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Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales: Fitcher’s Bird

“There was once a wizard who used to take the form of a poor man.”

This fairy tale follows said wizard as he goes to different houses posing as a beggar, and capturing “pretty girls” who come to the door. In the story he ends up at a home of a man with three daughters. The first daughter is kidnapped by the wizard, who brings her to his house, which is of course in a “dark forest.” The following day he leaves her to her own devices with two rules: take care of his precious egg, and although she is free to go wherever she wants in the house (he gives her a ring of keys to do so), there is one particular door she must not enter. And he sets off.

Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales: Fitcher's BirdWell, I’m sure you can predict what happens. Curiosity gets the best of the girl and she enters the door. Inside the room sits a basin covered in blood, a block of wood, an axe, and human body parts. She is so shocked that she drops the egg in the basin, and no matter how hard she tries to clean it, the blood will not wash off. When the wizard returns he examines the egg, can tell that the girl entered the forbidden room, and then kills her. This repeats with the second daughter, but when he captures the third daughter and brings her back, she [fortunately] proves smarter than her sisters. She tucks the egg away before going towards the locked door, then she enters the forbidden room. she sees her sisters’ bodies, and in true fairy tale whimsy, collects their limbs and puts them back together. They come back alive and rejoice.

From there, with some craftiness on the part of the third sister, the two former girls are returned home. The third sister sets up a ruse to trick the wizard, who plans on marrying her, and she escapes as well; after pouring honey and white feathers all over her. When the sisters tell their brothers and kin about the wizard, the men go to his house, lock the door (with the wizard inside), and set the house on fire. The end.

The title of this fairy tale comes from a song that is sung by the wizard’s friends and the wizard himself as they pass by the camouflaged girl on the way to what they think will be a wedding.  “Fitcher’s bird” seems to be a derivation of the Icelandic word fitfuglar, or “web-footed bird”.

This is certainly one of the more horrific tales in this collection; I’m continuing to find it shocking and yet fascinating that so much is packed into these short stories. I admire traditional short stories for this reason, but when it comes to even shorter, more imaginative tales, the punch is often harder and the allure stronger.




  • FictionFan

    Ooh, I like the sound of this one! A happy ending all round and I’m always happy to see the villain get his comeuppance. But what was in the egg??

    • Kelsey

      Nothing – it was just a device used by the wizard to tell if his captives entered the room; because it was unwashable (except by magic, I assume) he betted on his captives’ curiosity getting the best of them, and on them dropping the egg in shock. That was the best way for him to tell if they’d gone inside.

  • Anonymous

    I love this! I’m really enjoying going back over these tales myself and I love your post. Although, it does seem a bit of an odd choice for him to use an egg and hope they drop it in shock…if he’s magic, you’d think he’d have a more reliable way of determining who did or didn’t enter the room lol

    • Kelsey

      True, although the egg ties in with the bird theme. As “Fitcher’s Bird” is a sort of translation of a white swan – symbolizing purity and righteousness – which in a way works for the story. The egg shows the truth – to the evil doer in this case – and does not allow the user/offender/dropper to erase the truth or hide/taint the pure truth with a lie.

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