Tales of the Brothers Grimm

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

Hans the Hedgehog, cont.

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 900 words.

Even though you might not be familiar with the story of Hans the Hedgehog, you are probably recognizing some motifs that are familiar to you from other stories that you know - the parents who cannot have children, the miraculous (and, in this case, weird!) birth of a child, the child who is cast away, the bizarre present requested, the hero setting out on a journey... and now Hans is sitting there up in the tree, playing his music. What are the kinds of things that you think might happen next?

Once a king came traveling by who had lost his way and heard the music. He was astonished at it, and sent his servant forth to look all round and see from whence this music came. He spied about, but saw nothing but a little animal sitting up aloft on the tree, which looked like a cock with a hedgehog on it which made this music. Then the king told the servant he was to ask why he sat there, and if he knew the road which led to his kingdom.

So Hans the hedgehog descended from the tree, and said he would show the way if the king would write a bond and promise him whatever he first met in the royal courtyard as soon as he arrived at home.

Then the king thought, I can easily do that; Hans the hedgehog understands nothing, and I can write what I like. So the king took pen and ink and wrote something, and when he had done it, Hans the hedgehog showed him the way, and he got safely home.

But his daughter, when she saw him from afar, was so overjoyed that she ran to meet him, and kissed him. Then he remembered Hans the hedgehog, and told her what had happened, and that he had been forced to promise whatsoever first met him when he got home, to a very strange animal which sat on a cock as if it were a horse, and made beautiful music, but that instead of writing that he should have what he wanted, he had written that he should not have it. Thereupon the princess was glad, and said he had done well, for she never would have gone away with the hedgehog.

Hans the hedgehog, however, looked after his asses and pigs, and was always merry and sat on the tree and played his bagpipes.

Now it came to pass that another king came journeying by with his attendants and runner, and he also had lost his way, and did not know how to get home again because the forest was so large. He likewise heard the beautiful music from a distance, and asked his runner what that could be, and told him to go and see. Then the runner went under the tree, and saw the cock sitting at the top of it, and Hans the hedgehog on the cock. The runner asked him what he was doing up there.

"I am keeping my asses and my pigs, but what is your desire."

The messenger said that they had lost their way, and could not get back into their own kingdom, and asked if he would not show them the way. Then Hans the hedgehog descended the tree with the cock, and told the aged king that he would show him the way, if he would give him for his own whatsoever first met him in front of his royal palace. The king said, "Yes," and wrote a promise to Hans the hedgehog that he should have this. That done, Hans rode on before him on the cock, and pointed out the way, and the king reached his kingdom again in safety. When he got to the courtyard, there were great rejoicings.

Now he had an only daughter who was very beautiful; she ran to meet him, threw her arms round his neck, and was delighted to have her old father back again. She asked him where in the world he had been so long. So he told her how he had lost his way, and had very nearly not come back at all, but that as he was traveling through a great forest, a creature, half hedgehog, half man, who was sitting astride a cock in a high tree, and making music, had shown him the way and helped him to get out, but that in return he had promised him whatsoever first met him in the royal court-yard, and how that was she herself, which made him unhappy now. But on this she promised that, for love of her father, she would willingly go with this Hans if he came.

Hans the hedgehog, however, took care of his pigs, and the pigs became more pigs until there were so many in number that the whole forest was filled with them. Then Hans the hedgehog resolved not to live in the forest any longer, and sent word to his father to have every stye in the village emptied, for he was coming with such a great herd that all might kill who wished to do so.

When his father heard that, he was troubled, for he thought Hans the hedgehog had died long ago. Hans the hedgehog, however, seated himself on the cock, and drove the pigs before him into the village, and ordered the slaughter to begin.

Ha. - Then there was a butchery and a chopping that might have been heard two miles off. After this Hans the hedgehog said, "Father, let me have the cock shod once more at the forge, and then I will ride away and never come back as long as I live." Then the father had the cock shod once more, and was pleased that Hans the hedgehog would never return again.

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

  • what did the first king promise to Hans? how did he trick Hans?
  • what did the second king promise to Hans? what did that king do when he got home?
  • why did Hans return to the village? did his father now want him to stay or go?

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