#FairytaleTuesday: The Little Mouse, the Little Bird and the Sausage

Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index type 85: The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage


Okay, so we all know that the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales is full of some weird and wild shit, right? Some of these, like “How Some Children Played at Slaughtering,” “The Nightingale and the Blindworm,” and “The Hand with the Knife,” were removed from subsequent editions. They were short, weird, and often violent. This one, though… this weird little story appeared in every single edition (seven in total) that was published during the Grimm’s lifetimes and while it’s not necessarily “violent,” it’s a bit like “The Journey of the Straw, the Coal, and the Bean” except that none of the little group survives.

Unlike the ill-fated Straw, Coal, and Bean, though, the inherent lesson with this one seems to be that you should be happy with the way things are and not seek to change your circumstances. I’m pretty sure there’s a lesson here about not trying to rise above your station, even when agitators are telling you that your life could be better. Considering the period in which this story was being told, maybe that is exactly what it’s trying to say.

Since it’s a relatively short story, and there’s really not a lot in the way of history and analysis, I’ll go ahead and share the whole thing. Enjoy!

texture children's animals Digital Collage simple woods
Katherine Caprio, 2013

Once upon a time a little mouse, a little bird, and a sausage came together and set up house. For a long time they lived together in peace and happiness, and they managed to increase their possessions by a considerable amount. The little bird’s job was to fly into the forest every day and bring back wood. The mouse had to carry water, light the fire, and set the table while the sausage did the cooking.

Now, if things go too well for people, they always look for new things! So, one day as the bird was flying about, he came upon another bird, and he boasted and told him about his superb situation. But the other bird called him a poor sap because he had to do most of the work while the other two friends had easy lives. For instance, after the mouse started the fire and carried the water into the house, she generally went to her little room and rested until she was called to set the table. The sausage stayed by the pot and kept an eye on the cooking, and right at mealtime, he slid through the stew or vegetables to make sure everything was salted, seasoned, and ready to eat. As soon as the little bird came home and laid down his bundle, they would sit down at the table, and after finishing the meal, they would sleep soundly until the next morning. Such was their glorious life.

Anna O’Sullivan, 2018

However, the little bird had been disturbed by what the other bird had said the previous day and told his companions that he had been their slave long enough and was no longer going to be taken for a fool. He wanted them to change and try another arrangement. No matter how long the mouse and the sausage vehemently argued against this, the bird dominated and insisted that they try a new way. So they drew lots, and it fell upon the sausage to get the wood; the mouse became cook; and the bird was to fetch water.

What happened?

After the sausage went to fetch the wood, the bird started the fire, and the mouse put the kettle on the stove. Then they waited for the sausage to return home with the wood for the next day. However, the sausage was gone for such a long time that the other two had an uneasy feeling, and the bird flew out a little way to meet him.

Not far from their home, the sausage had encountered a dog. Now this dog had considered the sausage free game and had grabbed him and swallowed him down. The little bird arrived and accused the dog of highway robbery, but it was of no use, for the dog maintained he had found forged letters on the sausage, and therefore, the sausage had had to pay for this with his life.

Rachel Gwen May - the sausage, the mouse, and the bird
Rachel Gwyn May, Date Unknown

Now the little bird sadly picked up the wood and carried it back home. He told the mouse what he had seen and heard, and they were very distressed. Nevertheless, they agreed to do the best they could and stay together. Meanwhile, the little bird set the table, and the mouse prepared the meal. She intended to put the finishing touches on it by seasoning it and sliding through the vegetables the way the sausage used to do, but before she even reached the middle of the vegetables, she got stuck and had to pay for it with her life.

When the bird came to serve the meal, there was no cook. He became so upset that he scattered wood all over the place, calling and searching for the mouse. But his cook was no longer to be found. Since the little bird was so distracted, he didn’t notice that the wood had caught fire, and the house went up in flames. The bird rushed out to fetch some water, but the bucket slipped and fell into the well, dragging the bird along. Since he couldn’t manage to get himself out, he was left to drown.

Work Cited:
Grimm, Jacob; Grimm, Wilhelm. The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition. Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

One thought on “#FairytaleTuesday: The Little Mouse, the Little Bird and the Sausage

  1. For me the lessons feels like “know a good thing when you have it.” Each character had a certain set of skills that worked to their mutual advantage, and changing up jobs undermined the skills they had.
    Maybe not the best lesson for trying to improve your situation, but also might be a warning of the Peter Principle or rising to one’s level of incompetence.


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