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The Good Bargain
Grimm Märchen

The Good Bargain - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 13 min

Warning: This story is anti-Semitic and not suitable for children.

There was once a peasant who had driven his cow to the fair, and sold her for seven thalers. On the way home he had to pass a pond, and already from afar he heard the frogs crying, „Aik, aik, aik, aik.“ – „Well,“ said he to himself, „they are talking without rhyme or reason, it is seven that I have received, not eight.“ When he got to the water, he cried to them, „Stupid animals that you are! Don’t you know better than that? It is seven thalers and not eight.“ The frogs, however, stood to their, „aik aik, aik, aik.“ – „Come, then, if you won’t believe it, I can count it out to you.“ And he took his money out of his pocket and counted out the seven thalers, always reckoning four and twenty groschen to a thaler.

The good bargain Fairy Tale

The frogs, however, paid no attention to his reckoning, but still cried, „aik, aik, aik, aik.“ – „What,“ cried the peasant, quite angry, „since you are determined to know better than I, count it yourselves,“ and threw all the money into the water to them. He stood still and wanted to wait until they were done and had brought him his own again, but the frogs maintained their opinion and cried continually, „aik, aik, aik, aik,“ and besides that, did not throw the money out again. He still waited a long while until evening came on and he was forced to go home.

Then he abused the frogs and cried, „You water-splashers, you thick-heads, you goggle-eyes, you have great mouths and can screech till you hurt one’s ears, but you cannot count seven thalers! Do you think I’m going to stand here till you get done?“ And with that he went away, but the frogs still cried, „aik, aik, aik, aik,“ after him till he went home quite angry. After a while he bought another cow, which he killed, and he made the calculation that if he sold the meat well he might gain as much as the two cows were worth, and have the skin into the bargain.

When therefore he got to the town with the meat, a great troop of dogs were gathered together in front of the gate, with a large greyhound at the head of them, which jumped at the meat, snuffed at it, and barked, „Wow, wow, wow.“ As there was no stopping him, the peasant said to him, „Yes, yes, I know quite well that thou art saying, ‚wow, wow, wow,‘ because thou wantest some of the meat; but I should fare badly if I were to give it to thee.“ The dog, however, answered nothing but „wow, wow.“

„Wilt thou promise not to devour it all then, and wilt thou go bail for thy companions?“ – „Wow, wow, wow,“ said the dog. „Well, if thou insistest on it, I will leave it for thee. I know thee well, and know who is thy master; but this I tell thee, I must have my money in three days or else it will go ill with thee; thou must just bring it out to me.“ Thereupon he unloaded the meat and turned back again, the dogs fell upon it and loudly barked, „wow, wow.“ The countryman, who heard them from afar, said to himself, „Hark, now they all want some, but the big one is responsible to me for it.“

When three days had passed, the countryman thought, „To-night my money will be in my pocket,“ and was quite delighted. But no one would come and pay it. „There is no trusting any one now,“ said he; and at last he lost patience, and went into the town to the butcher and demanded his money. The butcher thought it was a joke, but the peasant said, „Jesting apart, I will have my money! Did not the great dog bring you the whole of the slaughtered cow three days ago?“ Then the butcher grew angry, snatched a broomstick and drove him out. „Wait a while,“ said the peasant, „there is still some justice in the world!“ and went to the royal palace and begged for an audience.

He was led before the King, who sat there with his daughter, and asked him what injury he had suffered. „Alas!“ said he, „the frogs and the dogs have taken from me what is mine, and the butcher has paid me for it with the stick,“ and he related at full length all that had happened. Thereupon the King’s daughter began to laugh heartily, and the King said to him, „I cannot give you justice in this, but you shall have my daughter to wife for it, — in her whole life she has never yet laughed as she has just done at thee, and I have promised her to him who could make her laugh. Thou mayst thank God for thy good fortune!“

„Oh,“ answered the peasant, „I will not have her, I have a wife already, and she is one too many for me. When I go home, it is just as bad as if I had a wife standing in every corner.“ Then the King grew angry, and said, „Thou art a boor.“ – „Ah, Lord King,“ replied the peasant, „what can you expect from an ox, but beef?“ – „Stop,“ answered the King, „thou shalt have another reward. Be off now, but come back in three days, and then thou shalt have five hundred counted out in full.“

When the peasant went out by the gate, the sentry said, „Thou hast made the King’s daughter laugh, so thou wilt certainly receive something good.“ – „Yes, that is what I think,“ answered the peasant; „five hundred are to be counted out to me.“ – „Hark thee,“ said the soldier, „give me some of it. What canst thou do with all that money?“ – „As it is thou,“ said the peasant, „thou shalt have two hundred; present thyself in three days‘ time before the King, and let it be paid to thee.“

A Jew, who was standing by and had heard the conversation, ran after the peasant, held him by the coat, and said, „Oh, wonder! what a luck-child thou art! I will change it for thee, I will change it for thee into small coins, what dost thou want with the great thalers?“ – „Jew,“ said the countryman, „three hundred canst thou still have; give it to me at once in coin, in three days from this, thou wilt be paid for it by the King.“ The Jew was delighted with the profit, and brought the sum in bad groschen, three of which were worth two good ones. After three days had passed, according to the King’s command, the peasant went before the King.

„Pull his coat off,“ said the latter, „and he shall have his five hundred.“ – „Ah!“ said the peasant, „they no longer belong to me. I presented two hundred of them to the sentinel, and three hundred the Jew has changed for me, so by right nothing at all belongs to me.“ In the meantime the soldier and the Jew entered and claimed what they had gained from the peasant, and they received the blows strictly counted out. The soldier bore it patiently and knew already how it tasted, but the Jew said sorrowfully, „Alas, alas, are these the heavy thalers?“ The King could not help laughing at the peasant, and as all his anger was gone, he said, „As thou hast already lost thy reward before it fell to thy lot, I will give thee something in the place of it. Go into my treasure chamber and get some money for thyself, as much as thou wilt.“

The peasant did not need to be told twice, and stuffed into his big pockets whatsoever would go in. Afterwards he went to an inn and counted out his money. The Jew had crept after him and heard how he muttered to himself, „That rogue of a King has cheated me after all, why could he not have given me the money himself, and then I should have known what I had? How can I tell now if what I have had the luck to put in my pockets is right or not?“ – „Good heavens!“ said the Jew to himself, „that man is speaking disrespectfully of our lord the King, I will run and inform, and then I shall get a reward, and he will be punished as well.“

When the King heard of the peasant’s words he fell into a passion, and commanded the Jew to go and bring the offender to him. The Jew ran to the peasant, „You are to go at once to the lord King in the very clothes you have on.“ – „I know what’s right better than that,“ answered the peasant, „I shall have a new coat made first. Dost thou think that a man with so much money in his pocket is to go there in his ragged old coat?“ The Jew, as he saw that the peasant would not stir without another coat, and as he feared that if the King’s anger cooled, he himself would lose his reward, and the peasant his punishment, said, „I will out of pure friendship lend thee a coat for the short time. What will people not do for love!“ The peasant was contented with this, put the Jew’s coat on, and went off with him.

The King reproached the countryman because of the evil speaking of which the Jew had informed him. „Ah,“ said the peasant, „what a Jew says is always false — no true word ever comes out of his mouth! That rascal there is capable of maintaining that I have his coat on.“ – „What is that?“ shrieked the Jew. „Is the coat not mine? Have I not lent it to thee out of pure friendship, in order that thou might appear before the lord King?“ When the King heard that, he said, „The Jew has assuredly deceived one or the other of us, either myself or the peasant,“ and again he ordered something to be counted out to him in hard thalers. The peasant, however, went home in the good coat, with the good money in his pocket, and said to himself, „This time I have hit it!“

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Good Bargain“

„The Good Bargain“ (KHM 7) is a humorous folktale that appears in the collection of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm. The story, which includes various episodes revolving around a simple-minded peasant, reflects the cultural context and the common beliefs of the time when the story was collected and published. The tale comes from the Paderborn region in Germany and was passed down through oral tradition before being recorded by the Grimm brothers. It features a series of misunderstandings and misadventures involving the peasant as he tries to make good bargains but ends up in comical situations.

In the story, the peasant misinterprets the sounds made by animals, which leads to a series of absurd decisions. For example, he thinks that frogs are demanding a higher price for his cow and throws coins at them, and he believes that a dog wants some of his meat, so he lets a pack of dogs eat it all. These misunderstandings and the peasant’s naivete create humor in the story. The narrative also includes a subplot involving a Jew, which has strong anti-Semitic undertones. The Jew is depicted as cunning and deceitful, which was a common stereotype during the time the tale was recorded. This element of the story reflects the prejudices and beliefs of the era and is not necessarily a reflection of the Grimm brothers‘ personal views.

The Brothers Grimm were German academics, linguists, and authors who specialized in collecting and publishing folklore and traditional stories during the Romantic period. Their most famous work, „Children’s and Household Tales“ (also known as „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“), is a collection of over 200 stories, including classics like „Cinderella,“ „Hansel and Gretel,“ „Snow White,“ and „Rapunzel.“ The stories were first published in 1812 and went through several editions, with the final edition being released in 1857. The Brothers Grimm collected these stories from various sources, including oral narratives passed down through generations, as well as written manuscripts and books. They aimed to preserve and document the rich cultural heritage of German-speaking regions. The tales often have dark themes, and many have been adapted and sanitized over time to suit more modern sensibilities and younger audiences.

In recent years, modern adaptations and translations of „The Good Bargain“ have removed or modified the anti-Semitic elements to make the story more appropriate for contemporary audiences. The overall theme of the story, which centers on the peasant’s humorous misadventures, remains a popular and entertaining part of the Grimm brothers‘ collection of fairy tales. It is essential to note that „The Good Bargain“ contains anti-Semitic elements, reflecting the prejudices and stereotypes that were prevalent in European society at the time. The story’s portrayal of the Jewish character perpetuates harmful stereotypes and should be approached with caution and a critical mindset. While interpreting and discussing the story, it is crucial to acknowledge and address these problematic aspects and their historical context.

Anti-Semitism in Grimm Fairy Tales

Anti-Semitism is present in some of the Grimm brothers‘ fairy tales, which can be attributed to the time and cultural context in which the brothers lived and compiled their collection of folktales. Two of the most notable examples of anti-Semitic portrayals in the Grimm fairy tales are:

„The Jew in the Thorn Bush“ (KHM 110): This tale tells the story of a servant who tricks a Jew and traps him in a thorn bush. The Jew is depicted as greedy and deceitful, conforming to the negative stereotypes that were prevalent about Jews at the time.

„The Good Bargain“ (KHM 7): In this tale, there is a scene in which a peasant deals blows to a Jew after the Jew has tricked him. Again, the Jew is portrayed as cunning and deceitful.

It is important to note that these anti-Semitic elements in the Grimm brothers‘ fairy tales may not necessarily reflect their personal views but rather the prejudices and stereotypes of their time. In modern adaptations and translations of the Grimm fairy tales, such anti-Semitic elements are often removed or adapted to make them more appropriate and politically correct for contemporary audiences.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Good Bargain“

„The Good Bargain“ (KHM 7) is a lesser-known Grimm Brothers‘ fairy tale, but it still offers various interpretations:

Misunderstanding of language: A central theme in the story is the misunderstanding of language, as the protagonist misinterprets the sounds of animals (frogs and a dog) as human speech. This could be seen as a commentary on the importance of clear communication and understanding different languages or dialects.

Foolishness and luck: The protagonist in „The Good Bargain“ is a simple and somewhat foolish character. However, his naive actions lead him to unexpected fortune. This can be interpreted as a reminder that luck can play a significant role in life, and that sometimes it is better to be lucky than wise.

The power of humor: The protagonist’s absurd story and actions make the king’s daughter laugh for the first time in her life, which leads to a potential marriage proposal. This highlights the importance of humor and its ability to change people’s lives and bring happiness.

Social critique: The story presents several characters who try to deceive or take advantage of the protagonist. This could be seen as a critique of human nature and a commentary on the dishonesty and greed that can be found in society.

Anti-Semitism: „The Good Bargain“ includes a negative portrayal of a Jewish character, which reflects the anti-Semitic attitudes that were prevalent at the time the story was written. It is essential to acknowledge and address this aspect when interpreting the tale in a modern context.

Cleverness and resourcefulness: The peasant, despite his initial misfortunes, manages to turn situations to his advantage through his wit and resourcefulness. His ability to navigate through different challenges and outsmart his adversaries highlights the importance of cleverness in overcoming obstacles.

The power of laughter: The King’s daughter’s laughter serves as a catalyst for the story’s events. Her laughter not only saves the peasant from the King’s anger but also ultimately leads to the peasant’s fortune. This emphasizes the power of humor and laughter to diffuse tense situations and bring about unexpected outcomes.

Miscommunication and misunderstandings: The story revolves around various instances of miscommunication and misunderstandings, such as the peasant’s interaction with the frogs, the greyhound, and the Jew. These situations highlight the importance of clear communication and the potential consequences of misunderstandings.

Greed and deception: Several characters in the story, including the sentry, the Jew, and the peasant himself, exhibit greed and use deception to achieve their goals. The story serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences of dishonesty and the importance of maintaining one’s integrity.

Prejudice and stereotypes: The story contains anti-Semitic elements, depicting the Jew as a greedy and dishonest character. This negative portrayal perpetuates harmful stereotypes and prejudices. It is essential to be aware of these issues when interpreting the story and considering its historical context.

In summary, „The Good Bargain“ offers various interpretations, ranging from the importance of communication and the power of humor to social critique and the need to confront historical prejudices. Overall, „The Good Bargain“ offers various interpretations and lessons, highlighting themes such as cleverness, the power of laughter, miscommunication, greed, and prejudice. While some aspects of the story can provide valuable insights, it is crucial to approach the anti-Semitic elements with caution and acknowledge their harmful nature.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The good bargain“

„The Good Bargain“ is a fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, in the early 19th century. While „The Good Bargain“ may not be as well-known or widely adapted as some other fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, it has been featured in various formats and media. Some specific examples of adaptations include:

Illustrated Books: As part of collections of Brothers Grimm fairy tales, „The Good Bargain“ has been adapted into illustrated books for children and adults. These books often feature simplified language and colorful illustrations to bring the story to life and make it more accessible to younger readers. „The Good Bargain“ has been included in various collections and anthologies of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Many of these books present the story with illustrations or modernized language, making the tale more accessible to contemporary readers.

Audiobooks: „The Good Bargain“ has been included in audiobook collections of Brothers Grimm fairy tales, with narrators providing engaging readings of the story. These audiobook adaptations offer a way to enjoy the tale through an auditory experience and can be found on various platforms, such as Audible or other audiobook providers.

Animation: Though not as prevalent as some other Grimm tales, „The Good Bargain“ may have been adapted as part of animated anthology series or films featuring multiple fairy tales. These adaptations typically take creative liberties with the source material to make it more engaging and entertaining for modern audiences.

Theater: Stage adaptations of Grimm fairy tales may include „The Good Bargain“ as part of a larger theatrical production. These adaptations often feature original music, creative set designs, and innovative interpretations of the source material, making it suitable for live performances. Local and amateur theater groups have occasionally adapted „The Good Bargain“ for the stage or as part of puppet shows. These adaptations usually focus on the humorous aspects of the story and may include audience participation or interactive elements.

Educational Materials: „The Good Bargain“ has been used in educational contexts, such as language learning materials and teaching resources. The story may be presented in simplified or abridged versions, with accompanying exercises or activities to facilitate learning.

Although „The Good Bargain“ may not have as many high-profile adaptations as some other Grimm fairy tales, it remains a memorable story with its themes of wit, cunning, and the triumph of the underdog. The tale continues to be enjoyed by audiences through various adaptations and retellings that introduce it to new generations.


„The Good Bargain“ (KHM 7) is a tale about a foolish peasant who sells his cow for seven talers and misunderstands the quacking of some frogs to mean that they are asking for eight talers. He throws the extra taler into the pond, but later realizes his mistake. On his way to sell the meat of his next cow, he encounters a pack of dogs and, misunderstanding their barking, allows them to eat all of the meat. The butcher, to whom the dogs belong, refuses to compensate the peasant for his loss, so the peasant goes to the king for help.

The king’s daughter laughs for the first time in her life when she hears the story, so the king offers to marry her to the peasant. However, the peasant is happy with his own wife and declines the offer. The king then gives him 500 talers, which the peasant is tricked out of by a Jewish man who switches them for fake coins. The peasant goes back to the king and complains, and the king gives him access to the treasury to take as much money as he wants. In the end, the peasant is duped by the Jewish man once again, but this time he keeps the man’s coat as payment.

Summary of the plot

„The Good Bargain“ is a fairy tale by Brothers Grimm that features a peasant who experiences a series of misfortunes and misunderstandings, ultimately leading him to acquire wealth and outsmart his adversaries. The story begins with the peasant selling his cow for seven thalers. On his way home, he hears frogs near a pond, which he mistakenly believes are mocking him for receiving only seven thalers instead of eight. Frustrated, he throws his money into the water, but the frogs don’t return it, so he leaves empty-handed.

Later, the peasant buys and slaughters another cow, hoping to make a profit by selling the meat. However, a group of dogs, led by a large greyhound, steals the meat. The peasant agrees to let the greyhound take the meat, but demands to be paid in three days. When the payment isn’t made, the peasant seeks justice from the butcher, who dismisses his claim and drives him out.

Desperate for help, the peasant goes to the King and recounts his tale of misfortune. The King’s daughter finds the story amusing and laughs, leading the King to offer her hand in marriage to the peasant, as he had promised her to whoever could make her laugh. However, the peasant refuses the offer, not wanting another wife.

Angered, the King orders the peasant to return in three days to receive 500 thalers as a reward instead. The peasant tells a sentry and a Jew about his expected reward, and they both ask for a share. The peasant agrees, but when he returns to the King, he claims that the money no longer belongs to him as he had already given it away. The King has the sentry and the Jew receive their share in the form of physical blows.

The King then allows the peasant to take as much money as he wants from the royal treasury. The peasant fills his pockets and goes to an inn. The Jew, who had been eavesdropping, hears the peasant grumbling about the King and reports him. The King summons the peasant, who is now wearing the Jew’s coat, to answer for his disrespectful words. The peasant denies the accusation and turns the situation around, accusing the Jew of lying about the ownership of the coat.

In the end, the King believes the peasant and rewards him again with more money. The peasant returns home with a new coat and a significant amount of wealth, satisfied that he has finally succeeded in outsmarting his adversaries.

Note: The original story contains anti-Semitic elements that are not suitable for children.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 7
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 1642
TranslationsDE, EN, EL, DA, ES, PT, FI, IT, JA, NL, KO, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson31.8
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index82.6
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level6.7
Gunning Fog Index9.5
Coleman–Liau Index7.3
SMOG Index8.4
Automated Readability Index7
Character Count9.037
Letter Count6.783
Sentence Count87
Word Count1.728
Average Words per Sentence19,86
Words with more than 6 letters206
Percentage of long words11.9%
Number of Syllables2.125
Average Syllables per Word1,23
Words with three Syllables69
Percentage Words with three Syllables4%
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