The Brothers Grimm & Animal Rights
Animals Who Play Music?!?
When I was very little, I was absolutely fascinated with a book my oldest brother owned. Though I wasn’t supposed to, I would always play with it, trying to read the words, but not quite getting it. Looking at the pictures and comparing them with movies I had seen, I knew the stories must’ve been about Cinderella, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and others. Yet, if you asked me which of story written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm/The Brothers Grimm I consider to be my favorite, it would not be one of stories I have listed. While those stories are good and deserve to be classics, my favorite is a lesser known one.
The Bremen Town Musicians is the story of an unusual band. A dog, a cat, a rooster and a donkey, no longer seen as useful by their owners, are thrown off of the farms they call home. They decide to go to Bremen to live without owners and pursue careers as musicians. Along the way, they grow tired and hungry and, spotting a cottage with lights on, they decide to stop and ask the owners for aid. Not wanting to be seen as burdens, they decide that in exchange for food and shelter, they will play music for the owners. However, the people inside are robbers who are using the cottage as a hideout. When the animals begin to play, the robbers, frightened by the strange noise the animals are making, runaway. The animals decide to stay and, after eating their fill, go to sleep. Not too long after, the robbers return and send one of their members in to check things out. The animals, taking the robber for…well…a robber, attack (The cat scratches him. The dog bites him. The donkey kicks him. The rooster startles him with noises.)him and he runs out, screaming. He tells the other robbers that the house is possessed by evil creatures. The robbers, deciding that their loot matters less than their lives, runaway, leaving the animals to live happily ever after in the cottage.
Why is this my favorite Grimm Brothers’ story? As a child, I liked the idea of animals playing instruments. Though I knew it was make believe, I always wished the animals in my life would surprise me one day with a song. I also liked that they were powerful enough to chase off robbers. When you are little, you think you are powerless. Hearing a story like this, realizing that animals are small like you, you start to think that maybe you aren’t as powerless as you once thought you were.
Too often we hear news stories of animal neglect and abuse. Owners, unable to care for their aging and/or misbehaving pet, throw their pet out without hesitation. More often than not, these animals end up in worse situations than they were in before. I believe that the authors of this story were advocating for animal rights long before it was the hip thing to do. Reading this story as a child, you ask your parents why these animals were treated this way. I believe, like my mother did, that this story gives parents a great opportunity to teach their children about unwanted/unable to be cared for animals. Though it may seem like a heavy topic, done correctly, it doesn’t have to be. Tell your children that animals deserve to be treated gently and with love. Tell your children about animal shelters and all the animals that are given good homes through shelters. Depending on their age, you might want to tell them that not every animal gets saved, but, when they grow up, they might be able to do something about that. Your child may not be as inquisitive as I was and may just see this story for a story. However, if they are, this story plus your answers could instill in them a lifelong love of and the desire to protect and care for animals. I know it did for me.
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