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The Ear of Corn
Grimm Märchen

The Ear of Corn - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 3 min

In former times, when God himself still walked the earth, the fruitfulness of the soil was much greater than it is now. Then the ears of corn did not bear fifty or sixty, but four or five hundred-fold. Then the corn grew from the bottom to the very top o f the stalk, and according to the length of the stalk was the length of the ear. Men however are so made, that when they are too well off they no longer value the blessings which come from God, but grow indifferent and careless. One day a woman was passing by a corn-field when her little child, who was running beside her, fell into a puddle, and dirtied her frock. On this the mother tore up a handful of the beautiful ears of corn, and cleaned the frock with them. When the Lord, who just then came by, saw that, he was angry, and said, „Henceforth shall the stalks of corn bear no more ears; men are no longer worthy of heavenly gifts.“ The by-standers who heard this, were terrified, and fell on their knees and praye d that he would still leave something on the stalks, even if the people were undeserving of it, for the sake of the innocent birds which would otherwise have to starve. The Lord, who foresaw their suffering, had pity on them, and granted the request. So the ears were left as they now grow.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The ear of corn“

„The Ear of Corn“ is a brief and lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their collection „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales). Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were German scholars who gathered a vast collection of European folktales during the early 19th century, publishing the first edition of their collection in 1812.

„The Ear of Corn“ tells the story of a time when death was unknown, and people did not die. God decides to send death to Earth in the form of an ear of corn. This tale serves as a brief allegory about the inevitability of death and the natural cycle of life.

Some key backgrounds and influences for „The Ear of Corn“ include:

European folklore: As with other Grimm fairy tales, „The Ear of Corn“ is rooted in European oral traditions and storytelling. The tale may have been passed down through generations before being collected by the Brothers Grimm.

Allegory and symbolism: The story uses allegory and symbolism to convey deeper meaning. The ear of corn serves as a symbol of death, emphasizing the inevitability of mortality and the natural cycle of life.

Religious and philosophical themes: The tale explores religious and philosophical themes related to the nature of life and death. The idea that God sent death to Earth to maintain the balance of life reflects the concept of divine order and the inherent temporality of human existence.

Oral storytelling: „The Ear of Corn“ is a brief story, which would have been easily memorized and shared through oral storytelling. Its concise nature and allegorical message made it an ideal story to be passed down through generations.

While „The Ear of Corn“ may not be as well-known as other Brothers Grimm fairy tales, it provides a thought-provoking exploration of the human condition and the natural cycle of life and death, reflecting the rich tapestry of themes and cultural values found in the Grimm brothers‘ collection.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The ear of corn“

„The Ear of Corn“ is a brief, lesser-known Brothers Grimm fairy tale that offers a variety of interpretations related to human nature, societal values, and cultural context. Some possible interpretations include:

The cycle of life and death: The story explores the inevitability of death as a natural part of life. By introducing death through the symbol of the ear of corn, the tale emphasizes the importance of accepting mortality as an essential aspect of human existence.

Divine order and balance: The decision by God to send death to Earth suggests the need for balance and order in the world. This interpretation highlights the idea that life and death are interconnected, and both are necessary for maintaining the harmony of the universe.

Symbolism and allegory: „The Ear of Corn“ uses allegory to convey its message, with the ear of corn symbolizing death. This literary device allows the story to address complex themes such as mortality, the cycle of life, and divine order in a simple and accessible manner.

The nature of storytelling: The brevity of the tale makes it an ideal story for oral storytelling, a form of communication that was common in the past. This interpretation emphasizes the importance of storytelling in preserving cultural values and passing down knowledge and wisdom through generations.

Reflection on human nature: The story implies that, before the arrival of death, humans lived in a state of perpetual existence without understanding the concept of mortality. The introduction of death serves as a reminder of the finite nature of human life and the need to accept and embrace this reality.

These interpretations showcase the depth and complexity of „The Ear of Corn“ and the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales as a whole. Despite its brevity, the story contains valuable insights into the human experience, the natural cycle of life and death, and the role of storytelling in preserving cultural values.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The ear of corn“

„The Ear of Corn“ is not as widely known or adapted as some of the more popular Brothers Grimm fairy tales. However, it has still inspired various forms of adaptation and reinterpretation over the years. Some examples include:

Illustrated books: Like many other Brothers Grimm fairy tales, „The Ear of Corn“ has been adapted into illustrated books, featuring artwork by different illustrators. These illustrated versions often target children, making the story more engaging and accessible through the use of visuals.

Retellings: Authors have reimagined and retold „The Ear of Corn“ in new ways, adjusting the story or incorporating its themes into new narratives. While specific examples may be rare, these retellings showcase the story’s potential for adaptation and reinterpretation.

Theater and stage productions: „The Ear of Corn“ may have been adapted for the stage in various forms, including plays, puppet shows, and musicals. Local theater companies and schools may have performed adaptations of the story, though they may not be widely documented.

Radio plays: Although specific examples may be difficult to find, „The Ear of Corn“ could have been adapted for radio programs, especially as part of anthologies or series dedicated to the Brothers Grimm or fairy tales in general.

While „The Ear of Corn“ may not have inspired as many adaptations as some other Brothers Grimm fairy tales, it still offers opportunities for creative reinterpretation. Its themes and messages continue to resonate with artists and storytellers, who may draw inspiration from the story to explore the natural cycle of life and death, as well as the significance of allegory and symbolism in storytelling.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The ear of corn“

„The Ear of Corn“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, but it has still been adapted in various forms of media. Here are a few examples of adaptations:

Children’s Books: The story has been adapted into several children’s books over the years, including „The Magic Ear of Corn“ by Margaret Hillert and „The Golden Ear of Corn“ by Virginia Kahl. These books simplify the original tale for younger readers and include illustrations to help bring the story to life.

Animated Shorts: „The Ear of Corn“ has also been adapted into several animated shorts, including one by the Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics anime series. These adaptations often add humor and music to the story, making it more accessible to children.

Stage Productions: The tale has also been adapted for the stage. For example, in 2014, a play titled „The Golden Ear of Corn“ was performed by the Summer Theater Arts Rendezvous in Canada. The production included songs, dances, and puppetry to tell the story.

Modern Retellings: The story has also been adapted into modern retellings, such as the children’s book „The Magic Cornfield“ by Nancy Willard. These adaptations often update the story to make it more relevant to modern audiences, while still retaining the original themes and messages.

Overall, „The Ear of Corn“ may not be as well-known as other fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, but it has still been adapted in various forms of media over the years, providing new interpretations and ways to enjoy the classic story.

Summary of the plot

„The Ear of Corn“ is a brief, lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that serves as an allegory for the inevitability of death and the natural cycle of life. The story tells of a time when death did not exist, and people did not die. Seeing this, God decides to introduce death to the world to maintain balance and harmony.

God sends death to Earth in the form of an ear of corn. Once the ear of corn is brought to the world, people start to die, and the concept of mortality becomes an integral part of human existence. The tale, though short, conveys a powerful message about the cycle of life and death and the need for acceptance of this natural process.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The ear of corn“

„The Ear of Corn“ is a short fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859) Grimm, who were German academics, linguists, cultural researchers, and authors. The Brothers Grimm are best known for their collection of folklore and traditional stories, which they compiled in the early 19th century. Their work, titled „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales), was first published in 1812 and went through several revisions and editions, with the final edition being published in 1857.

The tales collected by the Brothers Grimm were derived from various sources, including oral traditions, previously published works, and the stories told to them by friends and acquaintances. Their collection aimed to preserve the rich cultural heritage of Germanic folklore, which was at risk of being lost due to the process of industrialization and modernization that was taking place at the time.

„The Ear of Corn“ is one of the lesser-known tales in their collection and is categorized as a religious or didactic tale. The story is set in a time when God still walked the earth and directly interacted with humans. The tale teaches moral lessons about gratitude, appreciation, and the consequences of taking blessings for granted, while also emphasizing the importance of compassion and interconnectedness.

Although the Brothers Grimm are often associated with the romanticized versions of fairy tales that have become popular in Western culture, many of their collected stories, like „The Ear of Corn,“ contain darker themes and moral lessons that reflect the struggles and values of the people living during that time.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The ear of corn“

„The Ear of Corn“ offers several interpretations and lessons that can be drawn from its narrative. Some of the key interpretations include:

Gratitude and appreciation: The story emphasizes the importance of being grateful for the blessings we receive in life. The people’s indifference to the bountiful harvests led to the decline in the abundance of corn, which serves as a reminder to appreciate and respect the gifts we receive.

Consequences of carelessness and disrespect: The mother’s careless act of using the corn to clean her child’s frock symbolizes the lack of respect and appreciation for the gifts provided by God. This act led to the Lord’s anger and the punishment that followed, teaching readers to be mindful of their actions and how they may impact their surroundings.

Compassion and mercy: The tale also highlights the importance of compassion and mercy. The people’s plea to the Lord to spare the corn for the sake of the innocent birds demonstrates their empathy for other creatures. The Lord’s decision to grant their request showcases His mercy and willingness to forgive.

Interconnectedness of life: The story demonstrates the interconnectedness of life and the environment, as the people’s actions affected not only themselves but also the innocent birds. This serves as a reminder to be aware of our actions and their potential impact on other beings and the world around us.

The power of collective prayer and action: The people’s collective plea to the Lord led to the reversal of His initial decision, highlighting the power of unity and collective action in bringing about positive change. This can be seen as an encouragement for people to work together in order to overcome challenges and protect the environment.

Summary of the plot

„The Ear of Corn“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm that takes place in a time when God still walked the earth and the soil was extremely fertile. During this period, corn would grow in abundance, with ears that were as long as the stalks themselves, yielding four or five hundred-fold harvests. However, people took these blessings for granted and became indifferent to the gifts from God.

One day, a woman and her child were walking past a cornfield when the child accidentally fell into a puddle and dirtied her frock. The mother carelessly tore a handful of beautiful ears of corn to clean the frock. When the Lord witnessed this act of disrespect, He became angry and declared that the stalks of corn would no longer bear ears, as humans were no longer deserving of such heavenly gifts.

The people nearby, terrified by the Lord’s words, pleaded with Him to reconsider His decision for the sake of the innocent birds that would starve without the corn. Taking pity on the birds and acknowledging their potential suffering, the Lord granted their request and allowed the ears of corn to continue growing, albeit in the diminished form that is seen today. This tale serves as a reminder of the importance of being grateful for the blessings we receive and the consequences of taking them for granted.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 194
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 779
TranslationsDE, EN, ES, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson35.5
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index76.3
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level8.7
Gunning Fog Index11.7
Coleman–Liau Index8.1
SMOG Index9.8
Automated Readability Index9.9
Character Count1.272
Letter Count990
Sentence Count10
Word Count244
Average Words per Sentence24,40
Words with more than 6 letters27
Percentage of long words11.1%
Number of Syllables305
Average Syllables per Word1,25
Words with three Syllables13
Percentage Words with three Syllables5.3%
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