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  1. The Little Red Hen
  2. The Clever Weaver
  3. The Ox of Straw

The Little Red Hen

Fairy tale ONCE ON a time, in a cozy little house, a little red hen lived with her chickens. The little red hen worked very hard taking care of her house and her family. She was a happy little hen, and she sang happy songs as she did her chores.

The little red hen had three friends—a goose, an ox, and a pig—who lived very near her. Every day she watched her three friends playing, but the little red hen didn't have time to play. She was too busy with her chickens and her house.

The little red hen started each day early in the morning. First she cooked breakfast for all her chickens. Then she made the beds and tended her garden. She cooked the meals, washed the clothes, and scrubbed the floors. She worked hard from morning till night.

But her three lazy friends—the goose, the ox, and the pig—never seemed to work at all. They went for long walks in the sunshine, lay about in the soft grass, and spent their time reading stories and playing games.

One sunny day the little red hen was outside working in her garden. She was scratching around for food and found some grains of wheat where she was pulling some weeds. She noticed,

"Who will plant these grains so that they will grow?" the little red hen asked her three friends.

"Not I," said the goose.

"Not I," said the ox.

"Not I," said the pig.

"Then I will do it myself," said the little red hen.

The little red hen planted the grains of wheat. Soon the wheat grew up and became yellow and ripe. The little red hen looked at the growing wheat and asked, "Who will help me tend this wheat?"

"Not I," said the goose.

"Not I," said the ox.

"Not I," said the pig.

"Then I will do it myself," said the little red hen to her three friends. That was exactly what she did.

The days went by, and the little red hen worked very hard farming the wheat. She carefully planted the grains in a neat straight row and watered the field and hoed the ground and pulled the weeds. Finally the wheat was ripe and ready to be cut and harvested.

The little red hen showed her crop to her friends and asked, "Who will help me cut and thresh all of this wheat?"

"Not I," said the goose.

"Not I," said the ox.

"Not I," said the pig.

"Then I will do it myself," said the little red hen.

The little red hen worked from morning to night cutting the golden wheat with a scythe in her beak and threshing it with her wings. When she finished harvesting all of the wheat, she put the wheat carefully into her bag and loaded it onto her wagon.

The little red hen looked at the wagon filled with wheat and asked, "Who will help me take the wheat to the miller so that he can grind the wheat into flour?"

"Not I," said the goose.

"Not I," said the ox.

"Not I," said the pig.

"Then I will do it myself," said the little red hen to her three friends.

The little red hen walked a long way into the village. The what she did. She did not complain once, though the wheat was heavy while she pulled her wagon of wheat behind her.

When she got to the village, she went to see the miller. "Will you grind this wheat into flour for me?" asked the little red hen.

"Yes, surely," said the miller. "This wheat will make enough good flour for bread for all your chickens."

The miller ground the wheat into fine flour and put it in a sack. Happily the little red hen set out for home in her wagon, for now she had a large sack of flour to make bread.

When the little red hen came back to her house, her three lazy friends were waiting for her. She showed them the flour.

"Now I shall bake some bread from the flour," said the little red hen. "Who will help me bake the bread?"

"Not I," said the goose.

"Not I," said the ox.

"Not I," said the pig.

"Then I will do it myself," said the little red hen, but she began wonder if the three of them were true friends.

All the same, when the bread was baked and smelled delicious, the little red hen asked, "Who will help me eat the fresh tasty bread?"

"I will!" said the goose.

"I will!" said the ox.

"I will!" said the pig.

They all would help her that way!

"I am quite sure you would, but listen to this: I found the wheat. I planted the wheat. I tended the wheat. I harvested the wheat. I took the wheat to be ground into flour. And I made the bread.

All these things I did by myself. Now my chickens and I will eat the bread all by ourselves!"

And that was exactly what she did. "Cluck! Cluck!" She called her chickens to help her. They came and eagerly ate the bread with her. There was nothing left for the others.

TO TOP NOTES  

The Clever Weaver

To own a nice plot of land helps lots of men.

Fairy tale ONCE the king of a far country was sitting on his throne, listening to the complaints of his people, and judging between them. That morning there had been fewer cases than usual to deal with, and the king was about to rise and go into his gardens, when a sudden stir was heard outside, and his prime minister came in and asked if he would receive the ambassador of a powerful emperor who lived in the east and was greatly feared by the neighbouring sovereigns. The king was as afraid of the emperor as the rest, and they let in the envoy at once.

A banquet was speedily prepared. The king settled himself again on his throne and wondered what the envoy had to say. The envoy said nothing. He went up to the throne where the king was waiting for him and stooping down, traced a black circle on the floor with a rod. Then he sat down on a nearby seat and took no further notice of anyone there.

The king and his courtiers were mystified and enraged at the envoy's odd conduct, but now that he sat as calm and still as an image, it was plain that they would get no explanation from him. The ministers were hastily summoned, but not one of them could tell why that had happened. This made the king's anger grow, and he told them that unless they could find someone capable of solving the mystery before sunset, he would have them all hanged.

The ministers knew the king's word was to be trusted. Now they quickly mapped out the city into districts, so that they might visit house by house, and ask all who lived there if they could understand what the ambassador had meant by what he did. Most of them only got a puzzled stare.

But one of them entered an empty cottage where a swing was swinging of itself, so he began to think it might be worth while to see who owned it. He opened a door to another room, and there he found a second swing, swinging gently like the first, and from the window he beheld a patch of corn, and a willow which kept on moving without any wind blowing, just to frighten away sparrows. His curiosity grew, and he went down the stairs and found himself in a large light workshop where a weaver sat at his loom. But all the weaver did was to guide his threads, for the machine that he had invented to move the swings and the willow pole, made the loom work.

The minister sighed with relief when he saw the great wheel in the corner and had guessed the use of it: If the weaver could not guess the riddle, he might at least put the minister on the right track. So the minister told the story of the circle, and also told that a nice reward waited the one who could explain it.

"Come with me at once," he said. "The sun is low and there is no time to lose."

The weaver stood thinking for a moment and then walked across to a window. Outside it was a hen-coop with two knuckle-bones lying beside it. These he picked up, and taking the hen from the coop, he tucked it under his arm.

"I'm as ready as can be," he answered, turning to the minister.

In the hall the king still sat on his throne and the envoy on his seat. Giving signs to the minister to remain where he was, the weaver went up to the envoy and placed the knuckle-bones on the floor beside him. For answer, the envoy took a handful of millet seed out of his pocket and scattered it round. At this the weaver set down the hen, who ate it up in a moment. That made the envoy rise and leave without a word.

As soon as the envoy had left the hall, the king beckoned to the weaver.

"You alone seem to have guessed the riddle," said he, "and you will be handsomely rewarded. But tell me, what did it mean?"

"The meaning, king," replied the weaver, "is this:

The circle drawn by the envoy round your throne is the message of the emperor, and signifies, "If I send an army and surround your capital, will you lay down your arms?" The knuckle-bones which I placed before him told him, "You are but children compared to us. Toys like these are the only playthings you are fit for." The millet that he scattered was an emblem of the number of soldiers that his master can bring into the field; but by the hen which ate up the seed he understood that one of our men could destroy a host of theirs."

"I don't think the emperor will declare war," he added.

"You have saved me and my honour," said the king, "and wealth and glory shall be heaped on you. Name your reward, and you shall have it, even up to the half of my kingdom."

"All I ask is the small farm outside the city gates as a marriage portion for my daughter, sir," said the weaver, and it was all he would accept. "But please remember that weavers also are of value, and sometimes as clever as ministers, if not more so."

TO TOP NOTES  

The Ox of Straw

Fairy tales THERE was once on a time an old man and an old woman. The old man worked in the fields as a pitch-burner, while the old woman sat at home and spun flax. They were so poor that they could save nothing at all; all their earnings went in bare food, and when that was gone there was nothing left. At last the old woman had a good idea.

"Look now, husband," cried she, "make me a straw ox, and smear it all over with tar."

"Why," said he, "what's the good of an ox of that sort?"

'Never mind," said she, "you just make it. I know what I am about."

He set to work and made the ox of straw, and smeared it all over with tar.

The night passed away, and at early dawn the old woman took her distaff, and drove the straw ox out into the steppe to graze, and she herself sat down behind a hillock, and began spinning her flax, and cried,

"Graze away, little ox, while I spin my flax!
Graze away, little ox, while I spin my flax!"

While she spun, her head drooped down, and she began to doze, and while she was dozing, from behind the dark wood and from the back of the huge pines a bear came rushing out upon the ox and said,

"Who are you? Speak up and tell me!"

The ox said, "A three-year-old heifer am I, made of straw and smeared with tar."

"So!" said the bear, "stuffed with straw and smeared with tar, eh? Then give me of your straw and tar, that I may patch up my ragged fur again!"

"Take some," said the ox, and the bear fell upon him and began to tear away tar. He tore and tore, and buried his teeth in it till he found he couldn't get it off. No matter how he tugged and he tugged, it was no good.

The ox dragged him off, goodness knows where. Then the old woman awoke and there was no ox to be seen.

"Alas! old fool that I am!" cried she, "perhaps it has gone home."

Then she quickly caught up her distaff and spinning board, threw them over her shoulders, and hastened off home. When she arrived, she saw the bear which the ox had dragged up to the fence. In she went to the old man.

"Dad, dad!" she cried. "Look! The ox has brought us a bear. Come out and kill it!"

Then the old man up, tore off the bear, tied him up, and threw him in the cellar.

Next morning between dark and dawn, the old woman took her distaff and ox into the steppe to graze. She herself sat down by a mound, began spinning, and said,

"Graze away, little ox, while I spin my flax!
Graze away, little ox, while I spin my flax!"

While she spun, her head drooped down and she dozed. And, lo! From the dark wood, from the back of the huge pines, a grey wolf came rushing upon the ox and said,

"Who are you? Come, tell me!"

"I'm a three-year-old heifer, stuffed with straw and trimmed with tar," said the ox.

"Hm, trimmed with tar, are you? Then give me of your tar to tar my sides, that the dogs tear me not!"

"Have some," said the ox.

And with that the wolf fell upon him and tried to tear off tar. He tugged and tugged, and tore with his teeth, but could get none off. Then he tried to let go, but couldn't. No matter how he tried, it didn't help.

When the old woman woke, there was no heifer in sight.

"Maybe my heifer has gone home!" she cried; "I'll go home and see."

When she got there she was surprised, for by the palings stood the ox with the wolf still tugging at it. She ran her old man, and her old man came and threw the wolf into the cellar also.

The third day the old woman again drove her ox into the pastures to graze by a mound and dozed off. Then a fox came running up.

"Who are you," asked the fox.

"I'm a three-year-old heifer, stuffed with straw and daubed with tar."

"Then give me some of your tar to smear my sides with, for dogs tear my hide!"

"Do have some," said the ox.

Then the fox fastened her teeth in him and couldn't get them out again, and then the same thing happened. The ox took the fox home and the old woman told her old man. He took and cast the fox in the cellar in the same way.

And after that they caught a hare - the Pussy Swift-foot.

After the old man had got all these animals safely, he sat down on a bench in front of the cellar and began sharpening a knife. The bear said to him, "Tell me, daddy, what are you sharpening your knife for?"

"To flay your skin off, that I may make a leather jacket for myself and a pelisse for my old wife."

"Oh! don't flay me, daddy dear! Rather let me go, and I'll bring you a lot of honey."

"Very well, see you do it," and he unbound the bear and let him go.

Then he sat down on the bench and again began sharpening his knife. And the wolf asked him, "Daddy, what are you sharpening your knife for?"

"To flay off your skin, that I may make me a warm cap against the winter."

"Oh! don't flay me, daddy dear, and I'll bring you a whole herd of little sheep."

'Well, see that you do it," and he let the wolf go.

Then he sat down and began sharpening his knife again. The fox put out her little snout and asked him, "Be so kind, dear daddy, and tell me why you are sharpening your knife!"

"Little foxes," said the old man, "have nice skins that do very well for collars and trimmings, and I want to skin you!"

"Oh! don't take my skin away, daddy dear, and I'll bring you hens and geese."

"Very well, see that you do it!" and he let the fox go

The hare now alone remained, and the old man began sharpening his knife on the hare's account. "Why do you do that?" asked the hare, and the old man replied:

"Little hares have nice little soft warm skins, which will make me gloves and mittens against the winter!"

"Oh, daddy dear! don't flay me, and I'll bring you kale and good cauliflower, if only you let me go!"

Then he let the hare go also.

Then they went to bed, but very early in the morning, when it was neither dusk nor dawn, there was a noise in the doorway.

"Daddy, cried the old woman, "there's someone scratching at the door, go and see who it is!"

The old man went out, and there was the bear carrying a whole hive full of honey. The old man took the honey from the bear, but no sooner did he lie down than again there was banging at the door once again. The old man looked out and saw the wolf driving a whole flock of sheep into the yard. Close on his heels came the fox, driving before her geese and hens and all manner of fowls; and last of all came the hare, bringing cabbage and kale and all manner of good food.

And the old man was glad to know that these animals could be trusted, and the old woman was glad too. The old man got so rich that he needed nothing more. As for the straw-stuffed ox, it stood in the sun till it fell to pieces.

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