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Huss, R. (1975). Grimms' The Table, the Ass, and the Stick. A Drama of the Phallic Stage. Psychoanal. Rev., 62(1):165-171.

(1975). Psychoanalytic Review, 62(1):165-171

Grimms' The Table, the Ass, and the Stick. A Drama of the Phallic Stage

Roy Huss, Ph.D.

Fairy tales have always held a special fascination for the psychoanalyst. For him their color and charm often reside in the ways in which their events and characterizations act as screens for primitive erotic experiences. The Table, the Ass, and the Stick, garnered from German folklore by the Brothers Grimm, is just such a tale—simple in its external trappings but complicated in latent meanings involving infantile sexuality.

To summarize the plot briefly: a tailor has three sons whom he orders, each in turn, to take the family goat to a choice pasture so that she might continue to provide milk of a very high quality. Even though at the end of the day the goat assures the boys that she is full, she later complains to the tailor that she was put to graze in a barren spot. In great anger the tailor drives each of his sons from the house. But when the goat plays the same trick on him, he realizes her treachery and chases her away with a whip after first shaving her head.

Meanwhile the exiled sons learn various trades: the eldest apprentices himself to a joiner; the second, to a miller; and the youngest, to a turner. At the end of the training period each is given a valuable gift by his master: the oldest receives a table that supplies a feast on command; the second, an ass that spits forth gold coins at the word “bricklebrit”; the youngest, a stick that he can order to jump out of a sack to beat an enemy.

The sons naturally become anxious to offer these marvelous gifts to their father as tokens of reconciliation.

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