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The Sole
Grimm Märchen

The Sole - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 2 min

The fishes had for a long time been discontented because no order prevailed in their kingdom. None of them turned aside for the others, but all swam to the right or the left as they fancied, or darted between those who wanted to stay together, or got into their way.

And a strong one gave a weak one a blow with its tail, which drove it away, or else swallowed it up without more ado. „How delightful it would be,“ said they, „if we had a king who enforced law and justice among us!“ And they met together to choose for their ruler, the one who could cleave through the water most quickly, and give help to the weak ones.

They placed themselves in rank and file by the shore, and the pike gave the signal with his tail, on which they all started. Like an arrow, the pike darted away, and with him the herring, the gudgeon, the perch, the carp, and all the rest of them.

Even the sole swam with them, and hoped to reach the winning-place. All at once, the cry was heard, „The herring is first!“ – „Who is first?“ screamed angrily the flat envious sole, who had been left far behind, „who is first?“

„The herring! The herring,“ was the answer. „The naked herring?“ cried the jealous creature, „the naked herring?“ Since that time the sole’s mouth has been at one side for a punishment.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The sole“

„The Sole“ is a lesser-known fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, who were German academics, linguists, and cultural researchers. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are best known for their collection of fairy tales, titled „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ or „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ in German, first published in 1812. This collection consists of various European folktales, myths, and legends, many of which were passed down orally from generation to generation before being compiled and recorded by the brothers.

The Brothers Grimm’s work aimed to preserve and document German and European folklore and their tales often provided moral and ethical lessons. The stories have become classics over time, with many adaptations in literature, theater, and film. Some of the most famous tales from their collection include „Cinderella,“ „Snow White,“ „Rapunzel,“ „Hansel and Gretel,“ and „Little Red Riding Hood.“

„The Sole,“ while not as well-known as some of their other stories, is still an interesting tale that carries valuable lessons about envy, fairness, unity, and the importance of recognizing one’s limitations. Like many of their stories, „The Sole“ uses anthropomorphic animals to convey its messages, a common element in traditional folklore.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The sole“

„The Sole“ by the Brothers Grimm offers several interpretations that impart valuable lessons and insights:

The importance of unity and order: The story highlights the significance of maintaining order and unity within a community. The discontentment among the fishes due to the lack of structure ultimately leads them to seek a leader who can establish law and justice. This demonstrates the necessity of organization and leadership for the smooth functioning of any group.

The consequences of envy: The sole’s jealousy towards the herring’s victory results in a punishment that alters its appearance permanently. This serves as a cautionary tale against the destructive nature of envy and the importance of being content with one’s own abilities and accomplishments.

The value of fairness: The fish community decides to elect a king based on a fair competition, emphasizing the importance of fairness in making crucial decisions. The race allows all the fish to showcase their skills and abilities, giving everyone an equal opportunity to become the ruler.

Recognizing one’s limitations: The story also teaches the importance of being aware of one’s limitations and not letting pride or envy lead to undesirable consequences. The sole, despite being slower than the other fishes, participated in the race and was unable to accept its loss gracefully.

Meritocracy: The tale underscores the idea of meritocracy, where individuals are rewarded based on their skills and abilities. By choosing the fastest fish as their king, the fish community ensures that their ruler is well-suited to help the weak and maintain order in their kingdom.

Summary of the plot

„The Sole“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of discontent among fishes in their kingdom due to the lack of order and justice. The fishes decided to elect a king who could enforce law and maintain harmony among them. The chosen ruler would be the one who could swim the fastest and provide help to the weaker fishes. To determine their king, the fishes organized a race along the shore.

Participating in the race were the pike, herring, gudgeon, perch, carp, and even the sole, who all hoped to win the crown. As the race began, the pike signaled the start, and all the fishes darted through the water, vying for the lead. Soon, the cry went up that the herring had taken first place. The sole, envious and far behind in the race, angrily asked who had won.

When informed that the herring was the winner, the sole became even more jealous and spiteful, questioning how the „naked herring“ could be the victor. As a punishment for the sole’s envy and ill-will, its mouth was moved to one side, which is where it remains to this day. The tale serves as a reminder of the consequences of jealousy and the importance of fairness and harmony in a community.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 172
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 250A
Translations DE, EN, DA, ES, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH,
Readability Index by Björnsson27.9
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index85.9
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level5
Gunning Fog Index7.7
Coleman–Liau Index8.2
SMOG Index7.8
Automated Readability Index5.3
Character Count1.302
Letter Count984
Sentence Count16
Word Count241
Average Words per Sentence15,06
Words with more than 6 letters31
Percentage of long words12.9%
Number of Syllables301
Average Syllables per Word1,25
Words with three Syllables10
Percentage Words with three Syllables4.1%

Image sources: © Andrea Danti / Shutterstock

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