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Literature / How The Six Made Their Way In The World

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East German stamps from 1977 depicting the soldier and his servants in action

How The Six Made Their Way In The World is a German Fairy Tale collected by The Brothers Grimm.

The story begins with an unnamed soldier being discharged from the king's military; he only gets paid with three coins. The soldier is unhappy and vows to one day get all of the king's wealth. After journeying for awhile, he encounters five other men and recruits them to be his servants. These people are:

The king announces a footrace between any challenger and his daughter; any winner gets to marry the princess but anyone losing is executed. The soldier arrives with his companions and has the runner compete on his behalf. At first, the very fast runner has an easy time winning until he takes a nap. The sniper fires a shot from far away to awaken him; the runner awakens and finishes the race, winning it easily.

The princess does not want to marry the soldier and the king comes up with a plan: kill the soldier and his companions. He tries to do this by luring them to a banquet with an iron floor beneath them heated up in an attempt to burn them all to death. However, the frost man saves them by straightening his hat and stopping the intense heat.

The king is now out of options and offers the soldier a bribe in exchange for not marrying the princess. The soldier is allowed to take as much wealth from the king's vaults as his servant can carry. Unfortunately for the king, the super strong servant takes EVERYTHING in the treasury. The king sends his own troops after the soldier's company to recover his riches but the powerful lungs of the soldier's servant with super breath blows all but one of them into oblivion. The lone survivor returns to tell the king what happened and the king...decides to leave the soldier alone from now on.

Read the full text here.

Tropes included:

  • An Arm and a Leg: A variation of type 3; the very fast runner was somehow able to remove one of his own legs to slow himself down.
  • Animated Adaptation: This story was adapted for Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics under the title "The Six Who Went Far".
  • An Ice Person: The frost-bringer can create frost when his hat is straightened and not crooked over his ear.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The sniper working for the soldier. He is able to see, aim and shoot targets miles away.
  • Kill It with Fire: The king attempts to kill the soldier and his servants by luring them to a banquet and burning them with a hot iron floor from underneath. Subverted when the frost-bringer servant uses his power to stop the heat.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: After his army is unable to recover his treasure and knowing the abilities of the soldier's company, the king wisely chooses not to do anything else.
  • Nameless Narrative: Much like other Grimm fairy tales, none of the characters get a name.
  • Persona Non Grata: In the animated version of this tale on Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics, the soldier and his companions banish the king and princess for their constant treachery, leaving the people of their former kingdom to install a new ruler. The soldier turns down the throne so he and his companions can continue adventuring.
  • Super-Breath: One of the companions has breath strong enough to turn many windmills. He even uses it as an offensive weapon to get rid of pursuing enemies.
  • Super-Speed: The fast runner's ability. So much that the runner had to remove one of his legs to slow down!
  • Super-Strength: One of the companions has this and uses it to pull whole trees out of the ground.
  • Wealthy Ever After: The soldier's goal and thanks to his servants, he achieves it at the end.