The Bremen Town Musicians

: The Best Popular Stories Selected And Rendered Anew

There 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 go
e 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 drum.

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


Now then, what has gone wrong with you old Whiskers? said the


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 together.

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


That would do nicely for us, said the cock.

Yes, indeed, if we were only there, replied the donkey.

The animals then consulted together how they should manage to drive

out the robbers, till at last they settled on a plan. Tie 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 blew 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 way off.

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 fact.