A few days ago I visited Bremen, Northern Germany, and was fascinated by the
number of statues, photographs, and references to the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale The Bremen Town Musicians.
In this tale, four animals: a donkey, a dog, a cat and a cock, having worked hard for their human owners, but getting on in years, are facing redundancy, abandonment, abuse, and slaughter. This unsavoury predicament brings them together and they decide to set off for the town of Bremen to find work as official musicians there.
Before reaching the town, however, they come across a house in the forest, as one does in fairy tales, and agree to try to scare away a gang of robbers feasting inside it. The dog stands on top of the donkey, the cat on top of the dog, the rooster on top of the cat, and each making its own, unique cry – their concerted braying, barking, meowing, and crowing – they crash through the window inside the house and scare the robbers off. In this remarkable way of co-operation, the four animals repel an attack by the robbers during the subsequent night, and settle to live there for the rest of their lives.
(I took a picture of this sculpture from the street; it is made of papier mache by Gaby Bertram of scrap-pap.de)
I wonder why this fairy tale has become so important to the city. Might it have to do with a wish for all kinds of people, of all backgrounds, ages, ethnic origins to live together happily, like those seemingly incompatible animals did in the story? I hope so anyway.
Readers of this blog will know about my novel Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree, and my interest in the ways people (in this novel, mainly Greeks and Turks) come together – or not. It seems that having a sense of shared humanity and a common purpose, and project helps: this Grimm tale shows us how.
In any case, I had fun walking around and finding depictions of the animals to photograph.