Grimms' Fairy Tales (Selected) | Study Guide

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

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Grimms' Fairy Tales (Selected) | Quotes


Where's my child? Where's my fawn? One more time, and then I'm gone.

Little Sister, Little Brother and Little Sister

This odd little speech is made by a murdered queen whose ghost returns three times to visit her baby. The queen's pet fawn is actually her brother, under an enchantment, and she's worried about him too. The tale is one of the strangest in the Grimm canon, but the queen's love for her relatives shines through and, in the end, restores her to life.


All I have is an ashcake and sour beer. But if you don't mind, let's sit down together and eat it.

Dummy, The Golden Goose

Dummy, the last and least significant of the three boys in his family, is also the kindest. Here he's sharing the little food he has with a little old man—the same old man his brothers have previously refused to help. Because of his good deed, Dummy will gain riches and a princess for his wife.


Nibble, nibble, where's the mouse? Who's that nibbling at my house?

Old woman in "Hansel and Gretel", Hansel and Gretel

Poor starving Hansel and Gretel have stumbled upon a house made of cake and bread. Now they can't resist taking a few bites. The evil old woman who owns the house (and built it specifically to trap children) is trying to sound kind-hearted and welcoming.


Now you'll get your rest, you disgusting frog!

Princess with the golden ball, The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich

Like many fairy-tale frogs, the one in "The Frog King" is actually a prince under an evil spell. But in this story, it's not a princess's love that transforms him; it's her repulsion. When the frog asks to sleep in her bed, the horrified girl hurls him against the wall, triggering his return to his real self. Despite this act of violence, prince and princess fall in love at once.


When the daughter of the king turns fifteen, she will prick her finger on a spindle and fall down dead.

Wise Woman (vengeful) in "Briar Rose", Briar Rose

Furious at not having been invited to baby Briar Rose's christening, a Wise Woman casts this spell on her. Despite the king's efforts to ban all spindles, Briar Rose can't escape her fate. But the last Wise Woman changes the spell, so instead of dying when she pricks her finger, the princess falls into an enchanted sleep that lasts a century.


Wake up and go talk to the flounder. I want to become like our dear God.

Ilsebill, the fisherman's wife, The Fisherman and His Wife

The fisherman's wife is just about to seal her doom. A magic fish has granted all her wishes so far, and she's become ever-richer and more powerful. But when she's brazen enough to ask to be turned into God, the flounder withdraws all the help he has given her. She and her husband end up back in the pigpen where they began.


Tomorrow I brew, today I bake, / Soon the child is mine to take. / Oh, what luck to win this game, / Rumpelstiltskin is my name.

Rumpelstiltskin, Rumpelstiltskin

Rumpelstiltskin is a gnome who spins straw into gold for the miller's daughter. As a reward, he demands to take her baby. He softens the blow by telling her she may keep the child if she can guess his name. With typical folk-tale luck, a passing messenger overhears Rumpelstiltskin singing his own name. The messenger tells the queen, and all ends happily.


Oh, Grandmother, what big ears you have!

Little Red Riding Hood, Little Red Riding Hood

It's hard to believe that even a very young girl could mistake a wolf for her beloved grandmother, but Red Riding Hood is amazingly credulous. Although she's is in mortal danger here, the scene is a comical one, and well suited to reading aloud.


Seven at one blow!

Tailor, The Brave Little Tailor

Seven flies, that is. A tailor is lucky enough to swat that many when they descend on his bread and jam. Then he's proud enough to brag about his feat. Since no one realizes he's talking about flies instead of people, his luck changes and he becomes a prince.


My child, if I do not cut off both your hands, the devil will carry me away, and in my terror I have promised to do it. Help me in my need, and forgive me the harm I do you.

Miller in "The Girl Without Hands", The Girl Without Hands

Fathers often neglect their daughters in the Grimm stories, but here's a father who maims his child on purpose. "Help me in my need" is an appallingly selfish way to justify asking your daughter to let you cut off her hands, and asking for forgiveness is even worse. It's no wonder this story has been anthologized less often than some of the others.


Then he had to take care not to go between the teeth and be dismembered, but he was subsequently forced to slip down in the stomach with the hay.

Narrator, Thumbling

Poor Thumbling has just been swallowed by a cow, but he demonstrates his excellent survival skills by avoiding teeth. This sentence is a good example of the casual violence that occurs in many Grimm tales. "Dismembered" is much more explicit than, for instance, "chewed."


Roo coo coo, roo coo coo, / No blood at all in that shoe, / The foot's not long and not too wide, / The true bride's riding at his side.

Two white doves, Cinderella

In the Grimms' version of "Cinderella," the long-suffering girl gains the help of all the birds in the sky. Here, two white doves exultantly sing that the prince has finally found his true bride, Cinderella. The shoe fits her perfectly. This was not the case with her stepsisters, who both chopped off parts of their feet to make the shoe fit—a gory detail that's not present in other versions of the story.


If only I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood of the window frame.

Mother in "Snow White", Snow White

The queen gets her wish. She bears a daughter with white skin, red cheeks, and ebony-black hair, and names her Snow White. But she dies soon after the baby is born. The colors are symbols of cold and death as much as beauty, and they foreshadow the dangers Snow White will face.


His huntsmen had to capture all the animals in the kingdom and take a snippet of fur from each one. From those pieces, a cloak was made of thousands of pieces of fur.

Narrator, Furrypelts

"Furrypelts" is a Cinderella-like story with a troubling difference: a widowed king takes it into his head to marry his own daughter. Horrified, the princess tries to stall the wedding by asking for a cloak made from some of the fur from every animal in the kingdom. This does not deter the king, so the princess flees—wearing the fur cloak.


If I don't get some of that rapunzel from the garden behind our house, I'll die.

Rapunzel's mother, Rapunzel

Rapunzel is a leafy plant, and the speaker is a pregnant woman who craves it desperately. When her husband breaks into an enchantress's garden to steal some, the enchantress catches him and makes him promise to give her the baby when it's born. This sets the better-known part of the story in motion.

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