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The Sea-Hare
Grimm Märchen

The Sea-Hare - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 9 min

There was once upon a time a princess, who, high under the battlements in her castle, had an apartment with twelve windows, which looked out in every possible direction, and when she climbed up to it and looked around her, she could inspect her whole kingdom. When she looked out of the first, her sight was more keen than that of any other human being. From the second she could see still better, from the third more distinctly still, and so it went on, until the twelfth, from which she saw everything above the earth and under the earth, and nothing at all could be kept secret from her. Moreover, as she was haughty, and would be subject to no one, but wished to keep the dominion for herself alone, she caused it to be proclaimed that no one should ever be her husband who could not conceal himself from her so effectually, that it should be quite impossible for her to find him. He who tried this, however, and was discovered by her, was to have his head struck off, and stuck on a post. Ninety-seven posts with the heads of dead men were already standing before the castle, and no one had come forward for a long time. The princess was delighted, and thought to herself, „Now I shall be free as long as I live.“ Then three brothers appeared before her, and announced to her that they were desirous of trying their luck. The eldest believed he would be quite safe if he crept into a lime-pit, but she saw him from the first window, made him come out, and had his head cut off. The second crept into the cellar of the palace, but she perceived him also from the first window, and his fate was sealed. His head was placed on the nine and ninetieth post. Then the youngest came to her and entreated her to give him a day for consideration, and also to be so gracious as to overlook it if she should happen to discover him twice, but if he failed the third time, he would look on his life as over. As he was so handsome, and begged so earnestly, she said, „Yes, I will grant thee that, but thou wilt not succeed.“

Next day he meditated for a long time how he should hide himself, but all in vain. Then he seized his gun and went out hunting. He saw a raven, took a good aim at him, and was just going to fire, when the bird cried, „Don’t shoot. I will make it worth thy while not.“ He put his gun down, went on, and came to a lake where he surprised a large fish which had come up from the depths below to the surface of the water. When he had aimed at it, the fish cried, „Don’t shoot, and I will make it worth thy while.“ He allowed it to dive down again, went onwards, and met a fox which was lame. He fired and missed it, and the fox cried, „You had much better come here and draw the thorn out of my foot for me.“ He did this; but then he wanted to kill the fox and skin it, the fox said, „Stop, and I will make it worth thy while.“ The youth let him go, and then as it was evening, returned home.

Next day he was to hide himself; but howsoever much he puzzled his brains over it, he did not know where. He went into the forest to the raven and said, „I let thee live on, so now tell me where I am to hide myself, so that the King’s daughter shall not see me.“ The raven hung his head and thought it over for a longtime. At length he croaked, „I have it.“ He fetched an egg out of his nest, cut it into two parts, and shut the youth inside it. Then made it whole again, and seated himself on it. When the King’s daughter went to the first window she could not discover him, nor could she from the others, and she began to be uneasy, but from the eleventh she saw him. She ordered the raven to be shot, and the egg to be brought and broken, and the youth was forced to come out. She said, „For once thou art excused, but if thou dost not do better than this, thou art lost!“

Next day he went to the lake, called the fish to him and said, „I suffered thee to live, now tell me where to hide myself so that the King’s daughter may not see me.“ The fish thought for a while, and at last cried, „I have it! I will shut thee up in my stomach.“ He swallowed him, and went down to the bottom of the lake. The King’s daughter looked through her windows, and even from the eleventh did not see him, and was alarmed; but at length from the twelfth she saw him. She ordered the fish to be caught and killed, and then the youth appeared. Every one can imagine what a state of mind he was in. She said, „Twice thou art forgiven, but be sure that thy head will be set on the hundredth post.“

On the last day, he went with a heavy heart into the country, and met the fox. „Thou knowest how to find all kinds of hiding-places,“ said he; „I let thee live, now advise me where I shall hide myself so that the King’s daughter shall not discover me.“ – „That’s a hard task,“ answered the fox, looking very thoughtful. At length he cried, „I have it!“ and went with him to a spring, dipped himself in it, and came out as a stall-keeper in the market, and dealer in animals. The youth had to dip himself in the water also, and was changed into a small sea-hare. The merchant went into the town, and showed the pretty little animal, and many persons gathered together to see it. At length the King’s daughter came likewise, and as she liked it very much, she bought it, and gave the merchant a good deal of money for it. Before he gave it over to her, he said to it, „When the King’s daughter goes to the window, creep quickly under the braids of he hair.“ And now the time arrived when she was to search for him. She went to one window after another in turn, from the first to the eleventh, and did not see him. When she did not see him from the twelfth either, she was full of anxiety and anger, and shut it down with such violence that the glass in every window shivered into a thousand pieces, and the whole castle shook.

She went back and felt the sea-hare beneath the braids of her hair. Then she seized it, and threw it on the ground exclaiming, „Away with thee, get out of my sight!“ It ran to the merchant, and both of them hurried to the spring, wherein they plunged, and received back their true forms. The youth thanked the fox, and said, „The raven and the fish are idiots compared with thee; thou knowest the right tune to play, there is no denying that!“

The youth went straight to the palace. The princess was already expecting him, and accommodated herself to her destiny. The wedding was solemnized, and now he was king, and lord of all the kingdom. He never told her where he had concealed himself for the third time, and who had helped him, so she believed that he had done everything by his own skill, and she had a great respect for him, for she thought to herself, „He is able to do more than I.“

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The sea-hare“

„The Sea-Hare“ is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their collection „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales). Like other Grimm fairy tales, „The Sea-Hare“ has its roots in European oral traditions and storytelling, which the brothers collected during the early 19th century.

The tale tells the story of a princess who makes a foolish promise to marry anyone who can catch her golden apple. A mysterious sea-hare, who is actually a prince under a spell, catches the apple and claims the princess as his bride. The princess is unhappy with her fate but eventually discovers that the sea-hare is a prince and learns to love him.

Some key backgrounds and influences for „The Sea-Hare“ include:

European folklore: „The Sea-Hare“ is drawn from European oral traditions, which were passed down through generations before being collected by the Brothers Grimm.

Transformation and enchantment: The story features themes of transformation and enchantment, which are common in European folktales and fairy tales. The prince is transformed into a sea-hare due to a spell, and the tale revolves around breaking the curse and restoring him to his true form.

The power of love: Like many fairy tales, „The Sea-Hare“ emphasizes the transformative power of love, as the princess’s love for the enchanted prince ultimately breaks the spell and restores him to his true form.

Trials and tests: The protagonist must face a series of trials and tests to prove their worth and achieve their goals. In „The Sea-Hare,“ the princess must learn to love the sea-hare despite his unusual appearance and circumstances.

Marriage and courtship: The story explores themes of marriage and courtship, reflecting societal values and expectations of the time. The princess’s initial reluctance to marry the sea-hare is eventually overcome as she learns to love and appreciate him for who he truly is.

These backgrounds and influences contribute to the rich tapestry of themes, values, and cultural significance found in „The Sea-Hare“ and the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales as a whole.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The sea-hare“

„The Sea-Hare“ is a lesser-known Brothers Grimm fairy tale that offers various interpretations related to human nature, love, and societal values. Some possible interpretations include:

The transformative power of love: The story emphasizes the transformative power of love, as the princess’s love for the enchanted prince ultimately breaks the spell and restores him to his true form. This interpretation highlights the idea that love has the ability to overcome obstacles and bring about positive change.

Inner beauty and acceptance: The tale teaches the importance of looking beyond appearances to discover a person’s true character. The princess initially judges the sea-hare based on his unusual appearance, but she eventually learns to see his true worth and love him for who he is.

Trials and tests: Like many fairy tales, „The Sea-Hare“ features a series of trials and tests that the protagonist must face to achieve their goals. This interpretation emphasizes the importance of perseverance and the ability to adapt and grow in the face of challenges.

Marriage and courtship: The story explores themes of marriage and courtship, reflecting societal values and expectations of the time. The princess’s initial reluctance to marry the sea-hare is eventually overcome as she learns to love and appreciate him for who he truly is. This interpretation suggests that the tale serves as a commentary on the importance of love and compatibility in marriage.

Breaking free from societal norms: The tale can be interpreted as a critique of societal norms and expectations surrounding marriage and relationships. The princess initially resists marrying the sea-hare due to his unusual appearance, but she eventually learns to defy these expectations and follow her heart.

These interpretations showcase the depth and complexity of „The Sea-Hare“ and the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales as a whole. The story contains valuable insights into the nature of love, the importance of inner beauty and acceptance, and the potential for growth and transformation in the face of challenges.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The sea-hare“

„The Sea-Hare“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, and as a result, it has fewer adaptations compared to more popular tales. However, it has still inspired some adaptations and reinterpretations over the years. Some examples include:

Illustrated books: „The Sea-Hare“ has been included in various collections of Grimm’s fairy tales, often accompanied by illustrations. These illustrated versions make the story more engaging and accessible for children through the use of visuals.

Retellings: Authors have reimagined and retold „The Sea-Hare“ in new ways, adjusting the story or incorporating its themes into new narratives. These retellings may be part of anthologies or collections that include reinterpretations of lesser-known fairy tales, though specific examples might be harder to find due to the story’s relative obscurity.

Theater and stage productions: While not as well-documented, „The Sea-Hare“ may have been adapted for the stage in various forms, including plays, puppet shows, and musicals. Local theater companies and schools may have performed adaptations of the story, showcasing the tale’s themes and messages in a live setting.

Animated films or TV shows: Although there may not be any major film or TV adaptations of „The Sea-Hare,“ it is possible that the story has been included as part of a larger collection of Brothers Grimm tales in animated form, possibly as a short or an episode in an anthology series.

While „The Sea-Hare“ may not have inspired as many adaptations as some other Brothers Grimm fairy tales, it still offers opportunities for creative reinterpretation. Its themes of love, inner beauty, and transformation continue to resonate with artists and storytellers who may draw inspiration from the story to create new works that explore these timeless ideas.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The sea-hare“

„The Sea-Hare“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm collection, but it has still inspired several adaptations over the years. Here are some examples:

Children’s books: Several children’s book authors have adapted „The Sea-Hare“ into picture books. These adaptations typically simplify the story for young readers and often include colorful illustrations. Some examples of children’s books based on the tale include „The Sea Hare“ by Margot Zemach and „The Sea Hare: A Tale of the Rising Tide“ by Mark Teague.

Theater productions: „The Sea-Hare“ has also been adapted into theatrical productions. For example, the Seattle Children’s Theater produced a play based on the tale in 2011. These adaptations often add music and dance to the story to make it more engaging for audiences.

Animated films: „The Sea-Hare“ has been adapted into several animated films over the years. These adaptations often take liberties with the story and add their own twists and characters. For example, the 1971 Japanese animated film „The Mermaid“ is loosely based on „The Sea-Hare.“

Contemporary literature: Some contemporary authors have also been inspired by „The Sea-Hare“ and have used elements of the story in their own writing. For example, the Australian author Margo Lanagan wrote a short story called „Sea-Hearts“ that draws on themes from „The Sea-Hare.“

Overall, while „The Sea-Hare“ may not be as well-known as some other Grimm tales, it has still managed to inspire a variety of adaptations across different media.

Summary of the plot

„The Sea-Hare“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a beautiful princess who makes a rash promise to marry whoever can catch her golden apple. One day, while playing a game with her sisters, she throws the apple far into the air, and a mysterious sea-hare catches it. The sea-hare is actually a prince under a spell, and he claims the princess as his bride according to her promise.

The princess is unhappy with her fate and initially refuses to marry the sea-hare. However, her father, the king, insists that she must keep her word. Reluctantly, the princess agrees to marry the sea-hare, but she remains miserable in her new life.

One day, the princess discovers a hidden room in the sea-hare’s palace where she finds a beautiful man sleeping. She realizes that this man is the sea-hare in his true form. The princess learns that the prince is under a spell that can only be broken by her love.

Determined to save the prince, the princess commits herself to loving him, despite his appearance as a sea-hare. Through her love, the spell is broken, and the prince is transformed back into his true form. The princess and the prince live happily ever after, united by their love and commitment to one another.

„The Sea-Hare“ explores themes of love, inner beauty, and the power of transformation, teaching readers the importance of looking beyond appearances and the transformative potential of love.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The sea-hare“

„The Sea-Hare“ is a fairy tale collected and published by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, in their famous book „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ (also known as „Children’s and Household Tales“ or „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ in German). The Brothers Grimm were German academics, linguists, and cultural researchers who were among the first and most significant collectors of European folk tales during the 19th century. Their collection, first published in 1812, went through numerous editions and revisions, with the final version being published in 1857.

The fairy tale itself is part of the rich oral tradition of storytelling that was prevalent in Europe before the rise of printed literature. These stories were often passed down from generation to generation, and they reflected the values, beliefs, and social dynamics of the people who shared them. The Brothers Grimm collected these stories from various sources, including friends, acquaintances, and written texts, in order to preserve the cultural heritage of the German-speaking regions.

„The Sea-Hare“ is a lesser-known tale among the many stories collected by the Brothers Grimm. Like other Grimm fairy tales, it features elements of magic, transformation, and adventure, and it conveys moral lessons and themes that were relevant to the people of the time. The story’s focus on humility, wisdom, love, and the importance of second chances reflects the values that the Brothers Grimm sought to preserve and share through their collection of fairy tales.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The sea-hare“

„The Sea-Hare“ offers several interpretations that can be drawn from its storyline and themes:

The power of humility and collaboration: The princess’s initial haughtiness and insistence on maintaining her power alone is contrasted with the young man’s willingness to seek help and collaborate with the animals. The story suggests that true strength lies in acknowledging one’s limitations and working together with others to achieve success.

The importance of wisdom and cunning: The fox, as a symbol of wisdom and cunning, demonstrates the value of strategic thinking and resourcefulness in overcoming challenges. The young man’s success in hiding from the princess is primarily due to the fox’s clever ideas, which teach readers the importance of problem-solving skills.

The transformational power of love and compromise: The princess starts as an arrogant and proud character but is transformed by the young man’s persistence and cleverness. She eventually accepts him as her equal, highlighting the transformative power of love and the importance of compromise in relationships.

The consequences of pride and arrogance: The princess’s initial pride and arrogance lead her to create an impossible challenge that results in the deaths of many suitors. Her eventual marriage to the young man shows the consequences of her actions and serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of excessive pride and arrogance.

The value of second chances: The youngest brother is given multiple chances to hide from the princess, and he ultimately succeeds due to the assistance he received from the animals he spared. This theme emphasizes the importance of giving people opportunities to learn, grow, and prove themselves, as well as the potential for redemption and change.

Summary of the plot

„The Sea-Hare“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a haughty princess with an apartment in her castle that has twelve windows, each offering her increasingly clearer vision of her kingdom. She proclaims that she will only marry someone who can hide from her completely, but anyone who fails will have their head chopped off and displayed on a post. With ninety-seven heads already on posts, the princess is content in her belief that she will remain unmarried and in control.

Three brothers then try their luck, with the first two hiding unsuccessfully and meeting the same fate as the others. The youngest brother, after pleading with the princess, is given three chances to hide, with the condition that if he fails the third time, he will lose his life. He encounters a raven, a fish, and a fox while hunting, and each promises to help him in return for sparing their lives.

The raven hides the young man in an egg, but the princess discovers him from the eleventh window. Next, the fish hides him in its stomach at the bottom of the lake, but the princess finds him again from the twelfth window. On the last day, the fox changes the young man into a small sea-hare and himself into a merchant, who then sells the sea-hare to the princess. The young man hides in the princess’s hair, and although she discovers him, she does not reveal his hiding place to anyone.

The young man and the fox return to their human forms, and the princess, believing the young man has managed to hide from her with his own skill, marries him. He becomes king and ruler of the kingdom, never revealing the secret of his final hiding place or the help he received from the fox. The princess maintains her respect for him, convinced that he is more skillful than she is.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 191
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 554
Translations DE, EN, ES, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH,
Readability Index by Björnsson33
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index80.6
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level7.5
Gunning Fog Index10.4
Coleman–Liau Index7.2
SMOG Index8.7
Automated Readability Index8
Character Count6.730
Letter Count5.145
Sentence Count60
Word Count1.316
Average Words per Sentence21,93
Words with more than 6 letters145
Percentage of long words11%
Number of Syllables1.618
Average Syllables per Word1,23
Words with three Syllables55
Percentage Words with three Syllables4.2%

Image sources: © Andrea Danti / Shutterstock

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