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The Hare and the Hedgehog
The Hare and the Hedgehog Märchen

The Hare and the Hedgehog - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 11 min

This story, my dear young folks, seems to be false, but it really is true, for my grandfather, from whom I have it, used always, when relating it, to say complacently, „It must be true, my son, or else no one could tell it to you.“ The story is as follows. One Sunday morning about harvest time, just as the buckwheat was in bloom, the sun was shining brightly in heaven, the east wind was blowing warmly over the stubble-fields, the larks were singing in the air, the bees buzzing among the buckwheat, the people were all going in their Sunday clothes to church, and all creatures were happy, and the hedgehog was happy too. The hedgehog, however, was standing by his door with his arms akimbo, enjoying the morning breezes, and slowly trilling a little song to himself, which was neither better nor worse than the songs which hedgehogs are in the habit of singing on a blessed Sunday morning. Whilst he was thus singing half aloud to himself, it suddenly occurred to him that, while his wife was washing and drying the children, he might very well take a walk into the field, and see how his turnips were going on. The turnips were, in fact, close beside his house, and he and his family were accustomed to eat them, for which reason he looked upon them as his own. No sooner said than done. The hedgehog shut the house-door behind him, and took the path to the field. He had not gone very far from home, and was just turning round the sloe-bush which stands there outside the field, to go up into the turnip-field, when he observed the hare who had gone out on business of the same kind, namely, to visit his cabbages. When the hedgehog caught sight of the hare, he bade him a friendly good morning.

The Hare and the Hedgehog Fairy Tale

But the hare, who was in his own way a distinguished gentleman, and frightfully haughty, did not return the hedgehog’s greeting, but said to him, assuming at the same time a very contemptuous manner, „How do you happen to be running about here in the field so early in the morning?“ – „I am taking a walk,“ said the hedgehog. „A walk!“ said the hare, with a smile. „It seems to me that you might use your legs for a better purpose.“ This answer made the hedgehog furiously angry, for he can bear anything but an attack on his legs, just because they are crooked by nature. So now the hedgehog said to the hare, „You seem to imagine that you can do more with your legs than I with mine.“ – „That is just what I do think,“ said the hare. „That can be put to the test,“ said the hedgehog. „I wager that if we run a race, I will outstrip you.“ – „That is ridiculous! You with your short legs!“ said the hare, „but for my part I am willing, if you have such a monstrous fancy for it. What shall we wager?“ – „A golden louis-d’or and a bottle of brandy,“ said the hedgehog. „Done,“ said the hare. „Shake hands on it, and then we may as well come off at once.“ – „Nay,“ said the hedgehog, „there is no such great hurry! I am still fasting, I will go home first, and have a little breakfast. In half-an-hour I will be back again at this place.“

Hereupon the hedgehog departed, for the hare was quite satisfied with this. On his way the hedgehog thought to himself, „The hare relies on his long legs, but I will contrive to get the better of him. He may be a great man, but he is a very silly fellow, and he shall pay for what he has said.“ So when the hedgehog reached home, he said to his wife, „Wife, dress thyself quickly, thou must go out to the field with me.“ – „What is going on, then?“ said his wife. „I have made a wager with the hare, for a gold louis-d’or and a bottle of brandy. I am to run a race with him, and thou must be present.“ – „Good heavens, husband,“ the wife now cried, „art thou not right in thy mind, hast thou completely lost thy wits? What can make thee want to run a race with the hare?“ – „Hold thy tongue, woman,“ said the hedgehog, „that is my affair. Don’t begin to discuss things which are matters for men. Be off, dress thyself, and come with me.“ What could the hedgehog’s wife do? She was forced to obey him, whether she liked it or not.

So when they had set out on their way together, the hedgehog said to his wife, „Now pay attention to what I am going to say. Look you, I will make the long field our race-course. The hare shall run in one furrow, and I in another, and we will begin to run from the top. Now all that thou hast to do is to place thyself here below in the furrow, and when the hare arrives at the end of the furrow, on the other side of thee, thou must cry out to him, ‚I am here already!'“

Then they reached the field, and the hedgehog showed his wife her place, and then walked up the field. When he reached the top, the hare was already there. „Shall we start?“ said the hare. „Certainly,“ said the hedgehog. „Then both at once.“ So saying, each placed himself in his own furrow. The hare counted, „Once, twice, thrice, and away!“ and went off like a whirlwind down the field. The hedgehog, however, only ran about three paces, and then he stooped down in the furrow, and stayed quietly where he was. When the hare therefore arrived in full career at the lower end of the field, the hedgehog’s wife met him with the cry, „I am here already!“

The Hare and the Hedgehog Fairy Tale

The hare was shocked and wondered not a little, he thought no other than that it was the hedgehog himself who was calling to him, for the hedgehog’s wife looked just like her husband. The hare, however, thought to himself, „That has not been done fairly,“ and cried, „It must be run again, let us have it again.“ And once more he went off like the wind in a storm, so that he seemed to fly. But the hedgehog’s wife stayed quietly in her place. So when the hare reached the top of the field, the hedgehog himself cried out to him, „I am here already.“ The hare, however, quite beside himself with anger, cried, „It must be run again, we must have it again.“ – „All right,“ answered the hedgehog, „for my part we’ll run as often as you choose.“ So the hare ran seventy-three times more, and the hedgehog always held out against him, and every time the hare reached either the top or the bottom, either the hedgehog or his wife said, „I am here already.“

At the seventy-fourth time, however, the hare could no longer reach the end. In the middle of the field he fell to the ground, blood streamed out of his mouth, and he lay dead on the spot. But the hedgehog took the louis-d’or which he had won and the bottle of brandy, called his wife out of the furrow, and both went home together in great delight, and if they are not dead, they are living there still.

This is how it happened that the hedgehog made the hare run races with him on the Buxtehuder heath till he died, and since that time no hare has ever had any fancy for running races with a Buxtehuder hedgehog.

The Hare and the Hedgehog Fairy Tale

The moral of this story, however, is, firstly, that no one, however great he may be, should permit himself to jest at any one beneath him, even if he be only a hedgehog. And, secondly, it teaches, that when a man marries, he should take a wife in his own position, who looks just as he himself looks. So whosoever is a hedgehog let him see to it that his wife is a hedgehog also, and so forth.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Hare and the Hedgehog“

„The Hare and the Hedgehog“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, first published in their collection titled „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales) in the early 19th century. The tale is of German origin, and like other Grimm fairy tales, it draws from the rich tapestry of German folklore and oral tradition.

As with many of their other stories, the Brothers Grimm collected „The Hare and the Hedgehog“ from various sources, including oral traditions, written texts, and personal accounts from friends and acquaintances. Their primary goal was to preserve these stories as part of German cultural heritage and folklore.

„The Hare and the Hedgehog“ is a humorous tale that revolves around a cunning hedgehog who challenges a boastful hare to a race. The story features elements of trickery and cunning, as well as the theme of the underdog outwitting a seemingly superior opponent.

The tale is reminiscent of other fables and folktales that involve animals with human-like characteristics, such as Aesop’s Fables, which often use these anthropomorphized animals to teach moral lessons. The story of „The Hare and the Hedgehog“ is unique in its humorous and light-hearted tone, focusing on the cunning of the hedgehog and the hare’s overconfidence, which ultimately leads to his downfall.

Similar to other fairy tales, „The Hare and the Hedgehog“ shares themes and motifs with other stories from different cultures. The central theme of a seemingly weak or disadvantaged character outsmarting a stronger or more confident opponent is common across many cultures and resonates with audiences worldwide.

Overall, „The Hare and the Hedgehog“ serves as a reminder not to underestimate others based on appearances and to recognize that intelligence and cunning can be more valuable than physical prowess. The story also highlights the importance of humility and not allowing overconfidence to cloud one’s judgment.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Hare and the Hedgehog“

„The Hare and the Hedgehog“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, but it still contains themes and motifs that offer various interpretations. Here are some interpretations of the story:

Underestimating others: The central theme of „The Hare and the Hedgehog“ is the idea that appearances can be deceptive, and one should not underestimate others based on their appearance. The hare’s arrogance leads him to believe he can easily defeat the hedgehog, but the hedgehog’s cunning and resourcefulness allow him to win the race. This theme serves as a reminder to be cautious about making assumptions about others and to be open to the possibility that people may have hidden strengths or talents.

Pride and overconfidence: The story highlights the dangers of pride and overconfidence, as the hare’s belief in his own superiority ultimately leads to his downfall. This theme emphasizes the importance of humility and the need to be aware of one’s own limitations.

The value of intelligence and cunning: The hedgehog’s success in the race is due to his intelligence and cunning, rather than physical strength or speed. This interpretation suggests that mental abilities and resourcefulness can be more important than physical prowess in certain situations, and that one should not underestimate the power of a clever plan.

The triumph of the underdog: „The Hare and the Hedgehog“ is a classic underdog story, where the seemingly weak or disadvantaged character succeeds against a stronger opponent. This theme is common in many folktales and serves as an inspiration for readers, demonstrating that determination, resourcefulness, and perseverance can lead to success, even against seemingly insurmountable odds.

A cautionary tale: The story can also be interpreted as a cautionary tale, warning readers about the potential consequences of arrogance and overconfidence. The hare’s downfall serves as an example of what can happen when one underestimates others and relies too heavily on their own abilities.

In summary, „The Hare and the Hedgehog“ offers various interpretations that explore themes such as underestimating others, pride and overconfidence, the value of intelligence and cunning, the triumph of the underdog, and the cautionary nature of the tale. These themes contribute to the story’s enduring appeal and relevance, despite its status as a lesser-known Grimm fairy tale.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Hare and the Hedgehog“

„The Hare and the Hedgehog“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, and as such, it has not been adapted as widely as some of their more famous tales. However, there are a few adaptations and works that have drawn inspiration from the story:

Children’s books: As with many other fairy tales, „The Hare and the Hedgehog“ has been retold and adapted in various children’s books, often with simplified language and illustrations to make the story more accessible to young readers. Some of these adaptations may take creative liberties with the plot or characters but generally retain the core themes and motifs of the original tale.

Fairy tale anthologies: „The Hare and the Hedgehog“ has been included in numerous fairy tale anthologies and collections, alongside other stories from the Brothers Grimm and other authors. These collections often contain retellings or adaptations of the original stories, sometimes with updated language or additional commentary to provide context and analysis.

Animation and short films: While there may not be many mainstream animated adaptations of „The Hare and the Hedgehog,“ some independent animators or filmmakers have created short films or animated sequences inspired by the story. These adaptations often focus on the humorous aspects of the tale and the cunning of the hedgehog as he outwits the hare.

Theater and storytelling events: Local and amateur theatre groups or storytelling events occasionally include adaptations of „The Hare and the Hedgehog“ as part of a larger program of fairy tales or Brothers Grimm stories. These performances may use various storytelling techniques to bring the story to life, emphasizing the humor and wit of the hedgehog character.

Thematic influence: While not a direct adaptation, the themes and motifs found in „The Hare and the Hedgehog“ may have influenced other works, such as novels, films, or television shows that feature underdog stories or characters who use their intelligence and cunning to overcome obstacles.

Although „The Hare and the Hedgehog“ hasn’t been adapted as widely as some other Brothers Grimm fairy tales, it still remains an engaging and humorous story that can be appreciated by audiences of all ages. The tale’s themes and motifs continue to inspire and influence other works, demonstrating its enduring appeal and relevance in the realm of folklore and storytelling.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Hare and the Hedgehog“

„The Hare and the Hedgehog“ has been adapted into various forms of media over the years, including books, films, and even operas. Here are some notable adaptations:

„The Hare and the Hedgehog“ (1954): This animated short film by Lotte Reiniger tells the story of the hare and the hedgehog using silhouette animation. It won several awards at film festivals around the world.

„The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad“ (1949): This Disney animated film features a retelling of „The Wind in the Willows“ and „The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,“ but it also includes a segment based on „The Hare and the Hedgehog.“

„The Hare and the Hedgehog“ (1982): This West German film is a live-action adaptation of the story. It features a cast of human actors playing the animals in the story, using costumes and animatronic puppets.

„The Hare and the Hedgehog“ (1993): This German animated film is a faithful retelling of the original story. It uses hand-drawn animation and was released in both German and English-language versions.

„The Hare and the Hedgehog“ (2016): This animated short film by Joanna Lurie tells the story of the hare and the hedgehog using minimalist animation and a haunting musical score.

„The Hare and the Hedgehog“ (opera): This opera by composer Giselher Klebe was first performed in 1963. It tells the story of the hare and the hedgehog through music and lyrics.

Overall, „The Hare and the Hedgehog“ has proven to be a popular and enduring story that has been adapted into various forms of media over the years. Its simple yet powerful message continues to resonate with audiences of all ages.

Summary of the plot

„The Hare and the Hedgehog“ is a humorous fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a cunning hedgehog who outwits a boastful hare in a race. Here is a summary of the plot:

One day, a hare ridicules a hedgehog for his short legs and slow speed. In response, the hedgehog challenges the hare to a race, with the winner receiving a gold coin and a bottle of brandy. The hare, confident in his ability to easily defeat the hedgehog, agrees to the challenge.

The hedgehog devises a clever plan to win the race. He asks his wife to stand at the end of the field, and he stands at the starting point. When the race begins, the hedgehog only takes a few steps before ducking into the bushes. As the hare races down the field, the hedgehog’s wife, who looks similar to her husband, emerges from the bushes at the finish line.

When the hare reaches the end of the field, he is surprised to see the hedgehog’s wife waiting for him, believing it is the hedgehog himself. She taunts the hare, claiming that she has already won the race. The hare, confused and frustrated, insists on running the race again.

The race is repeated several times, with the hare racing back and forth while the hedgehog and his wife take turns appearing at the starting point and the finish line, making it seem as though the hedgehog is beating the hare every time.

Exhausted and humiliated, the hare eventually collapses and dies, unable to comprehend how the hedgehog has outsmarted him. The hedgehog and his wife celebrate their victory and enjoy the gold coin and brandy they have won.

In summary, „The Hare and the Hedgehog“ is a light-hearted tale that emphasizes the importance of not underestimating others based on appearances and the value of intelligence and cunning over physical prowess. The story serves as a reminder that even the most unlikely of opponents can achieve victory with clever strategy and determination.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Hare and the Hedgehog“

„The Hare and the Hedgehog“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm, who were prominent linguists and cultural researchers in the early 19th century. They collected and published numerous folk tales and fairy tales from various regions of Germany, aiming to preserve the rich storytelling traditions of their time. The collection, first published in 1812 under the title „Children’s and Household Tales“ (Kinder- und Hausmärchen), has become a cornerstone of Western literature.

The Brothers Grimm were part of the German Romanticism movement, which sought to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of their country, while also reflecting on universal themes of morality and human nature. The stories they collected often include fantastical elements, talking animals, and moral lessons. Many of the Grimm brothers‘ tales, including „The Hare and the Hedgehog,“ have been adapted and retold in various forms throughout the years, including children’s literature, theater, and film.

„The Hare and the Hedgehog“ is set in the region of Buxtehude, a historic town in Lower Saxony, Germany. The story portrays the importance of humility, wit, and choosing a compatible partner, while cautioning against arrogance and overconfidence. Although it might seem like an unlikely tale, the story’s charm and moral lessons have made it a classic in the world of fairy tales.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Hare and the Hedgehog“

There are several interpretations one can draw from „The Hare and the Hedgehog“:

The importance of humility: The hare, full of pride and arrogance, underestimated the hedgehog, which ultimately led to its downfall. The story teaches that being humble and respecting others, regardless of their appearance or status, is essential.

The value of wit and strategy: The hedgehog, aware of his physical limitations, cleverly devised a plan to outsmart the hare. This highlights the importance of using one’s intellect and strategic thinking to overcome challenges and turn weaknesses into strengths.

The power of teamwork: The hedgehog’s wife played a crucial role in ensuring their victory. This demonstrates the importance of collaboration and support from loved ones to achieve success.

The dangers of overconfidence: The hare’s overconfidence blinded it to the hedgehog’s cunning plan, resulting in its defeat and eventual death. The story serves as a reminder not to become overly confident in one’s abilities and to always be vigilant and cautious.

The significance of choosing a compatible partner: The tale also emphasizes the importance of selecting a spouse who shares one’s appearance, status, and values. The hedgehog’s wife was instrumental in their victory because she was able to seamlessly assume her husband’s role in the race, highlighting the benefits of compatibility in a relationship.

Summary of the plot

„The Hare and the Hedgehog“ by the Brothers Grimm tells the story of a humble hedgehog who challenges a haughty hare to a race. The story begins one Sunday morning as the hedgehog is enjoying a peaceful moment outside his home. He decides to check on his turnips, and on the way, he encounters the hare, who ridicules the hedgehog’s legs. Furious, the hedgehog challenges the hare to a race for a gold coin and a bottle of brandy.

The hedgehog cunningly asks his wife, who looks just like him, to help him win the race. They agree that she will wait at the end of the field while the hedgehog starts the race with the hare. When the hare reaches the end, the hedgehog’s wife claims to have arrived there first. The confused hare demands a rematch. This continues seventy-three more times, with the hare losing every race, until he ultimately collapses and dies from exhaustion.

The hedgehog and his wife celebrate their victory and enjoy their prize, while the story teaches two morals. Firstly, it warns against mocking or underestimating others, regardless of their status. Secondly, it encourages marrying someone similar in appearance and status. Since the hedgehog’s victory, no hare has dared to race a hedgehog from Buxtehude.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 187
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 275A
TranslationsDE, EN, ES, FR, PT, HU, IT, JA, NL, PL, RO, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson30.8
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index80.7
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level6.5
Gunning Fog Index9.7
Coleman–Liau Index7.6
SMOG Index9.3
Automated Readability Index6.3
Character Count7.185
Letter Count5.454
Sentence Count76
Word Count1.373
Average Words per Sentence18,07
Words with more than 6 letters175
Percentage of long words12.7%
Number of Syllables1.749
Average Syllables per Word1,27
Words with three Syllables86
Percentage Words with three Syllables6.3%
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