Grimm's Fairy Tales

by Grimm Brothers

The Travelling Musicians

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: 1,352


An honest farmer had once an ass that had been a faithful servant tohim a great many years, but was now growing old and every day more andmore unfit for work. His master therefore was tired of keeping him andbegan to think of putting an end to him; but the ass, who saw thatsome mischief was in the wind, took himself slyly off, and began hisjourney towards the great city, ‘For there,’ thought he, ‘I may turnmusician.’

After he had travelled a little way, he spied a dog lying by theroadside and panting as if he were tired. ‘What makes you pant so, myfriend?’ said the ass. ‘Alas!’ said the dog, ‘my master was going toknock me on the head, because I am old and weak, and can no longermake myself useful to him in hunting; so I ran away; but what can I doto earn my livelihood?’ ‘Hark ye!’ said the ass, ‘I am going to thegreat city to turn musician: suppose you go with me, and try what youcan do in the same way?’ The dog said he was willing, and they joggedon together.

They had not gone far before they saw a cat sitting in the middle ofthe road and making a most rueful face. ‘Pray, my good lady,’ said theass, ‘what’s the matter with you? You look quite out of spirits!’ ‘Ah,me!’ said the cat, ‘how can one be in good spirits when one’s life isin danger? Because I am beginning to grow old, and had rather lie atmy ease by the fire than run about the house after the mice, mymistress laid hold of me, and was going to drown me; and though I havebeen lucky enough to get away from her, I do not know what I am tolive upon.’ ‘Oh,’ said the ass, ‘by all means go with us to the greatcity; you are a good night singer, and may make your fortune as amusician.’ The cat was pleased with the thought, and joined the party.

Soon afterwards, as they were passing by a farmyard, they saw a cockperched upon a gate, and screaming out with all his might and main.‘Bravo!’ said the ass; ‘upon my word, you make a famous noise; praywhat is all this about?’ ‘Why,’ said the cock, ‘I was just now sayingthat we should have fine weather for our washing-day, and yet mymistress and the cook don’t thank me for my pains, but threaten to cutoff my head tomorrow, and make broth of me for the guests that arecoming on Sunday!’ ‘Heaven forbid!’ said the ass, ‘come with us MasterChanticleer; it will be better, at any rate, than staying here to haveyour head cut off! Besides, who knows? If we care to sing in tune, wemay get up some kind of a concert; so come along with us.’ ‘With allmy heart,’ said the cock: so they all four went on jollily together.

They could not, however, reach the great city the first day; so whennight came on, they went into a wood to sleep. The ass and the doglaid themselves down under a great tree, and the cat climbed up intothe branches; while the cock, thinking that the higher he sat thesafer he should be, flew up to the very top of the tree, and then,according to his custom, before he went to sleep, looked out on allsides of him to see that everything was well. In doing this, he sawafar off something bright and shining and calling to his companionssaid, ‘There must be a house no great way off, for I see a light.’ ‘Ifthat be the case,’ said the ass, ‘we had better change our quarters,for our lodging is not the best in the world!’ ‘Besides,’ added thedog, ‘I should not be the worse for a bone or two, or a bit of meat.’So they walked off together towards the spot where Chanticleer hadseen the light, and as they drew near it became larger and brighter,till they at last came close to a house in which a gang of robberslived.

The ass, being the tallest of the company, marched up to the windowand peeped in. ‘Well, Donkey,’ said Chanticleer, ‘what do you see?’‘What do I see?’ replied the ass. ‘Why, I see a table spread with allkinds of good things, and robbers sitting round it making merry.’‘That would be a noble lodging for us,’ said the cock. ‘Yes,’ said theass, ‘if we could only get in’; so they consulted together how theyshould contrive to get the robbers out; and at last they hit upon aplan. The ass placed himself upright on his hind legs, with hisforefeet resting against the window; the dog got upon his back; thecat scrambled up to the dog’s shoulders, and the cock flew up and satupon the cat’s head. When all was ready a signal was given, and theybegan their music. The ass brayed, the dog barked, the cat mewed, andthe cock screamed; and then they all broke through the window at once,and came tumbling into the room, amongst the broken glass, with a mosthideous clatter! The robbers, who had been not a little frightened bythe opening concert, had now no doubt that some frightful hobgoblinhad broken in upon them, and scampered away as fast as they could.

The coast once clear, our travellers soon sat down and dispatched whatthe robbers had left, with as much eagerness as if they had notexpected to eat again for a month. As soon as they had satisfiedthemselves, they put out the lights, and each once more sought out aresting-place to his own liking. The donkey laid himself down upon aheap of straw in the yard, the dog stretched himself upon a mat behindthe door, the cat rolled herself up on the hearth before the warmashes, and the cock perched upon a beam on the top of the house; and,as they were all rather tired with their journey, they soon fellasleep.

But about midnight, when the robbers saw from afar that the lightswere out and that all seemed quiet, they began to think that they hadbeen in too great a hurry to run away; and one of them, who was bolderthan the rest, went to see what was going on. Finding everythingstill, he marched into the kitchen, and groped about till he found amatch in order to light a candle; and then, espying the glitteringfiery eyes of the cat, he mistook them for live coals, and held thematch to them to light it. But the cat, not understanding this joke,sprang at his face, and spat, and scratched at him. This frightenedhim dreadfully, and away he ran to the back door; but there the dogjumped up and bit him in the leg; and as he was crossing over the yardthe ass kicked him; and the cock, who had been awakened by the noise,crowed with all his might. At this the robber ran back as fast as hecould to his comrades, and told the captain how a horrid witch had gotinto the house, and had spat at him and scratched his face with herlong bony fingers; how a man with a knife in his hand had hiddenhimself behind the door, and stabbed him in the leg; how a blackmonster stood in the yard and struck him with a club, and how thedevil had sat upon the top of the house and cried out, ‘Throw therascal up here!’ After this the robbers never dared to go back to thehouse; but the musicians were so pleased with their quarters that theytook up their abode there; and there they are, I dare say, at thisvery day.