A man had a donkey, which had carried the corn-sacks to the mill for many a long year. But his strength was going and he was growing more and more unfit for this work. Then his master began to consider how he might best save his keep.
But the donkey, seeing that no good wind was blowing, ran away and set out on the road to Bremen. ‘There – he thought, I can surely be a town-musician.’
When he had walked some distance, he found a dog lying on the road, gasping like one who had run till he was tired.
‘What are you gasping so for, you big fellow?’ asked the donkey.
‘Ah – the dog replied, as I am old and daily grow weaker and no longer can hunt, my master wanted to get rid of me, so I took to flight, but now how am I to earn my bread?’
‘I tell you what’, said the donkey, ‘I am going to Bremen, and shall be a town musician there. Go with me and engage yourself also as a musician. I will play the lute, and you shall beat the kettle-drum.’
The dog agreed and on they went. Before long they came to a cat, sitting on the path, with a face like three rainy days.
‘Now then, old shaver, what is the matter with you?’ asked the donkey.
‘Who can be merry when his neck is in danger?’ answered the cat. ‘Because I am old and my teeth are worn to stumps and I prefer to sit by the fire and spin rather than hunt about after mice, my mistress wanted to send me away so I ran away.
What shall I do now?’
‘Go with us to Bremen. You understand night-music, you can be a town-musician too.’ said the donkey.
The cat thought of it and went with them.
After this they came to a farm, where a rooster was sitting upon a gate, crowing with all its might.
‘What is the matter with you?’ asked the donkey.
‘I have been foretelling the fine weather, because it is the day on which our lady washes the child’s shirts and wants to dry them. But guests are coming for Sunday and the housewife intends to eat me in the soup tomorrow. Now I am crowing.’ said the rooster.
‘Ah – said the donkey, you had better come away with us. We are going to Bremen.
You have a good voice, and if we make music together it must have some quality.’
The rooster agreed to this plan and all four went on together.
They could not reach the city of Bremen in one day, however in the evening they came to a forest where they meant to pass the night. The donkey and the dog laid themselves under a large tree, the cat and the rooster settled themselves in the branches. But the rooster flew right to the top, where it was most safe.
Before it went to sleep, it looked around and thought it saw a little spark light burning.
So it called its friends. The donkey said: ‘If so, we had better get up and go on, for the shelter here is so bad.
So they made their way to the place where the light was, and soon saw it shine brighter and grow larger, until they came to a well-lighted robbers’ house. The donkey as the biggest went to the window and looked in.
‘What do you see?’ asked the rooster.
‘What do I see? answered the donkey. A table covered with good things to eat and drink and robbers sitting at it and enjoying themselves.
‘That would be the sort of thing for us.’ said the rooster.
Then the animals took counsel together how they should manage to drive away the robbers, and at last they thought of a plan. The donkey was to place himself with his forefeet upon the window-ledge, the dog was to jump on the donkey’s back, the cat was to climb upon the dog and the rooster was to fly up and perch upon the head of the cat. When this was done, at a given signal, they began to perform their music
together. The donkey brayed, the dog barked, the cat mewed and the rooster crowed. Then they burst through the window into the room, shattering the glass.
At this horrible din, the robbers sprang up and fled in a great fright out into the forest.
The four companions now sat down at the table and ate as if they were going to fast for a month. When they had done, they put the light out and each went to sleep. The donkey laid himself down upon some straw in the yard, the dog behind the door, the
cat near the fireplace and the rooster perched itself upon a beam of the roof. And being tired they soon went to sleep.
When it was midnight the robbers saw that the light was out so the captain said: ‘We mustn’t be so frightened, go back and examine the house’- he told to his friend.
The man finding all still went in. He wanted to light a candle and went to the fireplace, but the cat was there and it did not understand the joke and flew in the man’s face, spitting and scratching. He was dreadfully frightened and ran to the door, but the dog who lay there sprang up and bit his leg. And as he ran across the yard the donkey gave him a smart kick. The rooster cried ‘cock-a doodle doo’. Then the man ran back and sad: ‘Ah, there is a horrible witch sitting in the house who spat andscratched me. And by the door stands a man with a knife who stabbed me in the leg.
And in the yard there is a black monster who beat me with a wooden club. And above sits a judge, who called out ‘bring the rouge here to me’. So I got away as fast as I could.’
After this the robbers never returned and the house was just right for the four musicians of Bremen, so they did not care to leave it anymore.