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The Peasant and the Devil
Grimm Märchen

The Peasant and the Devil - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 4 min

There was once on a time a far-sighted, crafty peasant whose tricks were much talked about. The best story is, however, how he once got hold of the Devil, and made a fool of him. The peasant had one day been working in his field, and as twilight had set in, was making ready for the journey home, when he saw a heap of burning coals in the middle of his field, and when, full of astonishment, he went up to it, a little black devil was sitting on the live coals. „Thou dost indeed sit upon a treasure!“ said the peasant. „Yes, in truth,“ replied the Devil, „on a treasure which contains more gold and silver than thou hast ever seen in thy life!“ – „The treasure lies in my field and belongs to me,“ said the peasant. „It is thine,“ answered the Devil, „if thou wilt for two years give me the half of everything thy field produces. Money I have enough of, but I have a desire for the fruits of the earth.“ The peasant agreed to the bargain. „In order, however, that no dispute may arise about the division,“ said he, „everything that is above ground shall belong to thee, and what is under the earth to me.“ The Devil was quite satisfied with that, but the cunning peasant had sown turnips. Now when the time for harvest came, the Devil appeared and wanted to take away his crop; but he found nothing but the yellow withered leaves, while the peasant, full of delight, was digging up his turnips. „Thou hast had the best of it for once,“ said the Devil, „but the next time that won’t do. What grows above ground shall be thine, and what is under it, mine.“ – „I am willing,“ replied the peasant; but when the time came to sow, he did not again sow turnips, but wheat. The grain became ripe, and the peasant went into the field and cut the full stalks down to the ground. When the Devil came, he found nothing but the stubble, and went away in a fury down into a cleft in the rocks. „That is the way to cheat the Devil,“ said the peasant, and went and fetched away the treasure.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The peasant and the devil“

„The Peasant and the Devil“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, first published in their collection titled „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales) in 1812. The tale is of German origin and can be classified under the Aarne-Thompson-Uther (ATU) classification system as type 1157, „The Clever Peasant.“ This type of tale generally involves a cunning and resourceful peasant who manages to outwit a more powerful figure, such as a lord or, in this case, the devil.

The Brothers Grimm collected and compiled folktales from various sources, including oral traditions, written texts, and personal accounts from friends and acquaintances. Their primary goal was to preserve these stories as part of German cultural heritage and folklore. „The Peasant and the Devil“ is no exception and is part of the rich tapestry of German folklore they documented.

As with many fairy tales, „The Peasant and the Devil“ shares themes and motifs with other stories from different cultures. The central theme of a clever peasant outwitting a more powerful figure is common across many cultures, and variations of the story can be found worldwide. Additionally, the tale often contains elements of humor and irony, as the seemingly powerless peasant is able to outsmart the seemingly powerful devil.

„The Peasant and the Devil“ highlights the cleverness and resourcefulness of ordinary people in the face of adversity and demonstrates that wit and intelligence can triumph over power and evil. This theme resonates with audiences and contributes to the story’s enduring appeal as part of the Brothers Grimm’s collection of fairy tales.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The peasant and the devil“

„The Peasant and the Devil“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, but it still contains themes and motifs that offer various interpretations. Here are some interpretations of the story:

The triumph of wit and intelligence: The central theme of „The Peasant and the Devil“ is the victory of cleverness and resourcefulness over power and evil. The peasant uses his intelligence to outsmart the devil, showing that wit can be a powerful weapon in overcoming adversity.

The power of cunning: The story demonstrates the importance of cunning in achieving one’s goals. The peasant is not physically strong, but he uses his wits to outmaneuver the devil, emphasizing that brains can be more important than brawn in certain situations.

The underdog’s victory: The tale presents the peasant as an underdog, pitted against a more powerful adversary. The peasant’s ultimate triumph serves as a reminder that even the seemingly powerless can overcome great obstacles and achieve success, providing a sense of hope and inspiration to readers.

The nature of greed: The devil in the story represents greed, as he seeks to claim the peasant’s wealth for himself. However, his greed ultimately leads to his downfall, as the peasant is able to outsmart him. This serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of greed and the importance of staying true to one’s values.

Humor and irony: „The Peasant and the Devil“ contains elements of humor and irony, as the seemingly powerless peasant is able to outwit the seemingly powerful devil. The story’s lighthearted tone and amusing twists contribute to its appeal and make it an enjoyable read.

The moral lesson: The story can be seen as a moral lesson about the importance of using one’s wits and intelligence to overcome obstacles and adversity. The peasant’s victory serves as a reminder that cleverness and resourcefulness can triumph over power and evil, providing a valuable lesson for readers.

Overall, „The Peasant and the Devil“ offers various interpretations that explore themes such as wit, cunning, the power of the underdog, greed, humor, and moral lessons. While it may not be as well-known as other Brothers Grimm fairy tales, it still provides valuable insights and reflections on human nature and the challenges we face in life.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The peasant and the devil“

„The Peasant and the Devil“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, and as a result, it has not been adapted as widely as some of their more famous tales. However, there are a few adaptations and works that have drawn inspiration from the story:

Children’s books: As with many other fairy tales, „The Peasant and the Devil“ has been retold and adapted in various children’s books, often with simplified language and illustrations to make the story more accessible to young readers. Some of these adaptations may take creative liberties with the plot or characters, but they generally retain the core themes and motifs of the original tale.

Fairy tale anthologies: „The Peasant and the Devil“ has been included in numerous fairy tale anthologies and collections, alongside other stories from the Brothers Grimm and other authors. These collections often contain retellings or adaptations of the original stories, sometimes with updated language or additional commentary to provide context and analysis.

Theater: Although there aren’t many mainstream theatrical adaptations of „The Peasant and the Devil,“ local and amateur theatre groups have occasionally performed adaptations of the story as part of a larger program of fairy tales or Brothers Grimm stories. These performances may include elements of pantomime, puppetry, or other theatrical techniques to bring the story to life on stage.

Inspired works: While not a direct adaptation, the theme of a clever and resourceful character outwitting a more powerful figure can be found in various forms of media, such as novels, films, and television shows. For example, the character of Anansi in West African and Caribbean folklore often uses his wit and cunning to outsmart more powerful adversaries, similar to the peasant in „The Peasant and the Devil.“

Although „The Peasant and the Devil“ hasn’t been adapted as widely as some other Brothers Grimm fairy tales, it still remains an interesting and engaging story that can be appreciated by audiences of all ages. The tale’s themes and motifs continue to inspire and influence other works, demonstrating its enduring appeal and relevance in the realm of folklore and storytelling.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The peasant and the devil“

„The peasant and the devil“ has been adapted and retold in various forms of media throughout the years. Here are a few examples:

Animated films: The story has been adapted into several animated films, including „The Devil and Daniel Mouse“ (1978) and „The Devil and Johnnycake“ (1996).

Stage plays: „The peasant and the devil“ has been adapted for the stage, including the play „The Devil and the Peasant“ by Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár.

Children’s books: There are many children’s books that retell the story of „The peasant and the devil“ in simplified language and with colorful illustrations, such as „The Peasant and the Devil: A Retelling of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale“ by Charlotte Guillain.

Television shows: The story has been adapted for television shows, including an episode of the popular children’s show „Faerie Tale Theater“ in 1983.

Literary adaptations: The story has been adapted in various literary forms, including the poem „The Peasant and the Devil“ by Robert Frost and the short story „The Devil and Simon Flagg“ by Arthur Porges.

Overall, „The peasant and the devil“ has been adapted and retold in many different forms, which speaks to the enduring popularity of this classic fairy tale.

Summary of the plot

„The Peasant and the Devil“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a cunning peasant who outwits the devil. Here is a summary of the plot:

A peasant is working hard in his field when the devil appears before him, claiming that the field’s treasures rightfully belong to him. The peasant proposes a deal to the devil: they would divide the harvest, with the devil taking the portion above the ground and the peasant taking the portion below the ground. The devil agrees, thinking he has made a profitable bargain.

The peasant plants turnips, a crop that grows its valuable parts below the ground. When the harvest time comes, the devil is left with only the turnip leaves while the peasant enjoys a bountiful harvest of turnips. The devil realizes he has been outsmarted but decides to give the peasant another chance.

This time, the devil proposes that he will take the portion below the ground, and the peasant will take the portion above the ground. The peasant agrees and plants wheat, which grows its valuable parts above the ground. When the harvest time comes, the peasant reaps a rich harvest of wheat, leaving the devil with only the roots. The devil is outwitted once again.

Frustrated, the devil admits his defeat and vows never to challenge the clever peasant again. The peasant, now free from the devil’s interference, enjoys his good fortune and prospers.

In summary, „The Peasant and the Devil“ is a humorous tale that follows the story of a cunning peasant who outsmarts the devil in a series of deals involving the division of harvests. The story emphasizes the themes of cleverness, cunning, and the triumph of wit over power.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The peasant and the devil“

„The Peasant and the Devil“ is a German fairy tale collected and published by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, in their famous collection „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales) first published in 1812. The Brothers Grimm were German academics and linguists who sought to preserve and document the rich oral tradition of German folklore during the 19th century. Their collection contains over 200 fairy tales, many of which have become widely known and beloved stories around the world.

The Brothers Grimm fairy tales often explore themes of morality, life lessons, and the conflict between good and evil. These stories were not originally intended solely for children, but rather for a general audience. As such, many of their stories contain darker and more complex themes compared to some modern children’s stories. Over time, however, the Grimm fairy tales have become more closely associated with children’s literature and have been adapted and sanitized to suit younger audiences.

„The Peasant and the Devil“ is a lesser-known story compared to other Grimm tales, such as „Cinderella,“ „Snow White,“ and „Hansel and Gretel.“ Nevertheless, it still offers valuable lessons and themes, as well as an entertaining narrative, that showcase the Brothers Grimm’s talent for storytelling and their dedication to preserving the rich cultural heritage of German folklore.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The peasant and the devil“

„The Peasant and the Devil“ offers several interpretations and themes that can be drawn from the story:

Wit and cunning versus power: The tale demonstrates that intelligence and resourcefulness can triumph over seemingly more powerful adversaries. The peasant, despite being seemingly powerless compared to the devil, uses his wit and cunning to outsmart him and secure his fortune.

Greed and its consequences: The devil’s greed for the fruits of the earth, despite already having abundant wealth, ultimately leads to his downfall. The story serves as a cautionary tale against greed and the potential consequences it can bring.

The importance of hard work and knowledge: The peasant’s familiarity with farming and understanding of crops allows him to manipulate the situation to his advantage. This highlights the importance of having a strong knowledge base and working hard to achieve one’s goals.

The deceptive nature of appearances: The story teaches that appearances can be deceptive, and that one should not underestimate others based on their appearance. The devil underestimates the peasant’s intelligence, assuming that he would not be able to outwit him. This miscalculation ultimately costs the devil the treasure.

Good versus evil: The tale can also be seen as a classic struggle between good and evil, with the clever peasant representing the forces of good and the devil representing evil. The peasant’s victory over the devil can be interpreted as a triumph of good over evil, showcasing the ultimate triumph of positive values.

Overall, „The Peasant and the Devil“ offers a variety of interpretations that explore themes of cunning, greed, hard work, deception, and the struggle between good and evil.

Summary of the plot

In the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, „The Peasant and the Devil,“ a cunning peasant encounters a little black devil sitting on burning coals in the middle of his field. The devil claims that a treasure lies beneath the coals and offers the peasant half of his field’s yield for two years in exchange for the treasure. The peasant agrees, but stipulates that the devil receives everything above ground, while the peasant gets what’s below. The devil agrees, unaware that the peasant has sown turnips, which grow underground.

When harvest time comes, the devil finds only withered leaves and the peasant digs up his turnips. Frustrated, the devil changes the terms, claiming that he will now take what’s underground while the peasant can have what grows above ground. The peasant agrees, but this time sows wheat, which grows above ground. When the devil returns, he finds only stubble and leaves in fury, allowing the peasant to claim the treasure. The story showcases the peasant’s craftiness in outsmarting the devil and securing a fortune.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 189
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 1030
TranslationsDE, EN, ES, FR, PT, HU, IT, JA, NL, PL, RO, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson32.8
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index78.5
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level7.2
Gunning Fog Index8.8
Coleman–Liau Index7.8
SMOG Index7
Automated Readability Index7.4
Character Count1.983
Letter Count1.511
Sentence Count19
Word Count377
Average Words per Sentence19,84
Words with more than 6 letters49
Percentage of long words13%
Number of Syllables482
Average Syllables per Word1,28
Words with three Syllables8
Percentage Words with three Syllables2.1%
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