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The Lambkin and the Little Fish
Grimm Märchen

The Lambkin and the Little Fish - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 6 min

There were once a little brother and a little sister, who loved each other with all their hearts. Their own mother was, however, dead, and they had a stepmother, who was not kind to them, and secretly did everything she could to hurt them. It so happened that the two were playing with other children in a meadow before the house, and there was a pond in the meadow which came up to one side of the house. The children ran about it, and caught each other, and played at counting out.

„Eneke Beneke, let me live,
And I to thee my bird will give. The little bird, it straw shall seek,
The straw I’ll give to the cow to eat. The pretty cow shall give me milk,
The milk I’ll to the baker take. The baker he shall bake a cake,
The cake I’ll give unto the cat. The cat shall catch some mice for that,
The mice I’ll hang up in the smoke,
And then you’ll see the snow.“

They stood in a circle while they played this, and the one to whom the word ’snow‘ fell, had to run away and all the others ran after him and caught him. As they were running about so merrily the stepmother watched them from the window, and grew angry. And as she understood arts of witchcraft she bewitched them both, and changed the little brother into a fish, and the little sister into a lamb. Then the fish swam here and there about the pond and was very sad, and the lambkin walked up and down the meadow, and was miserable, and could not eat or touch one blade of grass. Thus passed a long time, and then strangers came as visitors to the castle. The false step-mother thought: „This is a good opportunity,“ and called the cook and said to him: „Go and fetch the lamb from the meadow and kill it, we have nothing else for the visitors.“ Then the cook went away and got the lamb, and took it into the kitchen and tied its feet, and all this it bore patiently. When he had drawn out his knife and was whetting it on the door-step to kill the lamb, he noticed a little fish swimming backwards and forwards in the water, in front of the kitchen-sink and looking up at him. This, however, was the brother, for when the fish saw the cook take the lamb away, it followed them and swam along the pond to the house. Then the lamb cried down to it:

„Ah, brother, in the pond so deep,
How sad is my poor heart! Even now the cook he whets his knife
To take away my tender life.“

The little fish answered:

„Ah, little sister, up on hig
How sad is my poor heart
While in this pond I lie.“

When the cook heard that the lambkin could speak and said such sad words to the fish down below, he was terrified and thought this could be no common lamb, but must be bewitched by the wicked woman in the house. Then said he: „Be easy, I will not kill thee,“ and took another sheep and made it ready for the guests, and conveyed the lambkin to a good peasant woman, to whom he related all that he had seen and heard. The peasant was, however, the very woman who had been foster-mother to the little sister, and she suspected at once who the lamb was, and went with it to a wise woman. Then the wise woman pronounced a blessing over the lambkin and the little fish, by means of which they regained their human forms, and after this she took them both into a little hut in a great forest, where they lived alone, but were contented and happy.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The lambkin and the little fish“

„The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their anthology „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (or „Children’s and Household Tales“), numbered as KHM 141. As with many of the tales in the collection, „The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ has its roots in European oral storytelling traditions.

The story revolves around two siblings who are transformed into a lamb and a fish by their wicked stepmother. They go through various adventures, trying to evade the stepmother’s attempts to harm them. Eventually, they are able to break the curse and regain their human forms.

The Brothers Grimm collected this story, along with many others, as part of their efforts to preserve traditional European folktales. These tales were passed down through generations as part of an oral tradition, reflecting the values, customs, and moral lessons important to the people of their time.

„The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ is a tale of transformation, sibling love, and the triumph of good over evil. It serves as an entertaining and engaging story that highlights the power of love and determination in the face of adversity. The story also emphasizes the importance of staying true to one’s self and the value of unity and cooperation.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The lambkin and the little fish“

„The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that contains several themes and moral lessons. Here are some interpretations of the story:

Good vs. Evil: Like many other fairy tales, this story features a struggle between good and evil, with the innocent siblings representing good and the wicked stepmother representing evil. The story demonstrates that good can triumph over evil with love, unity, and determination.

Sibling love and unity: One of the central themes in the story is the strong bond between the siblings. Despite being transformed into different creatures, they remain united and protect each other from harm. Their love and unity ultimately help them overcome adversity and break the curse.

Resilience and determination: The siblings demonstrate resilience and determination in the face of adversity. Despite the obstacles and challenges they encounter, they never give up and continue to find ways to survive and protect each other.

The power of transformation: The story involves magical transformations, both as a form of punishment by the stepmother and as a means to escape danger. These transformations can be interpreted as a metaphor for personal growth, change, and adaptability in life.

The triumph of innocence and purity: The lamb and fish, as symbols of innocence and purity, eventually overcome the wickedness of their stepmother. The story teaches that purity of heart and genuine love can conquer evil intentions and actions.

Overall, „The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ is a story that teaches valuable lessons about love, unity, determination, and the triumph of good over evil. Through its magical narrative, the story offers timeless moral lessons and explores themes that continue to resonate with readers today.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The lambkin and the little fish“

„The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ is not as well-known or widely adapted as some other Brothers Grimm fairy tales. However, it has inspired some adaptations and reinterpretations in different formats:

Illustrated Children’s Books: The story of „The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ has been adapted into illustrated children’s books that feature vivid illustrations, bringing the magical tale and its characters to life. These books provide a visual representation of the story and make it more accessible and engaging for young readers.

Theater and Puppet Shows: The tale has been adapted into plays and puppet shows for children and families, emphasizing the themes of sibling love, unity, and the triumph of good over evil. These performances bring the tale to life, providing an entertaining and educational experience for audiences of all ages.

Animated Shorts: „The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ has been adapted into animated shorts that depict the story’s narrative and the adventures of the transformed siblings. These adaptations often use colorful and expressive animation to emphasize the magical and fantastical elements of the story.

Modern Retellings: Some authors and storytellers have taken inspiration from „The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ and created their own stories based on the themes and ideas presented in the original tale. These reinterpretations might feature updated settings, new characters, or alternative plotlines while still maintaining the core message of love, unity, and determination.

Educational Applications: The story of „The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ has been used in educational settings as a way to teach children about the importance of love, unity, and resilience in the face of adversity. Teachers and parents may share the story as a means of encouraging children to think about the importance of cooperation and determination.

While „The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ may not have as many direct adaptations as some other Grimm fairy tales, its engaging narrative and themes continue to inspire creative reinterpretations and adaptations. The story’s focus on sibling love, unity, and the triumph of good over evil offers an entertaining and educational tale for readers and audiences of all ages.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The lambkin and the little fish“

„The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, but it has inspired a few adaptations over the years. Here are a few examples:

„The Lamb and the Butterfly“ by Arnold Lobel: This children’s book tells the story of a lamb and a butterfly who become friends and decide to live together in a cozy house. When a fox comes to their door and tries to trick the lamb, the butterfly comes up with a clever plan to save the day. While not a direct retelling of „The Lambkin and the Little Fish,“ the story shares many similarities and themes.

„The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ by Anne-Marie Dalmais: This illustrated retelling of the Brothers Grimm tale features whimsical illustrations and a simple, straightforward retelling of the story. It is a great introduction to the story for young children.

„The Wolf and the Lamb“ by Aesop: While not a direct adaptation, this fable from ancient Greece shares many similarities with „The Lambkin and the Little Fish.“ In the story, a wolf tries to justify his attack on a lamb by accusing the lamb of causing him trouble in the past. The story is often seen as a cautionary tale about those in power using their influence to justify their actions.

„The Three Little Pigs“ by James Orchard Halliwell: This classic fairy tale shares many similarities with „The Lambkin and the Little Fish,“ including a threat from a predatory animal and the importance of building a safe home. While not a direct adaptation, the story shares many of the same themes and ideas.

Overall, „The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ has inspired a few adaptations and retellings over the years, each with their own unique take on the story.

Summary of the plot

„The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of two siblings who are transformed into a lamb and a fish by their wicked stepmother.

The tale begins with a man who marries a woman with an evil heart. After giving birth to a daughter, the woman becomes jealous of the love her husband has for his son from his previous marriage. In her envy, she uses witchcraft to transform the boy into a lamb and the girl into a fish. Despite their new forms, the siblings maintain their strong bond and love for each other.

One day, a king’s huntsman spots the lamb in the forest and decides to take it to the king. The lamb, sensing danger, asks the fish to flood the road, which prevents the huntsman from taking the lamb to the king. This happens several times, with the lamb and fish working together to outwit the huntsman and escape the king’s grasp.

The siblings‘ father eventually finds out about their stepmother’s wicked deeds and forces her to break the curse. The siblings are restored to their human forms, and they live happily ever after, while the evil stepmother is punished for her actions.

„The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ is a tale of sibling love, unity, and the triumph of good over evil. The story emphasizes the importance of family bonds, cooperation, and determination in overcoming adversity, as well as the power of love and innocence to conquer evil intentions.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The lambkin and the little fish“

„The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, who were German academics, linguists, and cultural researchers during the early 19th century. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are most famous for their collection of folktales, „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (also known as „Children’s and Household Tales“), which was first published in 1812.

The Brothers Grimm collected these stories as part of their work in preserving German cultural history and tradition. They gathered the tales from various sources, including oral storytelling, printed texts, and direct accounts from people they met. The stories were then revised and adapted over the years, with the final edition published in 1857.

The Grimm’s fairy tales have become an integral part of Western children’s literature and continue to influence modern storytelling. Their collection includes some of the most famous fairy tales, such as „Cinderella,“ „Snow White,“ „Hansel and Gretel,“ and „Rapunzel.“ However, „The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ is not as well-known as these iconic stories, but it still embodies the themes and elements often found in the Brothers Grimm’s works, including magic, transformation, love, and the struggle between good and evil.

The original tales were often darker and more complex than the sanitized versions commonly shared with children today. In many cases, the Grimm’s stories served not only as entertainment but also as cautionary tales, providing moral lessons and reflecting societal norms and values of their time.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The lambkin and the little fish“

„The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ can be interpreted in several ways, reflecting themes such as love, family, resilience, and the triumph of good over evil.

The power of love and family bonds: The strong love between the brother and sister is a central theme in the story. Despite being transformed into animals, they continue to care for each other and communicate their sorrows. Their love for one another helps them endure their hardship and eventually leads them to find happiness once again.

Resilience and hope: Despite their suffering and the evil actions of their stepmother, the siblings never give up. Their resilience is ultimately rewarded when they regain their human forms and find a peaceful life in the forest. This theme suggests that perseverance and hope can help individuals overcome adversity.

The triumph of good over evil: The wicked stepmother’s plan to harm the siblings is thwarted by the cook’s compassion and the intervention of the peasant woman and the wise woman. In the end, good triumphs over evil, and the siblings are able to live happily away from their stepmother. This theme emphasizes the importance of moral values and the belief that justice will prevail.

The role of fate and chance: The story also highlights the role of fate and chance in the lives of the characters. The cook happens to overhear the talking animals, and the peasant woman turns out to be the siblings‘ former foster mother. These chance encounters lead to the siblings‘ salvation, suggesting that sometimes fate plays a role in bringing about positive change.

The importance of kindness and compassion: Several characters in the story exhibit kindness and compassion, which ultimately leads to the siblings‘ rescue. The cook’s empathy for the talking lamb, the peasant woman’s willingness to help, and the wise woman’s magical intervention all contribute to the happy resolution of the story. This theme underscores the value of kindness and compassion in overcoming hardship and injustice.

Summary of the plot

„The Lambkin and the Little Fish“ is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale that tells the story of a little brother and sister who love each other dearly, but have a cruel stepmother who practices witchcraft. One day, while the children play a game with others in a meadow by their house, the stepmother watches them and becomes angry. She casts a spell on them, turning the brother into a fish and the sister into a lamb.

As time goes on, the siblings live unhappily in their new forms. Eventually, strangers visit the castle, and the stepmother sees an opportunity to further her cruelty. She orders the cook to kill the lamb for their guests. When the cook brings the lamb to the kitchen and prepares to kill it, the fish-brother watches in sorrow. The lamb and the fish exchange words of sadness, which the cook overhears.

Realizing the talking animals must be bewitched, the cook spares the lamb and takes it to a kind peasant woman, who happens to be the siblings‘ former foster mother. She takes the lamb to a wise woman, who blesses both the lamb and the fish, restoring their human forms. The wise woman then takes the brother and sister to live in a hut in the forest, where they find happiness and contentment away from their wicked stepmother.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 141
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 450
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, PT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson32.9
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index77.7
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level8.4
Gunning Fog Index10.9
Coleman–Liau Index7.4
SMOG Index8.4
Automated Readability Index9.1
Character Count3.308
Letter Count2.537
Sentence Count27
Word Count644
Average Words per Sentence23,85
Words with more than 6 letters58
Percentage of long words9%
Number of Syllables799
Average Syllables per Word1,24
Words with three Syllables22
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.4%
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