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Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful
Grimm Märchen

Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 16 min

Once on a time lived a man and a woman who so long as they were rich had no children, but when they were poor they had a little boy. They could, however, find no godfather for him, so the man said he would just go to another place to see if he could get one there. As he went, a poor man met him, who asked him where he was going. He said he was going to see if he could get a godfather, that he was poor, so no one would stand as godfather for him. „Oh,“ said the poor man, „you are poor, and I am poor. I will be godfather for you, but I am so ill off I can give the child nothing. Go home and tell the nurse that she is to come to the church with the child.“

When they all got to the church together, the beggar was already there, and he gave the child the name of Ferdinand the Faithful.

When he was going out of the church, the beggar said, „Now go home, I can give you nothing, and you likewise ought to give me nothing.“ But he gave a key to the nurse, and told her when she got home she was to give it to the father, who was to take care of it until the child was fourteen years old, and then he was to go on the heath where there was a castle which the key would fit, and that all which was therein should belong to him. Now when the child was seven years old and had grown very big, he once went to play with some other boys, and each of them boasted that he had got more from his godfather than the other; but the child could say nothing, and was vexed, and went home and said to his father, „Did I get nothing at all, then, from my godfather?“ – „Oh, yes,“ said the father, „thou hadst a key if there is a castle standing on the heath, just go to it and open it.“ Then the boy went thither, but no castle was to be seen, or heard of.

After seven years more, when he was fourteen years old, he again went thither, and there stood the castle. When he had opened it, there was nothing within but a horse, a white one. Then the boy was so full of joy because he had a horse, that he mounted on it and galloped back to his father. „Now I have a white horse, and I will travel,“ said he. So he set out, and as he was on his way, a pen was lying on the road. At first he thought he would pick it up, but then again he thought to himself, „Thou shouldst leave it lying there; thou wilt easily find a pen where thou art going, if thou hast need of one.“ As he was thus riding away, a voice called after him, „Ferdinand the Faithful, take it with thee.“ He looked around, but saw no one, then he went back again and picked it up. When he had ridden a little way farther, he passed by a lake, and a fish was lying on the bank, gasping and panting for breath, so he said, „Wait, my dear fish, I will help thee get into the water,“ and he took hold of it by the tail, and threw it into the lake. Then the fish put its head out of the water and said, „As thou hast helped me out of the mud I will give thee a flute. When thou art in any need, play on it, and then I will help thee, and if ever thou lettest anything fall in the water, just play and I will reach it out to thee.“ Then he rode away, and there came to him a man who asked him where he was going. „Oh, to the next place.“ Then what his name was? „Ferdinand the Faithful.“ – „So! then we have got almost the same name, I am called Ferdinand the Unfaithful.“ And they both set out to the inn in the nearest place.

Now it was unfortunate that Ferdinand the Unfaithful knew everything that the other had ever thought and everything he was about to do. He knew it by means of all kinds of wicked arts. There was, however, in the inn an honest girl, who had a bright face and behaved very prettily. She fell in love with Ferdinand the Faithful because he was a handsome man, and she asked him whither he was going. „Oh, I am just travelling round about,“ said he. Then she said he ought to stay there, for the King of that country wanted an attendant or an outrider, and he ought to enter his service. He answered he could not very well go to any one like that and offer himself. Then said the maiden, „Oh, but I will soon do that for you.“ And so she went straight to the King, and told him that she knew of an excellent servant for him. He was well pleased with that, and had Ferdinand the Faithful brought to him, and wanted to make him his servant. He, however, liked better to be an outrider, for where his horse was, there he also wanted to be, so the King made him an outrider. When Ferdinand the Unfaithful learnt that, he said to the girl, „What! Dost thou help him and not me?“ – „Oh,“ said the girl, „I will help thee too.“ She thought, „I must keep friends with that man, for he is not to be trusted.“ She went to the King, and offered him as a servant, and the King was willing.

Now when the King met his lords in the morning, he always lamented and said, „Oh, if I had but my love with me.“ Ferdinand the Unfaithful was, however, always hostile to Ferdinand the Faithful. So once, when the King was complaining thus, he said, „You have the outrider, send him away to get her, and if he does not do it, his head must be struck off.“ Then the King sent for Ferdinand the Faithful, and told him that there was, in this place or in that place, a girl he loved, and that he was to bring her to him, and if he did not do it he should die.

Ferdinand the Faithful went into the stable to his white horse, and complained and lamented, „Oh, what an unhappy man I am!“ Then someone behind him cried, „Ferdinand the Faithful, why weepest thou?“ He looked round but saw no one, and went on lamenting; „Oh, my dear little white horse, now must I leave thee. Now must I die.“ Then some one cried once more, „Ferdinand the Faithful, why weepest thou?“ Then for the first time he was aware that it was his little white horse who was putting that question. „Dost thou speak, my little white horse; canst thou do that?“ And again, he said, „I am to go to this place and to that, and am to bring the bride; canst thou tell me how I am to set about it?“ Then answered the little white horse, „Go thou to the King, and say if he will give thou what thou must have, thou wilt get her for him. If he will give thee a ship full of meat, and a ship full of bread, it will succeed. Great giants dwell on the lake, and if thou takest no meat with thee for them, they will tear thee to pieces, and there are the large birds which would pick the eyes out of thy head if thou hadst no bread for them.“ Then the King made all the butchers in the land kill, and all the bakers bake, that the ships might be filled. When they were full, the little white horse said to Ferdinand the Faithful, „Now mount me, and go with me into the ship, and then when the giants come, say,

„Peace, peace, my dear little giants,
I have had thought of ye,
Something I have brought for ye.“

And when the birds come, thou shalt again say:

„Peace, peace, my dear little birds,
I have had thought of ye,
Something I have brought for ye.“

Then they will do nothing to thee, and when thou comest to the castle, the giants will help thee. Then go up to the castle, and take a couple of giants with thee. There the princess lies sleeping; thou must, however, not awaken her, but the giants must lift her up, and carry her in her bed to the ship.“ And now everything took place as the little white horse had said, and Ferdinand the Faithful gave the giants and the birds what he had brought with him for them, and that made the giants willing, and they carried the princess in her bed to the King. And when she came to the King, she said she could not live, she must have her writings, they had been left in her castle. Then by the instigation of Ferdinand the Unfaithful, Ferdinand the Faithful was called, and the King told him he must fetch the writings from the castle, or he should die. Then he went once more into the stable, and bemoaned himself and said, „Oh, my dear little white horse, now I am to go away again, how am I to do it?“ Then the little white horse said he was just to load the ships full again. So it happened again as it had happened before, and the giants and the birds were satisfied, and made gentle by the meat. When they came to the castle, the white horse told Ferdinand the Faithful that he must go in, and that on the table in the princess’s bed-room lay the writings.

And Ferdinand the Faithful went in, and fetched them. When they were on the lake, he let his pen fall into the water. Then said the white horse, „Now I cannot help thee at all.“ But he remembered his flute, and began to play on it, and the fish came with the pen in its mouth, and gave it to him. So he took the writings to the castle, where the wedding was celebrated. The Queen, however, did not love the King because he had no nose, but she would have much liked to love Ferdinand the Faithful. Once, therefore, when all the lords of the court were together, the Queen said she could do feats of magic, that she could cut off any one’s head and put it on again, and that one of them ought just to try it. But none of them would be the first, so Ferdinand the Faithful, again at the instigation of Ferdinand the Unfaithful, undertook it and she hewed off his head, and put it on again for him, and it healed together directly, so that it looked as if he had a red thread round his throat. Then the King said to her, „My child, and where hast thou learnt that?“ – „Yes,“ she said, „I understand the art; shall I just try it on thee also?“ – „Oh, yes,“ said he. But she cut off his head, and did not put it on again; but pretended that she could not get it on, and that it would not keep fixed. Then the King was buried, but she married Ferdinand the Faithful.

He, however, always rode on his white horse, and once when he was seated on it, it told him that he was to go on to the heath which he knew, and gallop three times round it. And when he had done that, the white horse stood up on its hind legs, and was changed into a King’s son.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“

„Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, in their famous collection „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales), first published in 1812. The Brothers Grimm were scholars and linguists who sought to preserve the rich oral tradition of German folklore, and as such, their collection features a multitude of stories that were passed down through generations.

The fairy tale of „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“ tells the story of two young men named Ferdinand, who are the sons of a rich man. One of the sons, Ferdinand the Faithful, is good-hearted, loyal, and honest. The other, Ferdinand the Unfaithful, is dishonest, greedy, and deceitful. The tale explores themes of trust, loyalty, and the consequences of one’s actions, highlighting the importance of staying true to one’s moral principles.

As with many other fairy tales, „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“ likely has its roots in the oral storytelling tradition. The specific origins of this particular tale are uncertain, but it may have evolved over time, influenced by various regional stories and folklore. The Brothers Grimm played a crucial role in preserving and popularizing this story, among many others, ensuring that they continued to be shared and enjoyed by generations to come.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“

„Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“ can be interpreted in various ways, touching upon different aspects of human nature, morality, and societal values. Here are some common interpretations of the fairy tale:

The importance of moral values: The story highlights the importance of upholding moral values such as honesty, loyalty, and integrity. Ferdinand the Faithful’s good character is rewarded in the end, while Ferdinand the Unfaithful’s deceitful behavior leads to his downfall. This interpretation emphasizes that staying true to one’s principles has positive consequences, both for oneself and for others.

The consequences of one’s actions: The tale teaches that one’s actions have consequences, and it is important to consider the impact of one’s choices on others. Ferdinand the Unfaithful’s decisions, driven by his greed and dishonesty, ultimately lead to his own misery. Conversely, Ferdinand the Faithful’s actions, guided by his compassion and loyalty, result in happiness and fulfillment.

The transformative power of love: In the story, Ferdinand the Faithful’s love for the princess is unwavering and genuine. His love, combined with his strong moral compass, allows him to overcome obstacles and ultimately transform the princess, who was under a spell. This interpretation suggests that true love has the power to heal and transform, even in the most difficult circumstances.

The duality of human nature: The two Ferdinands represent the contrasting aspects of human nature – the potential for both good and evil. The tale serves as a reminder that everyone has a choice in how they act and treat others, and that it is essential to nurture the positive aspects of one’s character.

The role of fate and destiny: The story also touches upon the theme of fate and destiny, as both Ferdinands encounter various challenges and opportunities throughout their lives. Ultimately, their individual choices and actions shape their destinies, emphasizing the importance of personal responsibility in determining one’s future.

These interpretations of „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“ showcase the enduring relevance and power of fairy tales to convey moral lessons, explore human nature, and reflect societal values.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“

„Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“ is a lesser-known fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. It tells the story of two brothers, one who is faithful and kind, and the other who is unfaithful and treacherous. Despite its relative obscurity, there have been some adaptations and reinterpretations of the story in various forms of media.

Children’s Books: Several children’s books have adapted the tale, simplifying the language and adding illustrations to make it more accessible for younger readers. These adaptations often emphasize the moral lessons of loyalty, honesty, and the consequences of betrayal.

Animated Short Films: The story has been adapted into a few animated short films, with different art styles and storytelling techniques. Some of these adaptations focus on the contrasting personalities of the two brothers, while others explore the themes of love, betrayal, and the supernatural elements in the tale.

Theater Productions: Some local and regional theatre groups have adapted the story into stage plays, bringing the characters and plot to life through live performances. These adaptations often include original music and may use creative staging techniques to represent the fantastical elements of the story.

Modern Reinterpretations: „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“ has also been reinterpreted in modern settings, exploring the themes of sibling rivalry, deception, and the consequences of one’s choices. For example, a contemporary novel or TV series could be set in a corporate environment, with the two brothers vying for control of the family business. This adaptation might emphasize the importance of trust and loyalty in personal and professional relationships.

Graphic Novels or Comic Books: The story has the potential to be adapted into a graphic novel or comic book series, using visual storytelling to emphasize the contrasting characteristics of the two brothers and the supernatural elements of the tale. This format could also allow for more in-depth character development and exploration of the consequences of each brother’s actions.

Video Games: An interactive adaptation in the form of a video game could allow players to make choices that influence the outcome of the story. Players could choose to follow either the path of Ferdinand the Faithful or Ferdinand the Unfaithful, facing different challenges and consequences depending on their choices.

In conclusion, while there may not be many widely-known adaptations of „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful,“ there are still several examples of how this classic Brothers Grimm tale has been reimagined and brought to life in various forms of media.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“

There have been few adaptations of „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“ compared to some of the more well-known fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm. However, here are a few examples of adaptations:

„Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“ was adapted into a children’s book by English author and illustrator John Lawrence in 1983. The book is a faithful retelling of the original story with colorful illustrations.

A Turkish TV series titled „Ferhat ile Sirin“ (Ferhat and Sirin) was loosely based on „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful.“ The series aired in 2019 and followed the story of two lovers, one of whom is loyal and faithful while the other is deceitful and unfaithful.

In 2014, the fairy tale was adapted into a short film called „Ferdinand the Faithful.“ The film was directed by Tim Divall and tells the story of Ferdinand the Faithful, who must go on a journey to find a cure for his sick mother.

The fairy tale has also been adapted into various stage productions, including a musical adaptation by Australian playwright and composer Peter Fock in the 1990s.

Overall, while „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“ may not have received as many adaptations as some of the more popular Grimm’s fairy tales, it has still inspired various adaptations in different mediums.

Summary of the plot

„Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“ is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about two young men named Ferdinand, both sons of a rich man. The two brothers have contrasting characters – Ferdinand the Faithful is kind, honest, and loyal, while Ferdinand the Unfaithful is deceitful, greedy, and selfish.

The story begins with the father’s death, and the brothers set out on separate journeys. Ferdinand the Faithful encounters a dwarf who asks for some food. Being generous, Ferdinand shares his meal with the dwarf, who in return gives him a magical stick that can open any door and a cloak that can make him invisible. Ferdinand also receives a prophecy that he will marry a beautiful princess.

Meanwhile, Ferdinand the Unfaithful meets the same dwarf but refuses to share his food. As a result, the dwarf curses him with a prophecy that he will become a thief and suffer a shameful death.

Ferdinand the Faithful eventually comes across a castle where a princess has been bewitched by a spell, turning her into a snake for several hours each day. Ferdinand, using his magical gifts, discovers the princess in her snake form and decides to stay with her, providing comfort and companionship. Over time, his love and loyalty break the spell, transforming the princess back into her human form permanently.

Ferdinand the Unfaithful, on the other hand, turns to a life of crime, using deceit and trickery to steal from others. His actions eventually catch up with him, and he is captured and sentenced to a shameful death, as foretold by the dwarf’s prophecy.

In the end, Ferdinand the Faithful marries the princess and inherits the kingdom, living a happy life with his true love. The story serves as a moral lesson on the importance of honesty, loyalty, and kindness, as well as the consequences of one’s actions.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“

„Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, in their famous compilation „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ (originally titled „Children’s and Household Tales“ or „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ in German). The first edition of the collection was published in 1812, and it has since become one of the most famous and influential collections of fairy tales in the world.

The Brothers Grimm were not the original authors of the tales but collected them from various sources, primarily oral storytelling traditions. They aimed to preserve the cultural heritage and folklore of the German-speaking people during a time of rapid industrialization and urbanization. Some of the tales, including „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful,“ were influenced by stories from other regions and cultures, demonstrating the interconnectedness of folklore across Europe.

The stories in the Grimms‘ collection often feature fantastical elements, such as magical creatures, enchantments, and talking animals, as well as moral lessons and cautionary themes. The tales serve not only as entertainment but also as vehicles for imparting values and life lessons to their audience, particularly children.

„Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“ is a lesser-known tale from the Grimms‘ collection, but it shares many characteristics with the more famous stories, such as the themes of good versus evil, the importance of kindness and loyalty, and the transformative power of love and virtue.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“

There are several interpretations that can be drawn from the fairy tale „Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“:

Good vs. Evil: This story highlights the struggle between good (Ferdinand the Faithful) and evil (Ferdinand the Unfaithful). Despite the challenges and deceit he faces, Ferdinand the Faithful remains kind, loyal, and honest, ultimately leading to his success and happiness. In contrast, Ferdinand the Unfaithful uses his wicked arts to cause harm and manipulate others but ultimately does not succeed in his goals.

The Power of Friendship and Loyalty: The magical white horse is a key character in the story, symbolizing the importance of friendship and loyalty. Throughout the tale, the horse supports and guides Ferdinand the Faithful, helping him overcome obstacles and achieve his goals. This demonstrates that having true friends and being loyal can lead to positive outcomes, even in difficult situations.

Kindness and Generosity: Ferdinand the Faithful’s kindness and generosity toward the giants and birds play a crucial role in his success. By offering them food and treating them with respect, he gains their support and assistance. This theme emphasizes the value of kindness and generosity in forming alliances and overcoming obstacles.

The Dangers of Deceit and Manipulation: The queen, who does not love the king, uses deceit and manipulation to get what she wants. Although she initially succeeds in her plan to kill the king, her actions ultimately lead to her marrying Ferdinand the Faithful, who is a good and honest man. This can be seen as a cautionary tale, warning against the use of deceit and manipulation to achieve one’s goals, as they may not lead to the desired outcome.

The Transformative Power of Love and Virtue: The magical white horse’s transformation into a king’s son at the end of the story symbolizes the transformative power of love and virtue. Ferdinand the Faithful’s unwavering goodness, loyalty, and kindness ultimately result in his happiness and the restoration of the white horse’s true identity. This theme reinforces the idea that leading a virtuous life can bring about positive change and reward.

Summary of the plot

„Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a poor boy named Ferdinand the Faithful who receives a magical white horse from his godfather. When he grows up, he meets Ferdinand the Unfaithful, who knows all his thoughts and actions due to wicked arts. They both end up serving a king, who sends Ferdinand the Faithful on impossible tasks to win his love’s hand.

The magical white horse helps Ferdinand the Faithful complete these tasks, such as retrieving the king’s beloved and her important writings from a castle guarded by giants and birds. Each time, the white horse instructs him to bring ships full of meat for the giants and bread for the birds to appease them. With their help, Ferdinand succeeds in bringing the princess and her writings to the king.

However, the queen, who does not love the king, tricks him by claiming she can magically reattach severed heads. She demonstrates this on Ferdinand the Faithful, then kills the king when she pretends to be unable to reattach his head. The queen marries Ferdinand the Faithful, and he continues to ride his white horse.

The horse eventually instructs Ferdinand to gallop three times around a heath, and upon doing so, the horse transforms into a king’s son.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 126
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 531
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson33.1
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index79.5
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level7.6
Gunning Fog Index10.2
Coleman–Liau Index7.4
SMOG Index9.7
Automated Readability Index8
Character Count11.480
Letter Count8.747
Sentence Count102
Word Count2.220
Average Words per Sentence21,76
Words with more than 6 letters252
Percentage of long words11.4%
Number of Syllables2.761
Average Syllables per Word1,24
Words with three Syllables129
Percentage Words with three Syllables5.8%
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