April 14, 2023

#08-301: The Bremen Town Musicians

The Bremen Town Musicians (Wikimedia)

Note: The amusing tale of how four animals built a life together after getting rid of some bandits.

Get Ready: What do you think should be done with "senior" animals who are no longer useful?

This is a story from the Brothers Grimm. It is often told at Christmas, although there is nothing particularly Christmas-y about it.

A farmer had a donkey who had worked for many years, but was getting too old to be useful. He decided to run away before the farmer could get rid of him. Instead, he would become a musician in the far-off town of Bremen.

As he traveled, he met a dog lying in the road. He too was running away, since he had become too old to please his master. "Come with me," said the donkey. "We'll be musicians in Bremen. I will play the lute and you can play the timpani."

The dog agreed, and on they went.

Soon they met a cat, who had the same problem: she was too old to catch mice, so she joined the band as well. The same with a rooster they met, who gladly went along with the travelers instead of becoming next Sunday's dinner.

Bremen was more than a day's journey away, so the four new friends had to find a place to sleep for the night. They were going to use a tree for shelter, but climbing high in its branches the rooster saw a house in the distance, so they decided to ask for shelter there.

Alas, they learned that the house belonged to robbers! The animals decided to drive them out, and stood one atop the other--donkey, then dog, cat, and rooster at the top--outside the window of the house, where they made a horrible noise and frightened the robbers out of their wits.

The robbers thought they were being attacked by a ghoul, and ran away. The "musicians" ate, and, finding places to lie down, they soon went to sleep.

After midnight, the robbers sent one of their number to investigate what was going on at the house. As he crept about in the dark, the cat scratched his face, the dog bit his leg, the donkey kicked him, and the rooster cried out "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"

The rogue ran back to his fellows and told them that a witch had scratched his face with her claws, a man with a knife had stabbed him in the leg, and a black monster had beaten him with a wooden club. The rooster, he thought, was a judge calling for his arrest. So he advised the gang to flee at once, as the house no longer suited them. And so they did.

But the house suited the four musicians just fine and they never left again--and never reached Bremen.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. claws
  2. crept
  3. fellows
  4. ghoul
  5. lute
  6. rogue
  7. stabbed
  8. suited
  9. timpani
  10. wits

  1. companions; friends
  2. moved silently
  3. stuck with something sharp
  4. like fingernails on a cat or dog
  5. the ability to think clearly
  6. a criminal; a dishonest person
  7. a demon who haunts graveyards
  8. a stringed instrument like a guitar
  9. fit; was appropriate for
  10. a large round drum

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for April 14, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. d; 2. b; 3. a; 4. g; 5. h; 6. f; 7. c; 8. i; 9. j; 10. e