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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The Bird Who Stole Happiness

Once, long ago, a little girl was saying her prayers one night when she heard a curious sound outside of her window. Going to the window and throwing open the sash, she was astounded to see a sad, lonely whippoorwill sitting on a tree branch, crying out in low, mournful tones the saddest song she had ever heard.

The little girl, suddenly not feeling quite as cheery as she had when she had come upstairs to bed, asked the bird, “Mr. Whippoorwill, why are you so sad?”

And, to her surprise, the bird suddenly poked its beak in her direction and exclaimed through muffled tears, “Oh, it is the same as it has always been! I am a whipporwill, you see, and so must sing a low, mournful, weeping tune! I was born to sing this sad song, and never know happiness, and flit and fly about under the moon, alone!”

And with that, the whippoorwill let out such a torrent of weeping and wailing that the little girl soon found she was crying too. Just then, an idea popped into her head.

“Oh, Mr. Whipporwill, since you are so sad, and have never known happiness, I tell you what I will do. I will give you all of my happiness to take with you! Oh yes, I’ll wrap it up in a little silk rag, tied with a bow, and you can carry it with you in your beak. Build it into your nest, and, someday, when you are done with it, and wish to return to being what you were before, you can come flying back, and return it to me! Does that make you happy to think of, Mr. Bird?”

And the sad bird answered, “Oh, delightful! I shall be so glad to have your happiness with me wherever I go, hither and yon! And, I promise you, I shall take good care of it until I return!”

And so, wiping her eyes, the little girl (who, of all the little girls int he world, was always quite cheery and pleasant, even when she dropped her ice cream ont he ground), went to her dresser, and took out a silk hanky and a piece of blue ribbon. Then, screwing her eyes shut, she managed to take all the happiness swirling around inside her head, and wad it up in the little square of silk, tieing it securely with the length of blue ribbon before racing back to the window and offering her present to the bird.

“Here you go, Mr. Whippoorwill! Please, take good care of it, and be careful not to lose it! I don’t know what I should do if I lost my happiness forever!”

And with that, the bird bowed, thanking her for her graciousness and generosity, and, with the little silk bundle hanging from his beak, flew off, into the night. The little girl strained ot see him go, but eventually lost sight of him as he was framed against the bright, fat moon.

In a few moments, as the girl crept back to bed, she began to notice a change steal over her. She felt heavier, slower; more glum. More tired. And everything seemed to take on the same shade of dismal, dingy grey.

“Oh!” she said to herself, “I do so hope the whippoorwill returns with my happiness soon! I suppose in the state I am in, even a rainbow would look dull, and dirty, and grey!”

And she then burst into tears, burying her face in the pillows and crying herself to sleep.

It was not a day or two later that her mother began to become very concerned for her little girl. She did not brighten when she ate her desert, nor even when presented with an angelfood cake (which was her favorite). Nor did playtime seem to amuse her; nor did new toys; sunshine; bright days; fluffy white clouds; or her pet kitten.

She no longer skipped rope, or drew hopscotch, or dilly-dallied amongst the dandelions, instead preferring to sit in her room in a gloopy, gloomy mess, weeping silently while staring at the four walls and complaining that the light of the sun, or even a lamp, hurt her eyes!

Her father, taking her to the carnival, found that this did not cheer her, either. Her mother, planning a special party for her with little friends from the neighborhood, found that her daughter sat in the center of the big table, amongst a little legion of happy, shouting, laughing, jostling little girlfriends and boyfriends, and wept silent tears.

Furthermore, the mother noticed the little girl continually staring out the window, as if expecting someone or something to come flying up to the great tree outside.

Finally, after weeks of her daughter’s solitary mourning, the exasperated mother put her fists on her hips and said, “Oh daughter of mine, whatsoever troublest thou? For, have we not done everything in our power to make thee merry and glad? And yet, thou weepest when thou shouldst laugh, and frown when thou shouldst, by rights, smile and be of good cheer! What, on Earth, couldst thou possibly be tormented by, that thou shouldst carry on in suchlike manner?”

And, at hearing this, the little girl burst into tears again, saying, “Oh, Mother! It is dreadful, but, one night, I heard the Whippoorwill outside of my window, singing his mournful tune. And, feeling sorry for him, I wrapped all of my happiness into a silk kerchief, and, tying it with a bow, gave it to him, allowing him use of it until he returns. And so, I have no happiness left, and all my pleasant feelings have vanished. Now, it seems as if the cursed bird shall never return, and thus never again shall I laugh, or smile, or feel merriment and joy!”

And she began to boo hoo very loudly. Her mother, horrified at what she heard, put her hands to her head in panic, and exclaimed, “Foolish child, what hast thou done! Thou hast given away all they smiles and gladness in the world to a conniving old bird, who has surely made haste with it to some far-off land, wherein he may enjoy the fruits of thy happiness, while you are drowing in tears!”

And, not knowing what else to do, the mother went straightaway to the conjure woman, an old crone who lived in the woods and had a bad, sinister reputation.

The ugly old crone croaked, “There is only one thing to do: Thou must bake thee a pie, in the center of which wilt thou bake four and twenty blackbirds…and a single snake. And then thou must set the pie upon the ledge below thy window, and wait! Soon, the whippoorwill will come, and the thing will right itself.”

And so the mother made the pie crust, carefully rolling the dough, and filling the center with four and twenty blackbirds. Then, she went out into the yard, and pulled from the weeds choking the edge of the garden a single snake. Into the pie went THAT as well. Then, she set it to bake.

After it was done, she set the thing on the window seal and sat down with her gloomy daughter to wait.

The smell of the pie was quite strong, and, in time, they heard the whippoorwill come flying up, resting on the old branch of the old tree. Curiously, he was still singing the same gloomy tune, although he had stolen all of the little girl’s happiness.

The whippoorwill pecked and poked his beak into the pie, smelling the delicious smell of cooked blackbird. As soon as he got his beak in the crust, however, the snake reared up, bared its fangs, siezed upon the luckless whippoorwill, and swallowed him up!

The little girl’s mother then sprang up from her chair and, like a bolt of lightning, had the snake collared with one huge hand, squeezing it’s long skinny body so that it could not bite her.

She then began to pound the head of the snake against the floor, until its blood and brains oozed out from between her fingers. And, also, quite a lot of blackbirds.

The little girl rooted around in the blood and carcasses on the floor. Finally, her little hand fell upon what she was looking for: it was the little bundle of silk with all her happiness tied up, with the same blue ribbon, inside.

She quickly snapped the ribbon, releasing her happiness so that, forever after, she wore a smile on her face, and had a spring in her step, even when she was at last old and grey.

And the moral of this story is: Look before you leap. Or, before giving everything to a stranger, make sure you have considered your own needs first. Or, make sure your charity and pity for others will not hurt you, in the end.

Or, never put much trust in a flighty character. It’s for the birds.

The Man Who Took a Log as a Wife

Once, there was a foolish, raggedy man who entered a village. He worked hard for a stupid master, but after earning a little money, quickly set himself up in business as a costermonger, but soon became lonely for the comforts afforded by a wife.

One day, while trundling his cart along the village square, he spied a plump, stupid girl with a bucket of milk. Pushing his cart up to her, he asked her her name.

“Myrtle,” she replied. “Myrtle Wormhead.”

To which he replied, “Oh, my! That is the loveliest name that ever I heard! We should be married!”

And the plump, stupid girl consented immediately. Off they went to the village priest, but, bot having the money for a wedding, and the girl having no dowry, were soon turned away.

Down cast, the foolish costermonger said, “We shall run away together, and seek our fortune on the continent. Then, when we have suffcient funds to arrange a wedding, we shall return, be married. And live happily ever after!”

And so the two luckless fools went out of their village, walking the weed-choked paths through the forest, until they became hungry, and settled in a dark place.

Now, close by lived a vicious ogre, and his wife, a deadly witch. Climbing through the brush, he spied the two hapless fools walking, and said to himself, “My, she is fat and plump, and would make a juicy morsel for me and my wife. I will capture her, and steal her away, and put her ina cage to fatten her up. The man I do not want, as he is too lean and tough-looking.”

And so he followed them stealthily, and soon they came to a place where there was a little cave, and the fool said to his wife, “We can live here in this cave! It will shelter us from the rain and the scorching sun, when it is too hot.”

And the foolish girl, thinking this a wonderful idea, set about making their home in the cave.

Now, it so happened that a terrible hermit lived in a cave nearby, and he had a terrible appetite for human flesh. He came upon the fool and his wife while they were out gathering firewood one day, and he said to himself, “Mm, that young girl looks as if she would be delicious to eat! I will steal her, and take her back to my cave, and keep he in a cage! Then, I will fatten her on cream until she is ready to be gutted and stewed!”

And so the terrible, crazed hermit hid int he bushes, waiting, and watching. Finally, seeing his chance, as the fool told his wife he was going deeper int he woods–“To gather more wood for the fire, as what we have been able to find out her, so far, is mostly wet!”–he left his foolish wife alone.

Very quietly,t he hermit crept from his hiding place amid the bushes and shrubs, and, going sneakily down to where the foolish girl sat on a rock byt he tream, picking flowers, said to her, “And how now, my pretty one! Where do you come from, and where are you going?”

And the foolish girl, startled by this, looked up, but dare not turn around for fear fo what she would see standing behind her.

“Oh,” she said, “I come from yonder village, and I live in yonder cave. Who art thou to ask such questions?”

And to this the terrible hermit replied, “I am one who has admired you from afar. But now, I am close, oh so close to you!”

And to this, the foolish girl replied, “Oh! And how close art thou?”

And to this the hermit said, “Clsoe enough to smell your sweet scent!” and then said, “…and it smells delicious!”

And the foolish girl said, “Oh, my, whatever can you mean by that? How, in fact, does it smell?”

And the terrible hermit replied, “Like broasted beef on a summer day!”

And the foolish girl giggled, and said, “Oh, that is mere foolishness! How can I smell so? Tell me truthfully, how does my scent strike thee?”

And the hermit said, “Like succulent lamb on a winter morn!”

And the foolish girl said, yet again, “Oh! That is nonsense! How can my scent be compared to succulent lamb! Tell me truthfully, how does my scent strike thee?”

And the hermit finally said, “Like the stew I will make of thy flesh, the bread of they bones, and the wine of thy blood! Now, come!”

And with a cry he reached forward,a nd grabbed her in his hairy, dirty arms, carrying her away as she cried for her husband.

The hermit put his hand over the foolish girl’s mouth, but her husband (who was picking and poking around amid the trees, not far away) heard some rustling in the bushes. He got the distinct feeling (despite the fact that he was so foolish), that his wife migth have met with some trouble, perhaps with a wild animal. So, dropping the kindling he was carrying, he raced back through the trees to the mouth of the old cave.

The hermit had carried off the unfortunate young woman, kicking and screaming. He tied her with vines, thrust some old rags in her mouth, and told her to wait for him (what else could she do?). Then, he went back to where he had found her and, a sudden idea striking him across his big hairy noggin, scouted around in the bushes until he found a log that was quite in the shape of a young woman. He placed this log where he had taken the foolish man’s wife, and waited until the young man came bounding back through the trees.

“What ho!” exclaimed the young man. “Where is my wife?”

The hermit, clasping his hands in front of him, said, with tears glistening down his cheeks.

“Oh it is terrible sir, terrible! I happened along when, seeing the Old Witch if the forest, I hid behind a tree to see what she would do. Well, your wife was busy picking boison berries, and when the Old Witch approached her, she asked for the little basket of berries! Oh, your wife was very loath to give it up, and told the witch so. So, in anger the witch turned her into…into this log!”

And the devious old hermit began to weep and sob. The young fool raised his hands to his head in anguish, exclaiming, “Oh! How terrible. Oh, love of my life! How terrible a fate you have suffered for a little basket of boison berries. If only I could find some way to turn you back into a living woman. Alas! I am no great wizard, and know not where one can be found!”

He wept bitterly at what he thought must be the unhappy death of his wife. Then, a thought possessed the fool. He wondered if, just because she was turned into a log, she might not still, in some manner, be considered “alive.”

“For,” he said to himself, “I do not know of a powerful wizard who could reverse this evil spell, BUT IF I DID, sould she not simply change back into her former self, and be as good as ever she was before?”

And, thinking that, he realized she was still, after all, his wife, and must be treated as such. So he took the log into his arms, and, huffing and puffing and sweating, carried the thing back to town.

He went back to his former master, and, imploring him for his old job back, was grudgingly let in the door, still carrying his log.

The old master looked puzzled at what the young fool was carrying in his arms,a nd, after a time, straightaway asked him, “Fool, why are you carrying that log in your arms?”

To which the fool replied, “Oh, this? This, I am afraid, is no mere log. It is my wife! An evil witch happened upon her while she was picking boison berries, and, because she would not give her the basket, turned her into this log. But, for all that, she is still a rather wonderful wife, wouldn’t you agree?”

The fool’s master, thinking the man quite mad, simply nodded his assent and said, “Why, yes. Of course! She is a most excellent wife for a man such as yourself!”

And the fool, somewhat mollified now, went about doing his master’s bidding. During the day, he carefully dressed the log up in an old dress and bonnet, and, carrying her about in one arm, took her with him to the market, and to the pub, and even to church.

Everyone who met the man thought him quite mad; but no one wanted to risk angerign such an obviously mad man. So they always pretended to respect and recognize the log as his wife, each and every oneof them.

When he had friends over to dinner, the log, dressed in her plain old wrap of a dress, was seated at table just as if it had been a real, livign and breathing woman. The fool even took to feeding it, and asked it if it would like some more gravy, or another helping of pot roast, and would then answer for it in a shrill, weird, womanly voice.

And the guests got to where they expected this strange ritual, and took very little notice of it when they came over for impromptu dinners and gatherings. It even got so that the fool found himself quite a popular gent, a sort of local curiousity, and some folks were quite eager to get a chance to have dinner with “The Man Who Took a Log as a Wife.”

Well, unbeknownst to the fool, his actual wife was locked up in the hideous cave of the old hermit, who passed her porridge and delectable vittles, and which she always refused.

“All the better to fatten you up, my dear! You are much, much too thin!”

The old hermit would lick his withered lips, and with drool dripping down his chin, would pace around the cage, muttering to himself about buttered parsnips and boiled potatoes, and wondering just how big of a broiler he would need for the fool’s wife.

The fool’s wife, realizing just why the hermit wanted her to gin weight, let the dishes pile up until she was starving. The hermit, seeing this, grew angry, exclaiming, “You’ll eat soon enough! Why, even that fool of a husband could see how skinny and hungry you are!”

And with that, the hermit stormed out one day ina huff, and did not immediately return, leaving the fool’s wife to ponder just how she could ever hope to free herself from her cage.

Well, as the sun came down, she lifted her weeping eyes to heaven, and prayed, “Oh Lord, please let me find a way from this terrible cage and back to my husband! For, I do not wish to die as the dinner for some terrible old man!”

It was just then that the fool’s wife spied the pots of slipper, slimy mush that had accrued, uneaten, day after day since she’d been imprisoned by the hermit. THey were sitting there on the floor of the cage, uneaten, stinking and drawing flies. She bent over, dipped her fingers in the mush. It was slippery as butter. She then looked at the lock of her cage. An idea came to her.

She carefully began to work the slippery, nasty stuff into the lock, between the bars, and greased the cage down until the mechanism of the lock became quite slippery and loose.

“Incredible!” she exclaimed to herself. “It is a miracle!”

Indeed, it did seem to be a miracle. She pulled at the door of the cage, heard the bars slip and slide, and. suddenly, the door popped…open!

She carefully looked out into the darkness of the cave. It seemed as if the hermit was still out for the night.

“He is probably out gathering roots or herbs for his potions!”

And, in truth, he was doing just that. The poor girl slipped from the mouth of the dark cave, and made her way across hill and down thorough dipping valley, and across the dark ravine, and through the thick shrubs and trees until,a t long last, she found herself at the gates of the town, and begged and pleaded withe the guard to le her in.

He, seeing no threat involved, did just that, and the terrified girl made her way down the quiet, deserted main street, until she came to he house of the fool’s former master, who was inside snoozing. The fool was in his attic room, curled up in bed next to the log. The girl, not wanting to wake the master, picthed pebbles up at the fools window until, his eyes cloudy with sleep, he came over and, throwing open the wondow, yelled below, “Hello down there! Do you have any ide what time it is?”

To which his wife replied, “Thou fool! Worry not about the time, for it is I, your wife, come home to you from being imprisoned by a fiend!”

At this the fool goggle and, throwing a glance back over his shoulder at the log in his bed, turned again tot he window and exclaimed, “How can this be? For, were you not changed into this log by the Old Witch of the Forest? And have I not kept this log with me, day and night, and cared for it as if it were thee, oh wife of my bosom? And so, how canst thou be standing there, int he flesh, and be, at the same time, a log lying in my bed?”

and, at hearing this, the fool’s wife spat, “Oh, cursed am I that I should have married such a fool! I haven’t time to explain to thee! But, here: so that we will not wake the master of the house, make a rope of knotted sheets, and throw it down, and I will climb up to thee!”

And so he did. In a short time, the fool and his wife were reunited at the window overlooking the street. Unbeknownst to them, however, as they stood there, the mad hermit had followed the fool’s wife back to town, and right to the door of the house where they were presently reunited. Shouting from below, he exclaimed, “Ha! You thought to get away from me, dod you! Well, I’ll show you! Just as soon as I climb up this rope made of tied-together old sheets, I’ll kill one and carry the other back to my lair! And then, when you’re good and fat, I’ll EAT YOU FOR DINNER WITH TURNIPS AND BUTTER! Do you hear me? TURNIPS AND BUTTER!”

And the mad old hermit began to climb. The fool, for once in his foolish life suddenly thinking of the right thing to do, rushed over to the bed, grabbed the log, and rushed back to the window. With a heave and a ho, he sent the log hurtling out the window and straight into the wrinkled old forehead of the mad hermit. The blow brained him, killing him instantly. He fell to the ground in great gush of blood.

Later, the fool and his wife told everyone that the spell had finally worn off.

Tale of the Spanish Dancer, or One True Love!

Once upon a time there lived a poor girl in Barcelona, who envied the rich and well-dressed girls who sauntered by in the promenade.

“Oh,” she said to herself, “if only Papa could afford to buy me such fine and beautiful dresses as all of those rich, spoiled girls have, why, I would count myself the luckiest girl in the world!”

But of course, her Papa did NOT have such money, and so she went about in rags.

One day, as she was walking through the market, carrying her basket of goods. she saw a gypsy dancing for pennies in the square. She went over to watch the men, who were pitching the coins at her, and were obviously quite taken with her looks.

The gypsy had the most beautiful dress she had ever before seen. It looked as if it had been woven of beautiful wild flowers, and it made the poor girl weep with envy to see it.

Instantly, the gypsy stood beside her, and asked, “Girl, why are you weeping so?”, to which the girl replied, “Oh, I am weeping because you look so beautiful dancing, and I am but a poor girl who could never afford such a beautiful dress!”

And the woman laughed and smiled, and said, “Well, girl, I’ll tell you what: I’ll let you wear my dress, and dance for me here, and give me a well-deserved rest. But, you must be careful to clean the dress every night with this special brush, and place it carefully in your closet, and take the best care of it. For, this dress is an enchanted dress, and the wearer of this dress shall find her true love, by and by!”

And with that, the young girl was exceedingly glad, and clapped her hands, and said, “Oh thank you M’lady, thank you! I shall do all that you say, and take the most wonderful care of your dress, and wear it with pride as I dance all day, and dance all night!”

And the lady laughed, and said, “Very well! Here–”

And, to the amazement of the young girl, the lady snapped her fingers, and suddenly, the two had traded clothing. Now, the lady was wearing the young girl’s tattered rags, and the young girl was wearing the beautiful gypsy dress. And each fit the other perfectly.

“Now,” said the strange woman, “I must be off. Remember what I told you, take special care of my dress while I am gone!”

And with that, the strange girl ran off into the crowded market, and was lost from sight. The young girl, delighted to be wearing the beautiful dress, immediately went into the town square, and began to dance.

Young men, some of whom asked to be her suitors, came and pitched coins at her as she went. Her dancing was divine, and she felt as if her toes were drifting on the wind as she went. And she danced and danced the whole day and night, and the next day, and hardly slept a wink in all that time, until she was exhausted.

Finally, she realized she deserved a rest, and she went home, carefully taking off the dress, and taking out the brush…but, she was so tired from all that dancing that she suddenly yawned and said to herself, “Oh, I am so tired, I shall just die if I don’t lie down for a moment! I shall look after the dress after I get up from my nap! The lady wont mind; after all, she is so kind and generous to allow me to borrow her beautiful dress!”

And so the foolish young girl laid down upon her bunk, and was soon fast asleep. It was not long however before she was awakened by what she took to be a flickering flame. She wondered if the sun had started to come up, when she opened her eyes, and saw the mysterious lady with the dress, standing in a circle of glowing fire!

She now saw the terrible truth of who the lady really was, and the young girl trembled from head to toe to realize that she was in the presenc of the living, breathing Devil himself!

“Foolish girl,” cried the devil, pointing one long, scaly finger at the trembling girl! “I told you never, never to fall asleep without first carefully combing out my dress, and making sure it was washed and hung up properly! Now, you will pay the price for your indolence and lack of care!”

And with that, the Devil snapped his fingers, and the dress flew from the couch upon which it had been carelessly tossed, and the Devil said, “Now, you must wear this dress day and night, forever and ever, and you will not be able to take it off! And you will dance and dance and dance, and you will never, ever stop dancing! And anyone who sees you will dance, too! And if you meet your true love, he must not look upon you, or he will turn to stone!”
And with that, the Devil shrieked with laughter and delight, and disappeared in a cloud of flame and smoke. The young girl was horrified to find the dress wrapped around her; and indeed, struggle as she might, she could NOT get the dress off!

A curious thing then happened: the young girl began to shudder and shake, so that she could not sit still! Her arms began to wiggle, and her legs began to wobble, and she soon found herself on her feet, hopping and skipping and jumping about.

Her mother came in, and saw what was happening, and exclaimed, “Oh my! You have been bewitched, and now cannot stop your dancing! You must go out of this house, at once, lest you dance a hole through the floor, or break all of our furniture flailing about!”

And with that, the young girl was thrust out of doors, where she found herself dancing down the road. It was not long before she had danced her way, like a crazed maniac, all the way to the town square.

Well, when the people saw her, they were quite taken with her, and said, “Oh look! It is the dancing girl from the other day! My, look at her go! It’s as if she cannot help herself!”

And then, as if a mania swept through the gathering crowd, those that beheld her strange, maniacal dancing, began to dance themselves. They gyrated,a nd twisted about, and pulled their hair, and gnashed their teeth, and wagged their tongues and clucked their heads and exclaimed, “Oh my! it is as if we were bewitched!”

And another yelled, “No, it is worse! It is like a legion of devils inside my pants!”

And still another said, “it is as if we have been bitten by the tarantula!”

And so the crowd began to roar and gyrate, and fell upon the dusty ground, and danced through the street, and ripped their clothes,a nd tore their hair, and soon, the village priest came by.

Seeing such brazen, sinful behavior, he quickly exhorted the people to stop what they were doing.

But they simply replied, “We cannot! it is as if our bodies are moving but our minds are asleep!”

And then they told him, “It all started when we watched the little girl in the dress dancing! She has bewitched us! Oh, can’t you do anything to help?”

And the priest, realizing that such an enseemly display was sinful,a nd must not be allowed to continue, thought for a moment, before commanding a few men to go and fetch him a tent. Then, he carefully told them, “You must raise this tent around yon girl. But take car that you do it with your back turned, and do not look at her, or else you will end up just like all of these other poor souls!”

And, with his back turned, the priest pointed at the young dancing girl who had started all the commotion, and the men, with their back turned, slowly put up the cloth barrier between the morning market crowds and the girl.
Soon, no one could see her, and consequently, the dancers soon ceased to dance.

“Good!” said the priest. “That seems to take care of one problem, at least!” But, as to what to do with the girl, now hidden behind the folds of the tent, he could not say. So, he quickly decided to go back to his study and meditate on the matter.

It was not many hours before a dashing young man rode up on a horse. He was a man quite taken with tales of chivalry, and was on a search for his “one true love”; and, so when seeing the strange striped tent in the middle of the street, he became quite curious.

“Ho stranger! And what, pray tell, is the reason for that tent being pitched in the center of the road, where it blocks the traffic?”

And the man said, “Of sir! Behind the flaps of that tent is a young girl who has been bewitched, so that she cannot stop dancing! And, worse, anyone who looks upon her begins dancing as well, and cannot stop! So the village padre has commanded that a tent be put up around her, so that she is hidden. But, as to what else can be done about it, who can say?”

And the man, who was rather stupid, shrugged his shoulders and wandered off. The young squire, overtaken with heroic feelings of chivalry and daring, conceived a plan whereby he might save the girl from her bewitchment.

He decided to go to the door of the tent, with his back turned, and looking at the girl only in the polished surface of his shield.

“For, if I do not look directly at her, the bewitchment cannot effect me as it did the others.” Or, so he reasoned.

So, dismounting, he carefully went to the dark opening of the tent, where, inside, the exhausted girl was still flinging herself about madly, dancing and sending up great clouds of dust in the darkness.

“Oh, kind sir!” exclaimed the girl. “I have angered the Devil himself, who gave me this dress so I might become a great dancer! Alas, in his vengeance, I have been condemned to wear this dress, which causes me to dance and dance! Oh, if only there were some way you could relieve me of this burden, and I would surely go with you, and be your wife!”

And so the bold young man said, “Never fear, my dear! Your salvation is near!”

And, scooting backwards on his heels, with his shield held up before his face, he made his way to the wildly gyrating girl–no easy feat, as she could not stop moving!

Cautiously, he put out a gauntleted hand, and prepared to rip the dress from her body when, viewing her face more clearly in the polished surface of his shield, he suddenly exclaimed–

“Wait! I know thee! I have beheld thee in a dream. Thou art my ONE TRUE LOVE!”

And, forgetting that he could not look directly upon the girl, he turned suddenly. The dancing girl put her hands to her cheeks and screamed in terror, but it was too late!

The young man fell to the earth, stone dead.

Aghast, the young girl decided she could no longer go on. She danced from the tent, through the streets, and to the bridge above the river. It was here she cast her dancing body into the water–which was no easy feat, as she kept moving back and forth, away from the edge!

No, one was sorry to see her go.

(If there is a moral to this story, we haven’t found it yet. Except, perhaps: don’t fall asleep without hanging up your clothes.)

Three Little Pigs

Once, there were three pigs, and they all lived their little piggy lives in a great, stinking hovel, hidden in the middle of a dense forest.

One day, the eldest pig said, “I am fed o the teeth with living, day in and day out, in this stinking hovel, an d never seeing any new sights, or having any new adventures. I declare, I am going into the city, where I will be able to live ina manner fitting a pig of my undeniable breeding and stature!”

And with that, he slowly began to make the preparations to depart. His younger brothers, aghast at his plan, implored him to stay, saying “Oh! Do not leave us, do not leave us! For, surely, you’ll never come back to us, as danger is sure to befall you in the city, and there are many rogues and cutthroats just waiting for a tender young morsel such as yourself to come along, so they can devour him!”

But the eldest pig would have none of it. He put on his best little piggy-suit, grabbed his valise, and, waving a hoof goodbye, trotted down the road toward the city and his fate.

Well, his brothers were sobbing and squealing, sorry to see him go, and certain no good would come of it, and, most especially the youngest brother, who said to himself, “He can go anywhere he likes, but I’ll not leave my safe, comfortable, quiet little hovel, with its blanket of flies and its sweet-smelling manure mound.”

And, so saying to himself, he lay down on his piggy knuckles, and fell to musing.

Well, the eldest brother, omce he actually entered the gates of the city, was a little afraid, but he soon contented himself that he was dressed in fancy finery, and thus looked the part of a gentleman. (Or, rather, gentlepig?) He trotted along, trying to put the best, most confident face he could on his visit, but was soon very tired and hungry.

In time, a strange man came up to him in the streets, and said, “Oh, brother pig! I see that you have come a long way, and are most tired and hungry! Come, I am a kind man, known for my kindness to strangers, and I will give you something to eat in my shop, and then let you lie down for awhile!”

And at that, the pig was delighted, saying to himself, “My! This fellow is most hospitable! I certainly am glad I decided to leave the boring old hovel in the forest to journey to the city, even though I do miss the blanket of flies and the sweet-smelling manure mound a little.”

And so the pig followed the man around the corner to the door of his little shop, and the man said, “Here, here is an apple! Better put this in your mouth, eh!”

And then the man produced a silver platter, and said, “Here, here is a place you can lie down! You must be very tired after your long journey, and require lots of rest!”

And the pig said, “My, it doesn’t look very comfortable!” But, he put the apple in his mouth, and lay down upon the platter, as he was instructed, and then asked, “Is this what you had planned for me?”

And the strange man said, “Not quite! For it is very drafty in here, and I wouldn’t want you to catch cold. Here! It is ever so much warmer in here!”

And with that, the strange man threw open the door to a great stone oven, and before the pig cpuld even squeal a squeal of surprise, the man thrust him inside, where he was roasted and broiled and then served up, chop by chop, to the strange man’s customers.

Well, back home in the hovel, the other brothers waited and waited, and waited some more, but seeing that the eldest brother was never going to return, they soon forgot all about him, pigs not having such a long memory, after all.

Soon, the middle brother began to feel, just as his eldest brother had, that he was somehow missing out in life, and that his purposes would be better served if he went out from the forest, to seek his fame and fortune.

“I will not make the mistake that our elder brother has, though, and journey to the city. Instead, I will keep to the countryside, where people are simple and friendly, and there is little to fear!”

And so, getting on his best little piggy suit, he grabbed his valise, and, telling his youngest brother goodbye, went about his way.

The youngest pig, who had seen all of this before, rested his piggy snout on his little piggy trotters, and said to himself, “Hm. My eldest brother has gone to the city, and never returned. Now my other brother has left to wander the countryside. I am certain he will never return, either! I will just stay here in my familiar old hovel, with my blanket of flies and my sweet-smelling manure pile, and I will be nice and safe.”

And so he did.

His brother, meanwhile, wandered the roads and the pleasant country lanes until he came upon a farm. The farmer was a great, burly, bearded chap who exclaimed to him, “Come, Brother Pig! You must be hungry and tired after such a long journey! Come, and I will feed you, and give you a sweet-smelling manure pile upon which to recline!”

And so the pig said to himself, ” Oh, I was right in leaving the old hovel, for the people of the countryside are generous and kind! Why, this man barely knows me,a nd already he is offering to fatten me up!”

And so the pig went with the farmer to the pig sty, and there he found blankets of delicious flies and sweet-smelling manure aplenty, and a trough with delectable leavings floating in a thick, soupy muck. So he put his snout down in the trough and began to feed.

The farmer said, “There, there, Mr. Pig! You just eat to your heart’s content, and I will go and fetch a special present with which to welcome you to our humble home. Why, you’re such a handsome fellow, I’d like to have you for dinner!”

At the prospect of being invited inside for dinner (for this is what he thought the old farmer meant) , the young pig raised his dripping snout and squealed with delight. Then, curiously, he saw that the farmer was concealing something behind his back.

“Say, friend,” asked the curious pig, “what is that you’re hiding behind your back?”

And, as if in answer, the farmer produced a huge wooden club, and brought it down with terrible force right between the poor porker’s piggy eyes.

His brains flew out of his piggy ears, and he died in a moment.

The farmer did indeed have the pig for dinner then–as the main course!

Well, the youngest pig waited,a nd waited, and, seeing that his brothers were never going to return, contented himself by remembering how very wise he had been to simply sty where it was nice and familiar, and not to go off and try to see and do things a pig should not, logically, try to see and do.

“Hm. My eldest brother went to the city, and has not returned. He is surely dead, but I have remained safe, right here. Then my other brother left to wander the countryside, and has not returned. He is, also surely dead. But I am still safe and sound, enjoying the clouds of flies and the warm, sweet manure pile here in my little hovel in the forest.”

And so he slowly forgot his brothers and their sorry fate.

It was nto long after that the last surviving pig was awakened by a strange sound, like a horn blowing in the distance.

Not knowing what that sound was, and thinking it was some sort of animal he had never before seen, he poked his piggy snout out the door and looked around.

He was pierced between the eyes by an arrow. Around him, dogs danced, as two hunters came riding up–

“Hark! It seems it is a good day to hunt wild pig! This one is good and fat, and will make a tender morsel for our feast!”

And so all the pigs died, no matter where they did, or didn’t go.

All of which is to say, one should never fear death, for it is inevitable, by and by.