Once upon a time there was a man who had a donkey that had been carrying sacks to the mill for many years without fail. But now the donkey's strength was running out and he was no longer fit for work. So the master thought of giving him away. But the donkey realized that his master had something bad in mind, ran away and wanted to make his way to Bremen. There, he thought, he could become a town musician...
When he had been walking for a while, he found a dog lying by the road, howling miserably. "Why are you howling like that, Packan?" asked the donkey. "Oh," he said, "because I'm old, I'm getting weaker every day and I can't go hunting any more, so my master wanted to shoot me dead. So I ran away. But how am I supposed to earn my living now?"
"Come with me and let me take you to the music as well! I'll play the lute and you beat the timpani," said the donkey.
The dog agreed and they walked on together. It wasn't long before they saw a cat sitting by the path with a really sad face. "What's got in your way, old beard-cleaner?" asked the donkey. "Who can be happy when you're in trouble," replied the cat. "Because I'm old now, my teeth are getting blunt and I'd rather sit behind the stove and spin than hunt around for mice, my owner wanted to drown me. I managed to sneak away, but where should I go now?"
"You know much about night music, you can become a town musician." The cat thought that was a good idea and went along. As the three of them walked along, they passed a farmyard. The house rooster was sitting on the gate and screaming at the top of his lungs. "You´re screaming so loud, what are you up to?" asked the donkey.
"The housewife has ordered the cook to cut off my head tonight."
"Tomorrow, on Sunday, they have guests, so they want to eat me in the soup. Now I'll scream at the top of my lungs while I still can." "Well," said the donkey, "you'd better go away with us, we'll go to Bremen, you'll find something better than death anywhere. You have a good voice, and if we make music together, it will sound wonderful." The rooster liked the suggestion and they all went away together.
In the evening, they came to a forest where they wanted to spend the night. The donkey and the dog laid down under a large tree, the cat climbed onto a branch and the rooster flew up to the top of the tree where it was safest for him.
Before he fell asleep, he looked around once more in all four directions. Then he noticed a glimmer of light. He told his companions that there must be a house nearby because he could see a light. The donkey replied: "So let's set off and go there, because the shelter here isn´t that good." The dog said that food would be alos good.
So they set off to where the light was.
Soon they saw it shimmering brighter, and it grew bigger and bigger until they came to a brightly lit robbers' house. The donkey, being the biggest, approached the window and looked in.
"What do you see, gray?" asked the rooster. "A table laid with food and drinks, and robbers sitting all around enjoying themselves!" "That would be something for us," the rooster said. The animals then thought about how they could start chasing the robbers out.
At last they found a solution. The donkey stood on the window with his front feet , the dog jumped on the donkey's back, the cat climbed on the dog, and finally the rooster flew up and sat on the cat's head. When this was done, at a signal they began to make their music: the donkey brayed, the dog barked, the cat meowed, and the cock crowed. Then they rushed through the window into the parlor, so that the panes rattled.
They thought a ghost was coming in and fled out into the forest in great fear. Now they sat the four fellows down at the table and each ate to his heart's content of the food he liked best. When they had finished, they put out the light and each of them looked for a place to sleep according to his taste. The donkey lay down on the dung, the dog behind the door, the cat on the stove by the warm ashes, and the rooster flew up onto the roof. And because they were tired from their long journey, they soon fell asleep.
Everything seemed calm when the captain said: "We shouldn't have let ourselves be taken in." He sent a robber back to see if there was anyone else in the house.
The robber found everything quiet. He went into the kitchen and wanted to light a light. He saw the cat's fiery eyes and thought they were glowing coals. He held a match to it so that it would catch fire. But the cat couldn't take a back, jumped on his face and scratched him with all its might. He was terrified and wanted to run out of the back door. But the dog, who was lying there, jumped up and bit him on the leg. As the robber ran across the yard past the dung heap, the donkey gave him another good blow with his hind foot. But the rooster, who had been woken from his sleep by the noise, called down from the roof: "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"
He shouted: "Oh, there's a witch in the house, she hissed at me and scratched my face with her long fingers. There's a man at the door with a knife, he stabbed me in the leg. There's a black monster in the courtyard, he hit me with a wooden club. And up on the roof, there sits the judge, who shouted: 'Bring me the rascal!´ So I made my way away."
From then on, the robbers no longer dared to enter the house.
But the four Bremen Town Musicians liked it so much that they didn't want to leave.
According to the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm