for the Brother and Sister fairy tale are below. Sources have been cited in parenthetical
references, but I have not linked them directly to their full citations
which appear on the Brother and Sister Bibliography page. I have provided links back to the Annotated
Brother and Sister to facilitate referencing between the notes and the tale.
I have included the Grimms' notes to the tale as translated by Margaret Hunt followed by SurLaLune's textual annotations.
The Grimms' Notes For the Tale
From two stories from the Maine district which complete each other; in one of them the incident is wanting of the little stag springing into the midst of the chase, and enticing the King by its beauty. According to another version which H. R. von Schröter has communicated to us, the little brother is changed by the stepmother into a fawn, and is hunted by her hounds. It stands by the river, and calls across to the little sister's window,
"Ah, little sister, save me!
The dogs of the lord they chase me;
They chase me, oh! so quickly;
They seek, they seek to rend me,
They wish to drive me to the arrows,
And thus to rob me of my life."
But the little sister had already been thrown out of the window by the stepmother and changed into a duck, and from the water a voice came to him, saying,
"Patience, dear brother mine,
I lie in the lowest depths,
The earth is the bed I sleep on,
The water it is my coverlid,
Patience, dear brother mine,
I lie in the lowest depths."
Afterwards when the little sister goes into the kitchen to the cook, and makes herself known to him, she asks
"What do my my maids do, do they still spin?
What does my bell do, does it still ring?
What does my little son, does he still smile?"
"Thy maids they spin no more,
Thy bell it rings no more,
Thy little son, he weeps right sore."
Here, as in the story of The Three Little Men in the Forest (No. 13), the mother comes out of her grave to suckle and attend to her child, so likewise in the old Danish Volkslied (Danske viser, 1.206-208. Altd. Blatter, 1. 186.) The Swedish story, which is otherwise identical, lacks this feature. (See further on.) Melusina, after her disappearance, comes to her little sons Dietrich and Raimund, warms them at the fire, and suckles them; the nurses watch her, but dare not speak (Volksbuch). The Servian song of the walled-up mother who hushes her child, may be compared with this, and also a story in Le Foyer Breton, of Souvestre, pp. 3, 4, where a mother comes from her grave at night to take care of her children, which are neglected by their stepmother. Although again very different, La biche au bois, D'Aulnoy, No. 18, has some affinity to this.
Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London: George Bell, 1884, 1892. 2 volumes.
1.Brother: At times, this tale has been confused with a more famous brother and sister tale, Hansel and Gretel. Hansel and Gretel has been known as Little Brother and Little Sister which is also an alternate title for this tale. The Grimms selected Hansel and Gretel for the tale by that name and kept the Brother and Sister title for this tale. Some publications of the Hansel and Gretel tale still use the Little Brother and Little Sister title, causing confusion for readers.
According to Bruno Bettelheim, the brother "represents the endangered aspect of an essentially inseparable unity" (Bettelheim 1975, 79). Return to place in story.
2.Sister: The sister is the protagonist of this tale. Similar to the sister in Six Swans, this sister endures the enchantment of her sibling, marries, and continues to be the target of a malicious stepmother.
While there are many tales in which a brother and sister work well together, such as this one and Hansel and Gretel, there are few tales in which two sisters or two brothers work closely together. Siblings of the same gender are often rivals. One exception is the tale of Snow White and Rose Red. There are also many tales in which the sister has several brothers whom she strives to rescue from an enchantment, such as Six Swans.
According to Bruno Bettelheim, the sister as a "symbol of motherly care once one has become alienated from home, is the rescuer" (Bettelheim 1975, 79). Return to place in story.
3.Stepmother: The image of the evil stepmother occurs frequently in fairy tales. She is associated with jealousy and cruelty (Olderr 1986). "In masculine psychology, the stepmother is a symbol of the unconscious in a destructive role" (von Franz 1970). The stepmother figure is actually two sided, in that while she has destructive intentions, her actions often lead the protagonist into situations that identify and strengthen his or her best qualities.
In the most common Russian variant of this tale, Sister Alionushka, Brother Ivanushka (also known as Alenoushka and Her Brother), the siblings are orphans with no parents. They are forced to fend for themselves since no one else is available to care for them. In the Russian version by Afanasyev, the children are identified as a prince and princess. Return to place in story.
4.Beats us regularly every day: This is probably not an exaggeration. Physical abuse was not uncommon in times past and was more acceptable, or at least more tolerated , than it is today. Return to place in story.
5.Our own dear mother: In her commentary on the mother and stepmother roles in the Grimms' tales, Maria Tatar writes: "Although the evil mother or stepmother is very much alive in the fairy tale, the good mother--protecting, loving and nurturing--is always dead. Yet she does not abandon her child completely, for she inevitably returns in the shape of benevolent natural powers" (Tatar 1987, 73). Return to place in story.
6.Let us go forth into the wide world together: This is a stark contrast from Hansel and Gretel. Hansel and Gretel are purposely lost in the forest by their parents. This brother and sister purposely leave to escape the abuse and poverty in their home. The implication is that these siblings are much older than Hansel and Gretel and capable of taking care of themselves. Return to place in story.
7.They started through fields and meadows: In a Russian variant of this tale, Alenoushka and Her Brother, the brother and sister walk across a dry plain with the grass burned by the sun and sandy terrain. There they encounter the strange enchantment of the water when they are riddled with thirst. The enchantment does not happen in a forest as it does here. Return to place in story.
8.A large forest: The forest is a recurrent image in German fairy tales, in part because over a quarter of the country is comprised of forest land. In the Grimms' tales, the forest is a supernatural world, a place where anything can happen and often does.
According to Jungian psychology, the forest is a representation of the feminine principle and is identified with the unconscious. The foliage blocks the sun's rays, the sun being associated with the male principle. The forest symbolizes the dangerous side of the unconscious, its ability to destroy reason (Cirlot 1962) and (Matthews 1986). Return to place in story.
9.I'm so thirsty: According to Bruno Bettelheim, as well as many other psychological critics, the brother's thirst represents his "instinctual pressures" which we all must learn to control (Bettelheim 1975, 80). Return to place in story.
10.A witch: A witch and stepmother are the two villains in Hansel and Gretel. Many critics believe the two characters in that tale to be the same villain, both destroyed at the same time. This tale blatantly makes the stepmother the evil witch who persecutes the children. There is no differentiation between the stepmother and the witch. Another tale in which a stepmother witch persecutes her stepchildren is The Six Swans.
Belief in witches exists in nearly every culture worldwide (Leach 1949). In Jungian psychology, the witch is a personification of evil which eventually consumes itself. The witch symbolizes the destructive power of the unconscious (Luthi 1976). Return to place in story.
11.Cast her spells over all the streams in the forest: In some Russian variants of the tale, such as Afanasyev's Sister Alionushka, Brother Ivanushkam and Ransome's Alenoushka and Her Brother, no spell is described as being cast. In Sister Alionushka, Brother Ivanushkam, the siblings encounter bodies of water which are the watering places of various animals, each time the type of animal the brother will become if he drinks at the same place as the animals. In Alenoushka and Her Brother, the siblings encounter hoofmarks of various animals filled with sitting water. The brother is warned he will turn into the shape of whichever animal's hoofmark he drinks from. The implication of these variations tends to support Bettelheim's theories of the tale being about controling our animal instincts. Return to place in story.
12.Heard it murmuring: In Bettelheim's analysis, "the sister, representing ego and superego [the higher mental functions], recognizes the danger of seeking immediate satisfaction and persuades the brother to resist his thirst" (Bettelheim 1975, 80). Other analysts interpret the murmuring as being protection from the dead mother that the sister is able to hear, perhaps due to her maturity and/or gender. Return to place in story.
13.Who drinks of me will be a tiger!: The brother is "ready to permit himself to be carried away by his wish for immediate gratification (of his thirst), no matter what the cost of doing so. But should the brother give into the pressure of the id, he would become asocial, as violent as a tiger" (Bettelheim 1975, 80). If he turns into a tiger, he will destroy both himself and his sister since he would tear her to pieces in such a form.
In the Russian variants, the animals gradually reduce in size, but none of them are a physical threat to the sister. In one version, the first animal transformation threatens to be a horse. Return to place in story.
14.A tiger: A tiger can symbolize "wrath, cruelty, bloodthirstiness, ferocity, courage, brutality, jealousy, violent desires, and treachery" (Olderr 1986). Return to place in story.
15.A wolf: A tiger can symbolize "rapacity, rapine, hunger, hypocrisy, lust, cruelty, fraud, deceit, cunning, corruption, darkness, untamed nature, avarice, greed, and the lesser instincts taking control of more human instincts" (Olderr 1986).
16. You'll be turned into a wolf and eat me up: The brother is still at risk of transforming into a dangerous beast if he obeys his thirst and drinks the water. Return to place in story.
17.Third: The number and/or pattern of three often appears in fairy tales to provide rhythm and suspense. The pattern adds drama and suspense while making the story easy to remember and follow. The third event often signals a change and/or ending for the listener/reader.
The reasons and theories behind three's popularity are numerous and diverse. The number has been considered powerful across history in different cultures and religions, but not all of them. Christians have the Trinity, the Chinese have the Great Triad (man, heaven, earth), and the Buddhists have the Triple Jewel (Buddha, Dharma, Sanga). The Greeks had the Three Fates. Pythagoras considered three to be the perfect number because it represented everything: the beginning, middle, and end. Some cultures have different powerful numbers, often favoring seven, four and twelve. Return to place in story.
18.A roe: A roe deer is "a small European and Asiatic deer having erect, cylindrical, branched antlers, forked at the summit. This, the smallest European deer, is very nimble and graceful. It always prefers a mountainous country, or high grounds" (Webster's 1990).
In some of the Russian variants, the brother is transformed into a lamb and a kid (baby goat). All of these are playful, relatively benign animals, like the deer. In an Italian tale, The Stepmother, the brother becomes a calf with golden horns. Return to place in story.
19.Run away from me: Note that if the brother drinks here, he will become a "much tamer animal. So much does delay--a partial obedience to the restraining aspects of our mental apparatus--achieve. But as the pressure of id (brother's thirst) increases, it overpowers the restraints of ego and superego: the sister's admonitions lose the power to control" (Bettelheim 1975, 80).
Bettelheim also notes: "Even a limited degree of control achieves a high measure of humanization, as the reducation of animal ferocity from tiger to wolf to deer symbolizes" (Bettelheim 1975, 80).
The brother will be hard to control as a deer, but he will not pose a physical threat to his sister in his beastly form. Return to place in story.
21.Dear little fawn: A fawn is "a young deer; a buck or doe of the first year" (Webster's 1990). The animal's youth represents the brother's own youth and immaturity. Return to place in story.
22.I will never forsake you: Jack Zipes theorizes that tales like this one and The Six Swans were important to the Grimms for their messages about family fidelity through adversity and separation (Zipes 1988, 40). Return to place in story.
24.Rushes and plaited a soft cord of them: Rushes are "grasslike plants growing in wet places and having cylindrical often hollow stems" (WordNet). They are handy for creating ropes and baskets. Return to place in story.
25.Fastened to the collar: The brother, in his transformed state, literally becomes the sister's pet. She, as the more responsible adult, becomes the keeper of the animal with lower instincts. Return to place in story.
27.If brother had but kept his natural form, really it would have been a most delightful kind of life: Despite the quaint picture of domestic tranquility portrayed in this interlude, we know this is not the happy ending to the story since the brother has not been disenchanted. More change, and possibly adversity, is on the horizon. Note that the sister is the adult figure, parenting herself and her enchanted brother, by providing food and shelter. The brother simply plays and frolics all day. Return to place in story.
28.King: In romantic fairy tales, the heroine's husband is usually royalty, either a king or prince, at least a nobleman. In some variants, the sister is also of royal birth and must therefore marry at her same station. Return to place in story.
29.A great hunt through the woods: In times past, hunting was a popular activity among the nobility, used for sport and necessity. The game was often used for food, but for trophies as well. Return to place in story.
30.Little Roe heard it and longed to join in too: Bettelheim considers the Roe's experience to be his "ordeal which could become his initiation to a higher from of existence" (Bettelheim 1975, 81). I find his interpretation problematic. The Roe appears to be eager to put himself into more danger, underestimating his ability to flee danger, in fact flirting with it for the thrill of the chase. He forgets that as a deer, he is the prey, not the predator. Return to place in story.
31.The loveliest maiden he had ever seen: Hyperbole is frequently used to describe beauty in fairy tales. Each beautiful woman has "no equal" or is "the most beautiful" or similar. Beauty often represents goodness, worthiness, privilege, and wealth in fairy tales. Princesses are especially expected to be beautiful. Physical beauty is often considered to represent inner beauty in folklore, except for when it is a magical disguise. Return to place in story.
32.The girl was much startled: This scene is reminiscent of Rapunzel's surprise when the prince, her future spouse, enters her tower instead of the expected Mother Gothel. Return to place in story.
33.Will you come with me to my castle and be my dear wife?: Note that marriage is not the ultimate goal of this tale as it is in many romantic fairy tales. The marriage comes before the end of the story. The tale is one of family unity. The brother and sister struggle to find happiness together as a family unit as adults. Return to place in story.
34.You must let my Roe come too. I could not possibly forsake it: Bettelheim observes that "during most of the story the two do not part; they represent the animal and spiritual sides of our personality, which become separated but must be integrated for human happiness" (Bettelheim 1975, 146). Return to place in story.
35.Her heart was filled with envy and hatred: The stepmother's animosity of reminiscent of the evil stepmother in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Although the children are no longer a burden, their mere existence, and a happy one at that, is enough reason for her to plot their deaths. Return to place in story.
37.Hideous as night and had only one eye: Physical ugliness and deformity (although a politically incorrect term by today's standards) has long been considered a sign of internal ugliness, sometimes in fairy tales. Just as beauty represents inner goodness, physical ugliness is used to stereotype inner ugliness, especially in the literature of previous centuries. Return to place in story.
38.Queen gave birth to a beautiful little boy: The Queen's ability to give birth to a son is important not only to her husband, but to her kingdom. A first born son would be the crown prince and possibly averts disaster for a kingdom that relies on progeny to avoid strife in the royal lineage. Return to place in story.
39.Lady in waiting: A lady in waiting is "a lady appointed to attend to a queen or princess" (WordNet). A lady in waiting was usually from the upper classes in a higher level of honorable servitude. Return to place in story.
40.The bath: Water in various forms often plays a part in the young sister's death. In other variants, she is drowned by being thrown into a lake or river with a millstone about her neck. In the versions in which she is killed, water is usually involved in her cause of death. Return to place in story.
41.Might be suffocated: Suffocation might occur from the fire's smoke under the bath. Suffocation is usually the cause of death by fire in enclosed rooms. However, this would not be a gentle death, essentially boiling the sister to death in her own bathwater. Return to place in story.
42.A false Queen: False identities are common plot devices in literature and fairy tales. Another well-known tale with an imposter queen is The Goose Girl, also annotated on this site.
The false bride plot device "provides the dominant frame story of Basile's firecracker of a collection of fairy tales, Lo cunto de li cunti [also known as Il Pentamerone], in the seventeenth century. His group of female storytellers exchange many tales of substituted brides and false queens, and at the end actually unmask a similar wicked usurper prospering in their midst (Warner 1994, 127). Return to place in story.
43.Midnight: Midnight marks the beginning of a new day and the end of power in the old day. Midnight also marks the beginning of the witching hour. Ghosts and other apparitions are thought to be most active in the night time. Return to place in story.
44.The real Queen: Do not be confused here--the real Queen is dead, having been murdered by her stepmother and stepsister. Here she appears as a ghost, haunting the halls and drawn to her most precious baby and enchanted brother. Return to place in story.
45.Nursed it for some time: Here we have a dead good mother trying to nurture her motherless child. The cycle of the tale is threatening to start again since this child is also cursed with a wicked stepmother. Since it is a baby, it is at greater risk than its own mother was. The natural mother is trying to show it love and protection in the only means left to her. Return to place in story.
46.She did not forget the little Roe: The roe is just as important to the sister as her son, for she has essentially parented it, too. She is attempting to fulfill her responsibilities as a parent and sister to her family, even beyond the grave. Return to place in story.
48.Is my child well? Is my Roe well?/ I'll come back twice and then farewell: Note another pattern of three here. The ghostly queen only has three visits before she must assumably move onto another plain of existence. We know she must be rescued by the third night or she will disappear forever. Return to place in story.
49.I am your dear wife!: Note that while wife has not apparently been as important a role to the sister as that of mother and sister, it is still important enough to bring her back from the dead. She recognizes and responds to this identity. Return to place in story.
50.She was restored to life, and was as fresh and well and rosy as ever: Many translations often leave out the phrase "by the grace of God" in this sentence as was included in the Grimms' version and maintained by the more reliable translation offered by Jack Zipes (Zipes 1987, 46). Many translations imply that true love or her innate goodness restore the sister to life. Return to place in story.
51. The daughter was led into the forest, where the wild beasts tore her to pieces: The daughter is exiled--cast out into the wild forest--for her treasonous behavior, but she is not burned at the stake for witchcraft like her mother. Return to place in story.
52. Burnt at the stake: Burning occurs often in fairy tales. It is symbolic of purification (Matthews 1986). The witch being burnt can also represent evil destroying itself (Luthi 1976).
Gerhard Mueller, who has studied the criminological aspects of several tales, considers the death by fire to be suitable for the witch. In the Middle Ages, the charge of witchcraft was punished by fire. In other words, the witch's demise supports the due process of law in real life during the time of the tale (Mueller 1986). Return to place in story.
53. He was restored to his natural shape: In folklore, witch's spells are often deactivated by the witch's demise. Unlike the sister in Six Swans, this sister did not have to endure a described test to achieve her brother's disenchantment.
In Afanasyev's Russian variant of the tale, the brother is never disenchanted. He continues to live as a kid with his sister and her husband happily ever after, however. It is the most unsatisfying ending of all the variants. Return to place in story.
54. Brother and sister lived happily ever after: As their tale, it is important that the brother and sister live happily ever after. They achieve this in the new family unit they have created, however. In some versions of the tale, the brother is described as marrying a sister to the King, thus expanding the happy family even more. Return to place in story.