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The Wonderful Musician
The Wonderful Musician Märchen

The Wonderful Musician - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 9 min

There was once a wonderful musician, who went quite alone through a forest and thought of all manner of things, and when nothing was left for him to think about, he said to himself, „Time is beginning to pass heavily with me here in the forest, I will fetch hither a good companion for myself.“ Then he took his fiddle from his back, and played so that it echoed through the trees. It was not long before a wolf came trotting through the thicket towards him. „Ah, here is a wolf coming! I have no desire for him!“ said the musician. But the wolf came nearer and said to him, „Ah, dear musician, how beautifully thou dost play. I should like to learn that, too.“

„It is soon learnt,“ the musician replied, „thou hast only to do all that I bid thee.“ – „Oh, musician,“ said the wolf, „I will obey thee as a scholar obeys his master.“ The musician bade him follow, and when they had gone part of the way together, they came to an old oak-tree which was hollow inside, and cleft in the middle. „Look,“ said the musician, „if thou wilt learn to fiddle, put thy fore paws into this crevice.“ The wolf obeyed, but the musician quickly picked up a stone and with one blow wedged his two paws so fast that he was forced to stay there like a prisoner. „Stay there until I come back again,“ said the musician, and went his way.

The wonderful musician Fairy Tale

After a while he again said to himself, „Time is beginning to pass heavily with me here in the forest, I will fetch hither another companion,“ and took his fiddle and again played in the forest. It was not long before a fox came creeping through the trees towards him. „Ah, there’s a fox coming!“ said the musician. „I have no desire for him.“ The fox came up to him and said, „Oh, dear musician, how beautifully thou dost play! I should like to learn that too.“ – „That is soon learnt,“ said the musician. „Thou hast only to do everything that I bid thee.“ – „Oh, musician,“ then said the fox, „I will obey thee as a scholar obeys his master.“ – „Follow me,“ said the musician. And when they had walked a part of the way, they came to a footpath, with high bushes on both sides of it.

There the musician stood still, and from one side bent a young hazel-bush down to the ground, and put his foot on the top of it, then he bent down a young tree from the other side as well, and said, „Now little fox, if thou wilt learn something, give me thy left front paw.“ The fox obeyed, and the musician fastened his paw to the left bough. „Little fox,“ said he, „now reach me thy right paw“ and he tied it to the right bough. When he had examined whether they were firm enough, he let go, and the bushes sprang up again, and jerked up the little fox, so that it hung struggling in the air. „Wait there till I come back again,“ said the musician, and went his way.

The Wonderful Musician

Again he said to himself, „Time is beginning to pass heavily with me here in the forest, I will fetch hither another companion,“ so he took his fiddle, and the sound echoed through the forest. Then a little hare came springing towards him. „Why, a hare is coming,“ said the musician, „I do not want him.“ – „Ah, dear musician,“ said the hare, „how beautifully thou dost fiddle.
I too, should like to learn that.“ – „That is soon learnt,“ said the musician, „thou hast only to do everything that I bid thee.“ – „Oh, musician,“ replied the little hare, „I will obey thee as a scholar obeys his master.“

They went a part of the way together until they came to an open space in the forest, where stood an aspen tree. The musician tied a long string round the little hare’s neck, the other end of which he fastened to the tree. „Now briskly, little hare, run twenty times round the tree!“ cried the musician, and the little hare obeyed, and when it had run round twenty times, it had twisted the string twenty times round the trunk of the tree, and the little hare was caught, and let it pull and tug as it liked, it only made the string cut into its tender neck. „Wait there till I come back,“ said the musician, and went onwards.

The wolf, in the meantime, had pushed and pulled and bitten at the stone, and had worked so long that he had set his feet at liberty and had drawn them once more out of the cleft. Full of anger and rage he hurried after the musician and wanted to tear him to pieces. When the fox saw him running, he began to lament, and cried with all his might, „Brother wolf, come to my help, the musician has betrayed me!“ The wolf drew down the little tree, bit the cord in two, and freed the fox, who went with him to take revenge on the musician. They found the tied-up hare, whom likewise they delivered, and then they all sought the enemy together.

The Wonderful Musician

The musician had once more played his fiddle as he went on his way, and this time he had been more fortunate. The sound reached the ears of a poor wood-cutter, who instantly, whether he would or no, gave up his work and came with his hatchet under his arm to listen to the music. „At last comes the right companion,“ said the musician, „for I was seeking a human being, and no wild beast.“

And he began and played so beautifully and delightfully that the poor man stood there as if bewitched, and his heart leaped with gladness. And as he thus stood, the wolf, the fox, and the hare came up, and he saw well that they had some evil design. So he raised his glittering axe and placed himself before the musician, as if to say, „Whoso wishes to touch him let him beware, for he will have to do with me!“ Then the beasts were terrified and ran back into the forest. The musician, however, played once more to the man out of gratitude, and then went onwards.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Wonderful Musician“

„The Wonderful Musician“ is a fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in their famous collection, „Children’s and Household Tales“ (also known as „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“). This lesser-known story comes from the European oral tradition and showcases the power of music and the potential consequences of deception.

The story revolves around a talented musician who is looking for a companion to share and appreciate his music. To attract a companion, the musician plays his fiddle, and his enchanting music draws animals from the forest. First, a wolf appears, drawn by the music. The musician doesn’t want the wolf as a companion, so he tricks the wolf into tying its tail to a tree. As the musician continues to play, a fox is drawn to the music. Again, the musician decides he doesn’t want the fox as his companion and tricks it into getting its foot stuck in a trap.

Finally, a hare is attracted to the music. The musician, once again, decides he doesn’t want the animal as a companion and tricks the hare into running into a snare. As the story unfolds, a woodcutter hears the music and is drawn to the scene. The musician sees the woodcutter as a more suitable companion and asks him to join him. The woodcutter agrees, but only after freeing the trapped animals. In the end, the musician finds his desired companion but leaves behind a trail of deception.

The Brothers Grimm were scholars, linguists, and cultural researchers who aimed to preserve traditional stories that were passed down through generations via oral storytelling. Their work was part of the larger Romantic movement in Europe, which placed a great emphasis on folklore, mythology, and the study of cultural heritage. The Grimm brothers‘ collection of fairy tales has been translated into numerous languages and adapted into various forms of media, including plays, films, and television shows.

„The Wonderful Musician“ is a lesser-known tale in the Grimm collection, but it shares the common themes of many of their stories, such as the importance of human connections, the consequences of deception, and the power of art and music. As with other tales in their collection, „The Wonderful Musician“ reflects the cultural values and beliefs of its time and continues to offer lessons and insights for contemporary audiences. „The Wonderful Musician“ is a unique fairy tale that focuses on the power of music to bring people and animals together. It also serves as a cautionary tale about deception and manipulation. The story reminds readers to appreciate the companions they have rather than constantly seeking something or someone new.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Wonderful Musician“

„The Wonderful Musician“ is a lesser-known Brothers Grimm fairy tale that offers various themes and interpretations for readers to consider. Some of the key interpretations include:

Standing Up Against Evil: The wood-cutter’s act of defending the musician demonstrates the importance of standing up against wrongdoing or danger. His courage sends a message that individuals have the power to protect and support one another in the face of adversity.

The power of music: The story highlights the universal appeal of music and its ability to bring different creatures together. The musician’s enchanting melodies captivate the animals and the woodcutter, illustrating the potential for music to transcend barriers and unite diverse beings. The musician’s fiddle-playing has a profound effect on both the animals and the wood-cutter. This illustrates the power of art and music to evoke emotions, inspire action, and transcend barriers between different beings.

The consequences of deception: The musician uses his talent to deceive the animals, manipulating them into vulnerable positions. This theme serves as a cautionary tale, warning against the potential misuse of skills or talents to take advantage of others. Throughout the story, the musician repeatedly deceives the animals by tricking them into traps. This theme serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of deception and manipulation, demonstrating that such behavior may have negative consequences for both the deceiver and those who are deceived.

Companionship: The musician’s search for a companion emphasizes the human need for social interaction and connection. Despite encountering various creatures, the musician ultimately seeks a human companion, suggesting that he values a shared understanding and emotional connection. The musician’s primary motivation is to find a suitable companion to share his music with. This theme emphasizes the human need for companionship and the desire to connect with others who share our interests and passions.

The value of empathy and compassion: The musician’s lack of empathy for the animals he tricks can be seen as a negative trait that ultimately hinders his quest for companionship. The woodcutter, on the other hand, shows compassion by freeing the trapped animals. This contrast suggests that empathy and compassion are important virtues that can lead to more fulfilling relationships.

The danger of being overly selective: The musician’s search for a companion is marked by his constant dismissal of potential companions. His pickiness serves as a warning against being overly selective when seeking friends or partners, as this mindset may prevent one from appreciating the value of those who are already around them.

While „The Wonderful Musician“ is not as well-known as other Grimm fairy tales, its themes of music, deception, companionship, and compassion offer valuable insights and reflections for readers of all ages. Overall, „The Wonderful Musician“ can be seen as a story that explores the complexities of human relationships, the potential for deception, and the power of art to bring people together and inspire acts of courage.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The wonderful musician“

„The Wonderful Musician“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who were famous for their compilation of European folktales in the early 19th century. Their collection, titled „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ (Children’s and Household Tales), was first published in 1812 and includes some of the most well-known fairy tales, such as „Cinderella,“ „Hansel and Gretel,“ „Rapunzel,“ and „Snow White.“ „The Wonderful Musician“ is not as well-known or widely adapted as other Grimm fairy tales. However, there are still a few adaptations and references to the story in different media:

Films: The tale has been adapted into several films, including the 1956 Soviet animated film „The Wonderful Musician“ and the 2009 German film „The Musicians of Bremen.“

Television shows: The story has been adapted into various episodes of television shows, including „Faerie Tale Theater“ and „Shelley Duvall’s Tall Tales and Legends.“

Books and retellings: „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (2013) by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, illustrated by Arthur Rackham: This illustrated edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales features „The Wonderful Musician“ with Rackham’s iconic artwork, breathing new life into the story. There are numerous children’s book adaptations of the tale, including „The Wonderful Musician“ by L. Leslie Brooke and „The Musicians of Bremen“ by Ruth Belov Gross.

Audiobooks: Some audiobook collections of Grimm’s fairy tales include „The Wonderful Musician“ as part of the compilation. Professional narrators and storytellers bring the story to life through engaging voice acting, allowing listeners to experience the tale in a new format.

Puppet shows and theater: Local theater companies, puppet theaters, and storytelling groups occasionally perform adaptations of „The Wonderful Musician,“ particularly for children’s audiences. These performances often emphasize the themes of the power of music, companionship, and the consequences of deception.

Educational resources: Some educational materials and lesson plans on Grimm’s fairy tales include „The Wonderful Musician“ as an example for discussing themes like deception, the power of music, and companionship. Teachers may use the story to engage students in critical thinking and analysis of the text.

Operas and musicals: The tale has been adapted into several operas and musicals, including „The Cunning Little Vixen“ by Leos Janacek and „The Pied Piper of Hamelin“ by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Artwork: The tale has also been illustrated by various artists, including Arthur Rackham, who created a series of illustrations for „The Wonderful Musician“ in 1912.

While „The Wonderful Musician“ has not been adapted as widely as some other Grimm fairy tales, its themes and messages continue to find relevance in various forms of media and educational settings. Overall, „The Wonderful Musician“ has proven to be a popular and enduring tale that continues to inspire new adaptations and interpretations.

Summary of the plot

„The Wonderful Musician“ by Brothers Grimm tells the story of a skilled musician who seeks companionship in the forest. He plays his fiddle, attracting a wolf, a fox, and a hare in turn, but finds no satisfaction in their company. The musician tricks each animal into a bind, leaving them behind as he continues his search.

The wolf is trapped when the musician instructs him to put his paws in a hollow oak tree and then wedges them in with a stone. The fox is caught when the musician ties its paws to two opposing bent bushes, which he releases, leaving the fox suspended in the air. The hare is ensnared when the musician ties a string around its neck and a tree, and the hare winds the string around the tree trunk by running around it.

Eventually, the wolf frees himself and releases the other animals. Together, they seek revenge on the musician. Meanwhile, the musician’s fiddle-playing attracts a poor wood-cutter, who stands transfixed by the beautiful music. When the musician sees the approaching animals, the wood-cutter stands guard, his axe raised protectively. Frightened, the animals retreat into the forest. In gratitude, the musician plays one last tune for the wood-cutter before continuing on his way.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 8
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 151
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, HU, IT, JA, NL, KO, PL, RU, TR, VI, ZH
Readability Index by Björnsson29.5
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index80.1
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level6.8
Gunning Fog Index10.3
Coleman–Liau Index7.8
SMOG Index9.7
Automated Readability Index6.9
Character Count5.639
Letter Count4.267
Sentence Count56
Word Count1.066
Average Words per Sentence19,04
Words with more than 6 letters112
Percentage of long words10.5%
Number of Syllables1.353
Average Syllables per Word1,27
Words with three Syllables71
Percentage Words with three Syllables6.7%
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