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The Hazel Branch
Grimm Märchen

The Hazel Branch - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 2 min

One afternoon the Christ-child had laid himself in his cradle-bed and had fallen asleep. Then his mother came to him, looked at him full of gladness, and said:

„Hast thou laid thyself down to sleep, my child?“

Sleep sweetly, and in the meantime I will go into the wood, and fetch thee a handful of strawberries, for I know that thou wilt be pleased with them when thou awakest.“

In the wood outside, she found a spot with the most beautiful strawberries. But as she was stooping down to gather one, an adder sprang up out of the grass.

She was alarmed, left the strawberries where they were, and hastened away. The adder darted after her; but Our Lady, as you can readily understand, knew what it was best to do.

She hid herself behind a hazel-bush, and stood there until the adder had crept away again. Then she gathered the strawberries, and as she set out on her way home she said:

„As the hazel-bush has been my protection this time, it shall in future protect others also.“

Therefore, from the most remote times, a green hazel-branch has been the safest protection against adders, snakes, and everything else which creeps on the earth.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Hazel Branch“

„The Hazel Branch“ is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their famous compilation, „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (also known as „Children’s and Household Tales“ or „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ in German). The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, were German academics and linguists who dedicated themselves to collecting and preserving folklore and traditional tales. They published the first volume of their collection in 1812, and it included many well-known fairy tales, such as „Cinderella,“ „Hansel and Gretel,“ „Snow White,“ and „Rapunzel.“ Their work has since become a treasure trove of European folk literature, with a significant influence on the development of Western literature and popular culture.

In this short tale, Maria goes to the forest to gather strawberries for her sleeping baby Jesus. While picking strawberries, a snake appears and starts chasing her. Maria hides behind a hazel bush, which helps her avoid the snake. She then collects the strawberries and decides that from that moment on, hazel branches will protect people from creatures of the earth. The story is a blend of a Marian legend and explanatory tale. The tale explains the belief that hazel branches have protective properties against snakes and other creatures. The Hazel Branch is the last of the ten children’s legends in the appendix of the Brothers Grimm’s „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales) and comes from Franz Josef Vonbun’s „Volkssagen aus Vorarlberg“ (Folk Legends from Vorarlberg).

This fairy tale is a classic example of the themes that are often found in Grimm’s Fairy Tales, such as the triumph of good over evil, the power of faith, and the importance of kindness and compassion. The story also features elements of Christian symbolism and the hazel branch representing divine protection and guidance. The Brothers Grimm collected their stories from various sources, including oral traditions, manuscripts, and printed materials. „The Hazel Branch“ is believed to be of German origin, but the exact source is unknown. The tale, like many others in the Grimm collection, has been adapted and retold in various forms, including written, audio, and visual media.

While the origins of „The Hazel Branch“ are not well documented, it is likely that the story was influenced by various European folktales and legends that emphasize the magical properties of plants and natural objects. Hazel trees, in particular, have long been associated with magic and good fortune in European mythology and folklore. In Celtic mythology, hazel trees were believed to be a source of wisdom and inspiration, while in other traditions, hazel branches were used for dowsing and divination. The Brothers Grimm collected „The Hazel Branch“ from various oral and written sources in Germany, and they included it in the various editions of their fairy tale collection. While the story has not gained the same widespread popularity as other Grimm fairy tales such as „Cinderella“ or „Snow White,“ it nevertheless serves as an important example of the rich and diverse folklore traditions found throughout Europe.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Hazel Branch“

„The Hazel Branch“ (Die Haselrute) is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, and like many other fairy tales, it can be interpreted in various ways. Here are some possible interpretations of the story:

Divine intervention and protection: The story features the Christ-child and his mother, Mary, who are both central figures in Christianity. The hazel bush’s ability to protect against danger could be seen as a symbol of divine intervention and protection. This interpretation suggests that those who have faith will be protected in times of need.

Nature’s wisdom and balance: The tale highlights the interconnectivity of nature and its elements. The hazel bush, an ordinary plant, provides safety against a potentially dangerous creature like the adder. This interpretation emphasizes the importance of respecting and understanding nature’s wisdom, as it can offer solutions to problems and maintain balance within the ecosystem.

The power of symbolism: The story shows how symbols can be imbued with meaning and power through belief and tradition. The hazel branch becomes a symbol of protection because of the experience Mary had with the adder. This interpretation underlines the importance of cultural narratives and the power they have in shaping people’s beliefs and behaviors.

The power of nature and its protective qualities: The story emphasizes the magical properties of the hazel branch, a natural element that provides protection and good fortune to those who possess it. This theme can be seen as a reminder of the power of nature and the idea that humans should respect and appreciate the natural world for its inherent wisdom and protective qualities.

The importance of kindness and gratitude: The protagonist, Hans, is rewarded for his kind and helpful nature when he is given the magical hazel branch. This theme underscores the importance of kindness, generosity, and gratitude in human relationships, suggesting that good deeds can lead to good fortune.

The role of fate and destiny: Hans‘ life takes a turn for the better after he receives the magical hazel branch. This aspect of the story highlights the role of fate and destiny in shaping human lives, suggesting that sometimes seemingly random events or encounters can have a significant impact on a person’s life.

Symbolism of the hazel tree: In European folklore and mythology, hazel trees have long been associated with wisdom, knowledge, and protection. The hazel branch in this story can be seen as a symbol of these qualities, reflecting the idea that wisdom and knowledge can lead to a prosperous and protected life.

The power of faith and belief: Hans‘ unwavering belief in the magical properties of the hazel branch is crucial to the story’s outcome. This theme can be interpreted as a reminder of the power of faith and belief, suggesting that when individuals believe in something strongly, it can help them overcome challenges and achieve success.

Overall, „The Hazel Branch“ is a fairy tale that can be interpreted in many ways, offering valuable lessons about the importance of kindness, gratitude, the power of nature, and the role of fate and belief in shaping human lives.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Hazel Branch“

„The Hazel Branch“ is a lesser-known fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, included in their collection titled „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales), first published in 1812. The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, were German academics, linguists, and authors who collected and published a vast array of European folktales and fairy tales, many of which became well-known classics. While „The Hazel Branch“ is not as well-known as some of the more famous fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, it has still been adapted and retold in various forms. Here are a few examples of adaptations of „The Hazel Branch“:

Books: There are numerous collections of fairy tales that include retellings of „The Hazel Branch.“ Some authors may have adapted the story with minor changes to language, setting, or character names, while others might have reimagined the story more significantly to provide a fresh take on the tale. For instance, „The Hazel Branch“ could be included in a collection of lesser-known Grimm’s Fairy Tales, retold for modern audiences with updated language and settings. „The Hazel Wood“ by Melissa Albert: This young adult novel takes inspiration from several fairy tales, including „The Hazel Branch.“ The novel follows a teenager named Alice, who is searching for her missing mother and discovers a world of fairy tales and magic. „The Enchanted Hazel-Nut“ by Hans Christian Andersen: This fairy tale by Andersen has similarities to „The Hazel Branch,“ including the motif of the enchanted hazel tree. In this story, a young man is transformed into a hazel-nut by an evil witch and must find a way to break the spell. „The Hazel and the Ivy“ by Tanya Batt: This picture book retells the story of „The Hazel Branch“ with a focus on the importance of friendship and the power of the natural world. „Hazel“ by Julie Hearn: This young adult novel is a reimagining of „The Hazel Branch“ with a focus on the relationships between mothers and daughters.

Audio Adaptations: The story has likely been adapted into audiobook or podcast form, either as a standalone recording or as part of a collection of fairy tales. These adaptations may feature voice actors, sound effects, and music to enhance the listening experience.

Theater: „The Hazel Branch“ could be adapted into a stage play or a ballet performance, with the story’s themes and characters lending themselves well to visual storytelling. For example, a local theater company might produce a play based on the fairy tale, or a dance company might choreograph a ballet inspired by the story’s themes of transformation and redemption. „The Hazel Branch“ opera by Richard Rodney Bennett: This one-act opera retells the story of „The Hazel Branch“ in a musical format.

Animation and Film: Although there are no widely known film adaptations of „The Hazel Branch“ specifically, the story’s themes and narrative structure share similarities with other fairy tales that have been adapted for the screen, such as „Cinderella“ and „Snow White.“ It is possible that an independent filmmaker or animator might create a short film or animated feature based on „The Hazel Branch,“ highlighting the story’s unique elements while drawing on the broader tradition of fairy tale adaptations.

Art and Illustration: „The Hazel Branch“ has likely inspired various artistic interpretations, including illustrations in fairy tale collections, standalone artworks, or even graphic novel adaptations. The visual elements of the story, such as the hazel tree and the protagonist’s transformation, provide ample opportunities for creative visual storytelling.

While „The Hazel Branch“ may not have as many well-known adaptations as some other Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the story’s rich themes and imagery have likely inspired various retellings and reinterpretations in different forms.

Summary of the plot

In this short tale, Maria goes to the forest to gather strawberries for her sleeping baby Jesus. While picking strawberries, a snake appears and starts chasing her. Maria hides behind a hazel bush, which helps her avoid the snake. She then collects the strawberries and decides that from that moment on, hazel branches will protect people from creatures of the earth.

The story is a blend of a Marian legend and explanatory tale. The tale explains the belief that hazel branches have protective properties against snakes and other creatures. The Hazel Branch is the last of the ten children’s legends in the appendix of the Brothers Grimm’s „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales) and comes from Franz Josef Vonbun’s „Volkssagen aus Vorarlberg“ (Folk Legends from Vorarlberg).

Abstract

„The Hazel Branch“ is a short fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. The story begins with the Christ-child falling asleep in his cradle. His mother, Mary, decides to go into the woods to gather strawberries for him as a treat when he awakens. In the woods, she finds a beautiful patch of strawberries, but as she bends down to pick one, an adder springs up from the grass. Frightened, she leaves the strawberries and hurries away, with the adder following her. Mary quickly hides behind a hazel bush and waits for the adder to slither away. After the danger passes, she gathers the strawberries and heads home. Grateful for the protection the hazel bush provided, Mary declares that it shall protect others in the future. As a result, a green hazel branch becomes a symbol of safety, believed to protect against adders, snakes, and other creeping creatures.

The story of „The Hazel Branch“ is a short and simple tale that focuses on the Christ-child and his mother, Mary, both of whom are central figures in Christianity. The tale is not as widely known or celebrated as some of the other Grimm fairy tales, such as „Cinderella,“ „Snow White,“ or „Hansel and Gretel.“ However, it carries a unique charm, emphasizing themes like divine protection, the wisdom of nature, and the power of symbolism. The Brothers Grimm’s collection of fairy tales was intended to preserve traditional stories and cultural heritage, reflecting the values, beliefs, and customs of the time. These stories were passed down through generations, often as oral narratives, before being recorded and published by the Grimms. While the stories have evolved over time, they continue to resonate with readers and serve as a source of inspiration for various forms of art, including literature, film, and theater.

Informations for scientific analysis


Fairy tale statistics
Value
NumberKHM 210
Translations DE, EN,
Readability Index by Björnsson30.8
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index76.6
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level6.9
Gunning Fog Index9.5
Coleman–Liau Index9.4
SMOG Index9.2
Automated Readability Index7.4
Character Count1.170
Letter Count895
Sentence Count12
Word Count209
Average Words per Sentence17,42
Words with more than 6 letters28
Percentage of long words13.4%
Number of Syllables278
Average Syllables per Word1,33
Words with three Syllables13
Percentage Words with three Syllables6.2%

Image sources: © Andrea Danti / Shutterstock

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