USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘grimm brothers’
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Fisherman and His Wife

Text:

Informant: So anyways, it’s something to the effect of, I don’t remember it very well but it was, it was part of a theater thing that we did and apparently it’s a very old story where, like a fisherman catches like some magic fish that, he and his wife were kind of down on their luck, and the fisherman catches a magic fish and the magic fish gives him a wish every time he catches it, but the fish doesn’t like being caught. So, he gets, he gets them like I don’t know, just kind of enough to feed themselves for like however long they want to be fed because they were kind of born destitute and like need it. And he gets it. And then his wife starts to ask for like, more and more and starts to live a more and more lavish lifestyle, so every day he goes back and catches the fish and wishes for some new thing and the, and eventually the fish just gets fed up with it and takes everything away. And it’s kind of, I don’t know if I would call it, yeah sad, I guess it’s a little bit sexist because it’s one of those like “women are gold diggers” or whatever. That’s basically what the message of it is, but I guess in a larger sense, in just relating to the audience members regardless of gender, it’s just “don’t ask for too much” and “don’t get, don’t get caught up in wanting more when you already have everything you need.”

Context: The informant learned this story from a theater group in New Jersey, where he was told that it was a theater story. It had been passed down from other actors. This story was recorded by the Brothers Grimm in 1809 (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Von dem Fischer un syner FruKinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales — Grimms’ Fairy Tales), final edition (Berlin, 1857), no. 19.). That said, it likely has origins outside of the New Jersey theater community.

Analysis: I tend to agree with the second analysis given by the informant, with the sentiment of “don’t ask for too much.” While it is technically the wife’s desire to have more, that doesn’t mean that the husband isn’t also wanting the same things. At the same time, I also feel like the tale could show how hard work and persistence can lead to getting your goals (at least before they are taken away). Essentially, the idea is to know when one is successful enough to stop taking advantage of others to garner more success when it’s unnecessary. Overall, the idea of complacency and assuming that you can keep all good things is a theme of the tale that resonates with me, especially because of the emphasis on capitalist ideals in America.

general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The German Story of the Pied Piper

Transcribed Text:

“Well basically what happened is there was a town, in somewhere in Germany, that was infested by rats. And, uh, they had this huge rat problem. And they were like “oh crap, what are we going to do about this?” So they hired this man, (audience member mines a piper), yeah exactly, who um, who enchanted the rats by playing his, uh..whatever his piper or something like that. And all the rats follow him out of the city. And, um, so the town never paid him. And, uh, he got super pissed, so, during the night one night, he came back, and he enchanted all the children of the town, uh, to follow him out and that was their uh, punishment.”

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California and says that she has German heritage through her mother and grandparents. She learned of this story from her grandparents and says that it is a good story to teach people about karma and owing up to people. This piece of märchen uses the typical points, where there is a moral story in the end. It is clear to all audience members as well as the informant that this story does not contain real characters that existed at one point, but is of a made up fantasy realm where a piper can enchant rats and humans to do his bidding.

This piece of märchen is normally performed in a family setting from an adult to a child, according to the informant. It is usually told by a parent or grandparent to a young child to teach the lesson of being honest and and fair, so that one won’t be punished. This piece of folklore has also been found published by the Grimm brothers, and they tell a very similar version, though theirs have a lot more concentration on the motifs of the story, rather than the vague version the informant gave. It is obvious that the informant is not normally an active bearer of this story, as she tells it without much detail and with only general knowledge on the overarching themes and plot line.

Annotation: This story has been adapted into a film called “The Pied Piper” in 1972, directed by Jacques Demy.

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