Illustration: The Robber Bridegroom

Illustration from Grimm's Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Helen Stratton, illustrator. London: Blackie & Son, 1903.

Photo source: SurLaLune Fairy Tales

It’s October, a time for spooky reads, and as I’ve learned in the last couple of years, some of the scariest stories are fairy tales. “The Robber Bridegroom,” told by the Brothers Grimm, involves murder, cannibalism, and a creepy old woman.

The story starts off in a conventional way, a miller decides to marry his daughter off to a rich suitor. The daughter is not happy about this arrangement, but doesn’t have much choice in the matter. One day, her fiancé claims she never visits him and insists that she come next Sunday, when he will have guests visiting. He leaves a trail of ashes for her to follow through the wood to her house. The girl, quite rightly, feels uneasy about this but goes on to the house anyway. Stupid!

She walks and walks and finally ends up at a lonely house int he middle of the dark wood. It looks like no one is home and a bird in a cage warns her, “Turn back, turn back, young maiden dear, ‘Tis a murderer’s house you enter here.”

Fairy tale women should really learn to listen to warnings, whether it be from animals or people. This young woman doesn’t, of course. Instead she goes into the house, searches  through room after room finding no one until she reaches the cellar, where an old woman sits. The young lady asks if this is her bridegroom’s house and the old woman tells her that it is a murder’s house. “Thou thinkest thou art a bride soon to be married, but thou wilt keep thy wedding with death. Look, I have been forced to put a great kettle on there, with water in it, and when they have thee in their power, they will cut thee to pieces without mercy, will cook thee, and eat thee, for they are eaters of human flesh. If I do not have compassion on thee, and save thee, thou art lost.”

The old woman hides her, and shortly the men came back, including the fiancé, all drunk and dragging a screaming girl in with them. The men give this girl something to drink that kills her, lay her on a table, rip off her clothes and cut her body into pieces, and liberally salted it. One of the robbers cuts off the girls finger because it has a ring on it that won’t come off and the finger flies to where the young woman is hiding. The old woman though convinces him not to look for it until the morning.

The robbers eat and then fall asleep, helped along by a draught the old woman put in their drink. Both women escape during the night, and arrive at the mill. The young woman tells her father all that happened.

On the day of the wedding celebration, the bridegroom, the miller, his daughter, family and friends all sit around a table. The young woman tells of her experiences, relating it as a dream she had, until at the end with a flourish she presents the finger with the ring.

The robber, who had during this story become as pale as ashes, leapt up and wanted to escape, but the guests held him fast, and delivered him over to justice. Then he and his whole troop were executed for their infamous deeds.

Halloweeny enough?

You can read the whole story several places, including here. The version I read was from Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, translated by Margaret Hunt, published 1884 and 1892 in two volumes.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.