Words with three Syllables25
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.2%
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