Hans My Hedgehog

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Hans My Hedgehog
Folk tale
NameHans My Hedgehog
Aarne-Thompson groupingATU 441
Published inGrimm's Fairy Tales

"Hans My Hedgehog" (German: Hans mein Igel) is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm (KHM 108). It is of Aarne-Thompson type 441.[1]

The tale follows the events in the life of a diminutive half-hedgehog, half-human being named Hans, who eventually sheds his animal skin and turns wholly human after winning a princess.


The tale was first published by the Brothers Grimm in Kinder- und Hausmärchen, vol. 2, (1815) as tale no. 22. From the second edition onward, it was given the no. 108.[1][2] Their source was the German storyteller Dorothea Viehmann (1755–1815).[1]


A wealthy but childless farmer wishes he had a child, even a hedgehog. He comes home to find that his wife has given birth to a baby boy that is a hedgehog from the waist up. They then name him "Hans My Hedgehog".

After eight years, Hans leaves his family riding a shod cockerel (Hahn, 'cock, rooster'; Göckelhahn, 'a (mature) cock')[3] to seek his fortune. He goes off into the woods and watches over his donkeys and pigs. A few years later, a lost king stumbles upon Hans after hearing him play beautifully on the bagpipes. Hans makes a deal with the king: he will show him the way home if the king promises to sign over whatever first comes to meet him upon his return. However, the king thinks Hans is illiterate, and decides to trick him by writing an order that Hans should receive nothing. When they arrive at the kingdom, the king's daughter runs to greet him. The king tells her about the deal Hans has tried to make and how he has tricked him. Unconcerned by the betrayal, Hans continues to tend to his animals in the forest.

A second lost king stumbles upon Hans and agrees to his deal. Upon his return, the second king's only daughter rushes out to greet him, and in doing so becomes the property of Hans. For the sake of her father, the princess happily agrees to Hans' deal.

In time, Hans My Hedgehog goes to claim his promises. The first king attempts to withhold his daughter, but Hans forces him to give her up. Hans then makes her take off her clothes, pierces her with his prickles until she is bloody all over, and sends her back to the kingdom in disgrace. The second king agrees to the marriage; the princess holds herself bound by her promise and Hans My Hedgehog marries her. On their wedding night, he tells the king to build a fire and to post guards at his door. Hans removes his hedgehog skin and instructs the guards to throw the skin in the fire and watch it until it is completely consumed. Hans appears black, as if he has been burned. After physicians clean him he is shown to be a handsome young gentleman. After several years Hans returns home to collect his father and they live together in the kingdom.[4]


Characters list[edit]

  • Hans – Main character, with a tiny human's lower body but quilled head and torso of a hedgehog.
  • Farmer (Hans' father) – Wishes for a son "even if it's a hedgehog"
  • Farmer's wife (Hans' mother)
  • First King – Betrays Hans and breaks his promise reward him with his daughter's hand in marriage.
  • Second King – Fulfills his promise and becomes Hans's father in-law.
  • First Princess – Refuses to marry Hans and is punished by being pricked by Hans' quills until she bleeds.
  • Second Princess – Honors her father's wishes and agrees to marry Hans.


It is similar to other ATU 441 tales such as Straparola's literary fairy tale Il re Porco ("King Pig") and Madame d'Aulnoy's Prince Marcassin.[a][2][5]

Another version is "Der Lustige Zaunigel" ("The Merry Hedgehog";[6] actually "Porcupine"[b]) collected by Heinrich Pröhle and published in 1854.[c][6][8] The Grimms' notes state that in these fairy tales, "Hedgehog, porcupine, and pig are here synonymous, like Porc and Porcaril".[8]

The Scottish version "The Hedgehurst" recited by Traveller storyteller Duncan Williamson has also been published in book collection.[9]


Deformed dwarf[edit]

The Hans the Hedgehog character is a half-hedgehog, of clearly tiny stature. In the tale he rides a cock like a horse, and the two together is mistaken for some "little animal".[10] Hans is treated as a "monster" in his folktale world, and thus distinguished from Thumbling or Tom Thumb who are merely diminutive humans.[11] Unlike the other Grimms' tale characters who are portrayed as a fully animal form, Hans is the only half-animal half-human hybrid, thus increasing his overall outlandishness.[6]

The researcher Ann Schmiesing engages in a disability studies analysis of the tale and its protagonist. According to her, the Grimms implicitly suggest Hans's outward appearance as symbolic of "a disease or impairment that stunted physical or cognitive growth", and thus Hans's condition is to be associated with disability as well as deformity.[6] Hans therefore qualifies as being classed as the "cripple", or rather the "super cripple (supercrip)" hero figure.[6][12] The fairy tale "cripple" is stereotypically ostracized and shunned by society,[13] but even after he turns "supercripple", i.e., demonstrates "extraordinary abilities" and "overachievement", this does not vindicate him in the eyes of other folk in the story, but rather only exacerbates his "enfreakment", according to Schmiesing.[14] To the readership, however, the able underdog[14] is a figure that "defies pity".[14]

In this analysis, His level of "freakiness" is also heightened after he requests bagpipes from his father who is going to the market, as does the rooster that he rides.[15]

Animal skin[edit]

"Grimm's tale, "Hans, My Hedgehog," exhibits motif D721.3 "Disenchantment by destroying skin (covering)".[16][17]

This motif is found in other Grimm's fairy tales and myths as a symbol of psychological metamorphosis. Hans was born half-hedgehog and he cannot break the spell until he is able to burn his prickly hedgehog skin.[18]

This same motif of the burning of false or alternative skins in the attempt to create a single whole can also be found in the Grimm's tale of "The Donkey" (Das Eselein).[16] In these cases, the groom upon marriage "literally undress from the donkey skin or quills.. casting their skins aside like old garments", according to researcher Carole Scott, who thus counts the animal skin as a sort of "magical dress". By shedding the skin/dress, Hans has assumed a new identity.[19]

Other adaptations[edit]


  • Hans my Hedgehog was readapted by the German children's book-writer Janosch, in Janosch erzählt Grimms Märchen 1972, translated as Not Quite as Grimm. Janosch's fairy-tale book distinguishes itself from all previous fairy-tale books. It lives from the lively language stamped by the oral tradition. It demands reading aloud: it is acoustic and at the same time porous enough so that the child can make something out of the telling by himself or herself. In short, the anachronistic language of the children's book that has been polished for children is missing. The form of the fairy-tale material that the Brothers Grimm had gathered loses its conservative form. In reading Janosch the reader leaves the ceremonial fairy-tale seriousness of the Brothers Grimm. This does not mean that he has less than what the brothers have too much. As Jack Zipes summarizes, "Hans is transformed from a porcupine looking character into a hippy rock singer, who plays the harmonica. When his father gives him sunglasses and a motorcycle to get rid of him, he goes into the city and eventually becomes a movie star named Jack Eagle (Jack Adler). In the end the father is proud of him, and everyone from the village wants to look like him."[20]
  • It was adapted into a children's book in 2012. The book is titled Hans My Hedgehog and is written by Kate Coombs and illustrated by John Nickle. The book is published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers and has the ISBN 978-1416915331.
  • Andrzej Sapkowski's short story "A Question of Price" in The Last Wish collection is inspired by Hans My Hedgehog.[citation needed]


Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ French: marcassin, lit. 'young wild boar'.
  2. ^ The tale itself states that Zaunigel is Stachelschwein or "porcupine".[7]
  3. ^ Grimm says Pröhle's Märchen für Kinder, No. 13, but the correct title is Märchen für die jugend.[7] The tale is not included in Pröhle's Haus- und Volksmärchen (1853).


  1. ^ a b c Ashliman, D. L. (2011). "Hans-My-Hedgehog". University of Pittsburgh.
  2. ^ a b Uther, Hans-Jörg (2013). Handbuch zu den "Kinder- und Hausmärchen" der Brüder Grimm: Entstehung - Wirkung - Interpretation (2 ed.). Walter de Gruyter. p. 232. ISBN 978-3-110-31763-3.
  3. ^ Crecelius, Wilhelm (1897), "der Gückel", Oberhessisches Wörterbuch, A. Bergsträsser, pp. 442–443
  4. ^ Grimm (2018), pp. 383-388.
  5. ^ Ziolkowski, Jan M. (2010) [2009]. Fairy Tales from Before Fairy Tales: The Medieval Latin Past of Wonderful Lies. University of Michigan Press. pp. 208–214. ISBN 978-3-110-31763-3.
  6. ^ a b c d e Schmiesing (2014), p. 114.
  7. ^ a b Pröhle, Heinrich, ed. (1854), "Chapter 13. Der lustige Zaunigel", Märchen für die jugend, Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses, pp. 48–52
  8. ^ a b Grimm (1884), p. 409.
  9. ^ Glass, Ruth (1995), "(Review) Fireside Tales of the Traveller Children by Duncan Williamson; The Broonie, Silkies and Fairies by Duncan Williamson; The Well at the World's End: Folk Tales of Scotland by Norah Montgomerie and William Montgomerie", Folklore, 106: 121–122
  10. ^ Grimm (2018), p. 384.
  11. ^ Schmiesing (2014), p. 151.
  12. ^ Cleto, Sara (2015), "(Review) Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms' Fairy Tales by Ann Schmiesing", Marvels & Tales, 29 (2): 361–363
  13. ^ Schmiesing (2014), p. 111.
  14. ^ a b c Schmiesing (2014), p. 112.
  15. ^ Schmiesing (2014), p. 125.
  16. ^ a b Ziolkowski (2010), pp. 213–214.
  17. ^ Uther, Hans-Jörg (2004). The Types of International Folktales: Animal tales, tales of magic, religious tales, and realistic tales, with an introduction. FF Communications. p. 263.
  18. ^ Benedetto, Paul. "Jungian Analysis » Lectures & Seminars". jungiananalysts.com. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  19. ^ Scott, Carole (1996), "Magical Dress: Clothing And Transformation In Folk Tales", Children's Literature Association Quarterly, 21 (4): 152 (151–157)
  20. ^ Zipes, Jack (2000). "The Contamination of the Fairy Tale, or the Changing Nature of the Grimms' Fairy Tales". Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. 11: 84. JSTOR 43308420.. Reprinted in Zipes (2001) Sticks and Stones, pp. 109–110.