In which I share a story for the season: Bremen-Town Musicians

This story is for Lytha, who now lives in Germany (with her man the musician!) and has visited Bremen!

The Bremen Town Musicians – a story from Germany

There once was a man who had a donkey that had carried the grain sacks to the mill tirelessly for many long years. But the donkey’s strength was failing and he was growing more and more unfit for work. So his master began to consider getting rid of him. But the donkey, who became aware that his master had something wicked in mind, ran away and set out on the road to Bremen. There he thought he could surely become a town musician.

After he had walked for a while, he found a hunting hound lying on the road, howling pitifully. "Why are you howling so, old fellow?" asked the donkey.

"Ah," replied the hound, "because I am old and grow weaker each day, and can no longer hunt, my master wanted to shoot me dead. So I fled. But how am I supposed to earn my bread now?"

“Come with me," said the donkey, "I am going to Bremen and shall become town musician there. I will play the lute and you shall beat the kettledrum."

The hound agreed, and they went on together. It wasn't long before they saw a cat sitting on the path. "Now then, old whiskers, what has gone wrong for you?" asked the donkey.

"Who can be merry when he is as old as me?" answered the cat. "For many years I kept the mice from the house, but now I am tired and my mistress wanted to drown me. Whatever shall I do now?”

"Come with us to Bremen. You can become a town musician there."

The cat thought that was a good idea and went with them. As the three went on together, they passed by a farm, where the rooster was sitting on the gate crowing with all his might.

"Your crowing pierces right through to the marrow," said the donkey.

"The lady of the house has ordered the cook to chop off my head this evening, said the rooster. “Tomorrow is Sunday and they want to eat me in the soup. Now I am crowing at the top of my lungs while still I can."

"You should come with us!" said the donkey. "We are going to Bremen. You can find something better than death everywhere. You have a good voice, and when we make music together it will sound magnificant."

The rooster liked the suggestion and the four went on together.

They could not reach the town of Bremen in one day, however, and that evening they saw a light shining in the forest.

The donkey replied, "Let's get up and go over there, for the acommodations here are poor."

So they made their way to the place where the light was, and soon saw it shine brighter and grow larger, until they came to a well-lighted robbers house. The donkey, as the tallest, went to the window and looked in.

"What do you see, my grey steed?" asked the rooster.

"What do I see?" answered the donkey. "A table covered with good things to eat and drink, and robbers sitting at it enjoying themselves."

"That would be the sort of thing for us," said the rooster.
Then the animals considered how they might manage to earn a bed for the night. At last they thought of a way: they would perform their music here, for the robbers, in hopes that the robbers would be please enough with the sound that they would offer food and a bed in payment.

The donkey placed himself with his forefeet upon the window, the hound jumped on the donkey's back, the cat climbed upon the dog, and lastly the rooster flew up and perched upon the cat's head. When this was done, at a given signal, they began to perform their music together. The donkey brayed, the hound barked, the cat mewed, and the rooster crowed.

At this horrible shrieking, the robbers sprang up, thinking a ghost was coming in, and fled in a great fright out into the forest.

The four companions then sat down at the table, each eating to his heart's content the dishes that tasted best to him.

When they were done, they put out the light and each sought out a sleeping place according to his own taste. The donkey laid himself down in the grass beside the house, the hound behind the door, the cat upon the hearth near the warm ashes, and the rooster perched himself on the roof. And being tired from their long walk, they soon went to sleep.

When it was past midnight, and the robbers saw from afar that the light was no longer burning in their house, and all appeared quiet, the captain said, "We really ought not to have let ourselves be scared off like that." He sent one of the robbers back to check if anyone was still in the house.

The robber found everything quiet. He went into the kitchen to light a candle, and, taking the fiery eyes of the cat for live coals, he held a match to them to light it. But the cat did not understand the joke, and flew in his face, spitting and scratching. He was dreadfully frightened, and ran to the back door, but the dog, who lay there sprang up and bit his leg. And as he ran across the yard, the donkey gave him a smart kick with his hind foot. The rooster, too, who had been awakened by the noise, cried down from the roof, "Cock-a-doodle-doo."

Then the robber ran back as fast as he could to his captain, and said, "Oh, there is a horrible monster sitting in the house, who spat on me and scratched my face with its long claws. And by the door there's a man with a knife, who stabbed me in the leg. And in the yard there lies a black monster, who beat me with a wooden club. And above, upon the roof, sits the judge, who called out, ‘bring the rogue here to me!’ So I got away as fast as I could."

After this the robbers never again dared enter the house. But it suited the four musicians of Bremen so well that they stayed there happily until the end of their days.


  1. One of my favorites. Bremen is special to us because our friend Jutta lives there.

  2. i just saw this - how cool!

    i showed my man too. we love bremen!

    we're enjoying the seattle rain -- i mean it's better than the alternative. we were geocaching all day yesterday, my man's first chance to go, and we got soaked out there. my man also almost got crushed by a falling branch; it was a very windy day to be in the woods by the shore.

    the waves were breaking on the sound, i got some nice pictures. everything is just soggy here, moss, fern, leaves, and it looks like fall, not winter. it's refreshing!



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