Town Musicians of Bremen

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A bronze statue by Gerhard Marcks depicting the Bremen Town Musicians located in Bremen, Germany. The statue was erected in 1953. Note the front hooves that have become shiny. Touching the front hooves is said to make wishes come true.

The Town Musicians of Bremen (German: Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten) is a folktale recorded by the Brothers Grimm. Despite the title of the fairy tale, the characters never actually arrive in Bremen. In Aarne–Thompson classification it is a folk tale of type 130: "outcast animals find a new home".[1]


In the story a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster (or hen), all past their prime years in life and usefulness on their respective farms, were soon to be discarded or mistreated by their masters. One by one they leave their homes and set out together. They decide to go to Bremen, known for its freedom, to live without owners and become musicians there. ("Something better than death we can find anywhere.")

On the way to Bremen, they see a lighted cottage; they look inside and see four robbers enjoying their ill-gotten gains. Standing on each other's backs, they decide to scare the robbers away by standing on each other and making a din; the men run for their lives, not knowing what the strange sound is. The animals take possession of the house, eat a good meal, and settle in for the evening.

Later that night, the robbers return and send one of their members in to investigate. He sees the Cat's eyes shining in the darkness and the robber thinks he is seeing the coals of the fire. He reaches over to light his candle. Things happen in quick succession; the Cat scratches his face with her claws, the Dog bites him on the leg, the Donkey kicks him with his hooves, and the Rooster crows and chases him out the door, screaming. He tells his companions that he was beset by a horrible witch who scratched him with her long fingernails (the Cat), an ogre with a knife (the Dog), a giant who had hit him with his club (the Donkey), and worst of all, the judge who screamed in his voice from the rooftop (the Rooster). The robbers abandon the cottage to the strange creatures who have taken it, where the animals live happily for the rest of their days.

An alternate version involves the animals' master(s) being deprived of his livelihood (because the thieves stole his money and/or destroyed his farm or mill) and having to send his animals away, unable to take care of them any further. After the animals dispatch the thieves, they take the ill-gotten gains back to their master so he can rebuild. Other versions involve at least one wild, non-livestock animal, such as a lizard, helping the domestic animals out in dispatching the thieves.

In popular culture[edit]

Town Musicians of Bremen, 1969 Soviet animated film

The tale has been retold through animated pictures, motion pictures (often musicals) and theatre plays.

Persiflage by Heinrich-Otto Pieper

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Heidi Anne Heiner, "Tales Similar to Bremen Town Musicians"
  2. ^ Sing Alone and like It Music, Charles L. Gary, Educators Journal April/May 1952 38: 48-49
  3. ^ The New Bremen Musicians,
  4. ^ Andy Zax. "A Conversation with Tupper Saussy." Liner Notes. Brilliant Colors: The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings of the Neon Philharmonic, pp 6-7
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Los 4 músicos de Bremen (1989)". IMDb. Retrieved 2013-09-12. 

External links[edit]

Some of the best known adaptations are: