New address: 24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210-1409.

Search Our Site

Page Navigation

Section Banner

The Brementown Musicians

The story, "The Bremen Town Musicians," was told by the brothers Grimm in Germany, in the early 1800s. The version in this session comes from Gail Forsyth-Vail's book, Stories In Faith: Exploring Our Unitarian Universalist Principles and Sources Through Wisdom Tales (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2007).

Read or tell the story.

A farmer once had a donkey who was growing old and unable to work. Thinking that it was no longer worthwhile to feed the old donkey, the farmer became determined to put an end to him. The donkey sensed that something was amiss, and he ran away, thinking that he would go to Bremen and become a musician. He was:

On the road to Brementown.

A musician he would be.

After he had traveled a way, the donkey came upon a tired dog lying beside the road and panting. "What are you doing lying there, my friend?" he asked.

"Alas, I am old and weak and can no longer hunt, so my master decided to do away with me. I ran away, but now I don't know how to make my living. The only thing I can still do is bark."

"Well," said the donkey, "you and your bark can join me. I'm off to become a town musician in Bremen ." And when the dog joined him, they were:

On the road to Brementown.

A musician he would be.

It was not long before they came upon a cat sitting in the road, looking mournful. "What's the matter with you?" said the donkey. "Why are you looking so sad?"

"Oh," meowed the cat. "How can I be cheerful when my life is in danger? I am growing old and would rather lie about by the fire than chase mice, so my mistress resolved to drown me. I ran away from her, but I don't know what I shall do to earn my food."

"Well," said the donkey, "you are certainly a good singer! Come and join us. We're going to Bremen to become town musicians." The cat quickly agreed, and they were:

On the road to Brementown.

A musician he would be.

Soon enough, they came upon a rooster perched on a farmer gate, screaming for all he was worth. "Cock-a-doodle-doo! Woe is me! Tomorrow they will put me in the soup pot. Whatever am I to do?"

"You can certainly add something to a concert," said the donkey. He invited the rooster to join the group. In short order, they were:

On the road to Brementown.

A musician he would be.

The animals could not reach the town in one day, so they decided to settle in the forest for the night. The donkey and dog lay under a tree, and the cat in the branches. The rooster flew to the topmost branch and had a look around. "There must be a house not a far way off," said the rooster, "for I can see a small light."

Hungry and cold, all four agreed to go and see if they might find food and shelter. When they arrived at the cabin, they arranged themselves to peek in the window. The donkey put his front paws against the side of the cabin; the dog climbed on his back. The cat sat on the dog's shoulders and the rooster flew up to sit on the cat's head. When he looked inside, the rooster reported seeing some robbers sitting and making merry in front of the fire. There was a table spread with all manner of good food.

The foursome made a plan for getting rid of the robbers. At the donkey's signal, all four of the Brementown musicians began to sing. The donkey brayed, the dog barked, the cat meowed, and the rooster screamed. The frightened robbers ran from the place, leaving the wonderful feast to the four friends, who happily ate their fill and settled down to sleep.

After a time, the most courageous of the robbers decided to come back. All was quiet, and he thought perhaps they had left too hastily. He made his way cautiously into the dark cabin. He saw the cat's eyes, looking like two live coals. He took out a match to strike, and the cat sprang at his face and scratched him. He ran for the back door, but the dog jumped up and bit him in the leg. As he crossed the yard, the donkey kicked him, and all the while the rooster screamed, "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"

The robber made his way back to his companions and hastily told of his encounters in the cabin: "A horrid witch scratched me with her bony fingers, then a man with a knife stabbed me, a monster with a club beat me, and the devil sat on top of the cabin crying all the while calling, "Bring the rascal here!"

The robbers never dared to go back to the cabin again, and the four friends remain together to this day, making music in the woods.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

Sidebar Content, Page Navigation

 

Updated and Popular

Recently Updated

For Newcomers

Learn more about the Beliefs & Principles of Unitarian Universalism, or read our online magazine, UU World, for features on today's Unitarian Universalists. Visit an online UU church, or find a congregation near you.

Page Navigation