The Bremen Town Musicians

By Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Illustrated by Frédéric-Charles Wentzel

The ass, the dog, the cat and the cock dressed as musicians, playing their instruments

There was once an ass whose master had made him carry sacks to the mill for many a long year, but whose strength began at last to fail, so that each day as it came, found him less capable of work. Then his master began to think of turning him out, but the ass, guessing that something was in the wind that boded him no good, ran away, taking the road to Bremen; for there he thought he might get an engagement as town musician.

When he had gone a little way he found a hound lying by the side of the road panting, as if he had run a long way. “Now, Holdfast, what are you so out of breath about?” said the ass.

“Oh dear!” said the dog, “now I am old, I get weaker every day, and can do no good in the hunt, so, as my master was going to have me killed, I have made my escape; but now how am I to gain a living?”

“I will tell you what,” said the ass, “I am going to Bremen to become town musician. You may as well go with me, and take up music too. I can play the lute, and you can beat the drum.” And the dog consented, and they walked on together.

It was not long before they came to a cat sitting in the road, looking as dismal as three wet days. “Now then, what is the matter with you, old shaver?” said the ass.

“I should like to know who would be cheerful when his neck is in danger?” answered the cat. “Now that I am old my teeth are getting blunt, and I would rather sit by the oven and purr than run about after mice, and my mistress wanted to drown me, so I took myself off; but good advice is scarce, and I do not know what is to become of me.”

“Go with us to Bremen,” said the ass, “and become town musician. You understand serenading.” The cat thought well of the idea, and went with them accordingly.

After that the three travelers passed by a yard, and a cock was perched on the gate crowing with all his might. “Your cries are enough to pierce bone and marrow,” said the ass; “what is the matter?”

“I have foretold good weather for Lady-day, so that all the shirts may be washed and dried; and now on Sunday morning company is coming, and the mistress has told the cook that I must be made into soup, and this evening my neck is to be wrung, so that I am crowing with all my might while I can.”

“You had much better go with us, Chanticleer,” said the ass. “We are going to Bremen. At any rate that will be better than dying. You have a powerful voice, and when we are all performing together it will have a very good effect.” So the cock consented, and they went on all four together.

But Bremen was too far off to be reached in one day, and towards evening they came to a wood, where they determined to pass the night. The ass and the dog lay down under a large tree; the cat got up among the branches; and the cock flew up to the top, as that was the safest place for him. Before he went to sleep he looked all round him to the four points of the compass, and perceived in the distance a little light shining, and he called out to his companions that there must be a house not far off, as he could see a light, so the ass said, “We had better get up and go there, for these are uncomfortable quarters.” The dog began to fancy a few bones, not quite bare, would do him good. And they all set off in the direction of the light, and it grew larger and brighter, until at last it led them to a robber’s house, all lighted up. The ass, being the biggest, went up to the window, and looked in.

“Well, what do you see?” asked the dog. “What do I see?” answered the ass; “here is a table set out with splendid eatables and drinkables, and robbers sitting at it and making themselves very comfortable.” “That would just suit us,” said the cock. “Yes, indeed, I wish we were there,” said the ass.

From Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (Garden City, N.Y.: International Collectors Library, 1900)

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