Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

Poultry Meg’s Family

Poultry Meg's FamilyPoultry Meg’s Family

A stately little house was built for the poultry of a great family. Inside the house lived the keeper, named Poultry Meg. She possessed an old platter, worth nothing, with the name Grubbe on it. The old family that used to have a house on the spot was named Grubbe.

As it turns out, there was an interesting story behind Poultry Meg and the Grubbe family. Many years before there had once lived a young woman named Marie Grubbe. Marie was not at all as ladylike as her mother would have preferred. She would ride out with her father’s hunt and hit among the dogs. She demanded that Soren, a little servant boy her same age, get her birds’ nests down from trees. She took the nests, whether empty or not, from the mother birds. She got her way in all that her father was concerned, even once rescuing Soren’s father from the wooden horse.

As she grew older, nearby houses desired to make marriages with their sons and Marie. She married one named Gyldenlove. She was not pleased with him at all and declared she would not live with him. She soon went away back to the house where she was born. She would ride out and hunt herself during these times and met another man named Dyre, she married him as well. Things also did not go as well as Marie would have liked. She rode away in the night.

She rode away to lands south and became very weak. Meanwhile, birds taunted her everywhere she went. She was weak from traveling and soon sank to the ground, but was picked up by a man.

Later on, the historian Holberg came into the area fleeing plague. He asked to board at the ferry house, where there was a woman and a small child. The husband was in jail for a while. The woman, called Mother Soren these days, was a fairly tough woman, but she was not treated well by her husband and Holberg soon heard word of it. Why not leave him, he asked? Mother Soren told Holberg that he was the only man who cared for her despite her wicked ways, and she would have him, even with the ill-treatment.

Mother Soren did not live many more years, but her child lived on, and then the child after that. As it turns out, Mother Soren was none other than Marie Grubbe, and Soren was, of course, Soren. They had ended up together after all. The grandchild of Marie Grubbe, happened to go by the name Meg these days, as in, Poultry Meg. She had ended up on the very land where her family had come from and while the platter bearing the name Grubbe may have been worthless in money, it was worth something to Meg.


Let’s talk about this wooden horse. This wooden horse mentioned in several of Hans’ stories is a method of torture. It was a bit like our modern-day saw horses. A person would be placed astride this horse, they couldn’t get off of course, and their legs hung down on either side. They had to stay there a while. They put immense pressure on their genitals, whether male or female. The weight of their legs hanging down caused even more pressure to be placed in very sensitive areas. Understandably, this was very unpleasant and probably caused issues in many of the cases, especially the men.

If a person didn’t have to ride the horse for very long, or their feet were lifted up a bit so that their legs could support them more, things didn’t turn out so bad. In this story Marie demanded that a man be taken off of the horse, probably at a much abbreviated time. In another story, a woman placed small stones under a man’s feet who was on the horse. This would have allowed him to support himself, at least a little bit, on his own two feet, rather than his crotch bearing his entire body’s weight.


Marie was fairly willful and did some things that weren’t entirely pleasant in her past and she felt she deserved the treatment she ultimately got. She thought she deserved to be beaten by her husband, because he was the only one who would have her.

This story has some ill messages if this were the case.

Look, we all do bad things, but I wouldn’t necessarily call taking birds’ nests out of trees and running away from two husbands the end of the world. There are worse things to do. Marie is not a murderer. She’s just willful and probably not the nicest person to be around. Does she deserve awful treatment for the things she did? I don’t think so. Nobody deserves to end up in an abusive situation and I really don’t care if they were a murderer. We treat people with the same respect that we would want to be treated. Just because a woman takes baby birds out of nests, as a child, and then runs away from two husbands doesn’t mean that she deserves a husband who beats her.

Maybe the first two husbands were equally as bad, or worse, or maybe they weren’t so bad. Who knows? Any way you look at it, Marie couldn’t deal with living with them. In a situation where you know you can’t deal with living with a person, it’s better to be alone rather than go crazy.

I don’t entirely like the message of this story because I feel it sort of says that Marie leaving her husbands was a very bad thing to do and now she has to be punished. Did she leave one of them hanging off of a cliff? Did she poison one of them? The story doesn’t say that, both men were alive and well when she left. She just wanted a different life and wanting a different life isn’t something to be punished for. Yeah, sure people get upset if you change your life and it affects them, but ultimately it’s your life, not theirs. I feel bad that Marie ended up in such a sorry situation. I’m glad that she found some small contentment in it, but she shouldn’t have had the treatment she did.


This is one of those Life-sucks-then-you-die sorts of stories.

Weigh In

Did Marie deserve what she got?

How do you think her life would have ended up had she stayed?


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