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Grimm's Fairy Tales

The Three Little Birds -

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

German title: De drei Vügelkens
English title: The Three Little Birds
Story position: Volume 2, Number 10
Story designation: KHM 96 ("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.)

The Three Little Birds is written in a German dialect. There are no substantive differences between the first and final versions regarding the words, but we have another interesting case of the mysterious disappearing Grimm exclamations(!)

In the English translation by Margaret Hunt (1884) used below, a highlighted ! indicates an exclamation appearing in the first version that was eliminated by the final version. Find 13 of them. Other "!" are common to both versions. When in doubt, check the original!


The Three Little Birds -
the first and final version

ABOUT a thousand or more years ago, there were in this country nothing but small kings, and one of them who lived on the Keuterberg was very fond of hunting. Once on a time when he was riding forth from his castle with his huntsmen, three girls were watching their cows upon the mountain, and when they saw the King with all his followers, the eldest girl pointed to him, and called to the two other girls, "Hilloa! hilloa! If I do not get that one, I will have none!" Then the second girl answered from the other side of the hill, and pointed to the one who was on the King's right hand, "Hilloa! hilloa! If I do not get that one, I will have none!" And then the youngest pointed to the one who was on the left hand, and cried, "Hilloa! hilloa! If I do not get him I will have no one." These, however, were the two ministers. The King heard all this, and when he had come back from the chase, he caused the three girls to be brought to him, and asked them what they had said yesterday on the mountain. They would not tell him, so the King asked the eldest if she really would take him for her husband? Then she said, "Yes," and the two ministers married the two sisters, for they were all three fair and beautiful of face, especially the Queen, who had hair like flax.

But the two sisters had no children, and once when the King was obliged to go from home he invited them to come to the Queen in order to cheer her, for she was about to bear a child. She had a little boy who brought a bright red star into the world with him. Then the two sisters said to each other that they would throw the beautiful boy into the water. When they had thrown him in (I believe it was into the Weser), a little bird flew up into the air, which sang ,

  "To thy death art thou sped,
  Until God's word be said.
  In the white lily bloom,
  Brave boy, is thy tomb."

When the two heard that, they were frightened to death, and ran away in great haste. When the King came home they told him that the Queen had been delivered of a dog. Then the King said, "What God does, is well done!" But a fisherman who dwelt near the water fished the little boy out again while he was still alive, and as his wife had no children, they reared him. When a year had gone by, the King again went away, and the Queen had another little boy, whom the false sisters likewise took and threw into the water. Then up flew a little bird again and sang,

  "To thy death art thou sped
  Until God's word be said.
  In the white lily bloom,
  Brave boy, is thy tomb."

And when the King came back, they told him that the Queen had once more given birth to a dog, and he again said, "What God does, is well done!" The fisherman, however, fished this one also out of the water, and reared him.

Then the King again journeyed forth, and the Queen had a little girl, whom also the false sisters threw into the water. Then again a little bird flew up on high and sang,

  "To thy death art thou sped
  Until God's word be said.
  In the white lily bloom,
  Bonny girl, is thy tomb."

And when the King came home they told him that the Queen had been delivered of a cat. Then the King grew angry, and ordered his wife to be cast into prison, and therein was she shut up for many long years.

In the meantime the children had grown up. Then eldest once went out with some other boys to fish, but the other boys would not have him with them, and said, "Go thy way, foundling."

Hereupon he was much troubled, and asked the old fisherman if that was true? The fisherman told him that once when he was fishing he had drawn him out of the water. So the boy said he would go forth and seek his father. The fisherman, however, entreated him to stay, but he would not let himself be hindered, and at last the fisherman consented. Then the boy went on his way and walked for many days together, and at last he came to a great piece of water by the side of which stood an old woman fishing. "Good day, mother," said the boy.

"Many thanks!" said she.

"Thou wilt fish long enough before thou catchest anything."

"And thou wilt seek long enough before thou findest thy father. How wilt thou get over the water?" said the woman.

"God knows!"

Then the old woman took him up on her back and carried him through it, and he sought for a long time, but could not find his father.

When a year had gone by, the second boy set out to seek his brother. He came to the water, and all fared with him just as with his brother. And now there was no one at home but the daughter, and she mourned for her brothers so much that at last she also begged the fisherman to let her set forth, for she wished to go in search of her brothers. Then she likewise came to the great piece of water, and she said to the old woman, "Good day, mother!"

"Many thanks!" replied the old woman.

"May God help you with your fishing," said the maiden. When the old woman heard that, she became quite friendly, and carried her over the water, gave her a wand, and said to her, "Go, my daughter! ever onwards by this road, and when you come to a great black dog, you must pass it silently and boldly, without either laughing or looking at it. Then you will come to a great high castle, on the threshold of which you must let the wand fall, and go straight through the castle, and out again on the other side. There you will see an old fountain out of which a large tree has grown, whereon hangs a bird in a cage which you must take down. Take likewise a glass of water out of the fountain, and with these two things go back by the same way. Pick up the wand again from the threshold and take it with you, and when you again pass by the dog strike him in the face with it, but be sure that you hit him, and then just come back here to me." The maiden found everything exactly as the old woman had said, and on her way back she found her two brothers who had sought each other over half the world. They went together to the place where the black dog was lying on the road; she struck it in the face, and it turned into a handsome prince who went with them to the river. There the old woman was still standing. She rejoiced much to see them again, and carried them all over the water, and then she too went away, for now she was freed. The others, however, went to the old fisherman, and all were glad that they had found each other again, but they hung the bird on the wall.

But the second son could not settle at home, and took his cross-bow and went a-hunting. When he was tired he took his flute, and made music. The King, however, was hunting too, and heard that and went thither, and when he met the youth, he said, "Who has given thee leave to hunt here?"

"Oh, no one."

"To whom dost thou belong, then?"

"I am the fisherman's son."

"But he has no children!"

"If thou wilt not believe, come with me."

That the King did and questioned the fisherman, who told everything to him, and the little bird on the wall began to sing,

  "The mother sits alone
  There in the prison small!
  O King of royal blood!
  These are thy children all.
  The sisters twain so false,
  They wrought the children woe,
  There in the waters deep
  Where the fishermen come and go!"

Then they were all terrified, and the King took the bird, the fisherman and the three children back with him to the castle, and ordered the prison to be opened and brought his wife out again. She had, however, grown quite ill and weak. Then the daughter gave her some of the water of the fountain to drink, and she became strong and healthy. But the two false sisters were burnt, and the daughter married the prince.



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 Vügelkens

Et is wul dusent un meere Jaare hen, da wören hier im Lanne luter kleine Künige, da hed auck einer up den Keuterberge wünt (gewohnt) , de gink

1: sau
7: san

geren up de Jagd. Ase nu mal mit sinen Jägern vom Schlotte

1: heruttrok,
7: herruttrok,

höen (hüteten) unner den Berge drei Mäkens ire Köge (Kühe) , un wie sei den Künig mit den vielen

1: Küen
7: Lüen (Leuten)

seien, so reip de ölleste den

1: anner
7: annern

beden Mäkens to, un weis up den

1: Künig:
7: Künig,

»helo! helo! wenn ik den nig kriege, so will ik

1: keinen!« da antworde de tweide
7: keinen.« Da antworde de zweide

up de annere Side vom Berge, un weis up den, de dem Künige rechter Hand

1: gink:
7: gink,

»helo! helo! wenn ik den nig kriege, so will ik

1: keinen!«
7: keinen.«

Da reip de

1: jüngeste
7: jüngeste,

un weis up den, de linker Hand

1: gink:
7: gink,

»helo! helo! wenn ik den nig kriege, so will ik keinen.« Dat wören averst de beden Ministers. Dat hörde de Künig

1: alles
7: alles,

un ase von der Jagd heime kummen was, leit he de drei Mäkens to sik kummen un fragete

1: se,
7: se

wat se da gistern am Berge

1: sagd
7: segd

hedden. Dat wullen se nig seggen, de Künig frog

1: averst
7: awerst

de ölleste, ob se ün wol tom Manne hewen wulle?

1: da
7: Da

segde se ja, un ere beiden Süstern friggeten de beiden Ministers, denn se wören alle drei scheun un schir (klar, schön) von Angesicht, besunners de Künigin, de hadde

1: hare
7: Hare

ase Flass. De beiden Süstern

1: averst
7: awerst

kregen keine Kinner, un ase de Künig mal verreisen moste, let he se tor Künigin kummen, um se up to munnern, denn se

1: war
7: was

grae (gerad) swanger. Se kreg en kleinen Jungen, de hadde ’n

1: ritsch-roen
7: ritsch roen (rothen)

Stern mit up de Weld. Da sehden de beiden Süstern, eine tor annern, se wullen den hübsken Jungen in’t Water werpen. Wie se’n darin worpen hadden

1: (ik glöve,
7: (ick glöwe,

et is de Weser

1: west)
7: west),

da flügt ’n Vügelken in de Högte, dat

1: sank: tom
7: sank »tom

Daude bereit, up wietern

1: Bescheid, tom Lilien-Strus:
7: Bescheid tom Lilienstrus:

wacker Junge, bist

1: du’s? da
7: du’s?« Da

dat de beiden hörten, kregen se de Angst up’n Lieve un makten, dat se fort keimen. Wie de Künig na Hus kam, sehden se to

1: üm,
7: üm

de Künigin hedde ’n Hund

1: kregen, da segde de Künig:
7: kregen. Da segde de Künig

»wat Gott deiet, dat is wole

1: dahn!«
7: dahn.«

Et wunde averst ’n Fisker an den Water, de fiskede den kleinen Jungen wier herut, ase noch ewen lebennig was, un da sine Fru kene Kinner hadde, foerden (fütterten)

1: se ’n
7: s’en

up. Na’n Jaar was de Künig wier verreist, da

1: kreg
7: krig

de Künigin wier ’n Jungen, den namen de beiden falsken Süstern un

1: warpen’n
7: warpen ’n

auck in’t Water, da flügt dat Vügelken wier in

1: die
7: de

Högte un sank:

1: tom
7: »tom

Daude bereit, up wietern

1: Bescheid, tom Lilien-Struß;
7: Bescheid tom Lilienstrus:

wacker Junge, bist

1: du’s?
7: du’s?«

Un wie de Künig torügge kam, sehden se to üm, de Künigin hedde wier ’n Hund bekummen, un he segde

1: wier:
7: wier

»wat Gott deit, dat is wole

1: dahn!« Averst
7: dahn.« Awerst

de Fisker trok düsen auck ut den

1: Water, un foerd’n
7: Water un foerd ’n

up. Da verreisede de Künig wier, un de Künigin kreg ’n klein Mäken, dat warpen de falsken Süstern auck in’t

1: Water, da
7: Water. Da

flügt dat Vügelken wier in

1: die Högte un sank: tom
7: de Högte un sank »tom

Daude bereit, up wietern

1: Bescheid, tom Lilien-Struß:
7: Bescheid tom Lilienstrus:

wacker Mäken, bist

1: du’s?
7: du’s?«

Un wie de Künig na Hus kam, sehden se to üm, de Künigin hedde ’ne Katte kregt. Da worde de Künig

1: beuse
7: beuse,

un leit sine Fru in’t

1: Gefänknis
7: Gefängnis

smieten, da hed se lange Jaare in setten. De Kinner wören unnerdes anewassen, da gink de ölleste mal mit annern Jungens herut to fisken, da wüllt ün de annern Jungens nig twisken sik hewen un

1: segget:
7: segget

»du Fündling, gaa du diner

1: Wege,« da
7: Wege.« Da

ward he gans

1: bedrövet und
7: bedröwet un

fräggt den olen

1: Fisker,
7: Fisker

ob dat war wöre? De vertellt

1: ün,
7: ün

dat he mal fisked

1: hedde
7: hedde,

un hedde ün ut den Water troken (gezogen) . Da segd

1: he,
7: he

he wulle furt un sinen Teiten (Vater) söken. De Fisker de biddet

1: ’n,
7: ’n

he mögde doch bliven,

1: averst
7: awerst

he let sik gar

1: nig
7: nicht

hallen, bis de Fisker et tolest to givt. Da givt he sik up den Weg un geit meere Dage

1: hinner ’n
7: hinner’n

anner, endlich kümmt he vor ’n graut allmächtig Water, davor steit

1: ’n
7: ’ne

ole Fru un fiskede. »Guden Dag, Moer,« segde de

1: junge. – »Großten Dank!« –
7: Junge. »Groten Dank.«

»Du süst da wol lange fisken, e du ’n Fisk fängest.«

1: –

»Un du wol lange söken, e du dinen Teiten

1: findst: wie
7: findst. Wie

wust du der denn da över’t Water kummen?« sehde de Fru.

1: –

»Ja, dat mag Gott

1: witten!« – Da nümt
7: witten.« Da nümmt

de ole Fru ün up den Rüggen

1: und drägt ’n der dörch,
7: un dragt ’n derdörch,

un he söcht lange Tiid un kann sinen Teiten nig finnen. Ase nu wol ’n

1: Jaar voröwer
7: Jahr veröwer

is, da trekt de tweide auck

1: ut,
7: ut

un will sinen Broer söken. He kümmt an dat

1: Water
7: Water,

un da geit et ün ewen so, ase sinen Broer. Nu was nur noch de Dochter allein to Hus, de jammerde so

1: vil
7: viel

na eren Broern, dat se upt lest auck den Fisker

1: bad,
7: bad

he mögte se treken laten, se wulle ere Broerkes söken. Da kam se auck bie den grauten Water, da sehde se tor olen

1: Fru: »guden Dag, Moer!« – »groten Dank!« –
7: Fru »guden Dag, Moer.« »Groten Dank.«

»Gott helpe ju bie juen fisken.« Ase de ole Fru dat hörde, da word se ganz

1: fründlich, und trog se över’t Water,
7: fründlich un drog se över’t Water

un gab er ’n Roe (Ruthe)

7: ,

un sehde to

1: er: »un
7: er »nu

gah man jümmer up düsen Wege to, mine

1: Dochter!
7: Dochter,

un wenn du bie einen groten

1: schwarten
7: swarten

Hund vorbei kümmst, so must du

1: still, um drist,
7: still un drist

un one to

1: lachen,
7: lachen

un one ün an to kicken,

1: vorbei
7: vorbie

gaan. Dann kümmest du an ’n grot open

1: Schlott,
7: Schlot,

up’n Süll (Schwelle) most du de Roe fallen laten un stracks dörch dat Schlott an den annern Side wier herut gahen; da is ’n olen Brunnen, darut is ’n groten Boom wassen, daran hänget ’n Vugel im Buer, den nümm

1: af,
7: af:

dann nümm noch ’n

1: Glaß Water uk den Brunnen,
7: Glas Water ut den Brunnen

un gaa mit düsen beiden den sülvigen Weg wier

1: torügge,
7: torügge:

up den Süll nümm de Roe auck wier mit, un wenn du dann wier bie den Hund vorbie kummst, so schlah ün in’t Gesicht,

1: averst sü to,
7: awerst sü to

dat du ün treppest, un dann kumm nur wier to

1: mie
7: me

torügge.« Da fand se et grade so, ase de Fru et sagd hadde, un up den Rückwege da fand se de beiden Broer, de sik de halve Welt

1: dorchsöcht hadden. Se ging tosammen, bis wo der
7: durchsöcht hadden. Se gienk tosammen bis wo de

swarte Hund an den Weg lag, den schlog se in’t Gesicht, da word et ’n schönen Prinz, de geit mit ünen, bis an dat Water. Da stand da noch de ole Fru, de frögede sik ser, da se alle wier da

1: wören und trog
7: wören, un drog

se alle över’t Water, un dann gink se auck weg, denn se was nu erlöst. De annern

1: averst
7: awerst

gingen alle na den olen

1: Fisker
7: Fisker,

un alle wören

1: froh,
7: froh

dat se sik wier funnen hadden, den Vügel

1: averst
7: awerst

hüngen se an der Wand. De tweide Suhn kunne

1: averst
7: awerst

nig to Huse

1: rasten
7: rasten,

un nam ’n Flitzebogen un gink up de Jagd. Wie he möe was, nam he sine Flötepipen un mackte ’n Stücksken. De Künig

1: averst
7: awerst

wör auck up de Jagd un hörde dat, da

1: ging
7: gieng

he hin, un wie he den

1: jungen
7: Jungen

drap, so sehde

1: he:
7: he

»we hett die

1: verlövt
7: verlöwt

hier to jagen?«

1: –

»O, neimes (niemand).«

1: –

»Wen hörst du dann to?«

1: – »ik
7: »Ik

bin den Fisker sin Suhn.«

1: –

»De hett ja keine

1: Kinner!« – »Wen du’t nig glöven must,
7: Kinner.« »Wenn du’t nig glöwen wust,

so kum mit.« Dat dehe de Künig

1: und
7: un

frog den Fisker, de vertälle ün alles, un dat Vügelken an der Wand fing an to

1: singen: De
7: singen »de

Möhme (Mutter) sitt allein, wol in dat

1: Kerkerlein!
7: Kerkerlein.

o Künig, edeles

1: Blod! Dat
7: Blod, dat

sind dine Kinner god.

1: de
7: De

falsken Süstern beide de dehen de

1: Kinnekes
7: Kinnerkes

Leide, wol in des Waters Grund, wo se de Fisker

1: fund! Da erschracken se alle
7: fund.« Da erschraken se alle,

un de Künig

1: nam
7: nahm

den Vugel, den Fisker un de drei Kinner mit sik na den

1: Schlotte,
7: Schlotte

un leit dat Gefänknis upschluten un nam sine Fru wier herut, de was

1: averst
7: awerst

gans kränksch un

1: ellenig
7: elennig

woren. Da gav er de Dochter von den Water ut den Brunnen to drinken, da

1: wor se frist
7: war se frisk

un gesund. De beiden falsken Süstern

1: woren averst verbrennt
7: wören awerst verbrennt,

un de Dochter friggede den Prinzen.


























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