The Robber Bridegroom is a gruesome Grimm’s stories that play on a young woman’s worst nightmares. Maybe this is the story that inspired people to confess the crazies they married on that show Who the &!*$/ did I Marry?
Once upon a time there was a miller who had a daughter. He wanted his daughter to be married to a good man. Not long after he found this desire within his heart, a suitor appeared. He appeared to be very rich and the miller couldn’t see anything wrong with this man, so he betrothed his daughter to him.
The daughter did not particularly like this man. He gave her the heebie-jeebies. The tale says that she had no confidence in him. So perhaps she found him a hard man to trust.
One day the man got kind of irritated. “You are my betrothed and yet you have never once paid me a visit.” The girl tries to get out of this by saying she doesn’t know where his house is. The man says, it’s in the deep dark forest. The girl tries once again to get out of this by saying that she could not find her way there. The man is like, “No problem, I’ll sprinkle ashes on the path so you can find your way.” There really was no getting out of the visit for this young woman.
When the appointed time came she filled her pockets with peas and lentils. Every couple of feet she dropped a lentil or a pea. She walked all day and finally came to the house. There was no there it appeared. There was a bird hanging in a cage on the wall and it said:
“Turn back, turn back, young maiden dear,
‘Tis a murder’s house you enter here.”
The bird says this twice, but the girl does not listen. She goes in the house and finds it completely empty. All the rooms are empty, which is odd. She finally goes down to the basement where she finds an old woman. The old woman tells her that she only thinks she is going to be a bride. Murderers and robbers live in this house. If the old woman does not take pity on the girl and hide hear the robbers will cut her into pieces and cook her in a large pot, then they will eat her flesh.
The woman does take compassion on the girl and hides her behind a great hogshead, which is disturbing enough in itself. The robbers soon come home. They have another young girl with them. They give her three glasses of wine. One glass is red, one is white, and the other is yellow. I have no idea of yellow wine is. After drinking the three glasses of wine the girl’s heart bursts in two and she dies. The robbers then proceed to cut her into tiny pieces. They salt her flesh and put her in the large pot to cook.
While they were cutting up the young girl one of the murderers noticed that there was a ring on one of the fingers that he desired. He couldn’t get the ring off the finger, so he chopped the finger off the hand. In his act of cleaving the finger from the body, the finger flew through the air and landed in the bosom of the hidden bride-to-be. The robbers made to search for the finger, but the old woman told them to hurry up and eat their food.
The robbers agreed, but the woman had given them a sleeping draught. They soon fell asleep in the basement. The old woman and the young girl high-tailed it out of there as fast as they could. During the passage of time, the lentils and peas had sprouted and they were able to find their way back to the mill even though the ashe had blown away. They had to walk all night to get back to the mill, but they finally returned. The girl told her father everything that had happened.
In a true style of vengeance, the wedding goes on as planned. All the guests are gathered and each person is going round, in turn, telling something. I don’t know what exactly, maybe dirty stories or dirty jokes. When it comes the bride’s turn she doesn’t say anything. The would-be husband, says, “Oh, come on, you’re ruining everyone’s fun,” so she agrees.
She tells everyone of a dream she had. She dreamt she at a house in the deep dark woods. There was a bird that told her to turn back twice. When she went inside the house, no one was home. In the basement she found an old woman who hid her behind a hogshead. The girl witnessed men murdering a young woman after giving her three glasses of wine. She even lists the specific types of wine given to this girl. She then describes the girl being cut to pieces and then cooked. She tells about the little finger and the ring. When she says this she pulls out the finger with the ring. She shows the finger to everyone.
Now everyone at the wedding party knows this was not a dream. The robber had turned pale as ashes. He tried to escape, but no one was going to let this horrible murderer loose. The wedding guests then proceeded to kill this man and his entire troop of evil-doers.
Way to tell a bedtime story Grandma! Can you imagine someone reading this story to you as a child right before it was time to go to sleep? It’s not even really a happy ending because several people are executed.
Cannibalism, it happens, which is disappointing and disturbing.
I am no wine expert, but I have no idea what yellow wine is. I know what red wine is and I know what white wine is, but what in the heck is yellow wine? Honestly, all I can imagine at this point is that one of the men peed in a glass and called it wine. That’s probably what killed that poor girl right there. If yellow wine actually exists, please let me know, so I don’t continue to think that one of these sick bastards is a sick bastard who forces young women to drink his pee.
On another wine related note, three glasses of wine doesn’t seem like enough to make you die. Thirty glasses of wine might do the trick, but not three. I don’t drink alcohol, so I couldn’t say for sure, but I think one bottle of wine probably gives you three glasses or so and people can totally drink a bottle of wine up by themselves. This girl really couldn’t hold her liquor.
This reminds me of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. I know many of you may not be Tim Burton fans. I am not always a Tim Burton fan, but I do love me some Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas. I love the feel of those two movies and I also really like the music. The opening scene in Corpse Bride is just brilliant. I love how everything is timed so perfectly. Anyway, enough about that…the entire premise of the movie is that our main man accidentally marries a dead woman, who is dead because she was murdered by a man posing as a rich suitor in order to get the family’s wealth. The man actually shows up again to try to do the same thing all over again and the beat down comes at the actual wedding. Yes, he does end up dead.
The stories are very similar and I do have to wonder if good, old, crazy, insane Tim took this story for his inspiration.
Talking birds aren’t that common. Yes, I know parrots can talk and according to some parakeets can also talk. I’ve never heard it in person, so I don’t know the validity of that statement. So parrots talk, that’s cool. This story doesn’t say what kind of bird is hanging in a cage talking to people who come up the house. Is it a parrot? Is it a crow? Is it a raven? Is it the same raven that kept bugging the crap out of Edgar Alan Poe? I have no idea. Most likely, this bird is not a parrot. Birds that are not parrots generally do not speak. So this girl walks up to a house and some random bird is speaking in English, or in German, to get away from the house because it’s full of murderers. Why would you not listen? Why would you not heed that warning?
If I walked up a house and there was a crow sitting there telling me I better leave because an axe-murderer lived there, I think I would leave. I don’t think I would question it twice. I would think, “Well if the talking bird says it’s true then it must be true.” I would get back in my car, or whatever, and get the heck out of Dodge in a Dodge Charger.
On a second wondering, why were these men incriminating themselves with this talking bird? Were they really that stupid? Obviously, the main man was somewhat intelligent if he could trick a miller into giving away his daughter. That takes some schmoozing. That takes some acting. That takes some charisma. He’s not a complete idiot, but seriously, why the bird. Did one of the other men think it was a good idea? Was it at trophy? That could be a reasonable explanation. Maybe they killed another young woman who happened to have this talking bird and they chose to keep it as a trophy, just as they were going to keep the old dead girl’s ring as a trophy. It actually is a common thing for serial killers to keep trophies from their victims.
A note on word usage here…bridegroom means the groom. We kind of shortened it over the years. It somehow makes it less woman powered don’t you think?
There was something else I was going to mention…maybe typing this will jog my memory…
Oh well…moving on…What is up with these old women abetting and aiding groups of robbers. Is the old woman one of their grandmothers? I really can’t imagine how all of this comes about. Do they steal the old woman and tell her she has got to cook their food and make their beds? When you think of an old woman, you generally have the idea of correctness and piety in your head. Go on think of an old woman. Does she do things that society thinks is weird? Does she wear a thong? Does she beat small children? Does she ever do anything risqué? No, well, at least not in your head, she doesn’t. It’s hard to imagine why a little old woman would be with a den of thieves. I’ll have to think about it some more.
I remembered it!!!
Why is this young woman going to her fiance’s house? I know in our modern-day and age, it’s socially acceptable to go to your fiance’s house. It’s perfectly normal even if you’re the “no sex before marriage” group. In the day of these tales, it wasn’t necessarily appropriate for this young woman to be visiting her fiance at home. There probably would have been a chaperone, or she wouldn’t have gone at all. The idea of a young woman’s virginity was a huge deal. If your reputation or appearance gave off the air that you were not a virgin, it didn’t matter if you were factually a virgin. This young woman going to her fiance’s house, by herself, gives off the appearance of her not being a virgin. People would begin to whisper about her behind her back. If this girl had been real during this time period, she was probably fully expecting to be deflowered when she got to her fiance’s house. Remember she resists. He does tell her, “Hey I invited some people over,” but we all know that is a lie. The girl sees what this man says are lies, but because she really has no choice in the matter, she has to go along.
We have a mention of the number three, again. This time the number three forebodes death. We also have the number two. We have peas and lentils and we have the bird warning the girl twice. Two in this story is like a rescue. The number two tries to save her once with the warning from the bird and succeeds in saving her the second try with the lentils and the peas. I’ll have to look into the symbology of the number two some more.
Tricksters and deceivers are a theme here. You’ve heard horror stories about a woman who married a man who appeared to be the most devoted and perfect man ever. He’s got money. He’s really nice. He can cook. He has great abs. The list goes on and on. Then one day the woman disappears. What happened to her? Maybe someone finds her dead. Who killed her? Who would do such a thing? In these situations it is almost always Mr. Abs who has killed his devoted wife. It’s for the life insurance money, it’s for the inheritance, it’s for the house, and it could be many other things. These men plot and calculate.
This is actually reminding me of A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin. Now, we may think this is some made up thing. It only happens in the movies. It only happens on television. It only happens in books. Well, let me tell you something…fiction is always inspired by real life. These stories you read and these television shows you watch about these exact circumstances were inspired by true stories. There are men, and women for that matter, who plot and calculate to do exactly the same thing. It’s happened for all of history and it will continue to happen.
Honestly, this would have to be a new bride’s worst fears. Imagine that you’re about to get married and your would-be groom seems like the most amazing person ever, but there is a little niggling fear in the back of your mind that perhaps he’s not so amazing. Maybe he pees in the shower or something, if that’s the worst of your worries you’re doing pretty well for yourself, and let me go ahead and tell you, your fear will come to pass. Us everyday women don’t really worry about this because we don’t really have anything that someone would want to steal. Inheritance? Yeah right. Giant insurance policy? Yeah right. I wouldn’t know what an inheritance was if it slapped me in the face.
The fear is still there though. How well do you really know a person? Can you really see inside the depths of their soul and know if they are truly good or truly evil? It makes a person wonder.
If you’ve ever watched one of those true-life murder shows that come on Investigative Discovery, you will know that often, the murderer is someone no one would ever expect to be guilty of such deeds. They’re members of the local church. They participate in the community. They give to charities. They have a wife and children, maybe. They’re really nice. When you find out they’ve murdered someone, people are shocked. People are doubly shocked in those types of situations. They are shocked because someone they know is dead, but they are also shocked because they, themselves, never caught on. How could a murderer have been living next door for so long? How come there wasn’t a little inkling of a thought that something wasn’t right with this person? People become upset both because of the nearby death, but also because they don’t know if they can trust themselves after the incident. They might even become extremely angry like the people in this tale. This tale has some vigilante justice at its finest.
The psychology of this tale is quite interesting.
Villainy, is something we despise as human beings. You may be a criminal. You may be a murderer or a rapist, who enjoys the very idea of being treacherous, but deep down, you still despise the idea of villainy. There is this idea of fairness. If something is being villainous, they’re not being fair. As people we kind of want to stamp out the very idea of villainy. If we find out villainy has been committed so close to home and under our very noses, we can get quite angry. That is exactly what the people of this tale did. Can you imagine how the father in this tale feels? He almost was party to the murder of his own daughter. What of his daughter? How is she going to live the rest of her life after witnessing such a gruesome murder? This isn’t just a short-term listing of damage, these people, if they were real, would all have long-term effects associated with this period in their lives.
I’ve never really thought about all of this before in relation to this tale and this is a tale I have read before. I used to have a more sanitized version in a child’s collection of a few Grimm’s tales growing up. You really have to look at all these Grimm’s stories with a parallel to our modern world. Grimm’s tales were the modern world for their age with a few superstitions thrown in. This was life and it still is. These tales describe things that happen in our society all the time.