The Story Finder

Voices in Fairy Tales

by Michelle Tocher

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Fearless Youth

Themes: Courage | Humor | Pursuit

My older brother was clever. He knew how to manage everything, but I seemed to be stupid. I couldn’t understand what people were saying. I didn’t seem to be able to learn anything. I heard people say, “He will be a burden on his father!”

Whenever something had to be done, my older brother had to do it. If work had to be done in the night, and the way led through the churchyard or some other spooky place, my brother would say, “Oh, no, father, I won’t go there. It makes me shudder!”

In the evening by the fire when stories were told, the listeners would sometimes say, “Oh, that makes me shudder!” I would sit in a corner and wonder what they meant. Nothing made me shudder. What was it like to shudder? I wanted to shudder! I wanted to know how to shudder! It’s all I wanted to know!

Then one day my father said, “You there in the corner. You’re growing big and strong. You will have to learn to do something to earn your bread.”

“Well, father,” I said, “I want to learn something. Indeed, if possible I would like to learn how to shudder. I don’t understand that at all yet.”

My brother laughed and said, “What a dimwit you are. Nothing will become of you!”

Father sighed. “You won’t earn your bread by shuddering,” he said.

I didn’t care. That’s what I wanted to learn. Now people say I’m a man who knows no fear. I’ve met many monsters and specters of every shape and size. It’s been good sport, but I am still waiting to discover what it feels like to shudder!

The Fearless Youth in The Tale of the Youth Who Set Out to Learn What Fear Was, Grimms. Illustration by Arthur Rackham.

Fearless Youth