This is one of the less known fairy-tales by Brothers Grimm with some well-known motifs and a predictable happy ending. Its main quality is the point of view, from which young readers can find empathy with many discriminated people in their lives they otherwise don’t even notice.
The same story is also titled Little One-Eye, Little-Two-Eyes, and Little Three-Eyes and it’s classified as KHM 130 in the collection.
A mother has three daughters, the eldest has one eye, the second two, the youngest three. They are named accordingly. One-Eye and Three-Eyes mock Two-Eyes because her look is so ordinary and boring. She has to do all the housework and take care of the goat. She could eat only leftovers.
One day when she was crying in the pasture and a fairy appeared in front of her teaching her the magic words. She just had to say: “Little goat, bleat, little table, appear!” and a table full of good food would appear in front of the goat. similarly after: “Little goat, bleat, little table, disappear!” the table would vanish.
So she was not hungry anymore and she stopped eating leftovers. Her sister noticed that and told their mother about Two-Eyes’ changed behavior. She sent One-Eye with her to pasture but Two-Eyes sang a song and the only eye of One-Eye fell asleep. She could’ tell why her sister doesn’t need food anymore.
Then mother sent Three-Eyes with Two-Eyes. The trick with the lullaby didn’t work because only two of her eyes closed and the third saw the magic with the table and the goat. She told her mother what she found out and her mother slaughtered the goat.
Two-Eyes cried again. Good fairy returned and told her to take the goat’s heart and bury it in front of her home. Two-Eyes followed the instructions and a beautiful tree with silver leaves and golden apples grew up.
Mother and girls were astonished but only Two-Eyes could pluck the apples. A handsome knight passed by and asked whose tree is there. He promised to fulfill any wish of somebody who could give him a few apples. One-Eye and Three-Eyes tried to hide her middle sister and take some apples but Knight eventually found the truth.
Her wish was to leave her home and he took her to his castle. They fell in love and became husband and wife. Sometime later One-Eye and Three-Eyes came to the castle as beggars. Two-Eyes recognized them, they regretted their behaviors and she forgave them. They all stayed at the castle.
This story is about discrimination. Discrimination by default is caused by a conflict of differences. It’s interesting to note the elder and younger sisters are the ones who are actually different, so Two-Eyes is discrin+minated because she is ‘like everybody else’.
A reader of the story should be aware of the fact everybody, not just ed somebody who is not like ‘others’ or ‘her sisters’ could become a victim of discrimination what gives some true quality (and even some humor) to the otherwise clearly educational message of the fairy tale about One-Eyed, Two-Eyed, and Three-Eyed sister.
It’s also one of the rare examples where the middle sister (or brother) is the main character of the story. Being in the middle often means being average or not standing out. Yet in this case, we learn anybody could be pushed out, if not for other reason, excluded from society, or simply denied food, just for being like others.
This fairy tale by Brothers Grimm offers a nice starting point for more or less in-depth, depending on the abilities of participants, a debate about discrimination.
Fairy tales similar to One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes
- mother, unable to fairly treat all her daughters, is present in numerous fairy tales, like Mother Hulda and others,
- helpful fairy godmother who rewards the exploited sister can be found in Cinderella, where we can also find a magic tree (in Grimms’ version) and a nobleman who is willing to give the girl a new, better home;
- a goat with special powers and a magic table are elements from The Wishing Table;
- golden apples as a starting point for a life-changing journey are elements from Golden Bird;
- a tree growing from organs and bearing rewarding products is probably best-known from The Juniper Tree.
All illustrations are done by Hermann Vogel (1854-1921).