Unit 3 Lesson 6 The Bremen Town Musicians

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Unit 3 Lesson 6

The Bremen Town Musicians

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“The Bremen Town Musicians” is a folktale about four older animals who are no longer of any use to their owners. By using their wits and their ability to work well together, they find a better life for themselves.
Sequencing, putting events in order, plays an important role in this story. To review sequencing, put the four sentences below about your teacher in order.

_________Your teacher graduated from high school.
_________Your teacher attended elementary school.
_________Your teacher got a job teaching at Elise Middle School.
_________Your teacher graduated from college.

As you read, ask yourself questions. Answer the Think-Along Questions as you come to them. They will help you be an active reader. Also, as you read, circle or highlight any words you don’t know.

The Bremen Town Musicians

Retold by Peg Hall

Long ago a man had a donkey. The donkey worked hard for him for many years. But as time passed, the donkey got older and weaker. His master began to look at him with a faraway look.

STOP AND THINK: Predict why the master looked at the donkey with a faraway look.

  1. The donkey thought he knew what that meant. And one day he saw his master talking to the butcher. Then he was sure he knew what the master had planned.
  2. “They’re not turning me into cat food,” he said. That night he kicked down the barn door and trotted off into the dark.

  3. The donkey spent the night in a field. As the moon set, he had an idea. “I know what I will do,” he said. “I will go to Bremen and become a town musician.” Then he ate some grass and went to sleep.

  4. The next morning he set off. He hadn’t gone far before he came across a big dog. The dog was lying on the road. The dog was panting as if he had run a hundred miles without stopping

  5. The donkey looked at the dog. “What’s the matter with you?” he asked

  6. The dog gasped. “I have served my master for 11 years,” he said. “But now I’m old. He said he was going to kill me, so I ran away. But I don’t know what to do. How will I live?”

  7. The donkey shook his head. “It’s awful, isn’t it? It’s the same thing with me,” he said. “But I’m going to Bremen to be a town musician. Why not come with me? I’ll beat the drum, and you can play the lute.”

  8. “That’s a good idea,”

  1. “That’s a good idea,” said the dog. He got to his feet and trotted along behind the donkey.

  2. Just outside a great forest, they met a cat. She had a face as long as a month of wet Sundays.

STOP AND THINK: What does “a face as long as a month of wet Sundays” mean?

  1. “Look here,” said the donkey. “What’s the matter with you? Cheer up now.”

  2. “That’s easy for you to say,” said the cat. “But it’s hard to be cheerful when you’re down and out. I used to be a fine cat. But now my teeth are worn down. My claws aren’t sharp. I like to sit by the fire instead of catching mice. My mistress said she as going to throw me into the well. So I ran away. But what will I do now?” There isn’t much in this world for an old cat.”

  3. STOP AND THINK: Why do cats know night music?
    “We know the story,” the donkey said. “We are all in the same goat. Why not come with us? We’re going to Bremen to be town musicians. You can be one too. After all, no one knows night music like a cat does.”

  1. The donkey’s words cheered the cat. “Thanks,” she purred. “I’d be glad to join you.” She washed her face. Then she followed the donkey and the dog.

  2. They went on until they reached a farmhouse. A rooster was sitting on the gate and crowing with all his might.

  3. “Goodness,” said the donkey. “What a noise! What’s the matter with you?”

  4. “What’s the use?” asked the rooster. What’s the use of crowing for good weather? I’ve been doing it all week. Just so my mistress will have sunshine to dry her wash. And what happens? She tells the cook to make me into soup! That’s why I’m crowing now. It’s my last chance.”

  5. “That’s what humans are like,” said the donkey. “But why wait to be turned into soup? Come along with us. We’ve run away. We’re going to Bremen to be town musicians. You have a big voice. If you join us, we can have a fine band.

  6. “Thank you,” said the rooster. “It’s sure better than ending up in the soup pot.” He crowed once more. Then he hopped down off the gate.

  7. The four animals went down the road. They were all looking forward to a happy old age. However, it was getting late. They knew they wouldn’t get to Bremen that day. So they decided to spend the night in the forest. They donkey and the dog lay down under a tree. The rooster and the cat went up into the branches. The rooster liked to be up high. So he flew all the way to the top of the tree. Then the donkey brayed good night. The dog barked. The cat meowed. And the rooster gave one last crow.
  8. But before he closed his eyes, the rooster looked around. He saw a spark of light not too far off. “Friends,” he called. “I think there’s a house nearby.”

  9. “That’s good news,” said the donkey. “Let’s see if we can stay there. It would be good to have a roof to keep off the dew.”

  10. The other animals agreed. The dog hoped for a big bone. The cat hoped for a bowl of milk. The rooster wouldn’t have said no to a handful of wheat. And the donkey thought a carrot might be nice. So off they went.

  11. Soon they reached the house. A bright light was shining from the window. The animals moved closer. The donkey stretched out his neck and looked through the window.

  12. “What do you see?” asked the dog.

  13. STOP AND THINK: How do you think the donkey knew the men were robbers?

    “A table full of good things to eat and drink.” Said the donkey. “And six robbers sitting there eating.”

  14. “Six robbers?” cried the cat. She ran into the trees as fast as her legs would take her. The dog, the rooster, and the donkey followed.

  15. “Robbers!” said the rooster. “My word, I’m shaking with fear.”

  16. “Me too,” said the dog. “But I must say, I’d like some of that food.”

  17. “So would I,” said the donkey. “But how can we get rid of the robbers?”

  18. The animals put their heads together. They tried to think of some way to get at the food. In the end, it was the clever cat who thought of something. “I have an idea,” she told the donkey. “You put your front legs on the windowsill. The dog can stand on your back. I will stand on the dog. And the rooster can stand on me. Then when the rooster crows, we will—“

  19. She whispered the rest of the plan. The animals all nodded their heads. Then they headed back to the house. There they stood on one another just as the cat had told them to.

STOP AND THINK: Predict what the rest of the plan is.

  1. “Now then,” cried the rooster. “Let them hear the Bremen Town Musicians.”

  2. He crowed as if the whole town were on fire. The donkey hee-hawed like a buzz saw. The dog howled as if he were in pain. The cat wailed like a ghost. Then they all leaped through the window.

  3. The robbers thought a demon was after them. They jumped up and ran out into the forest.

  4. All the animals laughed. Then they went to the table and ate as much as they wanted. When they were done, they put out the light. The donkey found a spot to sleep outside. The dog lay down behind the door. The cat curled up by the fireplace. And the rooster flew up to sleep in the rafters.

  5. An hour passed. Then another. The stars shone brightly. Far away, a clock struck midnight. And in the forest, the robber chief shook his head. “This won’t do, lads,” he said. “It won’t do at all. My word, what if other robbers hear about this? They’ll never stop laughing at us. We have to do something.”

  6. The other robbers didn’t say anything. They just rubbed their noses and scratched their heads.

  7. At last the robber chief spoke again. “You,” he said to the smallest robber. “Go and see what’s happening in the house. And don’t worry. We’ll be right behind you.”

  8. The small robber was afraid of the strange noises he had heard. But he was more afraid of the robber chief. So he headed for the house. The robber opened the door and slipped inside. He was very quiet. But the cat could hear a mouse a hundred yards away. She heard him and opened her eyes.

  9. The cat’s eyes glowed so brightly that the robber thought they were burning coals. He picked up a stick, thinking he’d light one end in the fire.

STOP AND THINK: Why do cat’s eyes look like they glow in the dark?

42. The robber poked the stick at the cat’s eyes. And she didn’t think it

was funny. She hissed and leaped at the man. Her claws made four deep scratches down his cheek.

  1. The robber screamed and ran for the door. But the dog was there. He woke up and bit the man’s leg. The robber fell through the door. He landed near the donkey, who kicked out with his back legs. His kick almost knocked the robber out.

  2. To top it all off, the rooster woke up. He cried “Cock-a-doodle-do! Cock-a-doodle-do!” Then he flew down onto the robber’s head. He pecked at the man’s ear.

  3. The poor robber ran back to the others. “Get out of here!” he shouted. “As fast as you can! There’s a terrible old witch in the house. She spit at me and scratched me. There’s a dwarf with her. He stabbed me in the leg. And there’s a big black monster in the yard. It hit me on the head with a club. But worst of all, there’s a judge sitting up in the rafters. He shouted, “Bring the robber here to me!”

STOP AND THINK: Why did the robber think a judge yelled that?

  1. The robbers all ran away as fast as their legs would take them. And they never came back.

  2. The four animals were happy with their new house. They stayed there together for many years. And they took care of one another. For they were all good-hearted. They never went to Bremen to become town musicians. Now that you have heard this take, you might think it’s lucky they didn’t.

  3. And lucky for the town of Bremen to!

Making Sense of Words

When you come across a word that is unknown
TRY: Re-reading the sentence and using context clues. This means to pay attention to the other words in sentence.
TRY: breaking the word into parts. Do you see a base word? Do you recognize a prefix or suffix?
TRY: Use a dictionary or ask someone else.

  1. a. Reread paragraph 8. Predict what a lute is.

b. Look up lute in the dictionary. Write the definition below.

c. Draw a picture of the dog playing the lute. Then write a sentence describing your picture.

Read with Understanding

Below are four sentences from “The Bremen Town Musicians,” Put the sentences in sequence according to the events in the story.

_____The donkey scared the robbers with his braying.

_____The donkey came to a crowing rooster.
_____The donkey’s owner talked about the donkey to the butcher.
_____The donkey kicked the robber with his back legs.

Understanding by Seeing It

One technique that helps a reader “see” the sequence in a story is a circular story map. A circular story map begins at the top and moves clockwise. Reread “The Bremen Town Musicians” and put the following events into the correct sequence in the circular story map below by writing the letter of each event in the correct box.










  1. The animals find a house occupied by robbers

  2. The animals terrify the smallest robber.

  3. The donkey makes three new friends while walking to Bremen

  4. The robbers never come back to the house,

  5. The animals scare the robbers away.

  6. The animals live happily ever after.

  7. The animals decide to sleep in the forest at night.

  8. The robber chief sends the smallest robber back to check on their house.

Write to Learn

Think about what it takes to become a good musician. Choose an instrument you would enjoy playing. Write at least one paragraph about the steps you would have to follow to give a concert for your class. Be sure to pay close attention to sequencing your steps.


  1. What are the names of the animals in the on-line version?

  1. Name 2 differences in the on-line version and your classroom version?

After you finish these questions and put this story in the dropbox you may explore the Bremen website.

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