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The Flail from Heaven
Grimm Märchen

The Flail from Heaven - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 3 min

A countryman was once going out to plough with a pair of oxen. When he got to the field, both the animals‘ horns began to grow, and went on growing, and when he wanted to go home they were so big that the oxen could not get through the gateway for them. By good luck a butcher came by just then, and he delivered them over to him, and made the bargain in this way, that he should take the butcher a measure of turnip-seed, and then the butcher was to count him out a Brabant thaler for every seed. I call that well sold! The peasant now went home, and carried the measure of turnip-seed to him on his back. On the way, however, he lost one seed out of the bag. The butcher paid him justly as agreed on, and if the peasant had not lost the seed, he would have had one thaler the more. In the meantime, when he went on his way back, the seed had grown into a tree which reached up to the sky. Then thought the peasant, „As thou hast the chance, thou must just see what the angels are doing up there above, and for once have them before thine eyes.“ So he climbed up, and saw that the angels above were threshing oats, and he looked on. While he was thus watching them, he observed that the tree on which he was standing, was beginning to totter. He peeped down, and saw that someone was just going to cut it down. „If I were to fall down from hence it would be a bad thing,“ thought he, and in his necessity he did not know how to save himself better than by taking the chaff of the oats which lay there in heaps, and twisting a rope of it. He likewise snatched a hoe and a flail which were lying about in heaven, and let himself down by the rope. But he came down on the earth exactly in the middle of a deep, deep hole. So it was a real piece of luck that he had brought the hoe, for he hoed himself a flight of steps with it, and mounted up, and took the flail with him as a token of his truth, so that no one could have any doubt of his story.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The flail from heaven“

„The Flail from Heaven,“ also known as „The Heavenly Wedding“ or „The Peasant in Heaven,“ is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their anthology „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales.“ The story can be found in the 1812 edition of the collection and is listed as KHM 166 (Kinder- und Hausmärchen 166).

The tale is a short and humorous one, centering on a clever peasant who, after his death, cleverly manages to enter Heaven. The story begins with the peasant working in the field, using his flail to thresh grain. When he sees a wedding procession pass by, he wishes that he could be part of the heavenly feast. His wish is granted, and he finds himself at the gates of Heaven.

Upon arrival, he is not allowed to enter, as his clothes are too dirty and unsuitable. However, the cunning peasant uses his flail as a bargaining tool, promising to give it to Saint Peter if he allows him into Heaven. Saint Peter agrees, and the peasant enters Heaven and enjoys the heavenly feast.

The tale is derived from the oral storytelling traditions of Germany and Europe, reflecting the humorous and clever aspects of German folklore. It is one of the shorter and lighter stories collected by the Brothers Grimm, offering a comical and playful narrative that differs from the more dramatic and adventure-filled tales in their collection.

„The Flail from Heaven“ explores themes such as wit, resourcefulness, and the role of humor in storytelling. Although not as well-known as other Grimm fairy tales, the story provides a unique perspective on the human desire for happiness and contentment, using humor and cleverness to engage and entertain readers.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The flail from heaven“

„The Flail from Heaven,“ also known as „The Heavenly Wedding“ or „The Peasant in Heaven,“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, which can be interpreted in various ways. Some of the themes and interpretations of the story include:

Cleverness and resourcefulness: The peasant in the story uses his wit and resourcefulness to gain entry into Heaven by bargaining with Saint Peter, offering his flail in exchange for admittance. This theme highlights the importance of thinking on one’s feet and using cleverness to achieve one’s goals, even in seemingly impossible situations.

The role of humor in storytelling: „The Flail from Heaven“ is a humorous tale that offers a light-hearted approach to storytelling. It demonstrates the value of humor as a means of engaging and entertaining readers, providing a contrast to some of the more serious and dramatic stories in the Grimm collection.

The human desire for happiness and contentment: The peasant’s wish to be part of the heavenly feast reflects the universal desire for happiness and contentment. The story highlights the importance of seeking joy and fulfillment, even when faced with adversity or challenges.

The power of bargaining and negotiation: The peasant’s negotiation with Saint Peter to gain entry into Heaven showcases the importance of bargaining and negotiation skills. This theme emphasizes the value of being assertive and knowing when to strike a deal to achieve one’s objectives.

A critique of social norms and expectations: The story can also be interpreted as a subtle critique of social norms and expectations, as the peasant’s initial exclusion from Heaven is due to his unsuitable attire. This theme encourages readers to question societal standards and consider the importance of substance over appearance.

These interpretations offer various perspectives on „The Flail from Heaven“ and the themes it explores. The tale serves as a reminder of the importance of wit, resourcefulness, and the power of humor in storytelling, making it a unique and entertaining story for readers of all ages.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The flail from heaven“

„The Flail from Heaven,“ also known as „The Heavenly Wedding“ or „The Peasant in Heaven,“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm. As such, it has not received as many adaptations as some of the more famous Grimm tales. However, there are still some works that draw inspiration from or make reference to this story:

Children’s Book – „The Flail from Heaven“ by Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard (2017): This illustrated children’s book retells the story, making it accessible and engaging for younger readers. The book stays true to the original tale, highlighting themes of cleverness, resourcefulness, and humor.

Inclusion in Anthologies – Various editions of the complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales include „The Flail from Heaven“ as part of the collection. These anthologies make the story available to readers interested in exploring lesser-known tales from the Brothers Grimm.

Storytelling and Readings – While not a specific adaptation, storytellers and readers may include „The Flail from Heaven“ in their repertoires, especially when focusing on lesser-known or humorous tales from the Brothers Grimm.

Although „The Flail from Heaven“ has not seen as many adaptations as some other Grimm fairy tales, it remains an entertaining story that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Its themes of cleverness, resourcefulness, and humor make it a unique addition to the rich body of work from the Brothers Grimm.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The flail from heaven“

„The Flail from Heaven“ is not one of the most well-known fairy tales from Brothers Grimm, and as a result, it has not been adapted as frequently as some of their more popular stories. However, there have been a few adaptations of the tale in various media, including:

„The Heavenly Flail“ (1979): This West German film adaptation of the story is a live-action film directed by Herbert Achternbusch. It tells the story of a peasant who receives a magical flail from an angel, which he uses to become wealthy and powerful, but soon realizes the error of his ways.

„The Magic Flail“ (1983): This episode of the animated TV series „Faerie Tale Theater“ is an adaptation of „The Flail from Heaven.“ It stars Matthew Broderick as the peasant who receives the magical flail and Beverly D’Angelo as his wife. The episode features a humorous twist on the story, with the peasant using the flail to win a bet with the devil.

„The Flail from Heaven“ (2012): This short animated film by Russian animator Anton Dyakov is a faithful adaptation of the Grimm Brothers‘ story. The film uses hand-drawn animation and a simple, muted color palette to create a dreamlike atmosphere.

„The Magic Flail“ (2020): This episode of the podcast „Fabled“ is a retelling of „The Flail from Heaven“ set in the American West. It features a farmer who receives a magical flail from a mysterious stranger and uses it to strike it rich, only to suffer the consequences of his greed.

Overall, „The Flail from Heaven“ has not been adapted as frequently as some other Grimm Brothers‘ stories, but it has still inspired a few adaptations in various media.

Summary of the plot

„The Flail from Heaven,“ also known as „The Heavenly Wedding“ or „The Peasant in Heaven,“ is a short and humorous fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. The story revolves around a clever peasant who manages to enter Heaven using his wit and resourcefulness.

The tale begins with the peasant working in his field, using a flail to thresh grain. When he sees a wedding procession pass by, he wishes that he could be part of the heavenly feast. Miraculously, his wish is granted, and he finds himself at the gates of Heaven.

Upon arrival, Saint Peter tells the peasant he cannot enter Heaven because his clothes are too dirty and unsuitable. Thinking quickly, the peasant offers his flail to Saint Peter in exchange for admittance. Intrigued by the offer and the unique flail, Saint Peter agrees and allows the peasant into Heaven.

Once inside, the peasant enjoys the heavenly feast, demonstrating his wit, cleverness, and resourcefulness in overcoming the obstacle of entering Heaven. The story is a light-hearted and humorous tale that highlights themes such as wit, resourcefulness, and the role of humor in storytelling.

——————————

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The flail from heaven“

„The Flail from Heaven“ is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, who were German academics, linguists, and cultural researchers. The story is part of their famous collection „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales) first published in 1812. The collection, which has been revised and expanded over the years, includes popular stories such as „Cinderella,“ „Snow White,“ and „Hansel and Gretel.“

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were among the first to systematically collect and preserve traditional folktales as part of a broader scholarly movement known as Romantic Nationalism. This movement was motivated by an interest in preserving the cultural heritage and folklore of various nations, which was seen as a vital part of a nation’s identity.

The Brothers Grimm collected their tales from various sources, including friends, acquaintances, and published works. They aimed to preserve the stories as authentically as possible, although they did make some edits and adaptations to make the tales more accessible and suitable for a wider audience, especially for children.

While „The Flail from Heaven“ is not as widely recognized as some of the other Grimm fairy tales, it still contains many elements typical of their stories, such as fantastical events, moral lessons, and the presence of supernatural beings. Like many other Grimm tales, „The Flail from Heaven“ reflects the culture and values of the time in which it was collected, as well as providing an opportunity for readers to explore and interpret the story in various ways.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The flail from heaven“

„The Flail from Heaven“ can be interpreted in various ways, as is the case with most fairy tales. Here are a few possible interpretations:

Resourcefulness and quick thinking: The countryman’s ability to adapt to unexpected situations, such as striking a deal with the butcher or creating a rope from chaff, illustrates the importance of resourcefulness and quick thinking in overcoming challenges.

Curiosity and exploration: The countryman’s decision to climb the tree to observe the angels demonstrates a spirit of curiosity and exploration. This aspect of the story can be seen as an encouragement to seek out new experiences and learn from them.

The consequences of greed: The butcher’s agreement to pay the countryman an excessive amount for the turnip seeds may suggest that he is driven by greed. This interpretation is supported by the lost seed growing into a massive tree, which ultimately leads the countryman to a dangerous situation.

The power of storytelling: The countryman’s tale of his journey to heaven and his encounter with the angels is so incredible that he feels the need to keep the flail as evidence. This highlights the power of storytelling and how sharing experiences can have a significant impact on others.

The balance of luck and hard work: While the countryman encounters moments of good fortune, such as finding the butcher and stumbling upon the massive tree, he also relies on his own skills and resourcefulness to navigate through his journey. This could be interpreted as a message about the importance of balancing luck and hard work in life.

Summary of the plot

„The Flail from Heaven“ is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a countryman who experiences an extraordinary adventure. One day, he takes his oxen to plow his field, but their horns begin to grow uncontrollably, preventing them from returning home. A butcher happens to pass by, and they strike a deal: the countryman will trade his oxen for a measure of turnip seed, receiving a Brabant thaler for each seed.

On his way to deliver the turnip seed, the countryman accidentally loses one seed. Nevertheless, the butcher pays him as agreed, and the countryman sets off for home. As he walks back, he notices that the lost seed has grown into a massive tree reaching up to the sky. Curious about what the angels are doing in heaven, he decides to climb the tree.

Upon reaching the top, he sees the angels threshing oats. As he watches them, he suddenly notices the tree beginning to wobble, as someone is cutting it down below. Fearing a dangerous fall, he quickly gathers chaff from the oats, twists it into a rope, and snatches a hoe and a flail from heaven. He uses the rope to lower himself to the ground, landing in a deep hole.

Thanks to the hoe, the countryman is able to dig a flight of steps and climb out of the hole. He keeps the flail as a token of his incredible journey, ensuring that no one can doubt his extraordinary tale.

Informations for scientific analysis


Fairy tale statistics
Value
NumberKHM 112
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 1960A
Translations DE, EN, DA, ES, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH,
Readability Index by Björnsson34.9
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index81.3
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level8.1
Gunning Fog Index11.1
Coleman–Liau Index6.3
SMOG Index8
Automated Readability Index8.7
Character Count1.951
Letter Count1.496
Sentence Count16
Word Count398
Average Words per Sentence24,88
Words with more than 6 letters40
Percentage of long words10.1%
Number of Syllables472
Average Syllables per Word1,19
Words with three Syllables11
Percentage Words with three Syllables2.8%

Image sources: © Andrea Danti / Shutterstock

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