The Strange Musician is not about Harl Thomas, who is in this picture from Foxfire: Volume 4. Harl Thomas was in the Foxfire book series on two occasions, once for making log cabins and once for making fiddles. Harl Thomas happens to be my great-great-great-uncle, or something like that. That’s right, I totally had a fiddle maker in my family. It’s kind of a shame that no one in my family is particularly musical these days or that none of us have one of his fiddles.
The reason Harl Thomas is the picture for this post instead of an illustration about this tale, is that I couldn’t find a Grimm’s illustration about this tale. I am sure one exists, but I wasn’t going to spelunk through the internet for ages and ages just to find one.
Anyway, the strange musician is a rather short Grimm’s fairy tale about a man who is apparently brilliant at playing the violin, but would also probably be brought up on multitudes of animal cruelty charges.
We meet a musician, whom for some reason, has decided to live in the forest and play his fiddle all the time. Maybe he broke up with his girlfriend, maybe he was run off, or maybe he was just eccentric…who knows? He decides that he will attract a companion by playing his fiddle. What is this guy, a bird?
The musician plays his fiddle and he soon attracts a wolf. The wolf isn’t trying to kill the guy or anything, so what he does next seems awfully cruel. The wolf says that he would like to learn how to play the fiddle like the musician. The musician, says, “It is soon learnt. You only have to do all that I bid you.” The wolf readily agrees. The wolf follows the man to an old oak-tree which was hollow on the inside. The man tells the wolf to put his paws in the crevice. Then the man picked up a stone and wedged the wolf’s paws in the crevice and the wolf was forced to stay there.
The man walks away like some sort of deranged jailer. After a while, he wants a companion again, look this dude isn’t Doctor Who I don’t know what all the fuss about companions is. He plays the fiddle again and this time a fox comes his way. Apparently, this guy doesn’t like foxes either. The same kind of banter goes on and the man leads the fox away into the forest. There he found a hazelnut bush and tied the fox to a branch. Then he let it go and the fox sprung way up into the air and hung there helpless as the man twiddle-deed his way away.
The musician wanders through the forest some more and decides that he wants a companion again. This time he plays his fiddle and a hare appears. Who doesn’t love a bunny? Apparently, this guy doesn’t love a bunny. The same banter happens again. The man leads the hare into the forest where they come upon an aspen tree. There he ties the hare to the tree with a piece of string by the neck. He tells the hare to run briskly around the tree twenty times. The hare does this, but is soon caught in such a way that to move more would strangle him. At this, the musician leaves.
Meanwhile, the wolf got himself free and was ticked off. He was running, but the fox saw him and called out. The wolf freed the fox and they ran onto together. Soon they heard the call of the hare, whom they also freed instead of ate for dinner. The odd trio went in search of the musician for their revenge.
The musician was apparently companion seeking again. He played his fiddle and this time, a man appeared. The man was entranced by the musician’s fiddle playing. The animals rushed at the musician, but the man was there in the way. He swung his axe at them and dared them to come any closer. The animals were too scared to do anything so they sulked off into the woods. The musician played the fiddle for the man another time out of gratitude. The story says, “and then went onwards.” I’m taking this to mean he wandered off into the forest by himself, again.
This man is kind of a jerk to all the animals he meets. Apparently, people didn’t like wolves back in the day. Nobody says you have to like a wolf, but that doesn’t mean you have to torture them.
This actually reminds me of driving to work the other day. I was behind this large pickup truck, who swerved to the left suddenly and I wasn’t sure why. I noticed afterwards that this truck had swerved to run over a black snake that was coiled up in the middle of the road. That was cruel. Look, I don’t like snakes, but I don’t hate them either. I’ll leave a snake to its own devices as long as it leaves me to my own devices. Just because a creature is a certain type of animal, does not mean that creature deserves death or torture because you don’t like that type of animal. Death is death no matter how you look at it and torture is torture no matter how you look at it. I am not one of those PETA and/or vegan people. I like bacon, chicken and steak, but believe me, if it were up to me how bacon, chicken, and steak were raised, they would not be tortured or ill-treated.
This musician in this story strikes me as a very cruel person. It’s not funny to be cruel to animals. It’s not funny to put firecrackers in stray cats’ butts and light them on fire. It’s not funny to shoot your neighbor’s dog with a BB gun. It’s never appropriate to be cruel to other life forms.
As far as I can tell for this story this wolf, this fox, and this hare only wanted to learn how to play the fiddle because the man played so beautifully. They didn’t want to harm this man, but he was a complete and total jerk to them.
Obviously, we can say that a theme in this story is that music soothes the savage beast. Music can have wonderful effects on all life forms, including plants. Music can help us de-stress or become invigorated. Playing Simon and Garfunkel to your cows can help them give more milk and playing heavy metal to your pea plants can make them grow faster. Those statements were both proven by scientific experiments. I don’t know why, and I don’t know if there is actually a scientific explanation of why music can help us out so much. It just does.
Maybe a second theme in this story could be that some people are jerks. Well, that’s not very eloquent. The idea is more about sometimes people promise you something and they don’t follow through or they do something terrible to you. Maybe the theme is that you can’t trust some people.
Maybe a theme is also that some people are really conceited, like the musician in this story. He’s so pompous he A) believes he deserves a companion like Doctor Who and B) believes that animals are apparently the devil’s work. Plenty of good men have had animals as companions, I don’t know what this guy’s deal is, even Doctor Who had K-9 for a while.
The title of this story was not exaggerating when saying the musician was strange.
I do have to wonder about the feelings about musicians at the time. As you may or may not know, being a composer or musician back in the day in the Germany/Austria area was a huge deal. There were feuds going on between composers and it was just the coolest thing to be a brilliant composer. Franz Liszt had no shortage of bastard babies running all over Europe because he was such hot stuff (the picture up above of the man, is Franz by the way). I have to wonder if maybe this tale’s creator was poking fun of that era. When I heard the first would be companion was a wolf I immediately thought of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I really couldn’t say for sure though, since this tale is so old, and I probably could not place a date on when it was created.
It could also just be that someone thought musicians were brilliant, but also jerks.
Music and animal cruelty are not the best of companions in a story. If you ever run across this guy in the forest, just turn around and walk the other way. Because, who knows, he might get tired of you and bury you under a bunch of rocks or something.