This is a bizarre and unsettling story, what you might call an amorality tale in the fine tradition of Grimm fairy tales.
A man and his wife are desperate for a child, the man saying he’d be happy even if it were a hedgehog. The wife gives birth to a half boy-half hedgehog and they wish it would die, treating him badly until after years they force it to leave on the back of a rooster with just a cow and pig for company.
Hans the hedgehog breeds his animals until he has farm running through the forest, which he eventually offers to the town to butcher where he came from.
He is visited by two lost kings in succession who promise him their daughter’s hand in marriage if he guides them back to their kingdoms – the first lies but the second is forced to honour the promise, and the princess is to marry Hans the hedgehog. But on their marriage he is transformed into a handsome man, no longer part animal, and is reacquainted with his family, bringing his farming success and fortune with him.
What the hell is this about? If there’s anything it’s about it’s being careful what you wish for. The father wanted a child even it if were a hedgehog and so… The first king lied and so missed out on the chance of a successful farmer and entrepreneur having his daughter’s hand in marriage…
It’s also perhaps about purity – that the absolutely pure is not possible. Hans’s parents want a perfect child and are disappointed with Hans, the kings want something better and find that, in fact, Hans is more than he seems.
And it’s about survival, the lengths that people might need to go to in order to survive if they are thrown into the world on their own. The farming, the butchering, the deals, the trades.
But it’s not a morality tale. It’s more complex and intriguing and far less simple than that. It’s amorality maybe.