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Lean Lisa
Grimm Märchen

Lean Lisa - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 5 min

Lean Lisa was of a very different way of thinking from lazy Harry and fat Trina, who never let anything disturb their peace. She scoured everything with ashes, from morning till evening, and burdened her husband, Long Laurence, with so much work that he had heavier weights to carry than an ass with three sacks. It was, however, all to no purpose, they had nothing and came to nothing. One night as she lay in bed, and could hardly move one limb for weariness, she still did not allow her thoughts to go to sleep. She thrust her elbows into her husband’s side, and said, „Listen, Lenz, to what I have been thinking: if I were to find one florin and one was given to me, I would borrow another to put to them, and thou too shouldst give me another, and then as soon as I had got the four florins together, I would buy a young cow.“ This pleased the husband right well. „It is true,“ said he, „that I do not know where I am to get the florin which thou wantest as a gift from me; but, if thou canst get the money together, and canst buy a cow with it, thou wilt do well to carry out thy project. I shall be glad,“ he added, „if the cow has a calf, and then I shall often get a drink of milk to refresh me.“ – „The milk is not for thee,“ said the woman, „we must let the calf suck that it may become big and fat, and we may be able to sell it well.“ – „Certainly,“ replied the man, „but still we will take a little milk. That will do no harm.“ – „Who has taught thee to manage cows?“ said the woman; „Whether it does harm or not, I will not allow it, and even if thou wert to stand on thy head for it, thou shouldst not have a drop of the milk! Dost thou think, because there is no satisfying thee, Long Laurence, that thou art to eat up what I earn with so much difficulty?“ – „Wife,“ said the man, „be quiet, or I will give thee a blow on thy mouth!“ – „What!“ cried she, „thou threatenest me, thou glutton, thou rascal, thou lazy Harry!“ She was just laying hold of his hair, but long Laurence got up, seized both Lean Lisa’s withered arms in one hand, and with the other he pressed down her head into the pillow, let her scold, and held her until she fell asleep for very weariness. Whether she continued to wrangle when she awoke next morning, or whether she went out to look for the florin which she wanted to find, that I know not.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „Lean Lisa“

„Lean Lisa“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their famous compilation „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ (also known as „Children’s and Household Tales“). First published in 1812, it is numbered as tale 168 in the Grimms‘ collection. Like many other stories in the collection, „Lean Lisa“ draws upon the rich oral storytelling tradition prevalent in German-speaking regions of Europe.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were German scholars, linguists, and cultural researchers who gathered and published folktales and legends from various sources. They were a part of the larger Romantic movement in Europe that sought to preserve and celebrate local culture and folklore. This movement was driven by the belief that these stories held important insights into the human psyche, societal values, and cultural heritage.

„Lean Lisa“ is a lesser-known tale from the Brothers Grimm and differs from many of their other stories, as it lacks the typical magical elements or fantastical creatures often found in fairy tales. Instead, the story focuses on the everyday lives and experiences of ordinary people, providing a snapshot of rural life and customs.

The tale follows the story of Lean Lisa, a hardworking woman who is married to Lazy Hans, a man who avoids work and prefers to sleep all day. Lisa tries to persuade Hans to work and help provide for their family, but her efforts are unsuccessful. As the story unfolds, Lean Lisa is faced with various challenges and must navigate her relationship with her lazy husband while trying to make ends meet.

„Lean Lisa“ offers readers a glimpse into the social dynamics and values of the time, highlighting themes such as the importance of hard work, cooperation, and the division of labor within a household. The story also serves as a cautionary tale, warning against the pitfalls of idleness and the consequences of failing to fulfill one’s responsibilities.

Over the years, „Lean Lisa“ has been adapted and reinterpreted in various forms, including written texts, stage productions, and audio recordings, each reflecting the values and sensibilities of the society and time in which they were created.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Lean Lisa“

„Lean Lisa“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, but it still offers various themes and lessons that can be interpreted in different ways. Here are some possible interpretations of the tale:

The importance of hard work and cooperation: The story emphasizes the value of hard work and cooperation, particularly within a family or a partnership. Lean Lisa’s hardworking nature is contrasted with Lazy Hans’s idleness, highlighting the consequences of failing to contribute to the household. The tale suggests that a successful and harmonious life requires the collaborative efforts of all members of a family or community.

Gender roles and expectations: „Lean Lisa“ offers a glimpse into the gender roles and expectations prevalent during the time the story was collected. The tale showcases the division of labor within a household, with Lisa taking on the traditionally female roles of managing the home and caring for the family. Hans, as the husband, is expected to work and provide for his family, but his laziness defies these expectations. The story may serve as a commentary on the social norms of the time and the importance of fulfilling one’s role within a family unit.

The consequences of idleness: The tale can be read as a cautionary story warning against the dangers of idleness and laziness. Lazy Hans’s refusal to work results in hardships for his family and leads to a life of poverty and struggle. This theme teaches the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions and contributing to the well-being of others.

The dynamics of marriage and partnership: „Lean Lisa“ also explores the dynamics of marriage and partnership, particularly in terms of communication and understanding between partners. The story highlights the difficulties that can arise when one partner fails to meet the expectations of the other, emphasizing the need for compromise, empathy, and effective communication in maintaining a healthy relationship.

Social commentary: The tale can be seen as a reflection of the social and economic realities of rural life during the time the Brothers Grimm collected their stories. The struggles faced by Lean Lisa and Lazy Hans may have resonated with readers who were familiar with the challenges of making ends meet in a predominantly agricultural society.

Overall, „Lean Lisa“ offers valuable lessons about the importance of hard work, cooperation, and fulfilling one’s responsibilities. Although the story lacks the magical elements often found in other Grimm fairy tales, it still provides readers with a rich tapestry of themes and ideas to explore and interpret.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Lean Lisa“

„Lean Lisa“ is not as well-known or frequently adapted as some other Grimm fairy tales, but it has still inspired some creative works and adaptations over the years. The story’s themes and characters can be found in various forms, including literary works, theater productions, and visual art. Here are a few specific examples of adaptations inspired by „Lean Lisa“:

Literary adaptations: As with other Grimm tales, „Lean Lisa“ has been reinterpreted in various forms such as children’s books, short stories, and graphic novels. These adaptations often offer new perspectives on the tale, retelling the story with updated language, illustrations, or changes to the narrative structure. For instance, „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ by Saviour Pirotta includes a retelling of „Lean Lisa“ alongside other classic Grimm tales.

Theater productions: Although not as commonly adapted for the stage as other Grimm fairy tales, „Lean Lisa“ has occasionally been incorporated into theatrical performances or combined with other stories to create new works. These adaptations might reinterpret the tale as a play or a musical, offering fresh takes on the story and exploring its themes and characters in new ways. Some smaller theater companies or school productions have chosen to include the tale in their repertoire due to its simplicity and relatability.

Art and illustration: Artists and illustrators have occasionally drawn inspiration from „Lean Lisa“ and other Grimm fairy tales, creating visual art that reinterprets the story and its characters. The tale’s themes and characters can be found in various collections of illustrated Grimm’s Fairy Tales, with illustrators such as Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielsen, and Walter Crane providing their interpretations of the story.

Educational materials: „Lean Lisa“ has been used as a teaching tool in classrooms to help students explore themes of responsibility, cooperation, and the consequences of idleness. Teachers may incorporate the story into lesson plans, use it as a starting point for discussions, or encourage students to create their own adaptations through writing, art, or performance.

Although there are not many direct adaptations of „Lean Lisa,“ the story’s themes and characters have found their way into various works across different media. These adaptations demonstrate the lasting appeal and relevance of the Brothers Grimm’s stories, which continue to captivate and inspire audiences around the world.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Lean Lisa“

„Lean Lisa“ has been adapted in various forms of media, including books, movies, and plays. Here are a few notable adaptations:

„The Thin Girl“ by Marilyn Singer: This children’s book retells the story of „Lean Lisa“ with illustrations by Sophie Blackall. The book is aimed at children ages 5-8 and emphasizes the importance of inner beauty.

„The Sorrowful Woman“ by Octavia E. Butler: This short story is a retelling of „Lean Lisa“ from a science fiction perspective. The story takes place on a distant planet and explores themes of oppression and resistance.

„Lean Lisa“ by Elizabeth Winthrop: This children’s book offers a modern twist on the classic tale. In this version, Lisa is a young girl who is teased by her classmates because of her small size. With the help of a magical fairy, Lisa gains the confidence to stand up to her bullies and find her place in the world.

„Thinnest Woman in the West“ by Lisa Soland: This play is a loose adaptation of „Lean Lisa“ that takes place during the California Gold Rush. The story follows a young woman named Annie, who is ridiculed for her thin frame. Annie’s journey to find acceptance and respect mirrors Lisa’s struggles in the original fairy tale.

„The Magic Fishbone“ by Charles Dickens: This short story is not a direct adaptation of „Lean Lisa,“ but it shares similar themes of perseverance and inner strength. The story follows a young princess who must overcome several obstacles to gain her father’s approval and marry her true love.

These adaptations demonstrate the enduring appeal of „Lean Lisa“ and its message of hope and resilience.

Summary of the plot

„Lean Lisa“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that focuses on the everyday lives of a married couple. Lean Lisa is a hardworking and diligent woman who takes care of her household, while her husband, Lazy Hans, prefers to sleep all day and avoid work. Frustrated with her husband’s idleness, Lisa repeatedly tries to persuade Hans to work and contribute to their family’s well-being.

One day, Lisa and Hans receive a calf as a gift. Lisa devises a plan to raise the calf, fatten it up, and eventually sell it for profit. She envisions this as a way to improve their lives and hopes that Hans will be motivated to work alongside her. However, Hans remains uninterested in helping and continues to sleep all day.

Despite Hans’s laziness, Lisa works tirelessly to raise the calf. Time passes, and the calf grows up to become a cow. When the day comes to sell the cow at the market, Lisa insists that Hans accompany her. On their way, they encounter a series of mishaps that ultimately result in the loss of their cow.

Disappointed by the loss and their failure to make a profit, Lean Lisa and Lazy Hans return home. In the end, their situation remains unchanged, with Lisa continuing to work hard to support their household while Hans remains idle.

„Lean Lisa“ serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of hard work, cooperation, and the consequences of idleness. It also provides a snapshot of the social dynamics and values of rural life during the time the Brothers Grimm collected their stories.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „Lean Lisa“

„Lean Lisa“ is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786-1859), two German scholars, linguists, and cultural researchers. They were prominent figures in the Romantic movement and focused on collecting and preserving Germanic folktales and legends. The story is part of their famous collection, „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales), which was first published in 1812.

The Brothers Grimm aimed to preserve the oral tradition of storytelling in Germany and, as a result, collected over 200 tales, many of which have become well-known classics such as „Cinderella,“ „Rapunzel,“ „Snow White,“ and „Hansel and Gretel.“ The stories, initially intended for adult audiences, were later adapted to suit younger readers and have since become an integral part of children’s literature worldwide.

„Lean Lisa“ is a short tale that showcases the challenges faced by a poor, hardworking couple and the conflicts that can arise due to contrasting personalities, priorities, and values. The story reflects the cultural and societal norms of the time when it was written, giving insight into the everyday lives and struggles of ordinary people in 19th-century Germany. The Brothers Grimm’s collection of tales, including „Lean Lisa,“ continues to be cherished and studied for its literary and historical significance.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Lean Lisa“

„Lean Lisa“ offers various interpretations that can be drawn from the story. Some of the key themes and interpretations are:

The Struggle of Poverty: The tale highlights the harsh realities faced by those living in poverty. Lisa’s constant worry and obsession with finding ways to improve their situation reflect the difficulties faced by people in similar circumstances. The story shows how poverty can lead to tensions and conflict within a family, as seen in Lisa and Laurence’s argument over the cow’s milk.

The Importance of Communication and Compromise: The story illustrates the need for effective communication and compromise within a relationship. Lisa and Laurence’s argument escalates due to their inability to listen to each other’s perspective and find a solution that benefits both parties. The tale serves as a reminder that open communication and willingness to compromise are essential for maintaining harmony in relationships.

Balancing Work and Personal Life: Lisa’s relentless work ethic and her inability to relax or find contentment in her life can be interpreted as a cautionary tale about the dangers of excessive work and ambition. While Lisa’s determination to improve her family’s situation is commendable, her extreme focus on work and lack of balance in her life creates tension and conflict with her husband.

Contrasting Personalities: The story presents contrasting personalities in the characters of Lean Lisa and Long Laurence. Lisa is hardworking, ambitious, and strict, while Laurence is more easygoing and content with their situation. This contrast highlights the challenges that can arise when individuals with different values and priorities attempt to navigate life together.

Overall, „Lean Lisa“ serves as a commentary on the challenges faced by those living in poverty, the need for communication and compromise in relationships, the importance of finding balance in one’s work and personal life, and the difficulties that can arise when individuals with different personalities and values try to build a life together.

Summary of the plot

„Lean Lisa“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a hardworking and frugal woman named Lisa and her husband, Long Laurence. Lisa is the opposite of her neighbors, lazy Harry and fat Trina, as she tirelessly works and constantly seeks ways to improve her and her husband’s situation.

One night, while lying in bed and unable to sleep due to her exhaustion, Lisa comes up with a plan. She tells her husband that if she could find one florin, be given another, borrow a third, and receive a fourth from him, she would have enough money to buy a young cow. Laurence agrees with the idea, but expresses concern about where he would get the money to give her. Nonetheless, he supports her plan and looks forward to having milk from the cow.

Lisa, however, insists that they must let the calf drink the milk to grow big and fat, so they can sell it for a good price later. Laurence suggests taking a little milk for themselves, but Lisa adamantly refuses, questioning his knowledge of managing cows. This disagreement escalates into a heated argument, with Lisa accusing her husband of being a glutton and a lazy rascal. The altercation becomes physical, but Laurence eventually subdues Lisa, holding her down until she falls asleep from exhaustion.

The story ends without revealing whether Lisa continued to argue the next morning or if she went out to search for the florin she needed. The tale highlights the couple’s contrasting personalities and their intense struggle over their financial situation, emphasizing the challenges faced by those living in poverty.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 168
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 1430
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson35.2
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index77.4
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level8.4
Gunning Fog Index11.2
Coleman–Liau Index6.9
SMOG Index8.8
Automated Readability Index8.8
Character Count2.342
Letter Count1.766
Sentence Count19
Word Count458
Average Words per Sentence24,11
Words with more than 6 letters51
Percentage of long words11.1%
Number of Syllables568
Average Syllables per Word1,24
Words with three Syllables18
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.9%
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