How Night Came

How Night Came
Brazilian Folk-Lore
Elsie Spicer Eells
*Audio file at the end

How Night Came
How Night Came

Years and years ago at the very beginning of time, when the world had just been made, there was no night. It was day all the time. No one had ever heard of sunrise or sunset, starlight or moonbeams. There were no night birds, nor night beasts, nor night flowers. There were no lengthening shadows, nor soft night air, heavy with perfume.

In those days the daughter of the Great Sea Serpent, who dwelt in the depths of the seas, married one of the sons of the great earth race known as Man. She left her home among the shades of the deep seas and came to dwell with her husband in the land of daylight. Her eyes grew weary of the bright sunlight and her beauty faded. Her husband watched her with sad eyes, but he did not know what to do to help her.

“O, if night would only come,” she moaned as she tossed about wearily
on her couch. “Here it is always day, but in my father’s kingdom there
are many shadows. O, for a little of the darkness of night!”

Her husband listened to her moanings. “What is night?” he asked her.
“Tell me about it and perhaps I can get a little of it for you.”

“Night,” said the daughter of the Great Sea Serpent, “is the name we
give to the heavy shadows which darken my father’s kingdom in the
depths of the seas. I love the sunlight of your earth land, but I grow
very weary of it. If we could have only a little of the darkness of my
father’s kingdom to rest our eyes part of the time.”

Her husband at once called his three most faithful slaves. “I am about to send you on a journey,” he told them. “You are to go to the kingdom of the Great Sea Serpent who dwells in the depths of the seas and ask him to give you some of the darkness of night that his daughter may not die here amid the sunlight of our earth land.”

The three slaves set forth for the kingdom of the Great Sea Serpent. After a long dangerous journey they arrived at his home in the depths of the seas and asked him to give them some of the shadows of night to carry back to the earth land. The Great Sea Serpent gave them a big bag full at once. It was securely fastened and the Great Sea Serpent warned them not to open it until they were once more in the presence of his daughter, their mistress.

The three slaves started out, bearing the big bag full of night upon their heads. Soon they heard strange sounds within the bag. It was the sound of the voices of all the night beasts, all the night birds, and all the night insects. If you have ever heard the night chorus from the jungles on the banks of the rivers you will know how it sounded. The three slaves had never heard sounds like those in all their lives. They were terribly frightened.

“Let us drop the bag full of night right here where we are and run away as fast as we can,” said the first slave.

“We shall perish. We shall perish, anyway, whatever we do,” cried the second slave.

“Whether we perish or not I am going to open the bag and see what makes all those terrible sounds,” said the third slave.

Accordingly they laid the bag on the ground and opened it. Out rushed all the night beasts and all the night birds and all the night insects and out rushed the great black cloud of night. The slaves were more frightened than ever at the darkness and escaped to the jungle.

The daughter of the Great Sea Serpent was waiting anxiously for the return of the slaves with the bag full of night. Ever since they had started out on their journey she had looked for their return, shading her eyes with her hand and gazing away off at the horizon, hoping with all her heart that they would hasten to bring the night. In that position she was standing under a royal palm tree, when the three slaves opened the bag and let night escape. “Night comes. Night comes at last,” she cried, as she saw the clouds of night upon the horizon. Then she closed her eyes and went to sleep there under the royal palm tree.

When she awoke she felt greatly refreshed. She was once more the happy princess who had left her father’s kingdom in the depths of the great seas to come to the earth land. She was now ready to see the day again. She looked up at the bright star shining above the royal palm tree and said, “O, bright beautiful star, henceforth you shall be called the morning star and you shall herald the approach of day. You shall reign queen of the sky at this hour.”

Then she called all the birds about her and said to them, “O, wonderful, sweet singing birds, henceforth I command you to sing your sweetest songs at this hour to herald the approach of day.” The cock was standing by her side. “You,” she said to him, “shall be appointed the watchman of the night. Your voice shall mark the watches of the night and shall warn the others that the madrugada comes.” To this very day in Brazil we call the early morning the madrugada. The cock announces its approach to the waiting birds. The birds sing their sweetest songs at that hour and the morning star reigns in the sky as queen of the madrugada.

When it was daylight again the three slaves crept home through the forests and jungles with their empty bag.

“O, faithless slaves,” said their master, “why did you not obey the voice of the Great Sea Serpent and open the bag only in the presence of his daughter, your mistress? Because of your disobedience I shall change you into monkeys. Henceforth you shall live in the trees. Your lips shall always bear the mark of the sealing wax which sealed the bag full of night.”

To this very day one sees the mark upon the monkeys’ lips, where they bit off the wax which sealed the bag; and in Brazil night leaps out quickly upon the earth just as it leapt quickly out of the bag in those days at the beginning of time. And all the night beasts and night birds and night insects give a sunset chorus in the jungles at nightfall.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

The Ugly Duckling

The Ugly Duckling
Hans Christian Andersen
*Audio file at the end

winterduckling1

It was very pleasant out in the country. It was summer time, the corn was yellow, the oats green, the hay was stacked down in the green meadows, and there the stork walked about on his long red legs and talked Egyptian. He had learnt the language from his mother. Round the fields and meadows there were large woods and within them deep lakes: indeed, it was pleasant out in the country. Full in the sunshine, an old manor house stood, surrounded by a deep moat, and from the base of the walls right down to the water great dock plants grew–so tall that a little child could stand upright under the largest of them. It was as lonely in among them as in the thickest wood; and there a Duck was sitting on her nest. She had got to hatch out her little Ducklings, but by this time she was well nigh tired out, they took so long about it, and she had very few callers. The other Ducks preferred swimming about the moat to coming up and sitting under a dock-leaf to chat with her.

At last, one egg after another cracked, and said: “Pip! pip!” All the egg-yolks had come to life and were sticking their heads out.

“Quack, quack!” said she, and they said it too, as well as they could, and looked all round them beneath the green leaves; and their mother let them look as much as they liked, for green is good for the eyes.

“What a big place the world is,” said all the young ones: for to be sure they had a great deal more room now than when they lay in the egg.

“Do you suppose this is all the world?” said their mother; “why, it stretches out far beyond the other side of the garden, right into the parson’s field–but I’ve never been there. You’re all there, I suppose?” and she got up. “No, that’s not all; there lies the biggest egg still. How long will it take? I’m really almost sick of it,” and with that she sat down again.

“Well, how goes it?” asked an elderly Duck who came to call on her. “Oh, this one egg takes a dreadful long time,” said the sitting Duck; “it won’t break. But just you look at the others! They are the sweetest Ducklings I’ve ever seen; they’re all just like their wretch of a father, who never comes to see me.”

“Let me look at the egg that won’t hatch,” said the old Duck; “you may be sure that’s a turkey’s egg. I was made a fool of once that way, and I had my share of trouble and anxiety with the young ones, I can tell you, for they are afraid of the water. I couldn’t get them to go in! I quacked and I pecked, but it was no good. Let me see the egg. Ah, yes, that’s a turkey’s egg; you just let it lie and teach the rest to swim.”

“Oh, I’ll just sit on it a bit longer,” said the Duck. “As I’ve sat so long, I may as well give it a Whitsun week!” “Just as you please,” said the old Duck, and walked off.

At last the big egg opened. “Pip! pip!” said the young one, scrambling out; he was very big and ugly. The Duck looked at him: “That’s a fearfully big Duckling, that is,” she said. “None of the others look like that. I suppose it can’t be a turkey poult! Well, we’ll soon see; into the water he shall go, if I have to kick him out myself.”

Next day the weather was perfectly delicious: the sun shone all over the green docks, and the mother Duck and all her family came out, and down to the moat. Splash! Into the water went she. “Quack, quack!” she said, and one Duckling after another plumped in. The water went over their heads, but they were up again in a moment and swam beautifully. Their legs worked of themselves, and now they were all out in the water, and even the ugly grey one was swimming with them. “No, no, that’s no turkey,” she said. “Look how nicely he uses his legs, and how well he holds himself up. That’s my own child! He’s really quite handsome if you look at him properly. Quack, quack! Come along with me and I’ll take you out into the world and introduce you to the duck-yard, but mind and keep close to me so that nobody can tread on you, and do look out for the cat.”

So they went into the duck-yard. There was a terrible commotion there, for two families were quarrelling over an eel’s head–which the cat got after all.

“Look, that’s the way the world goes,” said the mother Duck–her beak watering a little, for she would have liked the eel’s head herself. “Now then, use your legs,” she said; “mind and look alive, and stoop your necks to the old Duck over there, she’s the most distinguished person here; she’s of Spanish descent, so she’s something special, and you see she’s got a red rag round her leg. That is an extraordinarily splendid thing, the greatest distinction any duck can have; it means that people can’t do without her, and she must be recognized by animals and men alike. Now then, look alive! Don’t turn your toes in! A duckling that’s properly brought up keeps its legs wide apart, like father and mother. Look here! Now then! Make a bow and say quack.”

So they did; but the other ducks round them looked at them and said, quite loud, “Look there! Now we’ve got to have all this mob on the top of us, as if there weren’t enough of us already; and poof! what an object that duckling is! We can’t stand him”; and a duck rushed at him and bit him in the neck.

“Let him be,” said his mother; “he isn’t doing any harm.” “Yes, but he’s too big and odd altogether,” said the duck who had bitten him; “so he’s got to be smacked.”

“Those are pretty ducklings that mother has,” said the old Duck with the rag on her leg; “all quite pretty except that one. He hasn’t been a success; I could wish the mother would alter him.”

“That can’t be done, your grace,” said the mother Duck. “He’s not handsome, but he has a really good disposition, and swims as nicely as any of the rest, even better, I venture to say. I believe he will grow handsome, or perhaps in time he will grow even somewhat smaller; he has lain too long in the egg, and so has not acquired a proper shape.” And she picked at his neck and smoothed him down. “Besides, he’s a drake,” she went on, “so it doesn’t matter quite so much. He has, I believe, a good constitution and will win through in the end.”

“The other ducklings are charming,” said the old lady. “Well, make yourselves at home, and if you happen to find an eel’s head, you can bring it to me.”

So they made themselves at home: but the poor Duckling who had come last out of the egg and looked so ugly, was bitten and buffeted and made to look a fool by the hens and the ducks alike. “He’s too big,” they all said; and the turkey cock, who was born with spurs, and considered himself an emperor on the strength of it, blew himself up like a ship under full sail and went straight at the Duckling, gobbling and getting quite red in the head. The poor Duckling didn’t know where to stay or which way to go, he was so miserable at being ugly and the butt of the whole duck-yard.

That was the first day, and as time went on it got worse and worse. The wretched Duckling was chased about by everybody, and even his mother and sisters were nasty to him, and kept saying: “I wish the cat would get you, you ugly devil.” And his mother said: “I wish you’d get right away”; and the ducks bit him and the hens pecked him, and the maid who had to feed the creatures kicked at him. So he ran away, and flew over the fence. The little birds in the bushes shot up in the air in a fright. “That’s because I’m so ugly,” the Duckling thought, and shut his eyes, but ran on all the same, till he got out into the wide marsh where the wild-duck lived; and there he lay all night, for he was very tired and very unhappy.

In the morning the wild-duck flew up and caught sight of their new comrade. “What sort of a chap are you?” they asked; and the Duckling turned to this side and that and greeted them as well as he could. “You’re precious ugly,” said the wild-ducks; “but that doesn’t matter to us as long as you don’t marry into our family.” Poor wretch! He wasn’t thinking much about marrying, as long as he could be allowed to lie among the reeds, and drink a little marsh water. There he lay two whole days, and then came a pair of wild geese (or rather wild ganders, for they were both he’s): they hadn’t been hatched out very long, and so they were particularly lively. “Here, mate,” they said, “you’re so ugly I quite like you. Will you come along and be a migrant? Close by in another marsh there’s some sweet pretty wild geese–all young ladies that can say Quack. You’re so ugly you could make your fortune with them.” At that moment there was a Bang! Bang! and both the wild geese fell dead among the reeds, and the water was stained blood red. Another bang! bang! and whole flights of geese flew up from the reeds, and there was yet another bang! a great shoot was afoot. The sportsmen were all round the marsh, some even sitting up among the branches of trees that stretched out over the reeds. The blue smoke drifted like clouds, in among the dark stems, and hung far out over the water. The dogs went splash! splash! into the mud, and the reeds and rushes swayed hither and thither; it was terrible for the wretched Duckling, who was bending his neck to get it under his wing, when all at once, close to him, there was a fearful big dog with his tongue hanging right out of his mouth and his eyes shining horribly. He thrust his muzzle right at the Duckling and showed his sharp teeth–and then–splash! Off he went without seizing him.

“Oh, thank goodness,” sighed the Duckling; “I’m so ugly, even the dog doesn’t like to bite me!” But there he lay perfectly still while the duck shots rattled in the reeds and gun after gun banged out. It was well on in the day before all was quiet, but the unhappy bird dared not get up even then. He waited several hours yet, before he looked about him, and then he hurried away from the marsh as fast as ever he could, running over fields and meadows, and such a wind got up that he had hard work to get along. Towards evening he was near a poor little cottage, so crazy was it that it didn’t know which way to tumble down, so it remained standing. The wind howled so fiercely round the Duckling that he had to sit down on his tail to keep facing it, and it grew worse and worse. Then he noticed that one hinge of the door was gone, and it hung so crooked that he could slip indoors through the crack, and so he did.

Here lived an old woman with a cat and a hen. The cat, whom she called Sonny, could set up his fur and purr, and also throw out sparks, but for this he had to be stroked backwards. The Hen had very short little legs, and was consequently called “chicky short legs”. She laid good eggs, and the woman was as fond of her as of a child of her own.

Next morning the strange Duckling was noticed at once, and the cat began to purr, and the Hen to cluck. “What’s the matter?” said the old woman, looking all about her. But her sight wasn’t good, so she took the Duckling for a fat duck that had strayed away. “That’s a splendid catch,” she said: “now I can have duck eggs, if only it isn’t a drake! We must make sure of that.” So the Duckling was taken in on approval for three weeks, but no eggs came.

The Cat was the gentleman of the house and the Hen the lady, and they always talked of “we and the world”; for they considered that they were half the world, and much the best half. It seemed to the Duckling that some people might think differently, but this the Hen could not tolerate.

“Can you lay eggs?” she asked. “No! Then will you kindly hold your tongue.”

And the Cat said: “Can you put up your fur, or purr, or give out sparks? No! Then you’ve no call to have an opinion when sensible people are talking.”

So the Duckling lay in a corner and was in the lowest spirits. He began to think of the fresh air and sunshine, and such a strange longing to swim in the water came on him that he could not help telling the Hen.

“What’s the matter with you?” she asked. “You’ve nothing to do, that’s why you get these fancies; you just lay some eggs, or purr, and they’ll pass off.” “But it is so delicious to float on the water,” said the Duckling; “so lovely to get it over your head and dive right down to the bottom.”

“Oh yes, most delightful, of course!” said the Hen. “Why, you’re absolutely mad! Ask the Cat–he’s the cleverest man I know–whether he enjoys floating on the water or diving down; I say nothing of myself. Why, ask your mistress, the old woman; there’s no one in the world cleverer than her–do you suppose she wants to go swimming and getting the water over her head?”

“You don’t understand me,” said the Duckling.

“Well, if we don’t understand you, who is going to understand you, pray? You’ll never be cleverer than the Cat and the woman, to say nothing of me. Don’t give yourself airs, child, but thank your Maker for all the kindness people have done you. Don’t you live in a warm room among company you can learn something from? But there! You’re a rubbishy thing, and there’s little entertainment in your company. You may take it from me! I mean well by you, and I’m telling you home truths, and that’s how people can see their true friends. Now just do take pains to lay eggs, or learn to purr or else give sparks.”

“I think I’ll go out into the wide world,” said the Duckling.

“Very well, do,” said the Hen.

So the Duckling went off and swam on the water and dived into it; but he was looked down upon by all the creatures because of his ugliness.

Autumn now came on: the leaves of the wood turned brown and yellow, the wind caught them and made them dance about, and above the sky looked cold, where the clouds hung heavy with hail and snow, and on the fence the raven perched and cried “Caw! Caw!” for the mere cold. Indeed, it regularly gave you the shivers to think of it. The unhappy Duckling had a very hard time.

One evening, when there was a lovely sunset, a whole flock of beautiful great birds rose out of the bushes. The Duckling had never seen any so handsome. They were brilliantly white, with long supple necks. They were swans, and they uttered a strange sound and spread their splendid long wings and flew far away from the cold region to warmer lands, and unfrozen lakes. They mounted so high, so high that the ugly little Duckling was strangely moved; he whirled himself round in the water like a wheel, he stretched his neck straight up into the air after them and uttered such a loud cry, so strange, that he was quite frightened at it himself. Oh, he could not forget those beautiful birds, those wonderful birds! And the moment they were out of sight he dived right down to the bottom of the water, and when he came up again he was almost beside himself. He didn’t know what the birds were called or which way they were flying, but he loved them as he had never loved anything yet. He was not envious of them–how could it enter his mind to wish for such beauty for himself–he would have been happy if even the ducks had let him into their company–poor ugly creature.

The winter grew very very cold: the Duckling was obliged to swim about on the water to keep it from freezing quite over, but every night the hole he swam in became smaller and smaller. It froze so hard that the ice cracked again; the Duckling had always to be moving about to keep the water open, till at last he was tired out and sat still, and was frozen fast in the ice.

Early in the morning a labourer came that way, saw him, went on the ice and with his wooden shoe broke it up and carried the Duckling home to his wife, and there he was brought to life again. The children wanted to play with him, but he thought they meant to hurt him, and in his fright he dashed right into the milk-pan and made the milk splash out into the room. The woman screamed and threw up her hands. Then he flew into the butter-tub and after that into the meal-bin and out again. Goodness, what a sight he was! The woman screamed out and hit at him with the tongs, and the children tumbled over one another trying to catch him, laughing, calling out–by good luck the door stood open, and out he rushed into the bushes, on the new fallen snow, and there he lay almost in a swoon.

But it would be too sad to tell of all the hardships and miseries which he had to go through in that hard winter. When the sun began once more to shine out warm and the larks to sing, he was lying among the reeds in the marsh, and it was the beautiful spring. Then all at once he lifted his wings, and they rustled more strongly than before, and bore him swiftly away; and before he knew it he was in a spacious garden where were apple trees in blossom, and sweet-smelling lilacs hung on long green boughs right down to the winding moat. Oh, it was lovely here, and fresh with spring; and straight in front of him, out of the shadows, came three beautiful white swans with rustling plumage floating lightly on the water. The Duckling recognized the splendid creatures, and a strange sorrowfulness came over him.

“I will fly to them, these royal birds, and they will peck me to death because I, who am so ugly, dare to approach them; but it doesn’t matter; it’s better to be killed by them than to be snapped at by the ducks and pecked at by hens and kicked by the servant who looks after the poultry-yard, and suffer all the winter.” So he flew out into the open water and swam towards the stately swans, and they saw him and hastened with swelling plumage to meet him. “Yes, kill me,” the poor creature said, bowing his head down to the water, and waited for death. But what did he see in the clear water? He beheld his own image, but it was no longer that of a clumsy dark grey bird, ugly and repulsive. He was a swan himself.

It doesn’t matter in the least whether you are born in the duck-yard, if only you’ve lain in a swan’s egg.

It really delighted him now to think of all the hardships and adversities he had suffered, now he could rightly discern his good fortune and all the beauty that greeted him. The great swans swam round him and caressed him with their bills. Some little children now came into the garden and threw bread and corn into the water, and the smallest of them cried: “There’s a new one!” And the others called out in delight: “Yes, there’s a new one come!” They clapped their hands and danced about and ran to their father and mother. More bread and cake was thrown into the water, and everyone said: “The new one is the handsomest of all; how young and beautiful he is!” And the elder swans bowed before him.

At that he felt quite ill at ease, and covered his head with his wings, and knew not what to do. He was more than happy, and yet not proud, for a good heart is never puffed up. He thought how persecuted and depressed he had been, yet now he heard everyone saying he was the most beautiful of all beautiful birds. And the lilacs bowed their branches down to the water, and the sun shone warm and pleasant, and his plumage ruffled, and he raised his slender neck, and from his heart he said joyfully: “Such happiness I never dreamed of when I was the Ugly Duckling.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

The Twelve Huntsman

The Twelve Huntsman
Frog Prince
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
*Audio file at the end

Paolo Uccello
Paolo Uccello

Once upon a time there was a prince who had a fiancée whom he loved very much. Once when he was sitting beside her very happily, news came that his father was deathly ill, and wanted to see him before he died.

Then he said to his beloved, “I must now go and leave you. I give you a ring to remember me by. As soon as I am king, I will return and take you home with me.”

Then he rode away, and when he reached his father, the latter was mortally ill and near death.

The king said to him, “My dearest son, I wanted to see you one more time before my end. Promise me to marry the woman of my choice,” and he named a certain princess who was to become his wife.

The son was so grieved that without thinking he said, “Yes, dear father, your will shall be done.”

Then the king closed his eyes and died.

After the son had been proclaimed king, and the period of mourning had passed, he had to keep the promise that he had given his father. He proposed marriage to the princess, and she was promised to him.

His first fiancée heard about this, and was so saddened by his faithlessness that she nearly died.

Then her father said to her, “Dearest child, why are you so sad? You shall have whatever you want.”

She thought for a moment and then said, “Dear father, I want eleven girls exactly like myself in appearance, figure, and size.”

The father said, “If it is possible, your wish shall be fulfilled,” and he had his entire kingdom searched until eleven girls were found who were exactly like his daughter in appearance, figure, and size.

When they came to the princess, she had twelve huntsmen’s outfits made, each one like the others. The eleven girls put on the huntsmen’s outfits, and she herself put on the twelfth outfit.

After this she took leave of her father, and rode away with them. They rode to the court of her former fiancé, whom she loved so dearly. There she asked if he needed any huntsmen, and if he would take all of them into his service. The king looked at her without recognizing her. Because they were such good-looking fellows, he said, yes, that he would willingly take them, and then they were the king’s twelve huntsmen.

Now the king had a lion that was a miraculous animal, for he knew all hidden and secret things. It happened that one evening the lion said to the king, “You think that you have twelve huntsmen.”

“Yes,” said the king, “they are twelve huntsmen.”

The lion continued, “You are mistaken. They are twelve girls.”

The king said, “That is absolutely not true. How can you prove that to me?”

“Oh, just have some peas scattered in your antechamber,” answered the lion, “and then you shall soon see. Men have a firm step, and when they walk over the peas, none of them will be moved. On the other hand, girls trip and skip and shuffle their feet, rolling the peas about.”

The king liked this advise and had peas scattered on the floor.

Now one of the king’s servants liked the huntsmen, and when he heard that they were going to be put to this test, he went to them and told them everything, saying, “The lion wants to make the king believe that you are girls.”

The princess thanked him, then said to her girls, “Be strong, and step firmly on the peas.”

The next morning the king had the twelve huntsmen called before him. When they came into the antechamber where the peas were lying, they stepped so firmly on them, and had such a strong, sure walk, that not one of the peas rolled or moved.

After they had gone, the king said to the lion, “You lied to me. They walk just like men.”

The lion said, “They knew that were going to be put to a test, and acted like they were strong. Just have twelve spinning wheels brought into the antechamber. They will go up to them and admire them. No man would do that.”

The king liked this advice, and he had the spinning wheels set up in the antechamber.

But the servant who was honest with the huntsmen went to them and told them about the proposal.

So when they were alone, the princess said to her eleven girls, “Be strong and do not look around at the spinning wheels.”

The next morning when the king had his twelve huntsmen summoned, they walked through the antechamber without looking at the spinning wheels at all.

Then the king again said to the lion, “You lied to me. They are men, for they did not look at the spinning wheels.”

The lion answered, “They knew that they were going to be put to a test, and acted like they were strong.”

The king, however, refused to believe the lion anymore.

The twelve huntsmen always accompanied the king hunting, and the longer he knew them, the better he liked them. Now it happened that once when they were out hunting, news came that the king’s bride was approaching. When the true bride heard this, it hurt her so much that it almost broke her heart, and she fainted and fell to the ground.

Thinking that something had happened to his dear huntsman, the king ran up to him in order to help him. Pulling the huntsman’s glove off, he saw the ring that he had given to his first fiancée, and when he looked into her face, he recognized her. Then his heart was so touched that he kissed her, and when she opened her eyes he said, “You are mine, and I am yours, and no one in the world can change that.”

He sent a messenger to the other bride, and asked her to return to her own kingdom, for, as he informed her, he already had a wife, and someone who had found an old key did not need a new one.

After this their wedding was celebrated, and the lion was accepted back into favor, because, after all, he had told the truth.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

The Goose Girl

The Goose Girl
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
(Ideal for 5-6 Year Olds)
*Audio file at the end

10233793_f520

There was once an old Queen whose husband had been dead for many
years, and she had a very beautiful daughter. When she grew up she was
betrothed to a Prince in a distant country. When the time came for the
maiden to be sent into this distant country to be married, the old
Queen packed up quantities of clothes and jewels, gold and silver,
cups and ornaments, and, in fact, everything suitable to a royal
outfit, for she loved her daughter very dearly.

She also sent a Waiting-woman to travel with her, and to put her hand
into that of the bridegroom. They each had a horse. The Princess’s
horse was called Falada, and it could speak.

When the hour of departure came, the old Queen went to her bedroom,
and with a sharp little knife cut her finger and made it bleed. Then
she held a piece of white cambric under it, and let three drops of
blood fall on to it. This cambric she gave to her daughter, and said,
‘Dear child, take good care of this; it will stand you in good stead
on the journey.’ They then bade each other a sorrowful farewell. The
Princess hid the piece of cambric in her bosom, mounted her horse, and
set out to her bridegroom’s country.

When they had ridden for a time the Princess became very thirsty, and
said to the Waiting-woman, ‘Get down and fetch me some water in my cup
from the stream. I must have something to drink.’

‘If you are thirsty,’ said the Waiting-woman, ‘dismount yourself, lie
down by the water and drink. I don’t choose to be your servant.’

So, in her great thirst, the Princess dismounted and stooped down to
the stream and drank, as she might not have her golden cup. The poor
Princess said, ‘Alas!’ and the drops of blood answered, ‘If your
mother knew this, it would break her heart.’

The royal bride was humble, so she said nothing, but mounted her horse
again. Then they rode several miles further; but the day was warm, the
sun was scorching, and the Princess was soon thirsty again.

When they reached a river she called out again to her Waiting-woman,
‘Get down, and give me some water in my golden cup!’

She had forgotten all about the rude words which had been said to her.
But the Waiting-woman answered more haughtily than ever, ‘If you want
to drink, get the water for yourself. I won’t be your servant.’

Being very thirsty, the Princess dismounted, and knelt by the flowing
water. She cried, and said, ‘Ah me!’ and the drops of blood answered,
‘If your mother knew this it would break her heart.’

While she stooped over the water to drink, the piece of cambric with
the drops of blood on it fell out of her bosom, and floated away on
the stream; but she never noticed this in her great fear. The
Waiting-woman, however, had seen it, and rejoiced at getting more
power over the bride, who, by losing the drops of blood, had become
weak and powerless.

Now, when she was about to mount her horse Falada again, the
Waiting-woman said, ‘By rights, Falada belongs to me; this jade will
do for you!’

The poor little Princess was obliged to give way. Then the
Waiting-woman, in a harsh voice, ordered her to take off her royal
robes, and to put on her own mean garments. Finally, she forced her to
swear before heaven that she would not tell a creature at the Court
what had taken place. Had she not taken the oath she would have been
killed on the spot. But Falada saw all this and marked it.

The Waiting-woman then mounted Falada and put the real bride on her
poor jade, and they continued their journey.

There was great rejoicing when they arrived at the castle. The Prince
hurried towards them, and lifted the Waiting-woman from her horse,
thinking she was his bride. She was led upstairs, but the real
Princess had to stay below.

The old King looked out of the window and saw the delicate, pretty
little creature standing in the courtyard; so he went to the bridal
apartments and asked the bride about her companion, who was left
standing in the courtyard, and wished to know who she was.

‘I picked her up on the way, and brought her with me for company. Give
the girl something to do to keep her from idling.’

But the old King had no work for her, and could not think of anything.
At last he said, ‘I have a little lad who looks after the geese; she
may help him.’

The boy was called little Conrad, and the real bride was sent with him
to look after the geese.

Soon after, the false bride said to the Prince, ‘Dear husband, I pray
you do me a favour.’

He answered, ‘That will I gladly.’

‘Well, then, let the knacker be called to cut off the head of the
horse I rode; it angered me on the way.’

Really, she was afraid that the horse would speak, and tell of her
treatment of the Princess. So it was settled, and the faithful Falada
had to die.

When this came to the ear of the real Princess, she promised the
knacker a piece of gold if he would do her a slight service. There was
a great dark gateway to the town, through which she had to pass every
morning and evening. ‘Would he nail up Falada’s head in this gateway,
so that she might see him as she passed?’

The knacker promised to do as she wished, and when the horse’s head
was cut off, he hung it up in the dark gateway. In the early
morning, when she and Conrad went through the gateway, she said in
passing–

‘Alas! dear Falada, there thou hangest.’

And the Head answered–

‘Alas! Queen’s daughter, there thou gangest.
If thy mother knew thy fate,
Her heart would break with grief so great.’

Then they passed on out of the town, right into the fields, with the
geese. When they reached the meadow, the Princess sat down on the
grass and let down her hair. It shone like pure gold, and when little
Conrad saw it, he was so delighted that he wanted to pluck some out;
but she said–

‘Blow, blow, little breeze,
And Conrad’s hat seize.
Let him join in the chase
While away it is whirled,
Till my tresses are curled
And I rest in my place.’

Then a strong wind sprang up, which blew away Conrad’s hat right over
the fields, and he had to run after it. When he came back, she had
finished combing her hair, and it was all put up again; so he could
not get a single hair. This made him very sulky, and he would not say
another word to her. And they tended the geese till evening, when they
went home.

Next morning, when they passed under the gateway, the Princess said–

‘Alas! dear Falada, there thou hangest.’

Falada answered:–

‘Alas! Queen’s daughter, there thou gangest.
If thy mother knew thy fate,
Her heart would break with grief so great.’

Again, when they reached the meadows, the Princess undid her hair and
began combing it. Conrad ran to pluck some out; but she said quickly–

‘Blow, blow, little breeze,
And Conrad’s hat seize.
Let him join in the chase
While away it is whirled,
Till my tresses are curled
And I rest in my place.’

The wind sprang up and blew Conrad’s hat far away over the fields, and
he had to run after it. When he came back the hair was all put up
again, and he could not pull a single hair out. And they tended the
geese till the evening. When they got home Conrad went to the old
King, and said, ‘I won’t tend the geese with that maiden again.’

‘Why not?’ asked the King.

‘Oh, she vexes me every day.’

The old King then ordered him to say what she did to vex him.

Conrad said, ‘In the morning, when we pass under the dark gateway with
the geese, she talks to a horse’s head which is hung up on the wall.
She says–

‘Alas! Falada, there thou hangest,’

and the Head answers–

‘Alas! Queen’s daughter, there thou gangest.
If thy mother knew thy fate,
Her heart would break with grief so great.’

Then Conrad went on to tell the King all that happened in the meadow,
and how he had to run after his hat in the wind.

The old King ordered Conrad to go out next day as usual. Then he
placed himself behind the dark gateway, and heard the Princess
speaking to Falada’s head. He also followed her into the field, and
hid himself behind a bush, and with his own eyes he saw the Goosegirl
and the lad come driving the geese into the field. Then, after a
time, he saw the girl let down her hair, which glittered in the sun.
Directly after this, she said–

‘Blow, blow, little breeze,
And Conrad’s hat seize.
Let him join in the chase
While away it is whirled,
Till my tresses are curled
And I rest in my place.’

Then came a puff of wind, which carried off Conrad’s hat and he had to
run after it. While he was away, the maiden combed and did up her
hair; and all this the old King observed. Thereupon he went away
unnoticed; and in the evening, when the Goosegirl came home, he called
her aside and asked why she did all these things.

‘That I may not tell you, nor may I tell any human creature; for I
have sworn it under the open sky, because if I had not done so I
should have lost my life.’

He pressed her sorely, and gave her no peace, but he could get nothing
out of her. Then he said, ‘If you won’t tell me, then tell your
sorrows to the iron stove there’; and he went away.

She crept up to the stove, and, beginning to weep and lament,
unburdened her heart to it, and said: ‘Here I am, forsaken by all the
world, and yet I am a Princess. A false Waiting-woman brought me to
such a pass that I had to take off my royal robes. Then she took my
place with my bridegroom, while I have to do mean service as a
Goosegirl. If my mother knew it she would break her heart.’

The old King stood outside by the pipes of the stove, and heard all
that she said. Then he came back, and told her to go away from the
stove. He caused royal robes to be put upon her, and her beauty was a
marvel. The old King called his son, and told him that he had a false
bride–she was only a Waiting-woman; but the true bride was here, the
so-called Goosegirl.

The young Prince was charmed with her youth and beauty. A great
banquet was prepared, to which all the courtiers and good friends were
bidden. The bridegroom sat at the head of the table, with the Princess
on one side and the Waiting-woman at the other; but she was dazzled,
and did not recognise the Princess in her brilliant apparel.

When they had eaten and drunk and were all very merry, the old King
put a riddle to the Waiting-woman. ‘What does a person deserve who
deceives his master?’ telling the whole story, and ending by asking,
‘What doom does he deserve?’

The false bride answered, ‘No better than this. He must be put stark
naked into a barrel stuck with nails, and be dragged along by two
white horses from street to street till he is dead.’

‘That is your own doom,’ said the King, ‘and the judgment shall be
carried out.’

When the sentence was fulfilled, the young Prince married his true
bride, and they ruled their kingdom together in peace and happiness.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

The Fisherman and his Wife

The Fisherman and his Wife
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
(Ideal for 5-6 Year Olds)
*Audio file at the end

fisherman-and-his-wife-anne-anderson

There was once a fisherman and his wife who lived together in a hovel by the sea-shore, and the fisherman went out every day with his hook and line to catch fish, and he angled and angled.

One day, he was sitting with his rod and looking into the clear water, and he sat and sat.

At last down went the line to the bottom of the water, and when he drew it up, he found a great flounder on the hook. And the flounder said to him, “Fisherman, listen to me; let me go — I am not a real fish but an enchanted prince. What good shall I be to you if you land me? I shall not taste well; so put me back into the water again, and let me swim away.”

“Well,” said the fisherman, “no need of so many words about the matter; as you can speak, I had much rather let you swim away.”

Then he put him back into the clear water, and the flounder sank to the bottom, leaving a long streak of blood behind him. Then the fisherman got up and went home to his wife in their hovel.

“Well, husband,” said the wife, “have you caught nothing to-day?”

“No,” said the man — “that is, I did catch a flounder, but as he said he was an enchanted prince, I let him go again.”

“Then, did you wish for nothing?” said the wife.

“No,” said the man; “what should I wish for?”

“Oh dear!” said the wife; “and it is so dreadful always to live in this evil-smelling hovel; you might as well have wished for a little cottage; go again and call him; tell him we want a little cottage, I daresay he will give it us; go, and be quick.”

And when he went back, the sea was green and yellow, and not nearly so clear. So he stood and said,

O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.”

Then the flounder came swimming up and said, “Now then, what does she want?”

“Oh,” said the man, “you know when I caught you my wife says I ought to have wished for something. She does not want to live any longer in the hovel and would rather have a cottage.

“Go home with you,” said the flounder; “she has it already.”

So the man went home and found, instead of the hovel, a little cottage, and his wife was sitting on a bench before the door. And she took him by the hand, and said to him, “Come in and see if this is not a great improvement.”

So they went in, and there was a little house-place and a beautiful little bedroom, a kitchen and larder, with all sorts of furniture, and iron and brass ware of the very best. And at the back was a little yard with fowls and ducks, and a little garden full of green vegetables and fruit.

“Look,” said the wife, “is not that nice?”

“Yes,” said the man, “if this can only last, we shall be very well contented.”

“We will see about that,” said the wife. And after a meal they went to bed.

So all went well for a week or fortnight, when the wife said, “Look here, husband, the cottage is really too confined, and the yard and garden are so small; I think the flounder had better get us a larger house. I should like very much to live in a large stone castle; so, go to your fish and he will send us a castle.”

“O my dear wife,” said the man, “the cottage is good enough; what do we want a castle for?”

“We want one,” said the wife; “go along with you; the flounder can give us one.”

“Now, wife,” said the man, “the flounder gave us the cottage; I do not like to go to him again — he may be angry.”

“Go along,” said the wife; “he might just as well give us it as not; do as I say!”

The man felt very reluctant and unwilling; and he said to himself, “It is not the right thing to do,” — nevertheless he went.
So when he came to the seaside, the water was purple and dark blue and grey and thick, and not green and yellow as before. And he stood and said,

O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.”

“Now then, what does she want?” said the flounder.

“Oh,” said the man, half-frightened, “she wants to live in a large stone castle.”

“Go home with you; she is already standing before the door,” said the flounder.

Then the man went home, as he supposed, but when he got there, there stood in the place of the cottage a great castle of stone, and his wife was standing on the steps, about to go in; so she took him by the hand and said, “Let us enter.”

With that he went in with her, and in the castle was a great hall with a marble pavement, and there were a great many servants who led them through large doors, and the passages were decked with tapestry, and the rooms with golden chairs and tables and crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and all the rooms had carpets. And the tables were covered with eatables and the best wine for any one who wanted them. And at the back of the house was a great stable-yard for horses and cattle, and carriages of the finest; besides, there was a splendid large garden with the most beautiful flowers and fine fruit trees, and a pleasance full half a mile long, with deer and oxen and sheep, and everything that heart could wish for.

“There!” said the wife, “is not this beautiful?”

“Oh yes,” said the man, “if it will only last, we can live in this fine castle and be very well contented.”

“We will see about that,” said the wife; “in the meanwhile, we will sleep upon it.” With that they went to bed.

The next morning the wife was awake first, just at the break of day, and she looked out and saw from her bed the beautiful country lying all round. The man took no notice of it, so she poked him in the side with her elbow, and said, “Husband, get up and just look out of the window. Look, just think if we could be king over all this country. Just go to your fish and tell him we should like to be king.”

“Now, wife,” said the man, “what should we be kings for? I don’t want to be king.”

“Well,” said the wife, “if you don’t want to be king, I will be king.”

“Now, wife,” said the man, “what do you want to be king for? I could not ask him such a thing.”

“Why not?” said the wife, “you must go directly all the same; I must be king.”

So the man went, very much put out that his wife should want to be king.

“It is not the right thing to do — not at all the right thing,” thought the man. He did not at all want to go, and yet he went all the same.

And when he came to the sea the water was quite dark grey, and rushed far inland, and had an ill smell. And he stood and said,

“O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.”

“Now then, what does she want?” said the fish.

“Oh dear!” said the man, “she wants to be king.”

“Go home with you, she is so already,” said the fish.

So the man went back, and as he came to the palace, he saw it was very much larger and had great towers and splendid gateways; the herald stood before the door, and a number of soldiers with kettle-drums and trumpets.

And when he came inside everything was of marble and gold, and there were many curtains with great golden tassels. Then he went through the doors of the saloon to where the great throne-room was, and there was his wife sitting upon a throne of gold and diamonds, and she had a great golden crown on, and the sceptre in her hand was of pure gold and jewels, and on each side stood six pages in a row, each one a head shorter than the other.

So the man went up to her and said, “Well, wife, so now you are king!”

“Yes,” said the wife, “now I am king.”

So then he stood and looked at her, and when he had gazed at her for some time he said, “Well, wife, this is fine for you to be king! Now there is nothing more to wish for.”

“O husband,” said the wife, seeming quite restless, “I am tired of this already! Go to your fish and tell him that, now I am king, I must be emperor.”

“Now, wife,” said the man, “what do you want to be emperor for?”

“Husband,” said she, “go and tell the fish I want to be emperor.”

“Oh dear!” said the man, “he could not do it — I cannot ask him such a thing. There is but one emperor at a time; the fish can’t possibly make any one emperor — indeed he can’t.”

“Now, look here,” said the wife, “I am king, and you are only my husband, so will you go at once? Go along! For if he was able to make me king, he is able to make me emperor, and I will and must be emperor, so go along!”

So he was obliged to go, and as he went, he felt very uncomfortable about it, and he thought to himself, “It is not at all the right thing to do; to want to be emperor is really going too far; the flounder will soon be beginning to get tired of this.”

With that he came to the sea, and the water was quite black and thick, and the foam flew, and the wind blew, and the man was terrified. But he stood and said,

O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.”

“What is it now?” said the fish.

“Oh dear!” said the man, “my wife wants to be emperor.”

“Go home with you,” said the fish, “she is emperor already.”

So the man went home and found the castle adorned with polished marble, and alabaster figures, and golden gates. The troops were being marshalled before the door, and they were blowing trumpets and beating drums and cymbals, and when he entered, he saw barons and earls and dukes waiting about like servants, and the doors were of bright gold.

And he saw his wife sitting upon a throne made of one entire piece of gold, and it was about two miles high, and she had a great golden crown on, which was about three yards high, set with brilliants and carbuncles, and in one hand she held the sceptre, and in the other the globe, and on both sides of her stood pages in two rows, all arranged according to their size, from the most enormous giant of two miles high to the tiniest dwarf of the size of my little finger, and before her stood earls and dukes in crowds.

So the man went up to her and said, “Well, wife, so now you are emperor.”

“Yes,” said she, “now I am emperor.”

Then he went and sat down and had a good look at her, and then he said, “Well now, wife, there is nothing left to be, now you are emperor.”

“What are you talking about, husband?” said she; “I am emperor, and next I will be pope! So go and tell the fish so.”

“Oh dear!” said the man, “what is it that you don’t want? You can never become pope; there is but one pope in Christendom, and the fish can’t possibly do it.”

“Husband,” said she, “no more words about it; I must and will be pope; so go along to the fish.”

“Now, wife,” said the man, “how can I ask him such a thing? it is too bad — it is asking a little too much, and besides, he could not do it.”

“What rubbish!” said the wife; “if he could make me emperor he can make me pope. Go along and ask him; I am emperor, and you are only my husband, so go you must.”

So he went, feeling very frightened, and he shivered and shook, and his knees trembled, and there arose a great wind, and the clouds flew by, and it grew very dark, and the sea rose mountains high, and the ships were tossed about, and the sky was partly blue in the middle, but at the sides very dark and red, as in a great tempest. And he felt very desponding, and stood trembling and said,

“O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.”

“Well, what now?” said the fish.

“Oh dear!” said the man, “she wants to be pope.”

“Go home with you; she is pope already,” said the fish.
So he went home, and he found himself before a great church, with palaces all round. He had to make his way through a crowd of people, and when he got inside, he found the place lighted up with thousands and thousands of lights, and his wife was clothed in a golden garment, and sat upon a very high throne, and had three golden crowns on, all in the greatest priestly pomp, and on both sides of her there stood two rows of lights of all sizes — from the size of the longest tower to the smallest rushlight, and all the emperors and kings were kneeling before her and kissing her foot.

“Well, wife,” said the man, and sat and stared at her, “so you are pope.”

“Yes,” said she, “now I am pope!”

And he went on gazing at her till he felt dazzled, as if he were sitting in the sun. And after a little time he said, “Well, now, wife, what is there left to be, now you are pope?”

And she sat up very stiff and straight, and said nothing.

And he said again, “Well, wife, I hope you are contented at last with being pope; you can be nothing more.”

“We will see about that,” said the wife. With that they both went to bed, but she was as far as ever from being contented, and she could not get to sleep for thinking of what she should like to be next.

The husband, however, slept as fast as a top after his busy day, but the wife tossed and turned from side to side the whole night through, thinking all the while what she could be next, but nothing would occur to her, and when she saw the red dawn, she slipped off the bed and sat before the window to see the sun rise, and as it came up, she said, “Ah, I have it! What if I should make the sun and moon to rise — husband!” she cried and stuck her elbow in his ribs; “wake up, and go to your fish, and tell him I want power over the sun and moon.”

The man was so fast asleep that when he started up he fell out of bed. Then he shook himself together, and opened his eyes and said, “Oh, — wife, what did you say?”

“Husband,” said she, “if I cannot get the power of making the sun and moon rise when I want them, I shall never have another quiet hour. Go to the fish and tell him so.”

“O wife!” said the man, and fell on his knees to her, “the fish can really not do that for you. I grant you he could make you emperor and pope; do be contented with that, I beg of you.”

And she became wild with impatience, and screamed out, “I can wait no longer; go at once!”

And so off he went as well as he could for fright. And a dreadful storm arose, so that he could hardly keep his feet, and the houses and trees were blown down, and the mountains trembled, and rocks fell in the sea; the sky was quite black, and it thundered and lightened; and the waves, crowned with foam, ran mountains high. So he cried out, without being able to hear his own words,

O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.

“Well, what now?” said the flounder.

“Oh dear!” said the man, “she wants to order about the sun and moon.”

“Go home with you!” said the flounder, “you will find her in the old hovel.”

And there they are sitting to this very day.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

A story about a test of skill

A story about a test of skill
Hausa Folk-Lore
by Maalam Shaihua, tr. by R. Sutherland Rattray (1913)

A Story about a Test of Skill
A Story about a Test of Skill

A story, a story.

A certain chief begat children, three males. One day his councillors assembled. He said he himself wished to see the most skilled among them. There was a huge baobab tree (near) the entrance to the chief’s house. He said he wanted them to mount (their) horses, (and) come (and) show their skill, where this baobab tree was.

So they mounted their chargers, (and) went far away. The eldest galloped (and) came, (and) thrust that baobab with (his) spear. The spear went right through and he followed, passing through the hole made by the spear, with his horse. And he passed on.

The next to follow the eldest came on. When he was near to the baobab tree he lifted his horse (on the bit) and jumped the baobab.

When the youngest galloped, he came, (and) pulled up the whole baobab, roots and all, and came on waving it aloft at his father, and the place rang with applause.

Now I ask you who excelled among them. If you do not know, that is all.

Off with the rat’s head.

The Dance for Water (aka Rabbit’s Triumph)

The Dance for Water (aka Rabbit’s Triumph)
South-African Folk-Tales
Retold by James A. Honeÿ (1910)

5edffea3905a5681d8085519f6dc4cec

There was a frightful drought. The rivers after a while dried tip and even the springs gave no water.

The animals wandered around seeking drink, but to no avail. Nowhere was water to be found.

A great gathering of animals was held: Lion, Tiger, Wolf, Jackal, Elephant, all of them came together. What was to be done? That was the question. One had this plan, and another had that; but no plan seemed of value.

Finally one of them suggested: “Come, let all of us go to the dry river bed and dance; in that way we can tread out the water.”

Good! Everyone was satisfied and ready to begin instantly, excepting Rabbit, who said, “I will not go and dance. All of you are mad to attempt to get water from the ground by dancing.”

The other animals danced and danced, and ultimately danced the water to the surface. How glad they were. Everyone drank as much as he could, but Rabbit did not dance with them. So it was decided that Rabbit should have no water.

He laughed at them: “I will nevertheless drink some of your water.”

That evening he proceeded leisurely to the river bed where the dance had been, and drank as much as he wanted. The following morning the animals saw the footprints of Rabbit in the ground, and Rabbit shouted to them: “Aha! I did have some of the water, and it was most refreshing and tasted fine.”

Quickly all the animals were called together. What were they to do? How were they to get Rabbit in their hands? All had some means to propose; the one suggested this, and the other that.

Finally old Tortoise moved slowly forward, foot by foot: “I will catch Rabbit.”

“You? How? What do you think of yourself?” shouted the others in unison.

“Rub my shell with pitch,[1] and I will go to the edge of the water and lie down. I will then resemble a stone, so that when Rabbit steps on me his feet will stick fast.”

“Yes! Yes! That’s good.”

And in a one, two, three, Tortoise’s shell was covered with pitch, and foot by foot he moved away to the river. At the edge, close to the water, he lay down and drew his head into his shell.

Rabbit during the evening came to get a drink. “Ha!” he chuckled sarcastically,” they are, after all, quite decent. Here they have placed a stone, so now I need not unnecessarily wet my feet.”

Rabbit trod with his left foot on the stone, and there it stuck. Tortoise then put his head out. “Ha! old Tortoise! And it’s you, is it, that’s holding me. But here I still have another foot. I’ll give you a good clout.” Rabbit gave Tortoise what he said he would with his right fore foot, hard and straight; and there his foot remained.

[1. Black beeswax.]

“I have yet a hind foot, and with it I’ll kick you.” Rabbit drove his bind foot down. This also rested on Tortoise where it struck.

“But still another foot remains, and now I’ll tread you.” He stamped his foot down, but it stuck like the others.

He used his head to hammer Tortoise, and his tail as a whip, but both met the same fate as his feet, so there he was tight and fast down to the pitch.

Tortoise now slowly turned himself round and foot by foot started for the other animals, with Rabbit on his back.

“Ha! ha! ha! Rabbit! How does it look now? Insolence does not pay after all,” shouted the animals.

Now advice was sought. What should they do with Rabbit? He certainly must die. But how? One said, “Behead him”; another, “Some severe penalty.”

“Rabbit, how are we to kill you?”

“It does not affect me,” Rabbit said. “Only a shameful death please do not pronounce.”

“And what is that?” they all shouted.

“To take me by my tail and dash my head against a stone; that I pray and beseech you don’t do.”

“No, but just so you’ll die. That is decided.”

It was decided Rabbit should die by taking him by his tail and dashing his head to pieces against some stone. But who is to do it?

Lion, because he is the most powerful one.

Good! Lion should do it. He stood up, walked to the front, and poor Rabbit was brought to him. Rabbit pleaded and beseeched that he couldn’t die such a miserable death.

Lion took Rabbit firmly by the tail and swung him around. The white skin slipped off from Rabbit, and there Lion stood with the white bit of skin and hair in his paw. Rabbit was free.

The White Man and Snake

THE WHITE MAN AND SNAKE
South-African Folk-Tale
Retold by James A. Honeÿ, (1910)

A WHITE MAN, it is said, met Snake upon whom a large stone had fallen and covered her so that she could not rise. The White Man lifted the stone off Snake, but when he had done so, she wanted to bite him. The White Man said, ” Stop! let us both go first to some wise people.” They went to Hyena, and the White Man asked him, “Is it right that Snake should want to bite me, when I helped her as she lay under a stone and could not rise?”

Hyena (who thought he would get his share of the White Man’s body) said, “If you were bitten what would it matter?”

Then Snake wanted to bite him, but the White Man said again, “Wait a little, and let us go to other wise people, that I may hear whether this is right.”

They went and met Jackal. The White Man said to Jackal, “Is it right for Snake to want to bite me, when I lifted up the stone which lay upon her?”

Jackal replied, “I do not believe that Snake could be covered by a stone so she could not rise. Unless I saw it with my two eyes, I would not believe it. Therefore, come let us go and see the place where you say it happened whether it can be true.”

They went, and arrived at the place where it had happened. Jackal said, “Snake, lie down, and let thyself be covered.”

Snake did so, and the White Man covered her with the stone; but although she exerted herself very much, she could not rise. Then the White Man wanted again to release Snake, but Jackal interfered, and said, “Do not lift the stone. She wanted to bite you, therefore she may rise by herself.”

Then they both went away and left Snake under the stone.

The Monkey’s Fiddle

The Monkey’s Fiddle

South-African Folk-Tale
by James A. Honeÿ, (1910)

Monkey's Fiddle
Monkey’s Fiddle

HUNGER and want forced Monkey one day to forsake his land and to seek elsewhere among strangers for much-needed work. Bulbs, earth beans, scorpions, insects, and such things were completely exhausted in his own land. But fortunately he received, for the time being, shelter with a great uncle of his, Orang Outang, who lived in another part of the country.

When he had worked for quite a while he wanted to return home, and as recompense his great uncle gave him a fiddle and a bow and arrow and told him that with the bow and arrow he could hit and kill anything he desired, and with the fiddle he could force anything to dance.

The first he met upon his return to his own land was Brer Wolf. This old fellow told him all the news and also that he had since early morning been attempting to stalk a deer, but all in vain.

Then Monkey laid before him all the wonders of the bow and arrow that he carried on his back and assured him if he could but see the deer he would bring it down for him. When Wolf showed him the deer, Monkey was ready and down fell the deer.

They made a good meal together, but instead of Wolf being thankful, jealousy overmastered him and he begged for the bow and arrow. When Monkey refused to give it to him, he thereupon began to threaten him with his greater strength, and so when Jackal passed by, Wolf told him that Monkey had stolen his bow and arrow. After Jackal had heard both of them, he declared himself unqualified to settle the case alone, and he proposed that they bring the matter to the court of Lion, Tiger, and the other animals. In the meantime he declared he would take possession of what had been the cause of their quarrel, so that it would be safe, as he said. But he immediately brought to earth all that was eatable, so there was a long time of slaughter before Monkey and Wolf agreed to have the affair in court.

Monkey’s evidence was weak, and to make it worse, Jackal’s testimony was against him. Jackal thought that in this way it would be easier to obtain the bow and arrow from Wolf for himself.

And so fell the sentence against Monkey. Theft was looked upon as a great wrong; he must hang.

The fiddle was still at his side, and he received as a last favor from the court the right to play a tune on it.

He was a master player of his time, and in addition to this came the wonderful power of his charmed fiddle. Thus, when he struck the first note of “Cockcrow” upon it, the court began at once to show an unusual and spontaneous liveliness, and before he came to the first waltzing turn of the old tune the whole court was dancing like a whirlwind.

Over and over, quicker and quicker, sounded the tune of “Cockcrow” on the charmed fiddle, until some of the dancers, exhausted, fell down, although still keeping their feet in motion. But Monkey, musician as he was, heard and saw nothing of what had happened around him. With his head placed lovingly against the instrument, and his eyes half closed, he played on, keeping time ever with his foot.

Wolf was the first to cry out in pleading tones breathlessly, “Please stop, Cousin Monkey! For love’s sake, please stop!”

But Monkey did not even hear him. Over and over sounded the resistless waltz of “Cockcrow.”

After a while Lion showed signs of fatigue, and when he had gone the round once more with his young lion wife, he growled as he passed Monkey, “My whole kingdom is yours, ape, if you just stop playing.”

“I do not want it,” answered Monkey, “but withdraw the sentence and give me my bow and arrow, and you, Wolf, acknowledge that you stole it from me.”

“I acknowledge, I acknowledge!” cried Wolf, while Lion cried, at the same instant, that he withdrew the sentence.

Monkey gave them just a few more turns of the “Cockcrow,” gathered up his bow and arrow, and seated himself high up in the nearest camel thorn tree.

The court and other animals were so afraid that he might begin again that they hastily disbanded to new parts of the world.

The Wise Woman

The Wise Woman
Tibetan Folk Tale
Retold by A.L. Shelton (1925)

Either going up or down a ladder it is an evil thing if you are pushed.
Tibetan Proverb.

A LONG, long time ago there were two countries adjoining each other and one was a little smaller than the other. The king of the farther and bigger country was named Gezongongdu, and the king of the smaller country was named Drashi. The king of the larger country thought he would like to make the smaller country subject to himself. “But first,” he said, “I want to see if their king is very wily and wise. If he isn’t I can conquer him; but if he is, I shall not attempt it.”

He took a mare and a colt that were exactly alike in color and size and asked the king to decide which was mare and which was colt. The head-men came first and looked and looked and couldn’t tell at all. One of them went home and told his wife and she said, “That’s easy, I’ll tell you how to do it. You make a manger and put some grass in it for them. The mother will keep pushing the food over toward the colt.” Sure enough it happened as she said it would, so they were able to answer the king’s first riddle.

The next day the king sent a stick shaped the same at both ends and asked them to tell which was the top and which the root. The men all came and looked and looked again, but couldn’t tell. The same head-man told his wife and she said, “That’s easy, throw it into the water and the head will go down stream first and the root will come last.” They did so and the problem was solved for the king that day.

Then the king of the larger country sent over two snakes, male and female, and none of the wise men could tell them apart. The head-man again went to his wife and she said, “That’s easy, take a piece of silk and place it near them, the female will think it is nice and soft and she will lie down on it, curl up and go to sleep; but the male will run away and refuse to sleep.” They did that and it all came true just as she said.

So the king of the big country decided he didn’t want to fight the king of the small country, for he was too smart. But the little king knew he had been saved from war and called up his head-man and asked him how he had got all these things right when everybody else had failed. He answered that he didn’t know anything about these things, it was his wife. So the king called the head-man’s wife and gave her many gifts and made her husband chief head-man of his kingdom.

The Ingratitude of Man

The Ingratitude of Man
Tibetan Folk Tale
Retold by A.L. Shelton (1925)

 

“Whatever you have promised make it not as changeable as a loop in a string, but as firm as a line on a rock.” ~Tibetan Proverb.

ONCE upon a time in a far, far away land, in a very high, high land, when the old world was very, very young and animals and men spoke and lived together, such a thing as gratitude was known.

Away in the mountains was a narrow road that passed along the side of a deep chasm. It was a dangerous place to travel, and along this path one night, just at dark, when a man, a crow, a rat and a snake were walking along together, a part of the road gave way and they fell into the depths below. They were not hurt, but much shaken, and they sat there waiting and thinking of their plight, wondering how they could get out, or what they could do to keep from starving, when a traveler coming along reached the broken road and looked down and saw them. They all at one time began to clamor and beg to be helped out, so he threw a long rope down to them and drew them all out one after the other. They all professed great gratitude and said they would never forget him and never forget the help he had given them, and that some time they’d help him. The traveler, in his heart, rather scorned the professions of friendship from the crow, the rat and the snake, and really didn’t believe they could do anything for him, but thought possibly the man might be able to aid him some time.

A long time after this had taken place, in the palace of the king, in this far away country, the queen was on the top of the flat roof washing her hair. She took off her jeweled necklace and laid it down near her on a low bench, and when her hair was dry went downstairs and forgot her jewels. Near by in the top of a tree sat the crow who had been rescued by the man a long time ago. He saw the necklace and said, “This will be a good present to give to that man who saved me from the chasm,” so he flew down, picked it up in his bill, flew away with it and took it to the man and told him where he got it.

The next day the traveler with the necklace met the man he had rescued and said, “Look here. I didn’t think that crow would be much of a friend, but see, he has brought me these magnificent jewels that belong to the queen.”

The rescued man, hearing this, went at once to the king and said to him, “The queen’s necklace you will find in the house of such a man,” and gave the name of his rescuer. The king at once sent his men, arrested the traveler and cast him into prison. In that dark old dungeon, with no bed to lie on, the walls dripping moisture, no food to eat, and no friend to bring him any, he was about to starve to death, when the rat he had rescued and who lived there came and asked him how he happened to be in that place. He related the story of his arrest and the ingratitude of the man he had saved and said he was about to starve and would surely die unless help came very soon. The rat went away, entered into the king’s palace, stole the food from his table, carried it to the man in the dungeon and saved him.

Another day the snake came in to see him and asked how it was that he happened to be in the prison. He told him the story again and the snake said, “Never mind, I’ll get you free.”

Now this snake was a magic snake, and making himself into a ghost wound around and around the king’s neck and almost choked him to death. He could be felt but not seen. The king wildly called for his great men, his wise men and his lamas who cast lots and told him that this ghost that was choking him was one of the patron saints of the man in the prison, and if he would loose the prisoner and treat him kindly, his troubles would cease. So he called for the prisoner to be brought before him, gave him much money and many jewels and sent him away speedily.

The king’s misery stopped and the traveler was made happy by the friendship of the three whom he had doubted and scorned.

The Tiger and the Frog

The Tiger and the Frog
Tibetan Folk Tales
Retold by A.L. Shelton (1925)

“The tall strong pine is a great help, for with its support the weak vine may climb as high.” ~Tibetan Proverb

Once upon a time, in the days when the world was young and all animals understood each other’s languages, an old, old tiger named Tsuden went out hunting for some food. As he was creeping quietly along the banks of a stream a frog saw him and was badly scared. He thought, “This tiger is coming to eat me up.” He climbed up on a little bunch of sod and when the tiger came near, called out, “Hello, where are you going?”

The tiger answered, “I am going up into the forest to hunt something to eat. I haven’t had any food for two or three days and I am very weak and hungry. I guess I’ll eat you up. You’re awfully small, but I can’t find anything else. Who are you, anyway?”

The frog replied, swelling up as big as he could, “I am the king of the frogs. I can jump any distance and can do anything. Here’s a river, let’s see who can jump across.”

The tiger answered, “All right,” and as he crouched ready to jump, the frog slipped up and

got hold of the end of his tail with his mouth, and when the tiger jumped he was thrown away up the bank across the river. After Tsuden got across he turned around and looked and looked into the river for the frog. But as the tiger turned, the frog let loose of his tail and said, “What are you looking for, old tiger, down there?”

The tiger whirled quickly, very much surprised to see the frog away up the bank behind him.

Said the frog, “Now I beat you in that test, let’s try another. Suppose we both vomit.” The tiger being empty could only throw up a little water, but the frog spit up some tiger hair. The tiger much astonished asked, “How do you happen to be able to do that?” The frog replied, “Oh, yesterday I killed a tiger and ate him, and these are just a few of the hairs that aren’t yet digested.”

The tiger began to think to himself, “He must be very strong. Yesterday he killed and ate a tiger, and now he has jumped farther than I did over the river. Guess I’d better slip away before he eats me.” Then he sidled away a little piece, quickly turned and began to run away as fast as he could, up the mountain.

He met a fox coming down who asked, “What’s the matter, why are you running away so fast?”

“Say,” the old tiger said, “I met the king of all the frogs, who is very strong. Why, he has been eating tigers and he jumped across the river and landed farther up the bank than I did.”

The fox laughed at him and said, “What, are you running away from that little frog? He is

THE FROG CLIMBED UP ON A LITTLE BUNCH OF SOD AND WHEN THE TIGER CAME NEAR, CALLED OUT: ”HELLO, WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”
Click to enlarge
THE FROG CLIMBED UP ON A LITTLE BUNCH OF SOD AND WHEN THE TIGER CAME NEAR, CALLED OUT: ”HELLO, WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”

nothing at all. I am only a little fox, but I could put my foot on him and kill him.”

The tiger answered, “I know what this frog can do, but if you think you can kill him, I’ll go back with you. I am afraid you will get frightened and run away, however, so we must tie our tails together.”

So they tied their tails fast in a lot of knots and went down to see the frog, who still sat on his piece of sod, looking as important as he could. He saw them coming and called out to the fox, “You’re a great fox. You haven’t paid your toll to the king to-day nor brought any meat either. Is that a dog you’ve got tied to your tail and are you bringing him for my dinner?”

Then the tiger was frightened, for he thought the fox was taking him to the king to be eaten. So he turned and ran and ran as fast as he could go, dragging the poor fox with him, and if they are not dead, they are still running to-day.

THE LIGHT OF THE FLY

THE LIGHT OF THE FLY
Philippine Folklore
Retold by John Maurice Miller (1904)

The Light of the Fly
The Light of the Fly

The King of the Air was in terrible rage,
For some one had stolen his ring;
And every one wondered whoever could dare
To do such a terrible thing.
He called all his subjects together and said,
“To him that shall find it I’ll give
Whatever he asks, and this bounty of mine
Shall last while his family live.”

Away went his good loyal subjects to search,
And no one remained but a fly.
“Be off!” said the King, “go and join in the search;
Would you slight such a ruler as I?”
Then up spoke the fly with his little wee voice:
“The ring is not stolen,” he said.
“It stuck to your crown when you put it away,
And now it’s on top of your head.”

The King in surprise took the crown from his head,
And there, sure enough, was the ring.
“No wonder you saw it, with so many eyes;
But what is your wish?” said the King.
“O King,” said the fly, “I work hard all the day,
And I never can go out at night.
I should like to go then and be gay with my friends,
So all that I wish is a light.”

“You shall have it at once,” said the gratified King,
And he fastened a light to the fly,
Who straightway returned to his home with the prize
That was worth more than money could buy.
So now you can see him at night with his light
And from him this lesson may learn:
To keep your eyes open and see the least thing,
And Fortune will come in its turn.

The Story of the Three Little Pigs

The Story of the Three Little Pigs
England
(Ideal for 4-5 Year Olds)

There was once upon a time a pig who lived with her three children on a large, comfortable, old-fashioned farmyard. The eldest of the little pigs was called Browny, the second Whitey, and the youngest and best looking Blacky. Now Browny was a very dirty little pig, and, I am sorry to say, spent most of his time rolling and wallowing about in the mud. He was never so happy as on a wet day, when the mud in the farmyard got soft, and thick, and slab. Then he would steal away from his mother’s side, and finding the muddiest place in the yard, would roll about in it and thoroughly enjoy himself.

His mother often found fault with him for this, and would shake her head sadly and say, “Ah, Browny! Some day you will be sorry that you did not obey your old mother.”

But no words of advice or warning could cure Browny of his bad habits.

Whitey was quite a clever little pig, but she was greedy. She was always thinking of her food, and looking forward to her dinner. And when the farm girl was seen carrying the pails across the yard, she would rise up on her hind legs and dance and caper with excitement. As soon as the food was poured into the trough she jostled Blacky and Browny out of the way in her eagerness to get the best and biggest bits for herself. Her mother often scolded her for her selfishness, and told her that someday she would suffer for being so greedy and grabbing.

Blacky was a good, nice little pig, neither dirty nor greedy. He had nice dainty ways (for a pig), and his skin was always as smooth and shining as black satin. He was much cleverer than Browny and Whitey, and his mother’s heart used to swell with pride when she heard the farmer’s friends say to each other that someday the little black fellow would be a prize pig.

Now the time came when the mother pig felt old and feeble and near her end. One day she called the three little pigs round her and said, “My children, I feel that I am growing old and weak, and that I shall not live long. Before I die I should like to build a house for each of you, as this dear old sty in which we have lived so happily will be given to a new family of pigs, and you will have to turn out. Now, Browny, what sort of a house would you like to have?”

“A house of mud,” replied Browny, looking longingly at a wet puddle in the corner of the yard.

“And you, Whitey?” said the mother pig in rather a sad voice, for she was disappointed that Browny had made so foolish a choice.

“A house of cabbage,” answered Whitey, with a mouth full, and scarcely raising her snout out of the trough in which she was grubbing for some potato parings.

“Foolish, foolish child!” said the mother pig, looking quite distressed. “And you, Blacky?” turning to her youngest son. “What sort of a house shall I order for you?”

“A house of brick, please mother, as it will be warm in winter and cool in summer, and safe all the year round.”

“That is a sensible little pig,” replied his mother, looking fondly at him. “I will see that the three houses are got ready at once. And now one last piece of advice. You have heard me talk of our old enemy the fox. When he hears that I am dead, he is sure to try and get hold of you, to carry you off to his den. He is very sly and will no doubt disguise himself, and pretend to be a friend, but you must promise me not to let him enter your houses on any pretext whatever.”

And the little pigs readily promised, for they had always had a great fear of the fox, of whom they had heard many terrible tales.

A short time afterwards the old pig died, and the little pigs went to live in their own houses.

Browny was quite delighted with his soft mud walls and with the clay floor, which soon looked like nothing but a big mud pie. But that was what Browny enjoyed, and he was as happy as possible, rolling about all day and making himself in such a mess.

One day, as he was lying half asleep in the mud, he heard a soft knock at his door, and a gentle voice said, “May I come in, Master Browny? I want to see your beautiful new house.”

“Who are you?” said Browny, starting up in great fright, for though the voice sounded gentle, he felt sure it was a feigned voice, and he feared it was the fox.

“I am a friend come to call on you,” answered the voice.

“No, no,” replied Browny, “I don’t believe you are a friend. You are the wicked fox, against whom our mother warned us. I won’t let you in.”

“Oho! Is that the way you answer me?” said the fox, speaking very roughly in his natural voice. “We shall soon see who is master here,” and with his paws he set to work and scraped a large hole in the soft mud walls. A moment later he had jumped through it, and catching Browny by the neck, flung him on his shoulders and trotted off with him to his den.

The next day, as Whitey was munching a few leaves of cabbage out of the corner of her house, the fox stole up to her door, determined to carry her off to join her brother in his den. He began speaking to her in the same feigned gentle voice in which he had spoken to Browny. But it frightend her very much when he said, “I am a friend come to visit you, and to have some of your good cabbage for my dinner.”

“Please don’t touch it,” cried Whitey in great distress. “The cabbages are the walls of my house, and if you eat them you will make a hole, and the wind and rain will come in and give me a cold. Do go away. I am sure you are not a friend, but our wicked enemy the fox.”

And poor Whitey began to whine and to whimper, and to wish that she had not been such a greedy little pig, and had chosen a more solid material than cabbages for her house. But it was too late now, and in another minute the fox had eaten his way through the cabbage walls, and had caught the trembling, shivering Whitey and carried her off to his den.

The next day the fox started off for Blacky’s house, because he had made up his mind that he would get the three little pigs together in his den, and then kill them, and invite all his friends to a feast. But when he reached the brick house, he found that the door was bolted and barred, so in his sly manner he began, “Do let me in, dear Blacky. I have brought you a present of some eggs that I picked up in a farmyard on my way here.”

“No, no, Mister Fox,” replied Blacky. “I am not gong to open my door to you. I know your cunning ways. You have carried off poor Browny and Whitey, but you are not going to get me.”

At this the fox was so angry that he dashed with all his force against the wall, and tried to knock it down. But it was too strong and well built. And though the fox scraped and tore at the bricks with his paws, he only hurt himself, and at last he had to give it up, and limp away with his forepaws all bleeding and sore.

“Never mind!” he cried angrily as he went off. “I’ll catch you another day, see if I don’t, and won’t I grind your bones to powder when I have got you in my den!” And he snarled fiercely and showed his teeth.

Next day Blacky had to go into the neighboring town to do some marketing and to buy a big kettle. As he was walking home with it slung over his shoulder, he heard a sound of steps stealthily creeping after him. For a moment his heart stood still with fear, and then a happy thought came to him. He had just reached the top of a hill, and could see his own little house nestling at the foot of it among the trees. In a moment he had snatched the lid off the kettle and had jumped in himself. Coiling himself round, he lay quite snug in the bottom of the kettle, while with his foreleg he managed to put the lid on, so that he was entirely hidden. With a little kick from the inside, he started the kettle off, and down the hill it rolled full tilt. And when the fox came up, all that he saw was a large black kettle spinning over the ground at a great pace. Very much disappointed, he was just going to turn away, when he saw the kettle stop close to the little brick house, and a moment later, Blacky jumped out of it and escaped with the kettle into the housed, when he barred and bolted the door, and put the shutter up over the window.

“Oho!” exclaimed the fox to himself. “You think you will escape me that way, do you? We shall soon see about that, my friend.” And very quietly and stealthily he prowled round the house looking for some way to climb onto the roof.

In the meantime Blacky had filled the kettle with water, and having put it on the fire, sat down quietly waiting for it to boil. Just as the kettle was beginning to sing, and steam to come out of the spout, he heard a sound like a soft, muffled step, patter, patter, patter overhead, and the next moment the fox’s head and forepaws were seen coming down the chimney. But Blacky very wisely had not put the lid on the kettle, and, with a yelp of pain, the fox fell into the boiling water, and before he could escape, Blacky had popped the lid on, and the fox was scalded to death.

As soon as he was sure that their wicked enemy was really dead, and could do them no further harm, Blacky started off to rescue Browny and Whitey. As he approached the den he heard piteous grunts and squeals from his poor little brother and sister who lived in constant terror of the fox killing and eating them. But when they saw Blacky appear at the entrance to the den, their joy knew no bounds. He quickly found a sharp stone and cut the cords by which they were tied to a stake in the ground, and then all three started off together for Blacky’s house, where they lived happily ever after. And Browny quite gave up rolling in the mud, and Whitey ceased to be greedy, for they never forgot how nearly these faults had brought them to an untimely end.