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The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat
The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat Märchen

The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 11 min

In a certain mill lived an old miller who had neither wife nor child, and three apprentices served under him. As they had been with him several years, he one day said to them, „I am old, and want to sit in the chimney-corner, go out, and whichsoever of you brings me the best horse home, to him will I give the mill, and in return for it he shall take care of me till my death.“ The third of the boys was, however, the drudge, who was looked on as foolish by the others. They begrudged the mill to him, and afterwards he would not have it. Then all three went out together, and when they came to the village, the two said to stupid Hans, „Thou mayst just as well stay here, as long as thou livest thou wilt never get a horse.“ Hans, however, went with them, and when it was night they came to a cave in which they lay down to sleep. The two sharp ones waited until Hans had fallen asleep, then they got up, and went away leaving him where he was. And they thought they had done a very clever thing, but it was certain to turn out ill for them. When the sun arose, and Hans woke up, he was lying in a deep cavern. He looked around on every side and exclaimed, „Oh, heavens, where am I?“ Then he got up and clambered out of the cave, went into the forest, and thought, „Here I am quite alone and deserted, how shall I obtain a horse now?“ Whilst he was thus walking full of thought, he met a small tabby-cat which said quite kindly, „Hans, where are you going?“ – „Alas, thou canst not help me.“ – „I well know your desire,“ said the cat. „You wish to have a beautiful horse. Come with me, and be my faithful servant for seven years long, and then I will give you one more beautiful than any you have ever seen in your whole life.“ – „Well, this is a wonderful cat!“ thought Hans, „but I am determined to see if she is telling the truth.“ So she took him with her into her enchanted castle, where there were nothing but cats who were her servants. They leapt nimbly upstairs and downstairs, and were merry and happy. In the evening when they sat down to dinner, three of them had to make music. One played the bassoon, the other the fiddle, and the third put the trumpet to his lips, and blew out his cheeks as much as he possibly could. When they had dined, the table was carried away, and the cat said, „Now, Hans, come and dance with me.“ – „No,“ said he, „I won’t dance with a pussy cat. I have never done that yet.“ – „Then take him to bed,“ said she to the cats. So one of them lighted him to his bed-room, one pulled his shoes off, one his stockings, and at last one of them blew out the candle. Next morning they returned and helped him out of bed, one put his stockings on for him, one tied his garters, one brought his shoes, one washed him, and one dried his face with her tail. „That feels very soft!“ said Hans. He, however, had to serve the cat, and chop some wood every day, and to do that, he had an axe of silver, and the wedge and saw were of silver and the mallet of copper. So he chopped the wood small; stayed there in the house and had good meat and drink, but never saw anyone but the tabby-cat and her servants. Once she said to him, „Go and mow my meadow, and dry the grass,“ and gave him a scythe of silver, and a whetstone of gold, but bade him deliver them up again carefully. So Hans went thither, and did what he was bidden, and when he had finished the work, he carried the scythe, whetstone, and hay to the house, and asked if it was not yet time for her to give him his reward. „No,“ said the cat, „you must first do something more for me of the same kind. There is timber of silver, carpenter’s axe, square, and everything that is needful, all of silver, with these build me a small house.“ Then Hans built the small house, and said that he had now done everything, and still he had no horse. Nevertheless the seven years had gone by with him as if they were six months. The cat asked him if he would like to see her horses? „Yes,“ said Hans. Then she opened the door of the small house, and when she had opened it, there stood twelve horses, such horses, so bright and shining, that his heart rejoiced at the sight of them. And now she gave him to eat and drink, and said, „Go home, I will not give thee thy horse away with thee; but in three days‘ time I will follow thee and bring it.“ So Hans set out, and she showed him the way to the mill. She had, however, never once given him a new coat, and he had been obliged to keep on his dirty old smock-frock, which he had brought with him, and which during the seven years had everywhere become too small for him. When he reached home, the two other apprentices were there again as well, and each of them certainly had brought a horse with him, but one of them was a blind one, and the other lame. They asked Hans where his horse was. „It will follow me in three days‘ time.“ Then they laughed and said, „Indeed, stupid Hans, where wilt thou get a horse?“ – „It will be a fine one!“ Hans went into the parlour, but the miller said he should not sit down to table, for he was so ragged and torn, that they would all be ashamed of him if any one came in. So they gave him a mouthful of food outside, and at night, when they went to rest, the two others would not let him have a bed, and at last he was forced to creep into the goose-house, and lie down on a little hard straw. In the morning when he awoke, the three days had passed, and a coach came with six horses and they shone so bright that it was delightful to see them! and a servant brought a seventh as well, which was for the poor miller’s boy. And a magnificent princess alighted from the coach and went into the mill, and this princess was the little tabby-cat whom poor Hans had served for seven years. She asked the miller where the miller’s boy and drudge was? Then the miller said, „We cannot have him here in the mill, for he is so ragged. He is lying in the goose-house.“

The Poor Miller's Boy and the Cat Fairy Tale

Then the King’s daughter said that they were to bring him immediately. So they brought him out, and he had to hold his little smock-frock together to cover himself. The servants unpacked splendid garments, and washed him and dressed him, and when that was done, no King could have looked more handsome. Then the maiden desired to see the horses which the other apprentices had brought home with them, and one of them was blind and the other lame. So she ordered the servant to bring the seventh horse, and when the miller saw it, he said that such a horse as that had never yet entered his yard. „And that is for the third miller’s boy,“ said she. „Then he must have the mill,“ said the miller, but the King’s daughter said that the horse was there, and that he was to keep his mill as well, and took her faithful Hans and set him in the coach, and drove away with him. They first drove to the little house which he had built with the silver tools, and behold it was a great castle, and everything inside it was of silver and gold; and then she married him, and he was rich, so rich that he had enough for all the rest of his life. After this, let no one ever say that anyone who is silly can never become a person of importance.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“

„The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm and published in their famous collection, „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales). This story appears as tale number 106 in the collection.

The fairy tale tells the story of a poor miller’s boy who, after the death of his parents, is left with nothing but a cat. With the cat’s help and advice, the miller’s boy manages to overcome various obstacles and achieve wealth, happiness, and a royal marriage. The story incorporates elements of magic, supernatural beings, and tests of character that are common in many Grimm fairy tales.

„The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ explores themes such as perseverance, resourcefulness, and the power of friendship. The story emphasizes the importance of maintaining hope and determination in the face of adversity and demonstrates that even the most unlikely companions can provide valuable support and guidance.

Like other stories in the Brothers Grimm collection, „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ has its roots in the European oral storytelling tradition. The Grimm brothers collected their tales from various sources, including acquaintances, friends, and family members who shared stories they had heard or knew from their own cultural heritage. The tales often underwent revisions and refinements as the brothers sought to compile a comprehensive collection of German folktales.

The Brothers Grimm were influenced by other European fairy tale collectors and writers, such as Charles Perrault and Giambattista Basile. This influence can be seen in the themes, motifs, and narrative structures found in „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ and other Grimm fairy tales.

As with many other fairy tales, „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ has been adapted and retold in various forms, such as in other literary works, films, and TV shows. The story continues to engage audiences with its exploration of perseverance, resourcefulness, and the power of friendship.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“

„The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ is a fairy tale that offers several interpretations and insights into themes such as perseverance, resourcefulness, and the power of friendship. Here are some possible interpretations of the story:

Overcoming adversity: One of the primary themes of the tale is overcoming adversity through determination and resourcefulness. The miller’s boy faces numerous challenges, but with the help of his cat, he manages to surmount these obstacles and ultimately achieve wealth and happiness. The story serves as an encouragement to face difficulties with courage and creativity.

The power of friendship: The relationship between the miller’s boy and the cat highlights the importance of friendship and loyalty. Despite their differences, the two characters support each other throughout the story, demonstrating that true friends can help each other overcome even the most daunting challenges.

Transformation and growth: The miller’s boy undergoes significant personal growth throughout the story, transforming from a poor, downtrodden youth to a successful, happy man. This transformation can be seen as a metaphor for the power of personal development and the potential for positive change in one’s life.

The importance of kindness: The miller’s boy’s kindness and compassion towards the cat play a crucial role in their mutual success. The story emphasizes the importance of treating others with kindness, as such actions can lead to unexpected rewards and positive outcomes.

The role of magic and the supernatural: As with many other Grimm fairy tales, „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ features elements of magic and the supernatural, represented by the cat’s extraordinary abilities. These elements can be interpreted as symbolic of the mysterious and unpredictable forces that can shape our lives, as well as the idea that help can come from unexpected sources.

Overall, „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ offers various interpretations and valuable lessons about perseverance, friendship, and personal growth. Like many other fairy tales, the story continues to resonate with readers, providing opportunities for reflection and introspection.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“

„The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ may not be as widely adapted as some other Brothers Grimm tales, but it has still been retold and reimagined in different forms of media. Here are some examples of adaptations:

Literature: The tale has been retold and included in various fairy tale collections and anthologies. These collections often offer different translations, illustrations, and adaptations of the story that cater to diverse audiences and age groups.

Animation: „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ has been adapted into animated TV shows or short films. While there may not be a specific popular adaptation, it is likely that the story has been featured in animated series that retell various Grimm fairy tales, often simplifying or altering the plot to make it more suitable for younger viewers.

Theater: The story has been adapted into stage performances, often as part of a larger production featuring multiple Grimm fairy tales. These adaptations may be presented in the form of plays, musicals, or puppet shows and can be designed for audiences of all ages.

Audio: The tale has been adapted into audiobooks and radio plays, with voice actors bringing the characters to life and narrating the story. These adaptations allow listeners to immerse themselves in the story and use their imagination to visualize the events.

Art: „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ has inspired artists to create illustrations and visual representations of the story, capturing key moments or characters from the tale. These artistic adaptations can be found in books, online galleries, or as standalone pieces of art.

While adaptations of „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ might not be as numerous as those of more popular Grimm fairy tales, the story’s themes of perseverance, resourcefulness, and the power of friendship continue to resonate with audiences, providing valuable life lessons and opportunities for reflection.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“

„The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ is a classic fairy tale that has been adapted in various forms of media. Here are some notable adaptations:

„Puss in Boots“ (1697): This French fairy tale by Charles Perrault shares many similarities with „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ and is widely considered to have inspired the Grimm brothers‘ version. In „Puss in Boots,“ a clever cat helps his poor master win the heart of a princess and become a wealthy lord.

„The Master Cat; or, Puss in Boots“ (animated film, 1934): This animated short film by Walt Disney was the first sound adaptation of „Puss in Boots.“ It tells the story of a poor miller’s son and his talking cat, who use their wits to win the hand of a princess and defeat an evil sorcerer.

„The Adventures of Puss in Boots“ (animated series, 2015): This Netflix animated series follows the adventures of the swashbuckling Puss in Boots as he protects the city of San Lorenzo from evil forces. While not a direct adaptation of the Grimm brothers‘ story, it draws inspiration from the same source material.

„The True Story of Puss ’n Boots“ (animated film, 2009): This French animated film reimagines the story of Puss in Boots as a swashbuckling adventure that takes place in a magical kingdom.

„The Master Cat“ (opera, 1913): This one-act opera by César Cui is based on Perrault’s „Puss in Boots“ and follows the story of a poor miller’s son and his clever cat as they outwit a greedy king.

Overall, „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ has inspired numerous adaptations in various forms of media, showcasing the enduring appeal of this classic fairy tale.

Summary of the plot

„The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale that tells the story of a poor miller’s boy who, with the help of a cat, overcomes adversity to find wealth, happiness, and love.

The story begins with the death of the miller’s boy’s parents, leaving him with nothing but an old mill and a cat as his inheritance. The boy and the cat form a close friendship, and the cat assures the boy that she will help him improve his life.

The cat catches a large number of wild animals and presents them to the king as gifts from her master, the „Count of Carabas.“ The king, impressed by these gifts, invites the miller’s boy to his castle. The cat, knowing that the boy has nothing suitable to wear, steals a fine suit of clothes from a passing nobleman for the boy to wear.

When the miller’s boy and the cat visit the king, the cat tricks the king into believing that a nearby castle and lands belong to the „Count of Carabas.“ The cat then cleverly outsmarts an evil magician who lives in the castle, taking his wealth and power for the miller’s boy.

The king, impressed by the boy’s supposed possessions and title, offers his daughter’s hand in marriage. The miller’s boy marries the princess, and they live happily ever after, thanks to the cunning and resourcefulness of the cat.

„The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ is a tale of perseverance, resourcefulness, and the power of friendship, demonstrating that even in difficult circumstances, determination and the help of a loyal companion can lead to success and happiness.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“

„The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ is a fairy tale from the collection of German folk tales known as „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales) compiled by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. This collection, first published in 1812, contains over 200 stories that have become popular worldwide, including classics such as „Cinderella,“ „Rapunzel,“ and „Snow White.“

The Brothers Grimm were linguists, cultural researchers, and authors who lived in Germany during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They were committed to preserving German folklore and traditional stories, which they believed were essential to understanding the nation’s culture and history. To collect these stories, the brothers interviewed people from various social classes and regions, as well as referenced written sources.

„The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ is not as well-known as some of the other tales in the collection, but it still conveys important themes and morals, such as the transformative power of love, the importance of inner worth, and the value of perseverance. The story reflects the societal norms and values of the time when it was collected, including the emphasis on hard work and the belief in supernatural beings, such as talking animals and enchanted castles.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“

„The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ can be interpreted in several ways, each highlighting different themes and morals. Here are a few interpretations:

Perseverance and hard work: Despite being underestimated and ridiculed by others, Hans stays determined and focused on his goals. He completes the tasks assigned by the cat, even when they seem impossible. This perseverance eventually leads to his success and happiness.

Inner worth vs. outward appearance: Hans is initially judged by his appearance and dismissed as foolish by his peers. However, through his actions and the cat’s guidance, he demonstrates his inner qualities, such as kindness, loyalty, and determination. In the end, his true worth is recognized and rewarded.

The transformative power of love and kindness: The cat, who is later revealed to be a princess, chooses Hans because of his genuine, kind nature. Through her guidance, Hans is transformed from a poor, ridiculed boy into a successful and respected man. This demonstrates the power of love and kindness to bring about positive change in a person’s life.

The importance of staying true to oneself: Despite being mocked and mistreated by others, Hans remains true to himself and his values. He does not try to fit in or change his behavior to please others. In the end, it is his authenticity and inner strength that lead to his success and happiness.

The folly of underestimating others: The other apprentices and the miller underestimate Hans and treat him poorly based on their assumptions about his worth. This story demonstrates the danger of underestimating others and the importance of recognizing the potential in everyone, regardless of their appearance or perceived abilities.

Summary of the plot

„The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat“ is a fairy tale by Brothers Grimm, which tells the story of a poor miller’s boy named Hans, who is abandoned by his fellow apprentices in a cave. Hans then encounters a talking cat, who offers him a beautiful horse if he becomes her faithful servant for seven years. He accepts and accompanies the cat to her enchanted castle, inhabited by cat servants.

During his seven years of service, Hans is treated well, but is required to complete various tasks using silver tools. After fulfilling his duties, he asks for his reward, but the cat insists he must first build a small house. Despite feeling frustrated, Hans completes the task, and the cat reveals twelve beautiful horses. She tells him she will follow him in three days with his horse.

Hans returns home, where he is ridiculed by the other apprentices for his ragged appearance. He is given a small meal and forced to sleep in a goose-house. After three days, the cat arrives, transformed into a beautiful princess, and requests to see Hans. He is cleaned and dressed in splendid garments, becoming unrecognizable. The princess reveals that the magnificent seventh horse is for Hans, who is then allowed to keep the mill as well.

The story concludes with Hans and the princess marrying, and Hans becoming incredibly wealthy. The moral of the story is that even someone considered foolish can achieve great things in life.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 106
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 402
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, PT, FI, HU, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson29.4
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index84.2
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level6.8
Gunning Fog Index9.6
Coleman–Liau Index7
SMOG Index7.7
Automated Readability Index7.5
Character Count7.156
Letter Count5.459
Sentence Count66
Word Count1.407
Average Words per Sentence21,32
Words with more than 6 letters114
Percentage of long words8.1%
Number of Syllables1.679
Average Syllables per Word1,19
Words with three Syllables39
Percentage Words with three Syllables2.8%
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