Brother, Sister and their witch stepmother are depicted on this 1970 East German postage stamp.

"Brother and Sister" (German: "Brüderchen und Schwesterchen";' also published in English as "Little Brother and Little Sister") is a German fairy tale. It is included in Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales), the 1812 anthology of German folktales compiled by the Brothers Grimm. A slightly modified version of the Grimms' story also appears in The Red Fairy Book, the 1890 anthology of fairy tales compiled by the Scottish folklorist Andrew Lang.

Tales similar to "Brother and Sister" exist in the folklore of several European, Asian and African countries. The earliest known written story that somewhat resembles "Brother and Sister" is "Nennillo and Nennella", written by the 17th century Italian author Giambattista Basile and included in his anthology Pentamerone that was first published in around 1635. Basile's story can also be considered to be a forerunner of the Grimms" "Hansel and Gretel"[1] and Charles Perrault's "Hop-o'-My-Thumb".

The plot of "Brother and Sister" is set in motion when the story's two title characters decide to run away from their abusive stepmother. The stepmother is revealed to be a witch who punishes the fleeing Brother by changing him into a deer. In spite of Brother's transformation, he and Sister live happily in a cottage in the forest for some time. A series of hunts brings the king to the forest. He meets Sister. He falls in love with her, marries her and they have a son. The witch stepmother finds out about this. She still hates her stepchildren and cannot stand the idea of them being happy. She is determined to put an end to her stepdaughter's happiness.

The fairy tale has been adapted for other media, including film and television.


Front cover of a 1910 German edition of "Brother and Sister" withan illustration by Franz Müller-Münster.

Brother and Sister live with their stepmother who constantly mistreats and abuses them. They decide to run away and flee into the forest. The stepmother is a witch who wants to punish her stepchildren for running away. She follows them in secret. She bewitches three brooks so that whoever drinks from the first one will be changed into a tiger, whoever drinks from the second one will be transformed into a wolf and whoever drinks from the third one will be transformed into a deer. Sister listens carefully to the brooks' babbling and finds out about the witchcraft in them. She tells Brother not to drink from them. When they get to the third brook, however, Brother is too thirsty to resist drinking from it. He is instantly transformed into a deer, although he retains the ability to speak. Sister tells Brother that she will stay with him. She gives him her gold garter to wear as a collar. Sister and Brother find an abandoned cottage in the forest. They live there happily for some time.

The king decides to hold a series of hunts in the forest. Brother hears the sounds of the horns and the hounds and gets excited. He decides that he wants to go out and run away from the huntsmen. Sister reluctantly agrees to let him go. Not wanting any huntsmen to come into the cottage, Sister tells Brother to let her know he is the one who has returned in the evening by knocking on the door and saying, "My little sister, let me in." On two consecutive days, the deer with the gold collar runs away from the huntsman and gets back into the cottage in the evening by saying the password. On the third day, one of the huntsmen follows the deer back to the cottage and hears him say, "My little sister, let me in." The huntsman tells the king what he has learned. The king says that they should chase the deer with the gold collar the following day but be careful not to kill him.

At sunset the following day, the king goes to the cottage. He knocks at the door and says, "My little sister, let me in." He is immediately struck by the beauty of the young woman who opens the door. He asks her to marry him, come with him to the palace and be his queen. She replies that she will marry the king if the deer can live with them at the palace too. The king agrees to this.

Brother takes on human form again at the end of the story. Late 19th century illustration by the German artist Carl Offterdinger.

The queen gives birth to s son. The witch stepmother hears about this. She still hates her stepchildren and cannot abide the thought of them being happy. She and her one-eyed daughter disguise themselves as servants and infiltrate the castle. They murder the queen. The witch uses a spell to make her daughter look like the queen. She is, however, unable to give her daughter a second eye. For that reason, the witch's daughter remains in bed and lies down on the side from which her eye is missing.

At midnight, the queen's ghost appears. She is seen by her son's nurse, who is the only person awake in the palace at that time. The ghost picks up her baby son and strokes the deer that is her brother. After appearing for several nights, the ghost tells the nurse that she will only appear two more times. The nurse tells the king. The king waits up and watches with the nurse that night. He hears the ghost say that she will only appear one more time but does not dare speak to her. The following night, the king waits up and watches again. He hears the ghost say that she will never appear again. The king says to the ghost that she must be his wife. The ghost replies that she is. At that moment, God allows the queen to come back to life. [2]

The queen tells the king that she was murdered by her witch stepmother and stepsister. They are put to death for their crime. When the witch dies, the spell that she cast on Brother is broken and he takes on human form again.


"Brother and Sister" was adapted as a live-action West German film that was released in 1953.

The twelfth episode of the second season of the anime series Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics (Japanese: グリム名作劇場; Gurimu Meisaku Gekijō&) is an adaptation of "Brother and Sister". It was first shown on TV Asahi in Japan on December 25, 1988.

"Brother and Sister" was adapted as the thirteenth and final episode of the first season of the German animated series Simsala Grimm. The episode originally aired on the channel Kindercanal in Germany on November 17, 1995.

An hour-long live-action TV movie based on "Brother and Sister" was first shown on the channel Das Erste in Germany on December 20, 2008.

Sculptures that depict characters from "Brother and Sister" can be found at two parks in Berlin, Germany. Statues of Brother and Sister adorn the fairy tale fountain, which was unveiled in 1913, in Volkspark Friedrichshan. Limestone sculptures of characters from "Brother and Sister", created in 1970 by the German artist Katharina Szelinski-Singer, decorate the fairy tale fountain in Schulenburgpark.

The German comics artist Inga Steinmetz adapted "Brother and Sister" as a manga-style graphic novel that was first published in 2011.

See also


  1. "Hansel and Gretel", in common with "Brother and Sister", has also been published in English under the title "Little Brother and Little Sister".
  2. "The Three Little Men in the Wood", another German folktale that the Brothers Grimm include in their anthology, also features the murder of a queen who has recently given birth by her stepmother and stepsister, the stepsister's impersonation of the queen by pretending to be sick in bed, the queen's return in the form of a ghost that speaks to a servant and cradles her baby and the ghost's miraculous return to life in front of her husband.

External links

  • Versions of "Brother and Sister" in German and English on Wikisource.
  • Public domain audiobooks of "Brother and Sister" in German and English on YouTube.
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