It is a common theme in many fairytales for animals who have overcome some obstacle to become liberated and return to their human form (for example, The Frog Prince, Little Brother and Little Sister, and Caliph Stork). This provides a way for the reader to identify with the character. The Bremen Town Musicians are so very human in their behaviour, however, that such a transformation is redundant: they talk to each other, they are sympathetic and emotive from the beginning and they show courage and ingenuity when their happiness is threatened. In a sense, the frail old farmyard friends become heroes, and we are able to feel pleased for them in spite of their animal form.
Drudgery wears you out
Before the four companions find each other, they are working animals who are kept by humans. They lead a life of hardship over which they have no control, and their aged appearance and frailty show the damage such an existence can wreak. By freeing themselves from servitude, escaping their masters and embarking upon a journey together to a new life, they are able to put their weaknesses aside.
A life of hardship
It is often not until the last moment that we become aware of our own particular dilemma. In the story, the animals feared for their lives and it was this that gave them the impetus to seek independence. Up until then, they had worked tirelessly day in day out, growing weaker all the while. It is not only drudgery which accelerates the ageing process, but also loneliness as it saps the zest for life. Old, decrepit and alone: three characteristics shared by the Bremen Town Musicians at the beginning of the tale.
Strength in unity
It is only when the animals band together that they become strong, brightening their sombre mood to the extent that they no longer shy away from confrontation with humans. The four animals work in unison to frighten off the robbers, who symbolise the wickedness of people. In a sense, they take revenge on the darker side of human nature, which they know to be cruel and ruthless.
The role of the robbers
Our animal friends are filled with a new and undreamt-of appetite for life, but they soon have to defend their newly found happiness from fresh intrusion: one of the robbers returns to 'his' house, which the Town Musicians have claimed for themselves. Yet few readers will feel any sympathy for the good-for-nothing rabble who have been driven from their home. We find ourselves unable to identify with either the animals' keepers or the robbers because they embody the less savoury aspects of being human.
Is it not fair to say that the animals also show a darker side when they attack the returning robber? The rooster's cock-a-doodle-doo is the final straw for him after he is scratched, bitten and kicked. You almost begin to feel sympathy for the poor fool. Maybe there is some good in him after all, just as the four Town Musicians proved capable of viciousness, however justified. Perhaps we all have a potential for cruelty?
A dream that stays a dream
Maybe it's no bad thing that the animals never reach Bremen. City life could well have been too overwhelming for them. People often find that an unfulfilled dream seems ill-conceived in retrospect and that it was perhaps for the best that it all turned out differently.