The Merry Month of May

The Merry Month of May
Favorite Fairy Tales of All Time

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The German Fairy Tale of Hans-My-Hedgehog


Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 108: Hans-My-Hedgehog

Once there lived a farmer, who was blessed with plenty of money and property. But as rich as he was, there was one thing missing from his fortune: he and his wife had no children. Often when he went into the city with the other farmers, they mocked him and asked why he didn’t have any children. Finally he became so angry that one day when he returned home he said “I want a child, even if it’s a hedgehog.”

And so it was, his wife soon bore a son. But the top of the child’s body was a hedgehog and only the lower part was a boy. When the farmer’s wife saw the child, she recoiled and said “See what you have brought down upon us!”

The man replied “It's no use complaining now! The boy must be baptized and I doubt very much we will be able to find a godfather.”

His wife answered “That doesn’t matter because the only name we can use to baptize him is Hans-My-Hedgehog.”

When the child was baptized the pastor said “Because of the barbs on his back, he won’t be able to sleep in a real bed.” So, a little straw was placed behind the stove and Hans-My-Hedgehog was placed there. He couldn’t drink his mother’s milk because he would have pricked her with his barbs. So he lay behind the stove for eight years. His father became tired of him and thought if only he would die. He didn’t die, but remained lying there.

Now it happened that there was a market in the city and the farmer wanted to go. He asked his wife what he should bring her. “A bit of meat and a few rolls, those things we need for our household,” she answered.

Then he asked the maid. She wanted slippers and a few socks.

Finally he asked “Hans-My-Hedgehog, what do you want?” “Dear father,” he said “Bring me a bagpipe.”

When the farmer returned home, he gave his wife what he had purchased, meat and bread. Then he gave the maid the slippers and stockings. Finally he went behind the stove and gave Hans-My-Hedgehog the bagpipe. And when Hans-My-Hedgehog had the bagpipe, he said “Dear father, go to the smithy and have him shoe my rooster, because I want to ride away and never more return.” The father was pleased that he would be rid of him and had the rooster shod. When it was finished, Hans-My-Hedgehog mounted the bird and rode away. He took with him several pigs and donkeys, which he wanted to graze in the forest. Once in the forest, the rooster flew with him up into a high tree. There he sat and guarded the donkeys and pigs and sat many years until, finally, the herd was very large. But his father didn’t know anything about him. As he passed his time sitting in the tree, he blew into his bagpipe and made music and it was very beautiful. Once a king came riding by. He became lost and heard the music. In amazement, he sent his servant and said he should look around and see where the music was coming from. But the servant found nothing else than a small animal sitting up in a tree. It looked like a rooster on which a hedgehog sat playing music. The king told his servant he should ask why he was sitting there and whether he knew the way back to his kingdom. Hans-My-Hedgehog climbed down from the tree and said he would show the way if the king would promise to write down and promise to him the first thing he encountered at the royal court when he returned home. The king thought “That will be easy. Hans-My-Hedgehog can’t read and I can write down whatever I want.” The king took a quill and some ink and wrote something down and when it was done, Hans-My-Hedgehog showed him the way and he arrived happily at home. But it was his daughter who saw him from afar and was so happy that she ran to meet him and kissed him. The king thought about Hans-My-Hedgehog and told her what had happened and that the strange creature told him to write down the first thing he encountered. And the little animal sat on a rooster like a horse and played pretty music. He intended to write down something but Hans-My-Hedgehog couldn’t read it anyway. The princess was happy with this solution and said, she never wanted to leave the king’s castle.

But Hans-My-Hedgehog continued to tend the donkeys and pigs and was content. He sat in the tree and blew his bagpipe. Now it happened that another king was passing through the forest. He soon got lost with his servants and runners and entourage. In utter dismay, he wandered about the woods because they were so immense. All at once he heard beautiful music in the distance and commanded his runner and to go and ask what it was. The runner went and in the tree he found Hans-My-Hedgehog sitting on the rooster. The runner asked him what he was doing. “I am guarding my donkeys and pigs; but what are you doing?” The runner said, that the king and his companions were lost and could not find the way back to their kingdom. Couldn’t Hans-My-Hedgehog show them the way?

Hans-My-Hedgehog climbed down from the tree and said to the old king, he would show him the way if he would give him the first thing he encountered once he was home and standing before his royal castle. The king said “yes” and promised Hans-My-Hedgehog that he should have it. After this had happened, the king arrived happily again at his kingdom. When he entered the court, the people were jubilant. Now his only daughter, who was very beautiful, ran to meet him, embraced him and rejoiced that her father had returned. She also asked him where he had been so long and he told her. He had become lost and almost wouldn’t have returned if he hadn’t met a creature, half hedgehog, half man, sitting on a rooster up in a high tree, playing beautiful music. This creature helped him and showed the way home. In return he promised to give him the first thing he encountered once he had returned to his royal castle. That thing was his daughter. But she promised him, she would gladly go, because she loved her father so dearly.

But Hans-My-Hedgehog tended his pigs and the pigs in turn had more pigs and their numbers grew until the entire forest was filled with them. Hans-My-Hedgehog no longer wanted to live in the forest and sent word to his father, they should clear the stable in the village. He was returning with such a large herd, that each person could slaughter whatever he wanted. His father was saddened, when he heard this news, because he thought Hans-my-Hedgehog had died a long time ago. But Hans-My-Hedgehog sat on his rooster, drove the pigs back to the village and had them slaughtered: Hu! That was a feast day and it took several hours for the work to be done. Afterward Hans-My-Hedgehog said “Dear father, let me have my rooster shoed once more by the smithy, because I want to ride away and will never return as long as I live.” His father had the rooster shoed and was happy that Hans-My-Hedgehog wouldn’t return again.

Hans-My-Hedgehog rode away to the first king’s castle. The old king there had commanded that if a creature came riding on a rooster and if he had a bagpipe, then everyone should shoot at him, hew and stab so that he could not enter the castle. When Hans-My-Hedgehog came riding, they thrust their bayonets toward him, but he gave the rooster the spur and flew up over the gate before the king’s window. There he landed and called to him, that the king should now deliver what he had promised. Otherwise, he would take the lives of the king and his daughter both.

The king spoke soothing words to his daughter. She should go out to him to save both their lives. She put on a white dress and her father gave her a wagon with six horses, wonderful servants, money and property. She mounted the carriage and next to her were Hans-My-Hedgehog, his rooster and bagpipe. They then said goodbye and departed. But the king thought gleefully to himself, he was now rid of them and would never see them again. But things happened a bit differently from what he thought. When they were a short distance from the city, Hans-My-Hedgehog bristled his barbs and poked her all over with his hedgehog skin. Soon her clothes were ripped to shreds and she was covered in blood. “That is the reward for your falseness. Now go back, I don’t want you,” he said. And he chased her home and she was held in contempt her entire life long.

Hans-My-Hedgehog rode on with his rooster and bagpipe to the second kingdom, where the old king lived, to whom he had also shown the way. But this king commanded that when Hans-My-Hedgehog arrived, they should display royal arms and escort him in. Call out Vive! And bring him into the castle in pomp and ceremony. When the king’s daughter saw him, she became terrified because of the oddity of the creature’s shape. But a promise is a promise and it could not be changed. She welcomed Hans-My-Hedgehog and they were married. He sat at the royal table and she sat by his side. They ate and drank together side-by-side.

When night fell, they wanted to go to sleep. She feared his barbs but he said, she should not be fearful and she would not be harmed. He told the old king, four men should stand guard outside their chamber door and make a huge fire. When he entered the chamber and wanted to go to bed, he would take off his hedgehog skin and place it next to the bed. The men should then come quickly and throw the skin into the fire and wait until it was entirely consumed by the flames.

When the clock struck eleven, Hans-My-Hedgehog went into the bedchamber, took off his hedgehog skin and placed it beside the bed. The men came and quickly threw it into the fire. When the fire had consumed it, he was redeemed. He lay in bed entirely in the shape of a man. However, his skin had been burned as black as charcoal. The king sent him his doctor, who washed him and rubbed him with salve and oil until his complexion was clear and fresh like a beautiful young man. When the king’s daughter saw him, she rejoiced. The next morning they rose in happiness, ate, and drank and only then was the wedding feast celebrated. Hans-My-Hedgehog received the kingdom from the old king.

After many years passed, Hans-My-Hedgehog led his wife back to his father and told him that he was his son. But the father said, he didn’t have a son. He only had one a long time ago. But he was a hedgehog, born with barbs all over his body. He had left him a long time ago and went out into the world. The son then revealed himself to his father and the father rejoiced and returned with him to his kingdom.

Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org

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1 comment:

Glen said...

A wonderful, if a bit strange, story. :)