Town Musicians of Bremen

The "Town Musicians of Bremen" (German: Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten) is a popular German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm and published in Grimms' Fairy Tales in 1819 (KHM 27).[1]

Town Musicians of Bremen
A bronze statue by Gerhard Marcks depicting the Bremen Town Musicians located in Bremen, Germany. The statue was erected in 1953.
Folk tale
NameTown Musicians of Bremen
Aarne-Thompson groupingATU 130 (The Animals in Night Quarters)

Coordinates: 53°04′34″N 8°48′27″E / 53.076181°N 8.807528°E / 53.076181; 8.807528

It tells the story of four aging domestic animals, who after a lifetime of hard work are neglected and mistreated by their former masters. Eventually, they decide to run away and become town musicians in the city of Bremen. Contrary to the story's title the characters never arrive in Bremen, as they succeed in tricking and scaring off a band of robbers, capturing their spoils, and moving into their house. The Town Musicians of Bremen is a story of Aarne–Thompson Type 130 ("Outcast animals find a new home").[1]


The Brothers Grimm first published this tale in the second edition of Kinder- und Hausmärchen in 1819, based on the account of the German storyteller Dorothea Viehmann (1755–1815).[1]


In the story, a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster (or hen), all past their prime years in life and usefulness on their respective farms, were soon to be discarded or mistreated by their masters. One by one, they leave their homes and set out together. They decide to go to Bremen, known for its freedom, to live without owners and become musicians there ("Something better than death we can find anywhere").

On the way to Bremen, they see a lighted cottage; they look inside and see four robbers enjoying their ill-gotten gains. Standing on each other's backs, they decide to scare the robbers away by making a din; the men run for their lives, not knowing what the strange sound is. The animals take possession of the house, eat a good meal, and settle in for the evening.

Later that night, the robbers return and send one of their members in to investigate. He sees the Cat's eyes shining in the darkness and the robber thinks he is seeing the coals of the fire. He reaches over to light his candle. Things happen in quick succession; the Cat scratches his face with her claws, the Dog bites him on the leg, the Donkey kicks him with his hooves, and the Rooster crows and chases him out the door, screaming. He tells his companions that he was beset by a horrible witch who had scratched him with her long fingernails (the Cat), a man who has a knife (the Dog), a black monster who had hit him with a club (the Donkey), and worst of all, the judge who had screamed from the rooftop (the Rooster). The robbers abandon the cottage to the strange creatures who have taken it, where the animals live happily for the rest of their days.

In the original version of this story, which dates from the twelfth century, the robbers are a bear, a lion, and a wolf, all animals featured in heraldric devices. When the donkey and his friends arrive in Bremen, the townsfolk applaud them for having rid the district of the terrible beasts. An alternate version involves the animals' master(s) being deprived of his livelihood (because the thieves stole his money and/or destroyed his farm or mill) and having to send his animals away, unable to take care of them any further. After the animals dispatch the thieves, they take the ill-gotten gains back to their master so he can rebuild. Other versions involve at least one wild, non-livestock animal, such as a lizard, helping the domestic animals out in dispatching the thieves.[2]


The story is similar to other AT-130 tales like the German/Swiss "The Robber and the Farm Animals", the Norwegian "The Sheep and the Pig Who Set Up House", the Finnish "The Animals and the Devil", the Flemish "The Choristers of St. Gudule", the Scottish "The Story of the White Pet", the English "The Bull, the Tup, the Cock, and the Steg", the Irish "Jack and His Comrades", the Spanish "Benibaire", the American "How Jack Went to Seek His Fortune" and "The Dog, the Cat, the Ass, and the Cock", and the South African "The World's Reward".[1]

Joseph Jacobs also cites this as a parallel version of the Irish "Jack and His Comrades",[3] and the English "How Jack went to seek his fortune".[4] The tale also appears in American folktale collections.[5]

Cultural legacyEdit

The tale has been retold through animated pictures, motion pictures (often musicals), theatre plays and operas.

Screen and stage adaptationsEdit

Town Musicians of Bremen, 1969 Soviet animated film
  • German-U.S. composer Richard Mohaupt created the opera Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten, which premiered in Bremen 1949.
  • The tale was adapted in humorous fashion for the British children's series Wolves, Witches and Giants narrated by Spike Milligan, but with the action taking place in 'Brum' (short for Birmingham) rather than Bremen.
  • In the Soviet Union, the story was loosely adapted into an animated musical in 1969 by Yuri Entin and Vasily Livanov at the studio Soyuzmultfilm, The Bremen Town Musicians. It was followed by a sequel called On the Trail of the Town Musicians of Bremen. In 2000, a second 56-minute sequel was made, called The New Bremen Musicians (Но́вые бре́менские, Novyye bremenskiye).[6]
  • In 1972, Jim Henson produced a version with his Muppets called The Muppet Musicians of Bremen, set in Louisiana instead of Bremen.
  • In 1976, in Italy, Sergio Bardotti and Luis Enríquez Bacalov adapted the story into a musical play called I Musicanti, which two years later was translated into Portuguese by the Brazilian composer Chico Buarque. The musical play was called Os Saltimbancos, was later released as an album, and became one of the greatest classics for children in Brazil. This version was also made into a movie.[7] In Spain, the story was made into an animated feature film, Los Trotamúsicos in 1989, directed by Cruz Delgado.[8] This in itself inspired the Spanish animated series Los Trotamúsicos. The series follows the story of four animal friends: Koki the rooster, Lupo the dog, Burlón the cat and Tonto the donkey; who form a band in the playing respectively guitar, drums, trumpet and saxophone. Unlike in the original story, they arrive to Bremen, before going back to live in the robbers' house.
  • In Japan, Tezuka Productions made a loose science fiction themed animated television film adaptation, premiered in 1981, titled Bremen 4: Angels in Hell (ブレーメン4 地獄の中の天使たち, Burēmen Fō: Jigoku no Naka no Tenshitachi). It revolves around an alien visiting Earth during a military invasion of a fictional Bremen and giving four animals based on the ones from the original tale a device that can transform them into humans. Despite being aimed at children the film has a substantial amount of gun violence and depictions of war crimes, but its core theme is anti-war.
  • In Germany and the United States, the story was adapted into an animated feature in 1997 under the title The Fearless Four (Die furchtlosen Vier), though it varied considerably from the source material; while the general plot is the same, the four arrive in Bremen and help to free it from the grasp of the corrupt corporation Mix Max, along with rescuing animals that the company plans to turn into sausage.
  • On Cartoon Network in between cartoon breaks during the Out of Tune Toons marathon and on Cartoonetwork Video, there are cartoon shorts (called "Wedgies") of an animal garage band based on the tale called The Bremen Avenue Experience featuring a cat (Murray), dog (Anthony), donkey (Greg) and rooster (Jeff). They are either a modern adaptation of Town Musicians of Bremen or descendants of the old musicians of Bremen.
  • The HBO Family animated series, Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, adapted this story in Season 3 and did a country/African-American twist on it featuring George Clinton as Scratchmo (the rooster), Gladys Knight as Chocolate (the donkey), Jenifer Lewis as Hazel (the dog), Dionne Warwick as Miss Kitty (the cat).


  • Richard Scarry wrote an adaptation of the story in his book Richard Scarry's Animal Nursery Tales in 1975. In it, the donkey, dog, cat and rooster set out since they are bored with farming.
  • In the Japanese adventure game Morenatsu, the dog character Kōya is part of a rock band with three other performers, who are a cat, a bird, and a horse. The protagonist makes note of the resemblance to the Town Musicians of Bremen, with a brief monologue explaining the fairy tale.
  • In the comic Blacksad's fourth album, "A Silent Hell", a mystery unfolds in New Orleans around the remaining members of a defunct musical group formerly composed of a dog, a cat, a rooster, and a donkey, all of whom had migrated to the city from their home on a Southern island.


  • In the early 20th century, the American folk/swing/children's musician Frank Luther popularized the musical tale as the Raggletaggletown Singers,[9] presented in children's school music books and performed in children's plays.
  • The Musicians of Bremen (1972), based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, the "Town Musicians of Bremen", for male voices: two countertenors, tenor, two baritones and bass; premiered by The King's Singers in Sydney on 15 May 1972. A recording may be heard here:
  • In 2012, American artists PigPen Theatre Co. released their debut album titled Bremen, with the fifth track "Bremen"'s lyrics telling the story of the Town Musicians of Bremen.
  • In 2015, Japanese rock musician Kenshi Yonezu released his third album titled Bremen, with the sixth track "Will-O-Wisp"'s lyrics being centred on the Town Musicians of Bremen.

Art and sculptureEdit

Persiflage by Heinrich-Otto Pieper
  • Statues modeled after the Town Musicians of Bremen statue now reside in front of each of the five German veterinary schools.
  • Another replica of the statue can be found in the Lynden Sculpture Garden, located in Milwaukee.
  • A persiflage of this tale can be found on the wall in the Fort Napoleon, Ostend, Belgium. Heinrich-Otto Pieper, a German soldier during World War I, painted the German and the Austro-Hungarian eagles throned on a rock, under the light of a Turkish crescent. They look with contempt on the futile efforts of the Town Musicians of Bremen to chase them away. These animals are symbols for the Allied Forces: on top the French cock, standing on the Japanese jackal, standing on the English bulldog, standing on the Russian bear. Italy is depicted as a twisting snake and Belgium a tricolored beetle.
  • A sculpture in Riga shows the animals breaking through a wall (symbolising the Iron Curtain).[10]
  • A junction in Pune City of India has been named after Bremen as 'Bremen Chowk' and has sculpture of instrument that four musicians had used.[11]
  • The city of Fujikawaguchiko in Japan has its own statue of the Town Musicians of Bremen.
Statue of the Town Musicians of Bremen, Fujikawaguchiko, Japan.

Video gamesEdit

  • In Super Tempo, the second stage is set in Bremen, and the player's goal is to find and reunite the ghosts of the four deceased Town Musicians—referred to as "The Bremens," akin to a band name—to perform a song.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, there is a musician who tells his story about how he was in a musical troupe run by animals. For listening to his tale, the player receives an item called the Bremen Mask, which is a reference to the Town Musicians of Bremen.
  • In Agatha Knife, there is an in-game quiz where you are asked about the animals that make up the Town Musicians of Bremen, allowing you to go to the zoo for free.
  • In Super Robot Wars OG Saga: Endless Frontier, the four members of the Orchestral Army are named Ezel, Katze, Henne, and Kyon—the German words for donkey, cat, and hen and the Greek word for dog, respectively. Their organization being called the Orchestral Army is a further reference to the story.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Ashliman, D. L. (2017). "The Bremen Town Musicians". University of Pittsburgh.
  2. ^ "Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten / Bremen Town Musicians". German stories. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
  3. ^ Jacobs, Joseph. Celtic Fairy Tales. London: David Nutt. 1892. p. 254.
  4. ^ Jacobs, Joseph. English Fairy Tales. London: David Nutt. 1890. p. 231.
  5. ^ Baughman, Ernest Warren. Type and Motif-index of the Folktales of England and North America. Indiana University Folklore Series No. 20. The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton & Co 1966. p. 4.
  6. ^ The New Bremen Musicians,
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Los 4 músicos de Bremen (1989)". IMDb. Retrieved 2013-09-12.
  9. ^ Sing Alone and like It Music, Charles L. Gary, Educators Journal April/May 1952 38: 48-49
  10. ^
  11. ^


  • Boggs, Ralph Steele. Index of Spanish folktales, classified according to Antti Aarne's "Types of the folktale". Chicago: University of Chicago. 1930. p. 33.
  • Bolte, Johannes; Polívka, Jiri. Anmerkungen zu den Kinder- u. hausmärchen der brüder Grimm. Erster Band (NR. 1-60). Germany, Leipzig: Dieterich'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung. 1913. pp. 237–259.
  • "Children's Stories in Sculpture: Bremen Town Musicians in Bremen." The Elementary School Journal 64, no. 5 (1964): pp. 246-47.

External linksEdit

Some of the best known adaptations are: