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Grimm's Fairy Tales

The Old Beggar-Woman -

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

German title: Die alte Bettelfrau
English title: The Old Beggar-Woman
Story position: Volume 2, Number 64
Story designation: KHM 150 ("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 (7th) and final edition appeared in 1857.

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

Here are the nontrivial differences between the first and final versions of The Old Beggar-Woman using the English translation by Margaret Hunt (1884). We disregard spelling, punctuation, and grammar updates, and minor shuffling of words.

In the difference spots, "1:" indicates the first edition (1815), and "7:" indicates the seventh and final edition (1857). Naturally, Hunt worked with the final edition, so all of the words in the common passages and the lines labeled "7:" are hers. Think of the lines labeled "1:" as what she would have produced if she had translated the 1st edition. Highlighted words direct your attention to the added, deleted, or changed wording. Click on "1:" to see the difference spot in the original German.


The Old Beggar-Woman -
showing the significant differences between the first and final versions

THERE was once an old woman, but thou hast surely seen an old woman go a-begging before now?

1:   This old woman

7:   This woman [1]

begged likewise, and when she got anything she said, "May God reward you." The beggar-woman came to

1:   a

7:   the [2]

door, and there by the fire a friendly rogue of a boy was standing warming himself. The boy said kindly to the poor old woman as she was standing shivering thus by the door, "Come, old mother, and warm yourself." She came in, but stood too near the fire,


7:   so that

her old rags began to burn, and she was not aware of it. The boy stood and saw that, but he ought to have put the flames out. Is it not true that he ought to have put them out? And if he had not any water, then should he have wept all the water in his body out of his eyes, and that would have supplied two pretty streams with which to extinguish them.

[1] Why on earth would Wilhelm delete the third "old"? Even I can see how brilliant that was!
[2] Hunt has "a" here.



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 . . .


Die alte Bettelfrau

Es war einmal eine alte Frau, du hast wohl ehe eine alte Frau

1: seh’n betteln geh’n? Diese alte
7: sehn betteln gehn? diese

Frau bettelte auch, und

1: wenn
7: wann

sie etwas bekam, dann sagte

1: sie: Gott lohn’ euch!
7: sie »Gott lohn euch.«

Die Bettelfrau kam an

1: eine
7: die

Thür, da stand ein freundlicher Schelm von Jungen am Feuer und wärmte sich. Der Junge sagte freundlich zu der armen alten Frau, wie sie so an der Thür

1: stund und zitterte, »Kommt Altmutter
7: stand und zitterte, »kommt, Altmutter,

und erwärmt euch.« Sie kam herzu,

1: Sie ging
7: gieng

aber zu nahe ans Feuer

1: steh’n,
7: stehn, daß

ihre alten Lumpen

1: fingen an zu brennen und sie ward’s
7: anfiengen zu brennen, und sie wards

nicht gewahr. Der Junge stand und

1: sah’ das, er hätt’s
7: sah das, er hätts

doch löschen sollen? Nicht wahr, er hätte löschen sollen? Und wenn er kein Wasser gehabt hätte, dann hätte er alles Wasser in seinem Leibe zu den Augen herausweinen sollen, das hätte so zwei hübsche Bächlein gegeben zu löschen.


























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