Definitions

Golden Goose

Golden Goose

The Golden Goose (Die goldene Gans) is a fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm (Tale 64). Several elements in its narrative structure follow formulaic elements in the methodology that was formulated by Antti Aarne and his translator Stith Thompson (the Aarne-Thompson method) and by the earlier, more generalized method of Vladimir Propp, who used Russian folk tales Other familiar irreducible narrative myth elements ("mythemes") will be quickly recognized.

The hero is the youngest of three brothers (the Simpleton; the Least of Three), given the nickname Dummling ("little fool"). His eldest brother is sent into the forest to chop wood (the Task), fortified with a rich cake and a bottle of wine. He meets a little gray man (the Disguised Helper) who begs a morsel to eat and a swallow of ale but is rebuffed. The eldest brother meets an accident and is taken home. The second brother meets a similar fate. Dummling, sent out with a biscuit cooked in the ashes of the hearth and soured beer, is generous with the little old man and is rewarded with a golden goose (the Fairy Gift).

With the goose under his arm, Dummling heads for an inn, where, as soon as his back is turned, the innkeeper's daughter attempts to pluck just one of the feathers of pure gold, and is stuck fast (Greed A-T Type 68A; Justice is Served). Her sister, coming to help her, is stuck fast too. And the youngest (Least of Three), determined not to be left out of the riches, is stuck to the second. Dummling makes his way to the castle, and each person who attempts to interfere is joined to the unwilling parade: the parson, his sexton, and two laborers.

In the castle lives the king with the Princess (the Princess Prize) who has never laughed. But the despondent Princess, sitting by the window and glimpsing the parade staggering after Dummling and his golden goose, laughs until she cries. Dummling, after three more impossible trials including finding a ship that sails on land and sea, sometimes inserted in the tale, in each of which he is assisted by the little gray man, wins the Princess and everyone lives happily ever after.

"The Golden Goose" falls in Aarne-Thompson Type 571, All Stick Together; the appended episode is of A-T Type 513B, The Land-and-Water Ship.

Folklorist D.L. Ashlimun has pointed out other versions of a Golden Fowl theme: The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs (Aesop); The Golden Mallard (from the Jataka stories of the Buddha's former births); The Lucky-Bird Humá (Kashmir)

The goose has been discovered within the roots of the tree chosen by the little gray man and felled by Dummling. Tellers of this tale could not have been aware of the imprisonment of Osiris. For archaic Greek spirits within oak trees, see Dryads.

Modern Interpretations

A musical version of The Golden Goose, written by Dieter Stegmann and Alexander S. Bermange was presented at the Amphitheater Park Schloss Philippsruhe, Hanau, Germany as part of the Brothers Grimm Festival in 2006.

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