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Fitcher’s Bird
Grimm Märchen

Fitcher’s Bird - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 11 min

Attention: This is a scary story.

There was once a wizard who used to take the form of a poor man, and went to houses and begged, and caught pretty girls. No one knew whither he carried them, for they were never seen more. One day he appeared before the door of a man who had three pretty daughters. He looked like a poor weak beggar, and carried a basket on his back, as if he meant to collect charitable gifts in it. He begged for a little food, and when the eldest daughter came out and was just reaching him a piece of bread, he did but touch her, and she was forced to jump into his basket.

Thereupon he hurried away with long strides, and carried her away into a dark forest to his house, which stood in the midst of it. Everything in the house was magnificent. He gave her whatsoever she could possibly desire, and said: „My darling, thou wilt certainly be happy with me, for thou hast everything thy heart can wish for.“ This lasted a few days, and then he said: „I must journey forth, and leave thee alone for a short time. There are the keys of the house. Thou mayst go everywhere and look at everything except into one room, which this little key here opens, and there I forbid thee to go on pain of death.“

He likewise gave her an egg and said: „Preserve the egg carefully for me, and carry it continually about with thee, for a great misfortune would arise from the loss of it.“ She took the keys and the egg, and promised to obey him in everything. When he was gone, she went all round the house from the bottom to the top, and examined everything. The rooms shone with silver and gold, and she thought she had never seen such great splendour. At length she came to the forbidden door. She wished to pass it by, but curiosity let her have no rest.

She examined the key, it looked just like any other. She put it in the keyhole and turned it a little, and the door sprang open. But what did she see when she went in? A great bloody basin stood in the middle of the room, and therein lay human beings, dead and hewn to pieces, and hard by was a block of wood, and a gleaming axe lay upon it. She was so terribly alarmed that the egg which she held in her hand fell into the basin. She got it out and washed the blood off, but in vain, it appeared again in a moment. She washed and scrubbed, but she could not get it out.

It was not long before the man came back from his journey, and the first things which he asked for were the key and the egg. She gave them to him, but she trembled as she did so, and he saw at once by the red spots that she had been in the bloody chamber. „Since thou hast gone into the room against my will,“ said he, „thou shalt go back into it against thine own. Thy life is ended.“ He threw her down, dragged her thither by her hair, cut her head off on the block, and hewed her in pieces so that her blood ran on the ground. Then he threw her into the basin with the rest.

„Now I will fetch myself the second,“ said the wizard, and again he went to the house in the shape of a poor man, and begged. Then the second daughter brought him a piece of bread. He caught her like the first, by simply touching her, and carried her away. She did not fare better than her sister. She allowed herself to be led away by her curiosity, opened the door of the bloody chamber, looked in, and had to atone for it with her life on the wizard’s return. Then he went and brought the third sister, but she was clever and crafty.

When he had given her the keys and the egg, and had left her, she first put the egg away with great care, and then she examined the house, and at last went into the forbidden room. Alas, what did she behold! Both her sisters lay there in the basin, cruelly murdered, and cut in pieces. But she began to gather their limbs together and put them in order, head, body, arms and legs. And when nothing further was wanting the limbs began to move and unite themselves together, and both the maidens opened their eyes and were once more alive.

Then they rejoiced and kissed and caressed each other. On his arrival, the man at once demanded the keys and the egg, and as he could perceive no trace of any blood on it, he said: „Thou hast stood the test, thou shalt be my bride.“ He now had no longer any power over her, and was forced to do whatsoever she desired. „Oh, very well,“ said she, „thou shalt first take a basketful of gold to my father and mother, and carry it thyself on thy back. In the meantime I will prepare for the wedding.“

Then she ran to her sisters, whom she had hidden in a little chamber, and said: „The moment has come when I can save you. The wretch shall himself carry you home again, but as soon as you are at home send help to me.“ She put both of them in a basket and covered them quite over with gold, so that nothing of them was to be seen, then she called in the wizard and said to him: „Now carry the basket away, but I shall look through my little window and watch to see if thou stoppest on the way to stand or to rest.“

The wizard raised the basket on his back and went away with it, but it weighed him down so heavily that the perspiration streamed from his face. Then he sat down and wanted to rest awhile, but immediately one of the girls in the basket cried: „I am looking through my little window, and I see that thou art resting. Wilt thou go on at once?“ He thought it was his bride who was calling that to him; and got up on his legs again. Once more he was going to sit down, but instantly she cried: „I am looking through my little window, and I see that thou art resting. Wilt thou go on directly?“

And whenever he stood still, she cried this, and then he was forced to go onwards, until at last, groaning and out of breath, he took the basket with the gold and the two maidens into their parents‘ house. At home, however, the bride prepared the marriage-feast, and sent invitations to the friends of the wizard. Then she took a skull with grinning teeth, put some ornaments on it and a wreath of flowers, carried it upstairs to the garret-window, and let it look out from thence.

When all was ready, she got into a barrel of honey, and then cut the feather-bed open and rolled herself in it, until she looked like a wondrous bird, and no one could recognize her. Then she went out of the house, and on her way she met some of the wedding-guests, who asked:

„O, Fitcher’s bird, how com’st thou here?“
„I come from Fitcher’s house quite near.“
„And what may the young bride be doing?“
„From cellar to garret she’s swept all clean,
And now from the window she’s peeping, I ween.“

At last she met the bridegroom, who was coming slowly back. He, like the others, asked:

„O, Fitcher’s bird, how com’st thou here?“
„I come from Fitcher’s house quite near.“
„And what may the young bride be doing?
„From cellar to garret she’s swept all clean,
And now from the window she’s peeping, I ween.“

The bridegroom looked up, saw the decked-out skull, thought it was his bride, and nodded to her, greeting her kindly. But when he and his guests had all gone into the house, the brothers and kinsmen of the bride, who had been sent to rescue her, arrived. They locked all the doors of the house, that no one might escape, set fire to it, and the wizard and all his crew had to burn.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „Fitcher’s Bird“

„Fitcher’s Bird“ is a dark and lesser-known German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their famous anthology, „Grimm’s Fairy Tales.“ The tale, also known as „Fitcher’s Feathered Bird,“ is a story of a cunning and magical villain, a brave and resourceful heroine, and the importance of loyalty and wit. The origins of „Fitcher’s Bird“ can be traced back to European folktales and oral storytelling traditions. The Brothers Grimm collected and published the story in the early 19th century, as part of their broader effort to preserve and share the rich heritage of German folklore. The story, like many fairy tales, has undergone various changes and adaptations over the years.

The tale revolves around a sorcerer, Fitcher, who disguises himself as a beggar to kidnap young women. He takes them to his enchanted castle, where he subjects them to a test of obedience. If they fail, they are killed and dismembered. Eventually, a clever and resourceful girl outwits Fitcher, saves her sisters and other victims, and brings about his downfall. The story shares elements with other European folktales, such as „Bluebeard“ from Charles Perrault’s collection and the Italian story „The Feathered Ogre“ from Giambattista Basile’s „Pentamerone.“ These tales similarly feature a monstrous husband figure who tests the obedience of his wives, as well as a resourceful heroine who saves the day.

„Fitcher’s Bird“ is a cautionary tale that touches on themes of curiosity, disobedience, loyalty, and the power of wit and cleverness. The story serves as a warning against the dangers of curiosity and the importance of loyalty to loved ones. Additionally, the tale highlights the strength and resourcefulness of women, as the heroine uses her wits to outsmart the villain and save her family.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the Brothers Grimm, were born in the late 18th century in Hanau, Germany. They were part of a large family, and their father’s death in 1796 left the family in difficult financial circumstances. Despite this, both brothers pursued their education and developed an interest in linguistics, history, and folklore. Their work on folktales was initially a secondary project, as they were primarily focused on linguistic research. However, as they began collecting stories, they realized the cultural significance of preserving these oral narratives, which were being passed down through generations. The Brothers Grimm collected stories from various sources, including friends, acquaintances, and published works. Some of the tales were based on stories from other cultures, while others were uniquely German in origin. The fairy tales often included elements of magic, fantasy, and morality, reflecting the values and beliefs of the time.

„Fitcher’s Bird“ belongs to the Aarne-Thompson-Uther classification system’s tale type ATU 311, „The Heroine Rescues Herself and Her Sisters.“ This classification system, developed by Finnish folklorist Antti Aarne and later expanded by American folklorist Stith Thompson, is a widely-used method for categorizing and analyzing folktales based on their narrative elements and structure. „Fitcher’s Bird“ shares similarities with other stories in this category, such as „Bluebeard,“ in which a young woman uncovers her husband’s dark secrets and saves herself and others from his murderous intentions.3

Similar fairy tales: „Bluebeard“ by Charles Perrault: „Bluebeard“ is a similar tale of a wealthy and violent man who marries several women, only to kill them and hide their bodies. The story has been adapted into various forms, including operas, ballets, and films. „The Juniper Tree“ by the Brothers Grimm: „The Juniper Tree“ is another tale of murder and dismemberment, in which a stepmother kills her stepson and serves him as a stew to his father. The story has been adapted into various forms, including operas, films, and a short story by the author Truman Capote.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Fitcher’s Bird“

Various interpretations can be drawn from the fairy tale „Fitcher’s Bird“ by the Brothers Grimm. Some of the key themes and interpretations include:

Female empowerment: The story features a resourceful and courageous heroine who saves herself, her sisters, and other victims from the clutches of the evil sorcerer Fitcher. In a time when female characters were often portrayed as passive or weak, this tale highlights the strength and intelligence of women. The third daughter’s actions can be seen as a symbol of female empowerment. She takes control of her own fate, saves her sisters, and ultimately defeats the evil wizard. This theme challenges traditional gender roles and demonstrates the strength and resilience of women in the face of adversity.

The dangers of curiosity: The story can be interpreted as a cautionary tale about the consequences of excessive curiosity. When Fitcher’s captive brides disobey his orders and open the forbidden room, they seal their own doom. This theme is reminiscent of other fairy tales, such as „Bluebeard,“ where curiosity leads to tragic consequences.

The power of wit and cleverness: In „Fitcher’s Bird,“ the heroine outsmarts the villain using her intelligence and resourcefulness. This theme emphasizes the importance of quick thinking and cunning in overcoming evil or dangerous situations.

Loyalty and obedience: The tale stresses the importance of loyalty to one’s family, as the heroine ultimately saves her sisters from Fitcher’s grasp. It also touches on the theme of obedience, as Fitcher tests his brides‘ loyalty with a gruesome task. However, the story balances the importance of obedience with the value of questioning authority, as the heroine’s disobedience ultimately leads to the villain’s downfall.

The battle between good and evil: Like many other fairy tales, „Fitcher’s Bird“ can be seen as a symbolic struggle between good and evil. The sorcerer Fitcher represents evil, while the resourceful and loyal heroine embodies the forces of good. In the end, good triumphs over evil, restoring balance and order.

Transformation and identity: The heroine disguises herself as a bird to escape from Fitcher’s castle, symbolizing transformation and the ability to change one’s identity. This theme can be interpreted as a metaphor for personal growth and the power of adaptability.

Curiosity: The story highlights the human tendency to be curious, especially when faced with forbidden knowledge. Both the eldest and second daughters succumb to their curiosity, ultimately leading to their deaths. This theme resonates with other fairy tales and stories, such as „Bluebeard“ and „Pandora’s Box,“ which also warn against the potential consequences of curiosity.

Cunning and resourcefulness: The third daughter’s cleverness and resourcefulness allow her to outwit the wizard and save her sisters. She uses her intelligence to devise a plan to deceive the wizard, showing that wit and ingenuity can triumph over evil. This theme is common in fairy tales where the protagonist overcomes adversity through their cleverness.

Sisterly love and solidarity: The third daughter’s determination to save her sisters demonstrates the power of sibling love and solidarity. In reassembling their dismembered bodies and bringing them back to life, she not only physically rescues them but also restores their dignity and humanity. This theme emphasizes the importance of family bonds and the strength that can be found in unity.

The dangers of deception and appearances: The wizard’s ability to disguise himself as a poor man and deceive others demonstrates the danger of trusting appearances. Similarly, the third daughter’s disguise as a bird and the decorated skull in the window serve to mislead the wedding guests and the bridegroom. This theme highlights the importance of looking beyond superficial appearances to discern the true nature of people and situations.

Overall, „Fitcher’s Bird“ can be interpreted in various ways, offering insights into the human experience and the importance of virtues such as loyalty, wit, and resourcefulness.

Adaptions of the fairy tale“Fitcher’s Bird“

„Fitcher’s Bird“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, who were linguists and cultural researchers in the 19th century. The story is included in their collection titled „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales), which was first published in 1812. The collection contains over 200 folktales and has been translated into numerous languages, becoming an essential part of the literary and cultural heritage of many countries. While „Fitcher’s Bird“ is a lesser-known Brothers Grimm fairy tale, it has inspired several adaptations and retellings over the years. Some specific examples include:

Literature: „Feathers“ by Rosemary Lake: This short story adaptation, published in the anthology „Black Heart, Ivory Bones,“ is a modern retelling of „Fitcher’s Bird.“ The author sets the story in a contemporary urban environment and incorporates elements of dark fantasy and horror, giving it a fresh and unique twist. „The Feathered Ogre“ by Italo Calvino: This Italian version of the story is included in Calvino’s collection „Italian Folktales.“ The tale shares many similarities with „Fitcher’s Bird,“ including a monstrous husband figure who tests the obedience of his wives and a resourceful heroine who saves the day. „Fitcher’s Brides“ by Gregory Frost: This novel reimagines the classic fairy tale in a 19th-century American setting, exploring themes of patriarchy, religious extremism, and female empowerment. The story follows a young woman named Kat, who must use her wits and resourcefulness to escape the clutches of a fanatical preacher, Fitcher. „The Handmaid’s Tale“ by Margaret Atwood: „The Handmaid’s Tale“ is a dystopian novel that draws on the themes of power, control, and violence present in „Fitcher’s Bird“. The novel explores a future society in which women are subjugated and used for their reproductive capabilities. „The Bloody Chamber“ by Angela Carter: „The Bloody Chamber“ is a collection of short stories that reimagines several fairy tales, including „Bluebeard“ and „Fitcher’s Bird“. Carter’s adaptations are known for their feminist themes and subversion of traditional gender roles.

Films: „The Forbidden Room“ (2015): Directed by Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson, this film weaves together multiple storylines, including a retelling of „Fitcher’s Bird.“ The film is a surreal and visually striking homage to classic cinema, incorporating elements of the fairy tale into its unique narrative structure. „Crimson Peak“ directed by Guillermo del Toro: „Crimson Peak“ is a gothic horror film that draws on the themes and imagery of „Fitcher’s Bird“, including a malevolent and wealthy husband who keeps his wife locked up in a decaying mansion. The film is known for its stunning visual design and atmospheric setting.

Theater: „Fitcher’s Bird“ has also inspired various theatrical adaptations, such as puppet shows, stage plays, and dance performances. These productions often emphasize the dark and macabre aspects of the tale, exploring themes of power, control, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Artworks and Illustrations: Numerous artists have been inspired by „Fitcher’s Bird“ and have created illustrations, paintings, and other visual works based on the story. These artworks often focus on the vivid and fantastical elements of the tale, capturing the eerie atmosphere of Fitcher’s enchanted castle and the triumphant transformation of the heroine into a bird.

There have been several adaptations of the fairy tale „Fitcher’s Bird“ from the Brothers Grimm over the years. While „Fitcher’s Bird“ may not have as many adaptations as other, more well-known Brothers Grimm fairy tales, it has inspired various creative works that reinterpret and explore its dark and enchanting themes.

Summary of the plot

„Fitcher’s Bird“ is a dark and lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, which tells the story of an evil sorcerer named Fitcher, a resourceful heroine, and their struggle against each other. Fitcher disguises himself as a beggar and kidnaps young women, taking them to his enchanted castle. He gives each woman a key to the castle and an egg, warning them not to enter a certain room or let the egg become dirty. The first two sisters, driven by curiosity, disobey Fitcher and discover a gruesome room filled with dismembered corpses. When Fitcher finds out, he kills them as well.

The third sister, however, is clever and resourceful. She hides the egg before entering the forbidden room, ensuring it remains clean. In the room, she discovers the remains of her sisters and other victims. She collects their body parts and, through her tears, is able to magically reassemble and revive them. Seeking revenge, the third sister disguises herself as a bird using a magical cloak of feathers and escapes the castle. She meets her family members, who are carrying a basket of gold to Fitcher as a ransom. The sister reveals her true identity and shares her plan to defeat Fitcher. The family returns home, leaving the basket of gold in the castle.

Fitcher, unaware of the sisters‘ escape, goes to their family’s home, hoping to marry the third sister. He is instructed to take a bath before the ceremony, while the heroine and her sisters lock him in the bathroom. They set the house on fire, killing Fitcher and ending his reign of terror. In the end, the heroine and her sisters triumph over the evil sorcerer, demonstrating the power of resourcefulness, loyalty, and the enduring human spirit.


„Fitcher’s Bird“ is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a wicked wizard who disguises himself as a poor man to kidnap pretty girls. One day, he appears at the door of a man with three beautiful daughters. He kidnaps the eldest daughter by merely touching her and takes her to his house in a dark forest. The house is magnificent, and he gives her everything she desires. However, he forbids her from entering one room and gives her an egg to protect. Overcome by curiosity, she enters the forbidden room and discovers a gruesome scene: a basin filled with dismembered human bodies. The wizard returns, discovers her disobedience, and kills her.

He then kidnaps the second daughter, who suffers the same fate as her sister. When he kidnaps the third daughter, she cleverly hides the egg and enters the forbidden room. She finds her sisters‘ dismembered bodies and magically restores them to life. When the wizard returns, he is unable to kill her because she has successfully protected the egg. He decides to marry her, but she outsmarts him by making him carry a basket of gold and her sisters to their parents‘ house.

Meanwhile, she disguises herself as a bird and encounters the wedding guests and the bridegroom on their way to the wedding. She informs them that the bride is waiting at the house, where they find a decorated skull in the window. The bride’s brothers and kinsmen, sent to rescue her, arrive and set the house on fire, burning the wizard and his followers. The clever third daughter saves herself and her sisters, and the wicked wizard is defeated.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 46
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 311
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, FI, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson29.2
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index81.7
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level6.7
Gunning Fog Index9
Coleman–Liau Index7.4
SMOG Index7.7
Automated Readability Index6.8
Character Count7.298
Letter Count5.558
Sentence Count73
Word Count1.409
Average Words per Sentence19,30
Words with more than 6 letters140
Percentage of long words9.9%
Number of Syllables1.758
Average Syllables per Word1,25
Words with three Syllables45
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.2%
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