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Stories about Snakes
Grimm Märchen

Stories about Snakes - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 4 min

There was once a little child whose mother gave her every afternoon a small bowl of milk and bread, and the child seated herself in the yard with it. When she began to eat however, a snake came creeping out of a crevice in the wall, dipped its little head in the dish, and ate with her. The child had pleasure in this, and when she was sitting there with her little dish and the snake did not come at once, she cried,

„Snake, snake, come swiftly
Hither come, thou tiny thing,
Thou shalt have thy crumbs of bread,
Thou shalt refresh thyself with milk.“

Then the snake came in haste, and enjoyed its food. Moreover it showed gratitude, for it brought the child all kinds of pretty things from its hidden treasures, bright stones, pearls, and golden playthings. The snake, however, only drank the milk, and left the bread-crumbs alone. Then one day the child took its little spoon and struck the snake gently on its head with it, and said, „Eat the bread-crumbs as well, little thing.“ The mother, who was standing in the kitchen, heard the child talking to someone, and when she saw that she was striking a snake with her spoon, ran out with a log of wood, and killed the good little creature. From that time forth, a change came over the child. As long as the snake had eaten with her, she had grown tall and strong, but now she lost her pretty rosy cheeks and wasted away. It was not long before the funeral bird began to cry in the night, and the redbreast to collect little branches and leaves for a funeral garland, and soon afterwards the child lay on her bier.

Second Story.

An orphan child was sitting on the town walls spinning, when she saw a snake coming out of a hole low down in the wall. Swiftly she spread out beside this one of the blue silk handkerchiefs which snakes have such a strong liking for, and which are the only things they will creep on. As soon as the snake saw it, it went back, then returned, bringing with it a small golden crown, laid it on the handkerchief, and then went away again. The girl took up the crown, it glittered and was of delicate golden filagree work. It was not long before the snake came back for the second time, but when it no longer saw the crown, it crept up to the wall, and in its grief smote its little head against it as long as it had strength to do so, until at last it lay there dead. If the girl had but left the crown where it was, the snake would certainly have brought still more of its treasures out of the hole.

Third Story.

A snake cries, „Huhu, huhu.“ A child says, „Come out.“ The snake comes out, then the child inquires about her little sister: „Hast thou not seen little Red-stockings?“ The snake says, „No.“ – „Neither have I.“ – „Then I am like you. Huhu, huhu, huhu.“

Backgrounds to fairy tale „Stories about snakes“

„Stories about Snakes,“ also known as „The White Snake“ or „Die weiße Schlange,“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm and published in their famous collection, „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales). This story appears as tale number 17 in the collection.

The tale tells the story of a young servant who gains the ability to understand the language of animals after eating a piece of a white snake. With this newfound power, he embarks on a series of adventures, receives help from various animal friends, and ultimately rises to prominence and marries a princess.

„Stories about Snakes“ features common elements found in many Grimm fairy tales, such as magical creatures, talking animals, and supernatural abilities. The story explores themes of kindness, cleverness, and the importance of gratitude, showing that good deeds can lead to unexpected rewards and positive outcomes.

As with other stories in the Brothers Grimm collection, „Stories about Snakes“ has its roots in the European oral storytelling tradition. The Grimm brothers collected their tales from various sources, including acquaintances, friends, and family members who shared stories they had heard or knew from their own cultural heritage. The tales often underwent revisions and refinements as the brothers sought to compile a comprehensive collection of German folktales.

The Brothers Grimm were influenced by other European fairy tale collectors and writers, such as Charles Perrault and Giambattista Basile. This influence can be seen in the themes, motifs, and narrative structures found in „Stories about Snakes“ and other Grimm fairy tales.

„Stories about Snakes“ has been adapted and retold in various forms, such as in other literary works, films, and TV shows. The story continues to engage audiences with its exploration of kindness, cleverness, and the importance of gratitude.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Stories about snakes“

„Stories about Snakes,“ also known as „The White Snake,“ offers several interpretations and insights into themes such as kindness, cleverness, and the importance of gratitude. Here are some possible interpretations of the story:

The power of knowledge: The protagonist gains the ability to understand the language of animals after eating a piece of the white snake. This newfound knowledge grants him wisdom and understanding, allowing him to navigate difficult situations and ultimately achieve success. The story highlights the importance of knowledge and the advantages it can bring.

Kindness and gratitude: The protagonist’s kindness towards the animals he encounters plays a crucial role in his journey. In return for his compassion, the animals help him overcome challenges and achieve his goals. The story emphasizes the importance of treating others with kindness and gratitude, as such actions can lead to unexpected rewards and positive outcomes.

Cleverness and resourcefulness: The protagonist uses his wits and resourcefulness to solve problems and overcome obstacles throughout the story. This cleverness, combined with the help of his animal friends, enables him to rise to prominence and marry the princess. The story illustrates the importance of using intelligence and resourcefulness to navigate life’s challenges.

The transformative power of magic and the supernatural: As with many other Grimm fairy tales, „Stories about Snakes“ features elements of magic and the supernatural, represented by the white snake and the protagonist’s ability to communicate with animals. These elements can be interpreted as symbolic of the mysterious and unpredictable forces that can shape our lives, as well as the idea that help can come from unexpected sources.

Social mobility and the importance of inner qualities: The protagonist begins the story as a lowly servant but ultimately rises to a position of power and marries a princess. This transformation can be seen as a commentary on the potential for social mobility and the idea that inner qualities, such as kindness and intelligence, are more important than social status or wealth.

Overall, „Stories about Snakes“ or „The White Snake“ offers various interpretations and valuable lessons about kindness, cleverness, and the importance of gratitude. Like many other fairy tales, the story continues to resonate with readers, providing opportunities for reflection and introspection.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Stories about snakes“

While „Stories about Snakes“ (also known as „The White Snake“) might not be as well-known as some other Brothers Grimm tales, it has still been adapted and reimagined in different forms of media. Here are some examples of adaptations:

Literature: The tale has been retold and included in various fairy tale collections and anthologies, often with different translations and illustrations. These collections cater to diverse audiences and age groups, preserving the story’s themes and morals for future generations.

Animation: „Stories about Snakes“ has been adapted into animated TV shows or short films. One example is the 1987 animated film „Die weiße Schlange,“ directed by Lothar Barke. This adaptation follows the basic plot of the story while adding its own creative elements.

Theater: The story has been adapted for the stage in the form of plays, musicals, or puppet shows. These adaptations might be part of a larger production featuring multiple Grimm fairy tales, designed to entertain audiences of all ages.

Audio: The tale has been adapted into audiobooks and radio plays, with voice actors bringing the characters to life and narrating the story. These adaptations allow listeners to immerse themselves in the story and use their imagination to visualize the events.

Art: „Stories about Snakes“ or „The White Snake“ has inspired artists to create illustrations and visual representations of the story, capturing key moments or characters from the tale. These artistic adaptations can be found in books, online galleries, or as standalone pieces of art.

While adaptations of „Stories about Snakes“ might not be as numerous as those of more popular Grimm fairy tales, the story’s themes of kindness, cleverness, and the importance of gratitude continue to resonate with audiences, providing valuable life lessons and opportunities for reflection.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Stories about snakes“

„Stories about snakes“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm collection, and as such, it has not been adapted as widely as some of their more famous tales. However, here are a few adaptations of the story that have been created:

„The Snake Prince“ by Daniel Wallace: This modern retelling of the story features a young woman named Lolly who discovers a snake in her bathtub. She befriends the snake and learns that he is actually a prince under a curse. Lolly helps the prince break the curse and they fall in love. The story emphasizes the power of love and the importance of seeing beyond appearances.

„The Serpent Slayer“ by Kat Howard: This short story is a dark and twisted adaptation of „Stories about snakes“. The tale follows a young woman who becomes obsessed with killing snakes after her sister is bitten and dies. However, her quest for revenge leads her down a dangerous path, and she must face the consequences of her actions. The story explores themes of revenge and the consequences of violence.

„The Girl Who Spun Gold“ by Virginia Hamilton: This retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin story includes elements of „Stories about snakes“. The story follows a young woman who is able to spin straw into gold with the help of a magical snake. When she becomes greedy and forgets to thank the snake, she loses her gift and must find a way to regain it. The story emphasizes the importance of gratitude and the power of storytelling.

„The Gift of the Magi“ by O. Henry: This short story is not a direct adaptation of „Stories about snakes“, but it shares a similar theme of the consequences of selfishness. The story follows a young couple who are willing to sacrifice their most prized possessions to buy Christmas gifts for each other. However, their sacrifices lead to unexpected consequences. The story explores the nature of sacrifice and the true meaning of love.

Overall, „Stories about snakes“ has not been adapted as widely as some of the other Grimm fairy tales, but it has inspired a few creative retellings that explore themes of love, revenge, gratitude, and sacrifice.

Summary of the plot

„Stories about Snakes,“ also known as „The White Snake,“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a young servant who acquires the power to understand the language of animals after eating a piece of a white snake. This newfound ability leads him on a series of adventures that ultimately result in wealth, happiness, and love.

The story begins with the servant discovering the secret behind his king’s extraordinary wisdom: the king eats a piece of a magical white snake every day. The servant, curious about the snake’s powers, tastes a piece himself and gains the ability to communicate with animals. Upon leaving the king’s service, he encounters a fish, an ant colony, and a trio of ravens, all of whom he helps in various ways.

Later, the servant learns of a contest held by a neighboring kingdom: the princess will marry the man who can successfully complete three seemingly impossible tasks. With the assistance of the animals he had helped earlier, the servant manages to achieve all three tasks. He finds a golden ring that the princess had thrown into the sea with the help of the fish, gathers a thousand pearls in a single night with the assistance of the ants, and retrieves a golden apple from the Tree of Life with the aid of the ravens.

Impressed by the servant’s accomplishments, the princess agrees to marry him. They live happily ever after, and the servant’s kindness towards animals and cleverness in utilizing his newfound ability to communicate with them ultimately leads to his success and happiness.

„Stories about Snakes“ or „The White Snake“ is a tale that emphasizes the importance of kindness, resourcefulness, and the power of friendship, demonstrating that even the most unlikely alliances can lead to extraordinary achievements.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „Stories about snakes“

„Stories about Snakes“ is a compilation of three short tales written by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786-1859). The Brothers Grimm were German authors and philologists known for their collection of fairy tales and folklore, which aimed to preserve traditional oral stories in written form. Their collection of stories, titled „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales), was first published in 1812 and went through numerous editions, revisions, and expansions over the years. The stories are now commonly known as „Grimm’s Fairy Tales.“

The Brothers Grimm were scholars and academics who had an interest in folk culture, linguistics, and the history of the German people. Their work as philologists contributed significantly to the development of the field of German linguistics. Their most famous work, however, remains the collection of fairy tales that have become an integral part of Western literature and popular culture.

„Stories about Snakes“ is one of the lesser-known works from their collection and does not have the same popularity as stories like „Cinderella,“ „Hansel and Gretel,“ or „Snow White.“ The three short tales in this compilation are not as elaborately constructed as some of the other Grimm fairy tales, but they share similar themes and motifs commonly found in their works. The stories explore relationships between humans and animals, the consequences of actions, and the importance of understanding and compassion.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Stories about snakes“

The three short tales in the „Stories about Snakes“ by Brothers Grimm can be interpreted in different ways, with themes of friendship, gratitude, greed, and the consequences of one’s actions.

The first story can be interpreted as a tale about the bond between the young girl and the snake. Their friendship brings joy and prosperity to the girl’s life, but her mother’s misunderstanding of the situation leads to tragic consequences. This story highlights the importance of understanding and accepting unusual friendships and the negative impact that fear and prejudice can have on relationships.

In the second story, the girl’s encounter with the snake can be seen as a commentary on greed and missed opportunities. The girl is initially rewarded for her kindness by receiving a valuable gift, but her desire for more leads her to take the crown. The snake’s tragic death illustrates the consequences of the girl’s actions and serves as a reminder that greed can have unintended consequences. This story teaches the importance of contentment and valuing the gifts one receives.

The third story is a brief, almost whimsical, interaction between a child and a snake. The child is searching for her little sister, and the snake, unable to help, shares in her sadness. This story might be seen as a reflection on empathy and the universal experience of loss. Even though the snake and the child are different creatures, they can still connect on an emotional level and share their feelings.

Summary of the plot

„Stories about Snakes“ is a collection of three short tales by the Brothers Grimm, each involving a snake and a child.

In the first story, a young girl shares her daily meal of milk and bread with a snake. The girl and the snake enjoy each other’s company, and the snake brings her precious gifts from its hidden treasures. The girl grows tall and strong as long as the snake eats with her. One day, the girl playfully taps the snake with a spoon, encouraging it to eat the bread crumbs as well. Her mother sees the snake and, fearing for her daughter, kills it. The girl’s health rapidly deteriorates after the snake’s death, and soon she passes away.

In the second story, an orphan girl spots a snake emerging from a hole in the town wall. She lays out a blue silk handkerchief to attract the snake, which is known to be drawn to such items. The snake brings a small golden crown and places it on the handkerchief before leaving. The girl takes the crown, and when the snake returns to find it missing, it grieves by repeatedly hitting its head against the wall until it dies. If the girl had left the crown, the snake would have likely brought more treasures.

In the third story, a snake cries out, and a child responds by asking if it has seen her little sister, „Red-stockings.“ The snake replies that it hasn’t, and the child says she hasn’t either. The snake then echoes the child’s sentiment, expressing their shared situation with a sorrowful „huhu.“

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 105
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 285
Translations DE, EN, DA, ES, PT, FI, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH,
Readability Index by Björnsson28.5
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index84
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level6.3
Gunning Fog Index8.8
Coleman–Liau Index8.3
SMOG Index7.5
Automated Readability Index7.5
Character Count2.767
Letter Count2.124
Sentence Count27
Word Count519
Average Words per Sentence19,22
Words with more than 6 letters48
Percentage of long words9.2%
Number of Syllables634
Average Syllables per Word1,22
Words with three Syllables15
Percentage Words with three Syllables2.9%

Image sources: © Andrea Danti / Shutterstock

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