"Old Sultan" (German: "Der alte Sultan") 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.
The story's title character and protagonist is a very old sheepdog. The shepherd who owns Old Sultan thinks that the dog has outlived his usefulness. He therefore decides to kill the old sheepdog. A friendly wolf comes up with a plan to save Old Sultan's life. When the plan succeeds, the wolf asks for a kind of payment for his services that Old Sultan finds unacceptable.
Adaptations of "Old Sultan" to other media include animated cartoons from Germany and Japan.
The old sheepdog known as Old Sultan has lost all of his teeth. That means that he is no longer able to protect the flock from anyone who wants to steal any of the sheep. The shepherd who owns Old Sultan decides that the best thing to do is to shoot the dog. Old Sultan overhears his master talking about killing him. Greatly distressed, Old Sultan goes to tell the terrible news to his friend the wolf.
The wolf has an idea to save Old Sultan's life. Each day, the shepherd, his wife and their baby go out into the fields. When they do that the following day, the wolf plans to snatch the baby and run off. Old Sultan can then run after him, bring the baby back and thus appear to have saved the child's life. The plan works perfectly. Not only is the shepherd unable to bring himself to kill the dog that saved his child's life, he also makes sure that Old Sultan lives in the greatest possible comfort for the rest of his life.
As a reward for having saved Old Sultan's life, the wolf thinks that he should be allowed to eat some of the shepherd's sheep from time to time. Old Sultan is horrified by that idea. He tells the shepherd that the wolf plans to steal some sheep. The shepherd lies in wait. When the wolf comes near, the shepherd hits him on the back with a club.
The wolf is furious at having been betrayed by Old Sultan. He challenges the old sheepdog to a duel. A boar is to be the wolf's second in the duel. Old Sultan has nobody to act as his second apart from the shepherd's old three-legged cat. When the wolf and the boar see Old Sultan and the cat approaching in the distance, they mistake the cat's tail, which is sticking straight up in the air, for a sword. They also wrongly think that the cat is walking on three legs because she is constantly picking up stones to throw at them. Not wanting to take part in a fight in which a sword and stones will be used, the terrified wolf and boar both decide to hide. The boar hides behind a bush and the wolf hides up a tree.
When Old Sultan and the cat arrive at the appointed place for the duel, they are surprised to find nobody there. The cat accidentally finds the boar when she mistakes his rustling behind a bush for a mouse and pounces on him. The frightened boar tells the cat and Old Sultan where the wolf is hiding before running away. Old Sultan and the cat first mock the wolf for being a coward. They then tell him that they will let him get away unharmed if he promises to drop his quarrel with Old Sultan. The wolf agrees to this and comes down from the tree. The duel does not take place and the wolf and Old Sultan become friends again.
"Old Sultan" was adapted as the nineteenth episode of the first season of the anime series Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics (Japanese: グリム名作劇場; Gurimu Meisaku Gekijō) The episode was first shown on TV Asahi in Japan on February 24, 1988.
The fourth episode of the third season of the German animated series Simsala Grimm is an adaptation of "Old Sultan". The episode first aired on the channel Kindercanal in Germany on December 9, 2010.
"Old Sultan" is one of fifty of the stories by the Brothers Grimm that the popular Polish-born German children's author Janosch parodies in his 1983 book Janosch erzäht Grimm's Märchen.
The German comic book artist Anike Hage adapted "Old Sultan" as a manga-style graphic novel that was first published in 2012.
- Versions of "Old Sultan" in German and English on Wikisource.
- Public domain audiobook of "Old Sultan" in English on YouTube.