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Grimm's Fairy Tales

The Three Black Princesses -

a comparison of the first version (1815)
with the final version (1857)

German title: De drei schwatten Princessinnen
English title: The Three Black Princesses
Story position: Volume 2, Number 51
Story designation: KHM 137 ("Kinder- und Hausmärchen")

Quick history: There were seven editions of the Grimm's Fairy Tales published in the Grimm Brothers' lifetime. Each edition was presented in two volumes. Volume 1 of the first edition appeared in 1812; Volume 2 of the first edition appeared in 1815. Both volumes of the seventh edition appeared in 1857.

(Take me directly to the full comparison in the original German.)

The Three Black Princesses is written in a German dialect. There are no substantive differences between the first and final versions. All differences fall into the categories of spelling, grammar, and punctuation updates, and the spelling out of numbers which appeared in numeric form in the first version. Here is the complete tale in the English translation by Margaret Hunt (1884).


The Three Black Princesses -
the first and final version

EAST INDIA* was besieged by an enemy who would not retire until he had received six hundred dollars. Then the townsfolk caused it to be proclaimed by beat of drum that whosoever was able to procure the money should be burgomaster. Now there was a poor fisherman who fished on the lake with his son, and the enemy came and took the son prisoner, and gave the father six hundred dollars for him. So the father went and gave them to the great men of the town, and the enemy departed, and the fisherman became burgomaster. Then it was proclaimed that whosoever did not say, "Mr. Burgomaster," should be put to death on the gallows. The son got away again from the enemy, and came to a great forest on a high mountain. The mountain opened, and he went into a great enchanted castle, wherein chairs, tables, and benches were all hung with black. Then came three young princesses who were entirely dressed in black, but had a little white on their faces; they told him he was not to be afraid, they would not hurt him, and that he could deliver them. He said he would gladly do that, if he did but know how. On this, they told him he must for a whole year not speak to them and also not look at them, and what he wanted to have he was just to ask for, and if they dared give him an answer they would do so. When he had been there for a long while he said he should like to go to his father, and they told him he might go. He was to take with him this purse with money, put on this coat, and in a week he must be back there again.

Then he was lifted up, and was instantly in East India. He could no longer find his father in the fisherman's hut, and asked the people where the poor fisherman could be, and they told him he must not say that, or he would come to the gallows. Then he went to his father and said, "Fisherman, how hast thou got here?" Then the father said, "Thou must not say that, if the great men of the town knew of that, thou wouldst come to the gallows." He, however, would not give in, and was brought to the gallows. When he was there, he said, "O, my masters, just give me leave to go to the old fisherman's hut." Then he put on his old smock-frock, and came back to the great men, and said, "Do ye not now see? Am I not the son of the poor fisherman? Did I not earn bread for my father and mother in this dress?" Hereupon his father knew him again, and begged his pardon, and took him home with him, and then he related all that had happened to him, and how he had got into a forest on a high mountain, and the mountain had opened and he had gone into an enchanted castle, where all was black, and three young princesses had come to him who were black except a little white on their faces. And they had told him not to fear, and that he could deliver them. Then his mother said that might very likely not be a good thing to do, and that he ought to take a blessed candle with him, and drop some boiling wax on their faces.

He went back again, and he was in great fear, and he dropped the wax on their faces as they were sleeping, and they all turned half-white. Then all the three princesses sprang up, and said, "Thou accursed dog, our blood shall cry for vengeance on thee! Now there is no man born in the world, nor will any ever be born who can set us free! We have still three brothers who are bound by seven chains they shall tear thee to pieces." Then there was a loud shrieking all over the castle, and he sprang out of the window, and broke his leg, and the castle sank into the earth again, the mountain shut to again, and no one knew where the castle had stood.

* Here is an instance of the amusing contempt of geography which sometimes occurs in these stories. This is a confused fragment, but the mention of East India brings the beginning of the story, at all events, down to modern times. TR.



To identify the differences, I did a word-by-word comparison of the first and final versions in the original German. I used texts provided on the fine "Kinder- und Hausmärchen der Brüder Grimm" site ( In the comparisons below, as above, "1:" indicates the first version (1815), and "7:" indicates the seventh and final version (1857).

Und nun, auf Deutsch, mit aller Unterschieden zwischen die erste und letzte Ausgaben . . .


De drei schwatten Princessinnen

Ostindien was von den Fiend belagert, he wull de Stadt nig verloeten, he wull ersten

1: 600
7: seshundert

Dahler hebben. Do leiten se dat ut

1: trummen:
7: trummen,

well de schaffen könne, de soll Börgemester weren. Do was der en armen Fisker, de fiskede up de See mit sinen Sohn, do kam de Fiend un nam den Sohn gefangen

1: und
7: un

gav em doför

1: 600
7: seshundert

Dahler. Do genk de Vader hen un gav dat de Heerens in de

1: Stadt
7: Stadt,

un de Fiend trock av un de Fisker wurde

1: Börgermester. Do word utropen, wer nig Heer Börgermester
7: Börgemester. Do word utropen wer nig »Heer Börgemester«

segde, de soll an de Galge richtet weren. De

1: Sohn
7: sohn

de kam de Fiend wier ut de Hände un kam in en grauten Wold up en haujen

1: Berg, de Berg de deih sick up, da
7: Berg. De Berg de dei sick up, do

kam he in en graut

1: verwünstet
7: verwünsket

Schloß, woin Stohle, Diske un Bänke alle schwatt behangen wören. Do queimen drei Princessinnen, de gans schwatt antrocken wören, de men en lück (wenig) witt in’t Gesicht hädden, de segden to

1: em,
7: em

he soll men nig bange sien, se wullen em nix dohn, he könn eer erlösen. Do seg

1: he,
7: he

je dat wull he gern dohn, wann he men

1: wüste,
7: wüste

wo he dat macken

1: söll? Do segget se:
7: söll. Do segget se

he söll en gans Johr nig met en kühren (sprechen)

1: nu
7: , un

söll se auck nig

1: anseihen;
7: anseihen:

wat he gern hebben wull, dat söll he men seggen, wann se Antwort

1: gierwen dröfden
7: giewen dröften

(geben dürften) , wullen se et dohn. As he

1: ne
7: ’ne

Tied lang der west was, sede

1: he,
7: he

he wull asse gern noh sin Vader gohn, da segget

1: se,
7: se

dat söll he men dohn, düssen Buel (Beutel) met Geld söll he met niermen, düsse

1: Kleder söll he antrecken un in 8
7: Klöder soll he antrecken, un in acht

Dage möst he der wier sien. Do werd he upnurmen (aufgehoben)

1: un is glick in Ostindien, do
7: , un is glik in Ostindien. Do

kann he sin Vader in de Fiskhütte nig mer finden un frög de

1: Luide,
7: Luide

wo doh de arme Fisker blierwen wöre, do segget

1: se,
7: se

dat möst he nig seggen, dann queim he an de Galge. Do kümmt he

1: bie
7: bi

sin Vader, do seg

1: he:
7: he

»Fisker, wo sin ji do to

1: kümmen?« »Do seg de: dat mött
7: kummen?« Do seg de »dat möt

ji nig seggen, wann dat de Heerens van de Stadt gewahr weeret, kümme ji an de

1: Galge,«
7: Galge.«

He willt ober gar nig loten, he werd noh de Galge

1: bracht; es
7: bracht. Es

he do is, seg

1: he:
7: he

»o mine Heerens, gierwet mie doh

1: Verlöv,
7: Verlöv

dat ick noh de olle Fiskhütte gohn mag.« Do tüt he sinen ollen Kiel an, do

1: kümmt
7: kümmet

he wier noh de Heerens un

1: seg:
7: seg

»seih ji et nu wull, sin ick nig en armen Fisker sinen Sohn? in düt Tueg heve ick minen Vader

1: un
7: und

Moder dat Braud gewunnen.« Do erkennet se en un badden üm

1: Vergiebnüß
7: Vergiebnüs

un niermt en met noh sin Hues, do verteld he alle wü et em gohn hev, dat he wöre in en Wold kummen up en haujen Berg, do hädde sick de Berg updohn, do wöre he in en verwünsket Schloß kummen, wo alles schwatt west

1: wöre
7: wöre,

un drei Princessinnen wören der an kummen, de wören schwatt west, men en lück witt in’t Gesicht. De hädden em

1: segd,
7: segd

he söll nig bange sien, he könn eer erlösen. Do seg sine

1: Moder:
7: Moder

dat mög wull nig

1: gut
7: guet

sien, he soll

1: ne
7: ’ne

gewiehte Wasskeefze met niermen un

1: dräppen
7: drüppen

(tropfen) eer gleinig (glühend) Wass in’t Gesicht. He geit wier hen un do gruelte (graute) em so, un he drüppde

1: eer
7: er

Wass in’t Gesicht, asse se sleipen, un se wören all halv

1: witt: do
7: witt. Do

sprüngen alle de drei Princessinnen up un

1: segden:
7: segden

»de verfluchte Hund, usse Bloet soll örfer die Rache schreien, nu is kin Mensk up de Welt

1: geboren,
7: geboren

un werd geboren, de us erlösen kann, wie hevet noh drei Bröders, de sind in siewen Ketten anschloeten, de söllt die

1: terrieten. Do givd
7: terreiten.« Do givt

et en Gekriesk in’t ganse

1: Schloß
7: Schloß,

un he sprank noh ut dat Fenster un terbrack dat

1: Been
7: Been,

un dat Schloß sunk wier in

1: den
7: de

Grunde, de Berg was wier to, un nümmes

1: wust,
7: wust

wo et west

1: was.«
7: was.


























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