Van den Fischer un siine Fru

  • Author
    Brüder Grimm (Philipp Otto Runge)
  • Country in which the text is set
  • Featured locations
    An imaginary location at the sea

  • Impact

    This fairy tale was written down by the painter Philipp Otto Runge (1777–1810), who was born in Wolgast on the Pomeranian Baltic Sea coast. In 1806, a transcription came into the possession of the poets Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano (the publishers of a collection of German folksongs under the title of Des Knaben Wunderhorn); in 1809 Wilhelm Grimm made a copy of the text, and from 1812 onwards it was included in its Low German version in the Grimm’s Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales, no. 19).

    Runge wrote that when transcribing the two fairy tales he had found (Von dem Fischer und syner Frau (The Fisherman and his Wife) and Von dem Machandelboom (The Almond/Juniper Tree)) he endeavoured “to write them down as they sounded when told aloud.” Runge’s narrative art has been unanimously hailed as exemplary: “It is not an exaggeration to characterise the two Runge texts as setting the standard for the Grimm’s fairy tales.” (H. Rölleke, 1986). “They have decisively shaped the style of European-American fairy-tale writing” (W. Scherf, 1995).

    Von dem Fischer und syner Frau remains one of the most popular of all fairy tales, in part because of its universal relevance as a parable of punished hubris, insatiable greed and the relationship between the sexes. Its Aarne-Thompson tale-type index number is AT 555.

    Runge’s original transcriptions have been lost. The fairy tale Von dem Fischer und syner Frau can today be found in three different versions. Here we present what is probably the most authentic one, which is found only in the first four editions (up to 1840) of the Grimm’s Children’s and Household Tales (commonly known in English as Grimm’s Fairy Tales). For the fifth edition (1843) and all subsequent editions, Wilhelm Grimm used the version recorded in Runge’s Hinterlassene Schriften (Bequeathed Writings, 2 volumes, 1840/41), which was heavily revised by Runge’s brother Daniel and brought closer to the Low German dialect associated with Hamburg.

    This revised version was also in keeping with Wilhelm Grimm’s own bloated and introspective narrative style, and formed the basis for the High German version.

  • Balticness

    The fairy tale presents us with an imaginary location at the sea, one that encompasses a whole world extending from the fisherman’s shack to the papal residence. The local character of the text is expressed above all in the language in which it is told, the Low German dialect of Mecklenburg. It has also been noted that the description of the turbulent sea and its colours corresponds to entries in Runge’s diary, and is thus based on real observations of the Baltic Sea.

    Hans Peter Neureuter

  • Bibliographic information

    a) Kinder- und Hausmärchen, gesammelt durch die Brüder Grimm. Vollständige Ausgabe auf der Grundlage der dritten Auflage (1837). Edited by Heinz Rölleke, Frankfurt am Main 1985, S.102-107

    b) Das große Märchenbuch. Die hundert schönsten Märchen aus ganz Europa. Gesammelt von Christian Strich, Zürich 2007, S. 426-436

    Literature: Heinz Rölleke, Die Märchen der Brüder Grimm. Eine Einführung (Munich and Zurich, 2nd edition, 1986); Walter Scherf, Das Märchenlexikon, vol. 2 (L-Z) (Munich, 1995)


  • Translations
    Language Year Translator
    English 1944 Margaret Hunt
    Estonian 1960 Laine Ronk & Silvia Tui
    Finnish 1999 Oili Suominen
    Lithuanian 1925 Juozas Balčikonis
    Lithuanian 1999 Adomas Druktenis
    Norwegian 1910 Johan Halmrast
    Swedish 1824 / 1829 anonymous
    Swedish 1825 J. M. Stjernstolpe (in verses)
    Swedish 1856 anonymous
    Swedish 1877 anonymous
    Swedish 1883 Ernst Lundquist
    Swedish 1955 anonymous
    Swedish 1978 Edward Brehmer
  • Year of first publication
    1812 / 1837
  • Place of first publication

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