The Singing Bone

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"The Singing Bone" (German: Der singende Knochen) is a German fairy tale, collected by the Brothers Grimm, tale number 28.[1] It is Aarne-Thompson type 780.[2]


A boar lays waste to a country, and two brothers set out to kill it, with the prize being given the princess's hand in marriage. The younger meets a dwarf who gives him a spear, and with it, he kills the boar. Carrying the body off, the man meets his older brother, who had joined with others to drink until he felt brave. The older brother lures him in, gives him drink, and learns of the younger brother's adventure. They then set out to deliver the body to the king, but on passing a bridge, the older kills the younger and buries his body beneath it. He takes the boar himself to the king and marries the king's daughter as prize.

One day a shepherd sees a bone under the bridge and uses it to make a mouthpiece for a horn, which sings of the brother's fate:

"Ah! Dear shepherd, you are blowing your horn

With one of my bones, which night and morn

Lie still unburied, beneath the wave

Where I was thrown in a sandy grave.

I killed the wild boar, and my brother slew me,

And gained the princess by pretending 'twas he."

The shepherd takes this marvel to the king, who has the bridge examined, and the bones of the deceased brother are found. The older brother is not able to deny his actions, and is drowned as punishment. The younger brother's bones are reburied in a beautiful grave.[3]


Graham Anderson has identified the ancient Greek story of Meleager and the Calydonian boar as a possible early variant of this story, noting that both stories involve a man who hunts a boar, murders a relative, and is killed when this information is found out. Also, in both stories, the murderer's doom is brought about by "a hidden, stick-like object of whose effect the criminal himself can have no knowledge".[4]

Variations and adaptations[edit]

In music
In literature
  • Beth Hahn's literary suspense novel, The Singing Bone (2016), is loosely based on "The Twa Sisters".[6]


  1. ^ Grimm, Jacob and Wilheim. "28: The Singing Bone". Household Tales. SurLaLune Fairy Tales.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  2. ^ Ashliman, D.L. "The Singing Bone and other tales of Aarne-Thompson type 780". SurLaLune Fairy Tales.
  3. ^ Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. "28: The Singing Bone". SurLaLune Fairy Tales. Retrieved September 2, 2002.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  4. ^ Anderson, Graham (2000). Fairytale in the Ancient World. Routledge. pp. 143–144. ISBN 978-0-415-23702-4. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  5. ^ Thompson, Stith (1977). The Folktale. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. p. 136.
  6. ^ Hahn, Beth (March 1, 2016). The Singing Bone (1st; Hardcover ed.). Regan Arts. ISBN 9781942872566.

External links[edit]