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The Fox and the Geese
Grimm Märchen

The Fox and the Geese - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 3 min

The fox once came to a meadow in which was a flock of fine fat geese, on which he smiled and said, „I come in the nick of time, you are sitting together quite beautifully, so that I can eat you up one after the other.“ The geese cackled with terror, sprang up, and began to wail and beg piteously for their lives. But the fox would listen to nothing, and said, „There is no mercy to be had! You must die.“ At length one of them took heart and said, „If we poor geese are to yield up our vigorous young lives, show us the only possible favour and allow us one more prayer, that we may not die in our sins, and then we will place ourselves in a row, so that you can always pick yourself out the fattest.“ – „Yes,“ said the fox, „that is reasonable, and a pious request. Pray away, I will wait till you are done.“ Then the first began a good long prayer, for ever saying, „Ga! Ga!“ and as she would make no end, the second did not wait until her turn came, but began also, „Ga! Ga!“ The third and fourth followed her, and soon they were all cackling together.

When they have done praying, the story shall be continued further, but at present they are still praying without stopping.“

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The fox and the geese“

„The Fox and the Geese“ is a brief and lesser-known fable-type story collected by the Brothers Grimm in their anthology „Children’s and Household Tales“ (Kinder- und Hausmärchen). The tale is numbered as Tale 86 in the collection. As a simple fable, it lacks a detailed narrative, but it still carries a moral message.

Fables have been a part of storytelling traditions across many cultures and often feature animals as the main characters. These stories are meant to teach moral lessons and convey wisdom through easily understandable and entertaining narratives.

In „The Fox and the Geese,“ a fox comes across a group of geese and plans to eat them all. The geese plead for their lives, asking the fox to allow them to pray one last time before he devours them. The story ends abruptly without revealing the outcome, but it implies that the fox may be outwitted by the geese and their request for time to pray, which could potentially give them a chance to escape.

Although not as rich in symbolism or themes as other Brothers Grimm fairy tales, „The Fox and the Geese“ is still an example of the variety of stories that the Brothers Grimm collected in their efforts to preserve and promote German and European folklore. The tale’s brevity and simplicity reflect the oral storytelling traditions from which it originates, and its presence in the Grimm brothers‘ collection demonstrates their commitment to documenting a wide range of stories from their cultural heritage.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The fox and the geese“

„The Fox and the Geese,“ though a brief and simple fable, offers a few interpretations based on its themes and narrative elements. Some possible interpretations include:

Wit and cleverness: The story highlights the power of wit and cleverness as a means of self-preservation. The geese use their intelligence to request time for prayer, potentially giving them a chance to escape from the fox. This theme emphasizes the importance of using one’s wit in challenging situations.

Compassion and empathy: The geese’s plea for their lives can be seen as a call for compassion and empathy. By appealing to the fox’s emotions, they hope to be spared. The story suggests that understanding and respecting the feelings of others is a valuable quality.

The unpredictability of life: The abrupt and open-ended conclusion of the tale could be interpreted as a reflection of the unpredictability of life. The story leaves the reader wondering about the fate of the geese, emphasizing that life’s outcomes are often uncertain and can hinge on a single decision or moment.

The power of unity: Although not explicitly stated in the story, the geese’s collective request for time to pray may imply that there is strength in numbers. By standing together and presenting a united front, the geese increase their chances of outwitting the fox.

Moral or ethical dilemma: The fable might also be seen as presenting a moral or ethical dilemma for the fox, as it must decide whether to honor the geese’s request for time to pray or simply satisfy its hunger. This interpretation encourages readers to consider the complexities of moral decision-making and the consequences of one’s actions.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The fox and the geese“

„The Fox and the Geese“ is a short and lesser-known fable from the Brothers Grimm, and as such, it has not been widely adapted or retold in popular culture. However, its themes and elements have appeared in various forms and adaptations over the years. Some specific examples include:

Literature: The themes and motifs of „The Fox and the Geese“ can be found in various literary works, including short stories, picture books, and anthologies of fables and fairy tales. These adaptations may take the form of retellings of the original story or reinterpretations that incorporate similar themes and ideas, such as wit and cleverness or moral dilemmas.

Theater: Although „The Fox and the Geese“ has not been widely adapted for the stage, smaller theater companies, school productions, or community theater groups might have included it in their repertoire or as part of a larger collection of Grimm fairy tales. The story’s themes of wit, cleverness, and moral dilemmas lend themselves well to theatrical exploration.

Art: Illustrators and visual artists might have been inspired by „The Fox and the Geese,“ creating artwork for book editions or standalone pieces that depict key scenes, characters, or themes from the story. These works can vary in style and medium, showcasing the impact of the Brothers Grimm’s tale on the world of art.

While „The Fox and the Geese“ has not been widely adapted or retold in mainstream media, its themes and ideas continue to resonate and can be found in various forms of art and storytelling. The story serves as a reminder of the importance of wit and cleverness in challenging situations, as well as the complexities of moral decision-making, which are timeless themes that continue to be relevant today.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The fox and the geese“

„The Fox and the Geese“ is a classic fairy tale that has been adapted in various ways throughout the years. Here are a few notable adaptations:

Animated films: The tale has been adapted into several animated films, including the Disney short „The Fox Hunt“ (1931), the Warner Bros. short „Foxy by Proxy“ (1952), and the Soviet animated film „The Fox and the Geese“ (1965).

Children’s books: The story has been adapted into numerous children’s books, including „The Fox and the Geese“ by Barbara Gregorich, „The Fox and the Geese: A Tale of the Curious Winter“ by Ellen Stoll Walsh, and „The Fox and the Geese and the Wonderful Egg“ by Marianna Mayer.

Stage productions: The tale has been adapted into stage productions, including the children’s play „The Fox and the Geese“ by Robert M. Kelly and the puppet show „The Fox and the Geese“ by Martin Stevens.

Variations and parodies: The story has been parodied and adapted in various ways, including the Looney Tunes cartoon „Fast Feud“ (1962) which features Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner in the roles of the fox and geese, and the modern children’s book „The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse“ by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, which puts a twist on the tale by having the mouse and duck team up to outsmart a wolf.

Overall, „The Fox and the Geese“ has proven to be a versatile and enduring tale that continues to inspire new adaptations and interpretations.

Summary of the plot

„The Fox and the Geese“ is a brief fable-type story from the Brothers Grimm. In the tale, a fox comes across a group of geese and decides to eat them all. The geese, hoping to save their lives, plead with the fox to allow them to pray one last time before being devoured. The story ends abruptly without revealing the outcome, leaving the reader to ponder the fate of the geese and whether their clever plea was enough to grant them a chance to escape from the fox. The tale focuses on themes such as wit, cleverness, and the complexities of moral decision-making.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The fox and the geese“

„The Fox and the Geese“ is a traditional German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, in the 19th century. The Brothers Grimm were German academics, linguists, and folklorists who gathered and published numerous European fairy tales and folklore. Their collection, „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (originally titled „Children’s and Household Tales“), comprises over 200 stories, many of which have become world-renowned classics. Some other popular tales from their collection include „Cinderella,“ „Rapunzel,“ „Snow White,“ and „Hansel and Gretel.“

The Brothers Grimm aimed to preserve the cultural heritage and oral traditions of German and European folklore, which were primarily passed down through generations by word of mouth. The tales they collected often included elements of fantasy, magic, and morality lessons that served as educational tools for children and adults alike.

„The Fox and the Geese“ is a lesser-known tale from the Grimm’s collection, but it shares similar themes and characteristics with other stories in the anthology, such as cleverness, resourcefulness, unity, and the consequences of greed and overconfidence. Like many other Grimm’s tales, this story also uses anthropomorphism, attributing human characteristics to animals, to create a narrative that conveys moral lessons to its audience.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The fox and the geese“

„The Fox and the Geese“ offers various interpretations that can be drawn from the story. Here are three possible perspectives:

The Power of Unity: The tale demonstrates the strength of unity and working together as a group. Faced with a life-threatening situation, the geese come together in prayer, delaying their demise. By acting as one, they stand a better chance of outsmarting the cunning fox.

Cleverness and Resourcefulness in the Face of Danger: The geese are initially portrayed as helpless and frightened, but they exhibit resourcefulness by asking for the chance to pray before their impending doom. In doing so, they buy time and potentially outwit the fox. This aspect of the story highlights the importance of using wit and intelligence to navigate challenging circumstances.

The Dangers of Overconfidence and Greed: The fox’s overconfidence and greed may be his downfall in this tale. He sees the geese as an easy meal and underestimates their ability to strategize. As he waits for their prayers to finish, he loses the upper hand in the situation, illustrating that overconfidence and greed can lead to one’s downfall.

These interpretations serve as moral lessons for the reader, emphasizing the significance of unity, resourcefulness, and the pitfalls of overconfidence and greed.

Summary of the plot

„The Fox and the Geese“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, which tells the story of a cunning fox who chances upon a flock of plump, unsuspecting geese in a meadow. Delighted by the opportunity, the fox announces his intention to eat them one by one. The terrified geese plead for their lives, but the fox is unmoved, insisting that they must die.

Finally, one brave goose proposes a final request before they meet their fate. The geese ask the fox to grant them one more prayer, so they may not die with unabsolved sins. They also promise to line up afterward, allowing the fox to easily choose the fattest among them. The fox agrees to their request, seeing it as a reasonable and pious act.

The first goose then initiates a long prayer, repeating the sound „Ga! Ga!“ over and over. Instead of waiting for her to finish, the second goose joins in, followed by the third and fourth, until all the geese are praying in unison. The story leaves off with the geese still praying continuously, delaying the fox’s plans and potentially outsmarting him.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 86
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 227
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RO, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson27.7
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index83.3
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level6
Gunning Fog Index8.6
Coleman–Liau Index7.3
SMOG Index8
Automated Readability Index5.8
Character Count1.189
Letter Count897
Sentence Count13
Word Count229
Average Words per Sentence17,62
Words with more than 6 letters23
Percentage of long words10%
Number of Syllables286
Average Syllables per Word1,25
Words with three Syllables9
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.9%
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