Little Brother and Little Sister

Picture Book by Max Teschemacher 

Once upon a time, there was a king who had lost his wife. He stayed alone with his son and daughter. Soon he remarried but his new wife who was a witch and already had a daughter on her own was so mean to his children that they escaped into the woods.


Their stepmother had immediately put a spell on all the waters in the woods and little brother transformed into a deer.


They had found an empty cottage and the girl decided to stay there. She was taking care of their new home and her brother enjoyed the life of a deer.


For some time they were happy and safe.

But there was a king who occasionally hunted in the same area and one day he spotted a deer with a necklace.


His hunters wounded the deer who returned to his sister.


The king followed the deer.


He saw the girl who was taking care of the wounded deer and fell in love with her.


He knocked on the door.


She liked him as well and they decided to move to his castle.


The deer came with the king and his soon-to-be-wife.


The girl became a queen and soon after she became a mother too.

Her happiness didn't remain unnoticed. Her stepmother found her, killed her, and replaced her with her own daughter who was transformed so she looked like the real queen.


Death didn't stop the queen from visiting her baby. Every night she returned and one of the servants saw her.


She informed the king about the visits from the ghost and the king managed to break the spell so his real wife was alive again.


The evil stepmother and her daughter were punished and the spell on the queen's brother was broken. Finally, he was transformed into a human so everybody lived happily ever after.These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammelled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided.


Please note:

  • The oldest known written version of this fairy tale is in Gianbattista Basile's Pentamerone. It is titled Ninnillo and Nennella.
  • While Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm relied on Marie Hassenpflug's retelling of the story, based on Basile's version, some folklorists believe the oldest versions actually come from Eastern Europe or the Baltic region where very similar stories are way more popular than in Western and Central Europe. There's also a book from Poland where the same plot is described before the Basile's version was published. We can find numerous variations of the same tale in Southern Europe and North Africa, so the theory about the origin in one of these areas is quite possible.
  • This fairy tale is classified as KHM 11 in the collection by the Brothers Grimm. In first editions, it was often confused with today's much more famous Hansel and Gretel (KHM 15) which was often also published by the same title. The titles Little Brother and Little Sister, Brother and Sister, and Little Stepbrother and Little Stepsister can be, especially in editions from the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century used for KHM 11 and KHM 15.
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