Little Claus and Big Claus

Little Claus and Big ClausLittle Claus and Big Claus

This story has elements from several Grimm’s Fairy Tales. See if you can pick out the familiar pieces.

Once upon a time there lived two men in the same village with the same name. People distinguished them by calling them Little Claus and Big Claus. Throughout the week Little Claus worked for Big Claus. He would pair up his one horse with Big Claus’ four horses and plow the fields for Big Claus. On the weekends, Big Claus would lend Little Claus all four of his horses and Little Claus would do the work he needed to do. At one point there came an irritation because Little Claus called all five of the horses his on the weekends and Big Claus didn’t like that. He told Little Claus that he better stop or else he would kill Little Claus’ one horse. Little Claus did not stop saying all five horses were his, so Big Claus killed his horse.

Little Claus skinned his dead horse and took the skin in hopes of selling it. Town was a long ways off and he knocked at a farm-house in order to stay the night. The woman there did not want to let him in. He sought shelter in the shed. In the shed he could see into the farmhouse. The farmer’s wife was having dinner with the sexton. The dinner was a very nice one. The wife soon realized that her husband was coming home. She told the sexton to hide in an empty chest. She hid the nice dinner in the oven.

The farmer got to the house and found Little Claus in the shed. He told him to come inside. The farmer was nicer than his wife and offered a night’s lodging and food. She gave them porridge instead of the nice dinner. Claus said he had a conjurer in the sack that held his horse’s skin. He said the conjurer said that he had conjured a nice dinner in the oven. The wife was obliged to look and take out the nice dinner. The conjurer goes on to tell about three bottles of wine. The farmer asks Claus if the conjurer could conjure the evil one. Claus said that he could, but the farmer might not like it because he looked like a sexton. The farmer wanted to see anyway. Claus told him that the evil one was inside the chest. The farmer looked and did not like what he saw.

He offered to buy the conjurer from Claus for a bushel of money. Claus agreed, but part of the deal was taking the chest away. Claus got rid of his horse skin and dragged the chest behind him. He threatened to throw the chest in the water, but the sexton inside told Claus he would give him another bushel of money if he did not throw him in. Claud agreed. He borrowed a bushel measure from Big Claus. Big Claus was curious as to what Little Claus wanted the measure for, so he smeared tar in the bottom of the measure. When it was returned three silver florins were sticking to it.

Big Claus asked Little Claus where he got so much money and Little Claus told Big Claus that he sold his horse skin in town for lots of money. Big Claus immediately went and killed all four of his horses. Nobody wanted to pay Big Claus a bushel of money for his horse skins. They then chased him out-of-town. Big Claus determined that Little Claus had played a trick on him. He went back determining to pay Claus back.

In the meantime, Little Claus’ grandmother had died and was laying out in Claus’ bed. Big Claus went into the house and knocked the grandmother on the head thinking it was Little Claus. Claus knew that Big Claus had been trying to kill him, but that didn’t stop him from dressing his grandmother up in her best clothes and taking her to town. He went to an inn where the told the keeper to take his grandmother some ale and that he had to speak very loudly because Grandmother was hard of hearing. The keeper took ale out to granny, but found her rather unresponsive. She fell off the cart because she wasn’t tied in. Claus shouted that the keeper had killed his grandmother, but the keeper gave Claus a whole bunch of money and buried his grandmother in return for Claus’ silence.

Little Claus tells Big Claus that he killed his grandmother, but then little Claus sold her for a bushel of money. Big Claus went home and killed his own grandmother. When he tried to sell her everyone called him crazy. Big Claus ran away from the angry people determined to get back at Little Claus. He went home and shoved Little Claus in a sack determining to throw him in the river, but on the way got distracted by church and decided to stay a bit. He left the sack with Claus outside.

A man driving a herd of cows and oxen came along. He wanted to get to heaven. Claus told him he had a way. They should switch places. The old man would go to heaven shortly and Claus would be free to take care of the man’s cows and oxen. Big Claus threw the old man in the river thinking it was little Claus, but a little ways down the road there sat Little Claus with an entire herd of cattle.

Claus said that Big Claus did in fact throw him in the river, but under the water the sea people gave him a herd of sea cows. He had just come up on the dry land to take a shortcut to another part of the river to get even more cattle. Claus said that Big Claus might also get some cattle, but he could not carry him to the river in a sack, Big Claus must get in himself. Big Claus reminds Little Claus to put a stone, otherwise he might not sink, Little Claus obliges. Little Claus pushed Big Claus in the river and that was the end of that.

The End

Little Claus and Big ClausObservations

This story is obviously not of Hans’ creation. This story has hallmarks of several Grimm’s fairy tales. There was a story where a preacher hid in a cabinet and the wife hid the salad on the bed. There was a story about two men tricking each other and getting money, they were probably brothers. This story is simply a story that Hans has retold in his own words. Stories like this one have been floating around the region for a while.

There is nothing altogether special about this story. It’s long and it sounds like many other stories. It doesn’t hold the same kind of flair that the Tinder-box held, but even so, the Tinder-box wasn’t entirely unique in its story.

Little Claus and Big ClausThemes

Notice something, neither Claus is a very nice person. In the previous story, The Tinder-box, our protagonist wasn’t a very nice person either, but he at least had the excuse of being a soldier possibly suffering from PTSD. The Clauses don’t have that same excuse; they’re just jerks.

Little Claus seems to be the lesser evil of the two Clauses, but he’s still not nice. What kind of man takes his dead grandmother, dresses her up, puts her on a wagon, rides to town, and then blames her death on some innocent person? I don’t know anybody that would do that, not that I associate with criminals, but I know a few shady people and they’re just not as shady as Claus is.

So far what I’m really liking about Hans’ stories is that everyone seems to have their vice. There isn’t really anyone who is altogether innocent.

Little Claus was still bad, but he ended up with good things. It brings to mind that saying, “It rains on the just and the unjust.” Little Claus didn’t deserve what he got. He took party in murdering an innocent man. He cheated people out of money. He lied about all kinds of things. In the end though, he still wound up with a lot of money and new possessions. It may suck, but sometimes the bad guys win.

Don’t you dare think Little Claus has gotten away with this. There will be more Big Clauses in his life to challenge him.


I would hope I would never have to choose between the two Clauses; they’re both terrible.

The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn what Fear Was

the Story of the Youth who went forth to learn what fear wasSummary

The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn what Fear Was is a long Grimm’s story, which seems appropriate since the title of the tale is so long.  I will try to be as brief as possible in the summary.

Once upon a time there was a man. He had two sons. The older son was generally relied upon to do all of the work. It wasn’t because the younger son couldn’t do the work, it was because the younger son was a few crayons short of a box. The young man knew that he must learn something to be able to support himself, but he did not know what he could master.

When people in the village sat around fires telling stories and saying that one story or the other made them shudder, the boy decided this was what he wanted to learn how to do. He wanted to learn how to shudder. Of course, everyone poked fun at him for wanting to learn how to do such a thing. One day the father sat down and had a heart-to-heart with the young man. The boy told his father what he wanted to learn and pretty soon it was decided that this young man was a blockhead.

A sexton overheard all of this and decided that he could make the young man shudder. He told the young man to come to the church in the evening. When it was dark the sexton told the young man to go up in the bell tower and ring the bell. The sexton thought he would be clever and sneak up on the boy like a ghost. The boy saw the sexton standing in a corner, but did not shudder at the sight of him like others might. The boy asked the apparition to speak. The apparition remained silent. Finally, the young man had had enough. When the apparition didn’t answer or move, the young man decided to push it down the stairs. The apparition lay crumpled at the bottom of the stairs and the young man went back home to go to sleep.

Soon it became apparent that the sexton was missing. His wife got worried. The boy admitted to pushing someone down the stairs. Indeed it was the sexton. Everyone was ticked off because of this event. The young man’s father told him to leave home. He told the young man that he didn’t want him to tell anyone who his father was or where he came from. This was the beginning of the young man’s wandering the world in search of the ability to shudder.

The young man wandered to a town where someone overheard that he wanted to learn how to shudder. They suggested that he spend the night under a tree in which seven men had been hanged. Their bodies were still hanging on its branches. The young man did spend the night under the tree. When the men up in the trees did not answer he assumed they were cold. He brought them down by the fire to warm themselves, but when their clothes caught fire they didn’t move. The young man was put out with these seven men, so he stuck them all back up in the tree. The next morning the young man was asked if he had learned how to shudder. He had not and was kind of put out by the whole situation.

The young man moved on. In another village a man overheard the young man saying that he wanted to learn how to shudder. The man knew just the solution. He had heard of a castle filled with riches that a nearby king had commissioned men to stay three nights in for a chance of the treasure. The prize would be a third of the treasure and the king’s daughter’s hand in marriage. No one had been able to complete the task.

The young man presented himself with the opportunity. No one was really hopeful about his ability to stay in the castle three nights, but they let him go anyway. The young man was allowed to take three items into the castle with him with the stipulation that the items could not be alive. He chose fire, a turning lathe and a cutting board with a knife. Once he had these things he set about spending three nights in the castle.

On the first night when it was dark and drafty he heard someone exclaim from a corner of the room that they were cold. The young man had nothing to say for this stupidity except that the chilly willies come and sit by the fire. When the bodies that belonged the voices came to the fire the young man saw that they were two very large black cats. They wanted to play a game of cards with the young man, but he told them their nails were too long. The young man said he would cut the nails of the cats before they played cards. He held the cats down to his cutting board and, instead, killed the great cats. After the first two black cats were dead many more black cats and dogs came to take their places, but the young man slew them all.

After all the murder, the young man was kind of tired. He spied just the thing in a corner of the room. It was a great-large bed. He got into and soon the bed was moving of its own accord. The young man rode the bed all over the entire castle. The young man told the bed to go faster. Well, the bed ended up getting over-excited and flipping over. After this the young man had had enough and went to sleep for the night.

The next day everyone was surprised to see the young man alive. The young man was disappointed because he hadn’t learned how to shudder yet. He set in for his second night in the castle.

On the second night in the castle a strange man appeared to the young man. Several more men appeared after that. They could take their heads off and were using them to roll at their bodies for a game of bowling. The young man wanted to play and the apparitions told him he could if he had money. The young man was concerned that the balls weren’t round enough. He took one of the skulls and put it in his lathe to make it completely round. After he had done this he spent some time bowling with the dead men. The men vanished at one point and the young man went to sleep.

The net morning people were not as surprised to learn that the young man was still alive. If anything, he was kind of put out because he had lost a few farthings in his bowling games.

The third night things got strange right off. A coffin appeared and for some reason the young man thought it was his cousin. He felt the body inside and it was cold. He tried warming the body by putting his warm hand on it, but that didn’t work. He tried rubbing the body to get the blood flowing again, but that also didn’t work. He then decided to get in bed with the body to warm it up. This did actually warm the dead boy up, but it wasn’t his cousin. The body wanted to strangle the young man. The young man threw the body into the coffin and nailed it shut. After this another man appeared and they competed with an anvil. Upon the young man’s turn, he caught the beard of the man in the anvil and beat the man while he was stuck.

This last man finally cried “uncle” and told the young man he could have the riches in the castle. The king made good on his promise and soon the young man was married to the king’s daughter. The young man was happy with his life, but he was still bummed out about not being able to shudder. One night his wife and a friend got together and decided to throw ice-cold water on him while he was sleeping. The young man finally learned how to shudder.

The End


This is a quest story. This young man goes out into the world seeking something specific, but ending up with something completely different.

Notice that the number three also had its place in this tale.

The story of the young man being a little slow reminds me of another story I have heard. I have heard this story about a young man who was a little slow in his own right, but still managed to have a job and drive a car. His parents raised him to always go to church on Sunday. One Sunday he was going to be late and was probably going a little fast. A police officer pulled him over. Instead of being late this young man, who was quite large, drove to church with a police officer in the back of his car. The police officer didn’t really have a choice in the whole matter.

This story is odd. There are all these odd things the young man encounters and they’re all morbid. It’s not exactly a story you would want to read to your child just before bed. It does make a nice campfire story though. In ways, it very much reminds me of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series.


I don’t want to spend a ton of time picking this story apart, but one thing I do want to point out is the idea of plans versus reality. This young man says that he wants to learn how to shudder. That’s pretty much his major goal in life. He sets about trying to accomplish this goal in a single manner. He ignores plenty of other things to happen to him along the way. He just wants to learn how to shudder. He does accomplish his goal. It takes him longer than he expects and a bunch of weird stuff happens to him along the way. Some of the things are good though. He gets a bunch of money and he gets married to the king’s daughter.

For being a little slow the young man ends up quite well off. This story just goes to show you that you can make plans, but things are almost never going to turn out exactly how you thought.


This is a strange story, but it’s quite nice for a campfire tale.