|The Fairy Book|
|by Dinah Maria Mulock|
|One of the earliest collections of fairy tales from different countries, first published in 1863. Carefully selected and rendered anew in language close to the oral tradition. Includes old English tales, such as Jack the Giant-killer and Tom Thumb, as well as German stories from Grimm, and French tales of Perrault and Madame d'Aulnoy, and many other delightful and time-honored fairy tales. Numerous black and white illustrations by Louis Rhead complement the text. Ages 6-9 |
THE BREMEN TOWN MUSICIANS
HERE was a man who owned a donkey, which had carried
his sacks to the mill industriously for many years, but
whose strength had come to an end, so that the poor
beast grew more and more unfit for work. The master
determined to stop his food, but the donkey,
discovering that there was no good intended to him, ran
away and took the road to Bremen: "There," thought he,
"I can turn Town Musician."
When he had gone a little way, he found a hound lying
on the road and panting, like one who was tired with
running. "Hollo! what are you panting so for, worthy
Seize 'em?" asked the donkey.
"Oh!" said the dog, "just because I am old, and get
weaker every day, and cannot go out hunting, my master
wanted to kill me, so I have taken leave of him; but
how shall I gain my living now?"
"I'll tell you what," said the donkey, "I am going to
Bremen to be Town Musician; come with me and take to
music too. I will play the lute, and you shall beat the
The dog liked the idea, and they travelled on. It was
not long before they saw a cat sitting by the road,
making a face like three rainy days.
 Now then, what has gone wrong with you, old Whiskers?"
said the donkey.
"Who can be merry when his neck is in danger?" answered
the cat. "Because I am advanced in years, and my teeth
are blunt, and I like sitting before the fire and
purring better than chasing the mice about, my mistress
wanted to drown me. I have managed to escape, but good
advice is scarce; tell me where I shall go to?"
"Come with us two to Bremen; you understand serenading;
you also can become a Town Musician."
The cat thought
it a capital idea, and went with them. Soon after the
three runaways came to a farmyard, and there sat a cock
on the gate, crowing with might and main.
"You crow loud enough to deafen one," said the donkey;
"what is the matter with you?"
"I prophesied fair weather," said the cock, "because it
is our good mistress's washing-day, and she wants to
dry the clothes; but because to-morrow is Sunday, and
company is coming, the mistress has no pity on me, and
has told the cook to put me into the soup to-morrow,
and I must have my head cut off to-night: so now I am
crowing with all my might as long as I can."
"O you old Redhead," said the donkey, "you had better
come with us; we are going to Bremen, where you will
certainly find something better than having your head
cut off; you have a good voice, and if we all make
music together, it will be something striking."
The cock liked the proposal, and they went on, all four
 But they could not reach the city of Bremen in one day,
and they came in the evening to a wood, where they
agreed to spend the night. The donkey and the dog laid
themselves down under a great tree, but the cat and the
cock went higher—the cock flying up to the topmost
branch, where he was safest. Before he went to sleep he
looked round towards all the four points of the
compass, and he thought he saw a spark shining in the
distance. He called to his companions that there must
be a house not far off, for he could see a light. The
donkey said, "Then we must rise and go to it, for the
lodgings here are very bad;" and the dog said, "Yes, a
few bones with a little flesh on them would do me
good." So they took the road in the direction where the
light was, and soon saw it shine brighter; and it got
larger and larger till they came to a
brilliantly-illumined robber's house. The donkey, being
the biggest, got up at the window and looked in.
"What do you see, Greybeard?" said the cock.
"What do I see?" answered the donkey: "a table covered
with beautiful food and drink, and robbers are sitting
round it and enjoying themselves."
"That would do nicely for us," said the cock.
"Yes, indeed, if we were only there," replied the
The animals then consulted together how they should
manage to drive out the robbers, till at last they
settled on a plan. The donkey was to place himself with
his forefeet on the
window-  sill, the dog to climb on
the donkey's back, and the cat on the dog's, and, at
last, the cock was to fly up and perch himself on the
cat's head. When that was done, at a signal they began
their music all together: the donkey brayed, the dog
barked, the cat mewed, and the cock crowed; then, with
one great smash, they dashed through the window into
the room, so that the glass clattered down. The robbers
jumped up at this dreadful noise, thinking that nothing
less than a ghost was coming in, and ran away into the
wood in a great fright. The four companions then sat
down at the table, quite content with what was left
there, and ate as if they were expecting to fast for a
month to come.
When the four musicians had finished, they put out the
light, and each one looked out for a suitable and
comfortable sleeping-place. The donkey lay down on the
dunghill, the dog behind the door, the cat on the
hearth near the warm ashes, and the cock set himself on
the hen-roost; and, as they were all tired with their
long journey, they soon went to sleep. Soon after
midnight, as the robbers in the distance could see that
no more lights were burning in the house, and as all
seemed quiet, the captain said, "We ought not to have
let ourselves be scared so easily," and sent one of
them to examine the house. The messenger found
everything quiet, went into the kitchen to light a
candle, and, thinking the cat's shining fiery eyes were
live coals, he held a match to them to light it. But
the cat did not understand the joke, flew in his face,
 spat at him, and scratched. He was dreadfully
frightened, ran away, and was going out of the back
door; when the dog, who was lying there, jumped up and
bit him in the leg. As he ran through the yard, past
the dunghill, the donkey gave him a good kick with his
hind-foot; and the cock being awakened, and made quite
lively by the noise, called out from the hen-roost,
The robber ran as hard as he could, back to the
captain, and said, "Oh, dear! in the house sits a
horrid old witch, who flew at me, and scratched my face
with her long fingers; and by the door stands a man
with a knife, who stabbed me in the leg; and in the
yard lies a black monster, who hit me with a club; and
up on the roof there sits the judge, who called out,
'Bring the rascal up here'—so I made the best of my
From that time the robbers never trusted themselves
again in the house; but the four musicians liked it so
well that they could not make up their minds to leave
it, and spent there the remainder of their days, as the
last person who told the story is ready to avouch for a
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