The Straw, The Bean and The Lump of Coal

This is a fairly well-known folktale from the Brothers Grimm Collection:

THE STRAW, THE BEAN AND THE LUMP OF COAL.

ONCE THERE WAS A POOR OLD WOMAN WHO LIVED ALONE IN A VILLAGE; SHE HAD COLLECTED A BUNDLE OF BEANS, AND WAS GOING TO COOK THEM. SO SHE PREPARED A FIRE ON HER HEARTH, AND TO MAKE IT BURN UP QUICKLY SHE LIGHTED IT WITH A HANDFUL OF STRAW. WHEN SHE THREW THE BEANS INTO THE POT, ONE ESCAPED HER NOTICE AND FELL TO THE FLOOR, LANDING BESIDE A STRAW. SOON AFTER, A GLOWING LUMP OF COAL JUMPED OUT OF THE FIRE AND JOINED THE OTHERS. THEN THE STRAW BEGAN, AND SAID, "LITTLE FRIENDS, HOW DID YOU GET HERE? THE COAL ANSWERED, "I HAVE HAPPILY ESCAPED THE FIRE; AND IF I HAD NOT DONE SO, MY DEATH WOULD HAVE BEEN MOST CRUEL AND I WOULD HAVE BEEN BURNED TO A CINDER!". THE BEAN SAID, "I ALSO HAVE ESCAPED WITH MY SKIN INTACT, FOR IF I HAD LANDED IN THE POT, I SHOULD HAVE BEEN BOILED TO A BROTH LIKE MY COMRADES!" "I WOULD HAVE FARED NO BETTER", SAID THE STRAW, "THE OLD WOMAN PACKED ALL MY BROTHERS INTO THE FIRE AND SMOKE, SIXTY OF THEM ALL DONE AT ONCE! LUCKILY FOR ME, I SLIPPED THROUGH HER FINGERS".

"WHAT SHALL WE DO NOW?" ASKED THE COAL. "SINCE WE HAVE ALL HAD A LUCKY ESCAPE", ANSWERED THE BEAN, "I THINK WE SHOULD GET AWAY FROM HERE AND MAKE OUR HOME ELSEWHERE". THIS IDEA PLEASED THE OTHERS AND THEY ALL THREE SET OUT TOGETHER.

BEFORE LONG, THEY CAME TO A SMALL STREAM AND AS THERE WAS NEITHER PATH NOR BRIDGE, THEY DID NOT KNOW HOW TO GET OVER. THE STRAW AT LAST HAD AN IDEA, "I WILL LAY MYSELF OVER THE STREAM AND THEN YOU CAN WALK ACROSS ME LIKE A BRIDGE". SO THE STRAW STRETCHED HIMSELF ACROSS FROM ONE SIDE TO THE OTHER, AND THE COAL, WHO WAS OF A FIERY NATURE, SET OFF OVER THE NEW BRIDGE. BUT WHEN HE GOT TO THE MIDDLE AND HEARD THE WATER RUSHING BELOW, HE BECAME TOO FRIGHTENED TO MOVE. UNFORTUNATELY HE WAS STILL GLOWING QUITE HOT AND THE POOR STRAW BEGAN TO BURN. IT THEN BROKE IN TWO AND FELL INTO THE STREAM, TAKING THE COAL WITH IT. THE COAL FIZZLED IN THE WATER AND THEN DIED OUT!

THE BEAN, WHO HAD CAUTIOUSLY REMAINED ON THE BANK BEGAN TO LAUGH OUT LOUD UNTIL HE SPLIT HIS SIDE. THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE END OF HIM HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR A WANDERING TAILOR WHO WAS SITTING AT THE SIDE OF THE STREAM. HE TOOK PITY ON THE BEAN AND TAKING OUT A NEEDLE AND THREAD HE STITCHED IT UP AGAIN. BUT AS HE ONLY HAD BLACK THREAD, HE LEFT A BLACK SEAM AROUND THE BEAN'S SIDE. SINCE THEN, ALL BEANS OF THAT VARIETY HAVE A BLACK LINE AROUND THE EDGE!

As I mentioned earlier, I have slightly adjusted the ending of this tale: I have never been able to find the type of bean described above and as I wanted to actually show the bean as I told the story, I settled on a black eyed bean!

What I do now is show the black-eyed bean before I start the story and talk to the children about 'Lucky Beans'. I tell them that lots of grown-ups carry all sorts of things about with them for 'luck'. Sometimes it's a lucky coin, or a lucky charm. and sometimes it's a lucky bean! But what grown-ups don't know is that it is the bean that is lucky! and then I tell them the story which explains why it is a lucky bean.

If there are not too many children in the group, I give them each a 'lucky bean'. They quite like that!

Feel free to use the idea if you like it.


My interpretation of this story can be heard on my C.D. "The Adventures of a Lucky Bean - and Other Tales for Children"

Click here for more information.


Incidentally, a book to which we constantly refer is: 'THE BEST LOVED FOLKTALES OF THE WORLD' - edited by Joanna Cole - over two hundred stories! Amazon.com are offering it at a discount price right now!

Stories...? .....That's telling!


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