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Master Pfriem
Grimm Märchen

Master Pfriem - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 11 min

Master Pfriem was a short, thin, but lively man, who never rested a moment. His face, of which his turned-up nose was the only prominent feature, was marked with small-pox and pale as death, his hair was gray and shaggy, his eyes small, but they glanced perpetually about on all sides. He saw everything, criticised everything, knew everything best, and was always in the right. When he went into the streets, he moved his arms about as if he were rowing; and once he struck the pail of a girl, who was carrying water, so high in the air that he himself was wetted all over by it. „Stupid thing,“ cried he to her, while he was shaking himself, „couldst thou not see that I was coming behind thee?“ By trade he was a shoemaker, and when he worked he pulled his thread out with such force that he drove his fist into every one who did not keep far enough off. No apprentice stayed more than a month with him, for he had always some fault to find with the very best work. At one time it was that the stitches were not even, at another that one shoe was too long, or one heel higher than the other, or the leather not cut large enough. „Wait,“ said he to his apprentice, „I will soon show thee how we make skins soft,“ and he brought a strap and gave him a couple of strokes across the back. He called them all sluggards. He himself did not turn much work out of his hands, for he never sat still for a quarter of an hour. If his wife got up very early in the morning and lighted the fire, he jumped out of bed, and ran bare-footed into the kitchen, crying, „Wilt thou burn my house down for me? That is a fire one could roast an ox by! Does wood cost nothing?“ If the servants were standing by their wash-tubs and laughing, and telling each other all they knew, he scolded them, and said, „There stand the geese cackling, and forgetting their work, to gossip! And why fresh soap? Disgraceful extravagance and shameful idleness into the bargain! They want to save their hands, and not rub the things properly!“ And out he would run and knock a pail full of soap and water over, so that the whole kitchen was flooded. Someone was building a new house, so he hurried to the window to look on. „There, they are using that red sand-stone again that never dries!“ cried he. „No one will ever be healthy in that house! and just look how badly the fellows are laying the stones! Besides, the mortar is good for nothing! It ought to have gravel in it, not sand. I shall live to see that house tumble down on the people who are in it.“ He sat down, put a couple of stitches in, and then jumped up again, unfastened his leather-apron, and cried, „I will just go out, and appeal to those men’s consciences.“ He stumbled on the carpenters. „What’s this?“ cried he, „you are not working by the line! Do you expect the beams to be straight?–one wrong will put all wrong.“ He snatched an axe out of a carpenter’s hand and wanted to show him how he ought to cut; but as a cart loaded with clay came by, he threw the axe away, and hastened to the peasant who was walking by the side of it: „You are not in your right mind,“ said he, „who yokes young horses to a heavily-laden cart? The poor beasts will die on the spot.“ The peasant did not give him an answer, and Pfriem in a rage ran back into his workshop. When he was setting himself to work again, the apprentice reached him a shoe. „Well, what’s that again?“ screamed he, „Haven’t I told you you ought not to cut shoes so broad? Who would buy a shoe like this, which is hardly anything else but a sole? I insist on my orders being followed exactly.“ Master,“ answered the apprentice, „you may easily be quite right about the shoe being a bad one, but it is the one which you yourself cut out, and yourself set to work at. When you jumped up a while since, you knocked it off the table, and I have only just picked it up. An angel from heaven, however, would never make you believe that.“

One night Master Pfriem dreamed he was dead, and on his way to heaven. When he got there, he knocked loudly at the door. „I wonder,“ said he to himself, „that they have no knocker on the door, — one knocks one’s knuckles sore.“ The apostle Peter opened the door, and wanted to see who demanded admission so noisily. „Ah, it’s you, Master Pfriem;“ said he, „well, I’ll let you in, but I warn you that you must give up that habit of yours, and find fault with nothing you see in heaven, or you may fare ill.“ – „You might have spared your warning,“ answered Pfriem. „I know already what is seemly, and here, God be thanked, everything is perfect, and there is nothing to blame as there is on earth.“ So he went in, and walked up and down the wide expanses of heaven. He looked around him, to the left and to the right, but sometimes shook his head, or muttered something to himself. Then he saw two angels who were carrying away a beam. It was the beam which some one had had in his own eye whilst he was looking for the splinter in the eye of another. They did not, however, carry the beam lengthways, but obliquely. „Did any one ever see such a piece of stupidity?“ thought Master Pfriem; but he said nothing, and seemed satisfied with it. „It comes to the same thing after all, whichever way they carry the beam, straight or crooked, if they only get along with it, and truly I do not see them knock against anything.“ Soon after this he saw two angels who were drawing water out of a well into a bucket, but at the same time he observed that the bucket was full of holes, and that the water was running out of it on every side. They were watering the earth with rain. „Hang it,“ he exclaimed; but happily recollected himself, and thought, „Perhaps it is only a pastime. If it is an amusement, then it seems they can do useless things of this kind even here in heaven, where people, as I have already noticed, do nothing but idle about.“ He went farther and saw a cart which had stuck fast in a deep hole. „It’s no wonder,“ said he to the man who stood by it; „who would load so unreasonably? what have you there?“ – „Good wishes,“ replied the man, „I could not go along the right way with it, but still I have pushed it safely up here, and they won’t leave me sticking here.“ In fact an angel did come and harnessed two horses to it. „That’s quite right,“ thought Pfriem, „but two horses won’t get that cart out, it must at least have four to it.“ Another angel came and brought two more horses. She did not, however, harness them in front of it, but behind. That was too much for Master Pfriem, „Clumsy creature,“ he burst out with, „what are you doing there? Has any one ever since the world began seen a cart drawn in that way? But you, in your conceited arrogance, think that you know everything best.“ He was going to say more, but one of the inhabitants of heaven seized him by the throat and pushed him forth with irresistible strength. Beneath the gateway Master Pfriem turned his head round to take one more look at the cart, and saw that it was being raised into the air by four winged horses.

At this moment Master Pfriem awoke. „Things are certainly arranged in heaven otherwise than they are on earth,“ said he to himself, „and that excuses much; but who can see horses harnessed both behind and before with patience; to be sure they had wings, but who could know that? It is, besides, great folly to fix a pair of wings to a horse that has four legs to run with already! But I must get up, or else they will make nothing but mistakes for me in my house. It is a lucky thing for me though, that I am not really dead.“

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „Master Pfriem“

„Master Pfriem“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, listed as KHM 78 in their collection „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales). As with many of the tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, it has its roots in oral storytelling traditions and folklore.

The story revolves around the character of Master Pfriem, who is a master shoemaker and also a critical and judgmental person. He is known for finding fault in everything and everyone, regardless of how perfect or good it might be.

One day, Master Pfriem is granted a tour of Heaven by St. Peter. While in Heaven, he cannot help but criticize everything he sees, including the work of the angels. St. Peter eventually grows tired of his constant nitpicking and returns him to Earth. Once back, Master Pfriem realizes he has been given a second chance and decides to change his ways.

This tale focuses on themes of self-improvement, humility, and the consequences of excessive criticism. The story illustrates that even a person as critical and judgmental as Master Pfriem can learn from their experiences and change their behavior for the better.

„Master Pfriem“ is not as well-known as some of the more famous Brothers Grimm tales, but it still offers valuable lessons about the importance of not being overly critical and learning to appreciate the good things in life. It serves as a reminder that everyone, even the most skilled and knowledgeable, can benefit from being humble and open to self-improvement.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Master Pfriem“

„Master Pfriem“ is a lesser-known Brothers Grimm fairy tale that presents moral lessons and themes through the story of a critical and judgmental shoemaker. Here are some interpretations of the tale:

Humility: The story emphasizes the importance of humility. Master Pfriem’s judgmental nature ultimately leads to his being chastised by St. Peter. This experience teaches him to be humble and appreciative of the good things in life, which is an important lesson for readers as well.

Consequences of excessive criticism: The tale serves as a cautionary example of the consequences of being overly critical. Master Pfriem’s incessant nitpicking causes annoyance to others and is not conducive to personal growth. The story highlights the need to strike a balance between constructive criticism and excessive fault-finding.

Self-improvement and change: A central theme in the story is the possibility of self-improvement and change. Master Pfriem’s experience in Heaven teaches him that even he, a highly skilled craftsman, can learn from his experiences and change for the better. This theme encourages readers to remain open to growth and self-improvement.

The value of appreciating the good: The story teaches the importance of appreciating the good things in life and not taking them for granted. Master Pfriem initially fails to see the beauty and goodness around him because of his overly critical nature. By learning to appreciate the good, he becomes a better person and gains a deeper understanding of life’s blessings.

Divine intervention and second chances: The tale features a divine intervention in the form of St. Peter, who gives Master Pfriem a tour of Heaven. This intervention serves as a catalyst for Master Pfriem’s transformation and provides him with a second chance to change his ways, demonstrating the idea that everyone can learn and grow from their experiences.

Overall, „Master Pfriem“ is a tale that emphasizes the importance of humility, self-improvement, and appreciating the good things in life. It teaches valuable moral lessons about the consequences of excessive criticism and the potential for change and growth in everyone.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Master Pfriem“

„Master Pfriem“ is a lesser-known Brothers Grimm fairy tale, so it does not have as many adaptations as some of the more popular stories. However, there are still some ways the story has been shared and adapted:

Book retellings and adaptations: Various collections of Brothers Grimm fairy tales include „Master Pfriem“ among their stories, often with new translations or illustrations to engage modern readers. Examples include „Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales“ (Canterbury Classics) and „The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (Pantheon Books).

Short films and animations: While there may not be many film adaptations of „Master Pfriem,“ smaller studios or independent animators might have created short adaptations that can be found on platforms like YouTube. These adaptations often focus on the moral lessons and themes of the story, making them suitable as educational tools for children.

Theater and live performances: „Master Pfriem“ may be adapted for the stage as part of a larger collection of Grimm’s fairy tales or as an individual performance. These adaptations can involve live actors, puppetry, or other forms of theater to bring the story to life for audiences, emphasizing the tale’s moral lessons and themes.

Art and illustrations: Artists may have drawn inspiration from „Master Pfriem“ to create visual representations of the story. These illustrations can be found in various books, art collections, or online galleries, capturing key moments and characters from the tale.

While „Master Pfriem“ has not received the same level of attention or adaptations as some of the more well-known Grimm fairy tales, it still offers valuable moral lessons and themes. These adaptations and retellings help keep the story alive and introduce it to new generations of readers and viewers.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Master Pfriem“

There are not many adaptations of the fairy tale „Master Pfriem“ compared to some of the more well-known Grimm tales, but here are a few notable ones:

„Master Pfreim“- A short animated film adaptation of the story was made by director Michael Sieber in 2006. The film updates the story to a contemporary setting, with the titular character portrayed as an impoverished artist who is conned by a wealthy businessman.

„The Empty Chest“- A version of the story was included in Andrew Lang’s „The Blue Fairy Book“ in 1889 under the title „The Empty Chest.“ This version is similar to the Grimm tale but has some minor variations in the plot.

„Der gestiefelte Kater“- The story of a clever cat who helps his master win a princess’s hand in marriage is the basis for Charles Perrault’s „Puss in Boots,“ which shares some similarities with „Master Pfriem.“ The story has been adapted into several films, TV shows, and stage productions over the years.

„The House with the Golden Windows“- In this version of the story by Laura E. Richards, a poor but honest family is tricked by a clever cat into giving up their home. However, unlike the Grimm tale, the family is ultimately able to outsmart the cat and regain their home and possessions.

Overall, while „Master Pfriem“ may not be as widely adapted as some of the other Grimm tales, its themes of greed, gullibility, and the consequences of making foolish decisions continue to resonate with audiences today.

Summary of the plot

„Master Pfriem“ is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale that tells the story of a highly skilled but overly critical and judgmental shoemaker named Master Pfriem.

Master Pfriem is known for his expertise in shoemaking, but he is also infamous for his habit of finding faults in everything and everyone, no matter how perfect or good they may seem. His constant criticism is annoying to those around him, and it prevents him from truly appreciating the beauty and goodness in life.

One day, St. Peter, the gatekeeper of Heaven, takes Master Pfriem on a tour of Heaven. As they walk through the heavenly realm, Master Pfriem continues to criticize everything he sees, even the work of the angels. St. Peter becomes increasingly frustrated with Master Pfriem’s incessant nitpicking and eventually returns him to Earth.

Back on Earth, Master Pfriem realizes that he has been given a second chance to change his ways. He reflects on his experiences in Heaven and the impact of his overly critical nature on his life. Through this self-reflection, Master Pfriem learns the value of humility, the importance of appreciating the good things in life, and the need for self-improvement.

„Master Pfriem“ is a cautionary tale that teaches readers about the consequences of excessive criticism and the potential for personal growth and change. It highlights the importance of humility, self-improvement, and appreciating life’s blessings.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „Master Pfriem“

„Master Pfriem“ is a lesser-known fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, who were German academics, philologists, and cultural researchers, known for their extensive work in collecting and publishing traditional folktales. The story is included in their famous collection, „Grimm’s Fairy Tales,“ which was first published in 1812.

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, aimed to preserve the traditional stories of their time, as they believed that these tales were an essential part of their cultural heritage. Their collection of folktales became popular worldwide, and the stories have been translated into many languages, adapted into various forms of media, and used as inspiration for countless other works.

„Master Pfriem“ shares common themes and moral lessons with other stories in the Grimm’s collection, such as the importance of humility, the value of different perspectives, and the consequences of excessive criticism. The story, like many other Grimm’s tales, serves as a cautionary tale that imparts valuable life lessons to readers.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Master Pfriem“

„Master Pfriem“ can be interpreted in several ways, offering valuable insights into human nature and behavior. Here are three possible interpretations:

The dangers of arrogance and pride: One key message in the story is the danger of being overly arrogant and prideful, as demonstrated by Master Pfriem’s inability to recognize the value in others‘ work or methods. He always assumes he knows best, which leads to conflict with others and ultimately his expulsion from heaven. This tale serves as a reminder to be humble and open-minded, recognizing that there may be multiple valid approaches to solving problems or completing tasks.

The importance of embracing different perspectives: The story also highlights the importance of understanding and accepting that different people have different perspectives, and that what may seem strange or illogical to one person might make perfect sense to another. In heaven, Master Pfriem is confronted with situations that defy his earthly logic but serve a purpose in the heavenly realm. By learning to accept that there are multiple ways of viewing and approaching situations, one can foster greater empathy and cooperation.

The consequences of constant criticism: Master Pfriem’s constant criticism and fault-finding not only create conflict with others but also prevent him from fully enjoying his experiences, including his dream of heaven. His inability to restrain his critical nature ultimately leads to his banishment. This tale serves as a cautionary example of the negative effects of excessive criticism, both on oneself and on relationships with others. It encourages readers to practice understanding, empathy, and kindness, rather than constantly seeking out and pointing out flaws.

Summary of the plot

„Master Pfriem“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a lively, short, and thin man named Master Pfriem, who is a shoemaker by trade. He is a critical, impatient, and overbearing person who always believes he knows best and is constantly finding fault with everything and everyone around him.

One day, after finding fault with various people and their work, Master Pfriem dreams that he has died and gone to heaven. He is warned by the apostle Peter to not criticize anything he sees in heaven, lest he suffer consequences. Master Pfriem promises to behave, but as he walks through heaven, he can’t help but notice and criticize various oddities, like angels carrying a beam the wrong way and others drawing water with a hole-riddled bucket.

He becomes particularly incensed when he sees a cart stuck in a hole and loaded with „good wishes.“ Four angels come to help, but they harness the horses in an unconventional way, with two in the front and two in the back. Unable to contain his frustration, Master Pfriem criticizes the angels and is promptly thrown out of heaven.

Upon waking, Master Pfriem realizes that things in heaven are different from those on earth, but he still can’t understand the reasoning behind the odd occurrences he witnessed in his dream. Relieved that he is not actually dead, he resolves to continue managing his household to prevent mistakes from happening.

The story highlights the importance of humility and understanding that one’s own perspective may not always be the best or only way of doing things.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 178
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 801
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson29.3
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index81.9
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level6.3
Gunning Fog Index9
Coleman–Liau Index7.8
SMOG Index8.4
Automated Readability Index6.4
Character Count7.567
Letter Count5.797
Sentence Count81
Word Count1.448
Average Words per Sentence17,88
Words with more than 6 letters166
Percentage of long words11.5%
Number of Syllables1.828
Average Syllables per Word1,26
Words with three Syllables66
Percentage Words with three Syllables4.6%
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