Statue by Gerhard Marcks located in Bremen, Germany

“The Bremen Town Musicians”
by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Today’s story features four old animals, a donkey, a dog, a cat and a crow. All are going to be killed by their respective masters because they are too old or tired to do their jobs in the household.

The donkey is the first animal. He decides that he will run away and be a town musician in Bremen. Along the way, he meets the other critters and they each join him. The friends stop for the night and find a little house, who’s light gives them the hope of a warm place to sleep and a bite to eat. Looking in the window, though, the donkey sees that, while the table is covered with good things to eat, the house is filled with robbers. The animals come up with a plan and stand at the window, each on top of the other as in the statue above.

When this was done, at a given signal, they began to perform their music together: the donkey brayed, the hound barked, the cat mewed, and the cock crowed; then they burst through the window into the room, so that the glass clattered! At this horrible din, the robbers sprang up, thinking no otherwise than that a ghost had come in, and fled in a great fright out into the forest. The four companions now sat down at the table, well content with what was left, and ate as if they were going to fast for a month.

Eventually the animals find places to sleep. The robbers see the house is now dark and one is sent to see if they can go back, but he is frightened off by the animals, and the robbers never return again. The four musicians though decided they liked there new home and never did finish the trip to Bremen.

It interesting to note that in the beginning, the humans are in charge, are going to kill the animals who have outlived their usefulness, but by the end the animals are the ones in control, scaring people from the house.

While the donkey does have a strong kick, I would say that the animals are weaker than their owners and the band of robbers, so once again we have a fairy tale where the underdog comes out on top. Of course, the animals have to work together, something the robbers for example are not capable of doing. While the animals make a plan and all participate, using their own strengths, the bandits flee in a disorganized mess when the tower crashes through the window. And only one robber is sent after the animals are asleep. He is easily scared off while a whole group of them could have overpowered the minstrels.

Jane Yolen retells the story faithfully in The Musicians Of Bremen. It’s simply told and stays true to the original. The illustrations are cute enough but not outstanding. I have a couple of other picture book retellings of the story on hold at the library; I’m hoping that when they come in one will be more striking than this was. I did enjoy the last sentence in this version though.

And they never needed to go to Bremen to make music—which would have brought the people of Bremen great relief, had they but known. (pg. 27)

You can find the original story several places, including here.

Tif, from Tif Talks Books, is the hostess of this great feature, Fairy Tale Fridays. Head over there to see her take on “The Bremen Town Musicians” and to share your own thoughts. Next week we’ll be looking at “The Invisible One and The Rough-Faced Girl” or another Native American Tale.

The Musicians of Bremen was published March 18, 1996 by Simon & Schuster Childrens
29 pages

Challenges: 100+

I borrowed by copy of The Musicians of Bremen from the library and the above is my honest opinion. I am an Amazon associate.