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The Turnip
Grimm Märchen

The Turnip - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 9 min

There were once two brothers who both served as soldiers. One of them was rich, and the other poor. Then the poor one, to escape from his poverty, put off his soldier’s coat, and turned farmer. He dug and hoed his bit of land, and sowed it with turnip-seed. The seed came up, and one turnip grew there which became large and vigorous, and visibly grew bigger and bigger, and seemed as if it would never stop growing, so that it might have been called the princess of turnips, for never was such an one seen before, and never will such an one be seen again. At length it was so enormous that by itself it filled a whole cart, and two oxen were required to draw it, and the farmer had not the least idea what he was to do with the turnip, or whether it would be a fortune to him or a misfortune. At last he thought, „If thou sellest it, what wilt thou get for it that is of any importance, and if thou eatest it thyself, why, the small turnips would do thee just as much good. It would be better to take it to the King, and make him a present of it.“

So he placed it on a cart, harnessed two oxen, took it to the palace, and presented it to the King. „What strange thing is this?“ said the King. „Many wonderful things have come before my eyes, but never such a monster as this! From what seed can this have sprung, or are you a luck-child and have met with it by chance?“ – „Ah, no!“ said the farmer, „no luck-child am I. I am a poor soldier, who because he could no longer support himself hung his soldier’s coat on a nail and took to farming land. I have a brother who is rich and well known to you, Lord King, but I, because I have nothing, am forgotten by every one.“

Then the King felt compassion for him, and said, „Thou shalt be raised from thy poverty, and shalt have such gifts from me that thou shalt be equal to thy rich brother.“ Then he bestowed on him much gold, and lands, and meadows, and herds, and made him immensely rich, so that the wealth of the other brother could not be compared with his. When the rich brother heard what the poor one had gained for himself with one single turnip, he envied him, and thought in every way how he also could get hold of a similar piece of luck. He would, however, set about it in a much wiser way, and took gold and horses and carried them to the King, and made certain the King would give him a much larger present in return. If his brother had got so much for one turnip, what would he not carry away with him in return for such beautiful things as these? The King accepted his present, and said he had nothing to give him in return that was more rare and excellent than the great turnip. So the rich man was obliged to put his brother’s turnip in a cart and have it taken to his home. When there he did not know on whom to vent his rage and anger, until bad thoughts came to him, and he resolved to kill his brother. He hired murderers, who were to lie in ambush, and then he went to his brother and said, „Dear brother, I know of a hidden treasure, we will dig it up together, and divide it between us.“ The other agreed to this, and accompanied him without suspicion. While they were on their way, however, the murderers fell on him, bound him, and would have hanged him to a tree. But just as they were doing this, loud singing and the sound of a horse’s feet were heard in the distance. On this their hearts were filled with terror, and they pushed their prisoner head first into the sack, hung it on a branch, and took to flight. He, however, worked up there until he had made a hole in the sack through which he could put his head. The man who was coming by was no other than a travelling student, a young fellow who rode on his way through the wood joyously singing his song. When he who was aloft saw that someone was passing below him, he cried, „Good day! You have come at a lucky time.“ The student looked round on every side, but did not know whence the voice came. At last he said, „Who calls me?“ Then an answer came from the top of the tree, „Raise your eyes; here I sit aloft in the Sack of Wisdom. In a short time have I learnt great things; compared with this all schools are a jest. In a very short time I shall have learnt everything, and shall descend wiser than all other men. I understand the stars, and the signs of the Zodiac, and the tracks of the winds, the sand of the sea, the healing of illness, and the virtues of all herbs, birds, and stones. If you were once within it you would feel what noble things issue forth from the Sack of Knowledge.“

The student, when he heard all this, was astonished, and said, „Blessed be the hour in which I have found thee! May not I also enter the sack for a while?“ He who was above replied as if unwillingly, „For a short time I will let you get into it, if you reward me and give me good words; but you must wait an hour longer, for one thing remains which I must learn before I do it.“ When the student had waited a while he became impatient, and begged to be allowed to get in at once, his thirst for knowledge was so very great. So he who was above pretended at last to yield, and said, „In order that I may come forth from the house of knowledge you must let it down by the rope, and then you shall enter it.“ So the student let the sack down, untied it, and set him free, and then cried, „Now draw me up at once,“ and was about to get into the sack. „Halt!“ said the other, „that won’t do,“ and took him by the head and put him upside down into the sack, fastened it, and drew the disciple of wisdom up the tree by the rope. Then he swung him in the air and said, „How goes it with thee, my dear fellow? Behold, already thou feelest wisdom coming, and art gaining valuable experience. Keep perfectly quiet until thou becomest wiser.“ Thereupon he mounted the student’s horse and rode away, but in an hour’s time sent some one to let the student out again.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The turnip“

„The Turnip,“ also known as „The Giant Turnip,“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that is included in their collection „Grimms‘ Fairy Tales.“ This story, like many others in the collection, was derived from oral traditions and folktales that had been passed down through generations in Germany and other parts of Europe. The Brothers Grimm sought to preserve the cultural heritage of these stories and share them with a wider audience.

The tale revolves around a humble farmer who plants a turnip seed, which grows into an enormous turnip that becomes the source of his good fortune. The story explores themes of humility, cooperation, and the rewards of hard work.

The background of this fairy tale can be traced to several cultural and literary influences:

Folklore and oral traditions: As with many other Grimm fairy tales, „The Turnip“ has its roots in various folktales and oral traditions from Germany and other European countries. The Brothers Grimm collected these stories from a diverse range of sources, such as friends, family members, and local storytellers.

Agricultural and rural life: The story reflects the importance of agriculture and rural life in the daily lives of the people from whom the Brothers Grimm collected their tales. The tale’s focus on the growth of the enormous turnip and the farmer’s hard work highlights the value placed on farming and the fruits of one’s labor.

Moral and cautionary tales: „The Turnip“ serves as a moral lesson, emphasizing the importance of humility, cooperation, and hard work. The farmer’s success in the story is not due to his greed or ambition, but rather his dedication to his work and his willingness to share his good fortune with others. The tale teaches readers to value these virtues and the rewards they can bring.

Literary influences: The Brothers Grimm were inspired by the works of other writers and collectors of folktales, such as Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Andersen. These authors also explored themes of humility and hard work in their stories, providing inspiration for the Grimm brothers to include similar themes in their own collection.

In summary, „The Turnip“ is a Grimm fairy tale that combines elements from folklore, rural life, and moral cautionary tales to deliver a timeless message about the importance of humility, cooperation, and the rewards of hard work.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The turnip“

„The Turnip“ is a simple yet profound tale that offers various interpretations, which can be seen as reflections on human nature, values, and society. Here are some possible ways to understand the story:

Humility and hard work: One of the central themes of „The Turnip“ is the importance of humility and hard work. The farmer, a modest and dedicated worker, is rewarded with the enormous turnip as a result of his efforts. This interpretation emphasizes the value of hard work and the potential rewards that can come from a humble and diligent approach to life.

Cooperation and community: The story also highlights the significance of cooperation and working together as a community. The farmer shares his good fortune with his neighbors, and they, in turn, help him harvest the giant turnip. This interpretation underscores the benefits of collaboration and the power of community in achieving common goals.

Contentment and gratitude: Another interpretation of the story focuses on the importance of contentment and gratitude. The farmer is not greedy or ambitious. He is content with his simple life and the fruits of his labor. This interpretation serves as a reminder to appreciate what we have and not to focus solely on material wealth or social status.

The power of nature: The tale can also be read as a celebration of the power and wonder of nature. The enormous turnip is a symbol of nature’s ability to surprise and provide abundance, reminding us of the importance of respecting and nurturing the natural world.

The unpredictability of life: The story of the giant turnip can be seen as a reminder of the unpredictability of life and the importance of being prepared for unexpected events. The farmer’s success in the story comes from a seemingly ordinary act – planting a turnip seed – that leads to an extraordinary outcome. This interpretation encourages us to be open to the unexpected and embrace the possibilities that life has to offer.

In conclusion, „The Turnip“ is a multi-layered tale that offers multiple interpretations, encouraging readers to reflect on themes such as humility, hard work, cooperation, contentment, gratitude, the power of nature, and the unpredictability of life.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The turnip“

„The Turnip“ may not be as well-known as some other Grimm fairy tales, but it has still inspired various adaptations and references across different media. Some examples include:

Literature: Authors have drawn inspiration from the story to create their own retellings or variations of the tale. One example is „The Enormous Turnip,“ a popular children’s book by author Aleksei Tolstoy, which is based on the original Grimm tale but features additional characters and emphasizes the theme of cooperation.

Theater: The story has been adapted for the stage, either as a standalone play or as part of a larger collection of Grimm fairy tales. For instance, „The Turnip“ has been included in various children’s theatre productions, such as „Tales from the Brothers Grimm“ by Carol Ann Duffy, which presents several Grimm stories as a series of interconnected short plays.

Animation: The tale has been adapted into animated films and television shows, particularly for children. One example is a Russian animated film called „The Giant Turnip“ (1974), which retells the story with a focus on cooperation and teamwork. Additionally, the British children’s television series „Super Why!“ featured an episode titled „The Enormous Turnip,“ which adapts the story and adds an educational component for young viewers.

Art: Visual artists have been inspired by the tale, creating illustrations and paintings that depict scenes or characters from the story. For example, „The Turnip“ has been included in illustrated collections of Grimm fairy tales, featuring artwork that captures the growth of the giant turnip and the farmer’s efforts to harvest it.

Music: Composers have used the story as a basis for musical compositions, such as operas, ballets, or symphonic works. An example is the ballet „The Giant Turnip,“ choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky and set to the music of Sergei Prokofiev. The ballet adapts the original tale and uses dance to tell the story of the farmer, the turnip, and the power of community.

While „The Turnip“ may not be as widely adapted as some other Grimm fairy tales, it has left a lasting impact on various art forms and continues to inspire creative reinterpretations that explore the timeless themes of humility, cooperation, and the rewards of hard work.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The turnip“

„The Turnip“ is a classic fairy tale that has been adapted and reimagined in many different ways over the years. Here are some of the notable adaptations of the story:

Animated Films: „The Turnip“ has been adapted into several animated films, including a Soviet animated film in 1953, a Japanese anime in 1978, and a Russian animated film in 2016.

Children’s Books: The story has been adapted into numerous children’s books, including a version illustrated by Eric Carle in 2015, and a version by Paul Galdone in 1985.

Plays and Musicals: „The Turnip“ has also been adapted into plays and musicals, including a musical adaptation by Roberta Jones and Ron Barnett in 2013.

Video Games: The story has even been adapted into video games, such as „The Enchanted Kingdom: The Secret of the Golden Lamp,“ which features the turnip as a key plot element.

TV Series: „The Turnip“ has been adapted into episodes of several TV series, including „Faerie Tale Theater“ in 1984 and „The Storyteller“ in 1988.

Each adaptation of „The Turnip“ adds its own unique twist to the classic tale, while still retaining the central message of the original story. From animated films to children’s books, plays to video games, „The Turnip“ continues to be a beloved story that inspires and entertains audiences of all ages.

Summary of the plot

„The Turnip“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of a humble farmer who plants a turnip seed, which grows into an enormous turnip that brings him good fortune. The tale explores themes of humility, cooperation, and the rewards of hard work.

In the story, a simple farmer plants a turnip seed in his field. Over time, the turnip grows to an immense size, catching the attention of the entire village. The farmer, amazed by the giant turnip, realizes that he cannot harvest it by himself. He seeks help from his neighbors, who all come together to pull the turnip out of the ground.

With their combined efforts, the villagers successfully harvest the enormous turnip. The farmer, grateful for their assistance, shares his good fortune with the community. The tale concludes with the villagers celebrating their cooperative success, emphasizing the importance of working together, humility, and the rewards of hard work.

In summary, „The Turnip“ is a simple yet meaningful Grimm fairy tale that teaches valuable lessons about humility, cooperation, and the power of community in achieving common goals.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The turnip“

„The Turnip“ is a lesser-known fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, who were German academics, philologists, and researchers best known for their collection of fairy tales. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected and published these stories during the early 19th century as part of a broader project to document and preserve German folk traditions and culture. The first edition of their collection, titled „Children’s and Household Tales“ (in German: „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“), was published in 1812 and contained 86 stories. Over the years, several revised editions were released, with the final edition containing over 200 stories.

„The Turnip,“ like many other Grimm fairy tales, originated from oral storytelling traditions in which tales were passed down through generations, often changing and evolving along the way. The Brothers Grimm collected these stories from various sources, including friends, family, and printed texts, and aimed to preserve the stories‘ cultural significance and historical context while making them more accessible to a wider audience.

The fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm often contain moral lessons and themes that reflect societal values and norms of the time, such as the importance of hard work, honesty, and humility. In „The Turnip,“ these themes are evident through the story’s exploration of sibling rivalry, envy, greed, and the value of wisdom and humility. The tale also serves as an example of the cautionary nature of many of the Brothers Grimm’s stories, which often aim to teach readers important life lessons through the characters‘ experiences and actions.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The turnip“

„The Turnip“ can be interpreted in several ways, touching upon themes of sibling rivalry, envy, greed, and the value of wisdom and humility.

Sibling rivalry: The two brothers‘ relationship demonstrates the negative effects of sibling rivalry. The rich brother becomes envious of the poor brother’s newfound fortune, leading him to make poor decisions out of jealousy.

Envy and greed: The story highlights the destructive nature of envy and greed. The rich brother’s envious actions result in his own embarrassment, as well as the attempted murder of his sibling. This serves as a cautionary tale against allowing envy to dictate one’s actions.

The value of wisdom and humility: The poor brother’s humility in offering the turnip to the King is rewarded, while the rich brother’s arrogance and expectation of receiving more valuable gifts backfires. Additionally, the student’s desire for wisdom results in him being tricked, suggesting that wisdom cannot be obtained without the humility to learn from experience.

The consequences of deception: The story also explores the consequences of deception. The rich brother’s deception in hiring murderers to kill his sibling leads to his own misfortune, while the poor brother’s deception in tricking the student serves as a form of retribution for the student’s own attempt to gain wisdom through deceitful means.

Overall, „The Turnip“ serves as a moral tale that encourages humility, the pursuit of wisdom through genuine means, and the dangers of envy, greed, and deception.

Summary of the plot

„The Turnip“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm that tells the story of two brothers, one rich and the other poor. The poor brother, a former soldier, decides to become a farmer and plants turnip seeds. One of the turnips grows exceptionally large, so he decides to present it to the King. Moved by the farmer’s story, the King rewards him with gold, land, and other riches, making him even wealthier than his envious brother.

Seeking a similar fortune, the rich brother brings gifts to the King, expecting to receive more valuable gifts in return. Instead, the King gives him the massive turnip. In a fit of anger, the rich brother hires murderers to kill his now-wealthier sibling. The murderers capture the poor brother and plan to hang him, but they are frightened by the sounds of a traveling student approaching and flee, leaving the poor brother in a sack hanging from a tree.

The student, intrigued by the brother’s claims of wisdom from being inside the „Sack of Wisdom,“ frees him and asks to experience it himself. The brother tricks the student by putting him upside down into the sack and hanging him from the tree, claiming it will make him wiser. The brother then rides away on the student’s horse, but later sends someone to release the student from the sack.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 146
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typs 1960D
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, PT, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson32.3
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index79.6
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level7.6
Gunning Fog Index10.5
Coleman–Liau Index7.2
SMOG Index8.9
Automated Readability Index7.9
Character Count5.899
Letter Count4.523
Sentence Count53
Word Count1.158
Average Words per Sentence21,85
Words with more than 6 letters121
Percentage of long words10.4%
Number of Syllables1.438
Average Syllables per Word1,24
Words with three Syllables52
Percentage Words with three Syllables4.5%
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