Tales of the Brothers Grimm

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

Hans the Hedgehog, cont.

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 800 words.

How would you characterize Hans at this point: what kind of "personality" does he have? What does he want from the other characters that he comes into contact with? How does Hans expect to be treated? How do other people treat him? Decide what you think of Hans from his behavior in the story so far, and then see how he deals with the first king who owes him a reward, and with the second king, and with his father once again.

Hans the hedgehog rode away to the first kingdom. There the king had commanded that whosoever came mounted on a cock and had bagpipes with him should be shot at, cut down, or stabbed by everyone, so that he might not enter the palace. When, therefore, Hans the hedgehog came riding thither, they all pressed forward against him with their pikes, but he spurred the cock and it flew up over the gate in front of the king's window and lighted there, and Hans cried that the king must give him what he had promised, or he would take both his life and his daughter's.

Then the king began to speak to his daughter, and to beg her to go away with Hans in order to save her own life and her father's. So she dressed herself in white, and her father gave her a carriage with six horses and magnificent attendants together with gold and possessions. She seated herself in the carriage, and placed Hans the hedgehog beside her with the cock and the bagpipes, and then they took leave and drove away, and the king thought he should never see her again.

But he was deceived in his expectation for when they were at a short distance from the town, Hans the hedgehog took her pretty clothes off, and pierced her with his hedgehog's spikes until she bled all over. "That is the reward of your falseness," said he. "Go your way; I will not have you," and on that he chased her home again, and she was disgraced for the rest of her life.

Hans the hedgehog, however, rode on further on the cock, with his bagpipes, to the dominions of the second king to whom he had shown the way. But this one had arranged that if any one resembling Hans the hedgehog should come, they were to present arms, give him safe conduct, cry long life to him, and lead him to the royal palace.

But when the king's daughter saw him she was terrified, for he really looked too strange. Then she remembered that she could not change her mind, for she had given her promise to her father.

So Hans the hedgehog was welcomed by her, and married to her, and had to go with her to the royal table, and she seated herself by his side, and they ate and drank. When the evening came and they wanted to go to sleep, she was afraid of his quills, but he told her she was not to fear, for no harm would befall her, and he told the old king that he was to appoint four men to watch by the door of the chamber, and light a great fire, and when he entered the room and was about to get into bed, he would creep out of his hedgehog's skin and leave it lying there by the bedside, and that the men were to run nimbly to it, throw it in the fire, and stay by it until it was consumed.

When the clock struck eleven, he went into the chamber, stripped off the hedgehog's skin, and left it lying by the bed. Then came the men and fetched it swiftly, and threw it in the fire, and when the fire had consumed it, he was saved, and lay there in bed in human form, but he was coal-black as if he had been burnt.

The king sent for his physician who washed him with precious salves, and anointed him, and he became white, and was a handsome young man. When the king's daughter saw that, she was glad, and the next morning they arose joyfully, ate and drank, and then the marriage was properly solemnized, and Hans the hedgehog received the kingdom from the aged king.

When several years had passed he went with his wife to his father, and said that he was his son. The father, however, declared he had no son - he had never had but one, and he had been born like a hedgehog with spikes, and had gone forth into the world. Then Hans made himself known, and the old father rejoiced and went with him to his kingdom.

My tale is done, and away it has run to little Augusta's house.

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

  • how did Hans get his revenge on the first king and his daughter? how did the second king treat Hans?
  • what happened to Hans when his hedgehog skin was burned? how was he cured?
  • how did the father react when Hans went back to his old village?

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