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Literature: Brother and Sister

"Brother and Sister", also known as "The Enchanted Stag", is a German fairy tale best known as told by the Brothers Grimm.

After their mother has died, two young siblings, a boy and a girl, are mistreated by their Wicked Stepmother, so much that they decide to run away from home. But the stepmother, who is also a witch, enchants the streams of the forest where the children are wandering, so that drinking from them would turn them into animals. The girl sees through the trap and talks her brother out of drinking from two streams that would have turned him into a tiger and a wolf, but when they come upon a stream that turns people into deer, he is so thirsty that he doesn't care any more, and turns into a fawn.

Later, the two find a deserted cottage in the woods and decide to live there, fending for themselves in the wilderness. Years have passed when a king and his court come to the forest for hunting, and the brother makes a game of making the hunters chase him, then hides in the cottage in the evening. But the second time he tries this, he is wounded, and thus leads the hunters to the cottage.

On seeing the sister, the king falls in love with her and asks her to marry him. She agrees to come to his castle, but only if the deer, her brother, can come too. Thus she is made queen, and the stag lives in the royal gardens. After a while, the sister has a child with the king. But by now, the evil stepmother has learned that the siblings are still alive, and, driven by hate and envy, plots to destroy their happiness...

This is one of the tales retold by Erstwhile. Compare "The Three Little Men in the Wood".

"Brother and Sister" contains examples of the following tropes:

  • After-Action Patch-Up: After the second hunt.
  • Animorphism: The brother is turned into a deer.
  • Back from the Dead: After being suffocated in a bathhouse by the sorcerous stepmother, the sister returns as a ghost to look after her baby. But when the king recognizes the spirit as his true wife, she is miraculously restored to life by God.
  • Baleful Polymorph: The cursed stream turns the brother into a deer.
  • Brother-Sister Team: Well, sort of...
  • Changeling Tale: The stepmother-witch kills the sister and (apparently hiding the body) replaces her with her own ugly daughter, which she magically made look like the sister.
  • Disappeared Dad: The father of the siblings has not a single appearance in the whole tale. All we know about him is that he must exist.
  • Food Chains: The brother's transformation is caused by drinking enchanted water.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: "Heaven and our hearts are weeping together."
  • Love at First Sight: "Will you marry me?" are literally the first words the king speaks to the sister, having met her about half a second before. And the sister doesn't take long to decide that yes, she is willing to marry a total stranger.
  • The Marvelous Deer: The brother. Particularly from the point of the view of the hunters.
  • Nameless Narrative: Everyone is referred to by their relationship to each other: the brother, the sister, the king, the stepmother and the stepmother's daughter.
  • No Ontological Inertia: When the stepmother-witch is executed, the curse of transformation on the brother is finally broken, and he turns back into a man.
  • Rags to Royalty: The poor siblings end up as the wife and brother-in-law of a king.
  • Red Right Hand: The witch can make her daughter look like the sister with her magic, but she cannot hide her missing eye.
  • Rule of Three: It's from the third spring they encounter that the brother drinks from, and thus is turned into a deer. It's also during the third day the king and his court are out hunting that the king encounters the sister.
  • Talking Animal: After his transformation, the brother is a talking deer.
  • Trap Is the Only Option: The brother is so thirsty that he finally drinks from an enchanted well even though he knows it is cursed.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It is never explained what the hell the witch did to the Sister's body after killing her. Some adaptions handwave it by having her magically turn the Sister into a ghost rather than actually killing her.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Cinderella's stepmother is an amateur compared to this one.
  • Wicked Witch: The stepmother is also a proficient sorceress.


Sleeping Beauty 19 th Century LiteratureThe Elves and the Cobbler
The Bremen Town MusiciansGerman LiteratureBuddenbrooks
The Bremen Town MusiciansFairy TaleThe Brown Bear of the Green Glen

alternative title(s): Brother And Sister; The Enchanted Stag; The Enchanted Stag
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