Four old animals decide to take fate in their own hands. They will become The Bremen Town Musicians. Will they succeed?
The Bremen Town Musicians is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster. They are no longer welcome at their homes and travel to Bremen to become town musicians. They scare robbers out of their house and again scare a robber who returns. They end up happily living there.
Complete text The Bremen Town Musicians
A donkey goes to Bremen
A man had a donkey which had carried sacks full of corn to the mill indefatigably for many years. However his strength was waning and he was growing more and more unfit for work. His master began to consider how he still could earn some money from the donkey.
The donkey, realizing that no good wind was blowing, ran away and set out on the road to Bremen. “There,” he thought, “I can surely become a town musician.”
A dog joins the group
After walking a while he found a hunting dog lying on the road, gasping like one who had ran until he was tired. “Why are you gasping for air, big fellow?” asked the donkey.
“Ah,” replied the dog, “I am old and daily grow weaker and no longer can hunt. My master wanted to kill me, so I took to flight; but now how am I to earn my bread?”
“I tell you what,” the donkey said, “I am going to Bremen, and shall be town musician there. Come with me and engage yourself also as a musician. I will play the lute and you can beat the kettledrum.”
The dog agreed and on they went.
A cat joins the group
Before long they came to a cat, sitting on the path, with a face like three rainy days!
“Now then, old tiger, what is wrong with you?” asked the donkey.
“Who can be joyful when his neck is in danger?” the cat answered.
“I am getting old and my teeth are worn to stumps. I prefer to sit by the fire and spin, rather than hunt about after mice. My mistress wanted to drown me, so I ran away. But now good advice is scarce. Where am I to go?”
“Go with us to Bremen. You understand night music, you can be a town musician.”
The cat thought well of it and went with them.
A rooster joins the group
After this the three fugitives came to a farmyard. A rooster was sitting upon the gate, crowing with all his might. “Your crow pierces our very souls,” said the donkey. “What is the matter?”
“I have been foretelling fine weather, because it is the day on which Our Lady washes the Christchild’s little shirts and wants to dry them,” said the rooster; “but guests are coming for Sunday, so the housewife has no pity and has told the cook that she intends to eat me in the soup tomorrow. This evening they will cut off my head. Now I am crowing at full pitch while I still can.”
“Ah, but red comb,” the donkey said, “you had better come away with us. We are going to Bremen; you can find something better than death everywhere. You have a good voice and if we make music together it must have some quality!”
The rooster agreed to this plan and all four went on together.
Spending the night
They could not reach the city of Bremen in one day. In the evening they came to a forest where they wanted to pass the night. The donkey and the dog laid themselves down under a large tree, the cat and the rooster settled themselves in the branches.
The rooster flew right to the top, where he was most safe. Before he went to sleep he looked around on all four sides and thought he saw in the distance a little spark burning. He called out to his companions that there must be a house not far off, for he saw a light.
The donkey said, “If so, we had better get up and go on, for the shelter here is bad.” The dog thought that a few bones with some meat on them would do him good too!
So they made their way to the place where the light was and soon saw it shine brighter and grow larger, until they came to a well lighted robber’s house. Because he was the biggest, the donkey went to the window and looked in.
“What do you see, my grey-horse?” asked the rooster.
“What do I see?” answered the donkey; “a table covered with good things to eat and drink, and robbers sitting at it enjoying themselves.”
“That would be the sort of thing for us,” said the rooster.
“Yes, yes; ah, how I wish we were there!” said the donkey.
Scaring the robbers
Then the animals talked together how they could manage to drive away the robbers and at last they thought of a plan. The donkey was to place himself with his forefeet on the window ledge, the dog was to jump on the donkey’s back, the cat was to climb upon the dog, and lastly the rooster was to fly up and perch upon the head of the cat.
After this was done, at a given signal, they began to perform their music together: the donkey brayed, the dog barked, the cat mewed and the rooster crowed. Then they burst through the window into the room, so that the glass clattered! At this horrible din, the robbers sprang up, thinking no otherwise than that a ghost had come in, and fled in a great fright out into the forest.
The four companions now sat down at the table, well content with what was left. They ate as if they were going to fast for a month.
As soon as the four minstrels were finished eating, they put out the light and each sought for himself a sleeping place according to his nature and to what suited him. The donkey laid himself down upon some straw in the yard, the dog behind the door, the cat upon the hearth near the warm ashes, and the rooster perched himself upon a beam of the roof. Being tired from their long walk they soon went to sleep.
A robber returns
When it was past midnight and the robbers saw from afar that the light was no longer burning in their house and all appeared quiet, the captain said, “We shouldn’t have let ourselves be frightened out of our wits;” and ordered one of them to go and examine the house.
All was quiet and the messenger went into the kitchen to light a candle. He mistook the glistening fiery eyes of the cat for live coals and held a match to them to light it. The cat did not understand the joke and flew in his face, spitting and scratching. Dreadfully frightened he ran to the backdoor, but the dog who lay there sprang up and bit his leg. As he ran across the yard by the straw heap, the donkey gave him a smart kick with its hind foot. The rooster had been awakened by the noise, became lively and cried down from the beam, “Cock-a-doodle-doo!”
The robber ran back as fast as he could to his captain. He said, “Ah, there is a horrible witch sitting in the house. She spat on me and scratched my face with her long claws. By the door stands a man with a knife, he stabbed me in the leg. In the yard lies a black monster, he beat me with a wooden club. And above upon the roof sits the judge, who called out, ‘Bring the rogue here to me!’ so I got away as well as I could.”
After this the robbers did not dare to return to the house again. It suited the four musicians of Bremen so well that they did not care to leave it any more.
The mouth of him who last told this story is still warm.
Tips for Telling The Bremen Town Musicians
- The four animals all have their own problems, their own feelings. They each have their own voice. You can act them out and literally give them their own voice, you can also show their ‘voice’ in the details you tell about each animal, their habits and the way they speak.
- Some scenes in this fairy tale (the scaring of the robbers, the robber who comes back) ask for high energy fast paced telling. Try to tell parts of the story slow and fast and feel the pacing of each scene.
- How do these animals live together at the end? It might be nice to tell something about each animal that shows how happy they are in the house they ended up. The ending of the story is now quite sudden.
All Questions Answered
The tale was published by the Brothers Grimm in the second edition of their Grimms’ Fairy Tales. Their source was the German storyteller Dorothea Viehmann.
The fairy tale was included in the second edition of the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales (1819).
No, they traveled toward Bremen but found a house on the road where they scared the robbers and stayed.
They stood on each others backs, made as mush noise as they could and jumped through the glass window.
Bremen is a town in northwestern Germany, the four musicians were traveling to this town.