A crowd gathered in a village one holiday, under the windows of a wealthy man's mansion. They were looking, with open mouths at a squirrel in a revolving cage. The squirrel ran so fast that his feet seemed to twinkle, and its bushy tai' spread itself straight out.
A thrush that was perched on a neighbouring birch tree, was also wondering at it.
"Dear old compatriot," asked the thrush, "can you tell me what you are doing there?"
"Oh, dear friend, I work hard all day. I am, in fact, serving af a great noble so well that I hardly stop to eat, or to drink, or even to take breath," said the squirrel, and started to run round in its wheel again.
"Yes," said the thrush as it flew away, "I can see you are running, but for all that you are always there at the same window."
(Abridged fable of Krylov, from Ralston 1869, 164)
There was once an old man who had three little daughters. One day he said to them: "I any going out into the fields beyond the forest to plough. You, my little daughters, bake me a loaf and bring it to me there."
"But how are we to find you, daddy?" they said.
"As I go along," he said, "I shall drop wood shavings in a row along the path, and that will help you to find me."
As the old man rode along he threw down the shavings one after the other, and then a bear came and drew them all aside on to the path that led to his den.
Then the eldest daughter said to the youngest: "Take the bread to daddy."
The youngest said: "But how am I to find daddy, and where am I to take the bread to?"
Then the eldest answered: "He said he would drop shavings in a row along the path as he went."
Then the youngest daughter took the loaf, and started off to follow the shavings, when she came to the bear's den. The bear saw her and said: "O-ho! What a nice little girl that has come to see me!"
The next day the old man went off to sow, and he said to his two remaining daughters: "My dear little daughters, my clever little ones, bake me a loaf and bring it to me in the field."
"But how are we to find you, daddy?" they said.
And he answered: "Yesterday I threw one row of shavings down, today I will throw two."
And he set off, throwing the shavings down in two rows. Yet again the bear carne and drew them all aside on to the path that led to his den.
Then the second daughter started out with the loaf, following the shavings, and went straight to the bear's den. The bear saw her and said: "O-ho! here's another little girl come to see me!"
The next day the old man went off to the field to harrow, and he said to his remaining daughter: "My dear little daughter, bake me a loaf and bring it to me in the field. I will throw three rows of shavings."
The old man went off, throwing the shavings down in three rows. Again, the bear came and drew them all aside on to the path that led to his den.
The eldest daughter set out, and she, too, came to the bear's den. The bear saw her and said: "O-ho! here's a third little girl come to see me in my den!"
There the three sisters went on living. One day the eldest sister said: "Bruin, I'll bake some pies, and you take them and give them to my daddy to eat."
"All right," answered the bear, "I'll take them."
And so she popped her youngest sister into a sack, and said: "Here, Bruin, take this to my daddy, and mind, don't you eat it yourself on the way!"
The hear took the sack and set off with it to the old man. As he went along, he kept saying to himself: "Suppose I sit down on a stump, and suppose I just eat one little pie!"
The youngest daughter in the sack heard him and said: "Don't sit down on a stump, don't! Don't eat a pie, don't!"
The bear thought that this was the eldest sister, and said to himself: "There now, fancy that! I've come a long way, and yet she can still hear me!"
And he brought the sack right up to the old man's courtyard, when the dogs all rushed out and began to bark at him! So he flung down the sack and ran off home.
The eldest sister asked him: "Did they welcome you, Bruin, and give you nice things to eat?"
"They didn't give me anything to eat," he answered, "but their welcome was loud enough."
The next day the eldest sister said: "Bruin, take my daddy some more pies to eat!"
She tied up her other sister in the sack, and the bear put it on his back and carried it off along the path toward the village. And as he went through the forest he kept saying to himself: "Suppose I sit down on a stump, and suppose I just eat one little pie!"
The second daughter said to him from out of the sack: "Don't sit down on a stump, don't! Don't eat a pie, don't!"
The bear thought: ''There now, fancy that! I've come a long way, and yet she can still hear me, and tells me not to eat a pie!"
And so he reached the old man's courtyard. When the dogs went for him that time, they all but worried him to death! He flung down the sack and ran off home.
The eldest sister asked him: "Did they welcome you warmly, Bruin, and give you plenty to eat?"
"It was such a welcome that I shan't forget it in a hurry!" he answered.
The next day the eldest girl said: "I'll bake some more pies, and you take them to my daddy for him to eat." And so she herself sat down in the sack, and the bear carried her off.
As he carried her along he kept saying to himself: "Oh, I should so like to sit down on a stump, and I should so like to eat one little pie!"
The eldest daughter said to him from out of the sack: "Don't sit down on a stump, don't! Don't eat a pie, don't!"
The bear thought: ''There now, fancy that! Look at the long way I've come, and yet she can still see and hear me!"
And so he brought the sack to the old man. Then the dogs came upon him and all but tore him in bits. He ran off into the forest without as much as looking round, and the old man began once more to live with his three little daughters.
(Adapted from Carrick and Forbes 1920)
There once was a king and queen who lived happily and comfortably together. They were fond of each other and had nothing to worry them, but the king longed to try his soldier's muscles and to win all kinds of honour and glory.
So he called his army together and started for a distant country after giving his parting orders and wise advice to his ministers. He took a tender leave of his wife, and set off with his army across the seas.
His army defeated all who came in his way until they came to a mountain pass. A large army was waiting for him there. They put his soldiers to flight, and took the king himself prisoner.
He was carried off to a prison and had a very bad time there. All night long the prisoners were chained up, and in the morning they were yoked together like oxen and had to plough the land till it grew dark.
After three years the king managed to send a letter with news of himself to his dear queen:
"Sell our castles, put our treasures in pawn and come and deliver me out of this prison."
The queen got the letter, read it, and wept:
"I must go myself. But then the heathen king sees me he'll take me to be one of his many wives. I don't think I can depend on our ministers there."
At last she got an idea. She cut off her hair and dressed in boy's clothes. Then she took a lute and went into the wide world without saying anything to anyone about it.
She travelled through many lands before she got to the town where the other king lived, the victor. When she got there she walked all round the castle and at the back of it she saw the prison. Then she went into the great court in front of the castle. Taking her lute in her hand, she began to play so beautifully that one felt as though one could never hear enough.
I come with my lute in my hand
No sooner had the victor king heard this touching song sung by a lovely voice, than he had the singer brought before him.
"Welcome, lute player," said he. "Where do you come from?"
"I come from far across a sea."
"Stay here a few days. When you wish to leave I'll give you what you ask for in your song."
The lute player sang and played almost all day long to the king, who almost forgot to eat or drink or torment people while he nodded to the tunes.
After three days the lute player came to take leave of the king.
"Well," said the king, "what do you want as your reward?"
"Sire, there are so many in your prison. I should be glad of a companion on my journeys. Then I shall think of you and thank you."
"Come along then," said the king, "choose the one you will."
He took the lute player through the prison himself. She walked about among the prisoners, and at last she picked out her husband and took him with her on her journey.
They were long on their way, but when they reached the frontier of their own country, the prisoner said:
"Let me go now, kind lad; I am the king of this country we are entering. Let me go free and ask what you will as your reward."
"Don't speak of reward," answered the lute player. "Go in peace. When the proper time comes I shall be at your castle." They parted.
The queen took a short way home, got there before the king and changed her dress. An hour later people in the castle were running to and fro and crying out:
"The king is back!"
The king greeted every one very kindly, but he would not so much as look at the queen. He called his council and ministers together and said to them:
"See what sort of a wife I have. Here she is falling on my neck, but as far as I can see she did nothing to help me out of prison."
And his council answered with one voice,
"Sire, when news was brought from you the queen disappeared and no one knew where she went. She only returned today."
The king was very angry and cried,
"Never would you have seen your king again, if a young lute player had not delivered him. I shall remember him with love and gratitude!"
While the king was sitting with his council, the queen found time to disguise herself. She took her lute, and slipped into the court in front of the castle and sang, clear and sweet:
I play my gentle lay
As soon as the king heard the voice, he ran out to meet the lute player, took him by the hand and led him into the castle.
"Here," he cried, "is the one who released me from my prison!" He went on to say to the lute player, "Ask of me anything you want!"
"I ask of you what I asked and got from the king I delivered you from. But this time I don't mean to give up what I get: I want you!"
As she spoke she threw off her long cloak. Everyone saw it was the queen. The king then found it fit to give a great feast for a week or so.
AT 888, The Faithful Wife.