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Sweetheart Roland
Grimm Märchen

Sweetheart Roland - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 11 min

Attention: This is a scary story.

There was once a woman who was a witch, and she had two daughters, one ugly and wicked, whom she loved the best, because she was her very own daughter, and one pretty and good, whom she hated because she was her step-daughter. One day the stepdaughter put on a pretty apron, which the other daughter liked so much that she became envious, and said to her mother that she must and should have the apron.

„Be content, my child,“ said the old woman, „thou shalt have it. Thy step-sister has long deserved death, and tonight, while she is asleep, I shall come and cut off her head. Take care to lie at the farthest side of the bed, and push her to the outside.“ And it would have been all over with the poor girl, if she had not been standing in a corner near and heard it all. She did not dare to go outside the door the whole day long, and when bed-time came the other one got into bed first, so as to lie on the farthest side.

But when she had gone to sleep, the step-daughter pushed her towards the outside, and took the inside place next the wall. In the night the old woman came sneaking. In her right hand she held an axe, and with her left she felt for the one who was lying outside, and then she heaved up the axe with both hands, and hewed the head off her only daughter. When she had gone away, the other girl got up and went to her sweetheart’s, who was called Roland, and knocked at his door.

When he came to her, she said, „Listen, dear Roland, we must flee away in all haste. My step-mother meant to put me to death, but she has killed her only child instead. When the day breaks, and she sees what she has done, we are lost.“ – „But I advise you,“ said Roland, „to bring away her magic wand with you. Otherwise we cannot escape her when she comes after to overtake us.“

So the maiden fetched the magic wand, and she took up the head of her step-sister and let drop three drops of blood on the ground, one by the bed, one in the kitchen, and one on the steps. Then she hastened back to her sweetheart. When the old witch got up in the morning, she called out to her daughter, to give her the apron, but no daughter came. Then she cried out, „Where art thou?“

„Here, at the steps, sweeping!“ answered one of the drops of Wood. The old woman went out, but she saw nobody at the steps, and cried again, „Where art thou?“ – „Here in the .kitchen warming myself,“ cried the second drop of blood. So she went into the kitchen and found no one. Then she cried again, „Where art thou?“

„Oh, here in bed fast asleep!“ cried the third drop of blood. Then the mother went into the room, and up to the bed, and there lay her only child, whose head she had cut off herself. The witch fell into a great fury, rushed to the window, for from it she could see far and wide, and she caught sight of her step-daughter, hastening away with her dear Roland. „It will be no good to you,“ cried she, „if you get ever so far away, you cannot escape me.“

Then she put on her boots, which took her an hour’s walk at every stride, and it was not long before she had overtaken them. But the maiden, when she saw the old woman striding up, changed, by means of the magic wand, her dear Roland into a lake, and herself into a duck swimming upon it. The witch stood on the bank and threw in crumbs of bread, and took great pains to decoy the duck towards her, but the duck would not be decoyed, and the old woman was obliged to go back in the evening disappointed.

Then the maiden and her dear Roland took again their natural shapes, and travelled on the whole night through until daybreak. Then the maiden changed herself into a beautiful flower, standing in the middle of a hedge of thorns, and her dear Roland into a fiddle-player. It was not long before the witch came striding up, and she said to the musician, „Dear musician, will you be so kind as to reach that pretty flower for me?“

„Oh yes,“ said he, „I will strike up a tune to it.“ Then as she crept quickly up to the hedge to break off the flower, for she knew well who it was, he began to play, and whether she liked it or not, she was obliged to dance, for there was magic in the tune. The faster he played the higher she had to jump, and the thorns tore her clothes, and scratched and wounded her, and he did not cease playing until she was spent, and lay dead.

So now they were saved, and Roland said, „I will go to my father and prepare for the wedding.“ – „And I will stay here,“ said the maiden, „and wait for you, and so that no one should know me, I will change myself into a red milestone.“ So away went Roland, and the maiden in the likeness of a stone waited in the field for her beloved. But when Roland went home he fell into the snares of another maiden, who wrought so, that he forgot his first love.

And the poor girl waited a long time, but at last, seeing that he did not come, she was filled with despair, and changed herself into a flower, thinking „Perhaps some one in passing will put his foot upon me and crush me.“ But it happened that a shepherd, tending his flock, saw the flower, and as it was so beautiful, he gathered it, took it home with him, and put it in his chest. From that time everything went wonderfully well in the shepherd’s house.

When he got up in the morning, all the work was already done. The room was swept, the tables and benches rubbed, fire kindled on the hearth, and water ready drawn. And when he came home in the middle of the day, the table was laid, and a good meal spread upon it. He could not understand how it was done, for he never saw anybody in his house, and it was too little for anybody to hide in.

The good serving pleased him well; but in the end he became uneasy, and went to a wise woman to take counsel of her. The wise woman said, „There is magic in it: get up early some morning, and if you hear something moving in the room, be it what it may, throw a white cloth over it, and the charm will be broken.“ The shepherd did as she told him, and the next morning at daybreak he saw the chest open, and the flower come out.

Then he jumped up quickly and threw a white cloth over it. So the spell was broken, and a lovely maiden stood before him; and she told him that she had been the flower, and had until now cared for his household matters. She told him all that had happened to her, and she pleased him so much that he asked her to marry him, but she answered „No,“ because she still remained true to her dear Roland, though he had forsaken her; but she promised not to leave the shepherd, but to go on taking care of his house.

Now the time came when Roland’s wedding was to be held; and there was an old custom in that country that all the girls should be present, and should sing in honour of the bride and bridegroom. The faithful maiden, when she knew this, was so sorrowful that she felt as if her heart would break; and she would not go, until the others came and fetched her. And when her turn came to sing she slipped behind, so that she stood alone, and so began to sing.

And as soon as her song reached Roland’s ear he sprang up and cried, „I know that voice! that is the right bride, and no other will I have.“ And everything that he had forgotten, and that had been swept out of his mind, came suddenly home to him in his heart. And the faithful maiden was married to her dear Roland. Her sorrow came to an end and her joy began.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „Sweetheart Roland“

„Sweetheart Roland“ is a fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their anthology „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ or „Kinder- und Hausmärchen.“ First published in 1812, the collection aimed to preserve German folktales and oral storytelling traditions passed down through generations. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm gathered stories from various sources, including friends, family, and acquaintances, and edited them to create a cohesive collection of tales.

„Sweetheart Roland“ tells the story of a young woman who must escape from her evil stepmother, a witch who wishes to kill her. With the help of her true love, Roland, the young woman uses her wit and courage to outsmart the witch and her daughter. The tale features various elements common to European folklore, such as witches, shape-shifting, and the triumph of good over evil.

Like many fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, „Sweetheart Roland“ likely has its roots in oral storytelling traditions. These traditions were fluid and varied, as stories evolved and changed with each retelling. The Brothers Grimm sought to capture these tales in written form, often editing and adapting them to fit the literary and cultural sensibilities of their time. As a result, the tales in their collection, including „Sweetheart Roland,“ can be seen as a combination of the original oral tradition and the literary culture of early 19th-century Germany.

„Sweetheart Roland“ shares themes and motifs with other European fairy tales, such as the struggle between good and evil, the cleverness of the protagonists, and the importance of love and loyalty. These elements resonate with audiences across different cultures and time periods, showcasing the enduring appeal of such stories and their ability to captivate and inspire generations of readers and listeners. The story of the persecuted heroine who overcomes adversity to find happiness is a recurring motif in many fairy tales, such as „Cinderella“ and „Snow White.“ The Brothers Grimm’s collection has had a significant impact on Western literature and popular culture, with many of their stories adapted into films, books, and other media over the years.

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, were German scholars, linguists, and cultural researchers who sought to collect and preserve traditional folktales from the oral tradition. The story belongs to the Aarne-Thompson-Uther classification system as ATU 1119, „The Ogress as Stepmother,“ which is a tale type where a wicked stepmother attempts to kill her stepchild but ends up killing her own child instead. Variants of this tale type can be found in many different cultures.

Interpretations to fairy tale „Sweetheart Roland“

„Sweetheart Roland“ from the Brothers Grimm contains several themes and moral lessons that can be interpreted in various ways. Here are a few possible interpretations of the tale:

The Strength of Female Protagonists: The young woman in „Sweetheart Roland“ is a strong and resourceful character who plays an active role in her own fate. She is not a passive damsel in distress but rather a courageous and intelligent protagonist. This interpretation highlights the importance of empowering female characters and recognizing their strength and agency.

Good vs. Evil: One of the central themes of the story is the conflict between good and evil. The stepdaughter, who is kind-hearted and virtuous, is pitted against her wicked stepmother and stepsister. In the end, goodness prevails, as the stepdaughter escapes the witch’s evil intentions and finds happiness with Roland. The story of „Sweetheart Roland“ depicts the struggle between good and evil, represented by the young woman and Roland versus the witch and her daughter. In the end, good prevails, and the witch and her daughter are defeated. This interpretation underscores the belief in the ultimate triumph of good over evil.

Loyalty and Love: The stepdaughter’s unwavering loyalty to Roland, even when he forgets her, demonstrates the power of true love. This loyalty is ultimately rewarded when Roland recognizes her voice and chooses her as his true bride. The love between the young woman and Roland is a central theme in the story. Their loyalty and devotion to one another help them overcome the challenges they face, ultimately triumphing over the witch and her daughter. This interpretation emphasizes the power of love and loyalty to conquer adversity and evil.

The Power of Transformation: Transformation plays a crucial role in the story. The magic wand allows the stepdaughter to change herself and Roland into different forms to escape the witch. This theme highlights the idea of adaptability and resourcefulness in the face of adversity.

Resilience and Perseverance: The stepdaughter’s ability to overcome the various challenges and threats in her life, from her wicked stepmother to Roland’s temporary forgetfulness, illustrates the importance of resilience and perseverance. Her determination leads to her eventual happiness with Roland. The young woman uses her wit and resourcefulness to outsmart the witch and her daughter, enabling her and Roland to escape their clutches. This interpretation highlights the importance of using one’s intelligence and creativity to solve problems and overcome challenges.

The Danger of Envy and Jealousy: The story also serves as a cautionary tale about the destructive power of envy and jealousy. The wicked stepsister’s envy of her step-sister’s apron sets the events of the story in motion, ultimately leading to her own death and the witch’s demise. The witch’s desire to kill the young woman and her daughter’s jealousy of the young woman’s beauty lead to their downfall. This interpretation serves as a cautionary tale against the destructive nature of envy and greed.

Overall, „Sweetheart Roland“ presents various themes and moral lessons that can resonate with readers and listeners of all ages. The story’s timeless messages of love, loyalty, resourcefulness, and the triumph of good over evil continue to captivate and inspire audiences across different cultures and generations.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „Sweetheart Roland“

„Sweetheart Roland“ is a German fairy tale collected and published by the Brothers Grimm in the 19th century as part of their famous collection, „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (also known as „Children’s and Household Tales“). Although „Sweetheart Roland“ is not as widely known as some of the other Grimm fairy tales, it has been adapted in various ways over the years. Here are a few examples of adaptations of this lesser-known fairy tale:

Anthologies and Illustrated Books: „Sweetheart Roland“ has been included in numerous fairy tale anthologies and illustrated books dedicated to the works of the Brothers Grimm. These books often feature unique illustrations by talented artists that bring the story to life in captivating ways. „Sweetheart Roland“ (2020) by Brothers Grimm and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury: This illustrated children’s book adaptation of the story retains the classic elements of the original tale while updating the language and adding whimsical illustrations to bring the story to life for young readers.

Literature: „Sweetheart Roland“ (2019) by Lucy Ribchester: This dark retelling of the tale focuses on the psychological horror aspects of the story, exploring the witch’s motivations for turning Sweetheart Roland into a stone statue and delving into the depths of despair that Maid Maleen experiences during her long imprisonment in the tower.

Television: An animated adaptation of „Sweetheart Roland“ appeared in the television series „Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics“ (also known as „Grimm Masterpiece Theater“), which aired between 1987 and 1989. This Japanese animated series retold a variety of stories from the Brothers Grimm collection, with vivid visuals and fresh interpretations.

Radio Plays and Audio: „Sweetheart Roland“ has been adapted into audio form through radio plays or audiobooks, featuring voice actors, music, and sound effects to create an immersive storytelling experience. These adaptations introduce the tale to new generations in an engaging format.

Theater: The story has been adapted for the stage, particularly for children’s theater and puppet shows. These adaptations can use a combination of actors, puppets, and other visual elements to bring the story to life, often with some modifications to make it more engaging for a modern audience.

Modern Retellings: Some authors have reimagined „Sweetheart Roland“ in modern settings or with updated themes. For example, a contemporary retelling might emphasize the female protagonist’s resourcefulness and strength, exploring themes of empowerment and self-determination.

While „Sweetheart Roland“ may not have as many adaptations as some of the more well-known Grimm fairy tales, it remains a part of the rich tapestry of European folklore. Its various adaptations demonstrate the appeal of the story and the potential for each generation to reinterpret its themes and messages in new and engaging ways.

Summary of the plot

„Sweetheart Roland“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a young girl and her sweetheart Roland, who are trying to escape the wicked intentions of her stepmother, a witch. The story begins with the witch having two daughters: one ugly and wicked, whom she loves, and one pretty and good, her stepdaughter, whom she hates. Jealous of her step-sister’s pretty apron, the wicked daughter insists on having it. The witch decides to kill her stepdaughter that night to give her own daughter the apron.

However, the stepdaughter overhears their plan, and cleverly switches places with her step-sister in bed. The witch ends up killing her own daughter by mistake. The stepdaughter then flees to her sweetheart Roland, and together they decide to escape, taking the witch’s magic wand with them. The next day, the witch discovers her mistake and pursues them with her magical boots. To evade the witch, the stepdaughter uses the magic wand to turn Roland into a lake and herself into a duck. The witch fails to catch them and returns home disappointed. The next day, the stepdaughter transforms herself into a beautiful flower and Roland into a musician. The witch again fails to capture them, as the enchanted music forces her to dance until she dies.

Feeling safe, Roland goes home to prepare for their wedding, while the stepdaughter waits in the form of a red milestone. Unfortunately, Roland falls for another woman and forgets his true love. Heartbroken, the stepdaughter turns herself into a flower and is eventually found by a shepherd. She becomes a magical helper in his household. As Roland’s wedding day approaches, all the girls in the village, including the stepdaughter, are required to attend and sing. When she sings, Roland instantly recognizes her voice and realizes she is his true love. The faithful maiden and Roland marry, ending her sorrow and beginning their life of joy.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 56
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 1119
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson31.1
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index81
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level7.4
Gunning Fog Index9.7
Coleman–Liau Index7.1
SMOG Index7.4
Automated Readability Index7.9
Character Count7.406
Letter Count5.638
Sentence Count66
Word Count1.449
Average Words per Sentence21,95
Words with more than 6 letters133
Percentage of long words9.2%
Number of Syllables1.773
Average Syllables per Word1,22
Words with three Syllables34
Percentage Words with three Syllables2.3%
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