The Old Man and his Grandson

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"The Old Man and his Grandson" is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in Grimm's Fairy Tales as tale number 78.[1]

The Old Man

It is Aarne-Thompson type 980B, The Wooden Bowl.[2]


A man whose hands shook with the tremors of old age could not eat neatly and often spilled his soup, so his son and daughter-in-law barred him from their table and made him eat by the stove.

When he broke the fine stoneware bowl from which he had been eating, they bought him a wooden bowl that could not break. His four-year-old grandson played with wood as well and said that he was making a trough for his parents to eat from when they were old. After that, they let him eat at the table again and did not complain about the spill.


The bowl was described as costing a few heller.[3]


Other tales of this type vary on the exact offense that the grandson declares he will commit and the son thereafter refrains from: making his father sleep under half a blanket in the stables, bringing back the carrier so he can carry his father to abandon him, or commit murder.[4] In medieval Europe, the son was commonly sent for a blanket and came back with half, justifying it by saying the other half is saved for his father.[5] In an Asian version, the father weaves a basket to throw his aged father into the river. A son says to bring back the basket so that it can be used for the father one day.[6]


  1. ^ Jacob and Wilheim Grimm, Household Tales, "The Old Man and his Grandson"
  2. ^ D. L. Ashliman, "The Grimm Brothers' Children's and Household Tales (Grimms' Fairy Tales)"
  3. ^ D. L. Ashliman, "The Old Grandfather and His Grandson"
  4. ^ D. L. Ashliman, "Old Grandfathers and Their Grandsons: folktales of Aarne-Thompson type 980, 980A, and 980B about old people who are saved by their grandsons
  5. ^ Barbara A. Hanawalt, The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England p. 227 ISBN 0-19-504564-5
  6. ^ "Of No Bowl Intent". Snopes. 11 March 2007. Retrieved 11 June 2013.