Frederick and Catherine are a young married couple. Catherine really means well, but disaster follows disaster…
Frederick and Catherine is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about two newlyweds. Through her well meant but foolish thinking Catherine loses a sausage, their beer, their supply of flour and all their gold. While they get the gold back, the tale ends with her also losing herself.
Complete text Frederick and Catherine
Catherine tries to fry a sausage for her husband Frederick
Once upon a time a man there was a man called Frederick and a woman called Catherine. They had married each other and lived together as young married folks.
One day Frederick said, “I will now go and plough the field, Catherine. When I come back there must be some roast meat on the table for hunger, and a fresh drought for thirst.”
“Just go, Frederick,” Kate answered, “just go, I will have all ready for you.”
When dinner time drew near she got a sausage out of the chimney, put it in the frying-pan, put some butter to it, and set it on the fire. The sausage began to fry and to hiss. Catherine stood beside it and held the handle of the pan and had her own thoughts as she was doing it.
Then it occurred to her, “While the sausage is getting done you could go into the cellar and draw beer.”
So she set the frying pan safely on the fire, took a can and went down into the cellar to draw beer. The beer ran into the can and Kate watched it. Suddenly she thought, “Oh, dear! The dog upstairs is not fastened up, it might get the sausage out of the pan. Good that I think of it!”
And in a trice she was up the steps of the cellar again, but the Spitz had the sausage in its mouth already and trailed it away on the ground.
Catherine was not lazy and set out after it. She chased it a long way into the field. The dog, however, was swifter than Catherine and did not take an easy way, but skipped over the furrows with the sausage.
Catherine cleans the flooded cellar
“What’s gone is gone!” said Kate. She turned round and as she had run till she was weary, she walked quietly and comfortably and cooled herself.
During this time the beer was still running out of the cask, for Kate had not turned the tap. When the can was full and there was no other place for it, it ran into the cellar and did not stop until the whole cask was empty.
As soon as Kate was on the steps she saw the disaster. “Good gracious!” she cried. “What shall I do now to stop Frederick from knowing what happened!”
She thought for a while and at last she remembered that up in the garret stood a sack of the finest wheat flour from the last fair. She could fetch that down and strew it over the beer.
“Yes,” she said to herself, “he who saves a thing when he ought, has it afterwards when he needs it,” and she climbed up to the garret and carried the sack below. There she threw it straight down on the can of beer, which she knocked over, and Frederick’s drought swam also in the cellar.
“It is all right,” said Kate, “where the one is the other ought to be also,” and she strewed the meal over the whole cellar. When it was done she was very content with her own work, and said, “How clean and wholesome it does look here!”
Frederick comes home and is shocked
At midday Frederick came home.
“Now, wife, what have you ready for me?”
“Ah, Freddy,” she answered, “I was frying a sausage for you, but while I was drawing the beer to drink with it, the dog took it away out of the pan. And while I was running after the dog, all the beer ran out. And while I was drying up the beer with the flour, I knocked over the can as well. But be easy, the cellar is quite dry again.”
Frederick said, “Kate, Kate, you should not have done that! To let the sausage be carried off and the beer run out of the cask, and to throw out all our flour into the bargain!”
“Indeed, Frederick, you are right, I did not know, you should have told me.”
The man thought, “If my wife is like this, I must look after things more.”
Peddlers take of with their gold coins
Now he had got together a good number of thalers (old coins) which he changed into gold coins. He said to to Catherine, “Look, these are counters for playing games. I will put them in a pot and bury them in the stable under the cow’s manger, but mind you keep away from them, or it will be the worse for you.”
She said, “Oh, no, Frederick, I certainly will not go.”
When Frederick was gone some peddlers came into the village. They had cheap earthen-bowls and pots. “Was there nothing she wanted to bargain with them for?”, they asked the young woman.
“Oh, dear people,” Catherine said, “I have no money and can buy nothing, but if you have any use for yellow counters I will buy of you.”
“Yellow counters, why not? But just let us see them.”
“Then go into the stable and dig under the cow’s manger.There you will find the yellow counters. I am not allowed to go there.”
The rogues went in the stable, dug and found pure gold. They took it and ran away, leaving their pots and bowls behind in the house.
Catherine thought she must use her new things. She had no lack of pots and bowls in the kitchen, so she knocked the bottom out of every pot and set them all as ornaments on the fence going around the house.
When Frederick came and saw the new decorations, he said, “Catherine, what have you been about?”
“I have bought them, Frederick, for the counters which were under the cow’s manger. I did not go there myself, the pedlers had to dig them out for themselves.”
“Ah, wife,” said Frederick, “what have you done? Those were not counters, but pure gold. All our wealth; you should not have done that.”
“Indeed, Frederick,” she said, “but I did not know that, you should have forewarned me.”
Frederick and Catherine pursue the thieves
Catherine thought for a while and then said, “Listen, Frederick, we will soon get the gold back again, we will run after the thieves.”
“Come then,” said Frederick, “we will try it; but take with you some butter and cheese that we may have something to eat on the way.”
“Yes, Frederick, I will take them.”
They set out, and as Frederick was the better walker, Catherine followed him.
“But that’s a good thing,” she thought, “when we go back I will have to walk less.”
She came to a hill where there were deep ruts on both sides of the road. “There one can see,” said Catherine, “how they have torn and skinned and galled the poor earth, it will never be whole again as long as it lives.”
In her heart’s compassion she took her butter and smeared the ruts right and left, that they might not be so hurt by the wheels.
Catherine sends her cheeses down the hill
As she was bending for this good work, one of the cheeses rolled out of her pocket down the hill.
“I have made my way once up here, I will not go down again; another may run and fetch it back.”
So she took another cheese and rolled it down. But the cheeses did not come back, so she let a third run down, thinking. “Perhaps they are waiting for company and do not like to walk alone.”
As all three stayed away she said, “I do not know what that can mean, but it may perhaps be that the third has not found the way and has gone wrong, I will just send the fourth to call it.”
But the fourth did no better than the third.
Then Catherine became angry. She threw down the fifth and sixth as well, her last ones. She remained standing for some time watching for their coming, but when they still did not come, she said, “Oh, you are good folks to send in search of death, stay away, I will not miss you. Do you think I will wait any longer for you? I shall go my way, you may run after me; you have younger legs than I.”
Catherine went on and found Frederick, who was standing waiting for her because he wanted something to eat. “Now just let us have what you have brought with you,” he said.
She gave him the dry bread. “Where are the butter and the cheeses?” he asked.
“Ah, Freddy,” said Catherine, “I smeared the cart ruts with the butter and the cheeses will come soon; one ran away from me, so I sent the others after it to bring it back.”
“You should not have done that, Catherine, to smear the butter on the road, and let the cheeses run down the hill!”
“Really, Frederick, you should have told me.”
Catherine makes the house ‘safe’
They ate the dry bread together and Frederick said, “Catherine, did you make the house safe when you left?”
“No, Frederick, you should have told me to do it before.”
“Then go home again and make the house safe before we go any farther. Bring also with you something else to eat. I will wait here for you.”
Catherine went back and thought, “Frederick wants something more to eat, he does not like butter and cheese, so I will take with me a handkerchief full of dried pears and a pitcher of vinegar for him to drink.”
She bolted the upper half of the door fast, but unhinged the lower door, and took it on her back, believing that when she had placed the door in security the house must be well taken care of.
Catherine took her time on the way and thought, “Frederick will have more time to rest himself.”
When she had reached him she said, “Here is the house door for you, Frederick. Now you can take care of the house yourself.”
“Oh, heavens,” he said, “what a wise wife I have! She takes the under door off the hinges that everything may run in and bolts the upper one. It is now too late to go back home again, but since you have brought the door here, you shall just carry it farther.”
“I will carry the door, Frederick, but the dried pears and the vinegar jug will be too heavy for me. I will hang them on the door, it may carry them.”
Frederick and Catherine attack the thieves from a tree
They went into the forest and sought the thieves, but did not find them. At last as it grew dark they climbed into a tree and resolved to spend the night there.
Scarcely, however, had they sat down at the top of it than the rascals arrived. The ones that had carried away with them what did not want to go, and who found things before they were lost.
They sat down under the very tree in which Frederick and Catherine were sitting, lighted a fire and were about to share their booty.
Frederick got down on the other side and collected some stones. He climbed up again and wished to throw them at the thieves and kill them. The stones, however, did not hit them. The robbers cried, “It will soon be morning, the wind is shaking down the fir apples.”
Catherine still had the door on her back. It pressed so heavily on her, she thought it was the fault of the dried pears and said, “Frederick, I must throw the pears down.”
“No, Catherine, not now,” he replied, “they might betray us.”
“Oh, but, Frederick, I must! They weigh me down far too much.”
“Do it, then, and be hanged!”
The dried pears rolled down between the branches, and the rascals below said, “The leaves are falling.”
A short time afterwards, as the door was still heavy, Catherine said, “Ah, Frederick, I must pour out the vinegar.”
“No, Catherine, you must not, it might betray us.”
“Ah, but, Frederick, I must, it weighs me down far too much.”
“Then do it and be hanged!”
So she emptied out the vinegar, and it sprinkled down on the robbers. They said among themselves, “The dew is already falling.”
At last Catherine thought, “Can it really be the door which weighs me down so?” and said, “Frederick, I must throw the door down.”
“No, not now, Catherine, it might discover us.”
“Oh, but, Frederick, I must. It weighs me down far too much.”
“Oh, no, Catherine, do hold it fast.”
“Ah, Frederick, I am letting it fall!”
“Let it go, then, in the devil’s name.”
It fell down with a violent clatter and the rascals below cried, “The devil is coming down the tree!”
They ran away and left everything behind them. Early next morning, when the two came down they found all their gold again and carried it home.
Catherine goes into the field to cut corn
When they were once more at home, Frederick said, “And now, Catherine, you, too, must be industrious and work.”
“Yes, Frederick, I will soon do that, I will go into the field and cut corn.”
When Catherine got into the field, she said to herself, “Shall I eat before I cut, or shall I sleep before I cut? Oh, I will eat first.”
Then Catherine ate. Eating made her sleepy, she began to cut and half in a dream cut all her clothes to pieces, her apron, her gown, and her shift. When Catherine awoke again after a long sleep she was standing there half naked. She said to herself, “Is it I, or is it not I? Alas, it is not I.”
In the meantime night came. Catherine ran into the village, knocked at her husband’s window, and cried, “Frederick.”
“What is the matter?”
“I would like to know if Catherine is in?”
“Yes, yes,” replied Frederick, “she must be in and asleep.”
Catherine thought, “Well, then I am certainly at home already,” and ran away.
Catherine steals the pastors turnips
Outside Catherine found some vagabonds who were going to steal. She went to them and said, “I will help you to steal.”
The rascals thought that she knew the situation of the place and could use some help. Catherine went in front of the houses and shouted, “Good folks, do you have something for us? We want to steal.”
The thieves thought to themselves, “That’s a fine way of doing things,” and wished themselves rid of Catherine.
They said to her, “Outside the village the pastor has some turnips in the field. Go there and pull up some turnips for us.”
Catherine went to the ground and began to pull them up. She was too lazy to gather them together. A man came by, saw her, stood still and thought that it was the devil who was rooting among the turnips. He ran away into the village to the pastor, and said, “Mr. Pastor, the devil is in your turnip ground, rooting up turnips.”
“Ah, heavens,” the pastor answered, “I have a lame foot, I cannot go out and drive him away.”
The man replied, “Then I will carry you on my back,” and he carried him out on his back. When they came to the ground, Catherine arose and stood up her full height.
“Ah, the devil!” the pastor cried. Both hurried away and in his great fright the pastor could run better with his lame foot than the man who had carried him on his back could do with his sound ones.
Tips for Telling Frederick and Catherine
- There are many tales about fools around the world. In this fairy tale Catherine is the fool whose thinking leads to all kinds of disasters and misunderstandings. The fun of this type of tale is that you audience can realize what is happening and laugh about this character (and with that laugh about themselves).
- Don’t explain and tell too much. It is much funnier when your listeners realize what goes wrong without you telling them.
- This tale is an episodic tale, you can tell parts of it and still have a complete story. This allows you to shorten or lengthen the telling based on the reaction of your listeners.
All Questions Answered
This fairy tale was published by the Brothers Grimm in the second edition of their Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Various oral sources.
The Brothers Grimm included it in the 1819 second edition of their Grimm’s fairy tales.
The fairy tale Frederick and Catherine is also known as “Freddy and Kate” and as “Freddy and Katy Lizzy”
More useful information
Fairy tales with a dog
- Frederick and Catherine
- Old Sultan
- Sleeping Beauty
- The Bremen Town Musicians
- The Dog and the Sparrow
- The Fox and His Cousin
- The Fox and the Cat
- The Good Bargain
- The Mouse, the Bird and the Sausage
- The Three Languages
Fairy tales with a pastor
Fairy tales with a thief
Photo credits: Storyblocks
The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales on this website are based on the authentic translation of Margaret Hunt. They were edited and reformatted for pleasant reading and telling by Storyteller Rudolf Roos.
See the complete list of The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales (link to internationalstoryteller.com).