Concerning the Little Mouse, the Little Bird, and the Bratwurst

Illustration by Cindy Hutchison

Artist comments: I was in college when I became obsessed with stories from the Grimm brothers’ collection of fairy tales. One of the tales, known to me at that time was called, “The Mouse, the Bird and the Sausage.” I had more or less memorized the tale and told it to many of my friends. Each time that I would tell the tale, I would embellish and change it somewhat to make a connection with the listeners. One thing that remained the same with each narration was what I had envisioned as the point or moral of the tale.

I worked one summer as a girl scout counselor at a camp while I was still in college. I told the tale to my adolescent scouts. I tamed the tale down slightly for them, giving it a much happier ending, but still sticking to the original moral or purpose, as I perceived it to be.

The tale never left me, in the many decades since. When I was a substitute teacher, as a reward for their good behavior, I would tell the students the tale, again and again. I altered it, depending on the age group.  I always, always enjoyed telling the tale.  I would ask each class what they felt the point of the tale was. They always got it, at least as I had envisioned it.

The characters in the tale had met and had decided to form a home partnership, based on their own natural skills and strengths. The characters, the bird, the mouse, and the sausage lived in bliss for a while. But matters changed, as they often do, and regretfully, the duties of each character had changed as well. Needless to say, things did not end well.

I felt that the moral, meaning, point, whatever—was about envy, jealousy, and simply, that the characters felt their tasks were underrated; they were cheated and disrespected. Although the special skills that had originally formed the alliance  had been successful, they wanted what they had perceived the others had—an easier life.

As some of my students would have said, “Be happy with what you have, and use your skills wisely.”