The Singing Bone

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The Singing Bone
by the Brothers Grimm

Once upon a time in a certain country there was great concern about a wild boar that was destroying the peasants' fields, killing the cattle, and ripping people apart with its tusks. The king promised a large reward to anyone who could free the land from this plague, but the beast was so large and strong that no one dared to go near the woods where it lived. Finally the king proclaimed that whoever could capture or kill the wild boar should have his only daughter in marriage.

Now in this country there lived two brothers, sons of a poor man. They declared that they dared to attempt the task. The older one, who was crafty and shrewd, did so out of pride. The younger one, who was innocent and simple, did so because of his kind heart.

The king said, "In order to be more sure of finding the beast, you should enter the woods from opposite sides."

Thus the older one entered the woods from the west, and the younger one from the east.

After the younger one had walked a little while, a little dwarf stepped up to him. He held a black spear in his hand and said, "I am giving you this spear because your heart is innocent and good. With it you can confidently attack the wild boar. It will do you no harm."

He thanked the dwarf, put the spear on his shoulder, and walked on fearlessly.

Before long he saw the beast. It attacked him, but he held the spear toward it, and in its blind fury it ran into the spear with such force that its heart was slashed in two.

Then he put the monster on his back and turned towards home, intending to take it to the king.

Emerging from the other side of the woods, he came to a house where people were making merry drinking wine and dancing. His older brother was there too. Thinking that the boar would not run away from him any time soon, he had decided to drink himself some real courage. When he saw his younger brother coming out of the woods with his booty, his envious and evil heart gave him no peace.

He called out to him, "Come in, dear brother. Rest and refresh yourself with a beaker of wine."

The younger brother, suspecting no evil, went in and told him about the good dwarf who had given him the spear with which he had killed the boar.

The older brother kept him there until evening, and then they set forth together. After dark they came to a bridge over a brook, and the older brother let the younger one go first. When the younger brother reached the middle above the water, the older one gave him such a blow from behind that he fell down dead.

He buried him beneath the bridge, took the boar, and delivered it to the king, pretending that he had killed it. With this he received the king's daughter in marriage.

When his younger brother did not return he said, "The boar must have ripped him apart," and every one believed it.

But as nothing remains hidden from God, this black deed was also to come to light.

After many long years a shepherd was driving his herd across the bridge and saw a little snow-white bone lying in the sand below. Thinking that it would make a good mouthpiece, he climbed down, picked it up, and then carved out of it a mouthpiece for his horn. When he blew into it for the first time, to his great astonishment the bone began to sing by itself:

Oh, my dear shepherd, You are blowing on my little bone. My brother killed me, And buried me beneath the bridge, To get the wild boor For the daughter of the king.

"What a wonderful horn," said the shepherd. "It sings by itself. I must take it to the king."

When he brought it before the king, the horn again began to sing its little song. The king understood it well, and had the earth beneath the bridge dug up. Then the whole skeleton of the murdered man came to light.

The wicked brother could not deny the deed. He was sewn into a sack and drowned alive. The murdered man's bones were laid to rest in a beautiful grave in the churchyard.