The Shepherd Boy Fairy Tale

The Shepherd Boy

A shepherd boy gives a wise answer to any question asked. Will he also be able to answer the questions of the king?

The Shepherd Boy is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a shepherd boy who gives wise answers to any question asked. The king promises him riches when he can answer three questions. He answers them all in a wise way and is invited to come and live with the king.


Complete text The Shepherd Boy

Once upon a time, there was a shepherd boy whose fame spread far and wide, because of the wise answers which he gave to every question.

The king of the country also heard of it, but did not believe it, and sent for the boy.

He said to him, “If you can give me an answer to three questions which I will ask you, I will look at you as my own child, and you shall dwell with me in my royal palace.”

The boy said, “What are the three questions?”

How many drops of water are there in the ocean?

The king said, “The first is, how many drops of water are there in the ocean?”

The shepherd boy answered, “Lord king, if you will have all the rivers on earth dammed up so that not a single drop runs from them into the sea until I have counted it, I will tell you how many drops there are in the sea.”

How many stars are there in the sky?

The king said, “The next question is, how many stars are there in the sky?”

The shepherd boy said, “Give me a great sheet of white paper,” and then he made so many fine points on it with a pen that they could scarcely be seen. It was all but impossible to count them; anyone who looked at them would have lost his sight.

Then he said, “There are as many stars in the sky as there are points on the paper; just count them.” But no one was able to do it.

How many seconds of time are there in eternity?

The king said, “The third question is, how many seconds of time are there in eternity.”

Then the shepherd boy said, “In Lower Pomerania is the Diamond Mountain, which is two miles and a half high, two miles and a half wide, and two miles and a half in depth. Every hundred years a little bird comes and sharpens its beak on it, and when the whole mountain is worn away by this, then the first second of eternity will be over.”

The king said, “You have answered the three questions like a wise man, and shall from now on dwell with me in my royal palace. I will regard you as my own child.”

Tips for Telling The Shepherd Boy

Storyteller Rudolf Roos
  • Three interesting questions. Give your listeners time to come up with their own answers.
  • Take a pause after the boy has answered a question. Some listeners need a little time to understand it.
  • What do you think about this shepherd boy? Is he really wise? Or just very clever in making up answers to impossible questions? What you think will change your telling of this short story.
A reading of The Shepherd Boy

All Questions Answered

Who wrote the story The Shepherd Boy?

It was published by the Brothers Grimm in the second edition of their Grimm’s Fairy Tales. This story was told long before it was written down.

When was The Shepherd Boy written?

The Brothers Grimm included it in the 1819 second edition of their Grimm’s fairy tales. It has been told in many variants in many countries before publication.

More useful information

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Fairy tales with a shepherd

Photo credits: Onur Binay on Unsplash

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