Paul Friedrich Meyerheim, 1890
Paul Friedrich Meyerheim, 1890

I know it’s Friday, but I had a spotlight scheduled for yesterday so I pushed my weekly tale back to today.

“The Death of the Little Hen” is one of the Grimms’ stories that I’d never heard before. It’s not a happy tale, starting out with the hen’s death and ending with the line “And then everyone was  dead.” Lovely, huh?

The little hen and a little rooster go to Nut Mountain and agree to share a nut when they find one, but when the hen finds a big nut she decides to be selfish and keep it all for herself and swallows it whole. And chokes on it. She sends the rooster for water and he runs off to the well, but the well sends him to the bride and she sends him to the willow and all in all by the time he gets back, the hen’s dead.

The little rooster was very sad. Six mice built a carriage, hitched themselves up to it and, with the rooster as driver, carried the hen to her grave. Along the way, a fox asks to join them, and the rooster agrees, telling him he must sit on the back. Eventually, all the animals of the forest, the bear, the wolf, the lion, joined on the back too. Those poor mice. Why the other animals just couldn’t walk behind the carriage in a kind of funeral parade, I’m not sure.

They came to a brook and didn’t know how to get across. A straw offered to lay down over it, but when the mice attempted to cross, the straw slipped into the water and all the mice drowned. Next a coal attempted to lay itself in the water for the carriage to cross over, but as soon as it touched the water it hissed out and died. Finally a stone positioned itself across the water and the rooster pulling the carriage had almost reached the other side when the weight of all the animals on the back made the carriage roll backwards and all the animals on the back fell off into the water and drowned.

The little rooster made it across the brook with the dead hen. He dug a grave for her, buried her and sat on top of the mound and grieved until he died, too. “And then everyone was  dead.”

No wonder this is not one of the more often told stores. It’s just sad. Everyone dies because the hen was selfish in the beginning. You can read the whole short story 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.


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