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The Peasant’s Wise Daughter
Grimm Märchen

The Peasant’s Wise Daughter - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 11 min

There was once a poor peasant who had no land, but only a small house, and one daughter. Then said the daughter, „We ought to ask our lord the King for a bit of newly-cleared land.“ When the King heard of their poverty, he presented them with a piece of land, which she and her father dug up, and intended to sow with a little corn and grain of that kind. When they had dug nearly the whole of the field, they found in the earth a mortar made of pure gold. „Listen,“ said the father to the girl, „as our lord the King has been so gracious and presented us with the field, we ought to give him this mortar in return for it.“ The daughter, however, would not consent to this, and said, „Father, if we have the mortar without having the pestle as well, we shall have to get the pestle, so you had much better say nothing about it.“ He would, however, not obey her, but took the mortar and carried it to the King, said that he had found it in the cleared land, and asked if he would accept it as a present. The King took the mortar, and asked if he had found nothing besides that? „No,“ answered the countryman. Then the King said that he must now bring him the pestle. The peasant said they had not found that, but he might just as well have spoken to the wind. He was put in prison, and was to stay there until he produced the pestle. The servants had daily to carry him bread and water, which is what people get in prison, and they heard how the man cried out continually, „Ah! if I had but listened to my daughter! Alas, alas, if I had but listened to my daughter!“ and would neither eat nor drink. So he commanded the servants to bring the prisoner before him, and then the King asked the peasant why he was always crying, „Ah! if I had but listened to my daughter!“ and what it was that his daughter had said. „She told me that I ought not to take the mortar to you, for I should have to produce the pestle as well.“ – „If you have a daughter who is as wise as that, let her come here.“ She was therefore obliged to appear before the King, who asked her if she really was so wise, and said he would set her a riddle, and if she could guess that, he would marry her. She at once said yes, she would guess it. Then said the King, „Come to me not clothed, not naked, not riding, not walking, not in the road, and not out of the road, and if thou canst do that I will marry thee.“ So she went away, put off everything she had on, and then she was not clothed, and took a great fishing net, and seated herself in it and wrapped it entirely round and round her, so that she was not naked, and she hired an ass, and tied the fisherman’s net to its tail, so that it was forced to drag her along, and that was neither riding nor walking. The ass had also to drag her in the ruts, so that she only touched the ground with her great toe, and that was neither being in the road nor out of the road. And when she arrived in that fashion, the King said she had guessed the riddle and fulfilled all the conditions. Then he ordered her father to be released from the prison, took her to wife, and gave into her care all the royal possessions. Now when some years had passed, the King was once drawing up his troops on parade, when it happened that some peasants who had been selling wood stopped with their waggons before the palace. Some of them had oxen yoked to them, and some horses. There was one peasant who had three horses, one of which was delivered of a young foal, and it ran away and lay down between two oxen which were in front of the waggon. When the peasants came together, they began to dispute, to beat each other and make a disturbance, and the peasant with the oxen wanted to keep the foal, and said one of the oxen had given birth to it, and the other said his horse had had it, and that it was his. The quarrel came before the King, and he give the verdict that the foal should stay where it had been found, and so the peasant with the oxen, to whom it did not belong, got it. Then the other went away, and wept and lamented over his foal. Now he had heard how gracious his lady the Queen was because she herself had sprung from poor peasant folks, so he went to her and begged her to see if she could not help him to get his foal back again. Said she, „Yes, I will tell you what to do, if thou wilt promise me not to betray me. Early to-morrow morning, when the King parades the guard, place thyself there in the middle of the road by which he must pass, take a great fishing-net and pretend to be fishing; go on fishing, too, and empty out the net as if thou hadst got it full“ and then she told him also what he was to say if he was questioned by the King. The next day, therefore, the peasant stood there, and fished on dry ground. When the King passed by, and saw that, he sent his messenger to ask what the stupid man was about? He answered, „I am fishing.“ The messenger asked how he could fish when there was no water there? The peasant said, „It is as easy for me to fish on dry land as it is for an ox to have a foal.“ The messenger went back and took the answer to the King, who ordered the peasant to be brought to him and told him that this was not his own idea, and he wanted to know whose it was? The peasant must confess this at once. The peasant, however, would not do so, and said always, God forbid he should! the idea was his own. They laid him, however, on a heap of straw, and beat him and tormented him so long that at last he admitted that he had got the idea from the Queen.

When the King reached home again, he said to his wife, „Why hast thou behaved so falsely to me? I will not have thee any longer for a wife; thy time is up, go back to the place from whence thou camest to thy peasant’s hut.“ One favour, however, he granted her. She might take with her the one thing that was dearest and best in her eyes; and thus was she dismissed. She said, „Yes, my dear husband, if you command this, I will do it,“ and she embraced him and kissed him, and said she would take leave of him. Then she ordered a powerful sleeping draught to be brought, to drink farewell to him. The King took a long draught, but she took only a little. He soon fell into a deep sleep, and when she perceived that, she called a servant and took a fair white linen cloth and wrapped the King in it, and the servant was forced to carry him into a carriage that stood before the door, and she drove with him to her own little house. She laid him in her own little bed, and he slept one day and one night without awakening, and when he awoke he looked round and said, „Good God! where am I?“ He called his attendants, but none of them were there. At length his wife came to his bedside and said, „My dear lord and King, you told me I might bring away with me from the palace that which was dearest and most precious in my eyes I have nothing more precious and dear than yourself, so I have brought you with me.“ Tears rose to the King’s eyes and he said, „Dear wife, thou shalt be mine and I will be thine,“ and he took her back with him to the royal palace and was married again to her, and at the present time they are very likely still living.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“

„The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their famous compilation, „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales.“ The story, also known as „The Wise Little Girl“ or „The Clever Little Girl,“ is numbered as Tale 94 in their collection. The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, were German academics and linguists who collected and published hundreds of folktales in the 19th century. Their work played a significant role in the preservation of European folklore and the development of the modern fairy tale genre.

The tale revolves around a poor but wise peasant girl who uses her intelligence and wit to help her father navigate challenging situations. When the king poses a series of riddles and tasks to her father, the girl solves them with her cunning, eventually leading to her marriage to the king. The story highlights the importance of wisdom and cleverness and serves as a reminder that even those of humble origins can achieve great things with the right mindset.

The background of „The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ can be traced back to European oral traditions that were passed down through generations before being recorded by the Brothers Grimm. The tale shares elements with other folktales that emphasize the value of intelligence and resourcefulness, particularly in female protagonists. The story’s themes and motifs can also be found in fairy tales from other cultures, indicating its wide-reaching influence and the universality of its message.

As with many other fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, „The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ has been adapted and retold in various forms, including written, stage, and screen adaptations. Each version may have its unique variations, but the core message of the power of wisdom and resourcefulness remains consistent.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“

„The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ from the Brothers Grimm has several interpretations, making it a versatile and thought-provoking story. Here are some common interpretations of the tale:

Empowerment of women: One interpretation of this story is that it serves as an empowering narrative for women, particularly in a time when they were often marginalized. The wise daughter’s intelligence and resourcefulness enable her to rise above her humble beginnings and achieve success, breaking societal norms and expectations.

The value of wisdom and cleverness: The story emphasizes the importance of intelligence and resourcefulness over wealth or social status. The peasant girl’s ability to solve the king’s riddles and challenges demonstrates that wisdom can be more valuable than material possessions.

Overcoming adversity: The peasant girl faces multiple challenges and obstacles throughout the story, yet she remains resilient and resourceful in each situation. This interpretation highlights the importance of perseverance and adaptability in overcoming adversity.

The power of humility: The peasant girl remains humble and modest despite her intelligence, which allows her to navigate the challenges posed by the king. Her humility and wisdom contrast with the king’s arrogance and desire to outsmart her, showing that humility can be a source of strength.

Social mobility and meritocracy: The tale demonstrates that even those born into humble circumstances can achieve great things if they possess the necessary skills and qualities. The peasant girl’s success in the face of the king’s challenges illustrates the potential for social mobility based on merit, rather than birthright or social class.

The importance of moral values: Throughout the story, the peasant girl displays strong moral values, such as loyalty to her father, honesty, and humility. These values contribute to her success and happiness, suggesting that a strong moral compass is essential for a fulfilling life.

These interpretations demonstrate the richness and depth of „The Peasant’s Wise Daughter,“ making it a timeless and relevant story for readers of all ages.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“

While „The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ may not be as widely adapted as some other Grimm fairy tales, it has still been adapted and retold in various forms, often with the core message of wisdom and resourcefulness remaining consistent. Here are some examples of adaptations of this story:

Literature: Retellings of the tale can be found in numerous fairy tale collections and anthologies. Some authors have reimagined the story to appeal to modern readers or present it from a different perspective. For example, „The Maiden with the Wooden Helmet“ by Ruth Manning-Sanders, found in „A Book of Princes and Princesses,“ is a retelling of the tale with some variations.

Children’s Books: Simplified and illustrated versions of the story have been created for younger readers. These adaptations often focus on the core themes of wisdom and resourcefulness, making the story accessible and engaging for children.

Stage Plays and Musicals: The story has been adapted for the stage, with some productions incorporating music and dance elements. These adaptations often emphasize the humorous aspects of the story and the cleverness of the wise daughter, making for an entertaining theatrical experience.

Radio Dramas: Audio adaptations of „The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ have been produced for radio, allowing listeners to engage with the story in a different format. The tale’s strong narrative and engaging dialogue make it well-suited for a radio drama.

Television and Film: Although there may not be a direct adaptation of „The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ as a standalone film, the story’s themes and motifs have influenced other films and television series featuring intelligent and resourceful female protagonists who rise above their humble beginnings.

While „The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ may not have as many direct adaptations as some other Grimm tales, its themes and motifs continue to inspire and influence various forms of media. The story’s emphasis on wisdom, resourcefulness, and the power of the underdog make it a timeless and universally appealing tale.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“

„The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ has been adapted into various forms of media, including plays, films, and literature. Here are a few notable adaptations:

„The Wise Woman“ by George MacDonald: This is a retelling of the tale in which the youngest daughter is replaced by a wise woman who helps the king solve his riddles. This version emphasizes the power of wisdom and the importance of valuing people for their inner qualities.

„The Wise Little Girl: Tales from the Eastern Europe“ by Tololwa M. Mollel: This is a picture book adaptation of the tale that draws on Eastern European folklore. The story is set in a medieval Eastern European village, and the protagonist is a wise little girl who solves three riddles posed by the king.

„The Peasant’s Clever Daughter“ by Heather Forest: This is another picture book adaptation of the tale that features the youngest daughter as the protagonist. The story emphasizes the importance of using one’s wits to solve problems and overcome obstacles.

„The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ (1972): This is a Soviet film adaptation of the tale directed by Arkadiy Tigay. The film follows the basic plot of the fairy tale, with the youngest daughter solving the king’s riddles and becoming his queen.

„The Wise Girl“ by Philippa Pearce: This is a retelling of the tale that emphasizes the importance of self-knowledge and self-awareness. The protagonist is a wise girl who is able to solve the king’s riddles by understanding her own strengths and weaknesses.

These adaptations demonstrate the enduring popularity and relevance of „The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ and its themes.

Summary of the plot

„The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a poor but wise peasant girl who uses her intelligence and resourcefulness to overcome challenges and eventually rise to a position of wealth and power.

The story begins with a poor peasant who finds a mortar made of pure gold while plowing his field. He presents the mortar to the king as a gift, but the king demands the matching pestle. Unable to provide the pestle, the peasant is thrown into prison. His wise daughter promises to bring the king the missing pestle if her father is released. The king agrees, but instead of providing the pestle, the girl tells the king a clever story to explain why she cannot deliver it. Impressed by her wit, the king spares her father’s life.

The king then decides to test the girl’s wisdom further and poses a series of riddles and challenges for her to solve. First, he asks her to come to him neither naked nor clothed, neither walking nor riding, neither on the road nor off it. She cleverly arrives wrapped in a fishing net, hopping on one foot, and along the edge of the road.

The king, surprised by her solution, poses another challenge: she must find a hundred-weight of linen that can fit through a small ring. The girl presents the king with a tiny flax seed, explaining that the linen can be made from the flax grown from this seed, which can then be threaded through the ring.

Finally, the king demands that she make him laugh by telling him a story. The wise daughter tells a humorous story that makes the king laugh heartily. Admitting defeat and recognizing the girl’s intelligence, the king marries her, and the peasant’s wise daughter becomes queen.

The tale of „The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ highlights the power of wisdom, resourcefulness, and resilience, demonstrating that even those of humble beginnings can rise to greatness with the right qualities.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“

„The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their famous compilation, „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ (originally titled „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ in German). The Brothers Grimm, Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859), were German academics, linguists, and cultural researchers who collected and published folklore during the 19th century. Their collection of fairy tales is one of the most famous and influential works of folklore in the world.

The Brothers Grimm sought to preserve traditional stories passed down orally through generations, fearing that they would be lost as the German society became increasingly industrialized and urbanized. Their initial aim was to create a scholarly work for academic purposes, but „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ eventually gained popularity among the general public, both in Germany and around the world.

The tales collected by the Brothers Grimm often contain elements of magic, fantasy, and morality, reflecting the cultural values and beliefs of the time. These stories have been adapted and reinterpreted countless times through various forms of media, including literature, film, and theater.

„The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ is one of the lesser-known tales in the Grimm collection, but it still offers valuable lessons and themes, such as the importance of wisdom, empathy, and listening to others. The story showcases a strong, intelligent female character who uses her wit and resourcefulness to overcome adversity, providing an empowering example for readers.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“

„The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ can be interpreted in various ways, highlighting different themes and moral lessons:

Wisdom and Cunning: The wise daughter’s ability to think critically and creatively is central to the story. She consistently provides valuable advice and solves problems in unconventional ways, demonstrating the importance of using one’s intelligence and cunning to navigate difficult situations.

Listening to Others: Throughout the tale, the father’s failure to listen to his daughter’s advice leads to negative consequences. This theme emphasizes the importance of being open to others‘ perspectives and acknowledging that wisdom can come from unexpected sources, regardless of their social status or background.

Love and Loyalty: The strong bond between the King and his wife is another crucial theme. Their love and loyalty towards each other ultimately overcome the challenges they face. The Queen’s devotion to her husband is demonstrated when she chooses to bring him with her when banished, showing that true love is selfless and enduring.

Social Class and Compassion: The tale also highlights the importance of compassion and empathy for people of all social classes. The Queen, who comes from a humble background, understands the plight of the peasants and uses her influence to help them. This theme encourages readers to be mindful of others‘ struggles and be willing to help those in need.

Power Dynamics: The story explores the power dynamics between the King and the Queen. While the King initially wields his authority over the Queen, she ultimately uses her wisdom and love to change the power dynamic and create a more equal partnership. This theme suggests that true strength comes from wisdom, love, and understanding, rather than authority and control.

Summary of the plot

„The Peasant’s Wise Daughter“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a poor peasant and his wise daughter. One day, they ask the King for a piece of land, which he grants. While digging the land, they find a golden mortar, which the father decides to give to the King. The daughter advises against it, fearing they will also have to provide the pestle, but her father ignores her.

As expected, the King demands the pestle and imprisons the father when he cannot produce it. In prison, the father laments not listening to his daughter, which piques the King’s curiosity. The King meets the daughter and, impressed by her wisdom, decides to marry her if she can solve a riddle. She successfully solves the riddle, and her father is released from prison.

Years later, a dispute between peasants over a foal comes to the King’s attention. The Queen, sympathetic to the situation, advises one of the peasants on how to regain his foal. However, when the King learns that the idea came from the Queen, he banishes her back to her old peasant life. She is allowed to take one thing with her, so she chooses her husband, the King.

She drugs the King, takes him to her old home, and when he awakens, he realizes how much she loves him. The King takes her back to the palace, and they live happily ever after.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 94
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 875
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, PT, FI, HU, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson34.1
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index80.4
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level8
Gunning Fog Index10.7
Coleman–Liau Index6.8
SMOG Index8
Automated Readability Index8.6
Character Count7.159
Letter Count5.489
Sentence Count60
Word Count1.428
Average Words per Sentence23,80
Words with more than 6 letters147
Percentage of long words10.3%
Number of Syllables1.727
Average Syllables per Word1,21
Words with three Syllables41
Percentage Words with three Syllables2.9%
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