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The Griffin
Grimm Märchen

The Griffin - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 20 min

There was once upon a time a King, but where he reigned and what he was called, I do not know. He had no son, but an only daughter who had always been ill, and no doctor had been able to cure her. Then it was foretold to the King that his daughter should eat herself well with an apple. So he ordered it to be proclaimed throughout the whole of his kingdom, that whosoever brought his daughter an apple with which she could eat herself well, should have her to wife, and be King.

This became known to a peasant who had three sons, and he said to the eldest, „Go out into the garden and take a basketful of those beautiful apples with the red cheeks and carry them to the court. Perhaps the King’s daughter will be able to eat herself well with them, and then thou wilt marry her and be King.“ The lad did so, and set out. When he had gone a short way he met a little iron man who asked him what he had there in the basket, to which replied Uele, for so was he named, „Frogs‘ legs.“

On this the little man said, „Well, so shall it be, and remain,“ and went away. At length Uele arrived at the palace, and made it known that he had brought apples which would cure the King’s daughter if she ate them. This delighted the King hugely, and he caused Uele to be brought before him; but, alas! when he opened the basket, instead of having apples in it he had frogs‘ legs which were still kicking about. On this the King grew angry, and had him driven out of the house. When he got home he told his father how it had fared with him.

Then the father sent the next son, who was called Seame, but all went with him just as it had gone with Uele. He also met the little iron man, who asked what he had there in the basket. Seame said, „Hogs‘ bristles,“ and the iron man said, „well, so shall it be, and remain.“ When Seame got to the King’s palace and said he brought apples with which the King’s daughter might eat herself well, they did not want to let him go in, and said that one fellow had already been there, and had treated them as if they were fools.

Seame, however, maintained that he certainly had the apples, and that they ought to let him go in. At length they believed him, and led him to the King. But when he uncovered the basket, he had but hogs‘ bristles. This enraged the King most terribly, so he caused Seame to be whipped out of the house. When he got home he related all that had befallen him, then the youngest boy, whose name was Hans, but who was always called Stupid Hans, came and asked his father if he might go with some apples.

„Oh!“ said the father, „thou wouldst be just the right fellow for such a thing! If the clever ones can’t manage it, what canst thou do?“ The boy, however, did not believe him, and said, „Indeed, father, I wish to go.“ – „Just get away, thou stupid fellow, thou must wait till thou art wiser,“ said the father to that, and turned his back. Hans, however, pulled at the back of his smock- frock and said, „Indeed, father, I wish to go.“ – „Well, then, so far as I am concerned thou mayst go, but thou wilt soon come home again!“ replied the old man in a spiteful voice.

The boy, however, was tremendously delighted and jumped for joy. „Well, act like a fool! thou growest more stupid every day!“ said the father again. Hans, however, did not care about that, and did not let it spoil his pleasure, but as it was then night, he thought he might as well wait until the morrow, for he could not get to court that day. All night long he could not sleep in his bed, and if he did doze for a moment, he dreamt of beautiful maidens, of palaces, of gold, and of silver, and all kinds of things of that sort. Early in the morning, he went forth on his way, and directly afterwards the little shabby-looking man in his iron clothes, came to him and asked what he was carrying in the basket. Hans gave him the answer that he was carrying apples with which the King’s daughter was to eat herself well.

„Then,“ said the little man, „so shall they be, and remain.“ But at the court they would none of them let Hans go in, for they said two had already been there who had told them that they were bringing apples, and one of them had frogs‘ legs, and the other hogs‘ bristles. Hans, however, resolutely maintained that he most certainly had no frogs‘ legs, but some of the most beautiful apples in the whole kingdom. As he spoke so pleasantly, the door-keeper thought he could not be telling a lie, and asked him to go in, and he was right, for when Hans uncovered his basket in the King’s presence, golden-yellow apples came tumbling out.

The King was delighted, and caused some of them to be taken to his daughter, and then waited in anxious expectation until news should be brought to him of the effect they had. But before much time had passed by, news was brought to him: but who do you think it was who came? it was his daughter herself! As soon as she had eaten of those apples, she was cured, and sprang out of her bed. The joy the King felt cannot be described! but now he did not want to give his daughter in marriage to Hans, and said he must first make him a boat which would go quicker on dry land than on water. Hans agreed to the conditions, and went home, and related how it had fared with him.

Then the father sent Uele into the forest to make a boat of that kind. He worked diligently, and whistled all the time. At mid-day, when the sun was at the highest, came the little iron man and asked what he was making? Uele gave him for answer, „Wooden bowls for the kitchen.“ The iron man said, „So it shall be, and remain.“ By evening Uele thought he had now made the boat, but when he wanted to get into it, he had nothing but wooden bowls. The next day Seame went into the forest, but everything went with him just as it had done with Uele. On the third day Stupid Hans went.

He worked away most industriously, so that the whole forest resounded with the heavy strokes, and all the while he sang and whistled right merrily. At mid-day, when it was the hottest, the little man came again, and asked what he was making? „A boat which will go quicker on dry land than on the water,“ replied Hans, “ and when I have finished it, I am to have the King’s daughter for my wife.“ – „Well,“ said the little man, „such an one shall it be, and remain.“ In the evening, when the sun had turned into gold, Hans finished his boat, and all that was wanted for it.

He got into it and rowed to the palace. The boat went as swiftly as the wind. The King saw it from afar, but would not give his daughter to Hans yet, and said he must first take a hundred hares out to pasture from early morning until late evening, and if one of them got away, he should not have his daughter. Hans was contented with this, and the next day went with his flock to the pasture, and took great care that none of them ran away.

Before many hours had passed came a servant from the palace, and told Hans that he must give her a hare instantly, for some visitors had come unexpectedly. Hans, however, was very well aware what that meant, and said he would not give her one. The King might set some hare soup before his guest next day. The maid, however, would not believe in his refusal, and at last she began to get angry with him. Then Hans said that if the King’s daughter came herself, he would give her a hare. The maid told this in the palace, and the daughter did go herself. In the meantime, however, the little man came again to Hans, and asked him what he was doing there? He said he had to watch over a hundred hares and see that none of them ran away, and then he might marry the King’s daughter and be King.

„Good,“ said the little man, „there is a whistle for thee, and if one of them runs away, just whistle with it, and then it will come back again.“ When the King’s daughter came, Hans gave her a hare into her apron; but when she had gone about a hundred steps with it, he whistled, and the hare jumped out of the apron, and before she could turn round was back to the flock again. When the evening came the hare-herd whistled once more, and looked to see if all were there, and then drove them to the palace. The King wondered how Hans had been able to take a hundred hares to graze without losing any of them. He would, however, not give him his daughter yet, and said he must now bring him a feather from the Griffin’s tail. Hans set out at once, and walked straight forwards.

In the evening he came to a castle, and there he asked for a night’s lodging, for at that time there were no inns. The lord of the castle promised him that with much pleasure, and asked where he was going? Hans answered, „To the Griffin.“ – „Oh! to the Griffin! They tell me he knows everything, and I have lost the key of an iron money-chest. So you might be so good as to ask him where it is.“ – „Yes, indeed,“ said Hans, „I will do that.“ Early the next morning he went onwards, and on his way arrived at another castle in which he again stayed the night.

When the people who lived there learnt that he was going to the Griffin, they said they had in the house a daughter who was ill, and that they had already tried every means to cure her, but none of them had done her any good, and he might be so kind as to ask the Griffin what would make their daughter healthy again? Hans said he would willingly do that, and went onwards. Then he came to a lake, and instead of a ferry-boat, a tall, tall man was there who had to carry everybody across. The man asked Hans whither he was journeying? „To the Griffin,“ said Hans.

„Then when you get to him,“ said the man, „just ask him why I am forced to carry everybody over the lake.“ – „Yes, indeed, most certainly I’ll do that,“ said Hans. Then the man took him up on his shoulders, and carried him across. At length Hans arrived at the Griffin’s house, but the wife only was at home, and not the Griffin himself. Then the woman asked him what he wanted? Thereupon he told her everything;–that he had to get a feather out of the Griffin’s tail, and that there was a castle where they had lost the key of their money-chest, and he was to ask the Griffin where it was? That in another castle the daughter was ill, and he was to learn what would cure her?

And then not far from thence there was a lake and a man beside it, who was forced to carry people across it, and he was very anxious to learn why the man was obliged to do it. Then said the woman, „But look here, my good friend, no Christian can speak to the Griffin. He devours them all; but if you like, you can lie down under his bed, and in the night, when he is quite fast asleep, you can reach out and pull a feather out of his tail, and as for those things which you are to learn, I will ask about them myself.“ Hans was quite satisfied with this, and got under the bed. In the evening, the Griffin came home, and as soon as he entered the room, said, „Wife, I smell a Christian.“

„Yes,“ said the woman, „one was here today, but he went away again;“ and on that the Griffin said no more. In the middle of the night when the Griffin was snoring loudly, Hans reached out and plucked a feather from his tail. The Griffin woke up instantly, and said, „Wife, I smell a Christian, and it seems to me that somebody was pulling at my tail.“ His wife said, „Thou hast certainly been dreaming, and I told thee before that a Christian was here today, but that he went away again. He told me all kinds of things that in one castle they had lost the key of their money-chest, and could find it nowhere.“

„Oh! The fools!“ said the Griffin, „the key lies in the wood- house under a log of wood behind the door.“ – „And then he said that in another castle the daughter was ill, and they knew no remedy that would cure her.“ – „Oh! The fools!“ said the Griffin, „under the cellar-steps a toad has made its nest of her hair, and if she got her hair back she would be well.“ – „And then he also said that there was a place where there was a lake and a man beside it who was forced to carry everybody across.“ – „Oh, the fool!“ said the Griffin, „if he only put one man down in the middle, he would never have to carry another across.“

Early the next morning the Griffin got up and went out. Then Hans came forth from under the bed, and he had a beautiful feather, and had heard what the Griffin had said about the key, and the daughter, and the ferry-man. The Griffin’s wife repeated it all once more to him that he might not forget it, and then he went home again. First he came to the man by the lake, who asked him what the Griffin had said, but Hans replied that he must first carry him across, and then he would tell him. So the man carried him across, and when he was over Hans told him that all he had to do was to set one person down in the middle of the lake, and then he would never have to carry over any more.

The man was hugely delighted, and told Hans that out of gratitude he would take him once more across, and back again. But Hans said no, he would save him the trouble, he was quite satisfied already, and pursued his way. Then he came to the castle where the daughter was ill. He took her on his shoulders, for she could not walk, and carried her down the cellar-steps and pulled out the toad’s nest from beneath the lowest step and gave it into her hand, and she sprang off his shoulder and up the steps before him, and was quite cured.

Then were the father and mother beyond measure rejoiced, and they gave Hans gifts of gold and of silver, and whatsoever else he wished for, that they gave him. And when he got to the other castle he went at once into the wood- house, and found the key under the log of wood behind the door, and took it to the lord of the castle. He also was not a little pleased, and gave Hans as a reward much of the gold that was in the chest, and all kinds of things besides, such as cows, and sheep, and goats.

When Hans arrived before the King, with all these things–with the money, and the gold, and the silver and the cows, sheep and goats, the King asked him how he had come by them. Then Hans told him that the Griffin gave every one whatsoever he wanted. So the King thought he himself could make such things useful, and set out on his way to the Griffin; but when he got to the lake, it happened that he was the very first who arrived there after Hans, and the man put him down in the middle of it and went away, and the King was drowned. Hans, however, married the daughter, and became King.

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Backgrounds to the fairy tale „The Griffin“

„The Griffin“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, included in their collection titled „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales). The story, number 165 in their collection, features a mythical creature called the griffin, which has the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. The story of „The Griffin“ revolves around the youngest of three brothers, Hans, who sets out on a quest to find the Griffin, a mythical creature that holds the keys to a castle filled with riches. The tale follows Hans as he embarks on his journey, encountering various challenges and adventures along the way. With the help of his honesty, kindness, and resourcefulness, Hans overcomes these obstacles, ultimately finding the Griffin and succeeding in his quest.

„The Griffin“ is a German fairy tale that was collected by the Brothers Grimm in their collection of fairy tales. The story falls under two categories in the Aarne-Thompson classification: type 610, Fruit to Cure the Princess, and type 461, Three Hairs from the Devil. The Brothers Grimm also noted its similarity to another tale, The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs. The opening type of the story, which involves the quest to find a cure for a princess, is typically not a stand-alone tale and is often combined with other types to form a complete narrative. The story is similar to other tales, such as The Three May Peaches, which combines type 610 with type 570, the Rabbit Herd. Another tale, Jesper Who Herded the Hares, also features a similar opening type.

„The Griffin“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who were responsible for gathering and preserving a vast collection of European folktales in the 19th century. The Brothers Grimm published their first volume of folktales, titled „Children’s and Household Tales“ (in German, „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“), in 1812, which included „The Griffin“ among many other stories. Over the years, they continued to revise, edit, and expand their collection, ultimately publishing seven editions.

The Brothers Grimm’s collection of fairy tales has had a profound and lasting impact on the world of literature and popular culture. Their stories have been translated into numerous languages and adapted into various forms of media, including theater, film, and television. „The Griffin,“ like many other tales from the Brothers Grimm, has been reimagined and retold countless times over the years, exploring different themes and interpretations in each retelling.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Griffin“

„The Griffin“ by the Brothers Grimm is a classic fairy tale that can be interpreted in several ways. Here are some possible interpretations of the story:

The power of persistence and determination: Hans, the youngest of the three brothers, is initially underestimated and dismissed by his family due to his perceived lack of intelligence. However, his persistence and determination ultimately lead him to succeed in his quest, proving that resilience and commitment are more valuable than mere intellect. Throughout the story, Hans maintains his honesty and kind demeanor, despite being called „Stupid Hans“ by others. His genuine nature leads him to make friends, like the little iron man, who helps him succeed in his quests. This theme highlights the importance of honesty and kindness in achieving success and happiness.

The importance of honesty and kindness: Hans is consistently truthful and kind throughout the story, while his older brothers are dishonest and selfish. This integrity endears him to the little iron man and the Griffin’s wife, who both help him in his journey. The tale thus teaches that honesty and kindness are rewarded in the end.

The consequences of greed and selfishness: The older brothers, Uele and Seame, are driven by the desire for wealth and power. Their dishonesty and selfishness backfire, causing them to fail in their quests. This serves as a cautionary tale against pursuing material gain at the expense of one’s moral character.

Power of love and compassion: Hans‘ actions bring about positive change for several characters in the story, including the King’s daughter, the lord of the castle who lost his key, the family with the sick daughter, and the ferryman. This demonstrates that love and compassion have the power to transform lives and heal wounds.

Inner strength and resourcefulness: Hans relies on his resourcefulness, courage, and quick thinking to overcome the challenges he faces throughout the story. This illustrates the importance of inner strength and resourcefulness in achieving success and overcoming adversity.

Perseverance and determination: Despite being belittled by his father and brothers, Hans remains determined to try and cure the King’s daughter. He faces various challenges along the way but never gives up. This perseverance eventually leads to his success in winning the princess’s hand in marriage and becoming King.

The importance of humility: Hans, unlike his two brothers, is humble and does not mock or underestimate others. This humility allows him to connect with people and gain their trust, which ultimately helps him achieve his goals.

The consequences of deception: The elder brothers, Uele and Seame, attempt to deceive the little iron man, which results in their failures. On the other hand, Hans’s honesty allows him to receive help and succeed in his quests.

Inner qualities over superficial judgments: Hans is called „Stupid Hans“ because he appears to be slow-witted, but he proves to be wise and resourceful. This theme illustrates that one’s inner qualities are more important than superficial judgments and that appearances can be deceiving.

Overall, „The Griffin“ teaches valuable lessons about honesty, kindness, perseverance, humility, and the importance of looking beyond appearances when judging others. These themes are relevant and timeless, emphasizing the significance of character and personal values in achieving happiness and success.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Griffin“

While „The Griffin“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, it has inspired various adaptations and influenced other works over time. Some of these adaptations are not direct retellings of the story but feature elements or themes similar to the original tale. Here are a few examples:

Literature: Some authors have written their own versions of the story or have included griffin characters in their works. For instance, „The Gryphon Chronicles“ series by E.G. Foley is a middle-grade fantasy series that features a young protagonist who discovers he is a „gryphon keeper.“ While not a direct adaptation, the series draws inspiration from the mythology of the griffin. „The Griffin and the Minor Canon“ by Frank R. Stockton: This adaptation is a short story that was first published in 1885. It tells the story of a griffin who becomes friends with a minor canon in a small town. The story explores themes of friendship, acceptance, and the power of compassion. „The Griffin’s Feather“ by Cornelia Amiri: This romance novel was first published in 2006. It tells the story of a young woman who finds herself transported to a magical world where she meets a griffin and falls in love with him. The story explores themes of love, trust, and the power of transformation.

Television and Film: Elements from „The Griffin“ have been incorporated into various television shows and movies, particularly in the fantasy genre. Although there isn’t a direct adaptation of the fairy tale, griffins have made appearances in numerous TV shows and movies, such as „The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe“ and the animated series „The Dragon Prince.“

Art and Illustration: Artists have been inspired by the story of „The Griffin“ to create visual representations of the tale or the creature itself. Illustrations in storybooks, digital art, and fan art often depict the griffin and scenes from the story.

Theater and Performance Art: While no major theatrical productions of „The Griffin“ are well-known, it is possible that smaller or local theatre companies have adapted the story for the stage or as part of a Brothers Grimm-themed performance.

Children Books: „The Feather of the Griffin“ by Cornelia Funke: This children’s book was first published in 2000. It tells the story of a young prince who embarks on a journey to find the feather of a griffin to save his mother from a deadly illness. The story features a range of magical creatures and explores themes of love, courage, and the power of hope. „The Griffin’s Tale“ by Julia Golding: This children’s book was first published in 2001. It tells the story of a young griffin who embarks on a journey to find his true identity and save his kingdom from destruction. The story explores themes of identity, friendship, and the power of self-discovery.

These adaptations demonstrate the enduring popularity and appeal of the griffin as a mythical creature, as well as the ability of fairy tales to inspire and entertain audiences of all ages. Although „The Griffin“ has not garnered as much attention as some of the more popular Grimm fairy tales, its influence can still be seen in various forms of media, and the mythical creature remains a popular symbol in fantasy literature and art.


The fairy tale „The Griffin“ by the Brothers Grimm is about a king who has a sick daughter and promises her hand in marriage to whoever can provide an apple to cure her. A peasant sends his three sons, Uele, Seame, and Stupid Hans, one after the other, to try their luck. Uele and Seame encounter a little iron man who, after asking what they carry in their baskets, changes their apples into frogs‘ legs and hogs‘ bristles, respectively. The king angrily drives both sons away.

When Hans goes, he meets the iron man, who ensures that Hans‘ apples will remain as they are. The king’s daughter is cured after eating the apples, but the king refuses to let Hans marry her until he completes several tasks. With the help of the iron man, Hans creates a boat that moves quickly on dry land, successfully herds a hundred hares, and obtains a feather from the Griffin’s tail.

During Hans‘ encounter with the Griffin, he also learns the solutions to the problems of the people he met on his journey: the location of a lost key, the cure for a sick girl, and how the ferryman can stop carrying people across the lake. Hans returns and helps these people, receiving gifts and gratitude in return. Finally, Hans returns to the king, having completed all the tasks. The king, unable to deny Hans any longer, allows him to marry his daughter.

In summary, „The Griffin“ by Brothers Grimm tells the story of a peasant boy named Hans who, despite being considered the „stupid“ one among his brothers, outsmarts them and completes seemingly impossible tasks to win the hand of the King’s daughter. Along the way, he helps various people with their problems, thanks to the assistance of a little iron man he encounters on his journey. Through his wit, determination, and the help of the iron man, Hans triumphs over the challenges and finds happiness with the princess.

Summary of the plot

„The Griffin“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The story begins with a king’s daughter falling ill, and it is foretold that the only thing that can cure her is an apple. The king promises her hand in marriage to whoever brings the apple.

A peasant with three sons sends the oldest, Uele, with a basket of apples. On the way, he meets a little iron man who asks him what’s in the basket. Uele replies, „Frogs‘ legs,“ and the iron man makes that happen, so when Uele reaches the king, the basket contains frogs‘ legs instead of apples. The king drives him out. The peasant then sends his second son, Seame, who also meets the iron man and answers, „Hogs‘ bristles,“ so he suffers the same fate.

The youngest son, Hans, who is known for being foolish, begs to go as well, and his father finally agrees. On his journey, he meets the iron man, who asks him what he’s carrying. Hans tells the truth and says he has apples for the princess to eat, and the iron man confirms that it’s true. When Hans reaches the castle, the basket contains apples, and the princess is cured.

The king, however, refuses to let Hans marry the princess until he brings him a boat that can travel over dry land and sea. Hans goes back home and tells his father, who sends Uele to the forest to make such a ship. Once again, the iron man appears and asks Uele what he’s making. Uele answers, „Wooden bowls,“ so that’s what he makes. Seame also fails when the iron man appears to him, but when Hans tells the truth and says he’s making a ship that will travel over land and sea, the iron man helps him make the ship.

The king then sets Hans to watch a hundred hares in a meadow all day. Hans does so, not losing any. The king sends a maid to beg one from him for the guests, but Hans refuses to give any away except for one he promised to give to the princess. The iron man then gives him a whistle that will summon any hare back, and Hans gives the hare to the princess but whistles it back.

The king then sends Hans on an impossible mission to fetch a feather from the griffin’s tail. On his way, he encounters a lord of a castle who asks him to ask the griffin where the lost key to his money chest is, another lord who wants to know how to cure his ill daughter, and a giant who wants to know why he has to carry people over a lake.

At the griffin’s castle, he meets the griffin’s wife, who warns him that the griffin will eat him but tells him to pull out a feather at night, and she’ll get the answers for him. Hans does as she says, and the griffin wakes up. The wife tells the griffin that a man had been there and gone away but told her some stories first. She repeats them, and the griffin tells her that the key is in the wood house, under a log. That a toad had made a nest of the daughter’s hair.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 165
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typs 610
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson30.1
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index82.4
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level6.9
Gunning Fog Index9.5
Coleman–Liau Index7.2
SMOG Index7.9
Automated Readability Index7.2
Character Count14.531
Letter Count11.060
Sentence Count138
Word Count2.827
Average Words per Sentence20,49
Words with more than 6 letters273
Percentage of long words9.7%
Number of Syllables3.464
Average Syllables per Word1,23
Words with three Syllables89
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.1%
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