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The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage
Grimm Märchen

The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 5 min

Once upon a time a mouse, a bird, and a sausage formed a partnership. They kept house together, and for a long time they lived in peace and prosperity, acquiring many possessions. The bird’s task was to fly into the forest every day to fetch wood. The mouse carried water, made the fire, and set the table. The sausage did the cooking. Whoever is too well off always wants to try something different! Thus one day the bird chanced to meet another bird, who boasted to him of his own situation.

This bird criticized him for working so hard while the other two enjoyed themselves at home. For after the mouse had made the fire and carried the water, she could sit in the parlor and rest until it was time for her to set the table. The sausage had only to stay by the pot watching the food cook. When mealtime approached, she would slither through the porridge or the vegetables, and thus everything was greased and salted and ready to eat. The bird would bring his load of wood home. They would eat their meal, and then sleep soundly until the next morning. It was a great life.

The next day, because of his friend’s advice, the bird refused to go to the forest, saying that he had been their servant long enough. He was no longer going to be a fool for them. Everyone should try a different task for a change. The mouse and the sausage argued against this, but the bird was the master, and he insisted that they give it a try. The sausage was to fetch wood, the mouse became the cook, and the bird was to carry water. And what was the result? The sausage trudged off toward the forest.

The bird made the fire and the mouse put on the pot and waited for the sausage to return with wood for the next day. However, the sausage stayed out so long that the other two feared that something bad had happened. The bird flew off to see if he could find her. A short distance away he came upon a dog that had seized the sausage as free booty and was making off with her. The bird complained bitterly to the dog about this brazen abduction, but he claimed that he had discovered forged letters on the sausage, and that she would thus have to forfeit her life to him.

Filled with sorrow, the bird carried the wood home himself and told the mouse what he had seen and heard. They were very sad, but were determined to stay together and make the best of it. The bird set the table while the mouse prepared the food. She jumped into the pot, as the sausage had always done, in order to slither and weave in and about the vegetables and grease them, but before she reached the middle, her hair and skin were scalded off, and she perished.

When the bird wanted to eat, no cook was there. Beside himself, he threw the wood this way and that, called out, looked everywhere, but no cook was to be found. Because of his carelessness, the scattered wood caught fire, and the entire house was soon aflame. The bird rushed to fetch water, but the bucket fell into the well, carrying him with it, and he drowned.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“

„The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm and included in their compilation „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (originally titled „Children’s and Household Tales“ or „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ in German), first published in 1812. This tale is classified as ATU 85 (The Partnership between the Bird, the Mouse, and the Sausage) in the Aarne-Thompson-Uther classification system, which categorizes folktales based on their narrative structure and elements.

As with many other stories collected by the Brothers Grimm, „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ likely has roots in European oral storytelling traditions. The story stands out for its anthropomorphic characters and the unusual partnership among them. The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, were German academics and cultural researchers who aimed to preserve the cultural heritage and oral storytelling traditions of German-speaking regions. They collected and published numerous folk and fairy tales during the 19th century, with many of these tales reflecting the values, beliefs, and societal norms of the time.

In „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage,“ the three titular characters live together in a harmonious and cooperative partnership. Each character takes on a specific household task that suits its skills: the bird collects wood, the mouse fetches water and makes the fire, and the sausage cooks the meals. Their life runs smoothly until they decide to switch roles, which leads to disastrous consequences for all of them. This tale conveys themes of cooperation, balance, and the importance of understanding and appreciating one’s role in a community or partnership. The story also serves as a cautionary tale, warning against the potential dangers of stepping out of one’s comfort zone and disrupting a well-functioning system.

The Brothers Grimm collected their tales from various sources, including oral storytelling traditions, written narratives, and folklore. They aimed to preserve the traditional German stories and culture, which they believed were being lost due to industrialization and modernization. They initially intended their collection for an adult audience but later revised the tales to make them more suitable for children. „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ is a unique story in the Grimm collection due to its unusual characters and the absence of human protagonists. The story, like many other Grimm fairy tales, contains elements of morality and teaches important life lessons. While it is not as widely recognized as some of the more famous Grimm tales, „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ remains an interesting and thought-provoking story that explores themes of contentment, teamwork, and valuing the unique roles and skills of individuals within a group.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“

„The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ has several interpretations that can be derived from the story, demonstrating the depth and complexity of the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales. Some key interpretations of the story include:

Cooperation and balance: The tale emphasizes the importance of cooperation and balance within a community or partnership. Each character plays a specific role that suits its skills, contributing to the harmonious functioning of their household. The disruption of this balance leads to chaos and the eventual demise of the characters, highlighting the need to appreciate and maintain the roles that each individual plays.

The dangers of envy and discontent: The story can be seen as a cautionary tale about the potential pitfalls of envy and discontent. The characters decide to switch roles because they believe that the others have easier tasks, not appreciating the value and importance of their own roles. This discontent leads to disastrous consequences, suggesting that it is better to focus on one’s own strengths and contributions rather than envying the perceived advantages of others.

Appreciating one’s unique abilities: The tale serves as a reminder to appreciate and embrace one’s unique abilities and skills. Each character has a specific skill set that contributes to their household, and by trying to take on tasks that they are not suited for, they jeopardize their well-being. The story underscores the importance of recognizing and valuing one’s own talents and abilities.

The consequences of disrupting a well-functioning system: The story also serves as a warning about the potential dangers of disrupting a well-functioning system. The characters‘ decision to switch roles leads to chaos and disaster, illustrating the risks involved in making changes without understanding the delicate balance of the existing system.

The anthropomorphism of objects and animals: The use of anthropomorphism in the story, with animals and even an object (the sausage) taking on human characteristics, can be seen as a narrative device to convey the story’s themes and messages in a more engaging and relatable way.

Appreciation for one’s own role: The story highlights the importance of recognizing and appreciating the unique roles that individuals play in a group. The bird’s dissatisfaction with his role led to the tragic chain of events that unfolded. The story teaches us to be content with our own responsibilities and not to undervalue the tasks of others.

The consequences of envy and discontent: The bird’s envy of the mouse and the sausage’s seemingly easier tasks led him to demand a change in roles. This decision ultimately resulted in disaster for all three. The story serves as a cautionary tale against envy and discontent, emphasizing the need to be satisfied with one’s situation.

The importance of teamwork and collaboration: The mouse, the bird, and the sausage initially lived together in harmony, with each contributing their skills to maintain their household. When they decided to switch roles, their collaboration fell apart, leading to their downfall. This highlights the significance of understanding and valuing the unique skills and abilities that each person brings to a group.

Not all roles are easily interchangeable: The story demonstrates that certain skills or abilities may be specific to an individual and not easily replicated by others. The tragic consequences of the role switch reveal that each character was uniquely suited to their original tasks. The tale reminds us to respect and acknowledge the specialized skills of others and not assume that anyone can easily replace them.

These interpretations of „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ showcase the depth and complexity of the story, revealing themes of cooperation, balance, and the importance of appreciating one’s unique abilities that continue to resonate with readers today.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“

„The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ is a lesser-known fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, who were German academics, philologists, cultural researchers, lexicographers, and authors. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are best known for their collection of fairy tales, which include well-known stories such as „Cinderella,“ „Snow White,“ „Rapunzel,“ and „Hansel and Gretel.“ Their collection, „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ (also known as „Children’s and Household Tales“), was first published in 1812 and contains over 200 stories. While „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ is not as widely adapted as some other Brothers Grimm fairy tales, there have still been a few adaptations and reimaginings of the story in various formats. Some specific examples include:

Picture books: „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ illustrated by Maurice Sendak: This illustrated edition of the Grimm’s fairy tale features the artwork of renowned children’s book illustrator Maurice Sendak, bringing the story to life for young readers. Several children’s books have been published based on the fairy tale, including „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ by the Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Eric Carle and „The Sausage, the Mouse, and the Bird“ by Irene N. Watts and Kathryn E. Shoemaker.

Animation: „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ (2011): This animated short film by Russian animator Ekaterina Filippova is a modern adaptation of the story, using colorful and imaginative animation to tell the tale in a new way. The tale has been adapted into animated films, such as the 1982 Soviet Union film „The Little Towering Tale,“ and the 2016 animated short film „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage,“ directed by Lena von Döhren.

Theater: „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ Puppet Theater: Some puppet theatre performances have adapted this lesser-known Brothers Grimm tale for the stage, providing an engaging and interactive way for audiences to experience the story. „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ has been adapted into several theater productions, including „The Sausage, the Mouse, and the Bird“ by British playwright and director David Wood, which premiered at the Theater Royal Bath in 1995.

Literature: The fairy tale has also inspired literary works, such as the novel „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage: A Fairy Tale“ by Laurence Houseman, and the play „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ by German playwright and director Carl Maria von Weber.

Storytelling and audio: Various storytelling and audio recordings of „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ have been produced, allowing listeners to enjoy the tale in an auditory format. These adaptations often emphasize the humorous and whimsical aspects of the story.

Art: The tale has been the subject of several visual art pieces, including paintings, illustrations, and sculptures.

Though „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ has not been adapted as extensively as some other Grimm fairy tales, the story’s unique characters and themes continue to inspire artists and storytellers to reinterpret and share the tale with new audiences. Overall, „The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ has been adapted in various forms, showcasing its enduring popularity and relevance. These adaptations have brought the tale to new audiences, allowing them to experience the story in different ways.

Summary of the plot

„The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ is a fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm about three unlikely characters who live together harmoniously, each taking on a specific household task. The bird collects wood, the mouse fetches water and makes the fire, and the sausage cooks the meals. Their life runs smoothly with this division of labor, ensuring that all their needs are met.

One day, however, the bird encounters other birds who mock him for doing the most laborious task. Feeling discontent and envious of the other characters‘ perceived easier roles, the bird convinces the mouse and the sausage to switch tasks to prove they can do each other’s jobs. The new arrangement quickly leads to disaster.

The mouse, now responsible for collecting wood, is attacked by a cat and killed. The bird, attempting to cook, accidentally drops the sausage into the pot, causing it to be cooked and lost. In a desperate attempt to fetch water to put out the fire he has started, the bird accidentally sets the house ablaze and drowns while trying to extinguish the flames.

The story ends with the demise of all three characters, emphasizing the importance of cooperation, balance, and appreciating one’s unique abilities. The tale serves as a cautionary reminder of the potential consequences of envy, discontent, and disrupting a well-functioning system.


„The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage“ is a fairy tale by Brothers Grimm about a mouse, a bird, and a sausage who form a partnership and live together peacefully. Each has their own tasks: the bird fetches wood, the mouse carries water and sets the table, and the sausage cooks. One day, the bird encounters another bird who criticizes him for working too hard while the others have it easy at home. This leads the bird to demand that they switch roles.

Reluctantly, the mouse and the sausage agree, and the sausage goes to fetch wood while the mouse takes over cooking duties. When the sausage doesn’t return, the bird goes looking for her and finds a dog who claims to have seized the sausage due to forged letters, resulting in her demise. Devastated, the bird returns home to tell the mouse the sad news, but they decide to continue living together.

As the mouse tries to cook like the sausage did, she jumps into the pot and is scalded to death. The bird, in a frenzy searching for the mouse, accidentally sets the house on fire. In a desperate attempt to put out the fire, the bird tries to fetch water but falls into the well with the bucket and drowns. The story teaches a lesson about contentment and the potential consequences of taking others‘ roles for granted.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 23
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 85
TranslationsDE, EN, EL, DA, ES, FR, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson30.4
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index81.1
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level6.1
Gunning Fog Index8.6
Coleman–Liau Index8.7
SMOG Index8.4
Automated Readability Index6.5
Character Count3.007
Letter Count2.349
Sentence Count34
Word Count564
Average Words per Sentence16,59
Words with more than 6 letters78
Percentage of long words13.8%
Number of Syllables726
Average Syllables per Word1,29
Words with three Syllables28
Percentage Words with three Syllables5%
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