It is impossible for a German child to grow up without the Brothers Grimm stories. It is not required reading in school, but every household has one or more collection of stories by the Brothers Grimm on their book shelves. There are the really scary ones, for example Hänsel & Gretel starring children in the woods left to starve to death, but also funny fantasy tales like the Bremer Stadtmusikanten, Bremen Town Musicians.
The Most Famous Statue of the Bremen Town Musicians
Parked in front of the west facade of the Rathaus in Bremen you will find a bronze statue of a rooster perched on a cat, who stands atop a dog, all piled up on top of a donkey, created by German artist Gerhard Marcks in 1953. Marcks, one of the most influential German sculptors of the 20th century, completed the Bremen Musician statue on commission from the Bremen Tourism Union, and was initially installed outside the town hall temporarily. However, the community of Bremen came together to collect donations and a city loan to purchase the sculpture and keep it permanently. For an excellent, brief biography of Gerhard Marcks, click here.
Bremen Town Musicians Synopsis
Marcks created the bronze statue based on the Brothers Grimm story about four aging animals who were cast out of their farms for not being useful anymore. The story of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten was published in 1812 as part of a selection of fairy tales. In the story the donkey starts the journey to Bremen, wanting to become a singer, when he first runs into the dog, then the cat, and finally the rooster. On their way to Bremen they stumble upon a house filled with robbers, who were having a feast at their dinner table. The four friends come up with the plan to form a pyramid, sing as loud as they can and scare the robbers away when they burst through the window. The plan worked and the four animals enjoyed the food that was left behind on the table. After eating all the food, the animals decide to call it a night and go to sleep. Later that night the robbers return to the house and send one man inside to investigate. The cat attacks the robber, he then falls over the dog, who bites him and a donkey, that kicks him out of the house with the rooster screaming at him from the roof as he runs away. What does he tell the rest of the robbers and will they make it to Bremen after all? You can read the rest of the story alongside J.P. Miller’s charming illustrations here.
Bremen Town Musician Art Beyond the Statue
When you visit the city of Bremen, the Marcks statue isn’t the only artwork inspired by the Bremen Town Musicians.
• Max Slevogt’s fresco showing the Bremen Town Musicians dining together on the dining room wall of the Hauff Room.
• Friedrich Heine’s bronze sculpture showing the Bremen Town Musicians triumphant over the robbers inside the Kaiser/Senate Room.
• Böttcherstrasse’s Seven Lazy Brothers house has a stone relief of the Bremen Town Musicians. The nearby Seven Lazy Brothers fountain has the donkey, dog, cat, and rooster lined up on the water pipe. The fountain was created by the street’s architect Bernhard Hoetger
• The wrought iron fixture extending from the Deutsche Haus. See my photos above, you’ll see gilded Bremen Town Musicians on the fixture.
• Engelhard Toelken’s gold plated brass statue in the lobby of the Atlantic Grand Hotel on Bötcherstrasse
• Paul Halbhuber’s sculpted wind rose features the Bremen Town Musicians in the center. It hangs outside the Kuehne & Nagel building.
Have we missed one? Leave us a comment below, and we'll add to the list.
Interacting with the Bremen Town Musicians
• Make sure to drop a coin down the Bremer Loch, Hole of Bremen, in the Marktplatz in order to hear the four Town Musicians sing their thanks for you.
• At noon, every Sunday from May until October, there is a free live performance of the Bremen Town Musicians in the cathedral square.
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