Grimm 108. Hans-My-Hedgehog

In Fairy Tales & Myths, Grimm's Fairy Tales by BronwenLeave a Comment

Holy cow, I was not expecting to stumble across this. I came across the mere mention of a “hedgehog princess” and immediately had to look it up. I didn’t find a hedgehog princess, but I did find a half-human hedgehog boy who marries a princess!

Yes, this requires some explanation. Let’s begin.

Source: Pitt.edu

Summary

via Wikimedia Commons. This rooster is understandably alarmed.

Like so many fairy tale parents, the father in this story is suffering from infertility and wishes that he would have a son, even if he is a hedgehog. Naturally, his wife gives birth to a half-hedgehog boy. The father is very upset by this turn of events and though they have the boy baptized they leave him in a bed of straw behind the stove for eight years. They name him Hans-My-Hedgehog.

After eight years of lying in the straw, Hans takes an opportunity to ask his father for a gift of… bagpipes. Hans then orders that his rooster be saddled up and a bunch of pigs be brought to him, for he is going to go make his own way and shall never return. His father is relieved to be rid of him and sends him on his way.

Hans takes up residence in a dense forest and tends his pigs and plays his bagpipes. (We know this is a fairy tale written by men who have never heard bagpipes before because they describe the music as “beautiful” more than once.) One day a king and his traveling party become lost in the woods and ask for Hans’ help getting home. Hans agrees, but makes the king write a vow to give Hans the first creature that greets him (the king) upon his return home. The king thinks Hans can’t read so he writes something else and takes the help. When the king gets home his daughter is the first person to rush out of the castle to greet him, but the king assures her that he tricked Hans and she won’t be promised to him.

A second king gets lost in the woods, but he is more honest. He makes the real promise, and resolves to keep it although his only daughter is the first person to greet him at home. They wait for Hans to collect.

In the meantime, Hans raises a big herd of pigs and takes them back to his father’s village to have them slaughtered. His father is distressed because he thought Hans was long since dead. He’s kind of a massive jerk. Nevertheless, Hans doesn’t appear to hold it against him and instead gets his rooster re-shod and heads out to claim his prizes, again promising his father that he’ll never be back (Hans is also kind of a jerk).

At the first kingdom, the king tries to have Hans murdered before he can reach the palace, but they fail. Hans threatens to single-handedly kill everyone, so the king sends his daughter out as sacrifice. She’s given all sorts of fancy clothes and such, but shortly after leaving the city with Hans, he strips her down and pokes her full of his quills and sends her home in disgrace. (Hans is definitely a jerk.)

At the second kingdom, Hans is welcomed. He tells the king that he’s going to shed his hedgehog skin and needs some guards to burn it to ashes for him. They do this, and Hans emerges covered in soot so thick a doctor has to wash it off it. Then he is revealed to be a handsome young man, and everyone rejoices. He marries the princess and inherits the kingdom. A few years later they visit Hans’ father, who claims to no longer have a son, but is delighted to learn the handsome young man IS his Hans. They all live happily ever after.

Discussion

There is no one to root for in this story, except maybe the princesses. Hans’ father is awful. Hans is a vindictive liar. The first king is a judgmental liar and a coward. His daughter seems to be okay, and gets punished for her father’s wrongs. The second king is honest but fine with sacrificing his only child. The last princess seems biddable, and relieved she’s not marrying a half-human critter. Then we’re reminded how awful the dad is. Thanks, Brothers Grimm.

I guess the moral is something to do with keeping your promises, only that’s undermined by Hans repeatedly saying he’ll never go back to his father and then doing just that. What’s the point of that?

And is there something twisted about hedgehogs raising hogs for slaughter?

WTF scale: wtf.

The more ridiculous elements are… just… ridiculous. There’s the hedgehog-boy, of course. Then there’s the “cock-rooster” he rides around on like a horse. He plays the bloody bagpipes and it’s beautiful. Everyone treats Hans as ugly and deformed, but have you ever seen a hedgie?

Source: PixaBay

Hedgies are adorable. They’re not monsters. Which would you rather have, a hedgie baby or an orange bloviating monster? That this hedgehog condition is treated as a bad thing proves the Grimms have also never taken a good look at one.

What is kind of gross is the Jim Henson Storyteller version. Yes, a live-action muppet hedgehog boy. I’m not sharing a picture, you can go find his creepy ribs for yourself.

Final Thoughts

I just can’t even.

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