The Frog Prince

Once there lived a king, the love of whose life was his precious young daughter.

He was forever giving the daughter presents; but, strange to say, her favorite was a simple silver ball, which she liked to play with while she was out walking through the gardens.

One fine day, while she was playing in the garden, tossing her ball up and down, she tossed it a bit too far, and it fell into a well. The young girl immediately burst into tears; firstly, because it was her favorite toy, and secondly, because she feared her father would scold her for losing his present to her.

Just then she heard a ribbity sound, and what should she see perched upon the side of the old stone well but a huge, hideous bullfrog.

“Why weepest thou, fair maiden?” asked the Frog. He was really a very cordial, polite fellow, she realized, for just being an ugly old bullfrog.

She wiped her eyes and said, “Because I have lost my ball down the well, and my father will be angry with me, and scold me and send me to bed without supper!”
And, at that she began to weep all the harder, until the Frog said, “Oh, fiddlesticks! Do not weep, fair maiden! I will retrieve thy ball for thee.”

And with that, the Frog dove face-first into the well, and, in no time, emerged with the silver ball held on the end of his snout.

At seeing this, the Princess was overjoyed, and said, “Oh, Mr. Bullfrog, whatever shouldst thou ask of me, I will give to thee!”

At this the Bullfrog curled up his froggy nose, and, ribbiting hard, said finally, “I ask that thou takest me back to thy palace. And when thou dost eat thy dinner, have me eat beside thee. And, when thou takest to thy bed, have me sleep beside the on thy pillow.”

And, not at all liking the terms, yet, honor-bound by her words, the young princess agreed to all of this. But, then, running off bouncing her ball, she just as quickly forgot her promises to the hideous bullfrog, “Who,” she considered, while being a rather nice fellow, is hideously ugly and warty, after all.”

It was many days later, while she was sitting down with her father and his courtiers to a hearty repast that, while the servants were serving, and her chops were fairly watering with hunger, a strange knock came at the dining room door.

At this, the courtiers and the guards were immediately put on alert, and men drew their swords and prepared to defend the King. How amazed they were, then, when, upon throwing open the door, they saw not some grim assassin waiting, but nothing more than a peculiar little bullfrog.

The Bullfrog quickly hopped inside, and the King asked him, “Mr. Bullfrog, eh, what exactly is it that brings you to our fair and humble abode?”

To this the Bullfrog replied, “Oh, Good My King, thy little daughter lost her silver ball the other day, and, whenI did retrieve it for her, promised to let me eat with her, and sleep on her pillow, and be her pet.”

Well, at seeing the ugly bullfrog come home to roost (as it were) the Princess was horrified. She began to protest, “Papa, I cannot do this thing of which he asks!”

But her father was resolute.

“Daughter, if thou hast so promised the Bullfrog these things, then, surely, thou must keep thy word. Come, friend Bullfrog, and share our meal with us!”
And so the Bullfrog, much to the Princess’s displeasure, sidled himself up to the edge of her plate, and nibbled a bit here and there, and made her feel increasingly ill. She put the best face on it, though, and somehow made it thorough dinner.

She carefully avoided the Bullfrog the rest of the evening, sitting with her father glumly as he was advised by his advisers. Finally, though, she became very tired and yawned and stretched, and decided it was time to go to bed.

Remembering that she would have to sleep with the bullfrog upon her pillow made bedtime seem a little less happy, but, she was too tired to care.

She went to her bed chamber and curled beneath the covers. In a moment, the Bullfrog made his appearance, and, hopping up on the coverlet, climbed to her pillow.

This made her skin crawl.

Soon, she was awakened by a ribbiting.

“Kiss me goodnight,” ribbited the Bullfrog.
The Princess, unable to believe her ears, said, “Oh, Mr. Bullfrog, thou dost ask too much of me. Why, what if thou givest me a wart on my nose?”

To which the Bullfrog replied, “Kiss me goodnight. Quickly. If thou so doest, thou wilt have for thy bedtime a surprise!”

And so, just to stop his infernal ribbiting, the Princess bent and gave the Bullfrog a little peck on his fat Bullfrog cheek.

Then, a strange thing occurred.

The Bullfrog began to grow in size, and change shape, and was soon transformed before the Princess’s astounded eyes. Soon, lying next to her on her pillow, was not a Bullfrog at all, but the figure of a tall, handsome man!

“Oh heavens,” she cried, “What trickery is this?”

But the young man said, “Oh, fair maiden! I did not mean to deceive thee! I am but a poor, unfortunate prince, who, owing to a horrible curse from an evil sorceress, was long ago transformed into a hideous frog. Thy dainty kiss has lifted this awful curse from me, and restored me to what once I was! Come, let us be married, as I feel I have fallen instantly in love with thee, and wish thee to be my queen!”

And so, the overjoyed princess married the handsome young prince.

And they all lived happily ever after. (Or, at least, we suppose they did.)
(Source: The Brothers Grimm)


The Foolish Husbands; or, “I Should Laugh, If I Were Not Dead!”

Once, two old women were trying to decide amongst tthemselves whose husband was the bigger fool. “Surely it is mine,” said the one, “as my husband is such a fool, he could go about naked, and not realize he wore no clothes!”

But the other protested this, saying, “Oh no, for it is my husband who is the bigger fool! Why, the man will be in his grave an hour before he even realizes he is dead!”

So the two women, not being able to decide exactly whose husband was indeed a bigger fool, decided to test it for the record.

One women got her spinning wheel, and, as her husband came in through the door that evening, was busily spinning…nothing. She simply operated the wheel with no cotton thread, and pretended she was spinning a beautiful set of breeches.

Her husband, indeed a monstrous fool, inquired curiously as to what she was doing.

“Can’t you see I’m spinning you a new suit of clothes?” she said crossly, continuing her bizarre work.

“But,” protested the foolish husband, “there is no thread on the loom!”

The wife smiled, and then replied, “Oh yes there is! It is just so fine you cannot see it! Why, with this thread, I’m making you a suit of clothes so fantastic, they will rival anything anyone is wearing out on the streets. And, they will be woven of thread so fine, you will scarce be able to catch a glimpse of them!”

Now the husband, who we must repeat, was a first-rate fool, accepted this explanation with a smile and a shrug. After a short time, his wife had woven her imaginary garments to her satisfaction, and so commanded him to strip bare so that she might put his new clothes upon him. For she said, “You look such a ragged mess in your old clothes, I want to see you in these new things I have made for you.”

So the monstrous, foolish husband stripped bare, and the scheming wife put his imaginary suit over his nakedness, and the fool really believed himself to be clothed in “magical” garments that were invisible to the human eye. (How he thought such garments would cover his nakedness, we can only guess.)
So, after that, he went about naked.

Now, down the lane, at the home of the other woman, the fool husband was greeted with a shudder by wife, who commanded him to get into bed at once, as “He looked peaked and sickly, like he was took with the pox!”

The worthless fool of a husband did as he was told, and the wife sat by his bedside. After he had fallen asleep, she suddenly sprang to her feet, waking him in terror and proclaiming, “I have to go find someone to perform last rites!”

The foolish husband (who felt, for all his “sickness,” absolutely fine) asked her whatever the reason for.

She asked, “Why are you speaking? Don’t you realize you died this morning?”

“No,” answered the colossal fool, “I wasn’t aware of it.”

And she flew out the door to find the undertaker.

Well, while she was out, she made arangements for his funeral the next day.

Her neightbor, the one with the husband so foolish he didn’t know he was naked, decided they must attend. So, the next day, she lead her naked husband to the chapel, and the coffin was brought in by the pall bearers and laid out on the catafalque, and the dead man (who could see his naked neighbor through a special window in the side of the casket) sat up and said, “Now, I should laugh at him, if I were not dead!”

Several mourners and nervous persons fainted. The village priest, realizing what had occured, ordered the two women to be jailed. It was later that they were soundly thrashed.

But, on the whole, as foolish as they were, they were still not bigger fools than their fool husbands.

Mother Holle

Once upon a time, there was a wicked old woman, a widow, who lived with her two daughters, one of whom was noble and good, the other being lazy and indolent.

The wicked woman, naturally, doted on her lazy daughter, as this was her natural daughter, and not simply the daughter of her late husband from a previous marriage.

Every day the wicked stepmother made the poor girl go out to fetch the water, do all the chores, and spin flax to boot. One morning, when the daughter was gone to fetch the water, she, quite by accident, managed to drop her spinner into the well. At this, the girl ran home crying. But, do you expect she got any sympathy for her plight? Not a bit of it.

“You ignoramus!” spat the cruel stepmother (at least, she spat something that approximated this), “now you must go and jump in the well and retrieve your spinner!” And the stepmother put her arm out and pointed out the door; and, weeping the young miss went to do as she was told.

Terrified, she jumped in the dark, dank well. However, she was amazed and astounded when, much to her surprise, she didn’t drown in the bottom of the well, but instead fell until she fell down upon the side of a hillock in a strange, upside-down land.

“Oh, where am I?” she asked herself, rubbing her bruised bottom as she crept carefully through the meadow, which was quite beautiful and covered with thousands of bright flowers.

Soon, she came to a huge oven, wherein the loaves of bread cried out to her, “Oh, mercy, take us out of here, for we have been baked long enough!” And so, carefully taking up the bread shovel, the young maiden took the loaves out of the oven, setting them in a careful pile.

She was then on her way. She soon came to an apple tree, the likes of which was bursting with tremendous apples larger than any she had ever before seen. The apples cried out, “Oh! pluck us! For we have hung here long enough, and are ready to burst!”

So, taking pity upon the apples, she carefully began to pluck them one by one from the branches, until she had before her a pile she could set aside. Then, tired, but too curious to rest, she was once again on her way.

After a short amount of time she came to a strange cottage. Knocking at the door, she was terrified to see the ugliest old woman she had ever seen in her life come to the door. The woman had tremendous tusk-like teeth, and the poor young maiden was so terrified she almost ran away. She could tell by the kindly look in the old woman’s eyes though, that she was not going to hurt her.

“Well, miss, it seems that fate has brought you to my door step. Now, you may stay here as long as you like, if you will simply do your chores. Also, make sure you shake the feathers out of my pillow every morning, as then it will be sure to snow. Got that?”

And she nodded yes. Well, this good, honest, hardworking girl worked hard, and cleaned, and cooked, and took care of Mother Holle, and turned down the covers, and scrubbed the tub, and cleaned out the oven, and baked the bread, and shook the feathers out of the pillows, so that it would snow.

And she was most content to do it all, as Mother Holle, despite her odd appearance, was very kind, and treated her to a sumptuous feast and all the fun she could handle.

Well, things went on like this for awhile, until, one day the girl, looking out on the lonely forest wherein Mother Holle resided, began to feel homesick.

Mother Holle, sensing this, said, “Child, I suppose it is high time you had better be sent home. But, before you go, I want to give you your reward for being such a good and faithful servant.”

And Mother Holle pushed her out the door. But, before she could go, she covered her with a bucket of gold dust, so that she was completely covered in the valuable stuff. Then she sent her on her way, closing the door in an instant.

The gold-covered girl wandered out of the magical forest, buck up the mouth of the old well, and home again. As she approached, the hens began to sing and cluck, “Cock-a-doodle-doo, your golden girl has come back to you!”

When her stepmother at first saw her she was very frightened, for the girl had been missing a long time and was presumed dead. Then, when she saw the fine gold flakes stuck to her skin, she became envious.

She told her lazy, stupid daughter, “Go to this Mother Holle, who lives down the mouth of the old well, and see if you can be her servant for a time. Then, thou shalt have thine own reward like unto thy sister!”

So the stupid, lazy girl did just that. She went to the old well, and pricked her finger exactly as her sister had done on the spinner. Then, she let a few drops of blood fall into the water, and dove down the mouth of the well.

She soon found herself in the upside-down enchanted land, wandering through the strange, dark forest, until she came to the ovens wherein the helpless bread screamed, “Oh, mercy, take us out of here, for we have baked long enough!”

And the lazy girl would have been only too happy to oblige. Except it seemed like an awful lot of work to bend over and take the brad from the ovens, and might make her frightfully hot and dirty to boot. So she simply passed on by, and listened to the dying screams of the bread loaves as they were baked to a crisp.

Next she came to the apple tree, where the overripe apples were hanging from their stems. The apples cried out to her, “Oh, pluck us! For we have hung here long enough, and are ready to burst!”

And the lazy, stupid girl would have obliged, except, well…plucking the apples so high up in the tree seemed like quite an awful lot of work, and she might fall and hurt herself, and become dirty and tired to boot. So she simply walked past the tree, listening to the apples scream as they burst from becoming too ripe.

Soon, she came to the strange cottage of Mother Holle. At first she was frightened when Mother Holle opened the door, as she had never seen anyone with teeth quite so big. But then she remembered that Mother Holle was supposed to be very kind, and this allayed her fears.

“Well, missy, it seems that fate has brought you to my door step. Now, you may stay here as long as you like, if you will simply do your chores. Also, make sure you shake the feathers out of my pillow every morning, as then it will be sure to snow. Got that?”

And the lazy, stupid girl agreed to do it all.

At first, she was careful to do her chores exactly as Mother Holle had said, and she worked diligently at everything. It was not long, however, before the lazy, stupid nature began to reassert itself, and she started slacking off work, disobeying, and not doing what she was told.

Soon, Mother Holle tired of this. She said to her, “Now, I am going to send you back home, as you must be very homesick by now!”

“Oh yes,” cried the lazy, stupid girl. “But, what about my reward?”

And Mother Holle said, “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll get exactly what is coming to you!”

And with that, she shoved her out the door, but before she could go, she emptied a bucket of pitch over her head, and laughed. Mother Holle said, “That is your reward, dearie! Wear it well! Wear it well! It really suits you!”

And she slammed the door and never came out again.

Well, the stupid, lazy girl, who was now quite covered with pitch, found her way back to her own home from out the magic portal. And, at her coming, the hens began to cluck, saying:

“Cock-a-doodle-doo, your pitchy girl’s come back to you!”

And, no matter how hard they scrubbed, they could not got the layer of pitch off of the lazy daughter, who was forced to go abotu that way until the day she died.


Once upon a time, in the Long Ago, there was a brave soldier returned from the war. Finding himself poor and alone, he went to his brothers and begged them to let him stay with them.

They refused, saying that he was of no use to them, as all he knew was soldiering and had no skill with which he could earn his keep. Thus, he was condemned to wander through the forest, hungry and alone.

Lamenting his fate, the aggrieved soldier sat down upon a log near the trail, and considered what to do. Soon, a shadow fell across his face, and he realized he was joined by a strange man in a green coat.

“My dear fellow,” said he, “Why art thou weeping so?”

To which the soldier replied, “Because the war is over, and I am out of money, and will surely die of starvation in this cruel forest.”

At this the man threw back his head in laughter, and exclaimed, “Nonsense! Thou wilt not surely die! Come, I will strike a deal with thee!”

And the soldier, having guessed the identity of the man (due, in large part, to the cloven hoof exposed beneath the heavy green coat of the stranger), said “As long as it does not endanger my salvation, state thy bargain.”

At this the man (or rather the Devil), rubbed his hands (we imagine the nails were long and sharp) together and said, “Thou must wander the earth for seven long years, and thou mayest not wash thy body, or cut thy hair, or nails, or clean thy face or clothing, or even sleep in a bed. Look–”

And the Devil pointed in the distance. Instantly, a huge black bear came charging through the brush. Panicked, the Soldier lifted his rifle and said, “I’ll tickle thy nose for thee!” He fired, killing the bear instantly.

The Devil stepped forward, grabbed handfuls of the dead bear’s flesh, and ripped off its skin. This he tied around the soldier’s neck for a cloak.

“Here,” he said, “from now on, thy name shall be ‘Bearskin.’ Also, put on my coat. Whenever thou reach into the pocket of this coat, thou wilt find money enough for all thy needs.

“Now,” continued the Devil, “If thou shouldst die in seven years, I own thy soul FOREVER. Otherwise, if thou survive the seven years of wandering, thou shalt have money and happiness beyond thy wildest dreams.”

And with that, the Devil (who smelled quite badly of sulfur) disappeared in a smelly burst of smoke and flame. The Soldier stood dumbfounded, unsure of the bargain he had made, but, reaching into his pocket, found the gold he had been promised, and was at least mollified now that he could afford room and board at the next inn he came to.

So began the “Seven Years of Wandering,” wherein Bearskin wandered East, and West, and North, and South, and up hill, and down hill, and through forest, and over rock and under yawning branches in the sun-dappled evening, and across moats and swamps, and through brambles and thicket-patches, and suchlike wild tarns.

The first year he did not look so frightening, nor smell so terrifically terrible, but by the second year, he looked an awful mess; and, by the end of the third year, he seemed to be an ogre. People often avoided him in fear and revulsion, or ran away outright. One night, when the rain was pouring hard against the ragged tatters of his clothing, and the immense bearskin was dripping wet against his form, he stopped by an inn for shelter, determined to, at the very least, spread the filthy, wet bearskin in front of a roaring fire.

The Innkeeper, upon seeing him, was seriously alarmed, and refused him entry. He even refused to let him sleep in the stables, for he feared, “A man with such a monstrous appearance as thou hast would surely upset the horses.”

Bearskin reached into the pocket of his green coat and produces a handful of ducats. The Innkeeper softened somewhat.

“Alright! If thou so desires it, thou shalt sleep thy sleep in the privy!”
And so Bearskin went to the outhouse to sleep, cursing his fate that he should be reduced so low. Curiously, though, he found that the stinking outhouse was already occupied by a weeping man.

“Sir,” began Bearskin, “Permit me to ask thee: why art thou weeping?”

The old man began, “Because I have lost all of my money, and my three daughters and I shall surely be turned out of house and home, and now, I do not even have the money to pay the innkeeper. Surely he will have me cast into prison!”

Upon hearing this, Bearskin felt so bad for the old man that he reached into his pocket and pulled out a fist full of the gold ducats. The old man’s face suddenly broke into a bright beam of happiness, and he exclaimed, “Oh, sir! Thou art too kind! Why, in thy hand is more than enough money to pay the innkeeper, and all my debts beside. I shall not fear being cast into prison now!”
And the old man went to pay the innkeeper. Upon returning, he said, “Come! I have three lovely daughters, and for thy kindness, thou shall have one for thy wife!”
And the old man took Bearskin by the (now admittedly long and dirty fingers), and lead him to his home, which was a small cottage set far back amidst a stand of trees.
Upon entering the home, the man introduced Bearskin to his daughters. His appearance was so frightening however that, immediately, the eldest ran away with her apron thrown over her head. The other looked at Bearskin with a look of disgust on her face, and crossing her arms over her chest in an insolent manner, refused to speak to him or even look at him.

The third daughter, the youngest, exclaimed, “Oh father, if thou didst promise this man the hand of thy daughter in marriage, because of his good deed to thee, then this thing must surely come to pass!”

And with that, she promised she would become Bearskin’s wife. She donned a black dress, becoming quite solemn and downcast, but realizing all the while that, since her sisters would not do it, it fell to her to fulfill her father’s wishes.

But Bearskin replied, “I must first wander a pace before I become thy husband. Here–”

And with that, he took her ring from her finger, and, breaking it in half, gave one half to her to keep, and kept the other half safe with himself. Then he tearfully bid her adieu, and went to finish the rest of his wanderings, as per his agreement with the Devil.

Thus after seven long, weary years, when Bearskin now resembled a great shaggy beast more than a man, he came to the same spot in the forest where, years before, the Devil had accosted him and struck his bargain. Sure enough, the Author of Evil was waiting there patiently, smoking his pipe, leaning against a log. He seemed not to have aged a day.

Upon seeing Bearskin however, his arrogant, grinning countenance turned very, very ugly. He spat and snarled, and stomped his feet, and gnashed his teeth, and shook his fist at Heaven, and shook his fist at Hell, and his eyes flamed and his hair stood on end, and he said, “Curse thee, thou stinkard! Get thee hence, and trouble me not with thy loathsome appearance!”

Bearskin realized that he had actually won the Devil’s bargain, and was determined to make the old monster abide by what he had promised. But, first, he demanded that the Arch-Fiend shave him and give him a bath.

This the Devil grudgingly did, sitting Bearskin down on an old log, humiliated by being reduced to the role of a humble barber! Then, Bearskin, now as polished and handsome as he had been seven years earlier, demanded a new suit of clothing. This the Devil speedily obtained, producing the clothes as if by magic.

Finally, Bearskin demanded the wealth that had been promised him, and the Devil told him his wishes would soon be fulfilled. However, first he must go and claim his bride.

So the Soldier (we can no longer really refer to him as “Bearskin,” can we?) set out for the village. When he arrived there, he asked about the whereabouts of the man and his family, and was directed to a great house on a hill, at the edge of town.

Perplexed, the Soldier rode out to the location he had been directed to, and hitching his horse, went up to peer through the large window overlooking the great hall.

Inside, a dinner party was being held for a seemingly bored group of young women. At first, he did not recognize them in their beautiful finery, but after a few moments, he recognized them as the two sisters who had refused to marry him when his identity had been that of “Bearskin.” And, coming through the doorway, he recognized the youngest daughter, whom he was to marry.

He went to the door at once, knocked, and strode confidently in past the perplexed servant. He asked for the master of the house, was told that the man was away on business, but was lead to the dining room, where he was greeted effusively by the now-interested older sisters.

They each spent the night trying to woo his affections, but, to no avail; they never suspected the dashing young soldier was none other than the hideous “Bearskin” whom they had refused to even speak to so many years before.

Finally, as daybreak came, the soldier went to the youngest daughter, and, to her great astonishment, asked her directly if she would immediately marry him!
He then produced his half of the ring, and her face brightened into a look of pure wonder. She held up her half of the golden crescent, and they fell into each other’s arms, kissing passionately as the sun rose above the trees.
They were married later that morning.

(Source: The Brothers Grimm)

The Value of Work

Once upon a time there was a very lazy fool. He loafed all day, and he loafed all night, and he begged in the alleys, and he picked through the gutters in the street for a few scraps. Anyone who tried to employ him was soon disppointed, as he was too stupid to do much of anything right, and even the simplest tasks wore him out and made him fall fast asleep.

Those that hired him regretted it later, and so the lazy fool was sent packing in quick succession, job after job. He soon found himself cast from the village, the other villagers throwing rotten eggs and tomatos at him if he stayed, or chasing him around and beating him with sticks.

So out to the forest he went, although he was too foolish to even bewail his sorry lot.

“Oh, I like it out here alone,” he thought instead. “It is so peaceful, so tranquil, and no one throws stones at me, or chases me away!”

And the sorry fool sat down and began to pick up scrub brush and old sticks with which to build a fire. (He had brains enough for this. Otherwise, when unoccupied, he was usually content to sit and pick wild flowers, staring like the fool that he was into empty space. When asked his thoughts by passersby, he couldn’t reply; for you see, he hadn’t any.)

Soon it began to get very cold, and it was very damp. In time, the fool leaned over on his elbow, and began to feel very sleepy. But he was too hungry to sleep; so, his stomach rumbling around disconsolately, he got up and began to forage for seeds and nuts.

After awhile, with the sun dipping low in the horizon, he realized he wasn’t going to have any luck. He began to feel very sorry for himself, and, as tears began to well up in his eyes, he bemoaned his sorry fate, exclaiming, “Oh, woe is me! Woe is me! For I am hungry, and there is nothing to eat! I am thirsty, and there is nothing to drink! I am cold and tired, too, and there is no soft place to lay my head, and no blanket to keep me warm! oh, whatever should I do? If only I had a little money! If only I had learned the value of work, I wouldn’t be in this predicament!”

And with that, he fell to weeping. It was a moment later, though, that he heard a voice say, “Thou fool! why weepest thou?”

And he looked up, and saw the most spectacular thing that he had ever seen in his rather unspectacular life.

It was an angel, breathing fire and waving a sword that shone like a tongue of flame. The fool covered his eyes with his arms, and exclaimed, “No! No! Please, don’t show yourself in that form. It is too wonderful and terrible for me to stand!”

And the angel, realizing that this was indeed the case, suddenly changed form again, so that he wore a relatively normal skin of human flesh, complete with tattered clothes and worn-out hobnailed boots (as if he had been traveling long and hard. Which, to be honest, he rather had).

“Fool!” he said, pointing one thorny old finger in the Fool’s face, “I have heard your complaint, and smelled your despair, and listened to your belly rumble like stones in a sluice. So I have been sent by Him to alleviate your suffering and show you the way. For, it is well known in all of heaven and earth that a man who does not know the value of work shall go hungry and be sore beset. But a man who KNOWS the value of work will never, ever go far wrong.”

Well. at this the fool found himself perplexed, and not a little frightedned. What, pray tell, did the Angel mean? he wanted to ask. That he should be put to work doing the same awful things he hated, over and over again? It seemed as if that was what he was saying.

“Beggin’ your pardon, sir, but, I’m a little confused as to what you could possibly mean. How, by the by, am I to be taught such a thing?”

At this, the Angel replied: “Why, the thing is simplicty itself! Here…”

And he produced, seemingly from thin air, a great coat, which was green and gold, and only had one tremendous pocket on the side.

“Whenever you reach into the pocket of this coat, you will produce exactly two klopins. You can do this only once a day, and you must not keep whatever money remains after you have purchased food and drink. You may not sleep in an Inn, you may not sleep in a warm bed; you must not tarry in house or shop, and you must, under no circumstances, give any of your extra money away. You simply thrust your hand into your pocket each day, to retrieve your paltry earnings, and you spend what you have; ALL of what you have, wherever you are. Then, you move on.”

And, upon hearing this, the Fool scquealed with delight, and taking up the coat, put it on himself and said, “Oh! Fortune has surely smiled upon me! For, I thrust my hand into my pocket, and out comes money enough for bread and meat! And it shall really be so, day after day? Forever?”

“Aye,” nodded the angel. “It shall be so. Until you have learned the value of work from the penury of idleness.”

And the Fool, who must have thought fortune had finally smiled upon him, bent, and bowing to the angel, exclaimed again and again his comlplete and utter gratitude. The angel said, in turn, “Take heed! Thou mayest not thank me for such a gift, once thou has learned the value of work.”

And with that, he disappeared.

The merry fool, now adorned in his great coat, took off happily down the dirt trail through the trees. Shortly he came to a village inn, a place he remembered he must not sleep or tarry long. He was, however, hungry, so he went inside and addressed the fat, huffing and puffing innkeeper thusly:

“Oh sir, I have traveled this way and that way, and up and down and all around, and hither and thither and yon. Might I not have a good hot meal and a mug of ale, to fill my belly and parch my thirst?”

And the innkeeper, about to turn away the mouldy, strange tramp, instead thought better of it and asked: “Well, do you have any money?”

To which the fool replied, “Oh, certainly. Here, here are two klopins. Will that be sufficient for a good meal and a mug of ale?”

And the innkeeper, seeing the tramp’s arm thrust out, and two shiny klopins upturned in his palm, said slowly, a grin cracking across his face, “Why, certainly, sir! One klopin will be sufficient. That’s the price I charge.”

At first, upon hearing this, the fool was overjoyed. Then he began to be dismayed. He said, “Oh, but I really must insist upon paying TWO klopins for the meal. As, you see, I must spend my two klopins every day exactly, as I am wearing a magic coat that was given to me by an angel. And the angel saith,’Spend thus thy two klopins daily, and take none of the difference with thee, lest thou lose thy bread and meat, and then thou shalt NEVER know the value of work.'”

But, upon hearing this, the innkeeper began to feel troubled, for he did not want to earn a reputation in the neighborhood as a man who would cheat a poor, foolish, mad beggar. So he said, “Sorry, sir! But I cannot possibly charge a man TWO klopins when one , most certainly, would suffice! Perhaps you had better spend the other klopin on a bed for the night!”

But the fool realized he could not do this. he began to feel sorely troubled, and said to himself, “Oh! This free money business is not all it’s cracked up to be! perhaps I would have been better off if someone would have taught me the value of work, instead of giving me this magic cloak wherein I must spend two klopins, and exactly two klopins, every single day!”

And, with that, he fell to foolish weeping. Overhearing him, a man that had been drinking at a nearby table sauntered over and said, “Sir, if you’ll allow me to introduce myself, my name is Gunnar, and I couldn’t but help overhearing your poor lament to the innkeep. If it is money you are looking to divest yourself of, then I, most certainly, am your man!”

And with that, he held out one long, dirty hand as if to implore the fool for his single klopin. At hearing this, the fool recoiled in horror, remembering the angel’s warning that he couldn’t, under any circumstances, give his money away.

“Oh no, sir!” excalimed the fool. “I certainly couldn’t do that! But, I suppose, if thou art agreeable, I could buy thee something, and that wouldn’t violate the terms of my ownership of this magnificent, magical coat. Look, I’ll buy you a bed for the night; for, I, myself, am not allowed to lie in a bed, or sleep in an inn, or tarry long in hamlet, village or town.”

And the man, looking at him askance, nonetheless agreed to what he said, and went upstairs to his slumber.

Well the fool, noting that it was raining, and, not liking to get soaked from head to foot, but, likewise, having no good place to sleep, spent the dark, thunderous night walking around and around the inn, seeking the scant shelter of the awning against the storm, cursing his luckless and sorry lot in life, and wondering at the irony of having a coat that gave him two klopins daily, yet, could provide for so few of his many, many needs.

“I tell you, it is simply not fair!” he wailed, soaking wet and shivering.

“I have a coat that gives forth money from its pocket; yet, to use it, I must never do this, and always do that, and never take this much, and always take that! Oh, how in the world is this supposed ot teach me the VALUE OF WORK?”

Unbeknownst to the fool, the man whose room he had paid for was a notorious bandit captain, a highwayman of ill-repute. Upon conferring with his gang, he had informed them, “There is a man about the grounds of this inn with a coat full of klopins. Come, let us murder him, and sieze his coat, and the money will be ours!”

And these ruffians and scoundrels, none of them EVER having learned the value of work, hid amidst the trees and shrubs, and swiftly moved, as the fool was stomping in the mudd and cursing his luck, to waylay him.

They cornered him in the dark, and began to beat him savagely, all the time exclaiming, “Give us that coat, you scoundrel! Give us that coat!”until finally, they managed to rip it off of him.

They went through the pockets in search of the klopins they thought to be hidden there. But, sure enough, as the fool was the only one that could reach into those pockets for money, and thus make the magic work, they came up huffing and puffing and angry as hornets…but empty-handed for all that.

The biggest of them, who had mangled the coat in his heavy, dirty fingers, spat in disgust before throwing the thing in the bushes. The three men then beat a hasty retreat into the darkness, leaving the fool a poor, beaten husk to bleed all over the wet, muddy ground.

“Oh!”, he said to himself, madly, “Woe is me! Woe is me! Here I grovel in the mud! here I welter in my blood! And my belly is rumbling, and my nerves are jangling, and my head feels like a crushed egg! And I still have yet to learn the VALUE OF WORK!”

And, weeping bitterly, he went into the bushes to fetch his magic coat.

He wandered through the forest the whole of that long, wet, miserable night, until he came to the gates of a city. At the gates, a little watchman in a booth guarding the entrance, came forward.

Looking at the poor, bedraggled wretch before him, the gatekeeper, twirling his moustache with one absent-minded hand, said, “And, who, might I ask would you be? And from where, my good man, comest thee?”

The fool said, “Oh, sir! I have been most terribly, terribly used. Three ruffians, such as in the story of Hiram Abiff, came forward and beat me savagely! They left me to lie in the mud, bleeding, and then ran away!”

The gatekeeper, upon heraing this bit of intriguing news, then replied, “And why, pray tell, did they do this?”

To which the fool, being hungry and tired, and also, still quite the fool, answered truthfully, “Because of my magic coat, you see! This coat was given to me by an angel, so that I might some day, he said, learn the value of work.

Well, every morning, at sunup, when I reach into this pocket, I can retrieve two klopins–no more, no less. And I must spend both of them each day, and keep nothing in return, and I cannot give them away to a friend or foe, nor can I sleep in a bed, nor can I tarry long in town or village. Those are the terms of my peculiar service.”

The gatekeeper, still twirling his moustache, said, “Rough terms indeed. Tell me: What do you plan to do while you are visiting our quaint little town of Bergsberbagenbeeck?”

To which the fool replied, “Oh, sir! I am wounded and hurt, hungry and tired to my bones. If I could just curl up on a mat of straw, outside of some kitchen, in an alley, and be fed a little, and perhaps have my wounds dressed by the beggars and street orphans, I shall be a happier man indeed.”

And the gatekeeper considered all of this, and after twirling his moustache a bit more, said, “Well, we have very special laws here, my unfortunate friend.

No one enters or leaves who doesn’t either have business with us, relatives that live here and own bakeries and shops, or is not a citizen himself.

However, for a small fee, ALL of these conditions can be overlooked…”

And the fool, not a bit surprised at hearing this, and delighted that he might buy his way through the city gates and thus find himself something to eat, asked, “How much, then, is the price of admittance?”

The gatekeeper, laughing, said, “THREE klopins.”

The fool felt his heart sink dismally into his stomache. His bruised, battered face became even more downcast. He stated flatly: “I-I only have two.
Until sunup. I’ll die of hunger before then.”

And laughing, the gatekeeper produced, from the hidden corner of the little booth, something long and terrifying he had hidden there.

“Ah, well, then, since you have only two-thirds of the fee, I suppose only two-thirds of you should thus be able to enter!”

And the mad gatekeeper swung a brilliant silver axe brutally down on the fool’s left shoulder.

The Fool, foolish as he was, was yet quick enough to dodge the blow. He jumped out of the way of the madman’s swing; but not so soon enough that he didn’t lose his left ear, like the Roman soldier come in the Gospels to arrest Christ, who was set upon by St. Peter.

There was no one, alas, to attach the poor fool’s ear back to the side of his head, and so, holding the bleeding wound where his ear had formally been, he took off into the trees, howling in agony, cursing his fate and declaring, “Woe is me! Woe is me! For, I have been starved, beaten and had my ear chopped off, all because of this magic coat and my two free daily klopins! Oh, if only I had been a better man, and studied my arithmatic, and learned my letters, and read my grammar! If only I had applied myself! If only someone, at some point, had taught me the VALUE OF WORK!”

And, not having any other way to staunch the blood, he ripped up the right leg of his trousers, and making a sort of bandage about his head, trudged through the murk in misery and despair.

Finally, he began to smell a delicious aroma, and following the lure of his grumbling stomache, finally came to the door of a weird, squat, mushroom-like dwelling that seemed to be half-sinking into the earth. It was round and the roof seemed to be of thatch; which must, he knew, be frightfully bad at keeping the rain out. At any rate, peering in through one of the windows, he saw a great fat woman, with a crooked, beak-like nose, and warts all over her greasy, sweating chins–not to mention a cocked, gleaming yellow eye–working feverishly at a stove. She was baking what he took to be meat pies, and there were a mound of pie fillings in front of her on the sideboard.

His stomache grumbling miserably for food, he finally decided to swallow his fear and, knocking a little pitter-patter on the wooden door, stood back, looking afright, to wait for the old woman to answer.

A few moments later she came, huffing and puffing, to the door. He saw then that she was even uglier and more frightening than what he at first supposed; but, as he was starving nearly to skin and bones, and bleeding to boot, he said, “Oh, Missus, I have been most dreadfully used! I have been starved, beaten, and nearly had my head chopped off by a man that took my ear, instead! I am here bleeding and starving, and, smelling the wonderful pies you are baking, the aroma wafting all through the dense, thick forest trees. I could not help but smell the delicious, oh so delicious aroma, of your baking meat pies.”
And turning his face upward at the wooden sign hanging from the entrance way, which had inscribed upon it a rather curious dragon’s head, and the words, “Mamie’s Magnificient Meat Treats,” he said, “Missus, you must be Mamie. I’m…”
But before he could say another word, the great, fat, ogreish woman put her balled-up little fists on her massive hips, puffed air loudly through her nose, sighed, and said, “Well, aren’t you a fright, luv? My, my, someone’s really gone and done a number on you! I suppose you’ll be wanting a few scraps with which to fill your belly, huh? Well, get in here and start mopping up, then! This isn’t a charity, after all! If you want something to eat, you’re going to have to toil for it, day and night. Maybe after that a beggar such as yourself will FINALLY know the value of work!”

And so he went quickly inside, saying “Thank you , missus! Oh, thank you!”; and he was really sincere, and wept tears of joy as she thrust a mop into his hand, and set him to work.

He toiled day and night, night and day; but his reward was to be bathed and fed cold porridge and leftover pie, so it was rather happily he toiled, and, thanking his lucky stars, he got on his knees that night and, folding his hands and raising his head to Heaven, exclaimed, “Oh thank you, Lord! Thank you! For, have I not been a profligate wanderer, sore beset, and hast not thou seen fit to bting me to this humble abode, all the better to reprove and chastise me, and to, finally, teach me the VALUE OF WORK?”

And so the days turned into a week. Once a day, the old woman Mamie would trundle her cart of pies out the door and down the hill, huffing and puffing through the glade, and past the brook, and to the city gates, to sell her meat pies to the passersby in the streets of dusty, dirty, down-at-the-heels Bergsberbagenbeeck.

The fool would sometimes accompany her; but, on those busy days when there was too much to clean up, he would stay behind and tidy the place, clean the oven, sweep the floors, and suchlike.

Well, the fool could enter and leave any room in the place as he saw fit, but Mamie cautioned him against going into one room, a room with a strange little round, yellow door.

“You aren’t to ever go into that room, under any circumstances,” she said, wagging her finger in his face and cocking her great, rheumy eye at him. “If I ever catch you going into that room, why, you’ll be out the door and on your own in no time!”

And, because the fool most certainly didn’t want that, he obeyed her wish.

This day, however, his curiousity about that room was running very high. He stopped at the door, considered the little yellow brass nob, rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

“Hm. I wonder what could be in there that’s so important she doesn’t want me to see. Could it be treasure?”

And then he thought out loud:

“Well, she’s gone. If I take just one little peek inside, how will she ever know?”

And then the fool, because he was a very great fool, had the little brass knob in hand, and was turning it before he could stop himself. He threw open the door, and walked inside, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness. What he saw astounded him.

It was a heaping help of mangled DEAD, bodies that had been chopped to pieces! And some of them seemed to be pretty recently killed!

“My word! This woman is killing people and turning them into …her magnificent mincemeat pies!”

And, the horror of the whole thing overwhelming him, he flew from the room and closed the door.

His brain raced madly when he saw that Mamie was standing in the front door, her fists balled at her hips, with a vexatious look on her face.

“Well, well, well…” she began to coo. “I leave for just a few moments, and, sure enough, you’ve gone and done the one thing I told you NEVER to do! You’ve been in the room, haven’t you? Seen the bodies, didn’t you? Know the secret, don’t you? Sure, I kidnap travelers, waylay them on the road at night. Then, I bring them back here, and then I butcher them like hogs! I steal everything they have with them, then I ties them down, I do, and cut off strips of their flesh I do, piece by piece. Then, I take those strips of flesh and fat to bake into my delicious pies! And, do you know what? Folks around these parts love ’em. Think they’re venison, they do! Why, one big fat man comes and buys one every day, and stuffs it into his big, fat piehole, and lets the juice dribble down his fat chins! No one suspects that what they are really eating ain’t venison at all, but their fellow friends and neighbors, what were unlucky enough to run into me as they traveled the lonely forest roads!”

And as she started to speak a funny thing began to occur. Her eyes grew red and bulging, and her face seemed to swell like a balloon, as if it would suddenly pop. Her teeth grew long and jagged, and hung out of her mouth, and her tongue, which the fool saw to his horror was forked, like a snake’s, began to slither and whip about in the air.

Terrified, the fool grabbed the first object he could lay his hands on: a heavy rolling pin.

The ghoulish woman, now swelled to the size of a terrible, growling hog, suddenly leapt toward the fool, her curling, claw-like fingers twisted into talons, as if to tear his throat.

The fool brought the heavy rolling pin down on the bloated old monster. He must have hit exactly the right spot, too, as she exploded like a massive baloon, making quite an unappetizing mess all over the walls and ceiling.

The fool had no idea what to do now. In a panic, thinking he could hear the approach of local forest rangers, he began to stuff the remains of the monstrous old woman into a huge pie tin he found lying about–one that was really quite oversized. He grabbed a cleaver and began to cut the big parts into littler parts. Then, an idea struck him:

“Well, I shall just bake her up into a huge pie, just as she has done to all the others. and then I will trundle the cart out to the city gates, announce myself, be invited in…and sell portions of the huge pie to all her usual patrons. And then I will, truly, understand the value of work!”

And the fool, being such a damnable, daft fool, he actually thought this to be a good idea, started tossing celery and carrots, potatoes and onions and other suchlike into the pot, and then went and began to spread the dough for crust.

Soon, he had made a thorough mess, but he managed to put into the huge, black iron oven the massive pie tin. His only foolish misdeed wa, that the legs of the ghoulish old woman were still plainly visible poking out of the top of the pie.

He baked until he felt it was sufficiently done, then, huffing and heaving and sweating, pulled the scorching hot meat pie from the oven. Even he was astounded at just how big it was.

“The biggest meat pie in all of the land!” he exclaimed to himself, with some sense of wonder. “Why, perhaps it is the biggest meat pie that ever was since the world began.” He then added, with some sens of pride, “Truly, today, I have finally begun to learn the value of work.”

He huffed and puffed and sweated, and finally got the enormous pie onto the pie cart. He then trundled the cart to the city gates, where the gatekeeper, who had previously cut off his ear, looked at him with some sense of wonder. But, since the pie cart was allowed in every day, come rain or shine, he opened the gate and gave the fool entrance, without question.

The fool walked through the city streets until he came to the market place. People ogled and goggled, and little children laughed and pointed, thinking the enormous pie with the two fat legs sticking out (still wearing their striped stockings and pointy-toed leather shoes) was some sort of prank. The fool assured them that it was not. Soon, wary customers began to saunter up, and the fool was only too happy to cut sections of the pie off for his customers, charging them each a single klopin.

“Oh,” said the fat man, who was a regular customer. “It’s so good!”
“Yes,” said another. “It’s always a real treat to come eat here!”
“My, I think I’ll have another!” said a third. But, then, someone in the crowd began to choke.

People began to slap him on the back. Finally, the person spat up what it was that had been lodged in their throat. it fell to the cobbles with a rattle-clatter.

Curiously, the crowd bent low to examine the strange object the eater had been choking on. Then the choking man exclaimed, “Why, it’s a bloomin’ ring! A wedding ring! How did a wedding ring get into my pie?”

And then, as if they suddenly realized that the two fat, stockinged legs hanging from the top of the pie crust were not simply some prank, it dawned on them that they had been eating whoever had owned those legs previously. People threw down their pie tins in the street, and began to wretch and be really sick. After a few moments of this though, they decided they were going to lynch the fool.

Running in terror for his life, the fool turned into an alley, realizing when it was too late that it lead to a dead end. He was finally backed up against a wall when–

“Hey, what’s all this then?”

Two Peelers came around the corner, swinging their nightsticks, dispersing the crowd. The angry, sickened people all began to shout at once, something the two lawmen were not prepared for. Not being able to make heads nor tails of the crowd’s complaint, they arrested the fool, and tossed him into jail.

The fool sat in his cell miserably. “Oh, woe is me! Woe is me! For, despite me having a magic coat that will give me two klopins every day, I have been beaten and starved, had my ear chopped off, slaved for a ghoul who nearly killed me, and have been chased by an angry mob! Now, I have been cast into prison, and I don’t know if I shall ever, ever get out! And I still have not learned the value of work!”

And he began to sob miserably into his arm. Soon, though, he remembered his magic coat, which he still wore, tattered and ripped and threadbare though it now was. He reached into the pocket and retrieved the two farthings. Then, going to the bars of his cell, he called forth the jailer, and said, “Oh, I have here a coat, a magic coat! Why, you see, every day at sunup, I reach into it and I get two klopins to spend any way I see fit. And the two klopins are always there, every day, so that I might have the money I need, and never, ever have to learn the value of work. Would it be worth your while to have such a coat, my friend? If so, just let me loose from this dungeon cell, and it is all yours!”

The guard looked troubled at hearing all of this, but he took the klopins, and went out to find his superior. In time, a tall man in a pointed hat with a wide brim came in the door of the jail. He trailed behind him a large cloak, and the fool, foolish though he was, recognized him in an instant as the Grand Inquisitor–a man of terrible and stern aspect.

Upon looking at the prisoner, the Inquisitor spat, “Thou fool! If thou woudst have simply remained quiet, thou wouldst surely have gotten away with thy mischief; for, no one could PROVE that thou did anything more than bake a pie. Not a single witness could prove murder against thee. Now, however–”

And the Grand Inquisitor grew very grave and stern, and his eyes flashed with righteous fire.

“Now, thou hast confessed to owning a magic cloak, meaning that thou practiceth witchcraft, a devilish art. Dost thou know the penalty for practicing witchcraft in this fair city of ours, my friend? It is DEATH. And thou hast confessed!”

So it was less than a fortnight later that the fool was lead out to the gallows, to the cheers and jeers of the toothless, stinking peasant crowd, who threw rotten eggs and vegetables and spat at him and waved their fists; and he was no closer to knowing the “value of work” than when he began his fool’s journey to rack and ruin.

After he was good and dead, his body was cut down, and his magic cloak was cast upon a heap of rubbish taken from other prisoners, all of whom had been hung.

And after that, no one knows.

Lord Krishna’s Mouth


There is a story told of Lord Krishna. When he was a toddler at Brindavan, he liked to steal butter and cream. He was roundly scorned for this, and his mother told him he should take care never to do it again.

So, the next time the little Lord set about playing at the homes of his young friends, instead of making off with the butter, he grabbed a baby fistful of mud, ramming it into his mouth. His young friends, seeing what the baby had done, were offended, and went to tell his mother, Yashoda.

When he returned home, Lord Krishna’s mother said to him, “You awful, unthinking child! I will teach you never to put filthy mud into your mouth again!”

And she started to enact his punishment. Perhaps she was going to make him suck on a sour lemon, or even a cake of soap. We are not told. Whatever the case, though, when Lord Krishna opened his mouth, his mother was treated to an astounding sight:

She saw hills and valleys, trees and fields, rushing rivers, and vast craggy peaks. She saw mountainous rises and shallow dips, the twinkling, starlit array of diamonds in the black, vaulted firmament of heaven. She saw the planets, each with its own life, and the suns burning brightly in wonder, and the forgotten depths of the ocean floors, and even the raging waters of other worlds.

She, indeed, beheld the universe in the suckling infant’s mouth.

Lord Krishna’s mother fell to weeping, as she realized that Vishnu had come to earth in the form of her son.

(We imagine that, after that, he was treated to all the butter and cream he liked.)

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50 Famous Fables and Folktales, Collected from Around the World – Tom Baker

A book your children and entire family will love! From a THREE STAR REVIEW:

“f you love fables and such (like I do), you’ll love this book. The stories are well written and enjoyable to read. The morals of the story are especially well done–sometimes there are multiple conclusions written with a sense of humor. I received the book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.”
–Diane, Amazon Reviewer.


Enjoy a collection of classical stories, culled from the greatest storytellers of all time, offering up tales of animals and other enchanted creatures to delight readers young and old. As fables, each story demonstrates a moral lesson or a piece of advice for readers―some of whom may be struggling with related problems, difficulties, and stumbling blocks addressed by the lessons in each tale. Whether it’s a rousing tale of stone soup, a tortoise and eagle, country and city mice, or foxes, hens, and farmers, readers of all ages will be entertained by the fresh story approach of Aesop, Robert Dodsley, Phaedrus, and others, some retold from tales of cultures as diverse as those of Native Alaska, Africa, Arabia, the Far East, and more.

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