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Donkey Cabbages
Grimm Märchen

Donkey Cabbages - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 19 min

There was once a young huntsman who went into the forest to lie in wait. He had a fresh and joyous heart, and as he was going thither, whistling upon a leaf, an ugly old crone came up, who spoke to him and said, „Good-day, dear huntsman, truly you are merry and contented, but I am suffering from hunger and thirst, do give me an alms.“ The huntsman had compassion on the poor old creature, felt in his pocket, and gave her what he could afford. He was then about to go further, but the old woman stopped him and said, „Listen, dear huntsman, to what I tell you. I will make you a present in return for your kindness. Go on your way now, but in a little while you will come to a tree, whereon nine birds are sitting which have a cloak in their claws, and are plucking at it; take your gun and shoot into the midst of them, they will let the cloak fall down to you, but one of the birds will be hurt, and will drop down dead. Carry away the cloak, it is a wishing-cloak. When you throw it over your shoulders, you only have to wish to be in a certain place, and you will be there in the twinkling of an eye. Take out the heart of the dead bird and swallow it whole, and every morning early, when you get up, you will find a gold piece under your pillow.“ The huntsman thanked the wise woman, and thought to himself, „Those are fine things that she has promised me, if all does but come true.“ And verily when he had walked about a hundred paces, he heard in the branches above him such a screaming and twittering that he looked up and saw there a crowd of birds who were tearing a piece of cloth about with their beaks and claws, and tugging and fighting as if each wanted to have it all to himself. „Well,“ said the huntsman, „this is wonderful, it has really come to pass just as the old wife foretold!“ and he took the gun from his shoulder, aimed and fired right into the midst of them, so that the feathers flew about. The birds instantly took to flight with loud outcries, but one dropped down dead, and the cloak fell at the same time. Then the huntsman did as the old woman had directed him, cut open the bird, sought the heart, swallowed it down, and took the cloak home with him. Next morning, when he awoke, the promise occurred to him, and he wished to see if it also had been fulfilled. When he lifted up the pillow, the gold piece shone in his eyes, and next day he found another, and so it went on, every time he got up. He gathered together a heap of gold, but at last he thought, „Of what use is all my gold to me if I stay at home? I will go forth and see the world.“

He then took leave of his parents, buckled on his huntsman’s pouch and gun, and went out into the world. It came to pass, that one day he travelled through a dense forest, and when he came to the end of it, in the plain before him stood a fine castle. An old woman was standing with a wonderfully beautiful maiden, looking out of one of the windows. The old woman, however, was a witch and said to the maiden, „There comes one out of the forest, who has a wonderful treasure in his body, we must filch it from him, my dear daughter, it is more suitable for us than for him. He has a bird’s heart about him, by means of which a gold piece lies every morning under his pillow.“ She told her what she was to do to get it, and what part she had to play, and finally threatened her, and said with angry eyes, „And if you do not attend to what I say, it will be the worse for you.“ Now when the huntsman came nearer he descried the maiden, and said to himself, „I have travelled about for such a long time, I will take a rest for once, and enter that beautiful castle. I have certainly money enough.“ Nevertheless, the real reason was that he had caught sight of the pretty girl.

He entered the house, and was well received and courteously entertained. Before long he was so much in love with the young witch that he no longer thought of anything else, and only saw things as she saw them, and did what she desired. The old woman then said, „Now we must have the bird’s heart, he will never miss it.“ She prepared a drink, and when it was ready, poured it into a cup and gave it to the maiden, who was to present it to the huntsman. She did so, saying, „Now, my dearest, drink to me.“ So he took the cup, and when he had swallowed the draught, he brought up the heart of the bird. The girl had to take it away secretly and swallow it herself, for the old woman would have it so. Thenceforward he found no more gold under his pillow, but it lay instead under that of the maiden, from whence the old woman fetched it away every morning; but he was so much in love and so befooled, that he thought of nothing else but of passing his time with the girl.

Then the old witch said, „We have the bird’s heart, but we must also take the wishing-cloak away from him.“ The girl answered, „We will leave him that, he has lost his wealth.“ The old woman was angry and said, „Such a mantle is a wonderful thing, and is seldom to be found in this world. I must and will have it!“ She gave the girl several blows, and said that if she did not obey, it should fare ill with her. So she did the old woman’s bidding, placed herself at the window and looked on the distant country, as if she were very sorrowful. The huntsman asked, „Why dost thou stand there so sorrowfully?“ – „Ah, my beloved,“ was her answer, „over yonder lies the Garnet Mountain, where the precious stones grow. I long for them so much that when I think of them, I feel quite sad, but who can get them? Only the birds. They fly and can reach them, but a man never.“ – „Hast thou nothing else to complain of?“ said the huntsman. „I will soon remove that burden from thy heart.“ With that he drew her under his mantle, wished himself on the Garnet Mountain, and in the twinkling of an eye they were sitting on it together. Precious stones were glistening on every side so that it was a joy to see them, and together they gathered the finest and costliest of them. Now, the old woman had, through her sorceries, contrived that the eyes of the huntsman should become heavy. He said to the maiden, „We will sit down and rest awhile, I am so tired that I can no longer stand on my feet.“ Then they sat down, and he laid his head in her lap, and fell asleep. When he was asleep, she unfastened the mantle from his shoulders, and wrapped herself in it, picked up the garnets and stones, and wished herself back at home with them.

But when the huntsman had had his sleep out and awoke, and perceived that his sweetheart had betrayed him, and left him alone on the wild mountain, he said, „Oh, what treachery there is in the world!“ and sat down there in care and sorrow, not knowing what to do. But the mountain belonged to some wild and monstrous giants who dwelt thereon and lived their lives there, and he had not sat long before he saw three of them coming towards him, so he lay down as if he were sunk in a deep sleep. Then the giants came up, and the first kicked him with his foot and said, „What sort of an earth-worm is lying curled up here? The second said, „Step upon him and kill him.“ But the third said, „That would indeed be worth your while; just let him live, he cannot remain here; and when he climbs higher, toward the summit of of the mountain, the clouds will lay hold of him and bear him away.“ So saying they passed by. But the huntsman had paid heed to their words, and as soon as they were gone, he rose and climbed up to the summit of the mountain, and when he had sat there a while, a cloud floated towards him, caught him up, carried him away, and travelled about for a long time in the heavens. Then it sank lower, and let itself down on a great cabbage-garden, girt round by walls, so that he came softly to the ground on cabbages and vegetables.

Then the huntsman looked about him and said, „If I had but something to eat! I am so hungry, and my hunger will increase in course of time; but I see here neither apples nor pears, nor any other sort of fruit, everywhere nothing but cabbages,“ but at length he thought, „At a pinch I can eat some of the leaves, they do not taste particularly good, but they will refresh me.“ With that he picked himself out a fine head of cabbage, and ate it, but scarcely had he swallowed a couple of mouthfuls than he felt very strange and quite different.

Four legs grew on him, a large head and two thick ears, and he saw with horror that he was changed into an ass. Still as his hunger increased every minute, and as the juicy leaves were suitable to his present nature, he went on eating with great zest. At last he arrived at a different kind of cabbage, but as soon as he had swallowed it, he again felt a change, and reassumed his former human shape.

Then the huntsman lay down and slept off his fatigue. When he awoke next morning, he broke off one head of the bad cabbages and another of the good ones, and thought to himself, „This shall help me to get my own again and punish treachery.“ Then he took the cabbages with him, climbed over the wall, and went forth to seek for the castle of his sweetheart. After wandering about for a couple of days he was lucky enough to find it again. He dyed his face brown, so that his own mother would not have known him; and begged for shelter: „I am so tired,“ said he, „that I can go no further.“ The witch asked, „Who are you, countryman, and what is your business?“ – „I am a King’s messenger, and was sent out to seek the most delicious salad which grows beneath the sun. I have even been so fortunate as to find it, and am carrying it about with me; but the heat of the sun is so intense that the delicate cabbage threatens to wither, and I do not know if I can carry it any further.“

When the old woman heard of the exquisite salad, she was greedy, and said, „Dear countryman, let me just taste this wonderful salad.“ – „Why not?“ answered he, „I have brought two heads with me, and will give you one of them,“ and he opened his pouch and handed her the bad cabbage. The witch suspected nothing amiss, and her mouth watered so for this new dish that she herself went into the kitchen and dressed it. When it was prepared she could not wait until it was set on the table, but took a couple of leaves at once, and put them in her mouth, but hardly had she swallowed them than she was deprived of her human shape, and she ran out into the courtyard in the form of an ass. Presently the maid-servant entered the kitchen, saw the salad standing there ready prepared, and was about to carry it up; but on the way, according to habit, she was seized by the desire to taste, and she ate a couple of leaves. Instantly the magic power showed itself, and she likewise became an ass and ran out to the old woman, and the dish of salad fell to the ground. Meantime the messenger sat beside the beautiful girl, and as no one came with the salad and she also was longing for it, she said, „I don’t know what has become of the salad.“ The huntsman thought, „The salad must have already taken effect,“ and said, „I will go to the kitchen and inquire about it.“ As he went down he saw the two asses running about in the courtyard. The salad, however, was lying on the ground. „All right,“ said he, „the two have taken their portion,“ and he picked up the other leaves, laid them on the dish, and carried them to the maiden. „I bring you the delicate food myself,“ said he, „in order that you may not have to wait longer.“ Then she ate of it, and was, like the others, immediately deprived of her human form, and ran out into the courtyard in the shape of an ass.

After the huntsman had washed his face, so that the transformed ones could recognize him, he went down into the courtyard, and said, „Now you shall receive the wages of your treachery,“ and bound them together, all three with one rope, and drove them along until he came to a mill. He knocked at the window, the miller put out his head, and asked what he wanted. „I have three unmanageable beasts,“ answered he, „which I don’t want to keep any longer. Will you take them in, and give them food and stable room, and manage them as I tell you, and then I will pay you what you ask.“ The miller said, „Why not? But how am I to manage them?“ The huntsman then said that he was to give three beatings and one meal daily to the old donkey, and that was the witch. One beating and three meals to the younger one, which was the servant-girl; and to the youngest, which was the maiden, no beatings and three meals, for he could not bring himself to have the maiden beaten. After that he went back into the castle, and found therein everything he needed.

After a couple of days, the miller came and said he must inform him that the old ass which had received three beatings and only one meal daily was dead; „the two others,“ he continued, „are certainly not dead, and are fed three times daily, but they are so sad that they cannot last much longer.“ The huntsman was moved to pity, put away his anger, and told the miller to drive them back again to him. And when they came, he gave them some of the good salad, so that they became human again. The beautiful girl fell on her knees before him, and said, „Ah, my beloved, forgive me for the evil I have done you; my mother drove me to it. It was done against my will, for I love you dearly. Your wishing-cloak hangs in a cupboard, and as for the bird’s-heart I will take a vomiting potion.“ But he thought otherwise, and said, „Keep it. It is all the same, for I will take thee for my true wife.“ So the wedding was celebrated, and they lived happily together until their death.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „Donkey cabbages“

„Donkey Cabbages“ is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, in their anthology „Grimm’s Fairy Tales.“ The story was first published in the early 19th century, and like other Grimm’s tales, it has its origins in the oral storytelling tradition of Germany.

The plot of „Donkey Cabbages“ involves a young huntsman, a witch, and a princess. The huntsman comes across a castle inhabited by a witch who is holding a beautiful princess captive. The witch agrees to help the huntsman win the princess’s love, but only if he retrieves a magical plant called donkey cabbages. Donkey cabbages have the power to transform people into animals, and the witch wants them for her own purposes. The huntsman must navigate various challenges, use his cunning, and ultimately, rely on the power of love to save the princess and thwart the witch’s plans.

As with many fairy tales, „Donkey Cabbages“ incorporates elements of magic, transformation, and adventure. The story shares common themes with other fairy tales, such as the use of magical items, the test of true love, and the battle between good and evil. It also underscores the importance of resourcefulness, courage, and perseverance.

The origin of „Donkey Cabbages“ is rooted in the oral storytelling traditions of Germany, which date back to the Middle Ages. Many of these stories were passed down through generations, with each storyteller adding their own twists and details. The Brothers Grimm, who were both scholars and linguists, collected and compiled these stories in the early 19th century as part of their efforts to preserve German cultural heritage. Their work has been influential in shaping the modern understanding of fairy tales, and their stories continue to be beloved by readers around the world.

Overall, „Donkey Cabbages“ is a fascinating fairy tale that highlights the power of love and the importance of courage and resourcefulness. Its origins in German folklore and its place in the collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales ensure its continued relevance and enjoyment for readers of all ages.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Donkey cabbages“

„Donkey Cabbages“ is a fairy tale that offers several potential interpretations and themes. These interpretations can be examined from different perspectives, including psychological, social, and moral viewpoints. Here are some possible interpretations of the story:

Transformation and Self-Discovery: The story explores the theme of transformation through the use of magical donkey cabbages. These plants have the power to change people into animals, symbolizing the transformative power of experiences and self-discovery. The huntsman and the princess undergo a journey of self-discovery, facing adversity, and ultimately growing stronger in the process.

The Power of Love: The fairy tale emphasizes the importance of love, which is a recurring theme in many Grimm’s tales. In „Donkey Cabbages,“ love is shown to be a powerful force that can overcome challenges and defeat evil. The huntsman’s love for the princess motivates him to face obstacles and outsmart the witch, ultimately freeing the princess from her captivity.

Resourcefulness and Cunning: The protagonist, the huntsman, demonstrates resourcefulness and cunning throughout the story. He uses his intelligence and quick thinking to overcome the challenges posed by the witch and her magical cabbages. This theme reinforces the importance of using one’s wit and skills to succeed in difficult situations.

The Struggle between Good and Evil: „Donkey Cabbages“ presents a classic struggle between good and evil, with the huntsman and princess representing good and the witch representing evil. This theme serves as a reminder of the ongoing battle between opposing forces in life and the importance of choosing the right path.

The Role of Women: In the tale, the princess is initially portrayed as a passive character, held captive by the witch. However, as the story unfolds, she becomes a more active participant in her own rescue, working together with the huntsman to outwit the witch. This evolution in her role may be interpreted as a reflection of shifting gender roles and expectations during the time when the Brothers Grimm collected their tales.

Overall, „Donkey Cabbages“ provides multiple avenues for interpretation, allowing readers to explore themes of transformation, love, resourcefulness, and the struggle between good and evil. The story also offers insight into the cultural and historical context of the time when it was collected and recorded by the Brothers Grimm.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Donkey cabbages“

While „Donkey Cabbages“ is not as well-known as some other Grimm’s fairy tales, it has still inspired a few adaptations and references in various forms of media. Some examples include:

„Donkey Cabbages“ (TV Episode, 1960): An episode of the German TV series „Grimms Märchen“ (Grimm’s Fairy Tales) aired in 1960, adapting the story of „Donkey Cabbages“ for television. The series featured live-action adaptations of various Brothers Grimm stories, providing an opportunity for audiences to experience lesser-known tales like „Donkey Cabbages.“

„Es war einmal … Entdecker und Erfinder“ (TV Series, 1994): The animated television series „Es war einmal … Entdecker und Erfinder“ (Once Upon a Time… The Discoverers) included an episode that mentions the donkey cabbages from the fairy tale. This series, targeted at children, blends historical and scientific content with elements from classic stories to create engaging and educational narratives.

„Donkey Cabbages“ (Animated Short Film, 2018): In 2018, an animated short film adaptation of „Donkey Cabbages“ was created by students from the Stuttgart Media University in Germany. The film offers a modern, animated take on the classic fairy tale, bringing the story to life for a new generation of viewers.

Picture Books and Retellings: Several picture books and retellings of „Donkey Cabbages“ have been published over the years, with illustrations and adapted text to make the story more accessible and engaging for younger readers. Some of these adaptations take creative liberties with the original tale, adding new characters or altering plot points to suit modern sensibilities.

While „Donkey Cabbages“ has not enjoyed the same level of popularity or widespread adaptation as some of the Brothers Grimm’s more famous tales, these examples demonstrate that it continues to inspire storytellers and capture the imagination of audiences.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Donkey cabbages“

The fairy tale „Donkey Cabbages“ from Brothers Grimm has not been adapted as widely as some of the other well-known fairy tales, but there have been a few adaptations over the years. Here are some notable adaptations:

„Donkey Cabbages“ has been adapted as a children’s book. One such book is „Donkey Cabbages: A Grimm Tale“ by Louie Stowell and illustrated by Roger Simo. The book is a retelling of the original story with modern language and colorful illustrations.

The tale has also been adapted as an animated short film. In 1964, the Soviet Union released a 19-minute animated film based on the tale called „Buratino and the Magic Cabbage.“ The film follows the same basic plot as the original story, but with some changes to the characters and setting.

The tale has also been adapted as a stage play. In 2014, the British theater company Little Angel Theater staged a production of „Donkey Cabbages“ using puppets and live actors. The play was aimed at children and used music and visual effects to bring the story to life.

„Donkey Cabbages“ has also been adapted into a video game. In 2017, the game developer „The Game Kitchen“ released a puzzle game called „Chroniric XIX“ that features a chapter inspired by the tale. The game puts players in the role of a time traveler who must help a farmer grow magical cabbages to save a kingdom.

These adaptations vary in their approach and interpretation of the original tale, but they all seek to bring the story to a new audience and capture the imagination of readers, viewers, and players.

Summary of the plot

„Donkey Cabbages“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm about a young huntsman, a witch, and a beautiful princess. The story begins with the huntsman discovering a castle inhabited by a witch who is holding the princess captive. The witch agrees to help the huntsman win the princess’s love, but only if he retrieves a magical plant called donkey cabbages. These plants have the power to transform people into animals, and the witch wants them for her own purposes.

The huntsman embarks on a journey to find the donkey cabbages and, after overcoming various challenges, he succeeds in obtaining the magical plant. However, when he returns to the witch, she uses the donkey cabbages to turn the princess into a donkey and the huntsman into a deer. The witch then sends them away, hoping to keep the castle and its treasures to herself.

Despite their transformed states, the huntsman and the princess remain devoted to each other. They manage to find more donkey cabbages and use them to return to their human forms. With their love and resourcefulness, they outsmart the witch, breaking her spell over the castle and its treasures.

In the end, the huntsman and the princess are united in marriage, and they live happily ever after. The story of „Donkey Cabbages“ is a tale of love, transformation, and the triumph of good over evil, emphasizing the importance of courage, resourcefulness, and perseverance.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „Donkey cabbages“

„Donkey Cabbages“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their famous anthology „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (originally titled „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“). Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were German scholars and linguists who lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They collected folk tales and stories from different regions of Germany and published them in a series of volumes.

The story of „Donkey Cabbages“ revolves around a young huntsman who stumbles upon an enchanted castle inhabited by a witch and her daughter. After helping an old crone, he gains the knowledge of magical cabbages that can transform people into donkeys. Through a series of events, the huntsman uses the cabbages to outwit the witch and her daughter, who have betrayed him in their quest for power and wealth. The tale ends with the huntsman marrying a beautiful maiden and living happily ever after.

The Brothers Grimm collected and recorded many fairy tales with the intention of preserving the cultural heritage of Germany. Their work became immensely popular and had a significant impact on the development of the fairy tale genre in Western literature. The stories they collected are known for their moral lessons and fantastical elements, which have continued to captivate readers and inspire adaptations in various forms of media, such as books, films, and theatre productions.

„Donkey Cabbages“ is not as well-known as some of the other tales in the Grimm’s Fairy Tales collection, like „Cinderella,“ „Snow White,“ or „Hansel and Gretel.“ However, its unique story and themes of transformation, consequences of greed, and the power of love and forgiveness make it an interesting and engaging fairy tale.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Donkey cabbages“

„Donkey Cabbages“ by Brothers Grimm is a classic fairy tale with several interpretations and themes that can be drawn from the story. Here are some of the key interpretations:

The power of transformation: The story showcases the transformative power of the magical cabbages that turn people into donkeys and back to humans. This serves as a metaphor for personal growth and change. People can transform themselves, learn from their mistakes, and become better individuals.

The consequences of greed and betrayal: The witch and her daughter’s greed for wealth and power lead them to deceive the huntsman, ultimately resulting in their transformation into donkeys. This theme warns against the dangers of selfishness and treachery and demonstrates that there are consequences for such actions.

The importance of compassion and forgiveness: The huntsman’s compassion is shown when he helps the old crone at the beginning of the story and when he chooses to save the witch, her daughter, and the servant-girl despite their wrongdoings. This emphasizes the importance of kindness and forgiveness, even when others have wronged us.

True love and redemption: The love story between the huntsman and the maiden illustrates that true love can overcome obstacles and lead to redemption. The huntsman forgives the maiden for her actions, and they get married, living happily ever after. This suggests that love has the power to heal and bring about positive change.

The idea of fate and destiny: The old crone’s prophecies and the huntsman’s encounters with the magical cabbages and the witch’s family suggest that fate plays a role in the story. The huntsman is destined to experience these events and learn from them, highlighting the idea that some aspects of life are beyond our control.

Overall, „Donkey Cabbages“ is a tale that explores themes of transformation, consequences of greed and betrayal, compassion, forgiveness, true love, redemption, and fate. These themes serve as moral lessons, teaching the reader about the importance of personal growth, kindness, love, and the consequences of one’s actions.

Summary of the plot

In „Donkey Cabbages“ by Brothers Grimm, a young huntsman encounters an old crone who grants him a wishing-cloak and a magic bird’s heart that provides a gold piece under his pillow each morning. After amassing a fortune, the huntsman leaves home to see the world and falls in love with a beautiful maiden, who, unbeknownst to him, is a witch’s daughter.

Following her mother’s instructions, the maiden tricks the huntsman into giving up the bird’s heart, and his wealth is transferred to her. The witch then forces her daughter to steal the wishing-cloak. With the cloak, the huntsman and the maiden go to the Garnet Mountain, where the huntsman falls asleep, and the maiden leaves him behind, taking the precious stones and the cloak.

The huntsman is later carried away by a cloud and ends up in a garden with magical cabbages. Eating one type of cabbage turns him into a donkey, while another type reverses the transformation. He then returns to the witch’s castle and tricks the witch, her daughter, and their servant into eating the bad cabbages, turning them into donkeys. He takes them to a miller who treats them as instructed: the witch gets beaten, the servant gets little food, and the maiden remains unharmed.

When the huntsman learns that the old witch has died and the other two are suffering, he relents and feeds them the good cabbage, restoring their human forms. The maiden begs for forgiveness, and the huntsman marries her. They retrieve the wishing-cloak and live happily ever after, showing that forgiveness and love can prevail over deceit and treachery.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 122
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 567
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RO, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson35.1
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index76.2
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level8.6
Gunning Fog Index11.1
Coleman–Liau Index7.5
SMOG Index8.8
Automated Readability Index9.1
Character Count13.643
Letter Count10.466
Sentence Count111
Word Count2.643
Average Words per Sentence23,81
Words with more than 6 letters299
Percentage of long words11.3%
Number of Syllables3.327
Average Syllables per Word1,26
Words with three Syllables103
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.9%
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