Star Money or Star Talers is a fairy tale by Brothers Grimm, classified as KHM 153 in their collection. It was much more popular in the 19th century than it is today, although it still occasionally inspires creators around the world to adapt it as a short story or even a TV movie. As an extreme example of a moral tale, it also served as a thankful source for different parodies.
Once upon a time, there was a poor orphan girl who had nothing but some clothes on her. She had no room to live in, so she wandered around. Somebody gave her a piece of bread.
But soon she met a poor man who asked her for food. She gave him her bread and continued walking.
Not much later, she met a child who said his head is so cold he is going to freeze. So she gave him her cap.
Then another child came by and begged for her jacket.
The third child asked for her dress and she stayed in her shift only.
When she reached the forest yet another kid popped up and he got nothing on, and, because it was already dark, so she gave him her shift too.
Now she had nothing on but suddenly stars started falling down the sky, landing in front of her. She looked around and she noticed she is dressed in a new shift and the stars on the ground were silver talers.
She gathered them and was never short of money for the rest of her life.
The message of the story is crystal clear. Good deeds are rewarded. Although being very poor she still found a way to help people around her, sacrificing her comfort and being ultimately rewarded by a lot of money. Her sacrifice is emphasized by the fact she literally gave away everything – her food, her dress, even her decency, symbolized by her shift.
A philosopher could interpret the situation as a need to get rid of all earthly possessions before anybody can find a higher truth, symbolically (and in this case literally) reach for the stars.
Here are a few interesting facts about the story:
- Brothers Grimm included it in their first edition but under the title The Poor Girl (Das arme Madchen) as the story number 83. It got its new title in the second edition (Der Sternthaler) but still got through slight variations thanks to some grammatical changes in the German language.
- Talers in the story were popular (and valuable) silver coins used all across Europe from the 16th to the 20th century. Several nations used the word for naming their own national currencies. In Slovenia, it was ‘tolar’ (before the adoption of the euro) and in the USA it’s still ‘dollar’.
- Most of the new variations of the story end in the disappointment of the protagonist. In the modern world, generosity is not rewarded anymore. Even if the protagonist got something valuable in exchange for the sacrifice, there’s still the problem with protecting the possessions and explaining the origin of the money to tax institutions or similar authorities.
Maybe we should mention the artist as well. You can enjoy Paula Ebner’s work in the post about Herr Korbes too.