Since Calvin just recently mentioned the story of the Bremen Town Musicians, I thought it might be a good idea for the subject of another fairy tale post. I remember finding this one amusing when I first heard it as a kid. I think it was in a red book of fairy tales with the Three Bears on the cover, but don’t quote me on that. The story involves four animals: a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster. They’re kicked out of their homes after their masters no longer find them useful, so they decide to run away to Bremen and form a band. Along the way, they come to a house inhabited by robbers, so they scare off the thieves with their music and take possession of the dwelling for themselves. One of the robbers returns during the night to investigate, but in the darkness he thinks the cat is a witch, the dog a man with a knife, the donkey a monster with a club, and the rooster a judge. So the robber band runs off and leaves the house to the animals.
According to Maria Tatar in The Annotated Brothers Grimm, it’s likely that the animals’ destination originally varied depending on the storyteller. There’s isn’t any particular link to the history or geography of Bremen as there is with Hamelin in the Pied Piper tale, not to mention that the animals never actually get to Bremen anyway. It’s sort of like how the song “Buffalo Gals” was originally altered to fit any city, but it was the Buffalo version that stuck. The Brothers Grimm used Bremen, so that’s how modern readers know the story. The city of Bremen has embraced the fairy tale, however, and a statue of the musicians was placed on the west side of the Rathaus (town hall) in 1951. There’s a legend that touching the hooves of the donkey will result in your wishes being granted.