Grimm's Fairy Tales

by Grimm Brothers

The Golden Bird

Additional Information
  • Year Published: 1905
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: Germany
  • Source: Edwardes, M., Taylor, E., trans. (1905). Grimm's Fairy Tales. New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co.
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 6.3
  • Word Count: 2,466


A certain king had a beautiful garden, and in the garden stood a treewhich bore golden apples. These apples were always counted, and aboutthe time when they began to grow ripe it was found that every nightone of them was gone. The king became very angry at this, and orderedthe gardener to keep watch all night under the tree. The gardener sethis eldest son to watch; but about twelve o’clock he fell asleep, andin the morning another of the apples was missing. Then the second sonwas ordered to watch; and at midnight he too fell asleep, and in themorning another apple was gone. Then the third son offered to keepwatch; but the gardener at first would not let him, for fear some harmshould come to him: however, at last he consented, and the young manlaid himself under the tree to watch. As the clock struck twelve heheard a rustling noise in the air, and a bird came flying that was ofpure gold; and as it was snapping at one of the apples with its beak,the gardener’s son jumped up and shot an arrow at it. But the arrowdid the bird no harm; only it dropped a golden feather from its tail,and then flew away. The golden feather was brought to the king in themorning, and all the council was called together. Everyone agreed thatit was worth more than all the wealth of the kingdom: but the kingsaid, ‘One feather is of no use to me, I must have the whole bird.’

Then the gardener’s eldest son set out and thought to find the goldenbird very easily; and when he had gone but a little way, he came to awood, and by the side of the wood he saw a fox sitting; so he took hisbow and made ready to shoot at it. Then the fox said, ‘Do not shootme, for I will give you good counsel; I know what your business is,and that you want to find the golden bird. You will reach a village inthe evening; and when you get there, you will see two inns opposite toeach other, one of which is very pleasant and beautiful to look at: gonot in there, but rest for the night in the other, though it mayappear to you to be very poor and mean.’ But the son thought tohimself, ‘What can such a beast as this know about the matter?’ So heshot his arrow at the fox; but he missed it, and it set up its tailabove its back and ran into the wood. Then he went his way, and in theevening came to the village where the two inns were; and in one ofthese were people singing, and dancing, and feasting; but the otherlooked very dirty, and poor. ‘I should be very silly,’ said he, ‘if Iwent to that shabby house, and left this charming place’; so he wentinto the smart house, and ate and drank at his ease, and forgot thebird, and his country too.

Time passed on; and as the eldest son did not come back, and notidings were heard of him, the second son set out, and the same thinghappened to him. He met the fox, who gave him the good advice: butwhen he came to the two inns, his eldest brother was standing at thewindow where the merrymaking was, and called to him to come in; and hecould not withstand the temptation, but went in, and forgot the goldenbird and his country in the same manner.

Time passed on again, and the youngest son too wished to set out intothe wide world to seek for the golden bird; but his father would notlisten to it for a long while, for he was very fond of his son, andwas afraid that some ill luck might happen to him also, and preventhis coming back. However, at last it was agreed he should go, for hewould not rest at home; and as he came to the wood, he met the fox,and heard the same good counsel. But he was thankful to the fox, anddid not attempt his life as his brothers had done; so the fox said,‘Sit upon my tail, and you will travel faster.’ So he sat down, andthe fox began to run, and away they went over stock and stone so quickthat their hair whistled in the wind.

When they came to the village, the son followed the fox’s counsel, andwithout looking about him went to the shabby inn and rested there allnight at his ease. In the morning came the fox again and met him as hewas beginning his journey, and said, ‘Go straight forward, till youcome to a castle, before which lie a whole troop of soldiers fastasleep and snoring: take no notice of them, but go into the castle andpass on and on till you come to a room, where the golden bird sits ina wooden cage; close by it stands a beautiful golden cage; but do nottry to take the bird out of the shabby cage and put it into thehandsome one, otherwise you will repent it.’ Then the fox stretchedout his tail again, and the young man sat himself down, and away theywent over stock and stone till their hair whistled in the wind.

Before the castle gate all was as the fox had said: so the son went inand found the chamber where the golden bird hung in a wooden cage, andbelow stood the golden cage, and the three golden apples that had beenlost were lying close by it. Then thought he to himself, ‘It will be avery droll thing to bring away such a fine bird in this shabby cage’;so he opened the door and took hold of it and put it into the goldencage. But the bird set up such a loud scream that all the soldiersawoke, and they took him prisoner and carried him before the king. Thenext morning the court sat to judge him; and when all was heard, itsentenced him to die, unless he should bring the king the golden horsewhich could run as swiftly as the wind; and if he did this, he was tohave the golden bird given him for his own.

So he set out once more on his journey, sighing, and in great despair,when on a sudden his friend the fox met him, and said, ‘You see nowwhat has happened on account of your not listening to my counsel. Iwill still, however, tell you how to find the golden horse, if youwill do as I bid you. You must go straight on till you come to thecastle where the horse stands in his stall: by his side will lie thegroom fast asleep and snoring: take away the horse quietly, but besure to put the old leathern saddle upon him, and not the golden onethat is close by it.’ Then the son sat down on the fox’s tail, andaway they went over stock and stone till their hair whistled in thewind.

All went right, and the groom lay snoring with his hand upon thegolden saddle. But when the son looked at the horse, he thought it agreat pity to put the leathern saddle upon it. ‘I will give him thegood one,’ said he; ‘I am sure he deserves it.’ As he took up thegolden saddle the groom awoke and cried out so loud, that all theguards ran in and took him prisoner, and in the morning he was againbrought before the court to be judged, and was sentenced to die. Butit was agreed, that, if he could bring thither the beautiful princess,he should live, and have the bird and the horse given him for his own.

Then he went his way very sorrowful; but the old fox came and said,‘Why did not you listen to me? If you had, you would have carried awayboth the bird and the horse; yet will I once more give you counsel. Gostraight on, and in the evening you will arrive at a castle. At twelveo’clock at night the princess goes to the bathing-house: go up to herand give her a kiss, and she will let you lead her away; but take careyou do not suffer her to go and take leave of her father and mother.’Then the fox stretched out his tail, and so away they went over stockand stone till their hair whistled again.

As they came to the castle, all was as the fox had said, and at twelveo’clock the young man met the princes going to the bath and gave herthe kiss, and she agreed to run away with him, but begged with manytears that he would let her take leave of her father. At first herefused, but she wept still more and more, and fell at his feet, tillat last he consented; but the moment she came to her father’s housethe guards awoke and he was taken prisoner again.

Then he was brought before the king, and the king said, ‘You shallnever have my daughter unless in eight days you dig away the hill thatstops the view from my window.’ Now this hill was so big that thewhole world could not take it away: and when he had worked for sevendays, and had done very little, the fox came and said. ‘Lie down andgo to sleep; I will work for you.’ And in the morning he awoke and thehill was gone; so he went merrily to the king, and told him that nowthat it was removed he must give him the princess.

Then the king was obliged to keep his word, and away went the youngman and the princess; and the fox came and said to him, ‘We will haveall three, the princess, the horse, and the bird.’ ‘Ah!’ said theyoung man, ‘that would be a great thing, but how can you contrive it?’

‘If you will only listen,’ said the fox, ‘it can be done. When youcome to the king, and he asks for the beautiful princess, you mustsay, “Here she is!” Then he will be very joyful; and you will mountthe golden horse that they are to give you, and put out your hand totake leave of them; but shake hands with the princess last. Then lifther quickly on to the horse behind you; clap your spurs to his side,and gallop away as fast as you can.’

All went right: then the fox said, ‘When you come to the castle wherethe bird is, I will stay with the princess at the door, and you willride in and speak to the king; and when he sees that it is the righthorse, he will bring out the bird; but you must sit still, and saythat you want to look at it, to see whether it is the true goldenbird; and when you get it into your hand, ride away.’

This, too, happened as the fox said; they carried off the bird, theprincess mounted again, and they rode on to a great wood. Then the foxcame, and said, ‘Pray kill me, and cut off my head and my feet.’ Butthe young man refused to do it: so the fox said, ‘I will at any rategive you good counsel: beware of two things; ransom no one from thegallows, and sit down by the side of no river.’ Then away he went.‘Well,’ thought the young man, ‘it is no hard matter to keep thatadvice.’

He rode on with the princess, till at last he came to the villagewhere he had left his two brothers. And there he heard a great noiseand uproar; and when he asked what was the matter, the people said,‘Two men are going to be hanged.’ As he came nearer, he saw that thetwo men were his brothers, who had turned robbers; so he said, ‘Cannotthey in any way be saved?’ But the people said ‘No,’ unless he wouldbestow all his money upon the rascals and buy their liberty. Then hedid not stay to think about the matter, but paid what was asked, andhis brothers were given up, and went on with him towards their home.

And as they came to the wood where the fox first met them, it was socool and pleasant that the two brothers said, ‘Let us sit down by theside of the river, and rest a while, to eat and drink.’ So he said,‘Yes,’ and forgot the fox’s counsel, and sat down on the side of theriver; and while he suspected nothing, they came behind, and threw himdown the bank, and took the princess, the horse, and the bird, andwent home to the king their master, and said. ‘All this have we won byour labour.’ Then there was great rejoicing made; but the horse wouldnot eat, the bird would not sing, and the princess wept.

The youngest son fell to the bottom of the river’s bed: luckily it wasnearly dry, but his bones were almost broken, and the bank was sosteep that he could find no way to get out. Then the old fox came oncemore, and scolded him for not following his advice; otherwise no evilwould have befallen him: ‘Yet,’ said he, ‘I cannot leave you here, solay hold of my tail and hold fast.’ Then he pulled him out of theriver, and said to him, as he got upon the bank, ‘Your brothers haveset watch to kill you, if they find you in the kingdom.’ So he dressedhimself as a poor man, and came secretly to the king’s court, and wasscarcely within the doors when the horse began to eat, and the bird tosing, and princess left off weeping. Then he went to the king, andtold him all his brothers’ roguery; and they were seized and punished,and he had the princess given to him again; and after the king’s deathhe was heir to his kingdom.

A long while after, he went to walk one day in the wood, and the oldfox met him, and besought him with tears in his eyes to kill him, andcut off his head and feet. And at last he did so, and in a moment thefox was changed into a man, and turned out to be the brother of theprincess, who had been lost a great many many years.