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The Peasant in Heaven
Grimm Märchen

The Peasant in Heaven - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 2 min

Once on a time a poor pious peasant died, and arrived before the gate of heaven. At the same time a very rich, rich lord came there who also wanted to get into heaven. Then Saint Peter came with the key, and opened the door, and let the great man in, but apparently did not see the peasant, and shut the door again. And now the peasant outside, heard how the great man was received in heaven with all kinds of rejoicing, and how they were making music, and singing within. At length all became quiet again, and Saint Peter came and opened the gate of heaven, and let the peasant in. The peasant, however, expected that they would make music and sing when he went in also, but all remained quite quiet. He was received with great affection, it is true, and the angels came to meet him, but no one sang. Then the peasant asked Saint Peter how it was that they did not sing for him as they had done when the rich man went in, and said that it seemed to him that there in heaven things were done with just as much partiality as on earth.

Then said Saint Peter, „By no means, thou art just as dear to us as any one else, and wilt enjoy every heavenly delight that the rich man enjoys, but poor fellows like thee come to heaven every day, but a rich man like this does not come more than once in a hundred years!“

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The peasant in heaven“

„The Peasant in Heaven“ (also known as „Bauern im Himmel“ in German) is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm collection. It can be found in their book „Children’s and Household Tales“ (Grimms‘ Fairy Tales), which contains over 200 stories. The tale is numbered as KHM 167 in the collection.

In „The Peasant in Heaven,“ a poor, devout peasant and a wealthy, miserly landlord die and are taken to heaven and hell, respectively. The peasant is rewarded with a place in heaven for his good deeds and piety, while the landlord is condemned to hell for his greed and selfishness. However, the landlord is allowed a brief visit to heaven, where he sees the peasant enjoying the heavenly rewards. Feeling envious, the landlord pleads for a chance to stay in heaven, but he is denied this opportunity and sent back to hell.

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, were German scholars who collected and published traditional Germanic folklore and fairy tales in the early 19th century. Their work aimed to preserve the oral storytelling traditions of their time, and their collection became one of the most famous and influential compilations of fairy tales worldwide.

„The Peasant in Heaven“ reflects several themes and motifs often found in the Brothers Grimm’s works, including the importance of piety, the consequences of one’s actions, and the contrast between rich and poor. The story serves as a moral lesson that emphasizes the value of living a good and virtuous life, with the ultimate reward being a place in heaven, while greed and selfishness lead to eternal suffering in hell.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The peasant in heaven“

„The Peasant in Heaven“ from the Brothers Grimm offers several interpretations and themes that can be explored. Here are some possible interpretations of this lesser-known fairy tale:

The importance of piety and virtue: The story emphasizes the value of living a pious and virtuous life, with the peasant being rewarded with a place in heaven for his goodness and devotion, while the wealthy landlord is punished for his greed and selfishness.

Consequences of one’s actions: The tale serves as a reminder that actions in life have consequences in the afterlife. The peasant’s good deeds and piety earn him a place in heaven, while the landlord’s selfish behavior results in eternal suffering in hell.

The contrast between rich and poor: The story highlights the contrast between the wealthy landlord and the poor peasant, illustrating that material wealth does not guarantee happiness or a place in heaven. It suggests that one’s character and actions are more important than material possessions.

The limitations of earthly power and wealth: The landlord’s wealth and power on Earth hold no sway in the afterlife, demonstrating that these earthly attributes are insignificant when compared to one’s moral character.

The role of divine justice: „The Peasant in Heaven“ showcases the concept of divine justice, with the peasant and the landlord receiving their respective rewards or punishments based on their actions in life. This theme highlights the importance of living a good and morally upright life.

Overall, „The Peasant in Heaven“ explores themes of piety, virtue, the consequences of one’s actions, the contrast between rich and poor, and divine justice. The story serves as a reminder to readers of the importance of living a morally sound life and that one’s character and actions are more significant than material wealth or power.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The peasant in heaven“

„The Peasant in Heaven“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm collection, so it has not received as much attention in adaptations as some of the more famous Grimm stories. However, there may still be some adaptations and reinterpretations of this story:

Illustrated editions and picture books: Illustrated versions of „The Peasant in Heaven“ can be found in compilations of lesser-known Grimm’s fairy tales or as standalone picture books for younger readers. These editions often feature engaging artwork and simplified language to make the story accessible to a young audience.

Retellings and reinterpretations: Various authors and storytellers have reinterpreted or retold „The Peasant in Heaven“ over the years, sometimes with modifications to the plot or characters. These retellings may offer new perspectives on the story’s themes or focus on different aspects of the tale.

Theater and puppet shows: Although there may not be many large-scale productions based on „The Peasant in Heaven,“ smaller theater companies or puppet shows may have adapted the story for live performances. These adaptations often focus on the tale’s core themes, using music, dance, or puppetry to engage audiences.

Educational materials: Due to the moral lessons and themes present in the story, „The Peasant in Heaven“ may be included in educational materials such as lesson plans, teaching guides, or discussion prompts. The story can serve as a starting point for exploring themes like piety, virtue, and divine justice.

Audio recordings and storytelling podcasts: „The Peasant in Heaven“ may be featured in audio recordings or storytelling podcasts focused on fairy tales or lesser-known Grimm stories. These adaptations bring the tale to life through engaging narration and sometimes include sound effects or music to enhance the listening experience.

While adaptations of „The Peasant in Heaven“ may not be as widespread as those of more famous Grimm fairy tales, the story has still inspired various creative works that explore its themes and lessons in different formats and contexts.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The peasant in heaven“

„The Peasant in Heaven“ is a popular fairy tale that has been adapted in various forms of media over the years. Here are some notable adaptations:

Film Adaptations: One of the most famous film adaptations of „The Peasant in Heaven“ is the 1945 Czech film „The Peasant and the Devil“ directed by Karel Zeman. The film uses the basic plot of the fairy tale but expands on it with new characters and a more complex storyline.

Literary Adaptations: The fairy tale has also been adapted in various works of literature. For example, the French writer Gustave Flaubert wrote a short story called „The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitaller“ in which the main character has a vision of heaven similar to that of the peasant in the fairy tale. The fairy tale has also been adapted in modern retellings, such as „The Peasant and the Prince“ by Marianne Hering and Nancy I. Sanders.

Musical Adaptations: „The Peasant in Heaven“ has also been adapted in various musical forms, such as operas and musicals. For example, the Italian composer Antonio Salieri wrote an opera called „La Locandiera“ which features a character who has a dream of heaven similar to that of the peasant in the fairy tale.

Television Adaptations: The fairy tale has also been adapted in various television shows and series. For example, the British TV show „The Storyteller“ featured an episode called „The Luck Child“ which was based on the fairy tale. The episode was directed by Jim Henson and featured puppetry and special effects.

Overall, „The Peasant in Heaven“ has proven to be a popular and enduring fairy tale that continues to inspire adaptations in various forms of media.

Summary of the plot

„The Peasant in Heaven“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a poor, devout peasant and a wealthy, miserly landlord. After their deaths, the peasant is rewarded with a place in heaven for his piety and good deeds, while the landlord is condemned to hell for his greed and selfishness.

The landlord, however, is allowed a brief visit to heaven, where he sees the peasant enjoying the heavenly rewards. Feeling envious and regretful, the landlord pleads for a chance to stay in heaven. Unfortunately for him, his request is denied, and he is sent back to hell to suffer the consequences of his actions on Earth.

„The Peasant in Heaven“ serves as a moral lesson that emphasizes the importance of living a pious and virtuous life, with the ultimate reward being a place in heaven. In contrast, the story shows that greed and selfishness lead to eternal suffering in hell.

———

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The peasant in heaven“

„The Peasant in Heaven“ is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786-1859), two German scholars, linguists, and cultural researchers. The Brothers Grimm are best known for their work in collecting and publishing German folklore and traditional stories, which they did as part of a broader effort to preserve and promote German culture.

Their most famous collection, „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales), was first published in 1812 and contains many of the world’s most well-known fairy tales, such as „Cinderella,“ „Snow White,“ „Little Red Riding Hood,“ and „Hansel and Gretel.“ Over the years, the collection went through multiple revisions and expansions, ultimately comprising over 200 stories.

The fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm often explore themes of morality, justice, and social norms, featuring characters from various social backgrounds, including peasants, nobles, and magical creatures. „The Peasant in Heaven“ is a prime example of a story that offers a moral lesson and invites readers to reflect on issues of social hierarchy, wealth, and the values that ultimately determine one’s worth in the afterlife.

It is essential to note that the tales collected by the Brothers Grimm were not initially intended for children, but rather for adults and scholars interested in folklore and cultural studies. However, over time, these stories have been adapted and sanitized for younger audiences, becoming staples of children’s literature and inspiring countless adaptations in various forms of media.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The peasant in heaven“

„The Peasant in Heaven“ can be interpreted in several ways, highlighting different themes and messages. Some of the key interpretations include:

Equality in the afterlife: One possible interpretation is that the story emphasizes the ultimate equality that exists in the afterlife. Despite the differences in social status and wealth on Earth, both the rich man and the peasant are equally valued and enjoy the same heavenly delights. This can be seen as a reminder that material possessions and status have no bearing on one’s worthiness or happiness in the afterlife.

The rarity of a rich man in heaven: Another interpretation focuses on the fact that poor, pious individuals are more commonly found in heaven than the rich. This may suggest that it is challenging for the wealthy to maintain their piety and stay on the righteous path, possibly because of the temptations and distractions that come with wealth. This idea aligns with biblical teachings, such as the famous saying, „It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.“

Challenging social hierarchies: The story also highlights the peasant’s expectation that he would be treated with partiality in heaven, just as he was on Earth. This could be interpreted as a critique of social hierarchies and the unfair treatment of the poor. By showing that both the rich man and the peasant are equally valued in heaven, the story challenges the notion that one’s social standing on Earth reflects their true worth.

A reminder of humility: The tale can also serve as a reminder to stay humble and not to expect recognition or praise for one’s good deeds or piety. The peasant’s disappointment with the lack of fanfare upon his arrival in heaven may suggest that he, too, had succumbed to the desire for recognition. The story encourages readers to focus on the genuine rewards of living a pious life rather than seeking external validation.

Overall, „The Peasant in Heaven“ offers multiple interpretations that emphasize themes of equality, the potential pitfalls of wealth, the importance of humility, and the challenge of social hierarchies.

Summary of the plot

„The Peasant in Heaven“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a poor, pious peasant who arrives at the gates of heaven alongside a very rich lord. Saint Peter, who holds the key to heaven, opens the gate and ushers the rich lord inside while seemingly ignoring the peasant. The peasant overhears the great reception and celebration, complete with music and singing, that the rich lord receives upon entering heaven.

After a while, Saint Peter returns and allows the peasant to enter heaven. The peasant anticipates a similar grand reception, but instead, he is greeted with only silence. While the angels receive him warmly, there is no music or singing to mark his arrival. Confused and disappointed, the peasant questions Saint Peter about the apparent favoritism and partiality shown towards the rich lord.

Saint Peter reassures the peasant that he is just as valued and will enjoy the same heavenly delights as the rich lord. He explains that the reason for the difference in receptions is that poor individuals like the peasant enter heaven frequently, while a rich man’s arrival is a rare event, happening only once in a hundred years.

Informations for scientific analysis


Fairy tale statistics
Value
NumberKHM 167
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 802
Translations DE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH,
Readability Index by Björnsson37
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index70.9
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level10.4
Gunning Fog Index12.8
Coleman–Liau Index7.6
SMOG Index9
Automated Readability Index11.5
Character Count1.316
Letter Count1.018
Sentence Count9
Word Count256
Average Words per Sentence28,44
Words with more than 6 letters22
Percentage of long words8.6%
Number of Syllables324
Average Syllables per Word1,27
Words with three Syllables9
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.5%

Image sources: © Andrea Danti / Shutterstock

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