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A Grimm Fairy Tale Concerning a Strange Musician

A strange musician wanders alone over hill and dale. He decides to look for a companion, but he is rather fussy and pulls some nasty tricks.

     Three is a popular number in Grimm fairy tales. Allerleirauh has three gorgeous dresses. The wicked queen makes three trips to the home of the seven dwarfs, each time bearing an instrument of death for Snow White. Faithful John had to save his king three times. Cinderella attends the ball three times in three different dresses. In three different fairy tales, Dummling has two brothers, so that the total number of siblings is three. Other fairy tales also feature three brothers, such as “The Knapsack, the Hat, and the Horn” and “The Table, the Ass, and the Stick.” The word “three” even occurs in the title of some fairy tales, such as “The Three Birds,” “The Giant with the Three Golden Hairs,” “The Three Luck-Children,” and “The Three Brothers.”

     “Der wunderliche Spielmann” (“The Strange Musician”) features three different animals: a wolf, a fox, and a rabbit.

     As the tale begins, the musician was walking through a forest. He was lonely and wanted to find a companion. So he began to play his violin.

     A wolf approached and asked the musician to teach him how to play the violin. The musician did not want a wolf for a companion, so he played a trick on the poor creature. He told him that if he wanted to learn how to play the violin, he must put his paws in a crack in a hollow tree trunk. When the wolf obeyed him, the musician took a stone and wedged it firmly into the crack, so that the wolf could not withdraw his paws. The musician then left the scene.

     After a while, the musician played his violin a second time. This time a fox wanted to learn how to play. Since the musician did not want a fox as a companion, he played a trick on him. When he encountered two little trees that were growing close to one another, he told the fox to follow his instructions if he wanted to learn how to play the violin. He bent the two trees to the ground and stepped on the tips with his feet. Then he ordered the fox to cooperate as he tied one of the animal’s feet to the tip of one tree and the other foot to the tip of the other tree. He then took his own feet off the tips of the two trees so that they resumed their upright position. As a result, the fox was suspended in the air and could not escape.

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