The Seven Kids
The Seven Kids

Illustration by Paul Meyerheim, from Children’s and Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, published in 1890 by C. Bertelsmann in Gütersloh.

The title of today’s tale. “The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids” is a little worrying, and it’s a Grimm tale, which doesn’t help. We know wolves eat people and animals, remember “Little Red Riding Hood” and the “The Story of the Three Little Pigs,” and seven young kids, goats is case you were worried, would be very tempting.

There is a loving mother goat who has seven kids. She has to leave home and go into the woods to get some food. Notice the woods, a dangerous place as we know. Before she leaves, she warns them to be on guard against the wolf, telling them he can be cunning but they would be able to recognize him by his rough and black feet.

Soon after she leaves the house, wolf knocks on the door and wants to enter. The kids don’t let him in and tell him his voice is too rough. So he changes his voice and tries again, but this time his black paw with claws revealed him. The wolf gets some flour and knocks again with white paws, similar to their mother’s. Entering the house in disguise, rather like the witch in “Little Snow White.” The  kids open the door, quickly realizing their mistake. They try to hide, but the wolf eats all but the youngest, who hides in the clock. The youngest in fairy tales usually is the one to survive, to conquer, to be the hero.

Soon after mother returns and discovers open door and the mess in the house. The youngest kid tells her what happened and together they find a wolf in the meadow sleeping with a full stomach. Mother goat cuts his belly open with scissors, freeing the six kids, who are still alive and unhurt. Together they then load the wolf’s stomach with stones. When the wolf wakes up he’s very thirsty so he goes to the well. The heavy stones make him fall in and drown miserable.

“When the seven kids saw that, they came running to the spot and cried aloud, ‘The wolf is dead! The wolf is dead!’ and danced for joy round about the well with their mother.” This end bothers me. Yes, they’re happy, but i think I just have a problem with singing and dancing with joy at any death. I’m sure that would be different if it was a beast who had eaten me and I had just been miraculously rescued.

Usually I only look at these tales in the context of other fairy tales. This one, like “Little Red Riding Hood,” warns us that just because a person (animal) appears harmless, we shouldn’t let down our guard, and we need to be aware because there won’t always be someone else to protect us.

I did run into an interesting connection to mythology while I was looking at this story. Several sources point out its connection to the story of Cronus in Greek mythology. Cronus was a son of Uranus (sky) and Gaia (earth). He became the ruler by overthrowing his father and it was predicted his son would do the same to him. Fairy tales have predictions occasionally to, like in “Sleeping Beauty” where the King tries everything he can to avoid the predicted event. Cronos is just as desperate to avoid the predicted fate. He ate all his children right after they were born, the least the first five. The sixth was hidden by Cronus’s wife and sister, Rhea. Instead of a child she gave to Cronus a stone wrapped in some clothes, which he ate. So we’ve got a stone in his stomach, too.  Cronus’ sixth child was Zeus, who eventually defeated his father. In some versions, he cuts Cronus’ stomach and rescued his siblings. Very similar, wouldn’t you say? I’ll grant you the wolf was obvioulsy not the kids’ father, but he is the only adult role model in the story.

You can read “The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids” several places on-line, including here.

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

This was my fourth short story for R.I.P. VII, a reading event embracing the ghastly and ghostly, mysterious and grim. R.I.P. VII is hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.

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