The forest house

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The forest house is a fairy tale ( ATU 431). From the 4th edition of 1840 onwards, it stands in the children's and house tales of the Brothers Grimm at position 169 (KHM 169).


A poor woodcutter, when he goes to work, tells his wife to have the oldest daughter bring him lunch. When this doesn't come, he has the second and then the youngest sent the next day. The first time he spreads millet grains to mark the path, the second time lentils and then peas. But all the daughters get lost in the forest because the birds are picking up the grain. Each asks an old man for accommodation in a forest house. First he asks his animals, a chicken, a chicken and a cow, and then lets the girls cook food. The two older ones eat with him and then want to sleep. The animals complain about the neglect. The old man still sends her to a bedroom. When he finds her sleeping, he lets her sink into the cellar through a trap door. Only the youngest also takes care of the animals. The next morning she wakes up in a castle with three servants and a king's son whom she has released from a curse. She marries the king's son and the older daughters are sent to a charcoal burner to improve their health.

Stylistic peculiarities

The old man keeps asking his animals:

"Nice chicken,
nice chicken
And you beautiful colorful cow,
what do you think of that?"

At first the animals only answer “Duks!” . When the older daughters want to go to sleep, the animals say:

"You ate with him,
you drank with him,
you didn't even think about us,
now see where you are staying the night."

Repeating "You have" three times sounds like an indictment. In the end, however, it says:

"You ate with us,
you drank with us,
you thought about us all well,
we wish you a good night."

The story is reminiscent of many other fairy tales, in which a child gets lost in the dark forest, a lonely house appears or an enchanted prince is redeemed, which always succeeds through kindness and righteousness. The triple repetitions are also typical.

Origin and Notes

Wilhelm Grimm edited the magic fairy tale written down by Karl Goedeke zu Delligsen near Alfeld according to oral tradition. He liked the description of the coexistence of humans and domestic animals, as the old animal legend presupposes . Their view as transformed people is newer, here for the examination of the girl as in KHM 24 Frau Holle . On the lost track in the forest cf. KHM 15 Hansel and Gretel , KHM 40 The robber groom , also KHM 13 The three little men in the forest , KHM 135 The white and the black bride , KHM 201 St. Joseph in the forest , Bechstein's Die Goldmaria and Pechmaria .

Also Lutz Röhrich came to the conclusion that transformations are only a later rationalization of the original unity idea of humans and animals. The old man with the ice-gray beard could, like Mrs. Holle, be a reference to the lord of the animals from animistic beliefs. The specially created fairy tale type AaTh 431 was only found in German-speaking countries, so it seems to be quite young. This is supported by the apparently Christian reinterpretation of the examination and animal companions as pets.


The old man is often seen as a symbol of wisdom. He asks his animals for advice, even though they only utter noises at first. Rather, they stand for instincts that serve the mind, but which also want to be respected and cared for. He apparently lives lonely, his behavior and the description of his beard as ice-gray indicate a rigidity and coldness, surrounded by the darkness and untamed wildness of the nocturnal forest. Both the underground cellar and the charcoal burner represent a certain reference to hell , while the good soul wakes up in a wide and bright hall.

As a nature spirit, the old man demands consideration for the animal heredity, as a man, dedication. In other fairy tales he is an animal himself (KHM 88 ). Just as the daughter ( anima ) compensates for the damage caused by the witch ( nefaste mother ), the image of the father turns into a son ( animus ). In Snow White , too , the prince replaces the dwarfs, for whom an old man stands in variants.


  • The fairy tale comedy developed for the stage by Angelika & Ralph Langlotz with music by Benny Oschmann had its world premiere on December 4, 2010, directed by Ralph Langlotz, played by the kleine bühne 70 in Kassel


  • Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm : Children's and Household Tales. Complete edition . With 184 illustrations by contemporary artists and an afterword by Heinz Rölleke. 19th edition. Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf / Zurich 2002, ISBN 3-538-06943-3 , pp. 709-713 .
  • Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm : Children's and Household Tales. With an appendix of all fairy tales and certificates of origin not published in all editions . Ed .: Heinz Rölleke . 1st edition. Original notes, guarantees of origin, epilogue ( volume 3 ). Reclam, Stuttgart 1980, ISBN 3-15-003193-1 , p. 257-258, 506 .
  • Hans-Jörg Uther : Handbook to the "Children's and Household Tales" by the Brothers Grimm. Origin, effect, interpretation . de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2008, ISBN 978-3-11-019441-8 , pp. 350-351 .
  • Lutz Röhrich : Service with the demon. In: Encyclopedia of Fairy Tales. Volume 3. pp. 655-657. Berlin, New York, 1981.
  • Ingrid Tomkowiak : House in the forest. In: Encyclopedia of Fairy Tales. Volume 6. pp. 594-599. Berlin, New York, 1990.
  • Walter Scherf: The fairy tale dictionary . Beck, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-406-39911-8 , pp. 1354-1357 .
  • Ortrud Stumpfe: The symbolic language of fairy tales . Aschendorffsche Verlagbuchhandlung, Münster, ISBN 3-402-03474-3 , p. 42-43, 178 .

Web links

Wikisource: Das Waldhaus  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Röhrich, Lutz: Fairy tales and reality. Second expanded edition. Pp. 88-92. Wiesbaden 1964. (Franz Steiner Verlag GmbH)
  2. by Beit, Hedwig: Contrast and Renewal in Fairy Tales. Second volume of «Symbolism of Fairy Tales». Second, improved edition, Bern 1956. pp. 12-14. (A. Francke AG, publisher)