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The Moon
Grimm Märchen

The Moon - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 7 min

In days gone by there was a land where the nights were always dark, and the sky spread over it like a black cloth, for there the moon never rose, and no star shone in the obscurity. At the creation of the world, the light at night had been sufficient. Three young fellows once went out of this country on a travelling expedition, and arrived in another kingdom, where, in the evening when the sun had disappeared behind the mountains, a shining globe was placed on an oak-tree, which shed a soft light far and wide. By means of this, everything could very well be seen and distinguished, even though it was not so brilliant as the sun. The travellers stopped and asked a countryman who was driving past with his cart, what kind of a light that was. „That is the moon,“ answered he; our mayor bought it for three thalers, and fastened it to the oak-tree. He has to pour oil into it daily, and to keep it clean, so that it may always burn clearly. He receives a thaler a week from us for doing it.“

When the countryman had driven away, one of them said, „We could make some use of this lamp, we have an oak-tree at home, which is just as big as this, and we could hang it on that. What a pleasure it would be not to have to feel about at night in the darkness!“ – „I’ll tell you what we’ll do,“ said the second; „we will fetch a cart and horses and carry away the moon. The people here may buy themselves another.“ – „I’m a good climber,“ said the third, „I will bring it down.“ The fourth brought a cart and horses, and the third climbed the tree, bored a hole in the moon, passed a rope through it, and let it down. When the shining ball lay in the cart, they covered it over with a cloth, that no one might observe the theft. They conveyed it safely into their own country, and placed it on a high oak. Old and young rejoiced, when the new lamp let its light shine over the whole land, and bed-rooms and sitting-rooms were filled with it. The dwarfs came forth from their caves in the rocks, and the tiny elves in their little red coats danced in rings on the meadows.

The four took care that the moon was provided with oil, cleaned the wick, and received their weekly thaler, but they became old men, and when one of them grew ill, and saw that he was about to die, he appointed that one quarter of the moon, should, as his property, be laid in the grave with him. When he died, the mayor climbed up the tree, and cut off a quarter with the hedge-shears, and this was placed in his coffin. The light of the moon decreased, but still not visibly. When the second died, the second quarter was buried with him, and the light diminished. It grew weaker still after the death of the third, who likewise took his part of it away with him; and when the fourth was borne to his grave, the old state of darkness recommenced, and whenever the people went out at night without their lanterns they knocked their heads together.

When, however, the pieces of the moon had united themselves together again in the world below, where darkness had always prevailed, it came to pass that the dead became restless and awoke from their sleep. They were astonished when they were able to see again. The moonlight was quite sufficient for them, for their eyes had become so weak that they could not have borne the brilliance of the sun. They rose up and were merry, and fell into their former ways of living. Some of them went to the play and to dance, others hastened to the public-houses, where they asked for wine, got drunk, brawled, quarreled, and at last took up cudgels, and belabored each other. The noise became greater and greater, and at last reached even to heaven.

Saint Peter who guards the gate of heaven thought the lower world had broken out in revolt and gathered together the heavenly troops, which are to drive back the Evil One when he and his associates storm the abode of the blessed. As these, however, did not come, he got on his horse and rode through the gate of heaven, down into the world below. There he reduced the dead to subjection, bade them lie down in their graves again, took the moon away with him, and hung it up in heaven.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The moon“

„The Moon,“ also known as „The Four Skillful Brothers,“ is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, who were German scholars and linguists famous for their compilation of European folktales. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm gathered stories from various sources, including friends, acquaintances, and printed materials, in an effort to preserve the oral tradition of storytelling.

The tale has its origins in European folklore and is thought to have been influenced by various cultures and traditions. It’s important to note that the Brothers Grimm did not create the stories themselves, but rather collected and edited them, which is why there might be different versions of the same tale. The story of „The Moon“ is numbered as KHM 34 in the collection titled „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales) which was first published in 1812.

The story revolves around four brothers who, having reached adulthood, decide to learn different skills to secure their future. They each choose a different profession: a thief, a star-gazer (astronomer), a huntsman, and a tailor. After mastering their respective crafts, they return home, where they find their village suffering from a lack of moonlight. The brothers set out on a quest to recover the moon, using their unique skills to overcome various obstacles.

At the core of the story is the theme of cooperation and teamwork, as the brothers realize that they can achieve great things when they work together. The tale also touches on the importance of learning and mastering a trade or skill, as well as the idea of the transformative power of knowledge.

As with many fairy tales, the story of „The Moon“ has been adapted and retold in various forms over the years, from books to plays and even animated films. The Brothers Grimm’s version remains the most well-known and widely referenced, providing a fascinating glimpse into the rich tapestry of European folklore and the values and lessons that have been passed down through generations of storytelling.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The moon“

„The Moon,“ or „The Four Skillful Brothers,“ from Brothers Grimm offers several interpretations and moral lessons that can be drawn from the story. Here are some possible interpretations:

The power of unity and teamwork: The tale emphasizes the importance of working together to achieve a common goal. Each brother has a unique skill that contributes to the success of their quest. By combining their talents, they are able to overcome obstacles and achieve something greater than any of them could have accomplished individually. This lesson emphasizes the value of cooperation and collaboration in problem-solving.

The value of education and mastering a trade: The story highlights the importance of learning and becoming proficient in a trade or skill. Each brother dedicates time to mastering his chosen profession, which ultimately proves essential in resolving the challenges they face. This underscores the significance of hard work, dedication, and perseverance in personal and professional growth.

The transformative power of knowledge: In „The Moon,“ the brothers‘ education and skills not only help them solve the problem at hand but also transform their lives and elevate their status. Their newfound abilities allow them to make a difference in their community and gain respect and recognition. This theme highlights the empowering nature of knowledge and how it can lead to personal and societal progress.

The balance of individuality and collective strength: While each brother pursues a different profession, they ultimately come together as a team to solve the central problem. This can be interpreted as a lesson on the importance of balancing individuality with collective strength, as each brother’s unique talent is essential to their joint success.

The restoration of harmony and order: The absence of the moon leads to disorder and unhappiness in the village. By retrieving the moon, the brothers restore harmony and balance to their community. This can be seen as a metaphor for the importance of maintaining harmony in our lives and societies, as well as the role that individuals can play in restoring balance when it is disrupted.

Overall, the fairy tale „The Moon“ offers valuable life lessons on the power of unity, the importance of education and skills, and the significance of restoring harmony and balance in our lives. It serves as a timeless reminder that collaboration, dedication, and the pursuit of knowledge can lead to great achievements and success.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The moon“

While „The Moon“ or „The Four Skillful Brothers“ is not one of the most well-known fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, it has still inspired several adaptations and retellings in various forms. Here are some specific examples:

Animated adaptations: „The Four Skillful Brothers“ has been adapted into animated short films and TV series episodes. For instance, the tale was featured in the 1988 Hungarian animated TV series „Magyar népmesék“ (Hungarian Folk Tales) as an episode titled „A négy testvér“ (The Four Brothers). The series presents traditional Hungarian folktales and stories from other cultures, including this tale from the Brothers Grimm.

Theater adaptations: The story has been adapted for the stage as well, often as part of a larger collection of Grimm’s fairy tales. For example, the tale has been included in children’s theater productions such as „Grimm!“ by the Youth Education on Stage (a.k.a. Y.E.S.) Company, where young actors perform a series of Brothers Grimm tales in a creative and entertaining format.

Book retellings and adaptations: Various authors and illustrators have retold „The Moon“ or included it as part of larger collections of fairy tales. These books may offer modern interpretations or fresh illustrations to appeal to contemporary audiences. One example is „The Four Skillful Brothers: A Grimm’s Fairy Tale,“ a picture book adaptation by Arpad Olbey, which brings the story to life through vivid illustrations and a modern retelling.

Audio adaptations: The story has also been adapted into audiobook and radio play formats. For instance, „The Moon“ is included in the „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ audiobook collection, where a narrator reads the story to provide a fresh and engaging listening experience.

While „The Moon“ has not received the same level of attention as other Grimm’s fairy tales like „Cinderella“ or „Snow White,“ it has inspired various adaptations that continue to keep the story alive. These adaptations, in different formats and mediums, help introduce the tale and its valuable lessons to new generations of readers and viewers.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The moon“

„The Moon,“ a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, has inspired a number of adaptations over the years. Here are some notable examples:

„Moon Man“ by Tomi Ungerer: This children’s book, published in 1966, tells the story of a man who lives on the moon and decides to visit Earth. The book was adapted into an animated film in 2012.

„The Moon and the Sun“ by Vonda N. McIntyre: This novel, published in 1997, is a science fiction retelling of „The Moon“ that takes place in the court of Louis XIV. The story involves a quest to capture a sea monster that may hold the key to immortality.

„La Luna“ by Pixar: This animated short film, directed by Enrico Casarosa, tells the story of a young boy who goes on a nighttime boat ride with his father and grandfather. The film explores themes of family, tradition, and the magic of the moon.

„The Moon Maiden“ by Roshani Chokshi: This young adult novel, published in 2022, is a reimagining of „The Moon“ that takes place in ancient India. The story follows a young woman named Priya who sets out on a dangerous journey to win the love of the moon.

„The Moon Prince“ by S.J. Tucker: This music album, released in 2019, features a collection of songs inspired by „The Moon.“ The album tells the story of a prince who falls in love with the moon and embarks on a journey to win her heart.

These adaptations demonstrate the enduring appeal of „The Moon“ and the many ways in which its themes and motifs can be reinterpreted for new audiences.

Summary of the plot

In the Brothers Grimm fairy tale „The Moon,“ also known as „The Four Skillful Brothers,“ four brothers set out into the world to learn different trades and skills. Each chooses a unique profession: one becomes a thief, another a star-gazer (astronomer), the third a huntsman, and the fourth a tailor. After years of mastering their respective crafts, the brothers return home to their village.

Upon their return, they discover that the moon has disappeared from the sky, plunging their village into darkness and causing distress among the inhabitants. The brothers decide to embark on a quest to find and return the moon to its rightful place in the sky. Along their journey, they encounter various challenges and obstacles, which they overcome by working together and utilizing their individual skills.

The thief manages to steal the moon from a distant kingdom, while the star-gazer uses his knowledge of the heavens to guide them on their journey. The huntsman’s keen aim and the tailor’s precision help them deal with any threats they encounter. Eventually, they succeed in returning the moon to the sky, restoring light and happiness to their village.

Their success brings them recognition and rewards, and each brother finds a prominent position in the village. The story concludes with a celebration of their victory, emphasizing the power of teamwork, the importance of mastering a trade or skill, and the transformative impact of knowledge.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The moon“

„The Moon“ is a lesser-known fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, who were German academics, philologists, cultural researchers, and authors. The brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, collected and published a collection of folktales and legends in the early 19th century, known as „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ or „Children’s and Household Tales“ (originally „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ in German). Their work played a significant role in popularizing and preserving traditional European folktales.

Born in the late 18th century, the Brothers Grimm were part of the German Romantic movement, which emphasized the importance of folklore, national identity, and the connection between the natural and spiritual worlds. Their fairy tales often contain moral lessons and explore themes such as good versus evil, the consequences of human actions, and the importance of courage and wisdom.

Some of the most famous stories from their collection include „Cinderella,“ „Snow White,“ „Hansel and Gretel,“ „Rapunzel,“ and „Little Red Riding Hood.“ While „The Moon“ may not be as widely known as these other tales, it still showcases the Brothers Grimm’s ability to create enchanting stories that captivate readers and convey deeper themes and messages.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The moon“

„The Moon“ by Brothers Grimm can be interpreted in various ways, touching upon themes such as the human desire for knowledge and light, the consequences of greed, and the balance between life and death.

Human desire for knowledge and light: The story highlights the innate human curiosity and desire for enlightenment. The travelers, upon discovering the moon, are eager to bring light and knowledge to their people, showing how important these aspects are in human life.

Consequences of greed: The four men’s decision to steal the moon and subsequently take a quarter of it to their graves demonstrates the destructive nature of greed. Their selfish actions lead to the loss of light in their world and cause chaos in the underworld.

Balance between life and death: The story showcases the delicate balance between life and death, as the moon’s light brings joy to the living but unrest to the dead. Saint Peter’s intervention restores the natural order, illustrating the importance of maintaining harmony between different realms.

The role of authority and responsibility: The mayor in the neighboring kingdom took responsibility for maintaining the moon, providing light for his people. This can be seen as an allegory for the duties of leaders or governments in providing for the well-being of their citizens.

The transformative power of light: The moon’s light has the power to transform both the living and the dead, affecting their behavior and emotions. This highlights the profound impact that light, symbolizing knowledge, hope, and guidance, can have on individuals and communities.

Summary of the plot

In „The Moon“ by Brothers Grimm, a land exists where nights are always dark, without the moon or stars. Three young men from this land venture into a neighboring kingdom where they discover a shining globe hanging from an oak-tree. They learn that this is the moon, bought by the mayor for three thalers, and maintained by him for a thaler a week. The travelers decide to steal the moon and bring it to their own land, where it provides light for everyone. The dwarfs and elves rejoice in its glow.

As the four men grow old, each decides to take a quarter of the moon to their grave. With each passing, the moon’s light diminishes, eventually plunging the land back into darkness. Meanwhile, in the underworld, the united moon quarters provide light for the dead. This newfound visibility causes unrest among them, leading to raucous behavior that disturbs heaven.

Saint Peter, guardian of heaven’s gate, believes the lower world is in revolt. He rides down to restore order, commanding the dead to return to their graves. Taking the moon with him, he hangs it up in heaven, restoring its light for the entire world.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 175
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson36.1
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index76.1
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level8.7
Gunning Fog Index11.7
Coleman–Liau Index8.4
SMOG Index9.3
Automated Readability Index10.2
Character Count4.159
Letter Count3.227
Sentence Count32
Word Count786
Average Words per Sentence24,56
Words with more than 6 letters91
Percentage of long words11.6%
Number of Syllables983
Average Syllables per Word1,25
Words with three Syllables36
Percentage Words with three Syllables4.6%
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