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The Nightingale and the Slow Worm
Grimm Märchen

The Nightingale and the Slow Worm - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 2 min

Once upon a time there was a nightingale and a blindworm, each with one eye. For a long time they lived together peacefully and harmoniously in a house.

However, one day the nightingale was invited to a wedding, and she said to the blindworm: „I’ve been invited to a wedding and don’t particularly want to go with one eye. Would you be so kind as to lend me yours? I’ll bring it back to you tomorrow.“

The blindworm gave her the eye out of the kindness of her heart. But when the nightingale came home the following day, she liked having two eyes in her head and being able to see on both sides.

So she refused to return the borrowed eye to the blindworm. Then the blindworm swore that she would revenge herself on the nightingale’s children and the children of her children.

„Well,“ replied the nightingale, „see if you can find me.

I’ll build my nest in the linden, so high, so high, so high. You’ll never be able to find it, no matter how hard you try.“

Since that time all nightingales have had two eyes, and all the blindworms, none. But wherever the nighingale builds her nest, a blindworm lives beneath it in the bushes and constantly endeavours to crawl up the tree, pierce the eggs of her enemy, and drink them up.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The nightingale and the slow worm“

„The Nightingale and the Slow Worm“ is not a well-known Brothers Grimm fairy tale, and it does not appear in their collection titled „Children’s and Household Tales“ (Kinder- und Hausmärchen). However, the Brothers Grimm are famous for collecting and publishing various fairy tales and folk stories in the early 19th century. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, German scholars and linguists, aimed to preserve these stories as part of Germany’s cultural heritage.

The fairy tale provided here appears to be a variation or adaptation of another tale, rather than a direct story from the Brothers Grimm’s collection. As such, the background information on this specific story is limited. Nonetheless, the tale shares themes and morals with other Grimm fairy tales, such as the consequences of greed, betrayal, and the lasting effects of curses.

The Brothers Grimm’s collection of tales has had a lasting impact on the world of literature and has inspired countless adaptations, reinterpretations, and retellings. Their stories are known for their darker elements, often featuring cautionary tales and moral lessons for readers of all ages.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The nightingale and the slow worm“

„The Nightingale and the Slow Worm“ can be interpreted in various ways, reflecting different themes and morals:

Consequences of betrayal and dishonesty: The nightingale’s decision not to return the borrowed eye despite her promise leads to the blindworm’s vengeance, setting off a never-ending cycle of retribution. This highlights the importance of honesty and trustworthiness in maintaining healthy relationships.

Greed and selfishness: The nightingale’s desire for an additional eye and her unwillingness to return it demonstrates the destructive power of greed and selfishness, which ultimately lead to conflict.

Cycle of revenge: The blindworm’s retaliation against the nightingale’s offspring demonstrates how vengeance can perpetuate a cycle of conflict, affecting generations to come. This theme suggests that seeking revenge may not be the most productive or satisfying response to betrayal or harm.

Adaptation and survival: The story can also be seen as an explanation for the physical characteristics of nightingales and blindworms. The nightingale’s two eyes and high nest represent adaptation and resourcefulness in evading the blindworm’s vengeance, while the blindworm’s persistence in seeking revenge reflects its determination to right the perceived wrong.

The power of a curse: The blindworm’s vow of revenge can be seen as a curse that affects not only the nightingale and her offspring but also her entire species. This theme demonstrates the potential lasting impact of a curse, emphasizing the need for caution in one’s actions and decisions.

Summary of the plot

„The Nightingale and the Slow Worm“ is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a nightingale and a blindworm who each had one eye and lived together in harmony. One day, the nightingale was invited to a wedding and asked the blindworm to lend her eye, promising to return it the next day. The blindworm agreed out of kindness.

After the wedding, the nightingale enjoyed having two eyes and refused to return the borrowed eye to the blindworm. In response, the blindworm vowed to take revenge on the nightingale’s offspring and their future generations. The nightingale taunted the blindworm, claiming she would build her nest so high in a linden tree that the blindworm would never find it.

Since then, all nightingales have had two eyes and all blindworms have had none. In addition, nightingales build their nests high up in trees, while blindworms live below in the bushes, constantly attempting to climb the tree, pierce the nightingale’s eggs, and consume them as an act of vengeance.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
Readability Index by Björnsson33
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index77.5
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level6.5
Gunning Fog Index10.5
Coleman–Liau Index9
SMOG Index10.6
Automated Readability Index6.5
Character Count1.251
Letter Count955
Sentence Count14
Word Count227
Average Words per Sentence16,21
Words with more than 6 letters38
Percentage of long words16.7%
Number of Syllables303
Average Syllables per Word1,33
Words with three Syllables23
Percentage Words with three Syllables10.1%

Image sources: © Andrea Danti / Shutterstock

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