Town Musicians of Bremen by the Grimm Brothers
The Brothers Grimm (not to be confused with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger) were German academics and authors who together collected and published folklore. They may need little to no introduction as they are known among the best-known storytellers of folk tales having popularized stories such as Cinderella, Handsel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, Sleepy Beauty… any of those sound familiar?
However, The Brothers Grimm also published a potentially lesser-known story, “Town Musicians of Bremen”, in 1819, which was based on the account of Dorothea Viehmann, a German storyteller. This story is quite fascinating and I am honestly surprised Disney didn’t pick it up and make a movie out of it. It has everything a good Disney movie needs: dead parents (in this case horrible owners), loveable main character (in this case 4), evil opponents, the power of love and friendship, discovering one’s own path, transformation, good over evil, and a happy ending.
So, for those who have not heard of it, here’s the brief (not so brief) summary: The tale follows the life of a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster. These four animals had all passed their prime years in life and usefulness in their respective farms, were being mistreated, and would soon be discarded (you know what I mean) by their owners. So, as any sane person (or animal) would do, they decide to leave their horrible homes and set out together to carve out their own path. They decided to live without owners and becomes musicians in no other place than Bremen, a place known for its freedom.
On their way to Bremen, they see a cottage and when they look inside, they see three rotten robbers enjoying their undeserved gains. Right then and there they decide to scare the robbers away by making a horrid sound. They stand on each other’s backs (Donkey at the base, followed by dog, followed by cat, and finally the rooster on top) and make a din. The men, terrified not knowing what noise that is or what could have made it, run for their lives. The animals take possession of the house, eat the good, warm meal left behind by the robbers, and settle down for the evening. Sounds like a pretty happy ending, right? Right, but as any good story would have it, this is just the beginning.
The robbers decide they will not go down without a fight so, later that night, they return to the cottage and send one of the members in to investigate. As the robber looks inside the window, all he sees in the pitch black are burning of coals on fire. He reaches over to light his candle, but didn’t realize those were no coals at all, but the cat’s eyes shining in the darkness. What happens next, happens very quickly: the cat scratches his face with its claws, the dog bites him on the leg, the donkey kicks him with his hooves, and the rooster crows and chases him out! Talk about these animals being passed their prime and usefulness. The terrified robber then runs off (honestly, I’m just surprised he got up so quickly after being kicked by a donkey) and tells his companions what happened, but his story goes a little like this: He says he encountered a horrible witch who had scratched him with her long fingernails, a dwarf who attacked him with a knife, a black monster who hit him with a club, and worst of all there was a judge calling out from the rooftop. The terrified robbers have no other option than to abandon the cottage to these strange creatures, leaving the cottage once and for all for the animals live happily ever after.
Great story, right? But you know what makes it even better? Good morals. So here are a few: A clear lesson in this story is respect for our elders. This helps to show that age comes with wisdom. All the animals in the story may not have been as strong as they once were, but they were wiser. So much so that they were able to outsmart the robbers who were stronger than them. It also shows an important lesson about teamwork. On their own, these animals may not have been able to achieve much, but together, they succeeded and thrived. And lastly, family is those you choose, those who support you, and help you along the way.
For this reason, there have been many screen and stage adaptations, musicals, theatre plays, operas, video games, paintings and sculptures about this tale. So it comes to no surprise that one of our Haitian partners, Davidson Saint Fort, created a beautiful representation of these Town Musicians of Bremen, which honestly has to be one of our favorites, and can now be displayed in your home!