A child is so willful that God takes offense. And even after death, she continues to do what she wants.
The Willful Child is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a child who is willful. God is not pleased with that, she gets sick and dies. When she is buried, she keeps sticking her arm out of the grave, until her mother hits her arm with a rod and she finally rests.
Complete text The Willful Child
Once upon a time, there was a child who was willful. She would not do anything her mother wished.
For this reason, God had no pleasure in her, and let her become ill. No doctor could do her any good, and in a short time, she lay on her deathbed.
She was lowered into her grave. The earth was spread over her. Suddenly her arm came out again and stretched upwards.
They put it back in and spread fresh earth over it. But it was of no use, because no matter how many times they did this, every time the arm came out again.
Then the mother herself was obliged to go to the grave. She struck the arm with a rod. Only when she had done that, it was drawn in.
At last, the child had rest beneath the ground.
Tips for Telling The Willful Child
- This story was clearly used as a message to willful children, “Listen to your mother or something bad will happen to you!” Nowadays it might feature better as a scary Halloween tale.
- In the first versions of the story there was no God who made the child sick. You can keep him out of the story just as easily as one of the Grimms wrote him in.
- You could embellish this story with some little details about the arm of the child. Like it being dirty or wearing some old broken bracelet.
All Questions Answered
It was published by the Brothers Grimm in the second volume of the first edition of their Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Source: unknown, probably a known local legend.
The Brothers Grimm included it in the 1815 first edition of their Grimm’s fairy tales.
The fairy tale The Willful Child is also called ‘The Stubborn Child’, ‘The Naughty Child’ and ‘The Wayward Child’.
More Useful information
- “The Willful Child” on Wikipedia
- Grave legends form different countries, collected by Prof. D. L. Ashliman
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).