Fitcher’s Bird
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Once upon a time there was a sorcerer who was a thief. He disguised himself as a poor man and went begging from house to house. A girl came to the door and brought him a piece of bread. He touched her, and she was forced to jump into his pack basket. Then he carried her to his house where everything was splendid, and he gave her everything that she wanted.

One day he said, “I have to take care of something away from home. I will be away for a while. Here is an egg. Take good care of it. Carry it with you at all times. And here is a key, but at the risk of your life, do not go into the room that it opens. But as soon as he had gone, she unlocked the door and went into the room. In the middle there was a large basin. In it there were dead and dismembered people. She was so terrified that she dropped the egg, which she was holding in her hand, into the basin. She quickly took it out again and wiped off the blood, but it reappeared in an instant. She could not get the egg clean, no matter how much she wiped and scrubbed.

When the man returned, he asked for the egg and the key. He looked at them and knew that she had been in the blood chamber. “You did not heed my words,” he said angrily, “and now you are going into the chamber against your will.” With that he seized her, led her into the room, cut her up in pieces, and threw her into the basin with the others.

Sometime later the man went begging again. He captured the second daughter from the house, and the same thing happened to her as to the first one. She too opened the forbidden door, dropped the egg into the blood, and was cut to pieces and thrown into the basin.

Then the sorcerer wanted to have the third daughter. He captured her in his pack basket, carried her home, and at his departure gave her the egg and the key. However, the third sister was clever and sly. First of all, she put the egg in a safe place, and then she went into the secret chamber. When she saw her sisters in the basin, she found all of their parts and put each one back in its right place: head, body, arm, and leg. The parts started to move, and then they joined together, and the two sister came back to life. She took them both out of the room and hid them.

When the man returned and found that the egg was free of blood, he asked her to become his bride. She said yes, but told him that first he would have to carry a basket filled with gold on his back to her parents, and that meanwhile she would be getting ready for the wedding. Then she told her sisters to get help from home. She put them into the basket and covered them over with gold. Then she said to the man, “Carry this away. And don’t you dare stop to rest. If you do, I’ll be able to see through my window.” He lifted the basket onto his back and started off, but it was so heavy that the weight nearly killed him. He wanted to rest a little, but one of the girls inside the basket called out, “I can see through my window that you are resting. Walk on at once!” He thought it was his bride calling out, so he got up and walked on. Every time he wanted to rest, he heard the call, and had to continue on.

Meanwhile, back at his house, his bride dressed up a skull and placed it in the attic window. Then she invited all the sorcerer’s friends to the wedding. Then she dipped herself in a barrel of honey, cut open the bed, and rolled in the feathers so that no one would be able to recognize her. In this strange disguise, she left the house and started down the path. Soon she met some of the guests, who said, “You, Fitcher’s bird, where are you coming from?”

“I’m coming from Fitcher’s house.”

“And what is his young bride doing?”

“She’s cleaning the house from bottom to top. Right now she is looking out of the attic window.”

Then she also met the bridegroom, who was returning home.

“You, Fitcher’s bird, where are you coming from?”

“I’m coming from Fitcher’s house.”

“And what is my young bride doing?”

“She’s cleaning the house from bottom to top. Right now she is looking out of the attic window.”

The bridegroom looked up, and saw the disguised skull. Thinking it was his bride, he waved to it. But after he arrived home, and all his friends were there as well, the help came that the sisters had sent. They closed up the house and set it afire, and because no one could get out, they all perished in the flames.

* Source: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, “Fitchers Vogel,” Kinder- und Hausmärchen, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Berlin: Realschulbuchhandlung, 1812), no. 46, pp. 200-203.

* Translated by D. L. Ashliman. © 1999.

* The Grimm brothers modified this tale stylistically in succeeding editions.

* Link to the German text of the first edition: Fitchers Vogel (1812).

* Link to the German test of the final edition: Fitchers Vogel (1856).

* Link to a translation of the final (1856) version of Fitcher’s Bird.

* Return to the table of contents.

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