“There was once a sheep-dog whose master behaved ill to him and did not give him enough to eat, and when for hunger he could bear it no longer, he left his service very sadly. In the street he was met by a sparrow, who said, ‘Dog, my brother, why are you so sad?'”
Content Warning: This tale and post contains gore and violence pertaining to animals.
This post is going to be short, because although this fairy tale is not the shortest one in the Grimm collection, it is one of the goriest. The sparrow we are introduced to finds food and drink for the dog, bringing the dog back to good spirits. One day they are walking on the road and the dog decides to rest. Unfortunately, a wagoner comes upon the dog and despite the sparrow’s warning about the dog resting in the road, the wagoner runs over the dog.
The rest of the tale is one of sparrow vengeance and violence towards the wagoner. From spoiling the contents of the wagon to making the wagoner kill his horse (through a series of maneuvers), to ultimately ending the wagoner’s life.
Since there is not much substance in this fairy tale to analyze, I took the general approach to sparrow analysis. These birds apparently symbolize both/either good luck or bad luck in folklore (depending on the place of origin), and in this tale that can be seen in the way the sparrow looks out for the dog and how the sparrow treats the man who kills the dog. I’m going to conclude by suggesting to keep your distance if you happen to encounter a sparrow. Or at least respect it enough to heed any warning sent your way.
- Aarne-Thompson classification system – 248: The Dog and the Sparrow (ANIMAL TALES, Other Animals and Objects)
- Sparrows in Folklore