1862 illustration for "The Star Money" by the German artist Ludwig Richter.

"The Star Money" (German: "Die Sterntaler";[1] also published in English as "The Star Talers"[2]) 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 protagonist is an unnamed girl who, although she is extremely poor herself, shows enormous generosity to other poor people. She is ultimately rewarded by Heaven for her good deeds.

Although "The Star Money" is not among the best known of Grimms' fairy tales in the English-speaking world, it has been referenced in other works of German literature and has been adapted for German television.


There is a poor orphan girl whose only possessions are the clothes on her back and a piece of bread that somebody gave her. The orphan girl leaves in search of a better life. She soon meets an old man who tells her he is hungry. The orphan girl does not hesitate to give him her bread. She then meets a series of poor children who are all cold because they lack clothing. The orphan girl gives all of her clothes away one item at a time until she has nothing left but her shirt. As night falls, the orphan girl approaches a forest. There she meets another poor girl who has no shirt. Reasoning that nobody will see her because it is dark, the orphan girl gives her shirt away too. Soon afterwards, stars start to fall from the sky. Heaven is rewarding the orphan girl for her generosity. She finds that she is wearing a new shirt made of fine linen. The falling stars are transformed into silver coins. The orphan girl holds out her shirt front and catches as many cons as she can in it. The orphan girl immediately becomes rich and remains so for the rest of her life.


In the 1836 play Woyzeck by the German playwright Georg Büchner, a grandmother tells a story that is similar to "The Star Money". It ends with the girl sitting sadly alone on a stone after finding out that the stars are nothing but dead mosquitoes.

DBP 1959 324 Wohlfahrt Sterntaler

The ending of "The Star Money" is depicted on this 1959 West German postage stamp.

The 1971 short story anthology Grimmige Märchen contains three stories inspired by "The Star Child" written by the German writers Eva Marder, Fritz Deppert and Franz Mon. All three versions have endings in which the protagonist is disappointed.

"The Star Child" is one of fifty of the Brothers Grimm's fairy tales that the popular Polish-born German children's author Janosch retold in his 1983 book Janosch erzählt Grimm's Märchen. Janosch parodies the tale by presenting it as a police report about people who have to explain how clothes and silver coins came into their possession.

An hour long live-action TV movie based on "The Star Child" was made by the German production company Bavaria Film. It was released on DVD on November 17, 2011 and first shown on the German TV channel Das Erste on December 26, 2011.


  1. In the 1812 first edition of the Brothers Grimm's Kinder und Hausärchen, the story is entitled Das arme Mädchen ("The Poor Girl"). The title was changed to Die Sternthaler for the 1819 second edition and all subsequent editions of the anthology. As a result of spelling reforms that the German language underwent in 1944 and 1996, the correct spelling of the title is now Die Sterntaler.
  2. The word "taler" or "thaler" is the name of a silver coin that was used in several European countries from the early 16th century until the early 20th century. It is the origin of the word "dollar".

External links

  • Versions of "The Star Money" in German and English on Wikisource.
  • Public domain audiobooks of "The Star Money" in German and English on YouTube.
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