Episode 7 – The Golden Bird

In this episode, Group 6 talks about the archetypes in “The Golden Bird.”


“Hi I’m Alex, I’m Michael, and my name is Austin and we are going to talk about the fairy tale, The Golden Bird.


Episode Type:

“The Golden Bird” collected by the Brothers Grimm and first published in 1812,

“The Golden Bird” is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, number 57, about the pursuit of a golden bird by a king’s three sons.

It is Aarne-Thompson folktale type 550, “The Golden Bird”, a Supernatural Helper.

“The Golden Bird.” The Golden Bird | Open Access Articles | Open Access Journals | Conference Proceedings | Editors | Authors | Reviewers | Scientific Events. Accessed April 22, 2018. http://research.omicsgroup.org/index.php/The_Golden_Bird.


Story Info:

  1. Consists of 3 brothers that are in search of the Golden Bird, which their father (the King) wants to expand his power and kingdom. The two older brothers ignore advice from a fox in the woods and live in a tavern full of fun and pleasure for months while the youngest son is good natured and listens to the advice of the fox. Ultimately, after disobeying the fox a couple of times the son ends up with the fastest horse, the most beautiful woman in the land, and the golden bird to give to his father. He buys his brothers from treason but is tricked and plotted to be killed by his brothers with a well. The youngest son sneaks into his father’s kingdom and explains the situation. Everything returns normal again, the two older brothers are sentenced to death, and the fox , the princess’s brother, is released from his spell and is human again. The youngest son is now in line to become the next king.
  2. Every night a golden apple is robbed off the king’s apple tree. The king has his sons keep watch of the apple tree to see who the thief is. The youngest son sees the golden bird stealing the apple and tries to shoot it but only knocks one feather off. The feather is so valuable that the king decides that he wants the bird for himself. He sends his three sons after the bird one after another. The sons each meet the talking fox who gives them advice for their quest. The first two sons don’t obey the fox’s advice but the third son follows the fox’s advice. The fox takes the third son to the wooden cage and tells him to put the bird in it instead of the golden cage next to it. The son disobeys and the bird gets captured. The son was sent after the golden horse and the fox advises him to use the wood and leather saddle but the son uses the golden saddle instead. The son is sent after the princess and the fox advises him not to let her say fair well to her parents but the son disobeys again. The father orders the son to remove a large hill as the price of his life. The son works for while until the fox comes and removes it for him. When the son is free he comes to find that his brothers are to be hanged for their sins unless they buy their liberty. The other brother buys the brothers back and the fox tells the brother not to sit by a well and not to purchase gallows flesh. The brothers were so tired that they decide to rest by the well. Then the brothers pushed the youngest brother into the well.


Cultural and Historical Background:

The Golden Bird is a story from Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm. It was tale number 57 in the original publishing of the book. It is tale type 550 in the Aarne-Thompson index which is supernatural helpers. The brothers Grimm collected the tales from people in Germany while working as librarians at a university and studying law. Household Tales was published in 1812 which was at the end of Napoleon’s time. Many of these tales give a glimpse into life during the Holy Roman Empire which existed in and around Germany from 800 ad to 1806 ad.

Translated into English by Margaret Hunt in 1884. Country of origin was Germany.

History of German monarchies:

The office of Holy Roman Emperor was traditionally elective, although frequently controlled by dynasties. The German prince-electors, the highest-ranking noblemen of the empire, usually elected one of their peers as “King of the Romans”, and he would later be crowned emperor by the Pope; the tradition of papal coronations was discontinued in the 16th century. The empire never achieved the extent of political unification formed in France, evolving instead into a decentralized, limited elective monarchy composed of hundreds of sub-units: kingdoms, principalities, duchies, counties, Free Imperial Cities, and other domains.[9][18] The power of the emperor was limited, and while the various princes, lords, bishops, and cities of the empire were vassals who owed the emperor their allegiance, they also possessed an extent of privileges that gave them de facto independence within their territories. Emperor Francis II dissolved the empire on 6 August 1806, after the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine by Napoleon.

“Holy Roman Empire.” Wikipedia. April 22, 2018. Accessed April 22, 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Roman_Empire.


Perform The Story:

We took turns reading the Golden Bird.


Close Readings:


Alex) I liked the story about the golden bird, by the Brothers Grimm. I thought some of it was confusing but after reading it a couple times it all made sense. I think this story has a lot of hidden advice in it but the one that I chose to focus on was the advice from the Fox.

I would argue that the Fox represented someone who is older and wiser like a father or mentor of some sort. The three sons all failed to obey the Fox’s advise and that obviously backfired on them. When I read through this story, I noticed a patterns of advise that the fox gives that is never respected. Just like the Fox, typically, elders know more about things than younger people but rarely do the younger people listen. I remember always getting advice from my parents but not always obeying them. In return I would find myself getting into some sort of trouble. The Fox seems to know everything about everything but the sons still don’t seem to catch on. Even after the youngest son doesn’t obey the fox and gets into trouble three times, the son still doesn’t listen when the Fox says not to sit by the well. Just like my dad, the fox would always continue to give the sons advice even when they wouldn’t listen. The Fox would also give then rides places and let them sit on his tail.


Michael) Analyses; I liked the story because it was not only an entertaining story but,  I can identify with the King and the Fox when I give my kids advice or instructions and they don’t listen or follow me. I would argue that the Golden Bird is a story which is really about following your parents or elders instructions to become well rounded adults handsomely rewarded with good paying jobs and wholesome families. Golden things are often used as the rewards in this story such as the golden apples and bird. Even the princess came from a golden Castle. The common theme is what happens when the youth listens to Fox. Either the youth listens and is rewarded or ignores the fox and is imprisoned. Since the youth is called a youth and the fox is his guide it would appear that this story is about following the advice of your elders. In Germany at this time the father was considered absolute ruler of the household and the children were expected to follow his instructions as law. Families were expected to be conservative minded with attention paid to religion and old fashioned family values. I think this fairy tale really helps to enforce those values and traditions so they can be passed down through a legacy. I also think that this story carried a message about wanting rich and showy belongings when they weren’t necessary. In the early 1800’s there was a lot of people who would surround themselves with decadence even when they didn’t really have the means to pay for it just because they wanted to feel like a lord or lady.


Austin) This story exemplifies that a path one takes to achieve his/her goal could be an unpopular and an undesirable one. For the youngest son, he goes through trials of near death experiences, not using golden things to make majestic creatures stand out, and disobeying the fox on multiple occasions to finally realize how he has to separate himself from his brothers if he wants to find the golden bird. He chooses the old, shabby, non-livable tavern to stay in instead of the nice clean enjoyable inn because he is good natured, and doesn’t seek only pleasure and riches in life. He cares about his brothers, his future with the kingdom, and ultimately, to not let his father down. The main motive for he youngest son in this fairy tale is to live a happy life not under his brothers’ cruelty, and to gain the trust from his father. He shows attributes and characteristics of becoming a great next king and is rewarded just that. He also cares about the fox and doesn’t want to kill the beast but eventually does and frees a man from his magical spell. The youngest son portrays a lost, but hopeful human being that is trying to find his place in the world and is one adventure away from securing a royal future.


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