"The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids" (German: "Der Wolf und die sieben jungen Geißlein" or "Der Wolf und die sieben Geißlein"; also published in English as "The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats" and "The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids") 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 plot is set in motion when a mother goat goes out and leaves her seven children home alone. Before she leaves the house, the mother goat warns her seven kids about a wily wolf who is in the area. She tells them that the wolf will try to trick the kids into letting him into the house by passing himself off as someone else. Sure enough, the wolf comes along soon afterwards. He tries to get the kids to let him into their house by claiming to be their mother.
According to research carried out in 2013 by anthropologist Jamie Tehrani of the University of Durham, England, the folktale that is the common ancestor of both "The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids" and "Little Red Riding Hood" probably originated in the Middle East in the 1st century CE.
The story has been adapted for the stage, film and television.
A mother goat is about to go into the forest to look for food. She warns her seven kids to watch out for the wolf, who will try to get inside the house and eat them all. The mother goat tells her kids that the wolf often disguises himself but they will recognize him by his rough voice and his black paws.
Shortly after the mother goat leaves, the wolf knocks at the door. He says that he is the kids' mother and asks them to let him in the house. The kids are not fooled. They tell the wolf that his rough voice sounds nothing like their mother's soft voice. The wolf eats a lump of chalk in order to make his voice sound softer. He tries once again to gain entrance to the goats' house. The kids, however, do not let the wolf in because they see one of his black paws leaning against the window. To make his paw look like one of the mother goat's white feet, the wolf gets a baker to put some dough on his foot and then gets a miller to put some flour on top of it.
The wolf returns to the goats' house. In a soft voice, he tells the kids that he is their mother and asks them to open the door. The kids say that they will only open the door if they see their mother's white foot. The wolf puts his paw covered in dough and flour through the window. The kids believe it is their mother's foot. They open the door and the wolf comes inside their home. The seven kids hide in various places around the house. The wolf finds six of the kids and swallows them all whole. The youngest kid, who hides inside the case of a grandfather clock, escapes detection. After having swallowed the kids, the wolf leaves the house and goes to sleep under a tree.
Soon afterwards, the mother goat returns home. She sees her house in disarray and her children missing. The youngest kid emerges from the grandfather clock and tells her what happened. The mother goat runs around in her grief. She leaves the house and the youngest kid follows her. They come to the tree under which the sleeping wolf is lying. The mother goat notices movement inside the wolf's body. It occurs to her that her children might still be alive. Taking some scissors, she cuts open the wolf's stomach. Her children, all still alive, emerge from it. The mother goat gets her seven kids to fill the wolf's stomach with large stones. She then sews the wolf's stomach up again.
When the wolf wakes up, he feels thirsty. He goes to a well. The weight of the heavy stones inside him makes the wolf fall into the well and he drowns.
The German composer Englebert Humperdinck adapted "The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids" as a musical drama that was first performed in 1895.
A live-action West German feature film based on "The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids" was released in 1957. Short animated films based on the story were produced in Germany in 1991 and in Bulgaria in 2005.
The 1976 live-action musical film Rock'n Roll Wolf (Romanian: Ma-ma; Russian: Мама), co-produced by production companies from France, Romania and the Soviet Union, is based on "The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids" and other similar European folktales. It was filmed simultaneously in English, Romanian and Russian and features performers from the Moscow Circus and the Bolshoi Ballet.
A version of "The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids" is told by actor and comedian Rik Mayall in the tenth and final episode of the second and final season of the British children's TV series Grim Tales. The episode was first shown on the ITV network in the United Kingdom on March 17, 1991.
"The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids" was adapted as the fourth episode of the first season of the German animated TV series Simsala Grimm. The episode first aired on the channel Kinderkanal in Germany on November 4, 1999.
Notes and references
- Megan Gannon, ""Little Red Riding Hood Tale Dates Back to First Century Math Model Suggests", The Huffington Post, November 14, 2013.