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Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven
Grimm Märchen

Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 4 min

There was once a King’s son who went out into the world, and he was full of thought and sad. He looked at the sky, which was so beautifully pure and blue, then he sighed, and said, „How well must all be with one up there in heaven!“ Then he saw a poor gray-haired man who was coming along the road towards him, and he spoke to him, and asked, „How can I get to heaven?“ The man answered, „By poverty and humility. Put on my ragged clothes, wander about the world for seven years, and get to know what misery is, take no money, but if thou art hungry ask compassionate hearts for a bit of bread. In this way thou wilt reach heaven.“

Then the King’s son took off his magnificent coat, and wore in its place the beggar’s garment, went out into the wide world, and suffered great misery. He took nothing but a little food, said nothing, but prayed to the Lord to take him into his heaven. When the seven years were over, he returned to his father’s palace, but no one recognized him. He said to the servants, „Go and tell my parents that I have come back again.“ But the servants did not believe it, and laughed and left him standing there. Then said he, „Go and tell it to my brothers that they may come down, for I should so like to see them again.“ The servants would not do that either, but at last one of them went, and told it to the King’s children, but these did not believe it, and did not trouble themselves about it. Then he wrote a letter to his mother, and described to her all his misery, but he did not say that he was her son. So, out of pity, the Queen had a place under the stairs assigned to him, and food taken to him daily by two servants. But one of them was ill-natured and said, „Why should the beggar have the good food?“ and kept it for himself, or gave it to the dogs, and took the weak, wasted-away beggar nothing but water. The other, however, was honest, and took the beggar what was sent to him. It was little, but he could live on it for a while, and all the time he was quite patient, but he grew continually weaker. As, however, his illness increased, he desired to receive the last sacrament. When the host was being elevated down below, all the bells in the town and neighbourhood began to ring. After mass the priest went to the poor man under the stairs, and there he lay dead. In one hand he had a rose, in the other a lily, and beside him was a paper in which was written his history.

When he was buried, a rose grew on one side of his grave, and a lily on the other.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „Poverty and humility lead to heaven“

„Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven“ is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, who were German scholars known for compiling a rich collection of folktales, stories, and legends from European oral tradition. Their collection, called „Children’s and Household Tales“ (or „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“), was first published in 1812 and has undergone several revisions, with the final edition being released in 1857.

The fairy tale „Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven“ tells the story of a poor yet pious young girl who lives a life of suffering and poverty. Despite her hardships, the girl remains humble and kind, always helping others and sharing what little she has. Her unwavering faith and goodness eventually lead her to heaven, where she is richly rewarded for her virtues.

The story’s main themes are humility, faith, and the power of kindness, even in the face of adversity. The story showcases the belief that earthly suffering and poverty are temporary, and that a virtuous life will eventually be rewarded in heaven.

The background of this tale can be traced to the Christian values prevalent in European society during the time the Brothers Grimm were collecting their stories. Christianity often emphasizes the importance of humility, compassion, and faith, and it teaches that these virtues can lead to salvation and eternal happiness. The story’s moral lessons reflect the belief that spiritual wealth is far more important than material wealth, and that a humble, virtuous life can lead to divine rewards.

The Brothers Grimm, as folklorists and linguists, were dedicated to preserving the rich heritage of Germanic and European folklore. Their collection of tales has had a lasting impact on literature and popular culture, and stories like „Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven“ continue to teach valuable lessons about the importance of kindness and humility in our lives.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Poverty and humility lead to heaven“

Various interpretations can be drawn from the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale „Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven.“ Here are a few common interpretations of the story:

The importance of inner values: This story highlights the importance of inner values like kindness, humility, and faith, over material possessions and superficial appearances. It conveys the message that true wealth lies within a person’s character, and that even the poorest individual can be spiritually rich if they embody these virtues.

The power of faith: The protagonist’s unwavering faith in God, despite her difficult circumstances, is an essential element of the story. This serves as a reminder of the power of faith and the importance of maintaining it, even when faced with adversity. The story suggests that those who keep their faith and stay true to their values may receive divine rewards.

Karma and divine justice: The story demonstrates the concept of karma, where good deeds and virtuous behavior are eventually rewarded. The protagonist’s selfless acts and dedication to helping others lead her to heaven, reflecting the idea that divine justice prevails in the end.

The role of suffering in spiritual growth: The protagonist’s life is filled with poverty and suffering, but these hardships ultimately contribute to her spiritual growth and moral development. The story suggests that suffering can be a catalyst for personal growth and can lead to a deeper connection with the divine.

Social critique: The tale can also be interpreted as a critique of societal values that prioritize material wealth and social status over compassion and humility. By highlighting the eventual rewards of the poor and humble protagonist, the story challenges the notion that wealth and status are the most important markers of success and happiness.

Overall, „Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven“ offers a powerful message about the importance of maintaining one’s moral compass and the value of humility, kindness, and faith in the face of adversity. The story also serves as a reminder that true wealth and happiness are not found in material possessions, but in the development of one’s inner virtues and the cultivation of meaningful relationships with others.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Poverty and humility lead to heaven“

Although „Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven“ is a lesser-known tale from the Brothers Grimm, it has inspired various adaptations and retellings over the years. Some of these adaptations take the form of books, films, or stage plays that incorporate elements from the original tale or reinterpret it for contemporary audiences. Here are a few examples:

Children’s books: The story has been adapted into several children’s books with illustrations that bring the tale to life for young readers. These versions may simplify the language and focus on the moral lessons of the story to make it more accessible for a younger audience.

Short films: Some independent filmmakers have created short films based on the fairy tale, often with a modern twist or a unique visual style. For instance, a stop-motion animated short film could retell the story in a creative way, showcasing the protagonist’s journey through hardship and eventually reaching heaven.

Theater productions: The tale has been adapted into stage plays or musicals, which may include new characters or expand on the original storyline. These adaptations often emphasize the themes of humility and faith, and may feature original songs that underscore the story’s message.

Modern retellings: Authors have reinterpreted the tale in various ways, setting the story in contemporary times or giving it a new perspective. For example, a modern retelling could place the protagonist in a big city, struggling to make ends meet while remaining kind and compassionate to those around her. The story might also explore the protagonist’s faith in a more secular context, demonstrating that the core values of kindness and humility are universal, regardless of religious beliefs.

Cross-cultural adaptations: The story has been adapted to reflect different cultural contexts, drawing on the shared themes of kindness, humility, and faith that are present in many cultural traditions. For example, the tale could be retold within the framework of a different religious or spiritual belief system, showcasing the universality of the story’s core values.

While „Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven“ may not be as widely known as other Grimm’s fairy tales, it has inspired various adaptations that explore the story’s key themes and messages. These adaptations continue to engage audiences with the timeless message of kindness, humility, and faith.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Poverty and humility lead to heaven“

The fairy tale „Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven“ has been adapted in various forms over the years, including in literature, film, and theater. Here are a few notable adaptations:

„The Poor Man and the Rich Man“ (1854) by Hans Christian Andersen: This is a retelling of the Grimm Brothers‘ story by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It features a similar plot but with different characters and settings.

„The Good Person of Szechwan“ (1943) by Bertolt Brecht: This play by German playwright Bertolt Brecht is loosely based on the Grimm Brothers‘ story. It follows the character of Shen Te, a poor woman who is rewarded for her generosity, but who also struggles with the challenges of living in a society that values wealth and power.

„The Little Match Girl“ (1845) by Hans Christian Andersen: Although not a direct adaptation of the Grimm Brothers‘ story, this famous tale by Andersen shares similar themes of poverty and suffering, and the importance of compassion and empathy.

„The Beggar’s Opera“ (1728) by John Gay: This satirical musical play is not a direct adaptation of the Grimm Brothers‘ story, but it does explore similar themes of poverty, wealth, and morality. It features a cast of characters from the lower classes of society and critiques the moral values of the upper classes.

„The Princess and the Beggar“ (2010) by Linda Crew: This is a children’s book that is a modern retelling of the Grimm Brothers‘ story. It features a young princess who disguises herself as a beggar to learn more about the lives of the poor and needy, and who ultimately learns the value of humility and compassion.

„The Rich Man and the Shoemaker“ (2007) by Jillian Powell: This is another children’s book that is a modern retelling of the Grimm Brothers‘ story, with updated settings and characters. It follows the story of a wealthy businessman and a poor shoemaker, and emphasizes the importance of kindness and generosity.

Summary of the plot

„Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a poor and pious young girl who endures a life of suffering and poverty. Despite her hardships, she remains kind, humble, and faithful, always helping others and sharing what little she has.

The girl’s life is filled with challenges and sorrow, but she never loses her faith or her humble nature. Over time, her kindness and generosity touch the lives of those around her. Eventually, her unwavering faith and goodness lead her to heaven, where she is richly rewarded for her virtues.

The tale emphasizes the importance of inner values like humility, kindness, and faith, conveying the message that true wealth lies in a person’s character rather than their material possessions. It also serves as a reminder of the power of faith and the idea that suffering and adversity can be catalysts for spiritual growth and personal development.

———————

Backgrounds to fairy tale „Poverty and humility lead to heaven“

„Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven“ is a German fairy tale collected and published by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, in their famous collection „Children’s and Household Tales“ („Kinder- und Hausmärchen“), first published in 1812. The Brothers Grimm were well-known German cultural researchers, linguists, and authors who dedicated their lives to collecting and documenting folklore, ultimately preserving a rich cultural heritage.

The story itself is based on European folklore, drawing on themes and motifs that are present in many other tales of the time. „Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven“ is one of many stories where protagonists undertake challenging journeys, often driven by a moral or spiritual purpose, in order to achieve their goals.

The Brothers Grimm compiled and published their collection of fairy tales during the early 19th century in Germany, a time of rapid industrialization and political change. During this period, there was a growing interest in national identity and cultural heritage. The collection of stories, including „Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven,“ became popular not only in Germany but also in other parts of Europe and around the world.

While many fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm contain elements of fantasy and magic, „Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven“ has a more grounded approach, focusing on themes of humility, self-sacrifice, and spiritual growth. This story, like others in their collection, has remained popular for generations due to its universal themes, timeless message, and the Brothers Grimm’s dedication to preserving traditional folklore.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Poverty and humility lead to heaven“

„Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven“ is a fairy tale with multiple layers of interpretation, highlighting themes such as self-sacrifice, the value of humility, the human struggle, and divine providence.

Self-sacrifice: The King’s son willingly gives up his privileged life to seek entry into heaven. He takes on the hardships and sufferings of a beggar to gain spiritual insight, showing the importance of personal sacrifice in the quest for spiritual growth and fulfillment.

The value of humility: The story emphasizes the importance of humility, as the prince sheds his royal identity and status to live as a beggar. This change allows him to empathize with the less fortunate and experience life from a different perspective, ultimately teaching him to value the virtues of humility and compassion.

The human struggle: The tale depicts the struggles faced by the prince during his seven-year journey, showing that even those from privileged backgrounds can face hardships. The story illustrates the universal nature of human suffering and the potential for personal growth through adversity.

Divine providence: The miraculous ringing of the bells during the prince’s last sacrament and the appearance of the rose and the lily at his grave symbolize divine intervention and approval of his humble and selfless journey. These events suggest that his sacrifices were acknowledged and rewarded by a higher power, reinforcing the importance of maintaining faith and devotion in difficult times.

Overall, the fairy tale „Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven“ conveys a message of spiritual growth and enlightenment through self-sacrifice, humility, and empathy. The story encourages readers to embrace hardships, learn from adversity, and maintain faith in the face of suffering in order to find personal fulfillment and divine grace.

Summary of the plot

„Poverty and Humility Lead to Heaven“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a sad and thoughtful King’s son who longs to know how to reach heaven. One day, he meets a poor, gray-haired man who advises him that the way to heaven is through poverty and humility. The man instructs the prince to wear his ragged clothes, wander the world for seven years, experience misery, and rely on the compassion of others for sustenance. In this way, the prince would reach heaven.

Following the man’s advice, the King’s son exchanges his royal garments for the beggar’s clothes and embarks on a seven-year journey. He endures great hardship and relies solely on the kindness of others for his survival, all the while praying for entry into heaven. Once the seven years pass, he returns to his father’s palace, but no one recognizes him.

Despite his attempts to inform his family of his return, the servants dismiss him, and his siblings pay him no attention. Eventually, he writes a letter to his mother detailing his sufferings but not revealing his identity. The sympathetic Queen assigns him a place under the stairs and orders food to be delivered to him daily by two servants. However, one servant is cruel and keeps the food for himself or gives it to dogs, while the other is kind and delivers what little sustenance he can to the beggar.

As the prince’s health deteriorates, he requests the last sacrament. When it is performed, bells from all over the town and its surroundings miraculously ring. The priest finds him dead, holding a rose in one hand, a lily in the other, and a paper detailing his story nearby. Upon his burial, a rose and a lily grow on either side of his grave, symbolizing his journey of poverty and humility that ultimately led him to heaven.

Informations for scientific analysis


Fairy tale statistics
Value
NumberKHM 204
Translations DE, EN,
Readability Index by Björnsson30.3
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index79.9
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level7.2
Gunning Fog Index9.6
Coleman–Liau Index7
SMOG Index8.1
Automated Readability Index7.1
Character Count2.514
Letter Count1.916
Sentence Count24
Word Count495
Average Words per Sentence20,63
Words with more than 6 letters48
Percentage of long words9.7%
Number of Syllables620
Average Syllables per Word1,25
Words with three Syllables17
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.4%

Image sources: © Andrea Danti / Shutterstock

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