Fitcher’s Bird

Fitcher's Bird Fairy Tale

A stranger asking for a gift. What could be wrong with that? You find out when he touches you and you disappear in his big basket…

Fitcher’s Bird is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a wizard who captures young women and takes them to this house in the forest. He forbids them to enter a room but kills them when they do. Three sisters are captured, the third saves her sisters and the wizard is burned.

Complete text Fitcher’s Bird

The wizard catches the oldest girl

There was once a wizard who often took the form of a poor man. He went to houses, begged and caught pretty girls. No one knew where he took them, for they were never seen no more.

One day he appeared before the door of a man who had three pretty daughters. He looked like a poor weak beggar, carrying a basket on his back, as if he meant to collect charitable gifts in it.

He begged for a little food. When the eldest daughter came out and was just giving him a piece of bread, he only touched her and she was forced to jump into his basket.

He hurried away with long strides and carried her away into a dark forest to his house in the midst of the forest. Everything in the house was magnificent. He gave her whatever she could possibly desire.

“My darling, you will certainly be happy with me, for you have everything your heart can wish for.”

This lasted a few days and then he said, “I need to go and leave you alone for a short time. Here are the keys of the house. You may go everywhere and look at everything except into one room, which this little key here opens. I forbid you to go there, on punishment of death.”

He likewise gave her an egg and said, “Preserve the egg carefully for me, and carry it continually about with you, because a great misfortune would result from losing it.”

She took the keys and the egg and promised to obey him in everything. When he was gone, she went all round the house from the bottom to the top and examined everything. The rooms shone with silver and gold and she thought she had never seen such great splendor.

The oldest girl enters he forbidden room

At last she came to the forbidden door. She wished to pass it by, but curiosity let her have no rest. She examined the key. It looked just like any other. She put it in the keyhole and turned it a little. The door sprang open.

But what did she see when she went in? A great bloody basin stood in the middle of the room. In the basin lay human beings, dead and hewn to pieces. Close by stood a block of wood, upon it lay a gleaming axe.

She was so terribly alarmed that the egg which she held in her hand fell into the basin. She got it out and washed the blood off, but in vain, it appeared again in a moment. She washed and scrubbed, but she could not get it out.

It was not long before the man came back from his journey. The first things which he asked for were the key and the egg. She gave them to him, but she trembled as she did. He saw at once by the red spots that she had been in the bloody chamber.

“Because you have gone into the room against my will,” he said, “you shall go back into it against your will. Your life ends now.” He threw her down, dragged her to the room by her hair, cut her head off on the block and hewed her in pieces so that her blood ran on the ground. Then he threw her into the basin with the rest.

The wizard takes and kills the second girl

“Now I will fetch myself the second,” the wizard said. Again he went to the house in the shape of a poor man, and begged. The second daughter brought him a piece of bread. He caught her like the first, by simply touching her and carried her away. She did not fare better than her sister. She allowed herself to be led away by her curiosity, opened the door of the bloody chamber, looked in and had to atone for it with her life on the wizard’s return.

The youngest girl restores her sisters

Then he went and brought the third sister, but she was clever and crafty. When he had given her the keys and the egg and had left her, she first put the egg away with great care. Then she examined the house and at last went into the forbidden room. Alas, the horrors she saw there! Both her sisters lay there in the basin, cruelly murdered and cut in pieces.

But she began to gather their limbs together and put them in order, head, body, arms and legs. And when nothing further was wanting the limbs began to move and unite themselves together. Both the maidens opened their eyes and were alive once more. They rejoiced and kissed and caressed each other.

On his arrival the man at once demanded the keys and the egg. He saw no trace of blood on it and said, “You have passed the test, you shall be my bride.”

The wizard is sent on an errand

He now had no longer any power over her and was forced to do whatsoever she desired. “Very well,” she said, “but you will first take a basket full of gold to my father and mother, carrying it on your own back. In the meantime I will prepare for the wedding.”

She ran to her sisters, whom she had hidden in a little chamber and said, “The moment has come when I can save you. The wretch himself will carry you home again, but as soon as you are at home send help to me.”

She put both of them in a basket and covered them quite over with gold, so that nothing of them was to be seen. She called in the wizard and said to him, “Now carry the basket away. I will look through my little window and watch to see if you will stop on the way to stand or to rest.”

The wizard raised the basket on his back and went away with it. However it weighed him down so heavily that the sweat streamed down from his face. He sat down and wanted to rest awhile, but immediately one of the girls in the basket cried, “I am looking through my little window and I see that you are resting. Will you go on at once?”

He thought it was his bride who was calling that to him and got up on his legs again. Once more he was going to sit down, but instantly she cried, “I am looking through my little window, and I see that you are resting. Will you go on at once?”

Whenever he stood still, she cried this and then he was forced to go onwards. At last, groaning and out of breath, he took the basket with the gold and the two maidens into their parents’ house.

The youngest girl dresses up as a bird

At home the bride prepared the marriage-feast and sent invitations to the friends of the wizard. Then she took a skull with grinning teeth and put some ornaments on it and a wreath of flowers. She carried it upstairs to the garret window and let it look out from there.

When all was ready, she got into a barrel of honey. Then she cut the feather-bed open and rolled herself in it, until she looked like a wondrous bird and no one could recognize her. She went out of the house and on her way she met some of the wedding guests, who asked,

“O, Fitcher’s bird, how come you are here?”
“I come from Fitcher’s house quite near.”
“And what may the young bride be doing?”
“From cellar to garret she’s swept all clean,
And now from the window she’s peeping, I ween.”

At last she met the bridegroom, who was slowly coming back. He, like the others, asked,

“O, Fitcher’s bird, how come you are here?”
“I come from Fitcher’s house quite near.”
“And what may the young bride be doing?
“From cellar to garret she’s swept all clean,
And now from the window she’s peeping, I ween.”

The wizard burns

The bridegroom looked up, saw the decked out skull, thought it was his bride, and nodded to her, greeting her kindly. But when he and his guests had all gone into the house, the brothers and kinsmen of the bride, who had been sent to rescue her, arrived. They locked all the doors of the house, so that no one might escape. Then they set fire to it. The wizard and all his crew had to burn.

Tips for Telling Fitcher’s Bird

Storyteller Rudolf Roos
  • This story could be shortened for telling by omitting the return of the wizard to the parents and the dressing up as a bird.
  • As a storyteller you are responsible for what you tell and how you tell it. There are some strong horror scenes in this story. What you are not capable of imagining yourself you should not ask your audience to imagine.
  • The stranger you meet and who can take you away is a very powerful image. It appeals to a fear we all can have of the ‘strangers’ we meet. Take your time in telling this part, it lays the groundwork for the creepiness and horror in the rest of the fairy tale.
A retelling / animation of Fitcher’s Bird

All Questions Answered

Who wrote the story Fitcher’s Bird?

The tale was published by the Brothers Grimm in the first edition of their Grimms’ Fairy Tales. Their sources were Friederike Mannel and Henriette Dorothea (Dortchen) Wild.

When was Fitcher’s Bird written?

The Brothers Grimm included it in their collection in 1812. They made major and minor revisions in later editions.

More useful information

Photo credits: Sammy Williams on Unsplash

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