Hansel and Gretel by Jessie Wilcox Smith

Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm translated by Margaret Hunt

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Grimm's Household Tales with the
Author's Notes
translated by Margaret Hunt

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The Old Man and His Grandson

THERE was once a very old man, whose eyes had become dim, his ears dull of hearing, his knees trembled, and when he sat at table he could hardly hold the spoon, and spilt the broth upon the table-cloth or let it run out of his mouth. His son and his son's wife were disgusted at this, so the old grandfather at last had to sit in the corner behind the stove, and they gave him his food in an earthenware bowl, and not even enough of it. And he used to look towards the table with his eyes full of tears. Once, too, his trembling hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell to the ground and broke. The young wife scolded him, but he said nothing and only sighed. Then they bought him a wooden bowl for a few half-pence, out of which he had to eat.

They were once sitting thus when the little grandson of four years old began to gather together some bits of wood upon the ground. "What are you doing there?" asked the father. "I am making a little trough," answered the child, "for father and mother to eat out of when I am big."

The man and his wife looked at each other for a while, and presently began to cry. Then they took the old grandfather to the table, and henceforth always let him eat with them, and likewise said nothing if he did spill a little of anything.

Next Tale:
The Water-Nix

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London: George Bell, 1884, 1892. 2 volumes.


Stilling relates the story thus in his Life (2. 8, 9), as we also have often heard it, and it occurs in the Volkslied aus dem Kühländchen [1] (Meinert, 1. 106). It is also related that the child gathered together the fragments of the earthen platter, and wanted to keep them for his father. An old Meister song (No. 83, in Armin's MS.) has quite a different version of this fable, and gives a chronicle as its source. An aged King has given his kingdom to his son, but is to keep it as long as he lives. The son marries, and the young Queen complains of the old man's cough. The son makes the father lie under the stairs on the straw, where for many years he has to live no better than the dogs. The grandson grows big, and takes his grandfather meat and drink every day; but once the old man is cold, and begs for a horse-cloth. The grandson goes into the stable, takes a good cloth, and angrily cuts it in two. The father asks why he is doing that. "I am taking one half to grandfather, the other I am going to lay by to cover you with some day." A different treatment of this is contained in Zwey schöne Neue Lieder (Nuremberg, Val. Neuber in the Meusebach Library. It begins:

"Zu Rom ein reicher König sass [2]
Als ich etwan gelesen das,"

and concludes

"das niemandts sein Elten verschmeht [3]
warnt treulich Jörg Brentel von Elbogen."

In Hans Sachs, see the Half Horse-cloth, 2. 2, 107, 108. Nuremberg edition. Wunderhorn, 2. 269. See an old German story, the Knight with the Rug, in Lassberg's Liedersaal, 1. 585. Another form of the story is to be found in the Kolotz MSS., p. 145, and in Hagen's Gesammtabenteuer, 2. 391. A third by Hufferer is in the same place, 3. 729. An old French Fabliau (Méon. 4. 479, 485) varies only slightly. The son, at the instigation of his wife, drives away his old father, who begs for a coat, which the son refuses; then for a horse-cloth as he is trembling with cold. The son orders his child to go with the old man into the stable and give him one. The grandson cuts it in half, of which the grandfather complains. The grandson, however, excuses himself to his father on the ground that he must keep half of it for him, when he drives him out of the house. Then the son reflects, and takes the grandfather back into the house with all honour. Some stories formed on this by Niccolo Granucci, Sercambi, and the Abbé Le Monnier are pointed out by Hagen, Gesammtabenteuer 2. lvii. In Pauli's Scherz und Ernst (1535, see chap. 412. Folio 77. In the Danish, Lystig Skiemt og Alvor, p. 73, the grandfather begs for a new coat, and the son gives him two yards of stuff to patch the old one with. Thereupon the grandson comes crying because he too wants two yards of stuff. The father gives them to him, and the child hides them under a lath in the roof, and then says he is storing them up for his father when he grows old. Then the other bethinks himself, and behaves better. The following lines from a poem of Walther's should be quoted:

"die jungen habent die alten sô verdrungen [4],
nu spottent alsô dar der alten
ez wirt iu selben noch behalten;
beit unz iuwer jugent zerge:
swaz ir in tuot, daz rechent iuwer jungen."
23, 36.

1: Kühländchen is a small, narrow valley near the source of the Oder, lying between the slopes of the North Carpathian, and the Troppauer mountains. Meinert says that nature and mankind have specially devoted it to the rearing of cattle, and that the grass grows in suck profusion that it seems to spring up even beneath the plough.-TR.

2: In Rome there reigned a wealthy king,
As I somewhere have read.

3: Let no one despise his parents
Is the faithful warning of Jörg Brentel von Elbogen.

4: The young have so repressed the old, and now they scoff at the old. It will be stored up against you till your youth fades away. Whatever you do to them your young ones will avenge it.

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