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The Blue Light
Grimm Märchen

The Blue Light - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 13 min

There was once on a time a soldier who for many years had served the King faithfully, but when the war came to an end could serve no longer because of the many wounds which he had received. The King said to him, „Thou mayst return to thy home, I need thee no longer, and thou wilt not receive any more money, for he only receives wages who renders me service for them.“ Then the soldier did not know how to earn a living, went away greatly troubled, and walked the whole day, until in the evening he entered a forest. When darkness came on, he saw a light, which he went up to, and came to a house wherein lived a witch. „Do give me one night’s lodging, and a little to eat and drink,“ said he to her, „or I shall starve.“ – „Oho!“ she answered, „who gives anything to a run-away soldier? Yet will I be compassionate, and take you in, if you will do what I wish.“ – „What do you wish?“ said the soldier. „That you should dig all round my garden for me, tomorrow.“ The soldier consented, and next day labored with all his strength, but could not finish it by the evening. „I see well enough,“ said the witch, „that you can do no more today, but I will keep you yet another night, in payment for which you must to-morrow chop me a load of wood, and make it small.“ The soldier spent the whole day in doing it, and in the evening the witch proposed that he should stay one night more. „To-morrow, you shall only do me a very trifling piece of work. Behind my house, there is an old dry well, into which my light has fallen, it burns blue, and never goes out, and you shall bring it up again for me.“ Next day the old woman took him to the well, and let him down in a basket. He found the blue light, and made her a signal to draw him up again. She did draw him up, but when he came near the edge, she stretched down her hand and wanted to take the blue light away from him. „No,“ said he, perceiving her evil intention, „I will not give thee the light until I am standing with both feet upon the ground.“ The witch fell into a passion, let him down again into the well, and went away. The poor soldier fell without injury on the moist ground, and the blue light went on burning, but of what use was that to him? He saw very well that he could not escape death. He sat for a while very sorrowfully, then suddenly he felt in his pocket and found his tobacco pipe, which was still half full. „This shall be my last pleasure,“ thought he, pulled it out, lit it at the blue light and began to smoke. When the smoke had circled about the cavern, suddenly a little black dwarf stood before him, and said, „Lord, what are thy commands?“ – „What commands have I to give thee?“ replied the soldier, quite astonished. „I must do everything thou biddest me,“ said the little man. „Good,“ said the soldier; „then in the first place help me out of this well.“ The little man took him by the hand, and led him through an underground passage, but he did not forget to take the blue light with him. On the way the dwarf showed him the treasures which the witch had collected and hidden there, and the soldier took as much gold as he could carry. When he was above, he said to the little man, „Now go and bind the old witch, and carry her before the judge.“ In a short time she, with frightful cries, came riding by, as swift as the wind on a wild tom-cat, nor was it long after that before the little man re-appeared. „It is all done,“ said he, „and the witch is already hanging on the gallows. What further commands has my lord?“ inquired the dwarf. „At this moment, none,“ answered the soldier; „Thou canst return home, only be at hand immediately, if I summon thee.“ – „Nothing more is needed than that thou shouldst light thy pipe at the blue light, and I will appear before thee at once.“ Thereupon he vanished from his sight.

The soldier returned to the town from which he had come. He went to the best inn, ordered himself handsome clothes, and then bade the landlord furnish him a room as handsomely as possible. When it was ready and the soldier had taken possession of it, he summoned the little black mannikin and said, „I have served the King faithfully, but he has dismissed me, and left me to hunger, and now I want to take my revenge.“ – „What am I to do?“ asked the little man. „Late at night, when the King’s daughter is in bed, bring her here in her sleep, she shall do servant’s work for me.“ The mannikin said, „That is an easy thing for me to do, but a very dangerous thing for you, for if it is discovered, you will fare ill.“ When twelve o’clock had struck, the door sprang open, and the mannikin carried in the princess. „Aha! art thou there?“ cried the soldier, „get to thy work at once! Fetch the broom and sweep the chamber.“ When she had done this, he ordered her to come to his chair, and then he stretched out his feet and said, „Pull off my boots for me,“ and then he threw them in her face, and made her pick them up again, and clean and brighten them. She, however, did everything he bade her, without opposition, silently and with half-shut eyes. When the first cock crowed, the mannikin carried her back to the royal palace, and laid her in her bed.

Next morning when the princess arose, she went to her father, and told him that she had had a very strange dream. „I was carried through the streets with the rapidity of lightning,“ said she, „and taken into a soldier’s room, and I had to wait upon him like a servant, sweep his room, clean his boots, and do all kinds of menial work. It was only a dream, and yet I am just as tired as if I really had done everything.“ – „The dream may have been true,“ said the King, „I will give thee a piece of advice. Fill thy pocket full of peas, and make a small hole in it, and then if thou art carried away again, they will fall out and leave a track in the streets.“ But unseen by the King, the mannikin was standing beside him when he said that, and heard all. At night when the sleeping princess was again carried through the streets, some peas certainly did fall out of her pocket, but they made no track, for the crafty mannikin had just before scattered peas in every street there was. And again the princess was compelled to do servant’s work until cock-crow.

Next morning the King sent his people out to seek the track, but it was all in vain, for in every street poor children were sitting, picking up peas, and saying, „It must have rained peas, last night.“ – „We must think of something else,“ said the King; „keep thy shoes on when thou goest to bed, and before thou comest back from the place where thou art taken, hide one of them there, I will soon contrive to find it.“ The black mannikin heard this plot, and at night when the soldier again ordered him to bring the princess, revealed it to him, and told him that he knew of no expedient to counteract this stratagem, and that if the shoe were found in the soldier’s house it would go badly with him. „Do what I bid thee,“ replied the soldier, and again this third night the princess was obliged to work like a servant, but before she went away, she hid her shoe under the bed.

Next morning the King had the entire town searched for his daughter’s shoe. It was found at the soldier’s, and the soldier himself, who at the entreaty of the dwarf had gone outside the gate, was soon brought back, and thrown into prison. In his flight he had forgotten the most valuable things he had, the blue light and the gold, and had only one ducat in his pocket. And now loaded with chains, he was standing at the window of his dungeon, when he chanced to see one of his comrades passing by. The soldier tapped at the pane of glass, and when this man came up, said to him, „Be so kind as to fetch me the small bundle I have left lying in the inn, and I will give you a ducat for doing it.“ His comrade ran thither and brought him what he wanted. As soon as the soldier was alone again, he lighted his pipe and summoned the black mannikin. „Have no fear,“ said the latter to his master. „Go wheresoever they take you, and let them do what they will, only take the blue light with you.“ Next day the soldier was tried, and though he had done nothing wicked, the judge condemned him to death. When he was led forth to die, he begged a last favor of the King. „What is it?“ asked the King. „That I may smoke one more pipe on my way.“ – „Thou mayst smoke three,“ answered the King, „but do not imagine that I will spare thy life.“ Then the soldier pulled out his pipe and lighted it at the blue light, and as soon as a few wreaths of smoke had ascended, the mannikin was there with a small cudgel in his hand, and said, „What does my lord command?“ – „Strike down to earth that false judge there, and his constable, and spare not the King who has treated me so ill.“ Then the mannikin fell on them like lightning, darting this way and that way, and whosoever was so much as touched by his cudgel fell to earth, and did not venture to stir again. The King was terrified. He threw himself on the soldier’s mercy, and merely to be allowed to live at all, gave him his kingdom for his own, and the princess to wife.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The blue light“

„The Blue Light“ is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, in their famous anthology, „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales.“ The tale first appeared in the 1815 edition and is listed as KHM 116 (Kinder- und Hausmärchen 116).

The story begins with a soldier who has been discharged from the king’s service after being wounded. As he is traveling, he encounters a witch who offers him a place to stay. She asks him to do a task for her in exchange for the hospitality: to retrieve a blue light from the bottom of a well. The soldier agrees and discovers that the blue light has magical properties. When lit, it summons a dwarf who can grant any wish the soldier desires.

The soldier uses the blue light to exact revenge on the king and his court who had abandoned him. He also rescues a beautiful princess who is being held captive in the palace. In the end, the soldier marries the princess and becomes king himself.

The background of „The Blue Light“ is typical of many folk and fairy tales in the European tradition. It shares elements with other stories collected by the Brothers Grimm, such as themes of transformation, magical helpers, and the triumph of the underdog. The tale has its roots in oral storytelling and likely evolved over time as it was passed down through generations.

Some key elements in „The Blue Light“ include the soldier’s transition from a marginalized figure to a powerful ruler, the role of magical objects in granting wishes, and the importance of cleverness in overcoming obstacles. These themes can be found in various other fairy tales as well, which shows the universality and timelessness of these stories.

The Brothers Grimm collected their tales from various sources, including friends, acquaintances, and published works. They aimed to preserve the oral traditions of German folklore, and their collection became an important touchstone for understanding the cultural history of Germany and other European countries. While „The Blue Light“ may not be as well-known as some of their other stories, it still offers valuable insights into the themes and motifs that define the fairy tale genre.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The blue light“

„The Blue Light“ from the Brothers Grimm can be interpreted in various ways, touching on themes of power, transformation, and social justice. Here are some interpretations of the story:

Overcoming adversity: The soldier’s journey from being abandoned by the king to eventually becoming king himself demonstrates the ability to overcome adversity and rise above one’s circumstances. This theme is common in fairy tales and often serves as a message of hope and resilience for the reader.

The power of magical objects: The blue light symbolizes the transformative power of magical objects, which are often found in fairy tales. These objects can grant their users extraordinary abilities or change their fortunes, emphasizing the importance of seizing opportunities and making the most of the resources available.

Cleverness and resourcefulness: The soldier uses his wits and resourcefulness to navigate various challenges throughout the story, illustrating the value of cleverness in achieving one’s goals. This theme encourages readers to rely on their intelligence and creative thinking when faced with difficult situations.

Social justice and retribution: The story can be read as a critique of the abuse of power and social injustice. The soldier, who has been wronged by the king, ultimately achieves retribution by using the power of the blue light to bring the king and his court to justice. This theme highlights the importance of standing up against injustice and the possibility of attaining justice through unconventional means.

The role of the helper: The dwarf summoned by the blue light represents a magical helper figure often found in fairy tales. These helpers provide guidance, assistance, or power to the protagonist, emphasizing the importance of seeking help from others and the value of collaboration and cooperation.

The significance of transformation: As in many fairy tales, transformation plays a crucial role in „The Blue Light.“ The soldier’s transition from a wounded and marginalized figure to a powerful king demonstrates the potential for personal growth and change, reinforcing the idea that individuals are capable of overcoming obstacles and redefining their destinies.

While these interpretations may vary, the underlying themes of „The Blue Light“ reveal the complexity and depth of the fairy tale genre. The story offers valuable lessons on resilience, the power of resourcefulness, and the importance of standing up against injustice, which continue to resonate with readers today.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The blue light“

Although „The Blue Light“ is not as well-known as some of the other fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, there have been a few adaptations and retellings of the story. Here are some specific examples:

Film Adaptation – „Das Blaue Licht“ (1976): This East German fantasy film, directed by Iris Gusner, is a live-action adaptation of the Brothers Grimm’s „The Blue Light.“ The movie stays relatively true to the original story, with the soldier discovering the magical blue light and using it to take revenge on the king who abandoned him.

Opera – „Das blaue Licht“ (2001): The German composer, Gerd Domhardt, created an opera based on the fairy tale. The opera adds depth and complexity to the original story by incorporating elements of music, drama, and singing, while retaining the central themes of the tale.

Retelling – „The Blue Light: A Grimm’s Fairy Tale Reimagined“ by Jonathan Charles Bruce (2016): This reimagining of the original story follows the soldier’s journey as he tries to regain his honor and find purpose in his life after being discharged from the army. The author updates the tale for a modern audience, offering a fresh take on the classic story.

Children’s Book – „The Blue Light: A Grimm’s Fairy Tale“ by Manju Gregory, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup (2005): This children’s book retells the story in a simplified form, with colorful illustrations, making it accessible and engaging for younger readers.

Animation – „Das blaue Licht“ (1982): A German animated short film adaptation of the fairy tale, directed by Claus Dobberke, which tells the story of the soldier and his adventures with the blue light in a visual format.

These adaptations and retellings demonstrate the timeless appeal of „The Blue Light“ and its themes of resilience, resourcefulness, and transformation. While not as popular as other Grimm’s fairy tales, the story continues to inspire artists and creators to interpret and reimagine it for new audiences.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The blue light“

„The Blue Light“ is a popular fairy tale that has been adapted in various forms of media over the years. Here are a few notable adaptations:

Films: One of the most famous adaptations of „The Blue Light“ is the 1938 film of the same name directed by Leni Riefenstahl. The film, which starred Riefenstahl herself as the princess, deviated significantly from the original story, but was nevertheless successful in its time. Another film adaptation was made in 1976 by Soviet director Vadim Abdrashitov, which more closely followed the original tale.

Operas: There have been several operatic adaptations of „The Blue Light,“ including a 1919 opera by Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály and a 2014 opera by American composer Peter Anthony Togni.

Children’s books: „The Blue Light“ has been adapted into numerous children’s books over the years, including „The Blue Light“ by Ruth Sanderson and „The Blue Light“ by Marie-Therese Bougard.

Comics: The tale has also been adapted into comic book form, including a 2017 graphic novel by artist and writer Christopher Steininger.

Television: In 1973, the animated TV series „The World of Hans Christian Andersen“ included an adaptation of „The Blue Light“ in one of its episodes.

These adaptations have helped to keep the tale of „The Blue Light“ relevant and popular for generations.

Summary of the plot

„The Blue Light“ is a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm about a soldier who, after being discharged from the king’s service due to an injury, discovers a magical blue light with the help of a witch. The blue light, when lit, summons a dwarf who can grant any wish the soldier desires.

The soldier uses the blue light to exact revenge on the king and his court for abandoning him after his injury. In the process, he rescues a beautiful princess held captive in the palace. The soldier eventually marries the princess and becomes king, ultimately transforming from a marginalized figure to a powerful ruler.

The story emphasizes themes of overcoming adversity, the power of magical objects, and the importance of cleverness and resourcefulness in achieving one’s goals.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The blue light“

„The Blue Light“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their famous compilation, „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (originally titled „Children’s and Household Tales“ or „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“). The story was first published in 1812 as part of their first edition of the collection, which included 86 stories. The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, were German academics, linguists, and folklorists who aimed to preserve and share traditional oral folklore from the German-speaking regions of Europe.

The fairy tale itself draws on various folkloric motifs and themes, such as magical items, the power dynamics between commoners and royalty, and the use of cleverness and resourcefulness to overcome adversity. Similar to other fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, „The Blue Light“ incorporates elements of magic, transformation, and the struggle between good and evil.

The Brothers Grimm collected their stories from various sources, including friends, family members, and acquaintances who had knowledge of traditional oral tales. The tales were meant to represent the cultural heritage and history of the German people, and their collection of fairy tales played a significant role in the development of folklore studies as a scholarly discipline. Since their publication, the Grimm’s fairy tales have been translated into numerous languages, adapted into different media, and enjoyed by readers of all ages worldwide.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The blue light“

„The Blue Light“ offers several interpretations related to themes of power, loyalty, and the consequences of one’s actions.

Power dynamics: The story highlights the shifting power dynamics between the soldier, the King, and the witch. Initially, the King holds power over the soldier but later faces consequences for his unjust treatment. The soldier, initially powerless, gains power through the blue light and uses it to turn the tables on those who wronged him.

Loyalty and betrayal: The soldier’s loyalty to the King is rewarded with dismissal and destitution, while the King’s betrayal of the soldier leads to his downfall. The soldier’s encounter with the witch also explores themes of loyalty and betrayal, as the witch initially helps the soldier but later tries to take the blue light from him. The soldier’s alliance with the dwarf, based on mutual loyalty, ultimately leads to his success.

Consequences of actions: Each character in the story faces consequences for their actions. The King, who dismisses the soldier without reward, loses his kingdom. The witch, who tries to deceive the soldier, ends up hanging from the gallows; and the soldier, who chooses to take revenge, ultimately gains power, wealth, and love.

Empowerment and self-reliance: The story can be interpreted as a tale of empowerment and self-reliance. The soldier, once powerless, finds the means to change his situation and achieve success. He learns to rely on himself and his resourcefulness, rather than depending on the goodwill of others.

Magic and control: The blue light symbolizes magical power and control over one’s destiny. The soldier’s acquisition of the light enables him to take charge of his life and exact revenge on those who have wronged him. The dwarf, while a source of power, must obey the soldier’s commands, reflecting the theme of control within the story.

Summary of the plot

„The Blue Light“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a wounded soldier who discovers a magical blue light with the power to summon a mysterious dwarf.

The soldier, dismissed from service by the King without any compensation, encounters a witch who offers him shelter and food in exchange for performing tasks for her. When he retrieves a magical blue light from an old well for her, she tries to take it from him, but he refuses, and she abandons him in the well. Smoking from his pipe, he discovers that the blue light can summon a little black dwarf who must obey his every command.

The soldier takes advantage of the dwarf’s power to seek revenge on the King who abandoned him. He orders the dwarf to bring the princess to his house, forcing her to perform menial tasks in the night. The King, learning of his daughter’s ordeal, devises a plan to track down the culprit by having her leave a trail of peas and later, hide a shoe. The dwarf learns of these plans but is unable to prevent the soldier’s capture when the shoe is found in his house.

Facing execution, the soldier uses the blue light to summon the dwarf, who helps him defeat his enemies, including the judge, the constable, and the King. Fearing for his life, the King relinquishes his kingdom and offers the princess to the soldier as his wife.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 116
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 562
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, HU, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson32.1
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index80.2
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level7.1
Gunning Fog Index10.2
Coleman–Liau Index7.6
SMOG Index9.2
Automated Readability Index7.4
Character Count9.134
Letter Count6.975
Sentence Count87
Word Count1.757
Average Words per Sentence20,20
Words with more than 6 letters210
Percentage of long words12%
Number of Syllables2.204
Average Syllables per Word1,25
Words with three Syllables93
Percentage Words with three Syllables5.3%
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