The Gnome (fairy tale)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

"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 owns a poison tree, and whoever eats a fruit from it will vanish underground. His three daughters want to see if that really happens. The youngest says that their father loves them too much for that, so they eat the fruit and sink underground. The king offers them to whoever saves them.

Three huntsmen set out. They find a castle with no one in it but food set out, so they watch and then eat, and agree to draw lots; one will stay and the other two will search. The eldest stays until he is confronted by a small gnome who begs for bread. The man gives him a piece, but the gnome drops it and asks him for the whole loaf. But when he refuses, the gnome suddenly gives him a senseless beating until he is unconscious so he can take away the whole loaf to chow down on. The same thing happens to the second huntsman. Later, the third one stays, but finds his companions unconscious, and he accuses the gnome of beating them up. Blamed for his wrongdoing, the gnome apologizes, promising to show him how to get the king's daughters again. He shows him a deep well without water, warns that his companions will betray him and so he has to go alone, and vanished. The third tells the other two, and they go to the well. The eldest and next both try to be lowered, but panic; the youngest goes down and finds 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 kills the dragons and has the king's daughters lifted in the basket. Then he puts in a rock; his brothers cut the rope and take the princesses back to the king.

The youngest finds a flute. Playing it conjures up elves, who bring him to the surface. The princesses tell the truth, and the older brothers are hanged, but the youngest son marries 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.