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Grimm's Fairy Tales

The Golden Key -

showing differences between the first version (1815)
and the final version (1857)

German title: Der goldene Schlüssel
English title: The Golden Key
Story position (first edition): Volume 2, Number 70
Story position (final edition): Volume 2, Number 114
Story designation: KHM 200 ("Kinder- und Hausmärchen")

Quick history: There were seven editions of the Grimm's Fairy Tales published in the Grimm Brothers' lifetime. Each edition was presented in two volumes. Volume 1 of the first edition appeared in 1812; Volume 2 of the first edition appeared in 1815. Both volumes of the seventh (7th) and final edition appeared in 1857.

(Take me directly to the detailed comparison in the original German.)

Here are the nontrivial differences between the first and final versions of The Golden Key using the English translation by Margaret Hunt (1884). We disregard spelling, punctuation, and grammar updates, and minor shuffling of words.

In the difference spots, "1:" indicates the first edition (1815), and "7:" indicates the seventh and final edition (1857). Naturally, Hunt worked with the final edition, so all of the words in the common passages and the lines labeled "7:" are hers. Think of the lines labeled "1:" as what she would have produced if she had translated the 1st edition. Highlighted words direct your attention to the added, deleted, or changed wording. Click on "1:" to see the difference spot in the original German.

The Golden Key is an "open-ended" story which packs its punch with a funny lack of resolution. (Anyhow, it makes me smile!) It was kept last in Volume 2 of all seven editions, even as new stories were added. Notice how the Grimms also closed Volume 1 with an unresolved story, The Fox and the Geese. For what it's worth, The Golden Key brings to my mind Nathaniel Hawthorne's "An Old Woman's Tale".


The Golden Key -
showing the significant differences between the first and final versions

IN the winter time, when deep snow lay on the ground, a poor boy was forced to go out on a sledge to fetch wood. When he had gathered it together, and packed it, he wished, as he was so frozen with cold, not to go home at once, but to light a fire and warm himself a little. So he scraped away the snow, and as he was thus clearing the ground, he found a


7:   tiny,

golden key. Hereupon he thought that where the key was, the lock must be also, and dug

1:   further

7:   in the ground

and found an iron chest.

1:   "Ah! If

7:   "If

the key does but fit it!" thought he; "no doubt there are

1:   wonderful and precious things inside.

7:   precious things in that little box." [1]

He searched, but no keyhole was there. At last he

1:   found a very small one,

7:   discovered one, but so small that it was hardly visible.

He tried it, and the key fitted it exactly. Then he turned it once round, and now we must wait until he has quite unlocked it,


7:   and opened the lid,

and then we shall

1:   see what was lying inside.

7:   learn what wonderful things were lying in that box.

[1] Notice that "wonderful" is not really dropped, but put back into play in the last line.



To identify the differences, I did a word-by-word comparison of the first and final versions in the original German. I used texts provided on the fine "Kinder- und Hausmärchen der Brüder Grimm" site ( In the comparisons below, as above, "1:" indicates the first version (1815), and "7:" indicates the seventh and final version (1857).

Und nun, auf Deutsch, mit aller Unterschieden zwischen die erste und letzte Ausgaben . . .


Der goldene Schlüssel

Zur Winterszeit, als einmal ein tiefer Schnee lag, mußte ein armer Junge hinausgehen und Holz auf einem Schlitten holen. Wie er es nun

1: zusammen gesucht
7: zusammengesucht

und aufgeladen hatte, wollte er, weil er so erfroren war, noch nicht nach Haus gehen, sondern

1: sich

erst Feuer anmachen und

1: ein Bischen
7: sich ein bischen

wärmen. Da scharrte er den Schnee weg, und wie er so den Erdboden aufräumte, fand er einen

1: goldnen
7: kleinen goldenen

Schlüssel. Nun glaubte

1: er,
7: er

wo der Schlüssel wäre, müßte auch das Schloß dazu

1: seyn, grub weiter
7: sein, grub in der Erde

und fand ein eisernes

1: Kästchen; ei, dachte er, wenn
7: Kästchen. »Wenn

der Schlüssel nur

1: paßt, denn es waren gewiß wunderbare und köstliche Sachen darin.
7: paßt!« dachte er, »es sind gewiß kostbare Sachen in dem Kästchen.«

Er suchte, aber es war kein Schlüsselloch da, endlich

1: fand er doch noch ein ganz kleines, und probirte,
7: entdeckte er eins, aber so klein daß man es kaum sehen konnte. Er probierte

und der Schlüssel paßte

1: gerad, da drehte er ihn
7: glücklich. Da drehte er

einmal herum, und nun müssen wir

1: warten,
7: warten

bis er vollends aufgeschlossen

7: und den Deckel aufgemacht

hat, dann werden wir

1: sehen, was darin liegt.
7: erfahren was für wunderbare Sachen in dem Kästchen lagen.


















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