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The Stolen Farthings
Grimm Märchen

The Stolen Farthings - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 4 min

A father was one day sitting at dinner with his wife and his children, and a good friend who had come on a visit was with them. And as they thus sat, and it was striking twelve o’clock, the stranger saw the door open, and a very pale child dressed in snow-white clothes came in. It did not look around, and it did not speak; but went straight into the next room. Soon afterwards it came back, and went out at the door again in the same quiet manner. On the second and on the third day, it came also exactly in the same way. At last the stranger asked the father to whom the beautiful child that went into the next room every day at noon belonged? „I have never seen it,“ said he, neither did he know to whom it could belong. The next day when it again came, the stranger pointed it out to the father, who however did not see it, and the mother and the children also all saw nothing. On this the stranger got up, went to the room door, opened it a little, and peeped in. Then he saw the child sitting on the ground, and digging and seeking about industriously amongst the crevices between the boards of the floor, but when it saw the stranger, it disappeared. He now told what he had seen and described the child exactly, and the mother recognized it, and said, „Ah, it is my dear child who died a month ago.“ They took up the boards and found two farthings which the child had once received from its mother that it might give them to a poor man; it, however, had thought, „Thou canst buy thyself a biscuit for that,“ and had kept the farthings, and hidden them in the openings between the boards; and therefore it had had no rest in its grave, and had come every day at noon to seek for these farthings. The parents gave the money at once to a poor man, and after that the child was never seen again.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The stolen farthings“

„The Stolen Farthings“ (also known as „Die gestohlenen Heller“ in German) is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm collection. It can be found in their book „Children’s and Household Tales“ (Grimms‘ Fairy Tales), which includes over 200 stories. The tale is numbered as KHM 185 in the collection.

In „The Stolen Farthings,“ a father sends his young son to collect farthings from his godfather to purchase a book. Tragically, the boy dies on the way home. After his death, the boy’s spirit begins to haunt his family’s home, causing the father to seek help from a wise woman. The woman discovers that the boy’s spirit is disturbed because the farthings he had collected were stolen by a neighbor. After the stolen farthings are retrieved and placed on the boy’s grave, his spirit finds peace and ceases to haunt the house.

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 Stolen Farthings“ reflects several themes and motifs often found in the Brothers Grimm’s works, including the supernatural, morality, and the importance of honesty. The story serves as a cautionary tale that emphasizes the consequences of dishonest actions and the need for justice in order to restore balance and peace.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The stolen farthings“

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

Consequences of dishonest actions: The story serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences of dishonest actions. The neighbor’s theft of the farthings leads to the boy’s restless spirit haunting the family home. This highlights the importance of honesty and the potential negative effects of immoral behavior on both the individual and the community.

Justice and balance: The tale emphasizes the need for justice to restore balance and peace. When the stolen farthings are returned and placed on the boy’s grave, his spirit is finally able to rest. This suggests that justice is necessary to resolve conflicts and restore harmony.

The supernatural and the afterlife: Like many other Grimm fairy tales, „The Stolen Farthings“ incorporates supernatural elements, such as the boy’s restless spirit. The story delves into the idea of the afterlife and explores the concept of spirits lingering in the world of the living when they have unresolved matters or have been wronged.

Wisdom and guidance: The wise woman in the story plays a crucial role in helping the father understand the cause of the haunting and how to resolve it. This highlights the importance of seeking wisdom and guidance from knowledgeable individuals when facing challenges or difficulties.

The importance of a moral compass: The tale demonstrates the significance of having a strong moral compass, as the neighbor’s lack of one led to the theft and the subsequent haunting. By contrast, the father’s commitment to resolving the issue and restoring balance showcases the value of recognizing and addressing moral transgressions.

Overall, „The Stolen Farthings“ explores themes of honesty, justice, the supernatural, and the importance of a strong moral compass. The story serves as a reminder to readers of the potential consequences of dishonest actions and the need for justice to restore balance and peace in both individual lives and the wider community.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The stolen farthings“

„The Stolen Farthings“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm collection, so it has not received as much attention in adaptations as some of the more famous Grimm stories like „Cinderella“ or „Hansel and Gretel.“ However, there may still be some adaptations and reinterpretations of this story:

Illustrated editions and picture books: Illustrated versions of „The Stolen Farthings“ can be found in compilations of lesser-known Grimm’s fairy tales or as standalone picture books for younger readers. These editions often feature engaging artwork and simplified language to make the story accessible to a young audience.

Retellings and reinterpretations: Various authors and storytellers have reinterpreted or retold „The Stolen Farthings“ over the years, sometimes with modifications to the plot or characters. These retellings may offer new perspectives on the story’s themes or focus on different aspects of the tale.

Theater and puppet shows: Although there may not be many large-scale productions based on „The Stolen Farthings,“ smaller theater companies or puppet shows may have adapted the story for live performances. These adaptations often focus on the tale’s core themes, using music, dance, or puppetry to engage audiences.

Educational materials: Due to the moral lessons and themes present in the story, „The Stolen Farthings“ may be included in educational materials such as lesson plans, teaching guides, or discussion prompts. The story can serve as a starting point for exploring themes like honesty, justice, and the supernatural.

Audio recordings and storytelling podcasts: „The Stolen Farthings“ may be featured in audio recordings or storytelling podcasts focused on fairy tales or lesser-known Grimm stories. These adaptations bring the tale to life through engaging narration and sometimes include sound effects or music to enhance the listening experience.

While adaptations of „The Stolen Farthings“ may not be as widespread as those of more famous Grimm fairy tales, the story has still inspired various creative works that explore its themes and lessons in different formats and contexts.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The stolen farthings“

The fairy tale „The Stolen Farthings“ has been adapted in various forms over the years. Here are some notable adaptations:

„The Stolen Pennies“ (1960): This adaptation is a British television drama that retells the story with a modern twist. The protagonist finds a few pennies on the street and takes them to the police station to report the find. However, the police accuse him of theft and send him to jail. The drama highlights the theme of police corruption and the abuse of power.

„The Honest Thief“ (1865): This is a stage adaptation of the story that was performed in the United States in the mid-19th century. The play adds new characters and plot elements to the original story, including a love interest for the protagonist and a comic sidekick. The play was popular in its time and was performed in theaters across the country.

„The Thief of Bagdad“ (1940): This is a Hollywood movie that was loosely based on the story of „The Stolen Farthings.“ The movie tells the story of a thief who is wrongly accused of stealing a valuable gem and sets out to clear his name. The movie was a commercial and critical success and is regarded as a classic of the fantasy adventure genre.

„The Stolen Farthings“ (2017): This is a children’s book adaptation of the story by author Jacqueline Jules. The book tells the story in a simplified form and adds colorful illustrations to bring the tale to life for young readers.

„Honesty“ (2003): This is an episode of the television series „The Storyteller,“ which retells the story of „The Stolen Farthings.“ The episode features puppetry and live-action segments and adds new elements to the original story, such as a magic apple that plays a key role in the plot.

Summary of the plot

In „The Stolen Farthings“ from the Brothers Grimm, a young boy is sent by his father to collect farthings from his godfather to buy a book. Sadly, the boy dies on his way back home. After his death, the boy’s spirit begins to haunt the family’s home, causing distress to his father and the rest of the family.

Desperate to find a solution, the father seeks the help of a wise woman. She discovers that the boy’s spirit cannot find peace because the farthings he had collected were stolen by a neighbor. To help the boy’s spirit find rest, the wise woman advises the father to retrieve the stolen farthings and place them on the boy’s grave.

Following the wise woman’s advice, the father recovers the stolen farthings, places them on his son’s grave, and says a prayer. This act of justice and restitution brings peace to the boy’s spirit, which finally stops haunting the house.

The story serves as a cautionary tale that emphasizes the consequences of dishonest actions, the importance of justice, and the need to right wrongs in order to restore balance and peace.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The stolen farthings“

„The Stolen Farthings“ is a fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, who were German scholars, linguists, and cultural researchers named Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The Brothers Grimm are best known for their collection of fairy tales, which they compiled from various oral and written sources to preserve and share the cultural heritage of their time. Their work, known as „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales“ or „Children’s and Household Tales,“ was first published in 1812 and has since become a significant part of Western folklore and literature.

The Brothers Grimm were part of the German Romantic movement in the early 19th century, which sought to reconnect with the past and explore the cultural and historical roots of the German people. As a result, their collection of fairy tales contains stories that often reflect the morals, beliefs, and customs of the time and the German-speaking regions where they were collected.

„The Stolen Farthings,“ like many other tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, features supernatural elements and moral lessons that were prevalent in the oral storytelling traditions of the era. The story’s themes of generosity, selflessness, honesty, and redemption, as well as its portrayal of restless spirits, are typical of the time and culture from which it was derived. The tale serves as both a reflection of historical and cultural beliefs and a timeless reminder of the importance of moral and ethical behavior.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The stolen farthings“

„The Stolen Farthings“ offers several interpretations that can be drawn from the story:

Moral lesson on generosity and selflessness: The tale can be viewed as a moral lesson on the importance of generosity and selflessness. The child’s decision to keep the farthings for itself rather than give them to a poor man, as instructed by its mother, led to unrest in the afterlife. By giving the farthings to a poor man, the parents ultimately allowed the child’s spirit to find peace. This lesson emphasizes the value of thinking of others and sharing our resources with those less fortunate.

Consequences of dishonesty: The story also highlights the consequences of dishonesty. The child’s choice to keep the farthings and hide them, rather than being truthful and using them for their intended purpose, led to its inability to rest in peace. This interpretation emphasizes the importance of being honest in our actions and intentions.

Parental guidance and responsibility: The tale underscores the role parents play in guiding their children towards moral and ethical behavior. The child’s mother had initially encouraged the child to give the farthings to a poor man, which was an act of kindness. However, the child’s decision to keep the money demonstrated that parental guidance alone is not always enough to ensure moral behavior. It is also the responsibility of the parents to teach their children the consequences of their actions and to instill values that will guide them throughout their lives.

The power of redemption and forgiveness: The story demonstrates the power of redemption and forgiveness, as the child’s spirit is finally able to find peace once the farthings are given to a poor man. This act of kindness and charity by the parents rectifies their child’s previous wrongdoing, showcasing the power of making amends and finding forgiveness.

Supernatural beliefs and cultural practices: The tale also highlights traditional beliefs in supernatural occurrences, such as the restless spirit of the deceased child returning to resolve unfinished business. This aspect of the story reflects the cultural practices and beliefs of the time when the Brothers Grimm collected and published their fairy tales.

Summary of the plot

„The Stolen Farthings“ is a fairy tale by Brothers Grimm about a family who is visited by a mysterious, pale child every day at noon. The family consists of a father, mother, their children, and a visiting friend. The child, dressed in snow-white clothes, silently enters their home, goes into the next room, and leaves in the same manner. This occurs for three days in a row, piquing the curiosity of the visiting friend.

The friend asks the father about the child, but the father claims to have never seen it. The next day, the friend points out the child to the father, who still can’t see it, along with the mother and the other children. The friend decides to investigate, opening the door to the room where the child had been entering. He witnesses the child searching diligently among the crevices between the floorboards before it vanishes upon noticing him.

The friend describes the child’s appearance and actions to the family, and the mother recognizes it as her deceased child who had passed away a month ago. They decide to remove the floorboards and discover two farthings hidden within the crevices. The child had received these coins from its mother to give to a poor man but had kept them for itself, thinking it could buy a biscuit. This action had caused the child unrest in its grave, prompting it to return daily to search for the coins.

The parents give the farthings to a poor man, and the child never appears again, finally finding peace in the afterlife.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 154
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 769
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson39.3
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index73.4
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level9.7
Gunning Fog Index12.4
Coleman–Liau Index7.6
SMOG Index9.2
Automated Readability Index10.8
Character Count1.806
Letter Count1.398
Sentence Count13
Word Count351
Average Words per Sentence27,00
Words with more than 6 letters43
Percentage of long words12.3%
Number of Syllables440
Average Syllables per Word1,25
Words with three Syllables14
Percentage Words with three Syllables4%
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