• 1
  • All Grimm
    Fairy Tales
  • 2
  • Sorted by
    reading time
  • 3
  • Perfect for reading
The Old Church Bell
Grimm Märchen

The Old Church Bell - Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Andersen

Reading time for children: 15 min

In the country of Wurtemburg, in Germany, where the acacias grow by the public road, where the apple-trees and the pear-trees in autumn bend to the earth with the weight of the precious fruit, lies the little town of Marbach. As is often the case with many of these towns, it is charmingly situated on the banks of the river Neckar, which rushes rapidly by, passing villages, old knights‘ castles, and green vineyards, till its waters mingle with those of the stately Rhine. It was late in the autumn.

The vine-leaves still hung upon the branches of the vines, but they were already tinted with red and gold. Heavy showers fell on the surrounding country, and the cold autumn wind blew sharp and strong. It was not at all pleasant weather for the poor. The days grew shorter and more gloomy, and, dark as it was out of doors in the open air, it was still darker within the small, old-fashioned houses of the village. The gable end of one of these houses faced the street, and with its small, narrow windows, presented a very mean appearance.

The family who dwelt in it were also very poor and humble, but they treasured the fear of God in their innermost hearts. And now He was about to send them a child. It was the hour of the mother’s sorrow, when there pealed forth from the church tower the sound of festive bells. In that solemn hour the sweet and joyous chiming filled the hearts of those in the humble dwelling with thankfulness and trust; and when, amidst these joyous sounds, a little son was born to them, the words of prayer and praise arose from their overflowing hearts, and their happiness seemed to ring out over town and country in the liquid tones of the church bells‘ chime.

The little one, with its bright eyes and golden hair, had been welcomed joyously on that dark November day. Its parents kissed it lovingly, and the father wrote these words in the Bible, „On the tenth of November, 1759, God sent us a son.“ And a short time after, when the child had been baptized, the names he had received were added, „John Christopher Frederick.“ And what became of the little lad? – the poor boy of the humble town of Marbach?

Ah, indeed, there was no one who thought or supposed, not even the old church bell which had been the first to sound and chime for him, that he would be the first to sing the beautiful song of „The Bell.“ The boy grew apace, and the world advanced with him. While he was yet a child, his parents removed from Marbach, and went to reside in another town; but their dearest friends remained behind at Marbach, and therefore sometimes the mother and her son would start on a fine day to pay a visit to the little town.

The boy was at this time about six years old, and already knew a great many stories out of the Bible, and several religious psalms. While seated in the evening on his little cane-chair, he had often heard his father read from Gellert’s fables, and sometimes from Klopstock’s grand poem, „The Messiah.“ He and his sister, two years older than himself, had often wept scalding tears over the story of Him who suffered death on the cross for us all.

On his first visit to Marbach, the town appeared to have changed but very little, and it was not far enough away to be forgotten. The house, with its pointed gable, narrow windows, overhanging walls and stories, projecting one beyond another, looked just the same as in former times. But in the churchyard there were several new graves; and there also, in the grass, close by the wall, stood the old church bell! It had been taken down from its high position, in consequence of a crack in the metal which prevented it from ever chiming again, and a new bell now occupied its place.

The mother and son were walking in the churchyard when they discovered the old bell, and they stood still to look at it. Then the mother reminded her little boy of what a useful bell this had been for many hundred years. It had chimed for weddings and for christenings. It had tolled for funerals, and to give the alarm in case of fire. With every event in the life of man the bell had made its voice heard. His mother also told him how the chiming of that old bell had once filled her heart with joy and confidence, and that in the midst of the sweet tones her child had been given to her.

And the boy gazed on the large, old bell with the deepest interest. He bowed his head over it and kissed it, old, thrown away, and cracked as it was, and standing there amidst the grass and nettles. The boy never forgot what his mother told him, and the tones of the old bell reverberated in his heart till he reached manhood. In such sweet remembrance was the old bell cherished by the boy, who grew up in poverty to be tall and slender, with a freckled complexion and hair almost red; but his eyes were clear and blue as the deep sea, and what was his career to be?

His career was to be good, and his future life enviable. We find him taking high honors at the military school in the division commanded by the member of a family high in position, and this was an honor, that is to say, good luck. He wore gaiters, stiff collars, and powdered hair, and by this he was recognized; and, indeed, he might be known by the word of command – „March! halt! front!“ The old church bell had long been quite forgotten, and no one imagined it would ever again be sent to the melting furnace to make it as it was before.

No one could possibly have foretold this. Equally impossible would it have been to believe that the tones of the old bell still echoed in the heart of the boy from Marbach. Or that one day they would ring out loud enough and strong enough to be heard all over the world. They had already been heard in the narrow space behind the school-wall, even above the deafening sounds of „March! halt! front!“ They had chimed so loudly in the heart of the youngster, that he had sung them to his companions, and their tones resounded to the very borders of the country.

He was not a free scholar in the military school, neither was he provided with clothes or food. But he had his number, and his own peg. For everything here was ordered like clockwork, which we all know is of the greatest utility – people get on so much better together when their position and duties are understood. It is by pressure that a jewel is stamped. The pressure of regularity and discipline here stamped the jewel, which in the future the world so well knew.

In the chief town of the province a great festival was being celebrated. The light streamed forth from thousands of lamps, and the rockets shot upwards towards the sky, filling the air with showers of colored fiery sparks. A record of this bright display will live in the memory of man, for through it the pupil in the military school was in tears and sorrow. He had dared to attempt to reach foreign territories unnoticed, and must therefore give up fatherland, mother, his dearest friends, all, or sink down into the stream of common life.

The old church bell had still some comfort. It stood in the shelter of the church wall in Marbach, once so elevated, now quite forgotten. The wind roared around it, and could have readily related the story of its origin and of its sweet chimes, and the wind could also tell of him to whom he had brought fresh air when, in the woods of a neighboring country, he had sunk down exhausted with fatigue, with no other worldly possessions than hope for the future, and a written leaf from „Fiesco.“

The wind could have told that his only protector was an artist, who, by reading each leaf to him, made it plain; and that they amused themselves by playing at nine-pins together. The wind could also describe the pale fugitive, who, for weeks and months, lay in a wretched little road-side inn, where the landlord got drunk and raved, and where the merry-makers had it all their own way. And he, the pale fugitive, sang of the ideal.

For many heavy days and dark nights the heart must suffer to enable it to endure trial and temptation. Yet, amidst it all, would the minstrel sing. Dark days and cold nights also passed over the old bell, and it noticed them not; but the bell in the man’s heart felt it to be a gloomy time. What would become of this young man, and what would become of the old bell? The old bell was, after a time, carried away to a greater distance than any one, even the warder in the bell tower, ever imagined; and the bell in the breast of the young man was heard in countries where his feet had never wandered.

The tones went forth over the wide ocean to every part of the round world. We will now follow the career of the old bell. It was, as we have said, carried far away from Marbach and sold as old copper. Then sent to Bavaria to be melted down in a furnace. And then what happened? In the royal city of Bavaria, many years after the bell had been removed from the tower and melted down, some metal was required for a monument in honor of one of the most celebrated characters which a German people or a German land could produce. And now we see how wonderfully things are ordered.

Strange things sometimes happen in this world. In Denmark, in one of those green islands where the foliage of the beech-woods rustles in the wind, and where many Huns‘ graves may be seen, was another poor boy born. He wore wooden shoes, and when his father worked in a ship-yard, the boy, wrapped up in an old worn-out shawl, carried his dinner to him every day. This poor child was now the pride of his country. For the sculptured marble, the work of his hands, had astonished the world.*

To him was offered the honor of forming from the clay, a model of the figure of him whose name, „John Christopher Frederick,“ had been written by his father in the Bible. The bust was cast in bronze, and part of the metal used for this purpose was the old church bell, whose tones had died away from the memory of those at home and elsewhere. The metal, glowing with heat, flowed into the mould, and formed the head and bust of the statue which was unveiled in the square in front of the old castle.

The statue represented in living, breathing reality, the form of him who was born in poverty, the boy from Marbach, the pupil of the military school, the fugitive who struggled against poverty and oppression, from the outer world. Germany’s great and immortal poet, who sung of Switzerland’s deliverer, William Tell, and of the heaven-inspired Maid of Orleans.

* The Danish sculptor Thorwaldsen.

It was a beautiful sunny day. Flags were waving from tower and roof in royal Stuttgart, and the church bells were ringing a joyous peal. One bell was silent, but it was illuminated by the bright sunshine which streamed from the head and bust of the renowned figure, of which it formed a part. On this day, just one hundred years had passed since the day on which the chiming of the old church bell at Marbach had filled the mother’s heart with trust and joy – the day on which her child was born in poverty, and in a humble home. The same who, in after-years, became rich, became the noble woman-hearted poet, a blessing to the world– the glorious, the sublime, the immortal bard, John Christoper Frederick Schiller!

LanguagesLearn languages. Double-Tap on one word.Learn languages in context with and

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Old Church Bell“

„The Old Church Bell“ is a fairy tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, who is best known for his timeless and cherished fairy tales such as „The Little Mermaid,“ „The Ugly Duckling,“ „The Emperor’s New Clothes,“ and „The Snow Queen.“ Andersen’s stories have been translated into more than 125 languages and have inspired numerous adaptations in various forms of media, including films, television, and stage productions.

Andersen’s fairy tales often incorporate moral lessons, elements of fantasy, and poignant reflections on human nature. His stories have a lasting appeal for both children and adults, as they touch upon universal themes like love, loss, hope, and the triumph of good over evil.

„The Old Church Bell“ was first published in 1855 as part of Andersen’s collection of stories called „Various Stories.“ The tale is set in Germany, in the town of Marbach, and follows the life of a poor boy named John Christopher Frederick. The story is inspired by the life of German poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller, who was born in Marbach in 1759 and is considered one of Germany’s greatest literary figures. Schiller is known for his profound influence on German literature and his collaborations with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

In „The Old Church Bell,“ Andersen weaves a narrative that emphasizes themes of perseverance, inspiration, and the power of humble beginnings. Through the protagonist’s journey and the symbolic connection to the old church bell, the story serves as a tribute to Schiller’s life and accomplishments, as well as a reminder of the potential for greatness within every individual.

Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish author who became famous for his collection of fairy tales, which often featured themes of morality and the importance of inner qualities over superficial appearances. He was known for incorporating elements from folk tales, legends, and his own imagination to create his stories. As a devout Christian, Andersen would have been familiar with the importance of church bells in religious and community life, as they served as symbols of faith and unity. This familiarity with the role of church bells could have inspired Andersen to create „The Old Church Bell“ as a means to explore themes of transformation, purpose, and the passage of time.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Old Church Bell“

„The Old Church Bell“ can be interpreted through various themes and ideas, some of which are:

The power of humble beginnings: The story emphasizes that greatness can emerge from humble origins. Despite being born in poverty, John Christopher Frederick goes on to become a renowned poet, demonstrating that one’s background does not determine one’s potential or destiny.

The significance of perseverance: The protagonist faces numerous challenges throughout his life, including poverty, hardships at the military school, and struggles as a fugitive. However, he perseveres and eventually achieves greatness, illustrating the importance of resilience and determination in overcoming obstacles.

The influence of memory and inspiration: The old church bell serves as a constant source of inspiration for John Christopher Frederick. Its sound echoes in his heart, motivating him to strive for success and achieve his dreams. This element of the story highlights the power of positive memories and their ability to inspire and shape our lives.

The interconnectedness of life: The tale showcases the unexpected connections between events and people, such as the old church bell being used to create the statue of the now-famous poet. This theme suggests that life is full of surprising coincidences and connections that may not be immediately apparent but can have a significant impact on our lives.

The celebration of art and creativity: John Christopher Frederick’s transformation into a celebrated poet emphasizes the value of artistic expression and creativity. His journey serves as a testament to the power of art to transcend circumstances, bring people together, and leave a lasting impact on the world.

Overall, „The Old Church Bell“ is a tale that explores themes of transformation, the passage of time, purpose, memory,

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Old Church Bell“

As „The Old Church Bell“ is one of Hans Christian Andersen’s lesser-known fairy tales, there haven’t been many adaptations of the story in popular culture. However, there have been some instances where the tale has been adapted for various formats. Here are a few examples:

Children’s Books: The story has been adapted into illustrated children’s books, with some versions simplifying the plot to make it more accessible for younger audiences. These adaptations often include colorful illustrations to bring the story to life. The Old Bell Tower (2015): This is a children’s book adaptation of the story, written and illustrated by artist Domenico Grasso. The book features colorful illustrations and simplifies the story for younger readers, while still capturing the main themes and messages of the original tale.

Audio Recordings: „The Old Church Bell“ has been adapted into audio recordings, where narrators perform the story, often with background music or sound effects to create an immersive listening experience. These audio adaptations can be found on audiobook platforms or as part of collections of Hans Christian Andersen’s works.

Animation: Although there aren’t any well-known animated adaptations of „The Old Church Bell,“ it is possible that the story has been adapted for smaller or independent animation projects, especially in countries with a strong tradition of celebrating Andersen’s works. The Bell (2006): This animated short film, directed by filmmaker Paul Berry, is a retelling of „The Old Church Bell.“ The film features a unique and stylized animation style, and it uses music and sound effects to create a haunting and atmospheric mood.

Theater: Some theatre companies, particularly those focusing on children’s theatre, may have adapted „The Old Church Bell“ for stage performances. These adaptations could involve live actors, puppets, or a combination of both. The Bell (2011): This is a stage play adaptation of the story, written and directed by Tim Crouch. The play is a one-man show that explores the themes of the original tale, such as cultural preservation, community, and the power of faith.

Films: The Bell (1979): This is a Soviet film adaptation of the story, directed by Sergei Ovcharov. The film follows a young boy who sets out to repair an old bell in his village, with the help of a master bellmaker. The film was praised for its beautiful cinematography and its exploration of themes such as tradition and cultural preservation.

Literature: The Bell Ringer of Notre Dame (1831): This classic novel by Victor Hugo features a similar storyline to „The Old Church Bell.“ The protagonist, Quasimodo, is a bell-ringer who becomes fascinated by the bells of Notre Dame Cathedral and works to save them from destruction. The story also explores themes of faith, community, and the power of belief.

These adaptations demonstrate the enduring appeal and relevance of „The Old Church Bell“ as a story that explores universal themes and values. While there aren’t any high-profile adaptations of „The Old Church Bell,“ the story’s themes of transformation, purpose, and the passage of time make it an interesting tale that could be adapted for various formats in the future.

Summary of the plot

„The Old Church Bell“ is a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, set in the town of Marbach, Germany. The story revolves around the life of a poor boy born in a humble household and an old church bell, which plays a significant role in his life. On the day of the boy’s birth, the church bell chimes, filling his parents‘ hearts with joy and gratitude. They name him John Christopher Frederick.

As the boy grows up, his family moves away, but he remains connected to the town and the old church bell. His mother tells him about the bell’s significance, how it chimed for weddings, christenings, funerals, and even in times of danger. The boy kisses the old, cracked bell, and its tones continue to resonate in his heart as he grows into a young man. John Christopher Frederick eventually takes high honors at a military school, enduring the hardships of a strict and disciplined environment. Despite the challenges he faces, the sound of the old church bell continues to inspire him, helping him persevere through difficult times.

Meanwhile, the old church bell is taken down from its tower due to a crack in the metal. It is sold as old copper and eventually sent to Bavaria to be melted down. Years later, the metal from the bell is used to cast a bronze statue of John Christopher Frederick, who has become a renowned poet and a source of pride for his country. The story concludes with the unveiling of the statue on a sunny day in Stuttgart, exactly one hundred years after the boy’s birth. The old church bell, now part of the monument, is silent but illuminated by sunlight, symbolizing the enduring legacy of the humble boy who became a celebrated poet and a blessing to the world.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
TranslationsEN, DA, ES, NL
Readability Index by Björnsson36.2
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index71.7
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level8.7
Gunning Fog Index11.3
Coleman–Liau Index9.1
SMOG Index10.3
Automated Readability Index9.6
Character Count11.247
Letter Count8.785
Sentence Count94
Word Count2.073
Average Words per Sentence22,05
Words with more than 6 letters293
Percentage of long words14.1%
Number of Syllables2.763
Average Syllables per Word1,33
Words with three Syllables144
Percentage Words with three Syllables6.9%
Questions, comments or experience reports?

Privacy policy.

The best fairy tales

Copyright © 2024 -   Imprint | Privacy policy |All rights reserved Powered by

Keine Internetverbindung

Sie sind nicht mit dem Internet verbunden. Bitte überprüfen Sie Ihre Netzwerkverbindung.

Versuchen Sie Folgendes:

  • 1. Prüfen Sie Ihr Netzwerkkabel, ihren Router oder Ihr Smartphone

  • 2. Aktivieren Sie ihre Mobile Daten -oder WLAN-Verbindung erneut

  • 3. Prüfen Sie das Signal an Ihrem Standort

  • 4. Führen Sie eine Netzwerkdiagnose durch