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Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle
Grimm Märchen

Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 9 min

There was once a girl whose father and mother died while she was still a little child. All alone, in a small house at the end of the village, dwelt her godmother, who supported herself by spinning, weaving, and sewing. The old woman took the forlorn child to live with her, kept her to her work, and educated her in all that is good. When the girl was fifteen years old, the old woman became ill, called the child to her bedside, and said, „Dear daughter, I feel my end drawing near. I leave thee the little house, which will protect thee from wind and weather, and my spindle, shuttle, and needle, with which thou canst earn thy bread.“ Then she laid her hands on the girl’s head, blessed her, and said, „Only preserve the love of God in thy heart, and all will go well with thee.“ Thereupon she closed her eyes, and when she was laid in the earth, the maiden followed the coffin, weeping bitterly, and paid her the last mark of respect. And now the maiden lived quite alone in the little house, and was industrious, and span, wove, and sewed, and the blessing of the good old woman was on all that she did. It seemed as if the flax in the room increased of its own accord, and whenever she wove a piece of cloth or carpet, or had made a shirt, she at once found a buyer who paid her amply for it, so that she was in want of nothing, and even had something to share with others. About this time, the son of the King was travelling about the country looking for a bride. He was not to choose a poor one, and did not want to have a rich one. So he said, „She shall be my wife who is the poorest, and at the same time the richest.“ When he came to the village where the maiden dwelt, he inquired, as he did wherever he went, who was the richest and also the poorest girl in the place? They first named the richest. The poorest, they said, was the girl who lived in the small house quite at the end of the village. The rich girl was sitting in all her splendour before the door of her house, and when the prince approached her, she got up, went to meet him, and made him a low curtsey. He looked at her, said nothing, and rode on. When he came to the house of the poor girl, she was not standing at the door, but sitting in her little room. He stopped his horse, and saw through the window, on which the bright sun was shining, the girl sitting at her spinning-wheel, busily spinning. She looked up, and when she saw that the prince was looking in, she blushed all over her face, let her eyes fall, and went on spinning. I do not know whether, just at that moment, the thread was quite even; but she went on spinning until the King’s son had ridden away again. Then she went to the window, opened it, and said, „It is so warm in this room!“ but she still looked after him as long as she could distinguish the white feathers in his hat. Then she sat down to work again in her own room and went on with her spinning, and a saying which the old woman had often repeated when she was sitting at her work, came into her mind, and she sang these words to herself, —

„Spindle, my spindle, haste, haste thee away,
And here to my house bring the wooer, I pray.“

And what do you think happened? The spindle sprang out of her hand in an instant, and out of the door, and when, in her astonishment, she got up and looked after it, she saw that it was dancing out merrily into the open country, and drawing a shining golden thread after it. Before long, it had entirely vanished from her sight. As she had now no spindle, the girl took the weaver’s shuttle in her hand, sat down to her loom, and began to weave. The spindle, however, danced continually onwards, and just as the thread came to an end, reached the prince. „What do I see?“ he cried; „the spindle certainly wants to show me the way!“ turned his horse about, and rode back with the golden thread. The girl was, however, sitting at her work singing,

„Shuttle, my shuttle, weave well this day,
And guide the wooer to me, I pray.“

Immediately the shuttle sprang out of her hand and out by the door. Before the threshold, however, it began to weave a carpet which was more beautiful than the eyes of man had ever yet beheld. Lilies and roses blossomed on both sides of it, and on a golden ground in the centre green branches ascended, under which bounded hares and rabbits, stags and deer stretched their heads in between them, brightly-coloured birds were sitting in the branches above. They lacked nothing but the gift of song. The shuttle leapt hither and thither, and everything seemed to grow of its own accord. As the shuttle had run away, the girl sat down to sew. She held the needle in her hand and sang,

„Needle, my needle, sharp-pointed and fine,
Prepare for a wooer this house of mine.“

Then the needle leapt out of her fingers, and flew everywhere about the room as quick as lightning. It was just as if invisible spirits were working. They covered tables and benches with green cloth in an instant, and the chairs with velvet, and hung the windows with silken curtains. Hardly had the needle put in the last stitch than the maiden saw through the window the white feathers of the prince, whom the spindle had brought thither by the golden thread. He alighted, stepped over the carpet into the house, and when he entered the room, there stood the maiden in her poor garments, but she shone out from within them like a rose surrounded by leaves. „Thou art the poorest and also the richest,“ said he to her. „Come with me, thou shalt be my bride.“ She did not speak, but she gave him her hand. Then he gave her a kiss, led her forth, lifted her on to his horse, and took her to the royal castle, where the wedding was solemnized with great rejoicings. The spindle, shuttle, and needle were preserved in the treasure-chamber, and held in great honour.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“

„Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, first published in their collection titled „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales) in the early 19th century. The tale is of German origin, and as with other Grimm fairy tales, it draws from the rich tapestry of German folklore and oral tradition.

The Brothers Grimm collected and compiled folktales from various sources, including oral traditions, written texts, and personal accounts from friends and acquaintances. Their primary goal was to preserve these stories as part of German cultural heritage and folklore. „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ is no exception and is part of this rich tradition.

The tale centers around a hardworking and virtuous young girl who is skilled in spinning, weaving, and sewing, as indicated by the titular tools of her trade: the spindle, shuttle, and needle. The story features elements of magic and enchantment, as well as the theme of reward for virtue and hard work.

Similar to other fairy tales, „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ shares themes and motifs with other stories from different cultures. The central theme of a virtuous and hardworking protagonist being rewarded for their good deeds is common across many cultures and resonates with audiences worldwide.

„Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ emphasizes the importance of hard work, diligence, and virtue, values that were highly regarded in the society of the time. These themes continue to be relevant today, making the story a timeless example of the moral lessons often found in traditional fairy tales.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“

„Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, but it still contains themes and motifs that offer various interpretations. Here are some interpretations of the story:

Reward for virtue and hard work: The central theme of „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ is the idea that virtue and hard work will be rewarded. The protagonist’s diligence, skill, and good character lead to her receiving a magical gift and, ultimately, a happy ending. This theme emphasizes the importance of maintaining one’s values and putting in the effort to achieve success.

The transformative power of love: The story highlights the power of love to transform people’s lives. The prince in the tale is moved by the protagonist’s beauty and virtue, and his love for her leads to their marriage and the protagonist’s rise in status. This interpretation emphasizes the role of love in personal growth and happiness.

The role of fate and destiny: The magical nature of the spindle, shuttle, and needle in the story suggests the presence of fate or destiny. The protagonist’s fate is seemingly guided by the magical tools, which ultimately lead her to a happy life with the prince. This interpretation explores the idea that some events in life are predestined or guided by unseen forces.

The value of traditional skills: The protagonist’s proficiency in spinning, weaving, and sewing highlights the importance of these traditional skills, which were highly valued in the society of the time. By emphasizing the protagonist’s expertise in these crafts, the story serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving and valuing traditional skills and knowledge.

Empowerment through self-sufficiency: The protagonist’s ability to create her own clothes and provide for herself can be seen as a form of empowerment. By mastering these skills, she is able to improve her life and ultimately find happiness. This interpretation suggests that self-sufficiency and independence can be empowering and transformative.

Overall, „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ offers various interpretations that explore themes such as reward for virtue and hard work, the transformative power of love, fate and destiny, the value of traditional skills, and empowerment through self-sufficiency. While it may not be as well-known as other Brothers Grimm fairy tales, it still provides valuable insights and reflections on human nature and the values that shape our lives.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“

„Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, and as a result, it has not been adapted as widely as some of their more famous tales. However, there are a few adaptations and works that have drawn inspiration from the story:

Children’s books: As with many other fairy tales, „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ has been retold and adapted in various children’s books, often with simplified language and illustrations to make the story more accessible to young readers. Some of these adaptations may take creative liberties with the plot or characters but generally retain the core themes and motifs of the original tale.

Fairy tale anthologies: „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ has been included in numerous fairy tale anthologies and collections, alongside other stories from the Brothers Grimm and other authors. These collections often contain retellings or adaptations of the original stories, sometimes with updated language or additional commentary to provide context and analysis.

Theater and storytelling events: While there may not be many mainstream theatrical adaptations of „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle,“ local and amateur theatre groups or storytelling events have occasionally included adaptations of the story as part of a larger program of fairy tales or Brothers Grimm stories. These performances may use various storytelling techniques to bring the story to life.

Art and illustration: Artists and illustrators have occasionally created works inspired by „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle,“ often focusing on the protagonist and her magical tools. These visual adaptations can be found in art exhibitions, online galleries, or as part of illustrated collections of fairy tales.

Thematic influence: While not a direct adaptation, the themes and motifs found in „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ may have influenced other works, such as novels, films, or television shows that feature hardworking and virtuous protagonists who are rewarded for their efforts.

Although „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ hasn’t been adapted as widely as some other Brothers Grimm fairy tales, it still remains an interesting and engaging story that can be appreciated by audiences of all ages. The tale’s themes and motifs continue to inspire and influence other works, demonstrating its enduring appeal and relevance in the realm of folklore and storytelling.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“

„Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ is a classic fairy tale that has been adapted and retold in various forms throughout the years. Here are some examples of adaptations of the story:

„The Three Gifts“ (1955) – This animated short film by Disney retells the story of „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ with the addition of music and dance.

„The Princess and the Magic Thimble“ (1989) – This children’s book by Margaret Greaves is a retelling of the story with the addition of a magic thimble.

„Spindle’s End“ (2000) – This novel by Robin McKinley is a reimagining of „Sleeping Beauty,“ with the main character, Katriona, being gifted a spindle, shuttle, and needle and discovering her own magical abilities.

„The Thimble and the Throne“ (2009) – This children’s book by Patricia St. John is a retelling of the story with the addition of a thimble that also has magical powers.

„Once Upon a Time“ (2011-2018) – This television series included several adaptations of „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ throughout its run, with the main character, Emma Swan, being gifted a magical needle that allows her to see into the future.

„The Gifts of the Magician“ (2021) – This short film by Short Circuit on Disney+ retells the story of „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ with a modern twist, as a young girl named Maya receives a magical sewing machine that leads her on an unexpected adventure.

Overall, „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ has proven to be a timeless and adaptable tale, inspiring countless adaptations and retellings across various media.

Summary of the plot

„Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a hardworking and virtuous young girl who is skilled in spinning, weaving, and sewing. Here is a summary of the plot:

A poor widow lives with her only daughter, who is exceptionally talented in spinning, weaving, and sewing. The widow is very proud of her daughter’s skills and teaches her the importance of being diligent and hardworking. The girl’s three magical tools – the spindle, shuttle, and needle – help her create beautiful clothes and linens that make her famous throughout the land.

One day, the king’s son is passing through the village and sees the girl spinning at her window. He is captivated by her beauty and grace and asks her to marry him. She agrees, and they get married in a grand ceremony. After the wedding, the girl brings her magical tools with her to the palace.

At the palace, the spindle, shuttle, and needle continue to create beautiful garments for the girl, and her fame grows even more. One day, as she is spinning, the spindle leaps out of her hand and rolls out of the palace. The girl, curious about where the spindle is going, follows it as it leads her through a forest.

In the forest, the girl comes across a poor, dilapidated house where an old woman lives. The spindle has stopped at the door of the house, and the girl realizes that the old woman is in great need. She uses her magical tools to spin, weave, and sew beautiful clothes and linens for the old woman, transforming her life.

The king’s son, searching for his wife, eventually finds her at the old woman’s house. He is overjoyed to see the kindness and generosity his wife has shown to the old woman, and they return to the palace together. The girl continues to use her magical tools for good, and the couple lives happily ever after.

In summary, „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ is a heartwarming tale that emphasizes the importance of hard work, diligence, and virtue. The protagonist’s exceptional skills, coupled with her kind and generous nature, ultimately lead her to a happy life with the prince.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“

„Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ is a fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, two German scholars named Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The story appears in their famous collection of fairy tales, known as „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ or „Children’s and Household Tales“ (in German: „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“), which was first published in 1812.

The Brothers Grimm were part of the Romantic movement in the early 19th century, which was characterized by an interest in folklore, mythology, and the cultural heritage of their country. They aimed to collect and preserve the traditional stories of the German people and spent years traveling through rural areas, gathering tales from different regions.

Many of the tales in their collection, including „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle,“ have their roots in ancient oral traditions that predate the Grimms‘ work by centuries. These stories were passed down through generations and often changed and evolved over time, reflecting the values and beliefs of the society in which they were told.

While the Brothers Grimm are best known for their collection of fairy tales, they were also influential linguists and philologists. They made significant contributions to the study of the German language, as well as the development of the field of comparative mythology, which examines the similarities and differences between the myths and stories of different cultures.

„Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ has been translated into more than 100 languages and remains one of the most widely read and beloved collections of fairy tales in the world. The stories have inspired countless adaptations in literature, film, television, and other forms of popular culture, and their themes and messages continue to resonate with audiences today.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“

„Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ offers several interpretations, as with many fairy tales. Here are a few possible interpretations:

The value of hard work and determination: The orphan girl’s persistence in learning and practicing her godmother’s craft of spinning, weaving, and sewing allows her to create quality work. Her dedication to her craft ultimately leads to her meeting the prince, and her fortune.

Humility and inner beauty: The tale highlights the importance of humility and inner beauty over material wealth and superficial appearances. The prince is drawn to the orphan girl because of her modesty and genuine nature, in contrast to the rich girl, who is arrogant and unappealing.

The power of faith: The godmother’s blessing and the girl’s unwavering faith in God play a significant role in the story. The girl’s success and happiness stem from her trust in God and her adherence to her godmother’s teachings.

Magical intervention and destiny: The magical elements in the story, such as the animated spindle, shuttle, and needle, serve as agents of fate, guiding the girl towards her destiny. Their actions lead the prince to the girl and create a beautiful setting for their meeting, emphasizing the idea that destiny and magic can come together to create a happy ending.

The concept of „poorest and richest“: The prince’s quest for a bride who is both the poorest and richest can be seen as a metaphor for seeking someone who possesses true wealth in terms of character, love, and humility, rather than material possessions. The orphan girl embodies this concept, as she is poor in worldly goods but rich in virtues and talents.

Summary of the plot

„Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a young orphan girl who lives with her godmother, a spinster who supports them by spinning, weaving, and sewing. When the godmother dies, she leaves the girl her house and tools, blessing her with success as long as she keeps God in her heart. The girl continues her godmother’s work, and her creations are so excellent that she becomes well-off.

Meanwhile, a prince is seeking a bride who is both the poorest and richest girl in the land. When he comes to the village where the girl lives, he meets the richest girl, who is arrogant and unappealing. He then sees the orphan girl spinning in her house, and is drawn to her humble beauty.

The girl sings songs to her spindle, shuttle, and needle, requesting them to bring her a wooer. They come to life and perform magical feats to fulfill her wish: the spindle weaves a golden thread leading the prince to her, the shuttle creates a magnificent carpet, and the needle decorates the house beautifully.

The prince recognizes the girl as both the poorest and richest and proposes to her. They marry and live happily at the royal castle, where the spindle, shuttle, and needle are honored as treasures. The tale conveys the message that humility, hard work, and faith can lead to great success and happiness.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 188
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 585
TranslationsDE, EN, ES, FR, PT, HU, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson34.2
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index79.6
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level7.3
Gunning Fog Index9.5
Coleman–Liau Index8.2
SMOG Index7.8
Automated Readability Index8.2
Character Count5.832
Letter Count4.497
Sentence Count53
Word Count1.103
Average Words per Sentence20,81
Words with more than 6 letters148
Percentage of long words13.4%
Number of Syllables1.384
Average Syllables per Word1,25
Words with three Syllables33
Percentage Words with three Syllables3%
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