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The Shroud
Grimm Märchen

The Shroud - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 3 min

There was once a mother who had a little boy of seven years old, who was so handsome and lovable that no one could look at him without liking him, and she herself worshipped him above everything in the world. Now it so happened that he suddenly became ill, and God took him to himself; and for this the mother could not be comforted, and wept both day and night. But soon afterwards, when the child had been buried, it appeared by night in the places where it had sat and played during its life, and if the mother wept, it wept also, and when morning came it disappeared. As, however, the mother would not stop crying, it came one night, in the little white shroud in which it had been laid in its coffin, and with its wreath of flowers round its head, and stood on the bed at her feet, and said, „Oh, mother, do stop crying, or I shall never fall asleep in my coffin, for my shroud will not dry because of all thy tears, which fall upon it.“ The mother was afraid when she heard that, and wept no more. The next night the child came again, and held a little light in its hand, and said, „Look, mother, my shroud is nearly dry, and I can rest in my grave.“ Then the mother gave her sorrow into God’s keeping, and bore it quietly and patiently, and the child came no more, but slept in its little bed beneath the earth.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The shroud“

„The Shroud“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their famous anthology, „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales). The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, aimed to preserve German folklore by gathering stories passed down through generations in the oral tradition.

„The Shroud“ tells a relatively simple story of a mother who loses her child to illness. Unable to come to terms with her child’s death, the mother’s grief prevents the child’s spirit from finding peace. The child’s spirit visits the mother and tells her that its shroud is wet with her tears, and it cannot rest until the shroud is dry. Upon hearing this, the mother realizes that her excessive grief is causing her child’s unrest and decides to suppress her sorrow to help her child’s spirit find peace.

The origins of „The Shroud“ are unclear, as the tale could have evolved over time through regional folklore and storytelling. The Brothers Grimm’s inclusion of the story in their collection has helped preserve the tale and ensure that it continues to be shared and enjoyed by future generations.

The fairy tale explores themes such as grief, acceptance, and the process of healing after a loss. Unlike many other fairy tales, „The Shroud“ does not feature fantastical creatures or magical elements. Instead, it focuses on the mother’s emotional journey and provides a poignant exploration of the human experience of grieving and finding solace.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The shroud“

„The Shroud“ can be interpreted in various ways, exploring themes of grief, acceptance, and healing. Here are some common interpretations of the fairy tale:

Grieving and acceptance: The story highlights the process of grieving and coming to terms with loss. The mother’s journey in accepting her child’s death serves as a reminder that acknowledging and accepting the reality of loss is an essential part of healing.

Emotional burden: The tale illustrates the concept of emotional burden, as the mother’s excessive grief prevents her child’s spirit from finding peace. This interpretation emphasizes the potential impact of our emotions not only on ourselves but also on those around us, even after they have passed away.

Letting go and healing: The mother’s decision to suppress her sorrow and allow her child’s spirit to rest demonstrates the importance of letting go of pain to move forward in life. This interpretation focuses on the necessity of finding closure and making peace with the past to heal and grow.

The power of love and compassion: „The Shroud“ showcases the deep bond between a mother and her child. The mother’s love for her child ultimately leads her to set aside her own pain and do what is best for her child’s spirit, underlining the transformative power of love and compassion.

The connection between the living and the dead: The story highlights the connection between the living and the dead, as the child’s spirit communicates with the mother. This interpretation explores the idea that the bonds of love and family can transcend the barriers between life and death.

These interpretations of „The Shroud“ emphasize the enduring power of fairy tales to delve into themes of grief, acceptance, and healing while providing engaging and thought-provoking stories.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The shroud“

„The Shroud“ is not as well-known or widely adapted as some other Brothers Grimm fairy tales. However, it has still inspired various adaptations and reinterpretations in different media forms. Some examples include:

Literature: The story has been retold and adapted by various authors, who may modify or expand upon the original tale to create new versions for modern audiences. For example, „The Shroud“ has been included in anthologies of retold or adapted fairy tales, presenting the story with contemporary language and illustrations to appeal to modern readers.

Theater: The story has been adapted into stage productions, such as children’s theater, puppet shows, or dramatic readings, offering audiences a chance to experience the tale in a live performance setting. These adaptations may involve changes to the plot, characters, or dialogue, allowing theater artists to explore the themes and messages of the story in new ways.

Art: The fairy tale has inspired visual artists to create illustrations, paintings, or sculptures that depict scenes or characters from the story. Artists like Arthur Rackham, Walter Crane, and others have included illustrations of „The Shroud“ in their collections of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, bringing the story to life through their unique artistic styles.

Film and Television: Although there are no major film or television adaptations specifically dedicated to „The Shroud,“ the themes of the story, such as grief, acceptance, and the connection between the living and the dead, have been incorporated into various movies and TV shows. These adaptations may explore similar situations or emotions, demonstrating the universality of the themes found in „The Shroud.“

These adaptations of „The Shroud“ showcase the enduring appeal of fairy tales and their ability to inspire creative reinterpretations across different mediums, even when the story is not as well-known as other popular Grimm fairy tales.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The shroud“

„The Shroud“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, but it has still been adapted and retold in various forms. Here are some notable adaptations:

„The Shroud“ Opera by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: In 1921, Italian composer Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari premiered an opera based on „The Shroud“ in Munich, Germany. The opera follows the original story closely, but includes musical elements that enhance the drama and emotion of the tale.

„The Shroud“ Short Film by David Lowery: In 2014, American filmmaker David Lowery created a short film titled „Pioneer“ that was loosely based on „The Shroud“. The film tells the story of a man who is asked to complete a seemingly impossible task in order to win the hand of a woman he loves.

„The Shroud“ Novella by Nathaniel Hawthorne: In 1852, American author Nathaniel Hawthorne published a novella titled „The Prophetic Pictures“ that was inspired by „The Shroud“. The story follows a painter who is asked to create a series of prophetic paintings, each one depicting a scene from the future.

„The Shroud“ Picture Book by Tomi Ungerer: In 2010, French illustrator Tomi Ungerer published a picture book titled „The Shroud“. The book tells the story of a young weaver who must create a shroud for a queen, but is aided by a mysterious old woman.

These are just a few examples of how „The Shroud“ has been adapted and retold over the years. The story’s themes of perseverance, resourcefulness, and the triumph of good over evil continue to resonate with audiences today, making it a timeless tale.

Summary of the plot

„The Shroud“ is a short and poignant fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a grieving mother who loses her child.

In the tale, a mother is overcome with sorrow when her only child, a young boy, falls ill and dies. Unable to come to terms with her loss, the mother goes to the boy’s grave every day, crying and mourning his death. Her persistent grief and tears prevent the child’s soul from finding peace in the afterlife.

One night, the boy’s ghost appears to his mother in a dream and pleads with her to stop crying for him. He explains that her tears have soaked the burial shroud, making it heavy and damp, which in turn prevents him from resting in peace. The boy’s spirit asks his mother to let him go so that he can find solace in the afterlife.

Upon waking up, the mother finally understands the suffering her grief is causing her son’s spirit. She resolves to stop mourning and let her child find peace. As she ceases her tears, her son’s soul is finally able to rest, and the mother learns to accept her loss.

In summary, „The Shroud“ is a touching tale that explores themes of grief, acceptance, and the connection between the living and the dead. It emphasizes the importance of finding closure and allowing the departed to rest in peace.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The shroud“

„The Shroud“ is a short fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, who were German academics, philologists, and researchers. They were famous for their work in collecting and publishing folklore during the 19th century. Their collection, „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ or „Children’s and Household Tales“ (originally „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“), was first published in 1812 and includes over 200 stories. The collection has been translated into numerous languages and has had a significant impact on Western culture and literature.

The Brothers Grimm collected their tales from various sources, including oral traditions, previously published works, and stories shared by friends and acquaintances. „The Shroud“ is one of the lesser-known tales in their collection and is characterized by its poignant theme of grief and loss, as well as supernatural elements.

While the Brothers Grimm are known for the darker aspects of some of their tales, „The Shroud“ stands out as a story that deals with the universal theme of mourning the loss of a loved one. The tale can be seen as a reflection of the emotions and experiences of people in the 19th century and earlier, who lived in a time when child mortality rates were high, and the loss of a child was unfortunately common.

The story also touches on cultural beliefs and practices surrounding death and the afterlife, which were prevalent in European folklore. The appearance of the child’s spirit and its interactions with the mother provides a window into these beliefs, and it serves as a reminder that such narratives were often used to provide comfort and understanding in the face of tragedy and loss.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The shroud“

„The Shroud“ offers several interpretations that can be drawn from its narrative:

The power of grief: The story illustrates the overwhelming power of grief, particularly for a parent who loses a child. The mother’s intense sorrow affects not only her own life but also the peace of her deceased son. This demonstrates the far-reaching effects of grief and how it can consume a person.

Acceptance and healing: The tale highlights the importance of acceptance and healing in the face of loss. When the mother stops crying and entrusts her sorrow to God, she starts the process of healing, which allows both her and her son to find peace. This emphasizes the idea that acceptance and faith can bring comfort and solace in difficult times.

The bond between a mother and child: The story showcases the deep, unbreakable bond between a mother and her child, transcending even death. The child’s spirit returns to comfort his mother and ease her pain, reflecting the love and connection they shared during his life.

Supernatural beliefs: The tale touches upon supernatural beliefs and folklore regarding the afterlife and spirits of the deceased. The child’s spirit appears in the shroud and interacts with his mother, suggesting that there is a connection between the living and the dead, and that the deceased might still be aware of the emotions and struggles of their loved ones.

Coping with loss: „The Shroud“ offers insight into how individuals can cope with the loss of a loved one. It suggests that entrusting one’s sorrow to a higher power, such as God, and finding inner strength and patience can help alleviate grief and allow both the living and the deceased to find peace.

Summary of the plot

„The Shroud“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a mother and her seven-year-old son. The boy, who is described as handsome and lovable, suddenly falls ill and dies. Grief-stricken, the mother is inconsolable, weeping day and night. After the child is buried, his spirit appears at night in places where he used to play. Whenever the mother cries, his spirit weeps as well and disappears at dawn.

One night, the child’s spirit visits his mother, appearing in the white shroud he was buried in and wearing a wreath of flowers on his head. He stands at her feet and pleads with her to stop crying, as her tears prevent his shroud from drying and prevent him from resting peacefully in his coffin. Frightened, the mother stops crying.

The following night, the child returns with a small light in his hand, showing his mother that his shroud is almost dry, and he can finally rest in his grave. The mother then entrusts her sorrow to God, bearing her grief with patience and quiet strength. The child’s spirit no longer visits her, finding rest in his earthly grave.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 109
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 769
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson44.8
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index65
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level12
Gunning Fog Index16
Coleman–Liau Index7.6
SMOG Index9.7
Automated Readability Index12
Character Count1.324
Letter Count1.018
Sentence Count7
Word Count256
Average Words per Sentence36,57
Words with more than 6 letters21
Percentage of long words8.2%
Number of Syllables317
Average Syllables per Word1,24
Words with three Syllables9
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.5%
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