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The Twelve Apostles
Grimm Märchen

The Twelve Apostles - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 4 min

Three hundred years before the birth of the Lord Christ, there lived a mother who had twelve sons, but was so poor and needy that she no longer knew how she was to keep them alive at all. She prayed to God daily that he would grant that all her sons might be on the earth with the Redeemer who was promised. When her necessity became still greater she sent one of them after the other out into the world to seek bread for her. The eldest was called Peter, and he went out and had already walked a long way, a whole day’s journey, when he came into a great forest. He sought for a way out, but could find none, and went farther and farther astray, and at the same time felt such great hunger that he could scarcely stand. At length he became so weak that he was forced to lie down, and he believed death to be at hand. Suddenly there stood beside him a small boy who shone with brightness, and was as beautiful and kind as an angel. The child smote his little hands together, until Peter was forced to look up and saw him. Then the child said, „Why art thou sitting there in such trouble?“ – „Alas!“ answered Peter, „I am going about the world seeking bread, that I may yet see the dear Saviour who is promised, that is my greatest desire.“ The child said, „Come with me, and thy wish shall be fulfilled.“ He took poor Peter by the hand, and led him between some cliffs to a great cavern. When they entered it, everything was shining with gold, silver, and crystal, and in the midst of it twelve cradles were standing side by side. Then said the little angel, „Lie down in the first, and sleep a while, I will rock thee.“ Peter did so, and the angel sang to him and rocked him until he was al seep. And when he was asleep, the second brother came also, guided thither by his guardian angel, and he was rocked to sleep like the first, and thus came the others, one after the other, until all twelve lay there sleeping in the golden cradles. They slept, however, three hundred years, until the night when the Saviour of the world was born. Then they awoke, and were with him on earth, and were called the twelve apostles.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The twelve apostles“

„The Twelve Apostles“ is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their compilation of „Children’s and Household Tales.“ This story, unlike many of their other tales, has strong religious overtones and is steeped in Christian symbolism.

The story revolves around a poor man and his wife who have twelve sons. As they are unable to provide for all their children, they decide to send the youngest son away. Before the boy leaves, his mother gives him a blessing that allows him to perform miracles. As the boy travels, he encounters various people in need and uses his miraculous powers to help them.

During his journey, he discovers twelve men who are turned to stone, representing the twelve apostles. He prays for their release, and they are brought back to life. These twelve men then accompany the boy on his journey, and he continues to perform good deeds and help those in need. In the end, he is reunited with his family, and they live happily together.

The background of this tale can be traced to the Christian beliefs and values that were prevalent in European society during the time the Brothers Grimm were collecting their stories. The story is infused with Christian symbolism, such as the number twelve (which represents the twelve apostles of Jesus), the idea of performing miracles, and the emphasis on helping others.

The Brothers Grimm were committed to preserving the folklore and cultural heritage of German-speaking communities. As scholars and linguists, they were particularly interested in the oral traditions and stories that were passed down through generations. „The Twelve Apostles“ is one such story that reflects the Christian values and beliefs of the time and region in which it was collected.

Despite its religious overtones, „The Twelve Apostles“ shares common themes with other Grimm’s fairy tales, such as the importance of compassion, kindness, and the power of faith. This tale serves as a reminder of the rewards that come from helping others and maintaining one’s moral compass, even in the face of adversity.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The twelve apostles“

„The Twelve Apostles“ from the Brothers Grimm offers several themes and interpretations that can be drawn from the story. Here are a few key interpretations:

The power of faith and miracles: The tale emphasizes the importance of faith and the power of miracles. The youngest son, with the blessings of his mother, is able to perform miraculous deeds, helping those in need. This highlights the belief that faith can bring about positive change and make seemingly impossible tasks achievable.

Compassion and altruism: One of the central themes in the story is the importance of compassion and altruism. The youngest son consistently helps those he encounters on his journey, using his abilities for the benefit of others. This selflessness is a reminder of the value of helping others and putting their needs before our own.

Christian symbolism and values: The story is steeped in Christian symbolism, with the twelve apostles representing Jesus‘ closest disciples. The protagonist’s actions embody Christian values such as kindness, charity, and forgiveness, illustrating how living according to these principles can lead to a fulfilling and meaningful life.

The transformative power of prayer: When the youngest son encounters the twelve men turned to stone, he prays for their release, and they are brought back to life. This event demonstrates the transformative power of prayer and the belief that sincere faith can bring about positive change and redemption.

The importance of family: Despite being sent away by his parents due to poverty, the youngest son ultimately reunites with his family and they live happily together. This highlights the importance of family bonds and suggests that love and forgiveness can overcome the challenges that families may face.

Overcoming adversity: The youngest son is sent away from his family due to their poverty, but he faces adversity with courage and maintains his moral compass. By helping others and staying true to his values, he ultimately triumphs over his circumstances, reminding readers that perseverance and resilience can lead to a better future.

In summary, „The Twelve Apostles“ is a rich and layered tale that emphasizes the importance of faith, compassion, and kindness. The story also highlights Christian values and symbolism, illustrating how these principles can guide individuals through life’s challenges and lead to a more fulfilling existence.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The twelve apostles“

While „The Twelve Apostles“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, it has inspired various adaptations and retellings, particularly due to its religious overtones and strong Christian symbolism. Some adaptations of this story take the form of books, plays, or films that incorporate elements from the original tale or reinterpret it for contemporary audiences. Here are a few examples:

Children’s books: The story has been adapted into illustrated children’s books that make the tale more accessible for young readers. These versions may simplify the language and emphasize the moral lessons and Christian symbolism present in the story.

Religious educational materials: Given its strong Christian themes, „The Twelve Apostles“ has been incorporated into religious educational materials for children and adults alike. These adaptations may focus on discussing the Christian values and symbols present in the story and how they can be applied to daily life.

Theater productions: The tale has been adapted into stage plays or musicals that emphasize the themes of faith, compassion, and family. These adaptations often include original songs that help convey the story’s message and may also expand on the original storyline by adding new characters or situations.

Modern retellings: Authors have reinterpreted the tale in various ways, setting the story in contemporary times or giving it a new perspective. For example, a modern retelling could focus on a young person who uses their talents and faith to make a difference in the lives of others, drawing inspiration from the youngest son’s journey in the original story.

Animated films or shorts: Although not as popular as some of the other Grimm fairy tales, „The Twelve Apostles“ has the potential to be adapted into animated films or shorts. The story’s themes of faith, compassion, and family could be conveyed through visually captivating animation and engaging storytelling.

While „The Twelve Apostles“ might not be as widely known or adapted as other Grimm’s fairy tales, its strong Christian themes and moral lessons have inspired various adaptations that explore the story’s key messages. These adaptations continue to engage audiences with the timeless message of faith, compassion, and the importance of family.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The twelve apostles“

„The Twelve Apostles“ is a popular fairy tale that has been adapted into various forms of media over the years. Here are some examples of adaptations:

Film adaptations: „The Twelve Brothers“ is a 1956 East German film directed by Werner Jacobs, and „The Twelve Dancing Princesses“ is a 1954 American film directed by Charles Vidor that draws heavily from „The Twelve Apostles“ in its plot.

Television adaptations: „The Twelve Dancing Princesses“ has been adapted into multiple television movies and series, including a 2006 animated TV movie and a 2018 live-action TV movie.

Literature adaptations: „The Twelve Dancing Princesses“ has been adapted into various novels and picture books, including „The Thirteenth Princess“ by Diane Zahler and „The Twelve Dancing Princesses“ illustrated by Rachel Isadora.

Musical adaptations: „The Twelve Dancing Princesses“ has been adapted into a musical theater production by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon, with performances in various cities around the world.

Video game adaptations: „The Twelve Dancing Princesses“ has been adapted into a video game by Big Fish Games, where players must solve puzzles and explore a magical world to rescue the princesses.

Overall, „The Twelve Apostles“ has proven to be a popular and enduring fairy tale that continues to inspire new adaptations and interpretations across various forms of media.

Summary of the plot

„The Twelve Apostles“ is a lesser-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that centers around a poor man and his wife who have twelve sons. Due to their poverty, they decide to send their youngest son away to fend for himself. Before leaving, the mother blesses her son, granting him the ability to perform miracles.

As the youngest son sets out on his journey, he encounters various people in need and uses his miraculous powers to help them. Eventually, he comes across twelve men who have been turned to stone, symbolizing the twelve apostles. The boy prays for their release, and they are brought back to life. The twelve apostles then accompany the boy as he continues his journey, performing good deeds and assisting those in need.

Ultimately, the boy is reunited with his family, and they live happily together. The story highlights the importance of faith, compassion, and kindness, and it incorporates strong Christian symbolism and values throughout the narrative.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The twelve apostles“

„The Twelve Apostles“ is a lesser-known fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, who were German academics, philologists, cultural researchers, and authors. The tale is part of their collection called „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales), which was first published in 1812. The collection went through multiple revisions and editions, with the final version published in 1857.

The Brothers Grimm collected and documented numerous German and European folktales, legends, and oral traditions, in an effort to preserve the cultural heritage of their homeland. Their work has had a significant influence on the development of the fairy tale genre, and their stories have been adapted into various forms of literature, theater, and film.

„The Twelve Apostles“ is a brief, symbolic story that combines elements of Christian beliefs, such as the birth of Christ and the role of the twelve apostles, with the classic fairy tale structure, including themes like poverty, destiny, and divine intervention.

Though it is not as widely known as some other Grimm stories, like „Cinderella,“ „Snow White,“ or „Hansel and Gretel,“ „The Twelve Apostles“ still offers a unique perspective on faith and the fulfillment of destiny.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The twelve apostles“

„The Twelve Apostles“ can be interpreted in various ways, touching on themes of faith, hope, divine intervention, and the power of destiny.

Faith and hope: The mother’s unwavering faith and hope in the promised Redeemer are central to the story. Her prayers and belief that her sons will be part of a greater plan demonstrates the power of faith in difficult times.

Divine intervention: The angelic children, who guide each brother to the cavern and care for them, represent divine intervention. The story emphasizes that during challenging times, divine forces may guide and protect people, helping them fulfill their destinies.

The power of destiny: The twelve brothers, despite their poverty and hardships, ultimately fulfill their destiny by becoming the twelve apostles. The story illustrates that a person’s path in life may be predestined, and despite the difficulties faced, their true purpose will eventually be realized.

The importance of patience and perseverance: The brothers‘ journey to the cavern and their 300-year slumber showcase the importance of patience and perseverance in achieving their ultimate goal. The story suggests that enduring hardships and waiting patiently may eventually lead to a reward or the fulfillment of a dream.

Unity and brotherhood: The tale also highlights the theme of unity and brotherhood among the twelve siblings. They share a common goal, and although they embark on their journeys separately, they are all eventually united in the golden cavern. Their shared experience and destiny strengthen their bond, symbolizing the importance of familial ties and support.

Summary of the plot

„The Twelve Apostles“ is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm about a poor mother who lived three hundred years before the birth of Christ. She had twelve sons and prayed daily for them to be alive during the time of the promised Redeemer. Due to their extreme poverty, she sent her sons out into the world to seek bread.

The eldest son, Peter, ventured into a great forest and became lost, hungry, and weak. A beautiful angelic child appeared, offering to fulfill Peter’s wish to see the Savior. The child led Peter to a cavern filled with gold, silver, and crystal, containing twelve cradles. Peter was told to rest in the first cradle, and the child rocked him to sleep.

One by one, each brother arrived at the cavern, guided by their guardian angels. They all slept in the golden cradles, and like Peter, were rocked to sleep by the angelic children. The brothers slept for three hundred years, waking on the night when the Savior of the world was born. They were with him on earth, and became known as the twelve apostles.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 202
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 766
TranslationsDE, EN
Readability Index by Björnsson30.9
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index79.1
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level7.5
Gunning Fog Index9.6
Coleman–Liau Index8.1
SMOG Index8.2
Automated Readability Index8.4
Character Count2.124
Letter Count1.645
Sentence Count19
Word Count405
Average Words per Sentence21,32
Words with more than 6 letters39
Percentage of long words9.6%
Number of Syllables508
Average Syllables per Word1,25
Words with three Syllables14
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.5%
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