Famous Bizarre Fairy Tales

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Everybody knows the biggest stories: Snow White, Hansel & Gretel, Cinderella et al but what about the one about the drunken zombies starting a riot? Or the man who wanted a child so badly, that he would even settle for a hedgehog? Here are some of the least-known and most bizarre fairy tales


1. The Mouse, The Bird and The Sausage


This little-known fairy tale from The Brothers Grimm is about precisely what it sounds as if it might be about. The three live together and appear to have divided up the chores rather nicely (the sausage cooks, the mouse collects water and the bird collects fire wood) until one day the bird decides he does more work than the others and switches the workload so nobody can carry out their tasks effectively. Tragedies ensue and they all die horribly: the sausage is eaten, the mouse burns to death and the bird drowns

2. The Juniper Tree


Another tale from Grimm: A widower remarries and in typical fairy tale fashion his new wife despises the son from the first marriage; she wants their daughter to inherit everything and kills him by chopping off his head. To hide the crime, she puts it back on and wraps a scarf around his neck. The daughter soon knocks the boy’s head off again and ‘ believing she has killed him ‘ tells her mother. The pair then chops him up and serves him in a stew to the father. The boy is then reincarnated as a large bird and takes revenge by killing his stepmother by dropping a stone on her. He is then transformed back into the boy

3. Penta of the Chopped-Off Hands


A widowed king falls in love with his own sister and arranges the marriage. Penta cuts off her hands – somehow believing that this will stop the wedding. The king gets angry with her, puts her in a chest and throws it into the sea. She is later found by a fisherman who has to throw her back because of a jealous wife. Another king finds her, falls in love and marries her. She eventually falls pregnant and writes to her husband to tell him of her good news. The fisherman’s wife finds it and makes it look as if she will give birth to a puppy. It gets weirder until eventually the pair end up heirs of a magician’s kingdom.

4. The Dead Mother


Before there was the zombie-romance of Warm Bodies there was this tragic Russian tale of a mother who dies in childbirth. The distraught father hires an old lady to look after the child but the baby cries constantly except at night when it is peaceful. Nobody can understand why so they stay up one night and see that the mother has returned from the dead to suckle the baby. Upon discovery, the undead mother leaves the room. They check on the baby to discover that it has died.

5. The Three Army Surgeons


This tale is one of their most bizarre from the Brothers Grimm. Three surgeons attempt to impress an innkeeper by performing surgery on their own bodies ‘ one removes his eyes, another cuts off his hands and the other removes his heart. They are stored in a cupboard until a cat eats them. The innkeeper’s daughter and her boyfriend find replacement parts (eyes from a cat, heart from a pig and hands from a convicted killer who was hanged earlier that day). Realising they have been tricked and taking on the characteristics of the donors, the surgeons threaten to burn the place down but are eventually paid off

6. The Old Dame and Her Hen


When an old lady’s hen goes missing she sends her daughters out one by one to look for it but the first two girls go missing. The youngest goes searching; she finds a trapdoor beneath and it hides a troll’s kingdom. The troll king asks her to be his wife ‘ she pretends to accept, realising that he has already killed her two sisters. Later, she laments her mother’s lack of food and gets her husband to send a sack of food ‘ but it is actually full of gold and she forbids him from looking. A goat falls through the trap door and he kills it but she berates him and he brings it back to life. Seeing her opportunity, she tricks him, brings her sisters back to life and escapes. The troll is killed by the rising sun

7. Hans: My Hedgehog


Back to the Brothers Grimm, this is about a man so desperate for a child that he would even accept a hedgehog for offspring. By sheer and bizarre coincidence, his wife gives birth to a child that is a hedgehog from the waist up. Later, he comes by some bagpipes and is playing them in the woods when a lost king asks him the way home. Hans makes the king promise that whatever he encounters when he gets home should be his but the king reneges when he sees it is his daughter. Later, Hans goes to claim his ‘prize’ but when meeting the daughter, his prickles make her bleed. He is later transformed into a handsome prince when he his able to remove his hedgehog skin

8. The King of the Golden Mountain


A down and out merchant with two children meet a black-skinned dwarf (a manikin). He promises the merchant riches beyond his dreams if he brings to him in twelve years ‘the first thing that rubs against his leg’. The man agrees but his son performs the action and after the twelve years he feels sad about having to do it. He takes the boy to the manikin who puts him in a boat and pushes him into the water where he ends up on an island with a talking snake. The snake was once a princess and tells the boy that if he lets 12 manikins beat him, she would be freed. The tale gets more and more surreal

9. Frau Trude


It isn’t very often that the wicked witch of a Grimm’s fairy tales is the victor but this is one of those rare occasions. A disobedient daughter wants to see the witch ‘Frau Trude’ but ignores her parents’ warnings. The girl meets the witch and explains that she saw three men ‘ a black man, a green man and a red man on her steps. Frau Trude explains who they are. Next the girl says that she saw not a woman, but the devil through the window. Frau Trude explains that the girl had seen her proper attire, turns the little girl into a block of wood and throws her onto the fire

10. The Moon


Who would ever think that the Brothers Grimm would write a story featuring zombies and Saint Peter? Four men steal the moon to light up their town but it has a cost ‘ the recently deceased come back to life and rather than going around biting people, they get drunk and have a fight. This prompts the guardian of the pearly gates to come down and chastise them. He took back the moon and sent the dead back into their graves.



It is understandable why many of those above are not particularly well-known ‘ they would terrify most children and it would be particularly difficult to sanitise them. The more famous ones are often scary enough on their own without threatening disobedient children with being turned into blocks of wood

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