Not to be confused with "The Golden Bird" or the Aesop's fable "The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs".

Front cover of an edition of "The Golden Goose" published by the British children's book publisher Ladybird Books in 1981.

"The Golden Goose" (German: "Die goldene Gans") is a German fairy tale. It is included in the 1819 second edition of Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales), the anthology of German folktales compiled by the Brothers Grimm, and all subsequent editions.

The story's protagonist is a young man who is considered to be stupid by everybody else in his family. Unlike his two elder brothers, however, he shows kindness to a little old man with magical powers. As a reward, he is shown where he can find a goose with golden feathers. This sets in motion a chain of events which eventually leads to the young man marrying a princess and becoming king.

The story has been adapted for film and television.


The story's protagonist is a young man who is known as Dummling[1] because he is considered to be stupid. He is constantly mocked and abused by his parents and his two elder brothers.

Dummling's two brothers go out in turn to cut wood. Their mother gives them each a good sweet cake and a bottle of wine. Both brothers meet a little old man with magical powers. The man asks both brothers for some of their cake and wine. They both refuse to share it with him. Consequently, the little old man magically causes both brothers to injure themselves with their axes.

Dummling carries the golden goose with the innkeeper's three daughters stuck to it. 1905 illustration by the British artist leonard Leslie Brooke.

After both of his brothers have failed to bring back any wood, Dummling volunteers to cut some. His mother gives him a poor quality cake and a bottle of sour beer. The little old man appears and asks Dummling to share his food and drink with him. Dummling gladly does so. When he does, his cake is magically transformed into a good sweet one and his sour beer is transformed into god wine. The little old man then tells Dummling that he will find something at the roots of a certain tree. Dummling cuts down the tree and finds a goose with feathers of gold at its roots. Dummling picks up the golden bird and goes to spend the night at an inn.

The innkeeper's three daughters want to take a golden feather from the goose. The first daughter becomes stuck to the goose. The second daughter becomes stuck to the first and the third daughter becomes stuck to the second. They spend the entire night like that. In the morning, Dummling picks up the goose and carries it away, apparently without noticing the three young women who are attached to it. The three sisters are obliged to run after Dummling wherever he goes.

A priest sees three women apparently running after a young man. He thinks that is unseemly. He tries to stop them by grabbing the hand of the third sister. He finds that he is stuck to her and her sisters. The sexton sees the priest apparently running about idly. He wants to remind the priest that he has work to do and grabs his sleeve. The sexton becomes stuck to the priest. The priest calls out for help to two laborers. The two laborers get stuck behind the sexton. Dummling, carrying the goose with seven people running behind it, makes his way to the city where the king lives.

The king's daughter never laughs. The king has promised that whoever makes the princess laugh can marry her and inherit his kingdom. When the princess sees Dummling carrying the golden goose with seven people all stuck together running behind it, she bursts out laughing.[2] The king, however, does not want somebody he considers ugly and who has a reputation for being stupid to marry his daughter. He sets Dummling three seemingly impossible tasks and says that he can marry the princess if he completes them.

The man eats the mountain of bread. 1905 illustration by the British artist Leonard Leslie Brooke.

First, the king asks Dummling to find a man who can drink a cellar full of wine. Dummling goes back to the place in the forest where he met the magical little old man. There he sees a man who is complaining that he is still thirsty even though he has drunk a barrel full of wine. Dummling takes the man to the king's wine cellar and he drinks all of the wine there. After that, the king asks Dummling to find a man who can eat a mountain of bread. Dummling goes back to the same place in the forest. There he meets a man who complains that he is still hungry in spite of having eaten a lot of bread. Dummling takes the man to the king's palace where a mountain of bread has been baked. The man eats it all. Finally, the king asks Dummling to bring him a ship that can sail on land as well as on water. Dummling goes back to the same place in the forest. There he sees the magical little old man again. He tells the old man about the task that the king has set him. As a reward for the kindness that Dummling showed him, the old man provides him with such a ship. When the king sees the ship, he has no choice but to allow Dummling to marry his daughter and become his heir.


An American short animated cartoon based on "The Golden Goose", produced by Van Beuren Studios, was released in 1932.

German film versions of "The Golden Goose" were released in 1944, 1953 and 1964.

"The Golden Goose" was adapted as the sixth 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 November 25, 1987.

A German-language TV movie based on "The Golden Goose" was first shown on the channel ZDF in Germany on December 19, 2013.

The 2002 young adult novel The Fairy's Return by the American author Gail Carson Levine is a retelling of "The Golden Goose".

See also


  1. The name is sometimes translated as "Simpleton" in some English-language versions of the story.
  2. The version of the story in the 1819 first edition of Kinder- und Hausmärchen ('Children's and Household Tales) ends at this point with the king allowing Dummling to marry his daughter. The Brothers Grimm added the ending in which the king makes Dummling complete three seemingly impossible tasks before he is allowed to marry the princess for the 1837 third edition of the anthology.

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