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GRIMM'S TALE 

 

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The following fairy tale was created as a fun way for you to have a "Grimm encounter." It is designed so that you can discover the generalizations that Rask and Grimm came up with on your own. Notice that the earliest part of the story uses reconstructed Proto-Indo-European roots, the next section uses reconstructed Proto-Germanic words (that is, words that we assume were found in the ancestor of all the Germanic languages), followed by Old English, Middle English, and Modern English.

As the tale moves through the phases of the development of the English language, a shift from one period to another will be indicated by the phase of the moon image above the paragraph.
Dark moon = Proto-Indo-European; Crescent moon = Proto-Germanic; Half moon = Old English; Three-quarters moon = Middle English; Full moon = Modern English.

We challenge you to figure out Grimm's Law!

 

 

  O nce upon a time there was a boy who lived alone in the forest clearing. Although there was a fresh stream and a small garden that grew corn, the boy was heart-sad because he had no kin. At night when the moon was high and the    wolf folk sang the boy dreamed of a man and his daughter and, because the girl called the dreamer brother, so the boy named himself, and thought of the man in his dream as father. All the day long brother would search the hills and woods for bits of horn or bear tooth to make a necklace he hoped to some day give a sister.
 

  O n a night when stars were bright and the wolf people were silent, brother heard a new song. Even though the song made him glad, at the same time it made his tooth chatter in fear. The singing voice sounded like that of his dream father, but the song came from the moon. "Follow me son, across the dell, past the cavern where the old bear dwell, across the meadow where the gold corn grows, to the valley where the cool wind blows. There, if you are brave and true, will the wish of your heart be given you."
 

  E arly the next day, when the moon set and the sun rose, brother packed a wolf -fur purse with corn and roots, and put on the bear tooth necklace and with a walking peg that reminded him of his dream father, the boy set off toward the west, across the dell, past the cave and across the meadow, toward the valley where the cool wind blows. His heart was high and the song was in his ears, and the boy followed the path of the moon.
 

  F or many days brother traveled and in the night sky the moon passed from full to dark and back to full again. All the while the wolf folk were silent, and the boy traveled in safety. As he traveled, his heart listened to the moon -voice of the father, which sang him forward past the bear cave, through the meadow filled with corn. As the sun set the boy climbed a green knoll and settled in for the night. He worked for a while on the necklace, adding to the animal teeth pretty stones, and when he slept that night his dreams were more real than ever before.
 

  F inally the sun rose on a beautiful day, yet the moon also remained in the sky, and Brother saw that he was above a beautiful valley, gold with corn and dappled with blossoms. From the knoll the boy could also see a crystal blue pond and a beautiful silver-green Beech tree. But also in the valley, near the tree, were a bear and a wolf, close together, as strange as that was. Brother was amazed, and unsure of what to do next. He played with his necklace of teeth as he thought. While he was thinking, he suddenly heard the father voice from the moon, singing again the words, "There, if you are brave and true, will the wish of your heart be given you." The boy took a deep breath and climbed down the hill, into the valley.
 

  T he boy crossed the corn- filled valley, slowly making his way past the blossoms and tall grasses, his heart thumping loudly. As Brother got closer to the bear and the wolf, he saw that they were tied to the tree with a silver cord. As he wondered at this he saw that the bear had no teeth and the wolfís fur was missing from her back.
 

  T he bear and the wolf looked at Brother with familiar eyes, and seemed to be asking for his help. Brother stood, pondering what to do next, when the singing moon spoke to him again. This time, though, it was not the voice of Father, but a lovely ladyís voice, singing, "Brother, son, youíve traveled far, and proved the strength within your heart. Return, my child, what man once stole, and receive the wish within your soul." Suddenly the boy knew what to do. He took off the necklace of teeth and emptied the purse of corn and placed them before the captive animals. In a bright flash there stood Father and Sister, no longer a dream but real.

A s Brother stood, astonished with joy, his Father (for it was his Father that he dreamed of, and the dream girl, his Sister) explained, "I was hunting in the woods one day, and wandered to a place more lovely than I had ever seen. There I shot my arrow at animals who were sacred to the moon, for this was her glade which I had blundered into. For my transgression the goddess transformed myself and my daughter, who had also been in the wood gathering berries, into the animals, until one of my blood proved brave and true. That one was you, my own son!"

 

  R eunited, the family returned home and, never again taking from the wood more than they needed, they lived in peace for ever after.

The End

original story by Michelle Girard, 1998