So, this is yet another weird little story brought to us by the Brothers Grimm that has managed to hang on and come back through every printed version of Grimm's fairytales. It seems to be very popular but there's an element of this story that has me asking a really important question and it doesn't seem that anyone has really answered it, as yet. But first... the story!
This story centers on three poor brothers from the Black Mountains who decide to set off to seek their fortune. They made their way to Spain, where they came upon a mountain surrounded by silver.
Once upon a time there was a shoemaker who had three sons and a goat. The sons had to help him in his trade, and the goat had to nourish them with her milk. In order for the goat to get good, delicious food every day, the sons took turns and led her out to graze in a meadow.
The sons tell their father where they went on their unplanned journeys and what they ate. After each son answers the father will admonish him, telling him of the dangers he could have faced. Each of these dangers centers around men and boys, which is unsurprising given that the nest was damaged by bad boys simply for the sake of causing trouble.
One time Hans returned home at noon and found Trina sleeping again in their room. So he took his knife and cut off her dress at the knees. Trina awoke and thought: 'It’s time now to go to work.' However, when she went outside to work and saw that the dress was so short she became frightened and wondered whether she really was Trina and said to herself: 'Am I or am I not Trina?'
The younger brother was surprised that the cat could talk but apparently got over that pretty fast and did what the cat asked. After the cat donned his fancy new boots, he gathered up a burlap sack of wheat and went walking away on his back feet. Using the wheat to trap some fat partridges, the cat then went off in search of a king.
Well, for a nice change of pace we have a maiden that is being sought by a man and when she realizes how thoughtless and rude he is, she sends him packing. This is one of the few stories we've had that shows a fairytale maiden taking charge of her agency and deciding her own fate, though admittedly, it does take a bit.
A miller, who was so poor that he had nothing else but his mill and a large apple tree behind it, went into the forest to fetch wood. While there he met an old man who said: 'Why are you torturing yourself so much? I’ll make you rich if you promise to give me what’s behind your mill. In three years I’ll come and fetch what’s mine.'
A little louse and a little flea were living together in a house and were brewing beer in an eggshell when the louse fell in and was scalded. Then the flea began to scream as loud as he could, and the little door to the room asked: “Why are you screaming, little flea?”
This is not a story that I was super-familiar with but apparently the rest of everyone is VERY familiar with it! It's really long for a Grimm tale, it has multiple tale types, multiple variants in multiple countries, and it MAY have influenced Tolkien. It's like a little hidden folklore bomb!