Friday, July 16, 2010

An Unexpected Ending

I've been spending time lately with Jacob and Wilhelm (Grimm, that is) and I want to share a surprising tale called "The Golden Key."

"In the winter time, when deep snow lay on the ground, a poor boy was forced to go out on a sledge to fetch wood. When he had gathered it together, and packed it, he wished, as he was frozen with cold, not to go home at once, but to light a fire and warm himself a little. So he scraped away the snow, and as he was thus clearing the ground, he found a tiny, golden key. Hereupon he thought that where the key was, the lock must be also, and dug in the ground and found an iron chest. 'If the key does but fit it!' thought he; 'no doubt there are precious things in that little box.'

"He searched, but no keyhole was there. At last he discovered one, but so small that it was hardly visible. He tried it, and the key fitted it exactly. Then he turned it once round, and now we must wait until he has quite unlocked it and opened the lid, and then we shall learn what wonderful things were lying in that box."

And that's the end!

Since the early editions of the collected Grimm fairy tales, this story has been the last one - number 200. Jacob and Wilhelm chose this placement purposely. Interesting. "The Golden Key" is a story with a DIY ending.

Why did they chose this story to conclude their collection? I have a couple of ideas. What about you?


  1. What a great ending! I imagine it would be a lot more exciting to come up with your own ideas of what's in the box than if someone else told you. That way anything could be inside.

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  3. This would make a great classroom writing prompt!

    (my previous post published with inexplicable extra letters from the word verification, sorry!)

  4. I think it is because they were all about fantasy. How can they write about fantasy and then leave the reader to a logical, real world conclusion? They needed, in order to conclude with what they started, to leave the reader with a sense of fantasy. To know that imagination lies far beyond what they have written.

    that's my 1 cent, plus a wooden nickle. ;0)

    Christy (via Verla Kay)

  5. Anna, Yes, my theory as to why they ended their fairy tale collection with this story was to show that the oral folktale tradition they worked with was (and still is) endless.

    Ruth, I agree with the classroom suggestion - an excellent use for the story.

    Christy, Is imagination the "golden key"? I think so.

    Thanks to you all for taking time to read the story and comment!

  6. Maybe they were too burned out to come up with a proper ending themselves, so they shifted the burden onto the reader. After all, they'd already written 199 fairy tales. If I'd done that, I'd be taking a long nap. :-p