Tales of Emma and lazy brothers
In the beginning there was a hen
The story of Bremen and its relationship with animals involves more than just the famous Town Musicians. We have a hen and her chicks to thank for the fact that Bremen exists at all. The legend of the city's beginnings tells that outcast men, women and children were boating down the river Weser, fleeing from marauding neighbours. They wanted to get ashore but couldn't find a suitable place to land. It was then that they discovered a hen with her chicks that was looking for a safe place to roost for the night, and so they followed her. When the hen sat down on a hill, the group decided to make this their new home – and Bremen was born.
The citizens of Bremen eventually created a memorial in honour of the mother hen to which they owed so much: a relief of the animal is featured on the right-hand spandrel of the second arch in the town hall arcade.
Land donated by Emma
'Emma' is the name not only of all seagulls (according to an old German poem) but also of a Bremen noblewoman from the 11th century. The people of Bremen have Countess Emma von Lesum to thank for the Bürgerweide grounds behind the train station. They had petitioned the land-owning widow for some pastureland. She agreed to give them the area of land that a man was able to walk around in one day. This angered her brother-in-law, who feared for his inheritance, so he ensured that a cripple was given the task of marking out the pastureland. After Emma had prayed, however, the man actually managed to do this – much to the annoyance of her brother-in-law. Legend has it that the citizens of Bremen created a memorial in honour of the cripple's achievement by immortalising him between the feet of the Roland statue outside the town hall.
The Seven Lazy Brothers
The people of Bremen are resourceful – which is, of course, in their own interest: after all, who wants to waste time on unnecessary work if there are better ways of achieving things? At any rate, there was once a poor Bremen farmer who had seven sons. Although these lads were big and strong, there was very little work for them to do on their father's farm, so they idled their time away and were soon simply known throughout the land as the Seven Lazy Brothers. They therefore decided to head off into the wild blue yonder, where they were totally unknown.
When they eventually returned home after several years, they had learned a great deal and began to apply their knowledge on their parents' farm. They dug ditches to drain the fields, built a dyke facing the river Weser to prevent flooding, surfaced a road and built themselves houses next to it and, finally, they dug a well. At first their neighbours were amazed. But then they were overcome by the certainty that the brothers were simply too lazy to work in the wet fields, to clean the dirt from the muddy paths off their boots and to fetch water from the Weser.
As you would expect, subsequent generations have chosen to honour these lazy individuals. The Fountain of the Seven Lazy Brothers on Böttcherstrasse commemorates them, for example, while Faulenstrasse ('lazy street') is named after them and contains the former residence of Friedrich Wagenfeld, who put Bremen's folk tales down on paper and first published them as a book in 1844.