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Literature / The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids

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"The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids" note  ("Der Wolf und die sieben jungen Geißlein") is a well-known fairy tale written down by the Brothers Grimm. The story has a few parallels with "Little Red Riding Hood" and "The Three Little Pigs". Indeed, given the differences between Charles Perrault's Little Red Riding Hood and The Brothers Grimm's, folklorists suspect it was an influence.

A mother goat leaves her seven little kids home alone before she goes out to get some food. She warns them not to open the door for anyone, especially not The Big Bad Wolf. Soon enough, after she leaves, the wolf tries to get in. He pretends to be their mother, but is betrayed by his gruff voice. The wolf leaves and returns a little later, this time using a sweet, light voice to impersonate their mother (in some versions having eaten chalk to make his voice highernote ). At first the seven little kids think it really is their mother, but then they ask her to stick her paw in front of the window (in some accounts they see it under a crack in the door) and notice his big, black feet. They refuse to open the door and the wolf leaves again, this time going to the bakery (in some versions, the miller) to whiten his paw in flour. He returns and fools the little kids because they see his white paw and think it's their mother. The wolf jumps into the house and gobbles up six of the seven kids – the youngest one is able to hide inside a large standing clock before he leaves. After his big meal, the wolf finds he is very, very tired, and so the first thing he decides to do is lie down against a tree and enjoy a good long nap.

When the mother goat returns, she discovers her house is a mess and finds her youngest kid inside the clock. He tells her what happened and they decide to go look for the wolf. They soon find him, still fast asleep, and the mother goat tells her youngest child to get a pair of scissors, a needle and some thread, with which they cut open the wolf's belly. The six goat children jump out, alive and well. Then the goats fill up the wolf's belly with rocks and the mother sews it back up again. The goats hide and the wolf finally wakes up, feeling thirsty. He goes to the well (in some versions, the river), but falls in and drowns under the weight of the rocks. And the goat family lived happily ever after.

While not gaining as much film or animated adaptations as Little Red Riding Hood and other stories by The Brothers Grimm. The story has been adapted into animations in the past, mostly in Japan where that fairy tale is very popular. The story was loosely adapted into animation with the 1957 Russian animated short, while receiving two live-action adaptations (the 1957 film from Germany which expands on the story, and a musical from 1976 called Mama/Rock'n'Roll Wolf).

The 2018 Japanese Stop Motion animated short My Little Goat by Tomoki Misato is a darker and more realistic take on the tale which takes place after the events of the story.

This fairy tale provides examples of:

  • Adapted Out: In some animated adaptations of the story. The unnamed human characters simply named "The Shopkeeper" and "The Baker" are usually not present, with the exception of the 1978 anime adaptation by Toei, where both characters make an appearance.
  • An Aesop: Don't let strangers in!
  • And I Must Scream: Narrowly averted for the young goats, who are all swallowed whole and nearly are doomed to suffocate and digest in the wolf’s stomach. They spend a prolonged amount of time in the wolf’s stomach, completely unable to anything but squirm around.
  • Animal Talk: The wolf can talk to the goats and pretend that he is their mother.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Six goats Swallowed Whole? Their mother, who is somehow able to perform surgery without anesthetics note  (though to be fair the wolf already was taking a nap at the time, some versions try to justify this by saying that the wolf was really, really tired)? Huge rocks being placed into the wolf's belly? The wolf still being able to move after swallowing huge stones? (At least there was one Richard Scarry adaptation from 1994 that had the kids stuffed into a bag.)
  • Asshole Victim: The wolf is portrayed as malicious and wicked, delighting in eating the kids after tricking them. Thanks to this, nobody really feels sorry for him once he dies.
  • Balloon Belly: In most versions, the wolf often has a huge stomach after eating the six kids.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In the English dub of the My Favorite Fairy Tales adaptation of the story, the youngest goat, Billy, slips while sledding down a hill and is laughed at by his siblings. Embarrassed, he wishes for something to happen to them as payback for laughing at him. Later that day, they all end up eaten by the wolf and would’ve died had his mother not taken her revenge.
  • The Big Bad Wolf: This time he tries to eat a bunch of baby goats.
  • Bowdlerise: Some versions (such as Simsala Grimm and the 1994 version by Richard Scarry) have the wolf tie the kids up in a sack rather than gobbling on them right there, and he falls asleep because he gets tired from carrying the heavy bag. The 1957 Soviet animated short featured the wolf kidnapping the six goat children and preparing to put them into a boiling pot.
  • Compressed Adaptation: Most animated and book adaptations of the tale usually focus on the Wolf, the Goat children and Mother Goat. As a result, the only human characters of the story, such as The Baker and The Shopkeeper, are rarely seen. The exception is the 1978 anime adaptation, and the 1957 live-action film which features both characters.
  • Dark Is Evil: The wolf has black fur.
  • Disappeared Dad: The father is never mentioned in the story. It seems mother goat is either a widow, a Truly Single Parent, or divorced.
  • Dramatic Irony: The wolf never figures out that the kids escaped from his stomach before he dies by drowning. In the My Favorite Fairy Tales English dub, he even wonders why he bothered eating them as they didn’t even taste that good to him.
  • Eaten Alive: When the mother goat finds the sleeping wolf, his stomach is jostling around, as the six children he just ate are still very much alive inside.
  • Fanservice Pack: While most adaptions prefer to portray the goat mother as a middle aged woman, some adaptations like to portray her as young and beautiful. Most notably the Toei animation from 1986 and Shogo Hirata's illustrations from a 1985 book adaptation (The Mother Goat's design would later get reused for the 1986 anime). Even the 1976 musical Mama/Rock'n'Roll Wolf gave The Mother Goat a notably prettier and younger appearance.
  • Getting Eaten Is Harmless: Six of the kids are eaten by The Big Bad Wolf, but when the seventh kid and their mother cuts the wolf's belly open, the kids all emerge unharmed.
  • Heavy Sleeper: After eating the kids, the wolf decides to take a nap outside- and he somehow sleeps through his own stomach being cut open and sewed back up. Sure he ate six whole kids so him quickly getting tired and quickly finding a spot to nap is understandable, but come on!
  • Hide Your Children: Only one manages to hide.
  • Just Eat Him: The wolf actually does this and immediately devours six of the young goats. Fortunately for them, an above trope is in play.
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: In several versions of the fable, whenever the wolf goes off to get the flour to whiten his paw (and in some versions, chalk or another substance with which to sweeten his voice), he'll barge into a store/bakery or a mill, which are usually owned and run by humans. The only comment that's passed by the humans is that the wolf is barging into their work and strong-arming them into giving him what he wants, never once raising an eyebrow over the fact that it's a wolf doing so. Some adaptations understandably change the humans to other animals.
  • Live-Action Adaptation:
    • A live-action German adaptation of the story was created in 1957.
    • A 1976 musical adaptation of the story called Mama/Rock'n'Roll Wolf was created, with human actors dressed up as animals. The film loosely follows the story, with a few differences. The mother goat (named Rada) decides to leave her children at home to attend the village festival instead of going to get food. One notable difference is that the goat kids are reduced to five instead of seven and the clock that one of the goat kids hides in is absent. Another major difference from the story is that the wolf's motives are different. Instead of the wolf (named Titi Suru) wanting to eat the goat children, he decides to capture them for ransom to get a bag full of gold. The wolf has his own henchmen, such as a donkey, another wolf who's his cousin, and a lynx, who all help capture the goat kids. It is later revealed that the reason he decided to kidnap her children is because he wanted a family of his own. He and his henchmen have a change of heart by the end of the film. The film was a co-production between Romania, the Soviet Union, and France, and later gained an English dub.
      • The musical even inspired a stage musical that borrows most of the story beats and a lot of elements from the 1976 movie, (such as the village fair, the wolf's henchmen, and the rowdiest of the goat kids, named Matei like in the movie, going off and being chased by the henchmen, a song sounding more than a bit like the memorable "Mom Is Home" and the wolf getting a Heel–Face Turn in the end) but reduces the number of goat kids to three and inserts a ton of romantic tension between the mother goat and the wolf; in this version she starts the story thinking of him as Troubled, but Cute and lets herself get seduced by his "bad-boy" charms, but they break it off when he tries to get her to leave her kids. In other words, in this version the wolf's primary motivation is jealousy and possessiveness; he decides to kidnap the kids both as revenge and because he sees them as a hindrance to his relationship with the mother goat. There is also a secondary Freudian Excuse here, with the Fantastic Racism between the farm animals and the wild animals (the wolf and his gang) being played up a lot more. The donkey even gets his own subplot about joining the wolf's gang because the farm animals reject him.
  • World of Funny Animals: While the 1976 musical adaptation Mama/Rock'n'Roll Wolf has human actors dressed as animals. It's set in a universe of anthropomorphic animals (such as sheep, goats, and bears) with a mix of non-anthropomorphic talking animals (squirrels and birds) set inside a peaceful forest.
  • Mama Bear: The mother goat cutting open the wolf to save her children and then leading them in stuffing his stomach with stones, eventually resulting in the wolf’s death when he drowns trying to get water. The English dub of the My Favorite Fairy Tales adaptation goes a step further when describing her intentions - she’s not just satisfied with having her children back, she wants to make sure this wolf never harms anyone again, and subjects him to a slow, torturous death.
  • No Name Given: Nobody's name is mentioned.
  • Once Upon a Time: The tale begins with these words.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The wolf simply puts on a high-pitched falsetto voice and whitens his paws in flour.
    • To be fair, the kids weren't able to see him in full until it was too late.
  • Public Service Announcement: On January 28, 2021, Japanese disaster prevention awareness foundation "Everyone's disaster prevention + Sonae" (みんなの防災プロジェクト実行委員会, "Min'na no bōsai purojekuto jikkō iinkai") created a 4 minute anime adaptation of the story (starring the foundation's mascots as one of the goat children), to raise awareness on potential disasters to parents and younger children in Japan.
  • Replaced with Replica: Played with, in that the mother goat replaces the six kids in the wolf's stomach with rocks. In some versions, the wolf sings as he runs to the well:
    What rumbles and tumbles
    Inside my poor bones?
    I thought it was six kids,
    But it feels like six stones!
  • Rule of Three: Only the third time he tries, the wolf manages to get in.
  • Rule of Seven: The number of the goat siblings.
  • Sapient Eat Sapient: The wolf and the kids are all portrayed as perfectly sapient beings, making it all the more unnerving that the wolf eats them, perfectly happy to kill and eat sapient children. He also doesn’t bother to kill them before eating them, instead swallowing them while while they’re still alive, and they’re forced to squirm around in his stomach afterwards, presumably until they suffocate to death and get digested.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: Don't let strangers in the house - or they might kill you and your siblings!
  • Swallowed Whole: The wolf, apparently, was much too hungry to waste time biting.
  • Token Human: The Baker and The Shopkeeper are the only notable human characters of the story.
  • The Runt at the End: The youngest goat kid is usually portrayed as this in many adaptations of the story. He's usually referred to as the smallest of the goat children note , and sometimes very sensitive or shy note  depending on the adaptation, especially the anime adaptations made during the 1970s and 1980s.
  • Unexplained Recovery: The kids somehow survive being Swallowed Whole by a wolf.
  • Villainous Glutton: The Wolf, who is delighted after eating six whole baby goats in one sitting- and in most versions of the story briefly looks for more to eat before giving up. In the English dub of the My Favorite Fairy Tales adaptation, when he’s suffering from being weighed down by the rocks in his stomach he believes are the digesting kids, he complains that he’s eaten more than six kids for appetizers.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Only the youngest kid can hide properly from the wolf's eyes, and later tell the mother what happened.