Posts Tagged ‘folktale’

Bremer Stadtmusikanten Story

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

The Bremer Stadtmusikanten (Town Musicians of Bremen) might well be the city’s best-known logo. The four animal “musicians” standing on each other’s backs are based on an old folktale recorded by the Brothers Grimm. A 6.5-foot bronze statue on the west side of Bremen’s city hall, right next to the Ratskeller (Town Hall Cellar), depicts the Bremer Stadtmusikanten: A donkey forms the base of the pyramid. A dog stands on the donkey’s back. A cat towers on top of a dog and a rooster perches on top of a cat.


Statue of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten (Town musicians of Bremen) in front of Bremen's city hall. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.

Statue of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten (Town musicians of Bremen) in front of Bremen’s city hall. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.

Rubbing the front hoofs of the donkey is said to make a wish come true. Apparently, many visitors gave it a try because the donkey’s hoofs gleam in the sunlight.

Synopsis of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten folktale

Once upon a time, four domestic animals – a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster – reached their sunset years. In the mind of their masters, each had outlived his usefulness. The donkey was too old to carry the sacks of flour to the mill; the dog lacked the stamina to hunt; the cat couldn’t catch mice anymore and the rooster was slated for the soup pot. Each of the creatures had served its master faithfully for many years and was now being treated poorly because it got old. Dreaming of a fulfilling life, each leaves his home for a life, independent of his master. By a twist of fate the four animals happen upon each other on their way to freedom and agree to walk to Bremen together to become town musicians.

On their way to their new life in the big city, they have to rest for the night. The four prospective town musicians spot a lighted cottage and hope for a place to sleep. The cottage belongs to a band of robbers who are just about to enjoy a table full of ill-gotten delicacies. Standing on each other’s backs and hoping to secure some food for their efforts, the Bremer Stadtmusikanten make music to the best of their abilities. The donkey brays, the dog barks, the cat meows, and the rooster crows. Terrified by the strange sounds, the robbers abandon the cottage. The animals settle in, enjoy a good meal and live happily ever after in the cottage.

Interestingly enough, in Grimm’s folktale the four Bremer Stadtmusikanten never actually arrive in Bremen. They stay in the cottage in the woods. But the story is so intimately connected with the City of Bremen that its citizens have adopted it.

Statue of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten

The Bremer Tourist Bureau commissioned German sculptor Gerhard Marcks to create a sculpture of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten. In 1951, Marcks gave his creation to the City of Bremen on loan. Only two years later, the city purchased the sculpture for 20,000 Deutsche Mark.


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