An old woman wants to make a bean stew. The straw, the coal and the bean are lucky to escape this evil and set out on a journey together.
The Straw, the Coal and the Bean is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about three characters who meet in the kitchen of an old woman. They escape and travel the world together. Unfortunately the straw burns, the coal drowns and the bean bursts from laughing. A tailor repairs her and that is why beans have a black seam.
A straw meets a coal and a bean
In a village lived a poor old woman. She had gathered together a dish of beans and wanted to cook them. She made a fire on her hearth and to let it burn quicker she lighted it with a handful of straw.
When she was emptying the beans into the pan, one dropped without her noticing it. It lay on the ground beside a straw. Soon afterwards a burning coal from the fire leapt down to the two.
The straw was the first to speak and he said, “Dear friends, how did you end up here?”
The coal replied, “Fortunately I sprang out of the fire. If I would not have escaped by my own, my death would have been certain, I would have been burnt to ashes.”
The bean said, “I too have escaped with a whole skin. If the old woman would have gotten me into the pan, I would have been made into broth. Without any mercy, like my comrades.”
“My fate would not have been much better,” the straw said. “The old woman has destroyed all my brothers in fire and smoke. She seized sixty of them at once and took their lives. I luckily slipped through her fingers.”
The friends go on a journey
“What are we to do now?” said the coal.
“I think,” the bean answered, “since we have been so lucky to escape death, we should stay together. And before anything bad will happen to us here, we should go away, preferably to a foreign country.”
The others liked his idea. They set out on their way together. Soon they came to a little brook. There was no bridge or foot plank. How to get over it?
The straw had a good idea. “I will lay myself straight across. Then you can walk over on me as on a bridge.”
The straw stretched itself from one bank to the other. The coal, passionate as she was, tripped quite boldly over the newly built bridge. However when she had reached the middle and heard the water rushing beneath her, she got afraid. She stood still and ventured no further.
The straw began to burn, broke in two pieces and fell into the stream. The coal slipped after her, hissed when she got into the water and breathed her last.
Why beans have black seams
The bean who had prudently stayed behind on the shore, could not but laugh at the event. She was unable to stop laughing and laughed so heartily that she burst.
It would have been all over with her too, if not a tailor who was traveling in search of work had sat down to rest by the brook. He had a compassionate heart, pulled out his needle and thread and sewed her back together. The bean could not stop thanking him.
As the tailor used black thread, all beans since then have a black seam.
Tips for Telling
- This is a little wild ride of a fairy tale. Something short and funny. Keep it that way, don’t turn it into a long and boring telling.
- Most beans do not have black seams. You could leave out this detail and at the end of the story simply say that that’s why all beans have seams. It might be nice to have some different dried beans to show.
- If you tell this story to children, the moment when the straw, the bean and the coal arrive at the brook is a great moment to stop telling and ask them if they have any ideas for them.
All Questions Answered
It was written down by the Brothers Grimm, but is based on a fable of Aesopus.
This final version was added to the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales with the third edition (1837). In earlier editions a shortened version was included.
In the story ‘The Straw, the Coal and the Bean’ the bean bursts when laughing. She is repaired by a tailor who uses black thread. That’s why beans since then have a black seam.