Grimm, Jakob Ludwig Karl and Wilhelm Karl Grimm. The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1959.
Ethnic Origin: German: one of the Grimm’s fairy tales.
Running Time: 8 minutes.
Power Center(s): The power center is when the Wolf finally wins his way into the house and swallows the kids: the coming and going before the door create the tension which leads to it.
Setting: the goats’ house; the store and baker’s shop; the field by the well.
Mother Goat leaves her seven children alone when she has to assist Mother Hen. She warns them not to unlock the door until she comes back. The Wolf comes as soon as she leaves, but the kids will not let him in, thanks to smart Littlest Sister. His voice is rough. The Wolf steals honey from the storekeeper to soften his voice. When he returns to the house, the kids won’t let him in, thanks to smart Littlest Sister. His paws are black. The Wolf visits the baker to whiten his paws. This time when he returns they let him in and he swallows six out of the seven. He falls asleep by the well. Mother Goat returns to find only her youngest alive hidden in the clock. They find the Wolf outside. Mother cuts him open, freeing her kids, and they stuff him with stones. He wakes, tries to drink from the well, and falls in.
Rhymes/ Special Phrases/ "Flavor": The flavor in this story lies in the characterization: the variation between Mother Goat’s firm gentleness, Biggest Brother’s unimaginative eagerness, Littlest Sister’s cleverness, and the menace of the Wolf. The difference in vocal tones is where is appears the most, plus the images communicated by these characters’ individual postures. Mother Goat is slightly stooped, Biggest Brother is solid, the Wolf sidles, etc. The repetition of the Wolf asking the same question at the door three times is a distinctive feature of this story, and one the youngest children will catch on to and enjoy.
This story is recommended for preschool children, and I chose it at face value for its animal characters and repetitive structure. In my experience, preschool and young school children are truly fond of animals and animal characters, and a repetitive structure provides a framework within the story they catch on to immediately. Piaget emphasizes repetition in so many words as he outlines his developmental stages. Through the repetition, the child can anticipate what will come next, and therefore look forward to it.
Other developmental sequences include Charlotte Huck’s: the child age three to five believes deeply in the fantasy world and has an unshaken sense of absolute right and wrong. This story takes place in the fantasy world (in fact, in my introduction I have used "the land of story" as a real place), and the child will appreciate the fact that the little goats are freed and Wolf gets it in the neck. To be blunt, they will empathize with the little goats (especially the siblings Biggest Brother and Littlest Sister, if they have siblings) and instinctively not want to behave like the Wolf. They will decide beyond doubt what role in the story they would wish to have (referring to Erik Erickson.)
Source(s) recommending this story/collection as good for storytelling:
Greene, Ellin. Storytelling: Art and Technique. New Providence: R. R. Bowker, 1996.
Shedlock, Marie. The Art of the Storyteller. New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1936. She recommends the version in the Mrs. Edgar Lewis translation of Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, published by Lippincott.
Bibliographic information on other versions/variants (at least two):
Grimm, Jakob Ludwig Karl and Wilhelm Karl Grimm. "The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids." IN Frances Jenkins Olcott, ed. Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Chicago: Follett Publishing Co., 1968. 407-412.
Grimm, Jakob Ludwig Karl and Wilhelm Karl Grimm. "The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids." IN Lucy Crane, translator. Household Stories from the Collection of the Brothers Grimm. New York: Macmillan, 1953. 41-44.
Brief comparison of all versions/variants in terms of language, rhythm, "tellability," flavor," content, etc. Stress the differences in style rather than those of content.
I chose the Harcourt Brace version because its word choices and tone were more suited to the audience. Though in the beginning there was what seemed to me a gratuitous bit of moral coaching on the part of the editor ("…mother goat who had seven little kids whom she loved dearly, as all mothers love their children" [italics added]), that was the only part of the story which I felt needed to be dispensed with. The word choices in the other versions were translated more archaically: for example, the Crane version describes the wolf as giving the kids "short shrift" in finding and eating them, and the youngest kid hiding in the "clock case" (43). Most preschoolers I know would either be confused, having little experience with any clocks besides their Mickey Mouse ones, whereas the mention of a grandfather clock might ring a bell (forgive the pun.) A phrase like "short shrift" would probably just go straight over the children’s heads.
Secondly, the Harcourt Brace version included an element of the story I had been planning to insert anyway—it had the kids demand that the wolf show his paws, rather than having him absent-mindedly (and not very probably) just happen to put his paws on the window.
Finally, it left out the philosophical reflections on humankind as opposed to animal kind which again sound archaic to my ear and would be glossed over by a preschooler. My version does not bemoan the choice of the miller to rub flour on the wolf’s feet as a moral fault: it merely expresses his quite natural fear of the wolf. I have actually, in practice, combined the characters of the baker and miller into just the baker, for the sake of brevity.
The only thing I did change was to avoid using the word "hoarse." Though I like it better, I think the preschooler would hear "horse" instead, and I do not want to have to explain it beyond making a rough sound with my voice. I substitute either Follett’s "rough" or my own "harsh."
By Claire Basney