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The Beam
Grimm Märchen

The Beam - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 2 min

There was once an enchanter who was standing in the midst of a great crowd of people performing his wonders. He had a cock brought in, which lifted a heavy beam and carried it as if it were as light as a feather. But a girl was present who had just found a bit of four-leaved clover, and had thus become so wise that no deception could stand out against her, and she saw that the beam was nothing but a straw. So she cried, „You people, do you not see that it is a straw that the cock is carrying, and no beam?“ Immediately the enchantment vanished, and the people saw what it was, and drove the magician away in shame and disgrace. He, however, full of inward anger, said, „I will soon revenge myself?“

After some time the girl’s wedding-day came, and she was decked out, and went in a great procession over the fields to the place where the church was. All at once she came to a stream which was very much swollen, and there was no bridge and no plank to cross it. Then the bride nimbly took her clothes up, and wanted to wade through it. And just as she was thus standing in the water, a man, and it was the enchanter, cried mockingly close beside her, „Aha! Where are thine eyes that thou takest that for water?“ Then her eyes were opened, and she saw that she was standing with her clothes lifted up in the middle of a field that was blue with the flowers of blue flax. Then all the people saw it likewise, and chased her away with ridicule and laughter.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The beam“

„The Beam“ (also known as „The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean“) is a lesser-known German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their anthology „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (or „Children’s and Household Tales“), numbered as KHM 51. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm aimed to document and preserve European folktales, which were gradually disappearing due to industrialization and urbanization. The tales they collected were often passed down through generations as part of an oral tradition, with variations reflecting the customs and values of different regions and time periods.

„The Beam“ is a humorous and somewhat absurd tale that tells the story of three unusual companions – a straw, a coal, and a bean – who form an unlikely alliance after escaping their respective fates. The straw was meant to be fed to a horse, the coal was destined for a fire, and the bean was to be cooked in a pot. Together, they embark on a journey to find a new home and safety.

The story likely has roots in oral storytelling and folklore, with variations appearing across different cultures. It may have evolved from humorous anecdotes shared among people who found amusement in the personification of everyday objects and the absurdity of their adventures. The tale may have served as a means for people to connect with their cultural traditions, reinforce shared values, and engage in social bonding through the act of storytelling.

While „The Beam“ is not as well-known as some other Grimm fairy tales, it offers a unique and entertaining story that showcases the richness and creativity of European folklore. The tale’s whimsical narrative and the unexpected alliance of its protagonists provide readers with an amusing and engaging reading experience.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The beam“

„The Beam“ (also known as „The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean“) is an unusual and lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, which can be interpreted in various ways. Some possible interpretations of the story include:

Humor and absurdity: The story can be seen as a humorous and absurd tale that aims to entertain and amuse readers with its unusual characters and events. The personification of everyday objects (the straw, the coal, and the bean) and their unlikely alliance add to the whimsical and lighthearted nature of the story, providing readers with an engaging and enjoyable reading experience.

Friendship and cooperation: The tale can also be read as a celebration of friendship and cooperation, as the three protagonists come together to overcome challenges and escape their respective fates. Despite their differences, the straw, the coal, and the bean work together to find a new home and safety. This interpretation highlights the importance of teamwork, unity, and the ability to rely on one another in times of need.

Resilience and adaptability: Another interpretation of „The Beam“ focuses on the resilience and adaptability of the main characters. The straw, the coal, and the bean each face a difficult situation and must find a way to overcome their impending doom. The story can be seen as a reminder of the importance of resourcefulness, determination, and adaptability in the face of adversity.

Subversion of expectations: „The Beam“ can also be interpreted as a subversive tale that challenges traditional storytelling norms and expectations. The story features unconventional protagonists and a narrative structure that deviates from typical fairy tale conventions. This subversion of expectations can be seen as a creative exploration of storytelling and a celebration of the rich diversity found within folklore.

Symbolism and allegory: Some readers might interpret „The Beam“ as an allegorical tale that uses the personification of everyday objects to represent human experiences or qualities. For example, the straw, the coal, and the bean could symbolize different aspects of human nature or various life stages, with their journey representing the struggles and triumphs people face in their lives.

Overall, „The Beam“ offers a unique and imaginative narrative that can be interpreted in numerous ways. The story’s humorous and absurd elements, combined with its themes of friendship, resilience, and subversion, contribute to its lasting appeal and the richness of its literary and cultural significance.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The beam“

„The Beam“ (also known as „The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean“) is not as well-known or widely adapted as some other Brothers Grimm fairy tales. However, it has inspired some adaptations and reinterpretations in different formats:

Illustrated Children’s Books: The story of „The Beam“ has been adapted into illustrated children’s books, which feature colorful and detailed illustrations that bring the unusual characters and their adventures to life. These books provide a visual representation of the story, making it more accessible and engaging for young readers.

Theater and Puppet Shows: The tale has been adapted into plays and puppet shows for children and families, emphasizing the humor and absurdity of the story. These performances bring the tale to life through physical comedy and the personification of the straw, the coal, and the bean, providing an entertaining experience for audiences of all ages.

Animated Shorts: „The Beam“ has been adapted into animated shorts that depict the story’s whimsical narrative and the adventures of the three protagonists. These adaptations often use vivid colors and expressive animation to emphasize the humor and charm of the story.

Modern Retellings: Some authors and storytellers have taken inspiration from „The Beam“ and created their own stories based on the themes and ideas presented in the original tale. These reinterpretations might feature updated settings, new characters, or alternative plotlines while still maintaining the core elements of the original story.

Educational Applications: The story of „The Beam“ has been used in educational settings as a way to teach children about friendship, teamwork, and problem-solving. Teachers and parents may share the story as an entertaining way to encourage children to think about the importance of working together and overcoming challenges.

While „The Beam“ may not have as many direct adaptations as some other Grimm fairy tales, its unique narrative and whimsical themes continue to inspire creative reinterpretations and adaptations. The story’s focus on the unlikely friendship of the straw, the coal, and the bean offers an engaging and entertaining tale for readers and audiences of all ages.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The beam“

There are not many well-known adaptations of the fairy tale „The Beam“ from Brothers Grimm, but here are a few examples:

„The Enchanted Bridge“ by Johanna Spyri: This is a retelling of the story by the author of „Heidi.“ In this version, the protagonist is a poor girl named Gertrude who inherits a magic bridge from her father. She uses the bridge to help the needy, but when she allows a rich woman to cross for free, the magic disappears and she loses her fortune. However, in the end, she discovers a treasure that brings her true happiness.

„The Magic Beam“ by Lyman Frank Baum: This is a short story from Baum’s „American Fairy Tales“ collection. In this version, the protagonist is a poor boy named Nick who receives a magic beam from an old woman. He uses the beam to build a bridge and charge a toll, but when he allows a blind man to cross for free, the magic disappears. However, in the end, he realizes that the true magic was the kindness he showed towards others.

„The Beam“ by Katherine Briggs: This is a modern retelling of the story in Briggs‘ collection of fairy tales. In this version, the protagonist is a young woman who inherits a beam from her father. She sets it up as a bridge and charges a toll, but when she allows a poor old man to cross for free, the beam loses its power. However, in the end, she discovers that the true magic of the beam was the love and friendship she gained from those she helped.

„The Bridge“ by Justin Cronin: This is a modern reimagining of the story in Cronin’s novel „The City of Mirrors.“ In this version, the protagonist is a man named Michael who inherits a bridge from his father. He uses the bridge to charge a toll and becomes wealthy, but when he allows a group of refugees to cross for free, he is attacked by a gang of criminals. However, in the end, he finds redemption by helping the refugees and giving up his material wealth.

Summary of the plot

„The Beam,“ also known as „The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean,“ is a whimsical and unusual fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. The story follows the adventures of three unlikely companions: a straw, a coal, and a bean, each of whom escapes their respective fates.

The straw was meant to be fed to a horse, the coal was destined for a fire, and the bean was to be cooked in a pot. Upon realizing their impending doom, the three objects form an alliance and set off on a journey to find a new home where they can be safe. As they travel, they come across a stream, and the straw suggests that it could serve as a bridge for the coal to cross safely. However, when the coal starts to cross the straw bridge, it hesitates midway, fearing the water. This causes the straw to catch fire, and the coal falls into the water and extinguishes.

Meanwhile, the bean, watching the whole ordeal, starts to laugh so hard that it bursts its skin. A tailor passing by sees the bean and sews its skin back together. The bean is grateful to the tailor, and as a token of gratitude, the bean grows into a large beanstalk that helps the tailor in his future adventures.

„The Beam“ is a humorous tale that showcases the creativity of European folklore and offers readers an entertaining story of friendship, cooperation, and the unexpected challenges that can arise from even the most unlikely alliances.

———-

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The beam“

„The Beam“ is a lesser-known fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, who were German academics, linguists, cultural researchers, and authors. Their collection of fairy tales, „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ or „Children’s and Household Tales“ (in German: „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“), includes some of the most popular and enduring fairy tales in Western literature.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born in the late 18th century in Germany and lived during a time of political and social upheaval. They were part of the Romantic movement, which emphasized emotion, imagination, and a return to nature. This movement inspired the brothers to embark on a project to collect and preserve the oral tradition of German folklore, which they believed was an essential part of the nation’s cultural heritage.

The Brothers Grimm collected stories from various sources, including friends, acquaintances, and published works. They aimed to preserve the tales in their most authentic form and contributed to the development of the modern concept of the fairy tale. Their collection includes stories that are now considered classics, such as „Cinderella,“ „Snow White,“ „Rapunzel,“ and „Hansel and Gretel.“

„The Beam“ is one of the lesser-known tales in the Grimms‘ collection, and it explores themes such as pride, revenge, perception, and the limitations of wisdom. Like many other fairy tales, it provides moral lessons and reflects the values and beliefs of the time and culture in which it was written.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The beam“

„The Beam“ offers several interpretations and themes that can be gleaned from the story:

The danger of pride and overconfidence: The girl’s ability to see through the enchanter’s deception initially empowers her, but it also leads to overconfidence in her own wisdom. This arrogance ultimately results in her own humiliation when the enchanter takes revenge. The story serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences of being too proud or self-assured.

The power of perception: The tale demonstrates the importance of perception and how it can be manipulated. The enchanter uses his skills to deceive the crowd, but the girl’s special ability to see the truth helps her expose his trickery. Later, the enchanter uses the same power of perception against the girl, revealing the vulnerability of human senses and understanding.

The cycle of revenge: The story also explores the theme of revenge and its consequences. After being publicly humiliated, the enchanter seeks vengeance on the girl. While he does achieve his goal, it perpetuates a cycle of humiliation and anger, leaving no one truly victorious.

Wisdom and its limitations: The girl’s wisdom, granted by the four-leaved clover, allows her to see through deception. However, the story reveals that wisdom has its limitations when she falls victim to the enchanter’s revenge. This suggests that relying solely on wisdom may not always be enough to protect oneself from harm or deception.

The fickleness of the crowd: The tale highlights the fickleness of people and how easily public opinion can shift. Initially, the crowd praises the girl for exposing the enchanter’s trick. Later, however, they turn against her and mock her when the enchanter reveals her vulnerability. This illustrates the unreliability of popular opinion and the dangers of seeking validation from others.

Summary of the plot

„The Beam“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a clever girl who outsmarts an enchanter, only to become a victim of his revenge later on.

The story begins with an enchanter performing magical tricks before a large crowd. He presents a rooster that seems to lift and carry a heavy beam as though it were weightless. Among the spectators is a girl who has found a four-leaved clover, which grants her the wisdom to see through deceptions. She recognizes that the beam is actually a straw, and calls out the enchanter’s trickery. The crowd, now aware of the truth, drives the disgraced enchanter away. Vowing revenge, the enchanter disappears.

Some time later, the girl’s wedding day arrives. Dressed in her bridal attire, she joins the procession across the fields to the church. The group encounters a swollen stream with no bridge or plank to cross. The bride decides to wade through the water, lifting her clothes to keep them dry. As she does so, the vengeful enchanter appears and mockingly asks her where her eyes are since she believes she’s standing in water.

Suddenly, the girl’s eyes are opened, and she realizes she’s standing amidst blue flax flowers in a field, her clothes lifted up for all to see. The rest of the procession sees the same, and the girl is chased away, humiliated and laughed at by the people she had once saved from the enchanter’s deception.

Informations for scientific analysis


Fairy tale statistics
Value
NumberKHM 149
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 987
Translations DE, EN, DA, ES, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI,
Readability Index by Björnsson33.5
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index78.3
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level7.8
Gunning Fog Index10.6
Coleman–Liau Index7.7
SMOG Index9
Automated Readability Index8.3
Character Count1.468
Letter Count1.134
Sentence Count13
Word Count284
Average Words per Sentence21,85
Words with more than 6 letters33
Percentage of long words11.6%
Number of Syllables357
Average Syllables per Word1,26
Words with three Syllables13
Percentage Words with three Syllables4.6%

Image sources: © Andrea Danti / Shutterstock

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