Tales of the Brothers Grimm

Week 10: European Fairy Tales - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

Hans the Hedgehog

Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 600 words.

The first two stories you read - "Red Riding Hood" and "Hansel and Grethel" - were probably already familiar to you. But "Hans the Hedgehog" is probably something new - unless you were lucky enough to see the amazing adaptation of this story by Jim Henson in his "Storyteller" television series.

There was once a country man who had money and land in plenty, but however rich he was, his happiness was still lacking in one respect - he had no children. Often when he went into the town with the other peasants they mocked him and asked why he had no children. At last he became angry, and when he got home he said, "I will have a child, even if it be a hedgehog."

Then his wife had a child that was a hedgehog in the upper part of his body and a boy in the lower, and when she saw the child, she was terrified, and said, "See, there you have brought ill-luck on us."

Then said the man, "What can be done now? The boy must be christened, but we shall not be able to get a godfather for him."

The woman said, "And we cannot call him anything else but Hans the hedgehog."

When he was christened, the parson said, "He cannot go into any ordinary bed because of his spikes." So a little straw was put behind the stove, and Hans the hedgehog was laid on it. His mother could not suckle him, for he would have pricked her with his quills. So he lay there behind the stove for eight years, and his father was tired of him and thought, if he would but die. He did not die, however, but remained lying there.

Now it happened that there was a fair in the town, and the peasant was about to go to it, and asked his wife what he should bring back with him for her. "A little meat and a couple of white rolls which are wanted for the house," said she.

Then he asked the servant, and she wanted a pair of slippers and some stockings with clocks.

At last he said also, "And what will you have, Hans my hedgehog?" "Dear father," he said, "do bring me bagpipes."

When, therefore, the father came home again, he gave his wife what he had bought for her, meat and white rolls, and then he gave the maid the slippers, and the stockings with clocks, and, lastly, he went behind the stove, and gave Hans the hedgehog the bagpipes.

And when Hans the hedgehog had the bagpipes, he said, "Dear father, do go to the forge and get the cock shod, and then I will ride away, and never come back again."

At this, the father was delighted to think that he was going to get rid of him, and had the cock shod for him, and when it was done, Hans the hedgehog got on it, and rode away, but took swine and asses with him which he intended to keep in the forest.

When they got there he made the cock fly on to a high tree with him, and there he sat for many a long year, and watched his asses and swine until the herd was quite large, and his father knew nothing about him.

And while he was sitting in the tree, he played his bagpipes, and made music which was very beautiful.

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • how did the peasant come to have a child who was half-human, half-hedgehog?
  • what did Hans ride on when he went out into the world?
  • what kind of music did Hans make?

Source: Margaret Hunt, Tales Collected by the Brothers Grimm (1884). Weblink. online at William Barker's website).

Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM