"The Bremen Town Musicians" (German: "Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten"), also known in English as "Town Musicians of Bremen", is a fairy tale collected in the first volume of Children's and Household Tales (German: Kinder- und Hausmärchen) by the Brothers Grimm. The story was not part of the original 1812 edition of the book but was added for the second edition published in 1819.
In the story, four old animals past their useful years run away before their masters can put them down. They head towards Bremen hoping to become town musicians there. On the way, they find a house full of robbers enjoying a feast. With teamwork, the animals manage to drive away the robbers and appropriate the meal for themselves.
"The Bremen Town Musicians" has been adapted to other media many times.
An old donkey realizes that his master is thinking about doing away with him because he is getting too weak to perform his duties. He decides to run away and go to Bremen to become a town musician there. On the way to Bremen, he sees an old hound panting on the side of the road. The hound says he is no longer useful for a hunt, so he has run away before his master can put him down. The donkey invites the dog to join him so they can be musicians together in Bremen.
On the road to Bremen, the donkey and the dog run into a sad-looking cat. The cat says he is getting too old to catch mice so his mistress is thinking of drowning him. The donkey and the dog invite the cat to join the band. As they walk on towards Bremen, they come by a barn yard where a rooster is crowing as loud as he can. The rooster says his mistress is expecting company and she is planning to cook him in a soup. The donkey, the dog, and the cat invite the rooster to come along so they can all make music together.
In the evening, the animals go into the forest to rest. The donkey and the dog settle down under a tree while the cat and the rooter climb into the branches. The rooster sees a brightly-lit house in the distance. They decide to walk over and see if they can spend the night there. Peeking into the house, the donkey sees robbers sitting at the table having a nice meal. The animals think up a plan to chase the robbers out. The donkey stands on his hind legs and places his fore feet on the window ledge. The dog jumps up on his back, the cat gets on top of the dog, and the rooster perches on the cat's head. Then they all make loud music together and crash through the window. The robbers flee in terror into the woods.
The four animals sit down and enjoy a big meal. Afterwards they put out the light and the donkey goes outside to sleep. The dog lies down behind the door, the cat in front of the fireplace, and the rooster perches on a beam. Seeing the house dark and quiet, the captain of the robbers orders one of the men to go back and investigate. The man goes into the dark house and, mistaking the cat's glowing eyes for live coals, holds up a match to them. The cat jumps on his face spitting and scratching. As the man runs to the back door, the dog bites him in the leg. Out in the yard, the donkey gives him a good kick. The rooster, awakened by the commotion, crows "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"
The robber runs back to his captain and reports what happened. He says he was hissed at and scratched by a witch with long claws, stabbed in the leg with a knife by an old man behind the door, and beaten by a huge monster with a big club as a judge shouted "Bring me that scoundrel!" The robbers do not dare return to the house, and the Bremen town musicians live there happily ever after.
The Four Musicians of Bremen, an early animated short film by Walt Disney released in 1922, was inspired by "The Bremen Town Musicians".
A West German animated film Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten was released in September 1959. The English-dubbed version of the film was released in the United States in November 1965.
An animated musical loosely based on the story was released in the Soviet Union in 1969. The cartoon and its rock 'n' roll score were so popular that a sequel, On the Trail of the Bremen Town Musicians, was released in 1973. In 2000, a second sequel entitled The New Bremen Musicians was released.
The Muppet Musicians of Bremen (1972), a television movie featuring Jim Henson's Muppets, is based on "The Bremen Town Musicians".
The 1989 Spanish feature film Los 4 músicos de Bremen is an adaptation of the Grimm tale. The film inspired a Spanish animated television series Los Trotamúsicos.
A version of the story is told by the actor and comedian Rik Mayall in the first episode of the second season of the British children's TV series Grim Tales. The episode was first shown on the ITV network in the United Kingdom on January 13, 1991.
In 1997, an animated film loosely based on the story entitled The Fearless Four was produced by Munich Animation in Germany. Warner Bros. distributed the English-dubbed version in the United States.
Season 3 of the HBO Family television series Happily Ever After featured an episode based on "The Bremen Town Musicians". The episode first aired on August 12, 1999.
A German movie based on the story directed by Dirk Regel was released on DVD in 2009. The movie debuted on television in Germany on January 2, 2010.
"The Bremen Town Musicians" has also been adapted as operas and musicals for children.
- Text of "The Bremen Town Musicians" in German and English on Wikisource.
- Public domain audiobook of "The Bremen Town Musicians" on YouTube.
- "The Bremen Town Musicians" on Sur la Lune Fairiy Tales.com.