Grimm: Hans the Hedgehog

This story is part of the Brothers Grimm (Hunt) unit. Story source: Household Tales by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm, translated by Margaret Hunt (1884).

(Illustration by Otto Ubbelohde)

Hans the Hedgehog

THERE was once a countryman who had money and land in plenty, but how rich soever he was, one thing was still wanting in his happiness: he had no children. Often when he went into the town with the other peasants, they mocked him and asked why he had no children.

At last he became angry, and when he got home, he said, "I will have a child, even if it be a hedgehog."

Then his wife had a child that was a hedgehog in the upper part of his body and a boy in the lower, and, when she saw the child, she was terrified and said, "See, there thou hast brought ill-luck on us."

Then said the man, "What can be done now? The boy must be christened, but we shall not be able to get a godfather for him."

The woman said, "And we cannot call him anything else but Hans the Hedgehog."

When he was christened, the parson said, "He cannot go into any ordinary bed because of his spikes." So a little straw was put behind the stove, and Hans the Hedgehog was laid on it. His mother could not suckle him, for he would have pricked her with his quills.

So he lay there behind the stove for eight years, and his father was tired of him and thought, "If he would but die!"

He did not die, however, but remained lying there.

Now it happened that there was a fair in the town, and the peasant was about to go to it and asked his wife what he should bring back with him for her.

"A little meat and a couple of white rolls which are wanted for the house," said she.

Then he asked the servant, and she wanted a pair of slippers and some stockings with clocks.

At last he said also, "And what wilt thou have, Hans my Hedgehog?"

"Dear father," he said, "do bring me bagpipes."

When, therefore, the father came home again, he gave his wife what he had bought for her — meat and white rolls, and then he gave the maid the slippers, and the stockings with clocks, and, lastly, he went behind the stove,and gave Hans the Hedgehog the bagpipes.

And when Hans the Hedgehog had the bagpipes, he said, "Dear father, do go to the forge and get the cock shod, and then I will ride away and never come back again."

On this, the father was delighted to think that he was going to get rid of him and had the cock shod for him, and when it was done, Hans the Hedgehog got on it, and rode away, but took swine and asses with him which he intended to keep in the forest.

When they got there, he made the cock fly on to a high tree with him, and there he sat for many a long year and watched his asses and swine until the herd was quite large, and his father knew nothing about him. While he was sitting in the tree, however, he played his bagpipes and made music which was very beautiful.

Once a King came travelling by, who had lost his way, and heard the music. He was astonished at it and sent his servant forth to look all round and see from whence this music came. He spied about but saw nothing but a little animal sitting up aloft on the tree, which looked like a cock with a hedgehog on it which made this music.

Then the King told the servant he was to ask why he sat there and if he knew the road which led to his kingdom.

So Hans the Hedgehog descended from the tree and said he would show the way if the King would write a bond and promise him whatever he first met in the royal courtyard as soon as he arrived at home.

Then the King thought, "I can easily do that; Hans the Hedgehog understands nothing, and I can write what I like."

So the King took pen and ink and wrote something, and when he had done it, Hans the Hedgehog showed him the way, and he got safely home.

(700 words)

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