"The Golden Bird" (German: "Der goldene Vogel";  also published in English as "The Fox's Brush") is a German fairy tale. It is included in Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales), the 1812 anthology of German folktales compiled by the Brothers Grimm. Similar stories exist in the folklore of other European countries. A French variant called "The Golden Blackbird" is included in The Green Fairy Book, the 1892 anthology of fairy tales compiled by the Scottish folklorist Andrew Lang.
The plot is set in motion when a king finds that golden apples that grow on a tree in his garden are going missing. It is found out that the apples are being taken by a golden bird. A single feather from the bird is worth a fortune. The kings three sons each go out in turn to search for the golden bird. A fox appears to each of the princes and gives them advice. The two elder princes flatly ignore the fox's advice. The youngest prince follows the fox's advice at first. He subsequently ignores it, however, which causes him further problems. Nevertheless, the fox remains faithful to the young prince and continues to try to help him.
A king has a tree that bears golden apples. When the apples are ripe, they are counted. When one of those apples goes missing, it is reported to the king. The king's eldest son is told to watch the tree all night. He falls asleep, however, and another apple is taken. The following night, the king's second son watches the tree. He also falls asleep and another apple is taken. On the third night, the kings youngest son watches the tree. He stays awake and sees a golden bird take an apple. He fires an arrow at the bird. The bird escapes unharmed but loses a feather. The prince takes the feather to his father. The king is told that the single feather is worth more than his entire kingdom. Not content with the singe feather, the king decides that he wants the entire golden bird.
The king's eldest son goes out in search of the golden bird. A fox appears to him. The fox tells the prince that he will arrive in a village where there are two inns. The fox says that one inn is lively and looks appealing. Although the other inn looks less appealing, the prince should stay there. The prince decides to ignore the fox's advice. He stays at the lively inn. He enjoys his stay and chooses to remain at the inn. He forgets all about his quest for the golden bird. When the eldest prince does not return, the second prince goes out in search of the golden bird. The fox appears again and gives the second prince the same advice. The second prince also ignores the advice and joins his brother at the lively inn.
The king's youngest son goes out in search of the golden bird. The fox appears to him also. The youngest prince follows the fox's advice. He stays at the less appealing inn for one night and leaves it the following morning. The fox appears to the prince again. He tells him that he will come to the castle of another king that he will be able to enter because all the soldiers guarding it are asleep. In a room in the castle, the prince will find the golden bird in a wooden cage. In the same room, the prince will see an empty golden cage. The fox tells the prince that on no account should he put the golden bird in the golden cage. The prince sits on the fox's tail and is carried to the castle at a magically fast speed. The prince finds the bird, as the fox said he would. He decides, however, that he wants to put the golden bird into the golden cage. When he takes the bird out of the wooden cage, it begins to make a horrible loud noise that wakes up all of the soldiers guarding the castle. He is arrested and condemned to death. The king who owns the golden bird, however, gives the prince another chance. If the prince brings the golden horse that runs faster than the wind and brings it to the king, the king will allow the prince to go free and give him the golden bird as a reward.
The prince goes off in search of the golden horse. The fox appears again and tells the prince that he will find the golden horse in stables in front of the castle of yet another king. All of the men who work in the stables will be asleep and the prince will be able to ride the horse away. The fox tells the prince that he will see two saddles in the golden horse's stable, a golden one and a simple one made of leather and wood. The prince is told that on no account should he put the golden saddle on the horse. The prince again travels at a magically fast speed by sitting on the fox's tail. He cannot resist putting the golden saddle on the golden horse. As soon as he does so, all of the men who work in the stable wake up. The prince is again arrested and condemned to death. He is, however, given a chance to avoid that fate by king who owns the golden horse. If the prince brings the golden princess to the king, the prince will be allowed to go free and be gives the golden horse as a reward.
The fox appears to the prince again. He tells the prince that when everyone is asleep, the golden princess will leave her room to take a bath. If the prince then gives her a kiss she will follow him wherever he wants to go. The fox tells the prince that on no account should he allow the princess to say goodbye to her parents before she leaves. The prince again travels at a magically fast speed on the fox's tail. Everything happens as the fox said it would. When the prince refuses to let the princess say goodbye to her parents, however, she cries. The prince relents. When the princess goes to her parents' bedroom, everybody in the castle wakes up. The prince is again arrested and condemned to death.
The king who is the golden princess' father, however, tells the prince that if he can remove a mountain in eight days, he will be allowed to live and be allowed to leave with the golden princess as a reward. The prince tries to break the mountain apart for seven days but makes very little progress. On the evening of the seventh day, the fox appears to the prince and tells him to go sleep. When the prince wakes up the following morning, the mountain has gone.
The prince brings the golden princess to the king who owns the golden horse. As soon as he is given the horse that runs faster than the wind, the prince leaves and takes the golden princess with him. Having the incredibly fast horse, the prince is also able to take the golden bird without losing either the golden horse or the golden princess.
Again the fox appears to the prince. The fox tells the prince to kill him and cut off his head and paws. The prince refuses. Before leaving, the fox tells the prince not to buy any condemned criminals or to sit on the edge of a well.
The prince comes again to the village with the two inns. His two brothers, who spent all of their money at the lively inn and then turned to crime, are about to be hanged. The young prince buys their freedom. They continue their journey together. The three princes and the golden princess stop to rest in a cool forest. The youngest prince sits on the edge of a well. His two brothers push him into the well. The two elder princes then return to their father with the golden bird, the golden horse and the golden princess. Unfortunately, the golden bird never sings, the golden horse never eats and the golden princess constantly cries.
When he is pushed into the well, however, the young prince does not drown because the well is dry. He eventually manages to climb out of the well. The fox appears again and the prince again travels by sitting on the animal's tail. The fox tells the prince that he is still in danger. His brothers are aware that he might still be alive and have paid soldiers to kill him on sight. For his own protection, the prince swaps clothes with an old beggar.
Disguised as the old beggar, the prince returns to his father's castle. At that moment, the golden bird begins to sing, the golden horse starts to eat and the golden princess stops crying. The king asks the golden princess why she has stopped crying. She says that she thinks it is because her true bridegroom has returned. The king orders all of the men in his castle to appear before him. The golden princess sees through the young prince's beggar disguise and embraces him. The golden princess marries the young prince. His two eler brothers are put to death after it is found out how they mistreated the young prince.
Some time later, the fox again appears to the prince. The fox again asks to be killed and to have his head and paws cut off. This time, the prince does as the fox asks. The dead fox becomes a live man who is none other than the golden princess' brother who had been under a spell.
- ↑ In the first and second editions of Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales) from 1812 and 1819, the story is called Vom goldnen Vogel.
- ↑ In the 1812 first edition and 1819 second edition of Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales), the three young men are the sons of the king's gardener. They are the king's sons in the 1837 third edition and all subsequent editions.