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Mr. Korbes
Grimm Märchen

Mr. Korbes - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 3 min

There were once a cock and a hen who wanted to take a journey together. So the cock built a beautiful carriage, which had four red wheels, and harnessed four mice to it. The hen seated herself in it with the cock, and they drove away together. Not long afterwards they met a cat who said, „Where are you going?“

The cock replied, „We are going to the house of Herr Korbes.“ – „Take me with you,“ said the cat. The cock answered, „Most willingly, get up behind, lest you fall off in front. Take great care not to dirty my little red wheels. And you little wheels, roll on, and you little mice pipe out, as we go forth on our way to the house of Herr Korbes.“

After this came a millstone, then an egg, then a duck, then a pin, and at last a needle, who all seated themselves in the carriage, and drove with them. When, however, they reached the house of Herr Korbes, Herr Korbes was not there. The mice drew the carriage into the barn, the hen flew with the cock upon a perch.

The cat sat down by the hearth, the duck on the well-pole. The egg rolled itself into a towel, the pin stuck itself into the chair-cushion, the needle jumped on to the bed in the middle of the pillow, and the millstone laid itself over the door. Then Herr Korbes came home, went to the hearth, and was about to light the fire, when the cat threw a quantity of ashes in his face.

He ran into the kitchen in a great hurry to wash it off, and the duck splashed some water in his face. He wanted to dry it with the towel, but the egg rolled up against him, broke, and glued up his eyes. He wanted to rest, and sat down in the chair, and then the pin pricked him.

He fell in a passion, and threw himself on his bed, but as soon as he laid his head on the pillow, the needle pricked him, so that he screamed aloud, and was just going to run out into the wide world in his rage, but when he came to the house-door, the millstone leapt down and struck him dead. Herr Korbes must have been a very wicked man!

Backgrounds to fairy tale „Mr. Korbes“

„Mr. Korbes“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the famous German storytellers, the Brothers Grimm. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected and published a wide range of traditional folk tales and legends during the early 19th century in their seminal work, „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ or „Kinder- und Hausmärchen.“ The story of „Mr. Korbes“ is classified as tale number 41 in their collection. It is a short, cumulative tale characterized by a series of events in which various animals and objects cause mischief in Mr. Korbes‘ house.

The background to „Mr. Korbes“ is steeped in the oral storytelling traditions of Germany and other European cultures. As with many folk tales, its origins are difficult to pinpoint. The Brothers Grimm collected stories from various sources, which often included local storytellers, friends, and family members. The tales they gathered were a mix of oral traditions and written texts, reflecting the diverse cultural influences of the time.

„Mr. Korbes“ is an example of a cumulative tale, a type of story in which a series of events or characters build upon each other in a repetitive and escalating manner. These tales often use animals or inanimate objects as characters, and they are designed to be easily remembered and retold. Cumulative tales have been a popular form of storytelling across many cultures, and they often include elements of humor and chaos.

In „Mr. Korbes,“ a series of animals and objects are on their way to visit Mr. Korbes, but when they arrive, they find that he is not home. Instead of waiting for him, they decide to create a chaotic scene in his house. Each character contributes to the chaos, culminating in a disaster when Mr. Korbes finally returns home. The story is meant to entertain and amuse readers with its absurdity and exaggerated events.

While „Mr. Korbes“ is not as famous as some other tales from the Brothers Grimm, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the unique storytelling traditions of the time. The story is a testament to the enduring appeal of folk tales and their ability to entertain and enchant readers across generations. The Brothers Grimm were German academics and linguists who dedicated their lives to collecting and preserving folk tales and stories from the oral tradition of their time. Their work has been an essential contribution to the preservation and popularization of European folklore.

The Grimms‘ collection was first published in 1812 and went through multiple editions, with the final edition containing over 200 tales. The stories were intended to be both entertaining and educational, reflecting the cultural and societal values of the time. Many of the tales in their collection, such as „Cinderella,“ „Snow White,“ and „Hansel and Gretel,“ have become universally known and cherished. „Mr. Korbes,“ while not as well-known as some of the other tales in the Grimms‘ collection, is an interesting story due to its unique cast of characters and its surprising ending. The story, like many other Grimm tales, includes anthropomorphic animals and inanimate objects, which were common elements in European folktales.

The tale provides readers with a glimpse into the beliefs and values of the time, such as the importance of morality, the power of cooperation, and the unpredictability of life. The Brothers Grimm’s stories have had a lasting impact on literature and popular culture, and their tales continue to captivate readers and audiences worldwide.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Mr. Korbes“

While „Mr. Korbes“ might seem like a simple, entertaining story at first glance, there are various interpretations that can be derived from this lesser-known fairy tale. Like many of the Brothers Grimm stories, „Mr. Korbes“ can be analyzed from different angles to uncover deeper meanings and messages.

Consequences of Actions: One interpretation of the story centers around the theme of the consequences of one’s actions. In the tale, Mr. Korbes is absent from his home, which leads to the chaos and destruction that unfolds. This can be seen as a cautionary message about the importance of being present and responsible for one’s surroundings, as neglect can lead to disastrous consequences. The story suggests that Herr Korbes‘ cruel and wicked behavior led to his ultimate demise. It can be seen as a cautionary tale, warning readers that immoral actions will eventually catch up with them.

The Power of Community: Another interpretation focuses on the cumulative nature of the story, where the actions of each character build upon one another. This can be seen as a metaphor for the power of community and cooperation, where the actions of many can have a significant impact on the world around them. In this case, the story shows the negative side of this power, with the characters causing chaos together. The various characters in the story, despite being very different from one another, come together and work as a team to teach Herr Korbes a lesson. This could be interpreted as a message about the importance of cooperation and unity in overcoming challenges or adversaries.

The Unpredictability of Life: The chaotic and absurd nature of the events in „Mr. Korbes“ can also be interpreted as a reflection of the unpredictability and randomness of life. Despite the best-laid plans, unexpected events and circumstances can often disrupt our lives. The tale can serve as a reminder to adapt to these unpredictable situations and find humor in the chaos. The story demonstrates that life can be full of surprises and that things don’t always go as planned. Herr Korbes‘ misfortunes were brought on by a series of unforeseen events, which could serve as a reminder to readers that life is unpredictable, and one must be prepared for the unexpected.

The Role of Humor: „Mr. Korbes“ can also be seen as a celebration of the role of humor in storytelling. The absurdity and chaos in the story provide entertainment and amusement, which are essential aspects of many folktales. The tale reminds readers of the importance of laughter and levity in life, even amidst difficult circumstances.

A Morality Tale: Some readers might interpret „Mr. Korbes“ as a morality tale, with Mr. Korbes‘ misfortune serving as a form of punishment for an unknown misdeed. In this interpretation, the story serves as a warning to readers about the consequences of immoral behavior.

Anthropomorphism: The anthropomorphic animals and objects in the story may represent various aspects of human nature or society. For example, the cock and the hen could symbolize leadership and nurturing qualities, while the cat may represent cunning and deceit. The inanimate objects, such as the millstone and the needle, might signify the tools or resources we use in our daily lives that can be employed for good or ill.

Unexpected alliances: The diverse group of characters in the story, including animals and inanimate objects, join forces to bring about Herr Korbes‘ downfall. This could be seen as a reminder that help or support can come from unexpected sources and that even the seemingly insignificant can make a difference.

In conclusion, „Mr. Korbes“ offers various interpretations, each reflecting different aspects of human nature and society. This multifaceted nature is one of the reasons why fairy tales like those from the Brothers Grimm continue to captivate and intrigue readers centuries after their creation. Overall, „Mr. Korbes“ offers various interpretations, each of which can provide a unique perspective on life lessons, human nature, and the power of unity.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Mr. Korbes“

„Mr. Korbes“ is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, in their famous anthology, „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ (originally published as „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ in German). While „Mr. Korbes“ is not as well-known as some other tales from the Brothers Grimm, it has still inspired a few adaptations and references in various forms of media. Here are some examples:

Literary Adaptations: The story has also been adapted in various literary forms, including a retelling by award-winning author Neil Gaiman in his book „Fragile Things“ and a graphic novel adaptation by artist Lorenzo Mattotti in his book „The Raven.“

Children’s Books: One of the most common ways that fairy tales are adapted is through children’s books, and „Mr. Korbes“ is no exception. There have been various illustrated editions of the story published over the years, with different illustrators giving their own unique visual interpretations to the chaotic events of the story. These books often simplify the language and emphasize the humor to make it more appealing to younger audiences. The story has been adapted into several children’s books, including „Mr. Korbes and Other Tales“ by Wilhelm Grimm and „The Rooster Who Went to His Uncle’s Wedding“ by Tomie dePaola.

Animation: While „Mr. Korbes“ has not been directly adapted into a popular animated film or television series, its elements have inspired some animated works. For example, „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage,“ another Grimm tale with a similar cumulative structure, has appeared in a few animated adaptations. The concept of animals and objects causing chaos in a house could potentially be adapted as a short, humorous animated film or as part of an anthology series featuring Grimm’s fairy tales. The tale has been adapted into several animated films, including the Russian short film „Mr. Korbes“ (1988) and the German animated TV series „Simsalagrimm“ (1999-2010).

Theater: Cumulative stories like „Mr. Korbes“ lend themselves well to theatrical adaptations, especially for children’s theater. The repetitive nature of the tale and the use of multiple characters can create engaging and humorous performances that appeal to young audiences. There have been several plays and puppet shows based on Grimm’s fairy tales, and „Mr. Korbes“ could be adapted into a similar format, possibly as part of a larger collection of tales. The story has been adapted into several theater productions, including a puppet theater production by the Berliner Figurentheater (2005) and an adaptation by the children’s theater group, The Wishing Chair (2012).

Art: The Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales have inspired countless artists over the years. While „Mr. Korbes“ may not be as popular as some other tales, it still offers a rich source of inspiration for visual artists. The story’s unique characters and chaotic events can be portrayed through illustrations, paintings, or even sculptures.

While „Mr. Korbes“ has not seen as many adaptations as some other fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, the story’s unique charm and cumulative structure offer a wealth of creative possibilities for those looking to bring this lesser-known tale to life. Overall, the story of „Mr. Korbes“ has proven to be a popular and enduring tale that continues to be adapted and retold for new generations.

Summary of the plot

„Mr. Korbes“ is a short, humorous, and cumulative fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm. The story revolves around a series of animals and objects that come together to visit Mr. Korbes, a man who lives in a house. The tale begins with a rooster and a hen setting off on a journey to Mr. Korbes‘ house. Along the way, they meet various animals and objects, each of which decides to join them on their visit. These characters include a cat, a millstone, an egg, a duck, a pin, and a needle.

When they finally reach Mr. Korbes‘ house, they find that he is not at home. Instead of waiting for him to return, the characters decide to settle into the house and create chaos. The cat sits by the fireplace, the egg wraps itself in a towel, the duck nests in a well, the pin sticks itself into a chair, the needle embeds itself in the cushion, and the millstone positions itself above the door.

When Mr. Korbes finally returns home, he encounters a series of unfortunate events caused by the characters that have taken over his house. The cat scratches his face, the egg splatters on him, the duck splashes him with water, the pin pricks him, and the needle stabs him. As he tries to escape the chaos, the millstone falls on him, crushing him to death. The story of „Mr. Korbes“ is an entertaining and absurd tale that showcases the power of cumulative storytelling and offers a glimpse into the whimsical world of the Brothers Grimm.


„Mr. Korbes“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a cock and a hen who decide to take a journey together. They build a beautiful carriage with four red wheels and harness four mice to it. As they travel, they meet a cat, a millstone, an egg, a duck, a pin, and a needle, who all join them on their journey to the house of Herr Korbes.

Upon arriving at Herr Korbes‘ house, they find that he is not there. The mice park the carriage in the barn, the hen and the cock perch themselves, the cat sits by the hearth, the duck on the well-pole, the egg hides in a towel, the pin embeds itself in a chair cushion, the needle settles in the middle of a pillow on the bed, and the millstone hangs itself above the door.

When Herr Korbes returns home, a series of unfortunate events befalls him: the cat throws ashes in his face, the duck splashes water at him, the egg breaks and sticks to his eyes, the pin pricks him when he sits, and the needle stabs him when he lies down on his bed. Enraged, Herr Korbes attempts to flee, but as he reaches the door, the millstone falls and kills him. The story implies that Herr Korbes must have been a very wicked man to have met such a gruesome end.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 41
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 210
Translations DE, EN, DA, ES, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH,
Readability Index by Björnsson27.1
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index84.6
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level6.3
Gunning Fog Index9.2
Coleman–Liau Index6.7
SMOG Index7.9
Automated Readability Index6.5
Character Count1.997
Letter Count1.509
Sentence Count20
Word Count394
Average Words per Sentence19,70
Words with more than 6 letters29
Percentage of long words7.4%
Number of Syllables476
Average Syllables per Word1,21
Words with three Syllables13
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.3%

Image sources: © Andrea Danti / Shutterstock

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