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The White Bride and the Black One
Grimm Märchen

The White Bride and the Black One - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 12 min

A woman was going about the unenclosed land with her daughter and her step-daughter cutting fodder, when the Lord came walking towards them in the form of a poor man, and asked, „Which is the way into the village?“ – „If you want to know,“ said the mother, „seek it for yourself,“ and the daughter added, „If you are afraid you will not find it, take a guide with you.“ But the step-daughter said, „Poor man, I will take you there, come with me.“ Then God was angry with the mother and daughter, and turned his back on them, and wished that they should become as black as night and as ugly as sin. To the poor step-daughter, however, God was gracious, and went with her, and when they were near the village, he said a blessing over her, and spake, „Choose three things for thyself, and I will grant them to thee.“ Then said the maiden, „I should like to be as beautiful and fair as the sun,“ and instantly she was white and fair as day. „Then I should like to have a purse of money which would never grow empty.“ That the Lord gave her also, but he said, „Do not forget what is best of all.“ Said she, „For my third wish, I desire, after my death, to inhabit the eternal kingdom of Heaven.“ That also was granted unto her, and then the Lord left her. When the step-mother came home with her daughter, and they saw that they were both as black as coal and ugly, but that the step-daughter was white and beautiful, wickedness increased still more in their hearts, and they thought of nothing else but how they could do her an injury. The step-daughter, however, had a brother called Reginer, whom she loved much, and she told him all that had happened. Once on a time Reginer said to her, „Dear sister, I will take thy likeness, that I may continually see thee before mine eyes, for my love for thee is so great that I should like always to look at thee.“ Then she answered, „But, I pray thee, let no one see the picture.“ So he painted his sister and hung up the picture in his room; he, however, dwelt in the King’s palace, for he was his coachman. Every day he went and stood before the picture, and thanked God for the happiness of having such a dear sister. Now it happened that the King whom he served, had just lost his wife, who had been so beautiful that no one could be found to compare with her, and on this account the King was in deep grief. The attendants about the court, however, remarked that the coachman stood daily before this beautiful picture, and they were jealous of him, so they informed the King. Then the latter ordered the picture to be brought to him, and when he saw that it was like his lost wife in every respect, except that it was still more beautiful, he fell mortally in love with it. He caused the coachman to be brought before him, and asked whom the portrait represented? The coachman said it was his sister, so the King resolved to take no one but her as his wife, and gave him a carriage and horses and splendid garments of cloth of gold, and sent him forth to fetch his chosen bride. When Reginer came on this errand, his sister was glad, but the black maiden was jealous of her good fortune, and grew angry above all measure, and said to her mother, „Of what use are all your arts to us now when you cannot procure such a piece of luck for me?“ – „Be quiet,“ said the old woman, „I will soon divert it to you,“ and by her arts of witchcraft, she so troubled the eyes of the coachman that he was half-blind, and she stopped the ears of the white maiden so that she was half-deaf. Then they got into the carriage, first the bride in her noble royal apparel, then the step-mother with her daughter, and Reginer sat on the box to drive. When they had been on the way for some time the coachman cried,

„Cover thee well, my sister dear,
That the rain may not wet thee,
That the wind may not load thee with dust,
That thou may’st be fair and beautiful
When thou appearest before the King.“

The bride asked, „What is my dear brother saying?“ – „Ah,“ said the old woman, „he says that you ought to take off your golden dress and give it to your sister.“ Then she took it off, and put it on the black maiden, who gave her in exchange for it a shabby grey gown. They drove onwards, and a short time afterwards, the brother again cried,

„Cover thee well, my sister dear,
That the rain may not wet thee,
That the wind may not load thee with dust,
That thou may’st be fair and beautiful
When thou appearest before the King.“

The bride asked, „What is my dear brother saying?“ – „Ah,“ said the old woman, „he says that you ought to take off your golden hood and give it to your sister.“ So she took off the hood and put it on her sister, and sat with her own head uncovered. And they drove on farther. After a while, the brother once more cried,

„Cover thee well, my sister dear,
That the rain may not wet thee,
That the wind may not load thee with dust,
That thou may’st be fair and beautiful
When thou appearest before the King.“

The bride asked, „What is my dear brother saying?“ – „Ah,“ said the old woman, „he says you must look out of the carriage.“ They were, however, just on a bridge, which crossed deep water. When the bride stood up and leant forward out of the carriage, they both pushed her out, and she fell into the middle of the water. At the same moment that she sank, a snow-white duck arose out of the mirror-smooth water, and swam down the river. The brother had observed nothing of it, and drove the carriage on until they reached the court. Then he took the black maiden to the King as his sister, and thought she really was so, because his eyes were dim, and he saw the golden garments glittering. When the King saw the boundless ugliness of his intended bride, he was very angry, and ordered the coachman to be thrown into a pit which was full of adders and nests of snakes. The old witch, however, knew so well how to flatter the King and deceive his eyes by her arts, that he kept her and her daughter until she appeared quite endurable to him, and he really married her.

One evening when the black bride was sitting on the King’s knee, a white duck came swimming up the gutter to the kitchen, and said to the kitchen-boy, „Boy, light a fire, that I may warm my feathers.“ The kitchen-boy did it, and lighted a fire on the hearth. Then came the duck and sat down by it, and shook herself and smoothed her feathers to rights with her bill. While she was thus sitting and enjoying herself, she asked, „What is my brother Reginer doing?“ The scullery-boy replied, „He is imprisoned in the pit with adders and with snakes.“ Then she asked, „What is the black witch doing in the house?“ The boy answered, „She is loved by the King and happy.“

„May God have mercy on him,“ said the duck, and swam forth by the sink.

The next night she came again and put the same questions, and the third night also. Then the kitchen-boy could bear it no longer, and went to the King and discovered all to him. The King, however, wanted to see it for himself, and next evening went thither, and when the duck thrust her head in through the sink, he took his sword and cut through her neck, and suddenly she changed into a most beautiful maiden, exactly like the picture, which her brother had made of her. The King was full of joy, and as she stood there quite wet, he caused splendid apparel to be brought and had her clothed in it. Then she told how she had been betrayed by cunning and falsehood, and at last thrown down into the water, and her first request was that her brother should be brought forth from the pit of snakes, and when the King had fulfilled this request, he went into the chamber where the old witch was, and asked, What does she deserve who does this and that? and related what had happened. Then was she so blinded that she was aware of nothing and said, „She deserves to be stripped naked, and put into a barrel with nails, and that a horse should be harnessed to the barrel, and the horse sent all over the world.“ All of which was done to her, and to her black daughter. But the King married the white and beautiful bride, and rewarded her faithful brother, and made him a rich and distinguished man.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The White Bride and the Black One“

„The White Bride and the Black One“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their anthology „Children’s and Household Tales“ (1812), where it is numbered as tale 135. This story delves into themes of sibling rivalry, jealousy, and the importance of kindness and inner beauty.

The plot revolves around two sisters: one is kind-hearted and beautiful (the White Bride), while the other is wicked and ugly (the Black One). A prince falls in love with the White Bride and wishes to marry her. However, the envious Black One, with the help of their mother, plots to take her sister’s place as the prince’s bride.

On the day of the wedding, the sisters switch places, and the Black One accompanies the prince. A talking white dove acts as a messenger, revealing the deception to the prince. The prince then returns to retrieve the true White Bride, and the wicked sister is punished for her deceit.

The backgrounds of „The White Bride and the Black One“ can be traced to the story’s exploration of sibling rivalry, jealousy, and the moral lessons it imparts. The tale highlights the importance of kindness, inner beauty, and the consequences of wickedness. It serves as a cautionary tale against jealousy and deception, while also emphasizing the importance of remaining true to oneself and valuing the qualities that make a person virtuous.

Like many other fairy tales in the Brothers Grimm collection, „The White Bride and the Black One“ draws from a rich oral storytelling tradition, which was meant to entertain and educate listeners through engaging narratives and memorable characters.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The White Bride and the Black One“

„The White Bride and the Black One“ from the Brothers Grimm contains several themes and interpretations, including:

Good vs. evil: The tale presents a clear dichotomy between the kind-hearted, beautiful White Bride and the wicked, ugly Black One. The story highlights the importance of inner beauty and virtue, while also showing the negative consequences that follow from deceit and wickedness.

Sibling rivalry and jealousy: The story focuses on the rivalry and jealousy between the two sisters. The Black One’s envy drives her to deceive the prince, attempting to take her sister’s place. This aspect of the tale can be interpreted as a cautionary lesson about the destructive nature of jealousy and envy.

The power of truth: Despite the Black One’s efforts to deceive the prince and take her sister’s place, the truth is ultimately revealed through the help of the talking white dove. The story highlights the importance of honesty and the power of truth to overcome deception and bring about justice.

The importance of inner beauty: The tale emphasizes the significance of inner beauty and kindness, as demonstrated by the White Bride. Her good-hearted nature ultimately prevails over the wickedness and deceit of her sister. This theme is a reminder to value a person’s inner qualities over superficial appearances.

Divine intervention and the role of the talking dove: The talking white dove serves as a messenger and symbol of purity and goodness. Its intervention in revealing the truth can be seen as an example of divine intervention or the power of a higher power to guide and protect those who are good and virtuous.

„The White Bride and the Black One“ offers multiple interpretations and themes, showcasing the importance of inner beauty, truth, and the consequences of deception and jealousy. The story serves as both an engaging narrative and a moral lesson for its readers and listeners.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The White Bride and the Black One“

„The White Bride and the Black One“ is not as well-known as some of the other Brothers Grimm fairy tales, and as a result, it has not been as widely adapted in popular media. However, the story has been included in various anthologies, collections, and retellings of Brothers Grimm stories. Here are a few examples:

„Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales“ (Leather-bound Classics): This comprehensive collection by Canterbury Classics includes the complete set of Brothers Grimm fairy tales, featuring „The White Bride and the Black One“ alongside other lesser-known stories. This edition offers updated language and illustrations to make the stories more accessible to modern readers.

„The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library): Edited by Jack Zipes, this edition provides a thorough collection of the Brothers Grimm’s stories, including „The White Bride and the Black One.“ The book features illustrations by Josef Scharl and presents the tales in their entirety.

„Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition): This collection, translated by Jack Zipes, includes more than 200 tales from the Brothers Grimm, such as „The White Bride and the Black One.“ The book presents the stories with a focus on their historical context, providing readers with a deeper understanding of the tales‘ origins and significance.

While „The White Bride and the Black One“ has not inspired major adaptations in film, television, or theater, its inclusion in various collections and anthologies of Brothers Grimm stories ensures that the tale continues to be read and appreciated by audiences interested in exploring lesser-known fairy tales.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The White Bride and the Black One“

„The White Bride and the Black One“ (also known as „The Singing, Springing Lark“) from Brothers Grimm has been adapted into various forms of media over the years, including:

Operas: The tale has been adapted into several operas, including „The Singing, Springing Lark“ by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams and „Die singende, klingende Baum“ by Austrian composer Ernst Toch.

Films: The tale has been adapted into several films, including the Soviet film „The Singing, Ringing Tree“ in 1957, which was later dubbed in English and shown on British television.

Plays: The tale has been adapted into several stage productions, including „The White Bride and the Black One“ by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1982.

Children’s books: The tale has been adapted into several children’s books, including „The Singing, Springing Lark“ by German author Max Bolliger.

Musicals: The tale has been adapted into several musicals, including „The White Bride and the Black One“ by American composer Richard Rodgers.

Overall, „The White Bride and the Black One“ is a popular and enduring fairy tale that continues to inspire adaptations in various forms of media.

Summary of the plot

„The White Bride and the Black One“ is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale that tells the story of two sisters, one kind-hearted and beautiful (the White Bride) and the other wicked and ugly (the Black One). A prince falls in love with the White Bride and plans to marry her, but the envious Black One, with the help of their mother, conspires to take her sister’s place as the prince’s bride.

On the day of the wedding, the sisters switch places, and the Black One accompanies the prince. A talking white dove reveals the deception to the prince, who then returns to retrieve the true White Bride. The wicked sister is punished for her deceit, and the prince marries the White Bride.

The tale emphasizes themes of sibling rivalry, jealousy, and the importance of inner beauty and kindness. It serves as a cautionary tale against deception and envy, teaching readers and listeners the value of honesty and virtue.

—————

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The White Bride and the Black One“

„The White Bride and the Black One“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, who were Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The tale is included in their famous anthology, „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (originally titled „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“), first published in 1812. The Brothers Grimm were German linguists, cultural researchers, and authors who gathered and recorded oral folklore during the early 19th century as a part of their efforts to preserve and study Germanic culture and history.

The Grimms‘ collection of fairy tales became immensely popular and had a significant impact on the development of the modern fairy tale genre. Their works have been translated into more than 100 languages and have been adapted into various media, including theater, film, and television.

The tales in the collection often feature magical elements, moral lessons, and archetypal characters such as wicked stepmothers, noble heroes, and enchanted creatures. „The White Bride and the Black One“ is a prime example of the themes and motifs found in many Grimm fairy tales, with its focus on the consequences of good and evil actions, the importance of kindness and humility, and the transformative power of love.

The story is rooted in the oral storytelling tradition, which means that it likely has various versions and interpretations. The Brothers Grimm’s version is just one of the many possible ways this story has been told throughout history.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The White Bride and the Black One“

„The White Bride and the Black One“ can be interpreted in several ways, focusing on themes such as the consequences of one’s actions, the importance of kindness and humility, and the transformative power of love and compassion.

Consequences of one’s actions: The story highlights the importance of treating others with kindness and respect. The mother and her daughter are punished for their rude behavior towards the Lord, while the step-daughter is rewarded for her kindness. This theme is reinforced when the step-mother and half-sister plot against the step-daughter, ultimately leading to their own punishment.

Importance of kindness and humility: The step-daughter’s kindness, humility, and compassion set her apart from her family members. Her good nature ultimately brings her blessings, love, and protection. This theme serves as a reminder to readers to cultivate and value these qualities in their own lives.

Transformative power of love and compassion: The step-daughter’s transformation from a white duck back into a beautiful maiden can be seen as a metaphor for the power of love and compassion to heal and restore. The King’s love for the step-daughter and his determination to seek justice for her ultimately bring about her transformation, saving her from her cursed state.

The dangers of envy and jealousy: The story also warns against the destructive power of envy and jealousy, as displayed by the mother and her daughter. Their jealousy towards the step-daughter leads them to plot against her, which ultimately results in their own downfall.

Deceptive appearances: Another theme in the story is the importance of not judging someone based on their appearance. The step-mother and her daughter use deceit to present themselves as beautiful and virtuous, but their true nature is revealed in the end. Similarly, the step-daughter’s transformation from a duck to a beautiful maiden underscores the idea that true beauty and worth lie within a person’s character, not their external appearance.

Overall, „The White Bride and the Black One“ offers moral lessons about kindness, humility, and the consequences of one’s actions, while also exploring themes of love, transformation, and the deceptive nature of appearances.

Summary of the plot

„The White Bride and the Black One“ is a fairy tale by Brothers Grimm about a woman, her daughter, and her step-daughter who encounter the Lord in the form of a poor man. The mother and her daughter treat the Lord rudely, while the step-daughter treats him kindly, resulting in blessings for the step-daughter and a curse for the mother and her daughter. The step-daughter becomes beautiful and wealthy and is promised a place in Heaven after her death. Her step-mother and half-sister, however, grow jealous and plot against her.

The step-daughter has a brother, Reginer, who paints a portrait of her. The King, mourning his late wife, falls in love with the portrait and sends Reginer to bring his sister to be his bride. The step-mother uses witchcraft to confuse Reginer and deceive the step-daughter, stealing her beautiful garments and replacing them with shabby ones. The step-mother and half-sister then push the step-daughter into a river, where she transforms into a white duck.

Reginer unknowingly takes his half-sister, dressed as the beautiful bride, to the King. The King is initially angered by her ugliness, but the step-mother’s witchcraft deceives him into marrying her. Reginer is imprisoned with snakes as punishment. Meanwhile, the step-daughter, as a duck, visits the palace three times, asking about her brother and the step-mother. The King eventually learns of the duck’s visits and kills the duck, which transforms back into the beautiful step-daughter.

The step-daughter reveals the truth, her brother is freed, and the King punishes the step-mother and half-sister by following the step-mother’s own suggested punishment: placing them in a barrel with nails and sending them off with a horse. The King marries the true white bride and rewards her brother, making him a rich and distinguished man.

Informations for scientific analysis


Fairy tale statistics
Value
NumberKHM 135
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 403A
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, FI, HU, IT, JA, NL, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson37.1
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index76.8
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level8.7
Gunning Fog Index11.5
Coleman–Liau Index7.9
SMOG Index9.2
Automated Readability Index9.9
Character Count8.189
Letter Count6.291
Sentence Count63
Word Count1.560
Average Words per Sentence24,76
Words with more than 6 letters193
Percentage of long words12.4%
Number of Syllables1.934
Average Syllables per Word1,24
Words with three Syllables67
Percentage Words with three Syllables4.3%
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