One day the bear came to a clearing where a man was ploughing.
"Good day," the bear said. "What are you doing?"
"I'm ploughing," the man answered. "After I finish ploughing I'm going to harrow and then plant the field, half in wheat and half in turnips."
"Yum! Yum!" the bear thought to himself. "Good food that wheat and turnips!" Aloud he said: "I know how to plough and harrow. What do you say to my helping you?"
"If you help me," the man said, "I'll share the harvest with you."
So the bear set to work and between them they soon had the field ploughed, harrowed, and planted.
When autumn came they went to get their crops. At the turnip field the man said: "Now what do you want as your share the part that grows above the ground or the part that grows below?"
The bear noticed how green and luxuriant the turnip tops were, and said: "Give me the part that grows above ground."
After they had harvested the turnips, they went on to the wheat field where the man asked the bear what he chose. The wheat stocks were all dry and shrivelled. The bear looked at them wisely and said: "This time you had better give me the part that grows under the ground."
The man laughed in his sleeve and agreed.
One day next winter the two met and the man invited the bear to dinner. The bear was very hungry, and accepted the invitation gladly.
First they had baked turnips.
"Oh, but these are good!" the bear said. "I've never tasted anything better! What are they!"
"Why," the man said, "they are the turnips from that field that you and I planted together."
The bear was greatly surprised.
Then they had some freshly baked bread.
"How good! How good!" the bear exclaimed. "What is it?"
"Just plain bread," the man said, "baked from the wheat you and I planted together."
The bear was more surprised than ever. "Why, do you know," he said, "my turnips and my bread don't taste a bit like this!"
The man burst out laughing and the bear wondered why.
The bear used to go day after day to a field of growing rye and eat as much as he wanted. The farmer noticed from the bear's tracks that he always came by the same route.
"I'll teach that bear a lesson!" the farmer thought to himself. He set a snare made of a strong net and carefully covered it over with leaves and branches.
When the bear came as usual to the field that day, he got entangled in the net and was unable to escape. And the farmer was overjoyed when he came and found the bear securely caught.
"Now, you brute!" he said, 'I've got you and I'm going to kill you!"
"Oh no, don't do that!" the bear implored. "Don't kill me!"
"Why shouldn't I?" asked the farmer. "Aren't you destroying my rye?"
"Let me off this time!" the bear begged, "and I'll reward you! I swear I will!" He begged and begged till the farmer at last opened the net and let him out.
"Now then," the farmer said as soon as the bear was freed, "how are you going to reward me?"
The bear put a heavy paw on the farmer's shoulder. "This is how I'm going to reward you," he said, "I'm going to eat you up!"
"What!" the farmer exclaimed, "is that your idea of a reward for kindness?"
"Exactly!" the bear declared. "In this world that is the reward kindness always get's! Ask anyone!"
"I don't believe it! I don't believe it!" the farmer cried.
"Very well. I'll prove to you that I'm right. We'll ask the first person we meet."
The first person they met was an old horse. They put their case to him.
"The bear is right," the old horse said. "Look at me: For thirty years I served my master faithfully, and just this morning I heard him say: 'It's time we killed that old plug! He's no good for work anymore and he's only eating his head off!"
The bear squinted his little eyes. "You see!" he said to the farmer.
"No, I don't see!" the farmer insisted. "We must ask someone else."
They walked on a little farther till they met an old dog. They put their case to him and at once the dog said, "The bear is right! Look at me: I served my master faithfully for my whole life, and just this morning I overheard him say: 'It's time we killed that old dog!'" Alas, alas, in this wicked world goodness is always so rewarded!"
But still the farmer was unsatisfied and to humour him, the bear said that he was willing that they should put their case once more to an outsider, so that he could judge between them.
The next person they met was the fox. He listened carefully and then, drawing the farmer aside, he whispered, "If I give judgement in your favour, will you let me carry off all the chickens in your hen-house?"
"Surely I will!" the farmer promised.
Then the fox cleared his throat and said: "'Hm! Hm! To give fair judgement in this case I must go over all the ground. First show me the field of rye and the damage that the bear did."
They went to the field and the fox shook his head seriously after he had appraised the damage,. "It was certainly a lot of rye that the bear ate! . . . Now show me the net."
They went to the snare and the fox examined it carefully. "You say the bear got entangled in this snare, I want to see just how he did it."
The bear showed just how he had been caught.
"Get all the way in," the fox said. "I want to make sure that you couldn't possibly get out unaided."
The bear entangled himself again in the net and proved that he couldn't possibly get out unaided.
"Well," said the fox, "you deserved to get caught the first time and now that you're in there again you can just stay there! Come on, farmer."
The fox and the farmer went off, leaving the bear to his fate.
The same night the fox went to the farmer's hen-house to claim his reward. When he came in, the chickens set up an awful squawking that aroused the family. The farmer stayed in bed but he sent his wife out with a stout club. "It sounds to me," he said, "as if a fox is trying to steal our hens. If you catch him, don't be gentle with him!"
"Not gentle!" repeated the wife weightily.
She hurried out to the hen-house, and when she found the fox inside she gave him an awful beating. He barely escaped with his life.
"Ah!" he said to himself as he limped painfully home, "to think that this is the reward my kindness has received! Oh, what a wicked, wicked world this is!"
❖ You have to be on your guard that you don't get swindled.
Once the bear was caught in a net. He thrashed about this way and that until he was exhausted. Then he fell asleep. While he slept a host of little mice began playing all over his great body. Their tiny feet tickled him and he woke with a start. The mice scampered off, all but one that the bear caught under his paw.
"Tweek! Tweek!" the frightened little mouse cried. "Let me go! Let me go! Please let me go! If you do I'll reward you some day! I will!"
The bear let out a great roar of laughter. "What, little one? You'll reward me! Ha! Ha! That's good! A joke! However, little one, I will let you go! You're too small to eat. So run along!"
With that the bear lifted his paw and the little mouse scampered off.
"It will reward me for my kindness!" the bear repeated, and in spite of the fact that he was fast caught in a net he shook again with laughter.
He was still laughing when the little mouse returned with a great flock of his fellows. All the mice at once began gnawing at the ropes of the net, and in a very short time they had freed the big bear.
"You see," said the little mouse said, "although we are small we can reward a kindness!"
The bear was so ashamed for having laughed at the mice because of their size that all he could say as he shambled off into the forest was, "Thanks!"
There was a farmer that used to drive his sledge into the forest to cut wood. Always as he drove he shouted abusively at his horse.
"Go along, you old plug!" he'd say. "What do you think you're good for anyway? If you don't move along more lively I'll give you to the bear for his supper that's what I'll do with you!"
Now the bear heard about this, how the farmer was always talking about giving him his horse, so one afternoon while the farmer was going through his usual tirade, the bear suddenly stepped out of the bushes and said, "Well, farmer, here I am! Suppose you give me my supper."
The farmer was greatly taken back. "I didn't really mean what I was saying," he stammered. "He's a good horse but he's a little lazy that's all."
The bear stood there swaying his shoulders and twisting his head. "Even if he is lazy he'll taste all right to me. Come along, farmer, hand him over, for you have said you would do it a long time now!"
"I cannot afford to give you my horse!" the farmer cried. "He's the only horse I've got!"
But the bear was firm. "No matter! You have to keep your word!"
"See here," the farmer begged, "let me off on giving you my horse and I tell you what I'll do: I'll give you my cow. I can spare the cow better."
"When will you give me the cow?" the bear asked.
"Tomorrow," the farmer said.
"Very well," the bear said, "if you give me the cow tomorrow I'll let you off on the horse. But see to it that you keep your word!"
On his way home that afternoon the farmer visited his traps. In one of them he found the fox. The fox begged for his life so piteously that the farmer with a laugh freed him.
"You've done me a good turn," said the fox, "and someday I'll do something for you. Just wait and see if I don't."
Well, early next morning the farmer put his cow on the sledge and started off for the forest. On the way he met the fox, who greeted him. "Good morning. Where are you going with you’re your cow?"
The farmer stopped and told the foxabout his bargain with the bear.
"See here," the fox said, "I promised you yesterday that someday I would do you a good turn. That day has come! I'm going to save your cow and show you how you can kill that old bear once and for all. But if I do this, you'll have to give me the bear's carcass after he's dead and gone."
"I'll be glad enough to do that," the farmer declared. "Save me my cow and you may have all of that old bear that you want!"
"Well then," said the fox, "go home with the cow as quickly as you can and come back here with ten rods. My plan is to have you put five of the rods around my neck and five around my tail. I can make an awful noise rattling with them. When the bear hears me and wonders who I am, say to him: 'Oh! That must be my son, the hunter! Don't you hear the rattle of his musket?' Then between us we'll finish that old bear."
The farmer did as the fox directed. He drove the cow home and returned to the forest with ten distaffs. Five of them he fastened about the fox's neck and five about his tail. Then he drove the sledge on to the place where he was to meet the bear, and the fox, crept along quietly behind him.
"Where's my cow?" the bear demanded as soon as the sledge appeared.
"I've come to talk to you about that," the farmer began. Just then there was an awful rattle of something in the bushes behind the farmer.
"What's that?" the bear cried.
"Oh," the farmer said, "that must be my son, the hunter! Don't you hear the rattle of his musket?"
The bear shook in terror. "The hunter, you say! Mercy me, what shall I do! Oh, farmer, save me from the hunter and I'll forgive you the cow!"
"Very well," the farmer promised, "I'll do my best! Lie down and I'll try to make the hunter believe you're only a log."
So the bear lay down on the ground and stayed perfectly quiet.
"Father," called the fox in a voice that sounded like the hunter's, "what's that big brown thing lying on the ground near you? Is it a bear?"
"No, son," the farmer called back, "that isn't a bear. It's only a log of wood."
"If it's a log of wood, father, chop it up!"
The farmer raised his axe.
"Don't really chop me!" the bear begged in a whisper. "Just pretend to!"
"This is too good a log to chop up," the farmer said.
"Well, father," said the voice from the bushes, "if it's such a good log you better put it on your sledge and take it home."
"Lie still," the farmer whispered, "while I put you on the sledge."
So the bear lay stiff and quiet and the farmer dragged him on to the sledge.
"Father," the voice said, "you had better tie that log down to keep it from rolling off.'*
"Don't move," the farmer whispered, "and I'll tie you down just as if you were a log."
So the bear lay perfectly still while the farmer lashed him securely to the sledge.
"Father, are you sure that log cannot roll off?"
"Yes, son," the farmer said, "I'm sure it cannot roll off now."
"Then, father, drive your axe into the end of the log and off we'll go!"
At that the farmer raised his axe and with one mighty blow buried it in the neck of the bear. And that was the end of the bear.
The farmer had now saved his horse and his cow, and the fox could feast on bear meat for a week.