Tuesday, June 26, 2012


                                                                    - A Folktale
An old German farmer had in his yard an ox, a ram, a goose, a cock and a pig. As guests were coming to dinner on the Sabbath, he told his wife, ‘Old woman, we need meat for the Sabbath so I am going to kill the cock tomorrow morning.’ Overhearing this unpleasant news, the cock scurried off to the forest as fast as his legs would carry him. When the farmer went to wring his neck before sunrise, the cock was nowhere to be seen. That same evening, the farmer told his wife, ‘I could not find the cock, so I shall have to kill the pig instead.’ Overhearing this, the pig, too, fled for dear life to the safety of the forest. The old man searched high and low for the pig, but without success.
‘How strange,’ he said. ‘First the cock and now the pig. I shall have to slaughter the ram.’ When the ram heard this bad news, he went to the goose and suggested they should run away together – or they would surely both end up in the pot. So, as soon as it was dark, the ram and the goose made off to the forest.

Though the farmer searched every nook and cranny of the yard he could find no trace of ram or the goose. ‘That leaves only the ox,’ he sighed. ‘A pity to kill him, but we must have meat for the holy day.’ On hearing these ill tidings, the ox plodded off to join his comrades in the forest.

Throughout the summer, life was happy and food was plentiful. The runaway creatures had not a care in the world. But summer passed all too quickly and winter was soon not far off. When the autumn leaves began to wither and thin layers of ice covered the water holes, the ox approached the other animals. ‘Listen to me, brothers,’ he said. ‘Winter will soon be upon us. We must build ourselves a hut to shelter in.’ The ram, however answered, ‘I have a warm woollen coat and I shall winter in that.’ The pig said, ‘No hard frosts bother me. I’ll burrow a hole in the ground with my snout and do without a hut.’
The goose also refused to join the ox, saying, ‘I shall use one wing as a pillow, bury my head in it, and use the other as an eiderdown. The icy winds will not worry me.’ The cock, too, shook his head and said, ‘I shall shelter from the winter in a fir tree.’ The ox saw that he could expect no help from his fellow creatures. He would have to do all the building himself. ‘As you wish,’ he sighed, ‘but I shall build a wooden hut for myself’.

So he built himself a strong wooden hut, stoked up the stove and settled down beside it, snug and warm. Almost overnight autumn gave way to winter, the first snows came and the wind sent icy blasts through the trees. The ram rushed hither and thither, but despite his woollen fleece, he shivered and shook and could not keep warm. At last he went to the ox. ‘Baa-baa-baa, baa-baa-baa! Let me into your hut,’ he said. ‘Certainly not,’ replied the ox. ‘I asked you to help me build the hut, and you said you had a warm coat and did not need my hut.’ ‘If you don’t let me in,’ cried the ram, ‘I’ll break down your door with my strong horns.’ That worried the ox. ‘Perhaps I’d better let him in,’ he mumbled, ‘or I shall have no door. All right, Brother Ram, come on in.’

The ram entered the warm hut and settled on a bench beside the stove. Not long afterwards the pig arrived. ‘Grunt, grunt, grunt. Let me in to warm myself,’ he shouted. ‘Certainly not,’ said the ox. ‘I asked for your help, but you said the frosts did not worry you and that you would burrow a hole and keep yourself warm.’

‘If you don’t let me in,’ warned the pig, ‘I’ll knock down your door-posts with my strong snout.’ That worried the ox, and finally he decided to let in the pig. In hobbled the pig and wandered downstairs to the cellar. After the pig came the goose.
‘Hiss, hiss, hiss! Ox, let me in to get warm,’ he cried. ‘No, Brother Goose, you cannot come in,’ said the ox. ‘You have two warm wings remember – one for a pillow, the other for an eiderdown. You said you would not be cold.’ ‘If you don’t open the door,’ warned the goose, ‘I shall peck all the moss from your window.’
The ox had to give in. So the goose waddled in and perched on a post by the door. A little later the cock arrived. ‘Cock-a-doodle-do, cock-a-doodle-do!’ he crowed. ‘Ox, let me into your warm hut. I’m freezing out here.’ ‘No, I shall not, Brother Cock,’ replied the ox. ‘Go and winter in a fir tree, as you said you would.’ ‘If you don’t let me in,’ said the cock, ‘I shall fly onto your roof and peck holes in it to let the icy draughts through.’ Of course the ox had to open the door, and in strutted the cock. He flew up to a beam above the door and settled down to sleep.
So the five creatures lived together in the warm hut. But their peace was short-lived, for a big grey wolf and a huge brown bear came to hear of the new residents. ‘Let’s go to the hut, eat them all and live there ourselves,’ the bear suggested to the wolf. On that they at once agreed. But they argued about who should enter the hut first.
‘You go first,’ said the wolf. ‘You are the stronger.’
‘No, you go,’ replied the bear. ‘I am too clumsy. You’re nimbler than me.’

At last the wolf gave in and burst open the door of the hut in the middle of the night, while the five friends were sleeping. But no sooner had he passed through the doorway than the ox pinned him to the wall with his long horns and the ram butted him from the side.
From the cellar the pig grunted loudly. ‘I’m sharpening the axe. I’m sharpening the knife. I’ll skin that wolf alive, I will. From his other side, the goose pecked the wolf as hard as he was able. Meanwhile, the cock hopped about on the beam above the door, screeching, ‘That’s the way, give it to him! I’ll slit his throat and hang him from the beam.’
Outside the hut, the bear could hear this great hullabaloo and took to his heels, rushing pell-mell into the trees. In the meantime, the wolf twisted this way and that, his grey fur flying, his ribs battered and bruised. At long last he tore himself free and dashed for dear life after the bear. When the two animals had left the hut far behind they fell in a heap exhausted, and the wolf told his story.

‘Oh, brown bear, it was terrible, just terrible! Those ruffians all but skinned me alive. First a huge fellow in a black smock charged at me, knocking me against the wall, and then set upon me with two great clubs. Then another rogue, a shorter grey-cloaked fellow, butted me from the side, while his mate, all in white, scratched me from the other side. All the while, the smallest of this band of robbers, wearing a red apron, pranced about on a beam above my head screaming, “That’s the way, give it to him! I’ll slit his throat and hang him from the beam.” Then, from the cellar, another brigand bellowed, “I’m sharpening the axe. I’m sharpening the knife. I’ll skin that wolf alive, I will!” I was lucky to escape with my life, I can tell you.” From that day on, the wolf and the bear kept well clear of the hut, fearing the five monstrous creatures who dwelt within. So the ox, the ram, the goose, the cock and the pig lived together with no one to disturb their peace.

ram              - a male sheep
every nook   - every part of a place and cranny
slaughter      - kill an animal for food
comrades     - friends
snout            - the long nose and mouth which stick out from the face of some animals
eiderdown    - a thick, warm cover for a bed, filled with feathers; a quilt
nimble          - able to move quickly and easily
hullabaloo    - a lot of loud confusing noise
ruffians        - violent men
smock         - a long loose piece of clothing

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