The Gnome (fairy tale)

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The Gnome is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in Grimm's Fairy Tales, tale number 91.[1]

It is Aarne-Thompson type 301A, The Quest for the Vanished Princesses.[2]


A king owned a poison tree, and whoever ate a fruit from it they would vanish underground. His three daughters wanted to see if that happened to anyone. The youngest said that their father loved them too much for that and they ate the fruit and sank underground. The king offered them to whoever saved them.

Three huntsmen set out. They found a castle with no one in it but food set out, so they watched and then ate, and agree that they would draw lots; one would stay and the other two would search. The eldest stayed, and a gnome begged for bread. When the man gave him some, the gnome dropped it and asked it to give him it again. He refused and the gnome beat him. The same thing happened to the second huntsman. When the third one stayed, he did take up the bread, but refused after the gnome dropped it again and beat him. The gnome got him to stop by promising to show him how to get the king's daughters again. He showed him a deep well without water, warned that his companions would betray him and so he had to go alone, and vanished. The third told the other two, and they went to the well. The eldest and next both tried to be lowered, but panicked; the youngest went down and found the king's daughters being held captive, one by a dragon with nine heads, one by one with five, one by one with four. He killed the dragons and had the king's daughters lifted in the basket. Then he put in a rock; his brothers cut the rope and took the princesses back to the king.

The youngest found a flute. Playing it conjured up elves, who brought him to the surface. The princesses told the truth, and the older brothers were hanged, but the youngest son married the youngest princess.


The rescue of the princesses and the throwing down the cliff by his rivals appear also in The Story of Bensurdatu; in The Bold Knight, the Apples of Youth, and the Water of Life, the hero is also thrown down by the rival.