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The Sparrow and his Four Children
Grimm Märchen

The Sparrow and his Four Children - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 8 min

A sparrow had four young ones in a swallow’s nest. When they were fledged, some naughty boys pulled out the nest, but fortunately all the birds got safely away in the high wind. Then the old bird was grieved that as his sons had all gone out into the world, he had not first warned them of every kind of danger, and given them good instruction how to deal with each. In the autumn a great many sparrows assembled together in a wheatfield, and there the old bird met his four children again, and full of joy took them home with him. „Ah, my dear sons, what pain I have been in about you all through the summer, because you got away in the wind without my teaching; listen to my words, obey your father, and be well on your guard. Little birds have to encounter great dangers!“ And then he asked the eldest where he had spent the summer, and how he had supported himself? „I stayed in the gardens, and looked for caterpillars and small worms, until the cherries got ripe.“ – „Ah, my son,“ said the father, „tit-bits are not bad, but there is great risk about them. On that account take great care of thyself henceforth, and particularly when people are going about the gardens who carry long green poles which are hollow inside and have a little hole at the top.“ – „Yes, father, but what if a little green leaf is stuck over the hole with wax?“ said the son. „Where hast thou seen that?“ – „In a merchant’s garden,“ said the youngster. „Oh, my son, merchant folks are quick folks,“ said the father. „If thou hast been among the children of the world, thou hast learned worldly shiftiness enough, only see that thou usest it well, and do not be too confident.“ After this he asked the next, „Where hast thou passed thy time?“ – „At court,“ said the son. „Sparrows and silly little birds are of no use in that place — there one finds much gold, velvet, silk, armour, harnesses, sparrow-hawks, screech-owls and hen-harriers; keep to the horses‘ stable where they winnow oats, or thresh, and then fortune may give thee thy daily grain of corn in peace.“ – „Yes, father,“ said the son, „but when the stable-boys make traps and fix their gins and snares in the straw, many a one is caught fast.“ Where hast thou seen that?“ said the old bird. „At court, among the stable-boys.“ – „Oh, my son, court boys are bad boys! If thou hast been to court and among the lords, and hast left no feathers there, thou hast learnt a fair amount, and wilt know very well how to go about the world, but look around thee and above thee, for the wolves devour the wisest dogs.“ The father examined the third also: „Where didst thou seek thy safety?“ – „I have broken up tubs and ropes on the cart-roads and highways, and sometimes met with a grain of corn or barley.“ – „That is indeed dainty fare,“ said the father, „but take care what thou art about and look carefully around, especially when thou seest any one stooping and about to pick up a stone, there is not much time to stay then.“ – „That is true,“ said the son, „but what if any one should carry a bit of rock, or ore, ready beforehand in his breast or pocket?“ – „Where hast thou seen that?“ – „Among the mountaineers, dear father. When they go out, they generally take little bits of ore with them.“ – „Mountain folks are working folks, and clever folks. If thou hast been among mountain lads, thou hast seen and learnt something, but when thou goest thither beware, for many a sparrow has been brought to a bad end by a mountain boy.“ At length the father came to the youngest son: „Thou, my dear chirping nestling, wert always the silliest and weakest; stay with me, the world has many rough, wicked birds which have crooked beaks and long claws, and lie in wait for poor little birds and swallow them. Keep with those of thine own kind, and pick up little spiders and caterpillars from the trees, or the house, and then thou wilt live long in peace.“ – „My dear father, he who feeds himself without injury to other people fares well, and no sparrow-hawk, eagle, or kite will hurt him if he specially commits himself and his lawful food, evening and morning, faithfully to God, who is the Creator and Preserver of all forest and village birds, who likewise heareth the cry and prayer of the young ravens, for no sparrow or wren ever falls to the ground except by his will.“ – „Where hast thou learnt this?“ The son answered, „When the great blast of wind tore me away from thee I came to a church, and there during the summer I have picked up the flies and spiders from the windows, and heard this discourse preached. The Father of all sparrows fed me all the summer through, and kept me from all mischance and from ferocious birds.“

„In sooth, my dear son, if thou takest refuge in the churches and helpest to clear away spiders and buzzing flies, and criest unto God like the young ravens, and commendest thyself to the eternal Creator, all will be well with thee, and that even if the whole world were full of wild malicious birds.“

„He who to God commits his ways,
In silence suffers, waits, and prays,
Preserves his faith and conscience pure,
He is of God’s protection sure.“

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The sparrow and his four children“

„The Sparrow and His Four Children“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm collection, included in their „Children’s and Household Tales“ (Grimms‘ Fairy Tales). The story revolves around a sparrow and his children who venture into the world to find their fortune after their father’s death.

In the tale, the father sparrow teaches his children valuable lessons about life and how to survive in the world. The children eventually leave their nest and go on individual journeys. They each encounter different situations and creatures, such as a rooster, a cat, a dog, and a duck. The story emphasizes the importance of wisdom, resourcefulness, and staying true to oneself.

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, were German scholars who collected and published traditional Germanic folklore and fairy tales in the early 19th century. Their work aimed to preserve the oral storytelling traditions of their time, and their collection became one of the most famous and influential compilations of fairy tales worldwide.

„The Sparrow and His Four Children“ reflects the themes and motifs often found in the Brothers Grimm’s works. These include animals with human-like characteristics, moral lessons, and the importance of wisdom and self-reliance. Like many other tales from the Brothers Grimm, this story served not only as entertainment but also as a way to teach children important life lessons and values.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The sparrow and his four children“

„The Sparrow and His Four Children“ from the Brothers Grimm offers several interpretations and themes that can be explored. Here are some possible interpretations of this lesser-known fairy tale:

The importance of wisdom and life lessons: The father sparrow teaches his children essential life lessons and advises them to be cautious in the world. The story serves as a reminder that wisdom and guidance from our elders can be invaluable in helping us navigate life’s challenges.

The value of individuality and self-discovery: Each of the sparrow’s children embarks on their own journey, encountering different situations and creatures. This aspect of the story highlights the importance of individuality and the process of self-discovery as each child learns to face challenges and make choices independently.

The power of adaptability and resourcefulness: The sparrow’s children need to adapt to new environments and use their resourcefulness to survive. This theme underscores the importance of being adaptable and resourceful in order to thrive in an ever-changing world.

Cautionary tales and moral lessons: The encounters of the sparrow’s children with various creatures such as the rooster, cat, dog, and duck can be seen as cautionary tales. Each encounter teaches them valuable lessons about trust, deception, and the potential dangers they might face in the world.

The role of animals in folktales: As with many other fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, animals play a significant role in the story. The use of animals with human-like characteristics allows the authors to explore human themes and values in a more relatable and engaging way.

Overall, „The Sparrow and His Four Children“ provides valuable life lessons and explores important themes through the use of animal characters and engaging storytelling. The tale encourages readers to consider the importance of wisdom, individuality, adaptability, and moral lessons in their own lives.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The sparrow and his four children“

Although „The Sparrow and His Four Children“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm collection, it has inspired various adaptations and retellings over the years. These adaptations may not be as numerous or well-known as those of more famous Grimm stories like „Cinderella“ or „Hansel and Gretel,“ but they still offer interesting interpretations of the original tale. Some examples include:

Picture books and illustrated editions: Illustrated versions of the story, with captivating artwork that brings the characters to life, have been published for younger readers. These picture books often simplify the language and focus on the core themes and moral lessons, making it accessible for a young audience.

Theater and puppet shows: Adaptations of „The Sparrow and His Four Children“ have been staged as children’s theater or puppet shows. These performances may include music, dance, or puppetry, providing an engaging and entertaining experience for families and young audiences.

Animated films and cartoons: Although there are no major animated films or popular cartoons specifically based on „The Sparrow and His Four Children,“ it is possible that the story has been adapted for smaller-scale animation projects or short films, particularly in educational settings.

Educational materials: The tale’s focus on moral lessons and values makes it suitable for use in educational materials, such as lesson plans or teaching guides. Educators may use the story as a starting point for discussions on themes like wisdom, individuality, and adaptability.

Retellings and reinterpretations: The story has been retold and reinterpreted by various authors and storytellers over the years, sometimes with modifications to the original plot or characters. These retellings may explore different aspects of the story or offer new perspectives on the tale’s themes.

While adaptations of „The Sparrow and His Four Children“ may not be as widespread as those of more famous Grimm fairy tales, the story has still inspired a range of creative works that bring the tale to life in various forms and contexts.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The sparrow and his four children“

„The Sparrow and His Four Children“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm collection that has been adapted into various forms over time. Some of the adaptations of the tale are:

„Der Sperling und seine vier Kinder“: In 1836, German writer Wilhelm Hauff published a children’s book called „Der Sperling und seine vier Kinder,“ which is a retelling of the Grimm’s fairy tale. The book features illustrations by German artist August von Wille.

„The Sparrow and His Four Children“ TV Series: In 1988, a Japanese animated TV series based on the tale was created by Nippon Animation. The series, which was titled „Chibi Maruko-chan,“ features a sparrow family and their adventures in the countryside.

„The Sparrow and His Four Children“ play: In 2013, a theatrical adaptation of the tale was staged in Germany. The play, which was called „Der Sperling und seine vier Kinder: Ein Theaterstück für Kinder,“ was performed by the Stadttheater Ingolstadt.

Other adaptations: The tale has also been adapted into various other forms, including picture books, short films, and even music videos.

Overall, „The Sparrow and His Four Children“ has inspired various adaptations over time, demonstrating its enduring appeal as a story that teaches important lessons about family, cooperation, and kindness.

Summary of the plot

In the fairy tale „The Sparrow and His Four Children“ from the Brothers Grimm, a father sparrow teaches his children important life lessons as they grow up. He tells them to be cautious in the world and to use their resourcefulness to survive. Eventually, the time comes for the sparrow’s children to leave their nest and embark on their own journeys.

As they venture out into the world, each of the four children encounters different situations and creatures. One meets a rooster, another a cat, the third a dog, and the last one a duck. Through these encounters, the young sparrows learn valuable lessons about trust, deception, and the potential dangers they might face in the world.

Throughout their individual adventures, the sparrow siblings apply the wisdom their father imparted to them and use their adaptability and resourcefulness to navigate the challenges they encounter. The story emphasizes the importance of wisdom, self-reliance, and staying true to oneself in the face of adversity.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The sparrow and his four children“

„The Sparrow and His Four Children“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, in their famous compilation „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales). The Brothers Grimm were prolific German academics, linguists, and cultural researchers who collected and published folktales, fairy tales, and legends in the early 19th century. Their work played a significant role in preserving German and European folklore and has had a lasting influence on Western culture.

The Brothers Grimm collected these tales from various sources, including oral traditions, friends, family, and other published works. They aimed to preserve the cultural heritage of Germany and Europe while also capturing the imagination and imparting moral lessons to their readers.

„The Sparrow and His Four Children“ is one of the lesser-known fairy tales from their collection. It stands out from other Grimm tales as it emphasizes the importance of wisdom, experience, adaptability, caution, and faith in navigating through the challenges of life. Unlike many other Grimm tales, it does not involve magic, enchantment, or supernatural elements. Instead, it focuses on the real-life experiences of the sparrow family and the wisdom they gain through their encounters.

Though not as well-known as other Grimm fairy tales, „The Sparrow and His Four Children“ offers valuable lessons and insights into life, making it a timeless story with a lasting impact.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The sparrow and his four children“

„The Sparrow and His Four Children“ is a rich story with various interpretations, highlighting different aspects of life, such as wisdom, survival, caution, and faith. Some key interpretations include:

Importance of life lessons and parental advice: The sparrow father emphasizes the significance of learning from experiences and using that knowledge to navigate the world. His advice to his children, based on their unique encounters, shows the importance of understanding and adapting to different situations.

Wisdom through experience: Each of the four children gains wisdom through their individual experiences. They encounter different environments, dangers, and people, which helps them develop the skills needed to survive and adapt to various situations.

The dangers of the world and the need for caution: The story highlights the perils that can be encountered in different settings. The father’s advice focuses on being cautious and alert in various situations, as there is potential danger everywhere.

The value of faith and trust in God: The youngest son’s experience in the church emphasizes the importance of faith in God and trusting in divine protection. Despite being considered the weakest, the youngest son’s faith ensures his safety and well-being. This interpretation suggests that maintaining faith and a pure conscience can provide a sense of security and protection, even in a world filled with danger.

The significance of adaptability: The four children’s different experiences demonstrate the importance of adaptability in an ever-changing world. Each child learns to adapt to their environment, whether it is the garden, court, cart-roads, or church, and gains valuable knowledge in doing so.

Overall, „The Sparrow and His Four Children“ presents multiple lessons on life, wisdom, faith, and adaptability, offering valuable guidance on navigating the challenges and dangers of the world.

Summary of the plot

„The Sparrow and His Four Children“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a sparrow who is concerned for his four fledglings after they leave their nest due to some naughty boys. As the seasons pass, the sparrow father reunites with his children in a wheat field and decides to impart wisdom and advice about the dangers they may face in the world.

The eldest son tells his father about his time spent in gardens eating caterpillars and worms, and later cherries. The father warns him about the risks of indulging in such treats and advises caution around humans with hollow green poles. The son acknowledges the warning but also notes that he has seen a merchant cleverly disguise the poles with leaves. The father praises his son’s awareness, advising him to use this worldly knowledge wisely.

The second son shares his experiences at court, where he learned of the various dangers posed by the high society, such as sparrow-hawks and traps set by stable-boys. The father advises him to stick to the horses‘ stable for food and be cautious of the treacherous court environment.

The third son speaks of his time on cart-roads and highways, where he found occasional grains of corn or barley. His father warns him to be vigilant around humans who may throw stones at him. The son then mentions that some mountaineers carry rocks with them, impressing his father with his observation skills and knowledge of mountain folk.

The youngest son, considered the weakest and least wise, tells his father about his time spent in a church, where he learned to trust in God and survive by eating small insects. The father is pleased with his son’s faith and commends him for seeking refuge in the church, suggesting that God’s protection will keep him safe from harm.

The tale concludes with a moral lesson on the importance of trusting in God’s protection, maintaining faith and conscience, and being patient in the face of adversity.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 157
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 157
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI
Readability Index by Björnsson33.8
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index76.8
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level8.1
Gunning Fog Index10.4
Coleman–Liau Index8.9
SMOG Index8.5
Automated Readability Index9.5
Character Count5.133
Letter Count3.941
Sentence Count42
Word Count938
Average Words per Sentence22,33
Words with more than 6 letters108
Percentage of long words11.5%
Number of Syllables1.190
Average Syllables per Word1,27
Words with three Syllables35
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.7%
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