A Grimm’s Fairy Tale is meant to be understood as a lesson. Used to teach children, these stories almost always have morals hidden within them. Some are hidden better than others and one of the trickier stories to understand is “The Bremen Town Musicians." In order to discover the hidden meaning behind the fairy tale, we have to do a little digging to understand the main conflict of the story.
The basic plot of “The Bremen Town Musicians" begins with a donkey who has become old and weak. He is going to be killed, but before his master can kill him he escapes. He forms a plan to go to the town of Bremen and become a musician. As he travels he meets other animals. First he meets a dog who has become too old to hunt, then meets a cat who no longer hunts mice, and finally a rooster who is going to be eaten. Each of these animals is convinced by the donkey to go to Bremen and start a new life as musicians.
They travel through the day, and as it gets dark, see a house with lights on. Looking for a place to sleep, they discover there are robbers living in the house. Working together, the animals scare away the robbers. They then go to sleep in the house. Soon the robbers return, but when they do the animals fight them off, this time scaring them into believing that there is a witch and a monster in the house. This leaves it free for the animals who live there the rest of their lives.
The major motivating factor of “The Bremen Town Musicians" is not the battle between the animals and the robbers. Instead, it is the conflict of age and growing less useful. Each of the animals in this story has become too old to do the job that was once the core of its identity. Due to this loss in ability, these animals are being cast off or killed. It is because of that time the characters in the story act and it is this that they are trying to avoid.
There are a few things that a parent might want to teach a child by telling them this story. One of the primary reasons is an understanding that the weakness of age comes with wisdom. The animals in this story are not as strong as they once were, but they are wiser. They are able to outsmart the robbers who are certainly stronger than them, and while they can’t do what they once did, they can still be useful.
While age may be the most clear of the conflicts for “The Bremen Town Musicians," change is also a major conflict in the story. This is something that would in many cases be more directly connected to the child’s life. A child hearing this story would not yet be getting old, but they would be outgrowing things that were comfortable and their lives would be changing. Each of the animals in this story is forced to give up something he or she was good at and enjoyed doing, yet by leaving their comfort and seeking something new they found something better, even if it wasn’t what they expected.
Although there is no death in the story of “The Bremen Town Musicians," there is the looming specter of death. Death at the time this story was written was something that children would have been even far better acquainted with than most are now. This story has the ability to serve the same purpose as telling a child that an animal has been sent to a farm in the country. These animals have not died, but instead went to someplace where they will be happier.
There are a number of morals which can be taken from this story. The respect of your elders is one of the clear lessons in this story. This helps show that grandparents may not be as strong as they once were, but that they are still important and useful. This is a lesson that every generation has to learn and this story serves as a subtle but important reminder.
Another important moral in this story is that of teamwork. The animals in this story are old and weak, and alone none of them would be able to achieve much. Yet, by working together they are able to achieve something that none of them would be able to achieve alone.
Often considered nothing more than a simple and fun story, “The Bremen Town Musicians," like all Grimm’s stories, is still well written and gives the opportunity to teach children lessons that are often difficult to teach. The key to this is understanding what this story teaches are the conflicts of “The Bremen Town Musicians" including those conflicts of age, death and change.
- Image: Fort Napoleon by Georges Jansoone under CC by -SA 3.0
- Image: Bremen Band by Adrian Pingstone under Public Domain