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Strong Hans
Strong Hans Märchen

Strong Hans - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 19 min

There were once a man and a woman who had an only child, and lived quite alone in a solitary valley. It came to pass that the mother once went into the wood to gather branches of fir, and took with her little Hans, who was just two years old. As it was spring-time, and the child took pleasure in the many-coloured flowers, she went still further onwards with him into the forest. Suddenly two robbers sprang out of the thicket, seized the mother and child, and carried them far away into the black forest, where no one ever came from one year’s end to another. The poor woman urgently begged the robbers to set her and her child free, but their hearts were made of stone, they would not listen to her prayers and entreaties, and drove her on farther by force. After they had worked their way through bushes and briars for about two miles, they came to a rock where there was a door, at which the robbers knocked and it opened at once. They had to go through a long dark passage, and at last came into a great cavern, which was lighted by a fire which burnt on the hearth. On the wall hung swords, sabres, and other deadly weapons which gleamed in the light, and in the midst stood a black table at which four other robbers were sitting gambling, and the captain sat at the head of it. As soon as he saw the woman he came and spoke to her, and told her to be at ease and have no fear, they would do nothing to hurt her, but she must look after the house-keeping, and if she kept everything in order, she should not fare ill with them. Thereupon they gave her something to eat, and showed her a bed where she might sleep with her child. The woman stayed many years with the robbers, and Hans grew tall and strong. His mother told him stories, and taught him to read an old book of tales about knights which she found in the cave. When Hans was nine years old, he made himself a strong club out of a branch of fir, hid it behind the bed, and then went to his mother and said, „Dear mother, pray tell me who is my father. I must and will know.“ His mother was silent and would not tell him, that he might not become home-sick; moreover she knew that the godless robbers would not let him go away, but it almost broke her heart that Hans should not go to his father. In the night, when the robbers came home from their robbing expedition, Hans brought out his club, stood before the captain, and said, „I now wish to know who is my father, and if thou dost not at once tell me I will strike thee down.“ Then the captain laughed, and gave Hans such a box on the ear that he rolled under the table. Hans got up again, held his tongue, and thought, „I will wait another year and then try again, perhaps I shall do better then.“ When the year was over, he brought out his club again, rubbed the dust off it, looked at it well, and said, „It is a stout strong club.“ At night the robbers came home, drank one jug of wine after another, and their heads began to be heavy. Then Hans brought out his club, placed himself before the captain, and asked him who was his father? But the captain again gave him such a vigorous box on the ear that Hans rolled under the table, but it was not long before he was up again, and beat the captain and the robbers so with his club, that they could no longer move either their arms or their legs. His mother stood in a corner full of admiration of his bravery and strength. When Hans had done his work, he went to his mother, and said, „Now I have shown myself to be in earnest, but now I must also know who is my father.“ – „Dear Hans,“ answered the mother, „come, we will go and seek him until we find him.“ She took from the captain the key to the entrance-door, and Hans fetched a great meal-sack and packed into it gold and silver, and whatsoever else he could find that was beautiful, until it was full, and then he took it on his back. They left the cave, but how Hans did open his eyes when he came out of the darkness into daylight, and saw the green forest, and the flowers, and the birds, and the morning sun in the sky. He stood there and wondered at everything just as if he had not been very wise. His mother looked for the way home, and when they had walked for a couple of hours, they got safely into their lonely valley and to their little house. The father was sitting in the doorway. He wept for joy when he recognized his wife and heard that Hans was his son, for he had long regarded them both as dead. But Hans, although he was not twelve years old, was a head taller than his father. They went into the little room together, but Hans had scarcely put his sack on the bench by the stove, than the whole house began to crack the bench broke down and then the floor, and the heavy sack fell through into the cellar. „God save us!“ cried the father, „what’s that? Now thou hast broken our little house to pieces!“ – „Don’t grow any grey hairs about that, dear father,“ answered Hans; „there, in that sack, is more than is wanting for a new house.“ The father and Hans at once began to build a new house; to buy cattle and land, and to keep a farm. Hans ploughed the fields, and when he followed the plough and pushed it into the ground, the bullocks had scarcely any need to draw. The next spring, Hans said, „Keep all the money and get a walking-stick that weighs a hundred-weight made for me that I may go a-travelling.“ When the wished-for stick was ready, he left his father’s house, went forth, and came to a deep, dark forest. There he heard something crunching and cracking, looked round, and saw a fir-tree which was wound round like a rope from the bottom to the top, and when he looked upwards he saw a great fellow who had laid hold of the tree and was twisting it like a willow-wand. „Hollo!“ cried Hans, „what art thou doing up there?“ the fellow replied, „I got some faggots together yesterday and am twisting a rope for them.“ – „That is what I like,“ thought Hans, „he has some strength,“ and he called to him, „Leave that alone, and come with me.“ The fellow came down, and he was taller by a whole head than Hans, and Hans was not little. „Thy name is now Fir-twister,“ said Hans to him. Thereupon they went further and heard something knocking and hammering with such force that the ground shook at every stroke. Shortly afterwards they came to a mighty rock, before which a giant was standing and striking great pieces of it away with his fist. When Hans asked what he was about, he answered, „At night, when I want to sleep, bears, wolves, and other vermin of that kind come, which sniff and snuffle about me and won’t let me rest. So I want to build myself a house and lay myself inside it, so that I may have some peace.“ – „Oh, indeed,“ thought Hans, „I can make use of this one also;“ and said to him, „Leave thy house-building alone, and go with me; thou shalt be called Rock-splitter.“ The man consented, and they all three roamed through the forest, and wherever they went the wild beasts were terrified, and ran away from them. In the evening they came to an old deserted castle, went up into it, and laid themselves down in the hall to sleep. The next morning Hans went into the garden. It had run quite wild, and was full of thorns and bushes. And as he was thus walking round about, a wild boar rushed at him; he, however, gave it such a blow with his club that it fell directly. He took it on his shoulders and carried it in, and they put it on a spit, roasted it, and enjoyed themselves. Then they arranged that each day, in turn, two should go out hunting, and one should stay at home, and cook nine pounds of meat for each of them. Fir-twister stayed at home the first, and Hans and Rock-splitter went out hunting. When Fir-twister was busy cooking, a little shrivelled-up old mannikin came to him in the castle, and asked for some meat. „Be off, sly hypocrite,“ he answered, „thou needest no meat.“ But how astonished Fir-twister was when the little insignificant dwarf sprang up at him, and belaboured him so with his fists that he could not defend himself, but fell on the ground and gasped for breath! The dwarf did not go away until he had thoroughly vented his anger on him. When the two others came home from hunting, Fir-twister said nothing to them of the old mannikin and of the blows which he himself had received, and thought, „When they stay at home, they may just try their chance with the little scrubbing-brush;“ and the mere thought of that gave him pleasure already.

The next day Rock-splitter stayed at home, and he fared just as Fir-twister had done, he was very ill-treated by the dwarf because he was not willing to give him any meat. When the others came home in the evening, Fir-twister easily saw what he had suffered, but both kept silence, and thought, „Hans also must taste some of that soup.“

Hans, who had to stay at home the next day, did his work in the kitchen as it had to be done, and as he was standing skimming the pan, the dwarf came and without more ado demanded a bit of meat. Then Hans thought, „He is a poor wretch, I will give him some of my share, that the others may not run short,“ and handed him a bit. When the dwarf had devoured it, he again asked for some meat, and good-natured Hans gave it to him, and told him it was a handsome piece, and that he was to be content with it. But the dwarf begged again for the third time. „Thou art shameless!“ said Hans, and gave him none. Then the malicious dwarf wanted to spring on him and treat him as he had treated Fir-twister and Rock-splitter, but he had got to the wrong man. Hans, without exerting himself much, gave him a couple of blows which made him jump down the castle steps. Hans was about to run after him, but fell right over him, for he was so tall. When he rose up again, the dwarf had got the start of him. Hans hurried after him as far as the forest, and saw him slip into a hole in the rock. Hans now went home, but he had marked the spot. When the two others came back, they were surprised that Hans was so well. He told them what had happened, and then they no longer concealed how it had fared with them. Hans laughed and said, „It served you quite right; why were you so greedy with your meat? It is a disgrace that you who are so big should have let yourselves be beaten by the dwarf.“ Thereupon they took a basket and a rope, and all three went to the hole in the rock into which the dwarf had slipped, and let Hans and his club down in the basket. When Hans had reached the bottom, he found a door, and when he opened it a maiden was sitting there who was lovely as any picture, nay, so beautiful that no words can express it, and by her side sat the dwarf and grinned at Hans like a sea-cat! She, however, was bound with chains, and looked so mournfully at him that Hans felt great pity for her, and thought to himself, „Thou must deliver her out of the power of the wicked dwarf,“ and gave him such a blow with his club that he fell down dead. Immediately the chains fell from the maiden, and Hans was enraptured with her beauty. She told him she was a King’s daughter whom a savage count had stolen away from her home, and imprisoned there among the rocks, because she would have nothing to say to him. The count had, however, set the dwarf as a watchman, and he had made her bear misery and vexation enough. And now Hans placed the maiden in the basket and had her drawn up. The basket came down again, but Hans did not trust his two companions, and thought, „They have already shown themselves to be false, and told me nothing about the dwarf; who knows what design they may have against me?“ So he put his club in the basket, and it was lucky he did. For when the basket was half-way up, they let it fall again, and if Hans had really been sitting in it he would have been killed. But now he did not know how he was to work his way out of the depths, and when he turned it over and over in his mind he found no counsel. „It is indeed sad,“ said he to himself, „that I have to waste away down here,“ and as he was thus walking backwards and forwards, he once more came to the little chamber where the maiden had been sitting, and saw that the dwarf had a ring on his finger which shone and sparkled. Then he drew it off and put it on, and when he turned it round on his finger, he suddenly heard something rustle over his head. He looked up and saw spirits of the air hovering above, who told him he was their master, and asked what his desire might be? Hans was at first struck dumb, but afterwards he said that they were to carry him above again. They obeyed instantly, and it was just as if he had flown up himself. When, however, he was above again, he found no one in sight. Fir-twister and Rock-splitter had hurried away, and had taken the beautiful maiden with them. But Hans turned the ring, and the spirits of the air came and told him that the two were on the sea. Hans ran and ran without stopping, until he came to the sea-shore, and there far, far out on the water, he perceived a little boat in which his faithless comrades were sitting; and in fierce anger he leapt, without thinking what he was doing, club in hand into the water, and began to swim, but the club, which weighed a hundredweight, dragged him deep down until he was all but drowned. Then in the very nick of time he turned his ring, and immediately the spirits of the air came and bore him as swift as lightning into the boat. He swung his club and gave his wicked comrades the reward they merited and threw them into the water, and then he sailed with the beautiful maiden, who had been in the greatest alarm, and whom he delivered for the second time, home to her father and mother, and married her, and all rejoiced exceedingly.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „Strong Hans“

„Strong Hans“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm’s collection „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales). The tale, like many others in the collection, is rooted in German and European folklore and oral tradition.

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, collected their stories from various sources, including oral traditions, written texts, and personal accounts from friends and acquaintances. Their aim was to preserve these stories as part of Germany’s cultural heritage and folklore. „Strong Hans“ is an example of one such tale that they included in their collection.

„Strong Hans“ is a story of adventure and heroism, featuring a protagonist who possesses extraordinary strength. The tale follows Hans as he overcomes various challenges and obstacles, showcasing his physical prowess and courage. The story likely draws inspiration from a range of European folktales, legends, and myths that celebrate heroes with exceptional abilities.

The tale also explores themes such as the importance of bravery, loyalty, and cunning, as Hans relies on his skills and companions to overcome the challenges he faces. This emphasis on heroism and adventure is a common element in many traditional European stories, which often aimed to entertain and inspire listeners.

Overall, „Strong Hans“ is a fascinating tale that showcases the Brothers Grimm’s dedication to preserving the richness of German and European folklore, presenting an engaging narrative of adventure and heroism for readers to enjoy.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Strong Hans“

„Strong Hans“ is an adventurous fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that contains several themes and motifs for interpretation. Here are some possible interpretations of the story:

Heroism and bravery: The tale emphasizes the importance of heroism and bravery, as Strong Hans overcomes various challenges and obstacles with his exceptional strength and courage. His adventures serve as a reminder of the value of facing adversity head-on and never backing down from a challenge.

Loyalty and friendship: Strong Hans‘ relationships with his companions play a significant role in his success. This theme highlights the importance of loyalty and friendship in achieving one’s goals and overcoming obstacles. It demonstrates that even the strongest of heroes need the support of others.

The power of cunning and intelligence: Strong Hans uses not only his physical strength but also his cunning and intelligence to overcome challenges. This aspect of the story emphasizes the value of using one’s mind in addition to physical abilities, showcasing the importance of wisdom and resourcefulness.

Personal growth and development: The journey of Strong Hans can be seen as a coming-of-age story, where the protagonist grows and matures through his adventures. This interpretation highlights the significance of personal growth and development, as Hans‘ experiences shape him into a more capable and self-sufficient individual.

The archetype of the strong hero: „Strong Hans“ is an example of the classic strong hero archetype found in many myths, legends, and folktales. The tale serves as a representation of this archetype and explores the idea of exceptional individuals who use their gifts to help others and overcome adversity.

In summary, „Strong Hans“ is a captivating tale from the Brothers Grimm that explores themes such as heroism, bravery, loyalty, friendship, cunning, intelligence, personal growth, and the strong hero archetype. These themes contribute to the story’s appeal and its place within the larger collection of Grimm’s fairy tales.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Strong Hans“

„Strong Hans“ is not as well-known as some of the more famous tales by the Brothers Grimm, but it has still found its way into various forms of media. Here are some examples of adaptations of „Strong Hans“:

Children’s books: „Strong Hans“ is sometimes included in collections of Grimm’s fairy tales aimed at children. These adaptations typically simplify the language and may include illustrations to help young readers better understand the story.

Anthologies: The story has appeared in anthologies of fairy tales and folklore, alongside other stories by the Brothers Grimm and other authors. These collections often present retellings or adaptations of the original stories, sometimes with updated language or additional commentary to provide context and analysis.

Audiobooks: „Strong Hans“ has been adapted into audiobook format, where voice actors bring the characters to life and provide an engaging listening experience. These adaptations may focus on the story’s more thought-provoking elements, making creative use of sound to immerse listeners in the narrative.

Animated short films: Independent animators have occasionally adapted „Strong Hans“ into short animated films. These adaptations may use various animation styles and techniques, such as stop-motion or computer-generated imagery, to visually represent the story’s themes and motifs.

Theater productions: „Strong Hans“ has been adapted for the stage as part of theater productions featuring a collection of Grimm’s fairy tales. These productions often involve creative interpretations of the original stories, with actors bringing the characters to life and using costumes, sets, and props to create a visually engaging experience.

While „Strong Hans“ might not have as many adaptations as some of the more popular Grimm’s fairy tales, its engaging narrative and themes continue to inspire creative interpretations across various mediums.

Summary of the plot

„Strong Hans“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a hero with extraordinary strength. The tale follows the adventures of Hans, who grows up in the wilderness with his father. When his father dies, Hans leaves the forest and goes on a journey to prove his strength and courage.

Along the way, he meets and befriends a man with incredible sharpshooting skills and another man with exceptional hearing abilities. Together, they form a team and set off on a series of adventures. They rescue a princess who has been kidnapped by a giant, defeat a group of robbers, and overcome various other challenges using their unique skills.

Throughout their journey, Hans demonstrates his exceptional strength and courage, which helps them succeed in their quests. His companions, the sharpshooter and the man with incredible hearing, also use their abilities to support Hans and contribute to their shared victories.

In the end, Hans and his friends are rewarded for their bravery and heroism. Hans marries the princess he rescued, and they all live happily ever after.

„Strong Hans“ is a classic adventure tale that showcases themes of heroism, loyalty, friendship, and the importance of using one’s unique skills to overcome challenges. The story serves as an entertaining and engaging reminder of the value of bravery, resourcefulness, and teamwork.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „Strong Hans“

„Strong Hans“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, which was published as number KHM 166 in their collection of Kinder- und Hausmärchen. The tale is classified as ATU 650A, „Strong John,“ in the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index, a system that categorizes folktales based on their narrative elements.

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, were German academics, linguists, and authors who collected and published folktales during the 19th century. Their collection of Kinder- und Hausmärchen, first published in 1812, includes over 200 stories and has been translated into multiple languages. The collection has had a significant impact on the study of folklore and the popularization of fairy tales around the world.

The ATU 650A tale type, which includes „Strong Hans,“ typically features stories where the hero is born from the union between a human and an otherworldly character, often showing superhuman strength as they mature. In some variants, the hero develops their extraordinary abilities by being nursed with milk from their mother or a female animal.

The tale of „Strong Hans“ has several parallels with other mythological heroes, such as Heracles, Thor, and Siegfried. This suggests that the story may have been influenced by or share common origins with these mythological tales. The story has also been compared to other strong hero tales from Old Norse literature, like the Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss.

The „Strong Hans“ tale type is found in many European countries, with over a thousand recorded variants, particularly in Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia, and Baltic countries. Outside Europe, the tale type is also recorded in Middle Eastern folktale compilations, as well as in Estonia, Finland, Russia, and Ukraine.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Strong Hans“

Several interpretations have been proposed for the „Strong Hans“ fairy tale, some of which include:

Hero’s Journey: The story of Strong Hans can be seen as an example of a hero’s journey, an archetypal narrative that follows a hero as they go on an adventure, face trials, and return transformed. In this case, Hans starts with a difficult childhood, develops extraordinary abilities, goes through a series of adventures, and finally overcomes betrayal and danger to emerge victorious.

Initiation Ritual: Some scholars suggest that the tale type ATU 650A, which includes Strong Hans, may represent an initiation ritual. The story follows the hero’s preternatural birth, rapid growth, challenges in youth, entrance into the forest, and return home as a changed man. This narrative structure could represent the stages of an initiation process, reflecting the psychological and social transformation of the hero.

Symbolism of Strength: The story of Strong Hans and his companions can be seen as an exploration of the concept of strength and its various manifestations. Each character possesses a unique type of strength, which they use to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. This could symbolize the importance of recognizing and utilizing one’s inner strengths and abilities.

Betrayal and Redemption: The tale highlights the themes of betrayal and redemption through the actions of Hans’s companions. They betray him by leaving him trapped in the dwarf’s lair, but Hans ultimately overcomes this betrayal by using the magic ring to escape. This could serve as a reminder of the importance of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Comparison to Mythological Heroes: Scholars have drawn parallels between Strong Hans and mythological heroes such as Heracles, Thor, and Siegfried. The similarities between these figures and Strong Hans, including their feats of strength and heroism, suggest that the tale may have been influenced by or share common origins with these mythological stories.

Summary of the plot

„Strong Hans“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm and published as number KHM 166 in their collection. The tale is classified as ATU 650A in the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index.

The story begins with a two-year-old child, Hans, and his mother being kidnapped by thieves. They are taken to a cave where the mother is forced to be the bandits‘ housemaid. When Hans turns nine, he asks about his father, which results in the leader of the thieves beating him. A year later, Hans asks again, then defeats the drunken thieves and escapes with his mother and the bandits‘ gold, returning to his father.

As Hans grows older, he wanders the earth with his cane and meets two other strong individuals: one who can break pines into ropes and another who can break rocks with his fists. They form a friendship and agree to hunt together. One day, a mysterious creature defeats Hans’s two companions in the woods. When Hans meets the creature, a dwarf, he gives it a piece of meat and follows it to its lair in the mountain. With the help of his companions and a long rope, Hans enters the mountain, kills the dwarf, and frees a king’s daughter. However, his companions betray him, leaving him trapped in the dwarf’s lair. Hans eventually finds a magic ring that helps him teleport out of the mountain.

The tale features a strong hero and has been compared to figures like Heracles, Thor, and Siegfried. It has been suggested that ATU 650A tales may show signs of an initiation ritual and a hero’s journey. The tale type can be found in nearly every European country, with more than a thousand variants recorded in Europe, the Middle East, Estonia, Finland, Russia, and Ukraine.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 166
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 650A
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson35.5
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index77.7
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level8.7
Gunning Fog Index11.3
Coleman–Liau Index7.6
SMOG Index8.3
Automated Readability Index9.9
Character Count13.725
Letter Count10.610
Sentence Count106
Word Count2.666
Average Words per Sentence25,15
Words with more than 6 letters275
Percentage of long words10.3%
Number of Syllables3.266
Average Syllables per Word1,23
Words with three Syllables81
Percentage Words with three Syllables3%
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