Illustration from Greg Luzniak’s Three Goats Gruff –

“How the Goats Came to Hessen” is a German tale told in Sagen Gebräuche und Märchen aus Westfalen und einigen andern, besonders den angrenzenden Gegenden Norddeutschlands by Adalbert Kuhn, 1859. The version I read was a translation by D. L. Ashliman. It’s a bit like the “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” but this time around cleverness wins rather than pure size and strength.

Hessen is apparently a lovely area, but it was surrounded by giant forests. As any reader of fairy tales knows, scary dangerous things live in the woods, in this case it’s wolves. Many goat families who attempted to enter Hessen were devoured by the wolves.

One day a week little kid goat was trying to get to Hessen. Almost immediately after he entered the woods, he was met by a wolf. The kid told the wolf that his mother was coming, and the wolf decided to wait and eat the mother who would be bigger and make a better meal. When the mother goat appeared, the wolf readied to pounce on her, but she exclaimed that her husband was coming. The wolf is not very smart and decided to wait for the father, who would be bigger and a better meal.

Along comes father goat. He is bigger, but the wolf noticed two things, the spikes on the ram’s head and the bag between his legs.  A little coarse there, eh? He asks the ram about them and the ram replies that the spikes are pistols and the bag is where he carries his powder and lead. When the ram rubbed his horn against his side, the wolf thought he was loading his pistol and ran away before he got shot.

The whole family of goats arrived safely in Hessen. Their descendants multiplied and soon Hessen had a surplus of goats every year to provide to its neighbors.

I like that the family out-witted the goat. Intelligence, cunning or cleverness often wins out over strength and size in fairy tales. Wolves are often the bad guys, aren’t they?

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


    • From Wikipedia – “Handheld firearms were first made in China where gunpowder was first developed. They were hand cannons (although they were not necessarily fired from the hand, but rather at the end of a handle). By the 14th century, they existed in Europe as well. The first handheld firearms that might better be called “pistols” were made as early as the 15th century, but their creator is unknown.”

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