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The Grave Mound
The Grave Mound Märchen

The Grave Mound - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 11 min

A rich farmer was one day standing in his yard inspecting his fields and gardens. The corn was growing up vigorously and the fruit-trees were heavily laden with fruit. The grain of the year before still lay in such immense heaps on the floors that the rafters could hardly bear it. Then he went into the stable, where were well-fed oxen, fat cows, and horses bright as looking-glass. At length he went back into his sitting-room, and cast a glance at the iron chest in which his money lay.

Whilst he was thus standing surveying his riches, all at once there was a loud knock close by him. The knock was not at the door of his room, but at the door of his heart. It opened, and he heard a voice which said to him, „Hast thou done good to thy family with it? Hast thou considered the necessities of the poor? Hast thou shared thy bread with the hungry? Hast thou been contented with what thou hast, or didst thou always desire to have more?“ The heart was not slow in answering, „I have been hard and pitiless, and have never shown any kindness to my own family. If a beggar came, I turned away my eyes from him. I have not troubled myself about God, but have thought only of increasing my wealth. If everything which the sky covers had been mine own, I should still not have had enough.“

When he was aware of this answer he was greatly alarmed, his knees began to tremble, and he was forced to sit down.

Then there was another knock, but the knock was at the door of his room. It was his neighbour, a poor man who had a number of children whom he could no longer satisfy with food. „I know,“ thought the poor man, „that my neighbour is rich, but he is as hard as he is rich. I don’t believe he will help me, but my children are crying for bread, so I will venture it.“ He said to the rich man, „You do not readily give away anything that is yours, but I stand here like one who feels the water rising above his head. My children are starving, lend me four measures* of corn.“ The rich man looked at him long, and then the first sunbeam of mercy began to melt away a drop of the ice of greediness. „I will not lend thee four measures,“ he answered, „but I will make thee a present of eight, but thou must fulfil one condition.“ – „What am I to do?“ said the poor man. „When I am dead, thou shalt watch for three nights by my grave.“ The peasant was disturbed in his mind at this request, but in the need in which he was, he would have consented to anything. He accepted, therefore, and carried the corn home with him.

It seemed as if the rich man had foreseen what was about to happen, for when three days were gone by, he suddenly dropped down dead. No one knew exactly how it came to pass, but no one grieved for him. When he was buried, the poor man remembered his promise. He would willingly have been released from it, but he thought, „After all, he acted kindly by me. I have fed my hungry children with his corn, and even if that were not the case, where I have once given my promise I must keep it.“ At nightfall he went into the churchyard, and seated himself on the grave-mound. Everything was quiet, only the moon appeared above the grave, and frequently an owl flew past and uttered her melancholy cry.

When the sun rose, the poor man betook himself in safety to his home, and in the same manner the second night passed quietly by. On the evening of the third day he felt a strange uneasiness, it seemed to him that something was about to happen. When he went out he saw, by the churchyard-wall, a man whom he had never seen before. He was no longer young, had scars on his face, and his eyes looked sharply and eagerly around. He was entirely covered with an old cloak, and nothing was visible but his great riding-boots. „What are you looking for here?“ the peasant asked. „Are you not afraid of the lonely churchyard?“

„I am looking for nothing,“ he answered, „and I am afraid of nothing! I am like the youngster who went forth to learn how to shiver, and had his labour for his pains, but got the King’s daughter to wife and great wealth with her, only I have remained poor. I am nothing but a paid-off soldier, and I mean to pass the night here, because I have no other shelter.“ – „If you are without fear,“ said the peasant, „stay with me, and help me to watch that grave there.“

„To keep watch is a soldier’s business,“ he replied, „whatever we fall in with here, whether it be good or bad, we will share it between us.“ The peasant agreed to this, and they seated themselves on the grave together.

All was quiet until midnight, when suddenly a shrill whistling was heard in the air, and the two watchers perceived the Evil One standing bodily before them. „Be off, you ragamuffins!“ cried he to them, „the man who lies in that grave belongs to me. I want to take him, and if you don’t go away I will wring your necks!“ – „Sir with the red feather,“* said the soldier, „you are not my captain, I have no need to obey you, and I have not yet learned how to fear. Go away, we shall stay sitting here.“

The Devil thought to himself, „Money is the best thing with which to get hold of these two vagabonds.“ So he began to play a softer tune, and asked quite kindly, if they would not accept a bag of money, and go home with it? „That is worth listening to,“ answered the soldier, „but one bag of gold won’t serve us, if you will give as much as will go into one of my boots, we will quit the field for you and go away.“

„I have not so much as that about me,“ said the Devil, „but I will fetch it. In the neighbouring town lives a money-changer who is a good friend of mine, and will readily advance it to me.“ When the Devil had vanished the soldier took his left boot off, and said, „We will soon pull the charcoal-burner’s nose for him, just give me your knife, comrade.“ He cut the sole off the boot, and put it in the high grass near the grave on the edge of a hole that was half over-grown. „That will do,“ said he; „now the chimney-sweep may come.

They both sat down and waited, and it was not long before the Devil returned with a small bag of gold in his hand. „Just pour it in,“ said the soldier, raising up the boot a little, „but that won’t be enough.“

The Black One shook out all that was in the bag. The gold fell through, and the boot remained empty. „Stupid Devil,“ cried the soldier, „it won’t do! Didn’t I say so at once? Go back again, and bring more.“ The Devil shook his head, went, and in an hour’s time came with a much larger bag under his arm. „Now pour it in,“ cried the soldier, „but I doubt the boot won’t be full.“

The Grave Mound Fairy TaleImage: Paul Hey (1867 – 1952)

The gold clinked as it fell, but the boot remained empty. The Devil looked in himself with his burning eyes, and convinced himself of the truth. „You have shamefully big calves to your legs!“ cried he, and made a wry face. „Did you think,“ replied the soldier, „that I had a cloven foot like you? Since when have you been so stingy? See that you get more gold together, or our bargain will come to nothing!“ The Wicked One went off again. This time he stayed away longer, and when at length he appeared he was panting under the weight of a sack which lay on his shoulders. He emptied it into the boot, which was just as far from being filled as before. He became furious, and was just going to tear the boot out of the soldier’s hands, but at that moment the first ray of the rising sun broke forth from the sky, and the Evil Spirit fled away with loud shrieks. The poor soul was saved.

The peasant wished to divide the gold, but the soldier said, „Give what falls to my lot to the poor, I will come with thee to thy cottage, and together we will live in rest and peace on what remains, as long as God is pleased to permit.“

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Grave Mound“

„The Grave Mound“ is another lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, which can be found in their collection „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales). Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were German scholars who compiled numerous European folktales in the early 19th century, with their first edition being published in 1812.

„The Grave Mound“ is a tale about a rich farmer who becomes greedy and forgets the value of kindness and generosity. After his death, his spirit haunts the grave mound where he is buried, seeking redemption for his past actions. A poor man encounters the ghost, and after demonstrating his own kindness, the farmer’s spirit is set free and the poor man is rewarded with wealth.

Some key backgrounds and influences for „The Grave Mound“ include:

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

Moral lessons: The story of „The Grave Mound“ serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of greed and the importance of kindness and generosity. The narrative structure and themes are designed to impart moral lessons to readers or listeners.

Supernatural elements: The presence of the farmer’s ghost haunting his grave mound is a supernatural element commonly found in traditional folklore. The supernatural is used as a narrative device to emphasize the consequences of one’s actions, even after death.

Redemption and transformation: The story of „The Grave Mound“ illustrates the theme of redemption and transformation. The farmer’s spirit seeks redemption for his past misdeeds, and the poor man’s kindness helps set the spirit free. In return, the poor man is rewarded with wealth, illustrating the transformative power of compassion and empathy.

Social commentary: „The Grave Mound“ may also be interpreted as social commentary on the consequences of wealth and the disparity between the rich and the poor. The tale emphasizes the importance of moral values and compassion, regardless of one’s social standing.

These backgrounds and influences contribute to the rich tapestry of the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales, reflecting a variety of themes and cultural values that are still relevant and meaningful today.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Grave Mound“

„The Grave Mound“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, which offers a variety of interpretations that can provide insights into human nature, societal values, and cultural context. Some possible interpretations include:

Moral values: The story of „The Grave Mound“ teaches the importance of kindness, generosity, and empathy. The rich farmer’s past actions of greed and lack of compassion lead to his spirit being trapped, while the poor man’s demonstration of kindness sets the spirit free and brings him rewards.

Consequences of actions: The tale serves as a cautionary reminder that actions have consequences, even beyond the grave. The farmer’s spirit is not at peace due to his past misdeeds, emphasizing the importance of moral behavior during one’s lifetime.

Redemption and transformation: The story illustrates the theme of redemption and transformation, as the farmer’s spirit seeks forgiveness and a chance to make amends. Through the kindness of the poor man, the spirit is redeemed, and the poor man’s life is transformed.

Wealth and social disparity: „The Grave Mound“ can be seen as a commentary on wealth and social inequality. The tale contrasts the rich farmer, who is ultimately punished for his greed, with the poor man, who is rewarded for his kindness. This highlights the importance of moral values over material wealth and social standing.

Supernatural and symbolic elements: The supernatural elements in the story, such as the ghost of the rich farmer, serve as a narrative device to explore moral themes and the consequences of one’s actions. The grave mound itself can be viewed as a symbol of the burden of the farmer’s past actions, which must be addressed and resolved before his spirit can find peace.

The power of compassion: The poor man’s actions demonstrate the transformative power of compassion, as his kindness not only sets the farmer’s spirit free but also leads to a significant change in his own life. This reinforces the idea that empathy and understanding are essential virtues that can have a profound impact on others.

These interpretations showcase the depth and complexity of „The Grave Mound“ and the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales as a whole. The story contains valuable lessons and insights into human nature, morality, and the importance of kindness and compassion in society.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Grave Mound“

„The Grave Mound“ 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 Grave Mound“ has been adapted into illustrated books, featuring artwork by different illustrators. These illustrated versions often target children, making the story more engaging and accessible.

Retellings: Authors have reimagined and retold „The Grave Mound“ in new ways, adjusting the story or incorporating its themes into new narratives. These retellings may not be widely recognized, but they showcase the story’s potential for adaptation and reinterpretation.

Theater and stage productions: „The Grave Mound“ has likely 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 Grave Mound“ 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 Grave Mound“ 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 importance of kindness, compassion, and the consequences of one’s actions.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Grave Mound“

„The Grave Mound,“ also known as „The Giant’s Grave,“ is a popular fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm collection, and as such, it has inspired many adaptations in literature, film, and other media. Here are a few notable adaptations:

„The Giant’s Grave,“ a novel by Norman Jorgensen: This Australian novel for young readers retells the story of „The Grave Mound“ in a new setting, with a group of soldiers stranded on an island during World War II. The novel explores themes of courage, friendship, and the supernatural.

„The Grave Mound,“ a horror film by Benjamin Cooper: This 2012 horror film takes inspiration from the Grimm fairy tale and tells the story of a group of young people who visit a mysterious grave mound and are terrorized by the ghost of a giant. The film was praised for its eerie atmosphere and effective scares.

„The Giant’s Grave,“ a short story by Algernon Blackwood: This early 20th-century horror story takes elements from „The Grave Mound“ and combines them with Blackwood’s own style of psychological horror. The story features a group of travelers who come across a giant’s grave and are haunted by the ghosts of the past.

„The Giant’s Grave,“ a song by Loreena McKennitt: This haunting ballad appears on McKennitt’s 1997 album „The Book of Secrets“ and tells the story of a soldier who visits a giant’s grave and encounters supernatural forces. The song features McKennitt’s signature blend of Celtic and Middle Eastern influences.

„The Grave Mound,“ a video game level: This level appears in the popular video game „World of Warcraft“ and is based on the Grimm fairy tale. Players must navigate a treacherous grave mound and fight off the ghostly guardians that inhabit it.

Overall, „The Grave Mound“ has proven to be a rich source of inspiration for creative works across a variety of media, demonstrating the enduring appeal of the Grimm fairy tales.

Summary of the plot

„The Grave Mound“ is a lesser-known Brothers Grimm fairy tale that tells the story of a rich farmer who becomes greedy and forgets the importance of kindness and generosity. After his death, his spirit is trapped and haunts the grave mound where he is buried, seeking redemption for his past actions.

One day, a poor man encounters the ghost of the farmer at the grave mound. The farmer’s spirit asks the poor man to spend the night by the mound and keep him company. The poor man agrees and demonstrates his kindness by sharing his meager food and drink with the ghost. Moved by the poor man’s generosity, the farmer’s spirit reveals a buried treasure hidden near the mound and tells the poor man that he is free to take it.

The poor man, now wealthy, uses the treasure to help others and leads a life of kindness and generosity, embodying the lessons he learned from the farmer’s spirit. The story of „The Grave Mound“ serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences of greed and the transformative power of compassion and empathy.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Grave Mound“

„The Grave Mound“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, in their famous anthology, „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (also known as „Children’s and Household Tales“ or „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“). The Brothers Grimm were German philologists, cultural researchers, and authors who collected and published folklore during the early 19th century. Their work played a significant role in the development of the fairy tale genre, and their stories have been adapted and retold in various forms across generations.

The Brothers Grimm collected their stories from various sources, including oral traditions and written works. These stories were not originally intended for children but were rather part of a broader cultural documentation effort. It was only after their publication that the tales gained popularity as children’s literature. The fairy tales often featured fantastical elements, moral lessons, and cautionary themes, reflecting the values and concerns of the time.

„The Grave Mound,“ like many other Grimm fairy tales, serves to impart moral lessons to its readers, highlighting the importance of compassion, generosity, and unity. The story also explores the themes of redemption and the dangers of materialism, as well as offering a cautionary tale against falling for the tricks of the Devil.

Though the story may not be as well-known as other Grimm tales like „Cinderella,“ „Hansel and Gretel,“ or „Little Red Riding Hood,“ it shares the collection’s overarching goal of teaching moral values and life lessons through entertaining narratives.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Grave Mound“

„The Grave Mound“ offers several interpretations and moral lessons:

The importance of generosity and compassion: The rich farmer’s wealth and success make him cold and uncharitable. His realization of this character flaw demonstrates the importance of being kind and generous to others, especially those in need. The farmer’s eventual act of generosity, though prompted by guilt, ultimately leads to the salvation of his soul.

The power of redemption: Despite the farmer’s past greediness, his soul is ultimately saved due to the kindness and loyalty of the poor man and the soldier. This suggests that it’s never too late for redemption, and one’s past actions can be outweighed by good deeds.

he danger of materialism: The rich farmer’s obsession with his wealth blinds him to the needs of others and distances him from his family. The story warns against the danger of materialism and encourages readers to value relationships and compassion over riches.

The strength of unity and teamwork: The poor man and the soldier join forces to outwit the Devil and save the rich man’s soul. Their cooperation and determination demonstrate the power of unity and the importance of standing together against evil forces.

The rewards of keeping promises: The poor man keeps his promise to watch over the farmer’s grave, even though it’s a difficult and frightening task. His loyalty and dedication result in the salvation of the farmer’s soul and a better life for his family. This highlights the value of keeping one’s promises and staying true to one’s word.

The cunning nature of the Devil: The Devil tries to manipulate the poor man and the soldier with gold, but they outsmart him. This serves as a cautionary tale against falling for the Devil’s tricks and deceit, as well as a reminder to remain vigilant against evil forces.

Summary of the plot

„The Grave Mound“ is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a rich, greedy farmer and a poor man with many children. The farmer spends his days admiring his wealth, and when confronted by his conscience, he realizes that he has been hard and pitiless to his family and the poor. One day, the poor man asks the farmer for help, and the farmer agrees to give him double the requested amount of corn on the condition that the poor man watches over his grave for three nights after he dies.

Unexpectedly, the farmer dies three days later. The poor man keeps his promise and begins watching over the grave. On the third night, he meets a former soldier who offers to help him watch the grave. Soon after, the Devil appears, demanding that they leave the grave so he can take the dead man’s soul. The soldier refuses and bargains with the Devil, asking for a large sum of gold in exchange for their departure.

The Devil brings gold three times, attempting to fill the soldier’s boot, but the boot remains empty. With each failed attempt, the Devil becomes more frustrated. However, as the sun begins to rise, the Devil is forced to flee, and the dead man’s soul is saved. The soldier suggests giving his share of the gold to the poor and living peacefully with the poor man and his family.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 195
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 815
TranslationsDE, EN, ES, FR, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson28.9
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index84
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level5.9
Gunning Fog Index8.8
Coleman–Liau Index7.3
SMOG Index8.4
Automated Readability Index5.8
Character Count7.725
Letter Count5.876
Sentence Count86
Word Count1.496
Average Words per Sentence17,40
Words with more than 6 letters172
Percentage of long words11.5%
Number of Syllables1.860
Average Syllables per Word1,24
Words with three Syllables69
Percentage Words with three Syllables4.6%
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