“On the seventh day…” The Twelve Grimm Days of Christmas

We are delighted to share these stories from The Complete First Edition of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm with our readers. This series will run for 12 days and each story is accompanied by original art from Andrea Dezsö.

hedgehog

Hans My Hedgehog

Once there was a rich farmer, and he and his wife didn’t have any children. When he went into town with the other farmers, they often made fun of him and asked why he had no children. One day he finally got angry, and when he went home, he said, “I want to have a child, even if it’s a hedgehog.” Then his wife gave birth to a child whose upper half was hedgehog and bottom half, human. When she saw the child, she was horrified and said,

“You see how you cursed us!”

“There’s nothing we can do about it now,” said her husband. “The boy must be christened, but we’ll never find a godfather for him.”

“There’s only one name I can think of for him,” said the wife, “and that’s Hans My Hedgehog.”

After he was christened, the pastor said, “He won’t be able to sleep in a regular bed because of his quills.”

Consequently, they gathered together some straw, spread it on the floor behind the stove, and laid Hans My Hedgehog on it. His mother couldn’t nurse him because he might have stuck her with his quills. So he lay behind the stove for eight years, and eventually his father got tired of him and wished he might die, but he didn’t die. He just kept lying there.

One day there was a fair in town, and the farmer decided to go to it and asked his wife if she wanted anything.

“Some meat and a few rolls,” she said. “That’s all we need for the house.” Then he asked the maid, and she wanted a pair of slippers and hand- sewn stockings. Finally, he went and asked his son, “Hans My Hedgehog, what would you like to have?”

“Father,” he said, “just bring me back some bagpipes.”

When the farmer returned home, he gave his wife the meat and rolls he had bought. Then he handed the maid the slippers and hand-sewn stockings. Finally, he went behind the stove and gave Hans My Hedgehog his bagpipes. Upon receiving the bagpipes, he said, “Father, please go to the blacksmith and have him shoe my rooster. Then I’ll ride away and never come back.”

The father was happy at the idea of getting rid of him and had his rooster shod. When the rooster was ready, Hans My Hedgehog mounted it and rode away, taking some donkeys and pigs with him, which he wanted to tend out in the forest. Once he reached the forest, he had the rooster fly him up into a tall tree, where he sat and tended the donkeys and pigs. Indeed, he sat there for many years until the herd was very large, and he never sent word to his father about his whereabouts.

As he sat in the tree he played his bagpipes and made some beautiful music. One day a king, who had lost his way in the forest, came riding by. When he heard the music, he was so astonished that he sent his servant to look around and see where the music was coming from. The servant looked around, but all he could see was a small animal, sitting up in a tree, that seemed to be a rooster with a hedgehog sitting on top of it playing music. The king told the servant to ask the creature why he was sitting there and whether he knew the way back to the king’s country. Hans My Hedgehog climbed down from the tree and said he would show him the way if the king would promise in writing to give him the first thing he met at the castle courtyard when he returned home.

“No danger in that,” thought the king. “Hans My Hedgehog can’t understand writing, so I can write whatever I want.” The king took pen and ink and wrote something down, and after he had done this, Hans My Hedgehog showed him the way, and the king arrived home safely. When his daughter saw him coming from afar, she was so overcome with joy that she ran out to meet him and kissed him. Then he thought of Hans My Hedgehog and explained to her what had happened: he had been forced to make a promise in writing to a strange creature who had demanded to have the first thing the king met upon returning home. This creature had been sitting on a rooster as though it were a horse and had been playing beautiful music. The king told his daughter that he had, however, written down that Hans My Hedgehog was not to get what he demanded.

Anyway, it made no difference because he couldn’t read. The princess was happy to hear that and said it was a good thing since she would never have gone with him anyway.

Hans My Hedgehog continued tending his donkeys and pigs. He was always cheerful sitting there perched in his tree, playing his bagpipes. Now it happened that another king came driving by with his servants and couriers. He too had lost his way, and the forest was so large that he didn’t know how to get back home. He too heard the beautiful music from afar and told a courier to go and see what it was. So the courier went to the tree and saw the rooster sitting there with Hans My Hedgehog on its back, and the courier asked him what he was doing up there.

“I’m tending my donkeys and pigs, but what can I do for you?”

The courier asked him whether he could show them the way out of the forest since they were lost and couldn’t make it back to their kingdom. Hans My Hedgehog climbed down from the tree with his rooster and told the old king that he would show him the way if the king would give him the first thing that met him when he returned home to his royal castle. The king agreed and put it in writing that Hans My Hedgehog was to have what he demanded. When that was done, Hans My Hedgehog rode ahead of him on the rooster and showed the way. The king reached his kingdom safely, and as he entered the castle courtyard, there was great rejoicing. His only daughter, who was very beautiful, ran toward him and embraced him. She was very happy to see her old father again and asked him what in the world had kept him so long. He told her he had lost his way and would not have made it back at all had it not been for a strange creature, half human, half hedgehog, who had helped him find his way out of the forest. The creature had been sitting astride a rooster up in a tall tree and had been playing beautiful music. In return for his aid the king had promised to give him the first thing that met him at the castle courtyard. Now he was very sorry that it had happened to be her. However, out of love for her old father, the princess promised him that she would go with Hans My Hedgehog whenever he came.

In the meantime, Hans My Hedgehog kept tending his pigs, and the pigs had more pigs, and eventually there were so many that the entire forest was full of them. Then Hans My Hedgehog sent word to his father to clear out all the pigsties in the village, for he was coming with such a huge herd of pigs that anyone who wanted to slaughter one could have his pick. On hearing this, his father was distressed, for he had believed that Hans My Hedgehog had long been dead. Nevertheless, Hans My Hedgehog mounted his rooster, drove his pigs ahead of him into the village, and ordered the slaughtering to begin. Whew! There was such chopping and butchering that the noise could be heard for miles around. Afterward Hans My Hedgehog said, “Father, have the blacksmith shoe my rooster one more time. Then I’ll ride away and never return as long as I live.”

So his father had the rooster shod and was glad that Hans My Hedgehog didn’t want to return again. Now, when Hans My Hedgehog departed, he set out for the country of the first king whom he had helped, but the king had given his men orders to stop anyone who was riding on a rooster and playing bagpipes from entering the castle. If necessary, they were to use their guns, spears, or swords to stop him. So when Hans My Hedgehog came riding, they attacked him with their bayonets, but he put spurs to his rooster, and the bird rose in the air, flew over the gate, and landed on the ledge of the king’s window. He called to the king to keep his promise and give him the princess; otherwise, he would take his life and his daughter’s as well. Then the king implored his daughter with the best words he could use to go with Hans My Hedgehog to save their lives. So she dressed herself all in white, and her father gave her a coach with six horses, splendid servants, money, and property. She got into the coach and was followed by Hans My Hedgehog, with his bagpipes and his rooster by his side. They then said good-bye and drove away, and the king thought that was the last be would ever see of his daughter, but things happened much differently from how he thought they would. When they had gone a little way from the city, Hans My Hedgehog took off the princess’s beautiful clothes and stuck her with his quills until she was covered with blood.

“This is what you get for being so deceitful!” he said. “Go away. I don’t want you.”

Then he chased her home, and she lived in disgrace for the rest of her life.

Meanwhile, Hans My Hedgehog took his bagpipes, got on his rooster, and continued his journey toward the second kingdom, which belonged to the other king whom he had led out of the forest. However, this king had ordered his men to present arms, to allow Hans My Hedgehog to enter, and to greet him by shouting “Long may he live!” After that they were to escort him into the royal palace. When the king’s daughter saw him, she was frightened because he looked so strange. However, she thought there was nothing she could do, for she had promised her father to go with him. Therefore, she welcomed Hans My Hedgehog and had to go with him to the royal table, where she sat next to him. Then they ate and drank. When evening came and it was time to go to bed, she was very much afraid of his quills, but he said not to fear because he had no intention of harming her. Then he told the old king to have four men stand watch in front of the bedroom door and to make a big fire, for when he got inside and prepared to go to bed, he would slip out of his hedgehog’s skin and leave it in front of the bed. The men were then to rush in quickly, throw the skin on the fire, and stand there until it was completely extinguished.

When the clock struck eleven, he went into the room, stripped off the hedgehog’s skin, and left it on the floor in front of the bed. Right after this the men came, picked up the skin, and threw it into the fire. When the fire had consumed it, he was set free and lay in bed just like a human being, but he was pitch black, as if he had been burned. The king sent for his doctor, who rubbed him with special ointments and balms, and gradually, he became white and turned into a handsome young man. When the princess saw that, she was very happy. The next morning they got up in a joyful mood and had a fine meal. Then the wedding was held, and Hans My Hedgehog was given the kingdom by the old king.

After some years had passed, the young king took his wife and drove to visit his father, and he told the old man that he was his son. The father, however, said he had no son, though he once had one, but he had been born with quills like a hedgehog and had gone off into the world. Then Hans My Hedgehog revealed himself to his father, and the old man rejoiced and went back with him to his kingdom.


bookjacket

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm:
The Complete First Edition
Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm, Translated and edited by Jack Zipes
Illustrated by Andrea Dezsö

Art credit: Andrea Dezsö
This post is part of a series, explore additional posts here<< “On the fifth day…” The Twelve Grimm Days of Christmas“On the eighth day…” The Twelve Grimm Days of Christmas >>