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The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean is the eighteenth story in Grimm's Fairy Tales. It is Aarne-Thompson number 295.[1]


An old woman has got some beans that she intends to cook over her fire. Being in a hurry, she grabs some straw to make the fire light faster. She pours the beans in the pot and, being in a hurry, she drops one on the floor which lands next to a piece of straw. Soon the fire is burning nicely and a hot coal jumps out and lands next to the straw and the bean. They talk and realize they have all narrowly escaped the fire; they band together to flee. At a river, the straw lies down to let them cross. The coal, being hot tempered by nature, immediately sets across. But when the coal is halfway across, the water rushes underneath, and the coal becomes terrified of being drowned. So he stops, too afraid to go on. The straw catches on fire from the coal, and splitting in two, the straw and the coal are swept downstream.

The bean cannot help but laugh at the misfortune of his comrades, and indeed he laughs so hard that he bursts his side. He is in trouble, but locally there is a friendly tailor nearby who sews him back up with some black thread, and ever since beans have had a black seam.


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean
by Brothers Grimm
From Grimm's Fairy Tales.

In a village dwelt a poor old woman, who had gathered together a dish of beans and wanted to cook them. So she made a fire on her hearth, and that it might burn the quicker, she lighted it with a handful of straw. When she was emptying the beans into the pan, one dropped without her observing it, and lay on the ground beside a straw, and soon afterwards a burning coal from the fire leapt down to the two. Then the straw began and said: 'Dear friends, from whence do you come here?' The coal replied: 'I fortunately sprang out of the fire, and if I had not escaped by sheer force, my death would have been certain,--I should have been burnt to ashes.' The bean said: 'I too have escaped with a whole skin, but if the old woman had got me into the pan, I should have been made into broth without any mercy, like my comrades.' 'And would a better fate have fallen to my lot?' said the straw. 'The old woman has destroyed all my brethren in fire and smoke; she seized sixty of them at once, and took their lives. I luckily slipped through her fingers.'

'But what are we to do now?' said the coal.

'I think,' answered the bean, 'that as we have so fortunately escaped death, we should keep together like good companions, and lest a new mischance should overtake us here, we should go away together, and repair to a foreign country.'

The proposition pleased the two others, and they set out on their way together. Soon, however, they came to a little brook, and as there was no bridge or foot-plank, they did not know how they were to get over it. The straw hit on a good idea, and said: 'I will lay myself straight across, and then you can walk over on me as on a bridge.' The straw therefore stretched itself from one bank to the other, and the coal, who was of an impetuous disposition, tripped quite boldly on to the newly-built bridge. But when she had reached the middle, and heard the water rushing beneath her, she was after all, afraid, and stood still, and ventured no farther. The straw, however, began to burn, broke in two pieces, and fell into the stream. The coal slipped after her, hissed when she got into the water, and breathed her last. The bean, who had prudently stayed behind on the shore, could not but laugh at the event, was unable to stop, and laughed so heartily that she burst. It would have been all over with her, likewise, if, by good fortune, a tailor who was travelling in search of work, had not sat down to rest by the brook. As he had a compassionate heart he pulled out his needle and thread, and sewed her together. The bean thanked him most prettily, but as the tailor used black thread, all beans since then have a black seam.



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