A fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm
There was once upon a time a princess who was extremely proud. If a
wooer came she gave him some riddle to guess, and if he could not
guess it, he was sent contemptuously away. She let it be made known
also that whosoever solved her riddle should marry her, let him be
who he might. At length, three tailors fell in with each other, the
two eldest of whom thought they had done so many dexterous jobs of
work successfully that they could not fail to succeed in this also,
the third was a little, useless harum-scarum, who did not even know
his trade, but thought he must have some luck in this venture, for
where else was it to come from. Then the two others said to him,
"Just stay at home, you cannot do much with your little understanding."
The little tailor, however, did not let himself be discouraged, and
said he had set his mind to work on this for once, and he would
manage well enough, and he went forth as if the whole world were his.
They all three announced themselves to the princess, and said she was
to propound her riddle to them, and that the right persons were now
come, who had understandings so fine that they could be threaded in a
needle. Then said the princess, "I have two kinds of hair on my
head, of what colour is it?"
"If that be all," said the first, "it
must be black and white, like the cloth which is called pepper and
The princess said, "Wrongly guessed, let the second answer."
Then said the second, "If it be not black and white, then it is brown
and red, like my father's Sunday coat."
"Wrongly guessed," said the
princess, "let the third give the answer, for I see very well he knows
it for certain."
Then the little tailor stepped boldly forth and
said, "The princess has a silver and a golden hair on her head, and
those are the two different colours."
When the princess heard that, she turned pale and nearly fell down
with terror, for the little tailor had guessed her riddle, and she
had firmly believed that no man on earth could discover it. When her
courage returned she said, "You have not won me yet by that. There
is still something else that you must do. Below, in the stable is a
bear with which you shall pass the night, and when I get up in the
morning if you are still alive, you will marry me." She expected,
however, she would thus get rid of the tailor, for the bear had never
yet left anyone alive who had fallen into his clutches. The little
tailor did not let himself be frightened away, but was quite
delighted, and said, "Boldly ventured is half won."
So when the evening came, our little tailor was taken down to the
bear. The bear was about to set on the little fellow at once, and
give him a hearty welcome with his paws. "Softly, softly," said the
little tailor, "I shall soon make you quiet." Then quite composedly,
and as if he had no anxiety in the world, he took some nuts out of
his pocket, cracked them, and ate the kernels. When the bear saw
that, he was seized with a desire to have some nuts too. The tailor
felt in his pockets, and reached him a handful, they were, however,
not nuts, but pebbles. The bear put them in his mouth, but could get
nothing out of them, let him bite as he would. "Eh," thought he,
"what a stupid blockhead am I, I cannot even crack a nut." And then
he said to the tailor, "Here, crack me the nuts."
"There, see what a
stupid fellow you are," said the little tailor, "to have such a great
mouth, and not be able to crack a small nut."
Then he took the pebble
and nimbly put a nut in his mouth in the place of it, and crack, it
was in two. "I must try the thing again," said the bear, "when I
watch you, I then think I ought to be able to do it too." So the
tailor once more gave him a pebble, and the bear tried and tried to
bite into it with all the strength of his body. But even you do not
believe that he managed it.
When that was over, the tailor took out a violin from beneath his
coat, and played something to himself. When the bear heard the
music, he could not help beginning to dance, and when he had danced a
while, the thing pleased him so well that he said to the little
tailor, "Listen, is it difficult to fiddle?"
"Easy enough for a
child. Look, with the left hand I lay my fingers on it, and with the
right I stroke it with the bow, and then it goes merrily, hop sa sa
"So," said the bear, "fiddling is a thing I should like
to learn too, that I might dance whenever I felt like it. What do
you think of that? Will you give me lessons?"
"With all my heart,"
said the tailor, "if you have a talent for it. But just let me see
your claws, they are terribly long, I must cut your nails a little."
Then a vice was brought, and the bear put his claws in it, and the
little tailor screwed it tight, and said, "Now wait until I come with
the scissors." And he let the bear growl as he liked, and lay down in
the corner on a bundle of straw, and fell asleep.
When the princess heard the bear growling so fiercely during the
night, she believed nothing else but that he was growling for joy,
and had made an end of the tailor. In the morning she arose careless
and happy, but when she peeped into the stable, the tailor stood
gaily before her, and was as healthy as a fish in water. Now she
could not say another word against the wedding because she had given
a promise before everyone, and the king ordered a carriage to be
brought in which she was to drive to church with the tailor, and
there she was to be married.
When they had climbed into the carriage, the two other tailors, who
had false hearts and envied him his good fortune, went into the
stable and unscrewed the bear again. The bear in great fury ran
after the carriage. The princess heard snorting and growling. She
was terrified, and she cried, "Ah, the bear is behind us and wants to
get you." The tailor was quick and stood on his head, stuck his legs
out of the window, and cried, "Do you see the vice? If you do not be
off you will be put into it again." When the bear saw that, he
turned round and ran away. The tailor drove quietly to church, and
the princess was married to him at once, and he lived with her as
happy as a woodlark. Whosoever does not believe this, must pay a