1985 East German postage stamp that depicts a scene from "Hans in Luck".

"Hans in Luck" (German: "Hans im Glück") 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. Similar stories exist in English and Scandinavian folklore. The Danish author Hans Christian Andersen drew on one such Norwegian folktale, known as "Gudbrand on the Hillside", when he wrote the story "What the Old Man Does is Always Right" that was first published in 1864. Unlike Andersen's "What the Old Man Does is Always Right", the Grimmms' "Hans in Luck" does not have an unambiguously happy ending.

The title character and protagonist of "Hans in Luck" is a young man who sees himself as always having good luck and who believes that everything that happens to him is for the best. Other people, however, are likely to see Hans as a very unlucky simpleton. At the start of the story, Hans is given an enormous piece of silver. He soon swaps the piece of silver for a horse. Hans goes on to meet a series of people. They all take advantage of him by allowing him to exchange what he has for something of lesser value until he is eventually left with nothing. Throughout the story, however, Hans always feels that he is getting the better part of the bargain and is constantly amazed by the generosity of the other characters.

Although it is not among the best known of Grimms' fairy tales in the English-speaking world, "Hans in Luck" has been adapted to other media in the United Kingdom and the United States and has been adapted to other media numerous times in Germany.


1912 illustration for "Hans in Luck" by the British artist Robert Anning Bell.

Hans is a somewhat simple young man who considers himself to be very lucky.

After seven years of hard work, Hans tells his employer that he wants to go home to see his mother. Hans' employer pays him by giving him a lump of silver as big as his head. Hans wraps the lump of silver in a cloth and begins his long walk home. When he sees a man on a horse, Hans says aloud that he wishes he had a horse too. The horseman agrees to sell Hans the horse in exchange for his lump of silver.

Hans rides the horse slowly for some time. When he decides to make the horse go faster, Hans falls off it. Cursing the horse, Hans says that wishes he were rid of it. At that moment, a farmer with a cow happens to be passing. The farmer says that he will take Hans' horse in exchange for his cow. Hans is delighted to have a cow that he thinks will provide him with milk, butter and cheese.

When he gets thirsty, Hans attempts to milk the cow. No milk comes out of its udder. A butcher with a pig happens to be passing. The butcher tells Hans that he will never get any milk from the cow because it is too old and is now fit for nothing but slaughtering. Hans complains that he does not like the taste of beef and says that he much prefers pork. The butcher says that he will swap his pig for Hans' cow.

1876 illustration for "Hans in Luck" by the British artist George Cruikshank.

A peasant carrying a goose sees Hans. The peasant says that a local landowner's pig has recently been stolen and that the authorities are looking for the thief. He says that Hans runs the risk of being arrested if he is seen with a pig. The peasant agrees to take the pig from Hans and gives him the goose in return.

Hans comes across a grinder, who sharpens knives and other such implements. The grinder is happily singing. He explains to Hans that he is doing that because, like all grinders, he is rich. The grinder admires Hans' goose and asks him where he got it. Hans tells the grinder the whole story of how he started off with a lump of silver as big as his head and how through a series of exchanges he came to have a goose. The grinder congratulates Hans on his good fortune and says that if he wants to stay lucky, he should become a grinder too. The grinder agrees to sell Hans a used grindstone in exchange for his goose. The stone that he gives Hans is just an ordinary rock that he picked up off the ground.

The rock is very heavy and carrying it slows down Hans' progress considerably. When he is not far from home, Hans feels thirsty again and stops at a river to drink. The rock falls into the river and is lost. Hans is delighted to be rid of the heavy stone. Feeling luckier than ever, Hans continues on his journey home and looks forward to telling his mother all about his good fortune.

The reader is left to imagine Hans' mother's reaction.


German films based on "Hans in Luck" were released in 1914, 1916, 1921, 1936, 1949 and 1999.

A version of the "Hans in Luck" story performed with marionettes from the Augsburger Puppenkiste puppet theater was filmed for German television in 1956.

An adaptation of "Hans in Luck" makes up the ninth episode of the first season of Merry-Go-Round, a British educational children's program intended to be shown in schools. The episode was first shown on BBC television on March 19, 1963.

Terracotta relief that depicts a scene from "Hans in Luck" on a street in Vienna, Austria.

An eight-minute American animated film adaptation of "Hans in Luck" was released in 1978. The cartoon features the vocal talents of the respected voice actors Hans Conried (best known for voicing Captain Hook in the 1953 Disney adaptation of Peter Pan) and June Foray.

A forty-minute parody of "Hans in Luck" makes up the second episode of the second season of the Austrian-German TV comedy series Die Märchenstunde ("The Fairy Tale Hour"). The episode first aired on the German satellite and cable channel ProSieben on September 25, 2006.

The twelfth episode of the third season of the German animated TV series Simsala Grimm is an adaptation of "Hans in Luck". It originally aired on the channel Kindercanal in Germany on December 17, 2010.

An hour long German TV movie adaptation of "Hans in Luck" was first shown at the Kinofest Lünen film festival on November 12, 2015. Its first television broadcast was on the German network ARD on December 26, 2016.

Hans im Glück ("Hans in Luck") is also the title of a 1987 German TV series, a German film released in 2008 and a German film released in 2009. Those three works do not have plots that are directly related to that of the fairy tale.

The Swiss composer Roland Zoss set a version of the "Hans in Luck" story in the Swiss German language to music in 2004. The American composer Oman Tau adapted "Hans in Luck" as a one act opera that was first performed in 2011.

External links

  • Versions of "Hans in Luck" in German and English on Wikisource.
  • Public domain audiobooks of "Hans in Luck" in German and English on YouTube.
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