THE DONKEY AND THE LION
Once upon a time there was a Donkey. He suddenly decided that he had had enough of hard work and beatings from his master.
"I know," he thought, "I'll flee to the forest and live in freedom! I'll graze on the forest grass and who will there be to prevent it?"
So without thinking too long, he ran away from his master into the forest. He was very happy there. He grazed wherever he wanted to, didn't have to work, nobody beat him — in all his born days he had never lived so well. But one day, while grazing, he looked up and saw the lion, frightening beyond description, coming straight toward him.
"Oh!" thought the Donkey, "this will probably be the end of me!"
But while the Lion was approaching, he somehow came to his senses and began to consider a way out.
"Maybe I can outwit him in some way?"
And right where he stood, he suddenly fell to the ground, and lay there as if without a care in the world. The Lion approached and began roaring out while still at a distance :
"Hey, you, who might you be? How dare you lie there when I'm approaching? Why aren't you getting up to bow to me?"
The Donkey continued to lie there as if he didn't hear. He lay quietly, only flapping his long ears from time to time.
The Lion came closer and roared again :
"Get up immediately and salute me!"
"And who might you be?" asked the Donkey.
"You are asking yet?" the Lion roared threateningly. "Don't you know that I am the Lion, King of all the beasts?"
Without rising, the Donkey raised his head, and goggled his eyes at him.
"What kind of nonsense is this you're talking ?" he asked. "You are king of all the beasts ? Who told you such a thing ? Do you have it in writing ? Who elected you to be king ? Well, speak up!"
The Lion stood as if he had been stunned.
"Who told me so? Why, everyone tells me that I am king of the beasts. Are you saying that it isn't true?"
"Of course it's not true! It can't be true, because I am the king of all the beasts!"
"You?" the Lion was dumbfounded. "And I suppose you have this in writing?"
"Of course I have! Here, take a look!"
He rose to his feet and turning his back to the Lion, he showed him his hind hoof where a very new horseshoe gleamed.
"See this! This is my royal seal. If you were king you'd have one like it."
"How astonishing !" marvelled the Lion. "I have never even thought about such a thing. You're probably right. But wait! Let's have a contest. We'll go into the forest and the one who catches more animals within an hour is the true king."
"Fine, if that's the way you wish it," said the Donkey, and with that they went their separate ways.
The Lion raced quickly around the forest; he ran and ran, catching a doe here, a rabbit there, another animal further on — in an hour he had collected some five or six animals. He gathered them all up and dragged them back to the Donkey.
But what was the Donkey doing in the meantime ? He strolled out onto a broad clearing, where the sun shone brightly, and on reaching the centre, threw himself down on the ground, stretched out his legs, closed his eyes and lolled his long tongue out of his mouth as far as it would go. Anyone looking at him would have sworn he was dead — very dead. Over the clearing there was a constant flow of flying birds — hawks, crows, kites, magpies, ravens — all the nastiest kind. Seeing the Donkey lying there dead they descended on him in a mob. At first they hopped about at a distance, and when they saw that he wasn't moving, they began to light on him and peck at his tongue and his eyes. The Donkey lay quietly, only when one of the birds come too close did he clamp it between his teeth or knock it with his hoof, killing it and hiding it under his body so cunningly that the others didn't even notice it. Before an hour had passed he had killed at least a score. Then he sprang to his feet, shook himself so vigorously and brayed so loudly that the birds scattered in all directions. He then gathered up all his killed birds and took them to the spot where he was to meet the Lion. The Lion was already there, waiting for him.
"Well, now," he said to the Donkey, showing him his prey. "See how many I have killed?"
"Now aren't you the stupid one!" answered the Donkey, kicking at the dead animals. "I could have caught at least two-score of such animals, but what are they worth? Now just you look at mine! I caught only those that fly in the air. You try to do it!"
"No, I'm not up to such a trick," answered the Lion. "At last I can see that you are truly the king of the beasts, not I. Forgive me for being so disrespectful toward you."
"Ha!" said the Donkey, haughtily. "You must always be respectful, because you may suddenly meet someone who is your superior, and then what? I could now punish you immediately with death, but I'll forgive you because you did this out of ignorance and not from ill-will. Go now, and be more careful another time!"
And the Lion went, dejected, his tail between his legs as if someone had poured a barrel of ice-cold water over him. But neither near, nor too far away, he met Brother Wolf in the forest.
"Good health to you, most illustrious King!" greeted the Wolf, bowing low.
"Ekh, go away and don't make fun of me!" answered the Lion sadly. "What kind of a king am I?"
"What do you mean?" yelped the Wolf. "Who would dare to say otherwise?"
"Quiet, brother," whispered the Lion. "The true king is not far from here. If he hears us, it will be bad for both you and me."
"The true king?" the Wolf was startled. "What is this? Who else could be the true king but yourself?"
"There is, there is!" the Lion whispered in terror. "I saw him myself. He is terrifying! And what strength! He can even catch the animals that fly in the air. I thank God that he let me go alive."
"Is that so?" the Wolf was amazed. "Stranger and stranger! I know this forest intimately and I can't think of who this could be ? How does this king look?"
"In a word — terrifying!" said the Lion. "His ears are like this, his head like a bucket and the royal seal on his hind leg."
"For the life of me, I can't guess who this could be," worried the Wolf. "You know what, come and show him to me."
"Me ? Never in the world!" shouted the Lion. "It's enough that I was frightened once!"
"Oh, come now! What is there to be afraid of?" encouraged the Wolf.
"You know what, let's tie our tails together and then we can approach him with more courage."
"Oh well!" agreed the Lion, "let it be as you say."
So they tied their tails together and off they went. They climbed up on a hilltop overlooking the clearing where the Donkey was grazing. The Lion stopped, looked, then whispered to the Wolf :
"There he is! There he is! Look!"
The Wolf turned, took a look, and yelped : "You foolish Lion, why that's just an old Ass!" But to the Lion it sounded as if he said that they must get away fast and he became so frightened that he took to his heels! Over stumps, over streams — he ran as fast as his breath would let him. Finally he was so tired that he stopped and looked behind him.
"Now Wolf," he asked, "have we escaped far enough?"
But the Wolf was beyond speech, his tongue hanging out. Since he was tied to the Lion's tail, he was dragged all the way and had long ceased to breathe.
"See," said the Lion, "you said that the new king wasn't terrifying, but when you saw him for yourself you died from fright!"
HOW PAST FAVOURS ARE FORGOTTEN
Brother Wolf rambled around the forest, and while on his rambles one day, he ran into serious trouble. He was seen by a group of young hunters who, immediately on seeing him, gave chase. The Wolf ran and ran through the forest, then finally emerged on a beaten pathway. At that moment a man was walking along it, coming from the field carrying a sack and a flail. The Wolf approached him :
"Dearest Uncle! Take pity on me and hide me in your sack! There's a group of hunters out to get me, wanting to shorten my life."
The man took pity on him, put him in his sack, threw it over his shoulder, and walked on. Presently the hunters came up and one said:
"Would you have seen, my good man, a Wolf along this path?"
"No, I haven't."
The hunters sped on. When they had passed out of sight, the Wolf spoke up :
"Have my pursuers gone?"
"Yes, they're gone."
"Well then, you can now release me from the sack."
The man untied the sack and released brother Wolf. The Wolf then said:
"Now, my good man, I'm going to eat you!"
"Oh, brother Wolf, good brother Wolf! I've saved you from sure death, and you want to eat me?"
"Why not, my man! That's how things are in this world. Past favours are always forgotten !"
The man saw that he was in a bad situation, so he suggested: "Well, if that's the way it is, let's go on! We'll go to court. If the court agrees to what you say, then it will be as you say : you can eat me."
The Wolf consented and they went on till they met an old Mare. The man turned to her and said :
"If you please, mother Mare, decide for us. I have just saved brother Wolf from a dangerous adventure, and now he wants to eat me." And he told the Mare the whole story as it had happened. The Mare thought and thought, then said :
"The Wolf is right, my good man! I lived with my master twelve years; served him faithfully and well, raised him ten colts, and now that I have grown old and am not able to work, he has turned me out into a barren field so the wolves could make a meal of me. It's now a week that I've spent here, days and nights, waiting for the wolves
to come and tear me apart. That's the way it is, Uncle, past favours are soon forgotten!"
"You see, I'm right!" cried the Wolf.
Saddened, the man began to plead with the Wolf that they seek another judgement. The Wolf agreed. They walked on and on till they came across an old Dog. The man turned to him with his problem. He told him the whole story just as it happened. The Dog thought and thought, then said finally :
"No, my good man, the truth lies with the Wolf. Just listen to my story. I served my master twenty years, guarded his home and cattle, but when I got old and my voice gave way, he chased me out of his yard and now you see me wandering about without shelter. Past favours are forgotten, it's the sacred truth!"
"You see, it's just as I said!" cried the Wolf.
The man was even more saddened by this turn of events and again begged of the Wolf :
"Do allow me to get one more opinion and then do with me what you will, since you don't recognize a good turn?"
So they went on until they saw sister Vixen approaching them in the distance.
"Hey, sister Vixen I" shouted the man from afar and bowed. "Do us a favour and come closer, help us in a decision between the Wolf and myself!"
The Vixen came up and the man told her the whole story just as it happened. The Vixen couldn't believe it.
"It can't be the truth, my good man, that the Wolf, who prides himself on being such a gentleman, would crawl into a sack!"
"But it is the truth!" cried the Wolf.
"No, I'll never believe it!" said the Vixen stubbornly and no matter how the man swore or the Wolf tried to convince her, she refused to believe them.
"I can't believe it, unless you show me how it was done."
"Yes, that we can," said the man, andopened up the sack in the same way as when he hid the Wolf in it.
"See, this is the way it was done!" said the Wolf, putting his head into the sack.
"What do you mean, you only put your head in ?" asked the Vixen.
The Wolf crawled completely into the sack.
"Now then, my good man," said the Vixen, "show me how you tied the sack."
The man tied the sack.
"And now, my good man, show me how you threshed the sheaves on the threshing floor."
The man didn't have to be told twice. He seized his flail and away he went at the sack! The Vixen continued to encourage him : "Now show me how you turned the sheaves?"
The man turned the sack and flailed at the other side, striking the Wolf on the head till he beat him to death.
"Now, my good man," said the Vixen, "I have saved you from death. How are you going to repay me for this?"
"I'll present you, sister Vixen, with a sack of chickens."
The Vixen followed the man into the village and waited outside his gate while he went into the barn to look for chickens. He took a sack and started to catch the chickens when his wife appeared.
"What on earth are you doing, husband?"
The man told her everything that had happened, how the Vixen had saved his life and how he had promised to repay her with a sack of chickens.
"Thank goodness you're alive and well," said his wife, "but to give the Vixen our chickens I will never agree. Better you should put our two Dogs — Lysko and Riabko — in the sack and give them to the Vixen."
The man thought this over and decided to take his wife's advice. He put the Dogs into the sack, carried them out to the gate and said:
"Here it is, sister Vixen, your sack of chickens. Take it into the forest on your back and don't open it near the village, or they'll scatter."
The Vixen took the sack. She carried and bore its heavy weight till she got tired and sat down on a mound beyond the village to rest. While resting, she thought:
"I'll just take a look to see how many chickens he gave me." She opened the sack and before she could even take a peep, the Dogs, Lysko and Riabko, jumped out and went after her. The Vixen ran with all her strength and barely-barely reached the forest and her burrow ahead of them.
After getting over her fright and getting back her breath, she began a conversation with herself :
"You, my eyes, what were you doing while those nasty Dogs were chasing me?"
"We looked carefully so that you would find the best way to run to get away from the Dogs."
"And you, my legs, what were you doing?"
"We ran with all our might so that the Dogs couldn't catch up with you."
"And you, my ears, what were you doing?"
"We listened with attention to hear if your enemies were gaining on you."
"And you, my outsized tail, what were you doing?"
The tail, deeply insulted at the disrespectful way she addressed him, answered her with spite:
"Oh, I swung back and forth, getting caught in the tree stumps or in the bushes to impede your way so that the Dogs could catch you."
"Hah, so that's what you're like?" howled the Vixen, "out of my burrow with you!"
And with these words she turned and thrust her tail outside her burrow, shouting:
"Hey Lysko, hey Riabko! Here! Here! Here is the Vixen's tail! Tear at it!"
As if waiting for this, Lysko and Riabko grabbed the Vixen's tail and gave it such a sharp pull that they pulled the Vixen herself out of the burrow and there and then tore her to pieces.
THE VIXEN AND THE CRANE
The Vixen and the Crane became very good friends, even to the point of becoming godparents to each other's children. One day the Vixen invited the Crane oven for lunch.
"Do come, dear friend! Do come, love! All my house has to offer will be yours."
The Crane arrived in good time. The Vixen had prepared a meal of porridge with milk, spread it thinly over a plate, and placed it before her friend.
"Do help yourself, old friend, don't be proud! I prepared it myself."
The Crane pecked and pecked at the porridge with her long beak, but was unable to get a bite. In the meantime the Vixen licked away at the porridge till she ate it all. When it was all gone, she said:
"Do forgive me, friend, for I have nothing else to offer you."
"I thank you for even this," answered the Crane, dryly, "now how about visiting me tomorrow."
"Very well, my dear, I'll come, and why not?" answered the Vixen.
Next day the Vixen arrived to a meal of meat, beets, beans and potatoes prepared by the Crane. She had cut everything up into small pieces and placed it all into a tall earthen crock with a narrow neck and placed in on the table before the Vixen.
"Do help yourself, my dear, don't be proud, love !" the Crane begged hospitably.
The Vixen sniffed — it all smelled so good ! She stuck her nose into the crock, but it wouldn't go in! She tried using her paw, but with no success either. She circled the pot in one direction, then the other — there was no way she could get at the food. The Crane, in the meantime, didn't waste a moment. She reached easily into the crock with her long beak, pulling out one piece after another and swallowing them with a fine appetite till everything was gone.
"Do forgive me, friend," she said, having emptied the crock, "you were welcome to all my house had to offer, but I have no more."
The Vixen was so angry that she left without even thanking her hostess. She had thought, you see, that she would have eaten her fill for a week, and here she was, going home, having been neatly paid back by the Crane. From that time on, the Vixen gave up her friendship with the Crane.
THE VIXEN AND THE CRAB
A Vixen once met a Crab. She stopped for a moment, watching his slow crawl, and then began to take fun of him.
"Well, you are a fast-moving one, I must say! A truly wretched creature! Now tell me, poor Crab, is it true that once on an Easter Friday you were sent for yeast and it was a year later, on Easter Saturday, that you returned with the yeast, and after all that you ended up by spilling it all over the floor?"
"Perhaps it was the truth at one time," answered the Crab, "but now it greatly resembles a lie."
"My, my! That means, I suppose, that you are much faster now?"
"Faster or not, it is no reason for sarcasm on your part. If you want to know how fast I am, then let's make a bet. I bet that I will reach that little stump over there before you will."
"What ? What ? " cried the astonished Vixen. "You want to race on a bet with me?"
"Not only race, but I'll let you start one jump ahead of me, and see if I don't reach our goal ahead of you," said the Crab.
Having made their bets, the Vixen placed herself a jump ahead of the Crab, who lost no time in seizing her tail with his claws. Off they went, the Vixen running with all her might, so fast that she raised a cloud of dust. She reached the stump, panting, and shouted:
"Where are you, Crab?"
There was no answer.
"Well, Crab, where are you ?" she shouted again, and turned around with her tail to the stump.
The Crab immediately let go of her tail and answered:
"Here I am! I've been waiting here for some time. In fact I even ran past the stump and returned."
THE FOX AND THE BLACKBIRD
A wild Boar was on his way to the market in Kiev one day, when he met a Wolf coming toward him.
"Where are you going, Boar?" asked the Wolf.
"To the market in Kiev."
"Take me with you."
"Come along, old crony."
They walked along till they met the Fox coming toward them.
"Where are you going, Boar?"
"To the market in Kiev."
"Take me with you."
"Come along, old crony."
They walked along till they met the Rabbit coming toward them.
"Where are you going, Boar?"
"To the market in Kiev."
"Take me with you."
"Come along, you poor creature."
So they walked along together. They walked and walked until, just before nightfall, they came upon a hole in the ground, wide and deep. The Boar jumped and missed, and after him came the others, all of them landing in the bottom of the pit. What to do ? They would have to spend the night there. They got very hungry after a while, but they couldn't get out and there was nothing to eat in the pit. The Fox had an idea.
"Let's," he said, "sing songs. Whichever one of us will hit the highest note, that one we will eat."
"Well, they started to sing. The Wolf, of course, was the lowest: Oo-oo-oo!; the Boar was a little higher: O-o-o!; the Fox was still higher: E-e-e!; and the Rabbit came out the highest: Ee-ee-ee!
They all threw themselves at the wretched Rabbit, tearing him to pieces and eating him. But really, the Rabbit was much too small to appease their hunger. It had barely dawned in the morning when they woke up so hungry that they could barely breathe. Again the Fox
"Let's continue singing. This time the one who has the lowest voice will be eaten."
They began to sing. The Wolf tried his best to sing in a high yoice, but failed miserably. His howl was the lowest. The others threw themselves at him and tore him to pieces.
Only two were left: the Boar and the Fox. They divided the Wolf between them. The Boar quickly ate his share, while the Fox ate only a little and hid the rest. A day passed, another, the Boar was getting hungrier and hungrier and there was nothing to eat. The fox just sat in his corner, pulling out one piece of the wolf meat at a time and eating it.
"What is it you're eating, old friend?" asked the Boar.
"Ah, old crony," sighed the Fox, "what can I do! I'm drinking my own blood out of hunger. Why don't you do the same thing ? Take a bite out of your chest and suck the blood out slowly. You'll see that you'll feel much better."
The foolish Boar followed this advice. He dug his tusks into his chest, tore it open, but before he got to even tasting his own blood he was flooded with it and died then and there. Now the Fox threw himself on him and had something to eat for another few days. But soon even the Boar's meat was gone. The Fox sat in the pit again tormented by hunger.
Now there was a tree standing over the pit and in the tree the Blackbird was building its nest. The Fox watched it, looking up out of the pit, and at last began to speak :
"What are you doing there, Blackbird?"
"Making a nest."
"What do you need a nest for?"
"I'll lay eggs in it."
"What do you need eggs for?"
"I'll hatch some baby Blackbirds."
"Blackbird, if you don't get me out of this pit, I'll eat up your children."
"Don't eat them, dear Fox, I'll get you out of there right away," begged the Blackbird.
The Blackbird was distressed, the Blackbird worried. How was she to get the Fox out of the pit ? She began by flying swiftly about the forest gathering up small sticks and twigs and throwing them down into the pit. She worked very hard and after some time the Fox was able to climb out of the pit over the pile of twigs. The Blackbird thought that now the Fox would go on his way, but no! The Fox laid himself down beneath the Blackbird's tree and said:
"Blackbird, you've gotten me out of that pit."
""Yes, I have."
"Well now, find me something to eat or I'll eat your children."
"Don't eat them, dear Fox. I'll get you something to eat."
The Blackbird was distressed, the Blackbird worried. How was she to
get food for the Fox ? At last she thought of something and said to the Fox :
"Come with me."
They came out of the forest and there at its edge wound a field path.
"Lie down here in the rye," said the Blackbird to the Fox, "while I think about what to feed you with."
Soon the Blackbird saw a woman coming along the path carrying lunch for the husband who was working in the field. The Blackbird jumped into a puddle, wet herself thoroughly, then into the sand, covering herself with it, then began running up and down the path, flitting back and forth as if she couldn't fly. The woman saw that the bird was wet and helpless.
"I know," she thought, "I'll catch the bird and take it home as a plaything for the.children."
She ran after the Blackbird for a while who also ran and flitted, but didn't fly. At last she laid down her basket with its pots of food on t]fe path and began to chase the blackbird in earnest. The Blackbird ran*a bit, then flitted a bit, but always further and further away from the path, the woman following. At last, seeing that she had taken the woman some distance away from her basket, the bird lifted herself into the air and flew away. The woman, annoyed, waved an arm and returned to her basket. But there she found a real feast. While she was running after the Blackbird, the Fox had jumped out of the rye and to the pots. He ate everything he could, spilled the rest, and ran away.
The Blackbird returned to the tree and continued building her nest when, looking down, she saw the Fox under the tree again.
"Blackbird," said the Fox, "didn't you get me out of that pit?"
"I did, dear Fox."
"And you've fed me."
"Yes, I have."
"Well now, get me something to drink or I'll eat all your children."
"Don't eat them, dear Fox, I'll get you something to drink."
Again the Blackbird worried. How was she to get the Fox something to drink ? At last she thought of something and said to the Fox:
"Come with me!"
They came out of the forest again and onto the same field path.
"Lie down here in the rye," said the Blackbird to the Fox, "while I think of how I'll get you something to drink."
Soon the Blackbird saw a man coming down the path driving a barrel of water on his wagon to water his cabbages with. The Blackbird flew up, sat on the horse's head, and began to peck.
"Shoo!" shouted the man and swung his whip at the Blackbird. The Blackbird took flight and the whip hit the horse on the head. As if nothing had happened the Blackbird returned and this time sat on the other horse's head and began to peck at it. Again the man swung his whip and again swatted the horse on the head. This made the man very angry. "What a jailbird it is I" he thought, "Why has it attached itself to us?"
The Blackbird in the meantime had returned to sit on the barrel of water and pecked away there.
"Just you wait," thought the man, and suddenly pulling a gun out from under the seat, he shot at the barrel. He didn't hit the Blackbird, but the barrel toppled over from the heavy blow and fell to the ground, spilling the water which ran in a heavy stream along the path. The Fox jumped out of the rye, drank his fill, and the man, cursing the Blackbird, picked up the empty barrel and drove home.
The Blackbird returned to the tree and went on building her nest when, looking down, saw the Fox. There he was again — under the tree.
"Blackbird, you got me out of that pit?"
"Yes, I did."
"You fed me?"
"Yes, I did."
"You've watered me."
"Yes, I did."
"Well now, make me laugh, for if you don't, by God, I'll eat up your children alive!"
"Don't eat them, dear Fox, I'll make you laugh."
The Blackbird was again distressed and worried. How was she to take the Fox laugh ? At last she thought of something and said:
"Come with me."
They emerged out of the forest and onto the path along it. The Fox sat down in the rye and waited, when came the very same man who had earlier driven along with the water. He sat on the seat in front of the wagon and his small son sat behind him holding a stick. The Blackbird flew up, sat on the man's shoulder, and began to peck at him.
"Hey, dad," said the boy, "there's a bird sitting on you!" Don't move, I'll chase it away."
The man had barely understood what his son was saying when the lad gave a huge swing with his stick — and whacked his father across his back! The Blackbird flicked away and a moment later settled on the man's other shoulder. The boy swung again and gave his father an even harder whack across his back.
"Son, son, what are you doing?" cried the father.
"Quiet dad! There's'some bird always trying to sit down on your shoulder. I've got to catch it!"
"Well, catch it, but don't beat me!" the father cried out in his pain.
The Blackbird flew about a bit, then suddenly lighted on the old man's head and began to peck at his straw hat as if this was its rightful place. The boy swung his arm to try and catch the bird, but the Blackbird spurted away. She came down again and again and the boy tried his best to catch her — but in vain.
"Just you wait, you fiendish bird, I'll get you yet!" thought the boy. And when the Blackbird lighted on his father's head for the third time, without thinking a moment, he swung his stick across his father's head with such strength that the world turned dark before the old man's eyes. The Blackbird spurted up and flew away unharmed. The Fox, sitting in the rye, watched all this and held onto his sides with laughter at the Blackbird's tricks.
The Blackbird, seeing the Fox so happy, breathed a sigh of relief.
"Well," she thought, "maybe now he will give me some peace and won't threaten my children."
But she had barely returned to the tree and started on building her nest again, when the Fox once more appeared beneath her.
"Blackbird, did you, or did you not, get me out of that pit?"
"That I did."
"Then you fed me."
"You gave me water?"
""You made me laugh?"
"Well now, I want you to frighten me, and if you don't I'll eat all your children, I will."
The Blackbird worried herself sick. How was she to frighten the Fox? At last she said:
"What else can I do? Come with me and I'll do my best to frighten you."
The Blackbird led the Fox along the forest road to the big pasture where a large flock of sheep were grazing. The shepherds were sitting in a hut nearby and the dogs ran about the flock, keeping watch. The
Fox stopped some distance away, on the edge of the forest, for on seeing the dogs, he refused to go further. "What, my dear Fox, are you afraid?"
"No, I'm not afraid," answered the Fox, "I'm only a bit tired and don't want to go any further."
"Then how can I frighten you if you refuse to go further?" asked the Blackbird.
"Frighten me in any way you will," said the Fox. "Just remember that if you don't, I'll eat your children, bones and all."
"Very Well," said the Blackbird. "Lie down hefe in the rye and watch me. When you start getting frightened, shout for me to stop."
The Blackbird flew off, then lighted down on the ground before the dogs and began to scratch the earth with her claws. The dogs sprang at her, but she flitted away and immediately came down again, but a little closer to the Fox. The Fox watched and waited to see what would happen, but didn't notice that the dogs were coming closer and closer. At last the Blackbird rose from the ground and fluttering its wings as if wounded, began to fly straight toward the Fox, the dogs in full pursuit. Only now did the Fox realize the danger and jumping up, shouted to the Blackbird :
"What are you doing, you fool! Why you are leading those dogs right at me!"
Here the dogs caught sight of him and dashed at him in full cry. The Fox barely managed to run a few steps when they caught up and tore him to pieces.
As you can see — he who deals in cunning and deceit, will also meet his end by deceit.
THE HEDGEHOG AND THE RABBIT
The Hedgehog stood outside the door of his burrow, his hands stuffed under his belt, his nose turned toward the warm breeze, humming a quiet tune. Whether it was a tuneful tune was really nobody's business — he hummed as only he knew how. So he hummed, until a thought came into his mind:
"Why don't I stroll out to the field while my wife is dressing the children in clean shirts ? It will be a walk, and I'll take a look at my beets, to see how they were coming up."
The beets weren't far from his burrow house. The Hedgehog helped himself to as many as he needed for his family, and that is why he thought of them as "my beets." So thinking, he closed the door behind him and trudged along the pathway to the field. He hadn't gone far when he saw the Rabbit coming toward him. He had also come out for a walk to take a look at "his" cabbages.
Coming face to face with him, the Hedgehog offered a polite greeting. But the Rabbit was a very proud creature and thought himself quite superior to the Hedgehog. He didn't reply to the greeting, just looked down his nose at him from his greater height and said:
"Oho, and what are you up to, loafing about in the field so early in the morning?"
"I'm taking a walk," answered the Hedgehog.
"A walk ?" the Rabbit burst out laughing. "I would think what with your crooked legs you'd be more comfortable lying down, rather than walking!"
This unfeeling jeer made the Hedgehog very angry, for his legs, in truth, were rather crooked.
"I suppose you think," he answered, "that with your longer paws, you could run faster than I can?"
"Of course!" said the Rabbit. "There is no question about it!"
"Well, let's make a bet and run a race, and we'll see if I don't win."
"People would think it a big joke if we told them. You with your crooked legs outrunning me?" laughed the Rabbit. "As far as I am concerned, we can try, if you want to. Let's race."
"Well, there's no need to rush into it," answered the Hedgehog. "I would like first to go home, have a bite of breakfast, and then meet you here, say in half an hour."
So it was agreed.
Returning home, the Hedgehog said to his wife:
"Wife, get dressed quickly and come out to the field with me."
"Why should I go out to the field?" asked Mrs. Hedgehog.
"Well, you see, the Rabbit and I are going to race each other."
"What, have you suddenly lost your mind," cried Mrs. Hedgehog, "to want to run a race with the Rabbit?"
"No I haven't," replied the Hedgehog with dignity. "I've got to do it, and you must help me."
What was Mrs. Hedgehog to do? She got dressed and went along with her husband.
While on the way, the Hedgehog gave her instructions:
"See this long field. This is where we are going to have the race. We will start from the top of the field. The Rabbit will run along one furrow and I will run along the other. Now you stand right here, by this furrow, and when the Rabbit comes in sight, you step out and shout:
"I'm here already!"
Leaving his wife at the right spot, the Hedgehog went along the furrow to the other end. The Rabbit was already there, waiting.
"Well, are we ready to run ?" he asked. "Now, one... two..." He stood in one furrow and the Hedgehog in the next. The Rabbit shouted "three!" and was off along his furrow like the wind.
But the Hedgehog ran but a few steps, then, after sitting down a bit, went leisurely back to the starting place. The Rabbit ran with all his might, and as he approached the other end of the field, the Hedgehog's wife stepped out into the other furrow and shouted toward him :
"I'm here already!"
The Rabbit's eyes popped with surprise; it never even occurred to him that this wasn't the same hedgehog, for as we know, hedgehogs are very much alike in appearance.
"How could this be?" he cried, astonished, "let's race once more, back to the other end?"
And without giving himself time to take a deep breath, he turned and rushed back along the furrow, his ears lying flat on his back. Mrs. Hedgehog remained quietly behind. When the Rabbit approached the other end of the field, Mr. Hedgehog stepped forward, shouting toward him as he approached :
"I'm here already!"
The Rabbit was furious. How could it have happened that the crooked-legged Hedgehog had beaten him in a race? And without thinking, in his anger, he shouted:
"Let's race again!"
"Whatever you say," answered the Hedgehog calmly. "We can race ten times, as far as I am concerned."
Away went the Rabbit, and again at the lower end of the field he heard:
"I'm here already!"
He turned once more to race back up to the head of the field and there again he heard these words repeated. So the poor fellow ran and ran, at least seventy-three times — back and forth, back and forth — and in every case the Hedgehog was "already there." As soon as he arrived at one or the other end he heard "I'm here already!" On the seventy-fourth time around he was unable to finish. He collapsed in the very middle of his run and died from exhaustion. The Hedgehog gave his wife a shout and they both returned to their home in the burrow, where they live happily to this day if they haven't passed away.
Since then not a single rabbit has ever attempted to race a hedgehog.
And as for you, young readers, this story offers a lesson : never try to make a fool of anyone weaker than yourself!
THE KINGBIRD AND THE BEAR
The Bear and the Wolf were walking through the forest one day when they heard a bird twittering in the shrubbery. Coming closer, they saw a tiny bird with an upright tail hopping from branch to branch and chirping.
"Brother Wolf, what bird is that, that sings so beautifully?" asked the Bear.
"Quiet, Bear, this is the Kingbird," whispered the Wolf.
"A Kingbird ?" the startled Bear whispered back, "then in that case shouldn't we bow to him?"
"Of course," said the Wolf, and they both bowed to the bird, right down to the ground. But the bird didn't even look at them. He went on hopping from branch to branch, chirping away and continuously flirting his upright tail.
"You_see, he's so small, yet so proud that he won't even glance at us!" grumbled the Bear. "It would be interesting to see what it's like in his palace."
"I don't know what it's like," said the Wolf. "Though I know where the palace is, I've never had the nerve to look in."
"Frightening or not, there just never seemed to be a right moment."
"Then let's go now, I'll take a look!" said the Bear.
They came to the hollow tree where the bird had his nest, and just as the Bear bent forward to look into it, the Wolf grabbed him by his coat-tail and tugged.
"Wait, Bear, stop!" he whispered.
"Why, what's the matter?"
"See, the Kingbird has flown up! And there's his Queen. It's too awkward for us to look while they're here!"
The Bear followed the Wolf into the bushes while the Kingbird and his wife flew into the hollow to feed their young. After they flew away, the Bear came up and looked in. The hollow was like any hollow in a decaying tree; a few feathers were spread about and on them sat five baby Kingbirds.
"You mean to say that this is the Kingbird's palace?" shouted the Bear. "Why this is nothing but a hole! And these are supposed to be the Kingbird's children? Fie! What ugly little strays!"
And spitting vigorously, the Bear turned to go away, when here the baby Kingbirds in the nest began to squeal:
"Ho, ho, Mr. Bear! So you spit on us ? You'll have to answer painfully for this insult."
The Bear felt a cold shiver run through him at their squealing. He ran from the ugly hollow as fast as he could, took shelter in his burrow, sat down and sat there. The baby Kingbirds in their nest, once started, kept on squealing non-stop, till their mother and father returned.
"What's going on here? What's happened?" asked their parents, and offered their children a fly, a worm, whatever each had picked up.
"We don't want any flies! We don't want any worms!"
"Then what has happened to you?" asked the parents.
"The Bear was here and called us ugly strays, and he even spit into our nest," explained the little Kingbirds.
"You don't say!" shouted father Kingbird, and without thinking long, he rose and flew to the Bear's burrow.
"You old Burmilo!" he said, sitting on a branch over the Bear's head. "What were you thinking of ? What was your reason for calling my children strays and added to that, spitting into my nest ? You'll answer to me for this! Tomorrow morning you'll meet me in bloody battle!"
What could the Bear do? If it was war, then it was war. He went out to call all the animals for support: the Wolf, the Wild Boar, the Fox, the Badger, the Deer, the Rabbit — all who ran about the forest on four legs. The Kingbird also called on all his feathered friends, not to speak of the small life of the forest: Flies, Bees, Hornets, Mosquitoes — and told them to prepare for a great war on the morrow.
"Listen," said the Kingbird, "we must send someone out to scout the enemy camp, so that we'll know who their general will be and what they will choose for their war cry."
The counsel decided to send the Mosquito because he was the smallest and the most cunning. The Mosquito flew to the Bear's camp and arrived just as deliberations were in progress.
"How shall we start?" asked the Bear. "You, Fox, are the most clever among us, so you will be our general."
"Very well," said the Fox. "You see, if it were animals that we had to deal with, it would be better to have the Bear himself for general, but we have to deal with all the winged creatures, so in this case I may be more helpful. The most important thing here is a quick eye and a cunning brain. Now listen — here is my plan. The enemy will be flying through the air. But we won't bother with them. We'll go straight to the Kingbird's nest and kidnap his children. Once we have them in our hands, we'll force the old Kingbird to end the war and surrender, then victory will be ours."
"Good, very good!" shouted all the animals.
"This means," continued the Fox, "that we must advance in a solid line, remain together, because there are Eagles and Hawks and other birds in the enemy ranks; if we advance in a scattered fashion they will peck our eyes out. Together we will be safer."
"True, true," cried the Eabbit, to whom the very mention of the Eagle made his knees shake.
"I'll go ahead and the rest of you follow," said the Fox. "You see my tail — it will be our battle standard. Everyone watch my tail closely. When I'm holding it straight up in the air, it means you can advance boldly. If I see ah ambush ahead, I'll immediately lower it to half mast; that will be a signal for.us to advance more slowly and carefully. And if there is real danger ahead I'll bring my tail right down between my legs. Then you must run with all your might."
"Great, great!" shouted all the animals and praised the Fox highly for his cleverness. The Mosquito, having heard the whole clever plan, flew back to the Kingbird and told him about it in detail.
The next day at dawn, the animals gathered together to begin their march. The earth trembled, the brush crackled, the roars, the squeals that resounded through the forest were frightening. On the other side, the birds were getting together: the air was full of the noise of flapping wings, leaves fluttering down from the trees, shrieks, clamour, cawing. The animals came forward in a solid line straight toward the Kingbird's nest; like a thick cloud, the birds flew above, but couldn't stop them. But the old Kingbird wasn't too worried. Seeing the Fox marching proudly at the head of his army, his tail, like a candle, in the air, he called to the Hornet and said :
"Listen, friend! You see that Fox over there? He's the enemy general. Fly as fast as you can, sit on his stomach, and hite "with a\\ your might."
The Hornet flew straight to the Fox's stomach. The Fox felt that something was crawling over his stomach and he could have chased away whatever it was with a wave of his tail, but no, his tail at this moment was the battle standard, so he couldn't. But here the Hornet sank his stinger into a very tender spot!
"Oh woe!" howled the Fox and lowered his tail halfway.
"What is it ? What's happening ?" the animals called to one another.
"I think... some sort... of ambush," muttered the Fox, clenching his teeth with pain.
"An ambush, an ambush!" the message was passed down the line. "Carefully, there's an ambush."
But here the Hornet again stung the Fox with all his might. The Fox howled with pain, leaped into the air, put his tail between his legs and ran. Now the animals asked no questions about what was happening, but fled in terror in whatever direction was handy, falling all over each other in their haste. And the Birds, the Bees, the Mosquitoes and the Hornets took after them, beating them from above — pecking, biting, tearing. It was a terrible battle! The animals — those who remained alive — scattered and hid in hollows and holes, while the Kingbird with his birds and insects were victorious.
The Kingbird flew joyfully back to his nest to tell his children.
"Well children, now you can eat, we've won the battle with the animals."
"No," said the baby Kingbird, "we won't eat till the Bear comes here and begs our pardon."
What to do? The Kingbird flew to the Bear's burrow, sat on a branch over his head and said:
"Well, Burmilo, so you would fight with the Kingbird, eh?" But the Bear, who had marched in the rear of his army and had been severely battered by the hooves and horns of the Wild Boar and the Deer when they fled in retreat, was now lying down and groaning. "Go away and give me peace," he growled. "I'll tell everyone not to provoke you in the future."
"No, my friend, that is not enough," said the Kingbird. "You must go to my hollow tree and beg pardon of my children, because otherwise you'll be in even greater trouble."
And the Bear had to go and apologize to the baby Kingbirds. Only then were the Kingbird children satisfied and began again to eat and drink.
THE WOLF AS A KEEVE
Once upon a time a Donkey was grazing in a meadow and slowly neared the forest as he grazed. Here, the Wolf, who was hiding behind a stump, jumped out from behind his hiding place, preparing to tear the Donkey apart. But the Donkey, though he was considered a fool, immediately thought of what he must do to save himself. As the Wolf ran toward him he smiled radiantly, bowed low to him, and said:
"Oh, good, good, Mr. Wolf, that you have come. I've been looking and looking for you!"
"What would you need me for?" asked the Wolf.
"Well, you see, the community sent me out after you and ordered me most urgently to go and not come back to the village without you."
"And of what use would I be to the community?" asked the Wolf.
"Why the village is holding elections to choose a reeve!"
"Well, and what has this election to do with me?"
"The election is not the problem," explained the Donkey. "The problem is that there is no one to choose from. All the men have quarrelled between themselves and now say: 'Only the Wolf from the forest could possibly be the reeve now'. After saying this they all agreed that I should go out to find you and bring you back to the village immediately. That's how it is."
On hearing this the Wolf raised his tail high with joy. He climbed up on the Donkey's back right away and rode toward the village. When they came into the village, the Donkey brayed loudly in a ringing voice, bringing people running out of their homes. On seeing the Wolf riding the Donkey's back, they rushed at him with sticks, clubs and flails and beat him mercilessly. They beat him and beat him till the Wolf ran out of the village barely alive.
Rushing away, the wretched fellow kept looking back to see if the people were chasing him. It was only after the village was out of sight that the Wolf, seeing a stack of hay, jumped up on it, stretched, and lay down to rest. Resting, he began loudly to speak to himself:
"My father was never a reeve, my grandfather was not a reeve, so why did I suddenly and foolishly have the urge to be a reeve ? Ekh, it's too bad that there isn't a hearty lad around who would give me a few clouts with a solid whip and teach me a lesson."
But there was a hearty lad sitting beneath the stack with a pitchfork beside him. On hearing the Wolf, he jumped up and gave him at least ten blows across his back, with such strength that the Wolf gave up his ghost.
THE RABBIT AND THE BEAR
Once upon a time a Bear lived in the forest and he was so strong and fierce that God forbid! He would go about the forest strangling and tearing everything he met; one thing he would eat, and ten he would leave behind, taking life in vain. The forest was large, with many animals, but all lived in fear. For it was quite certain that within a year there wouldn't be a living soul left in the forest if Burmylo would continue to keep house in this way. After several meetings the animals decided on a plan. They sent a delegation to the Bear, which was empowered to say the following :
"Honourable Lord of the forest, Sir Bear! Why are you so abusive ? You eat one and kill ten more out of anger and leave them. Within a year, if you keep this up, there won't be a living soul left in the forest. Better if you would do as we suggest — sit quietly in your burrow and every day we will send someone from among ourselves for you to eat.
The Bear listened to this suggestion, then said :
"Good! But remember this, if you should fail to provide for me even one day, I'll tear you all apart!"
From that day on, the animals, day after day, sent the Bear someone from among themselves for his meal. Someone who was already old and helpless, or a poor widow who had no desire to keep on living in this world, or someone simple who couldn't cope with everyday living, these were the first to be sent to the Bear, who never questioned, but tearing the animal apart would calmly make a meal of it.
Finally there were no more aged, simple or orphaned victims — it became necessary to choose from among those who had no wish to become the Bear's dinner. They began to draw lots and the one who lost had to go to the Bear and give himself up to be eaten.
One day this lot fell to the Rabbit. The poor Rabbit was overcome with fright, but what could he do? Others had gone before him, so he had to go too. He didn't protest, he only begged an hour's grace to say farewell to his wife and children. But by the time he found his wife, by the time he got his entire family together, by the time the farewells were said, the tears shed and the embraces ended, the sun had long gone past the dinner hour. At last the Rabbit tore himself away to begin his last journey. He started out, poor fellow,. toward the Bear's burrow. But don't think that he went hippity-hopping as Rabbits do, that he ran to beat the wind! Oh no! It was no time for the Rabbit to be hopping. He barely put one foot before the other, pausing every now and then to wipe the flood of tears from his face, to heave a deep sigh, so deep that it echoed through the forest. As he was thus proceeding, he suddenly came upon a stone well in the middle of the forest. It was curbed around with logs and down below its waters were very deep. The Rabbit stopped at the mouth of the well and looked down, his tears going drop-drop into the water. But seeing his image reflected in the water, he began to look at it closely, then suddenly cheered up and jumped for joy. His head was suddenly filled with a brilliant thought — how he could save himself from death and deliver all the animals from this fierce and unreasonable Bear. Crying and sighing no longer, but running with all his might and main, the Rabbit sped toward the Bear's burrow.
It was close to nightfall. The Bear had sat all day waiting for the time when the animals would send him someone for his dinner. He waited and waited and nothing happened. Hunger began to torment him, and along with this his heart began to beat with anger.
"What does this mean!" he roared. "What can they be thinking of ? Have they forgotten about me or do they think that one crow is supposed to last me two days? Oh, those confounded animals! If I don't get something to eat in the next minute I swear by the elm and the beech that tomorrow, as soon as it dawns, I'll go into the forest and strangle every living thing in it, not a single tail will be left!"
But minute passed minute, hour passed hour, and food didn't come. By evening the Bear didn't know what to do with himself from hunger and anger. It was in this state of mind that the Rabbit found him when he arrived.
"Ha, you delusion, you wretch, you pesky goose!" shouted the Bear. "What do you mean by coming so late! And I had to wait, you mosquito, in hunger all day for you?"
The Rabbit trembled on hearing the Bear's roar and his angry words, but came to himself in a moment and getting up on his hind legs before the Bear, he spoke as respectfully as he could:
"Honourable Lord! It was not my fault that I have come so late. And you can't blame the animals. Today, on your birthday, they got together at dawn and chose four of us for you, and we all set out immediately, like the wind, so that you, Your Honour, would have a ball today."
"Well then? Why are you so late and where are the other three?" asked the Bear.
"We had a very bad experience," answered the Rabbit. "Thinking that there could be no other Lord in the forest but yourself, we came
quietly along the path, when suddenly a huge Bear jumped out at us out of a fortified tower.
'Stop!' he roared.
'Where are you going?'
"We told him in truth.
'Ho, ho!' he shouted, 'nothing will come of this! This is my forest and I won't allow that your meat should feed some intruder who has no right to be here. You're mine and I'm going to have you for my own dinner.'
"We began to plead, beg, explain to him that today was your birthday and that it wouldn't be very nice if you were left without your dinner on such an important day — but no, he wouldn't even listen.
'I'm the master here!' he roared, 'and I alone have the right to interfere!'
"And he took all four of us to his castle. I was barely able to convince him that he should at least let me go to you, so that I could tell you what happened. Now, Honourable Lord, just think for yourself, are we really to blame that you have been fainting with hunger today? What do you intend to do next?"
On hearing this story the Bear bristled all over. All his anger was now turned toward the rival who had so unexpectedly appeared.
"Who is this good-for-nothing who dares to intrude here?" he roared, raking up the earth around him with his claws. "Rabbit! Lead me to him immediately. I'll tear him into little pieces!"
"Honourable Lord!" said the Rabbit, "this is a very mighty Lord, quite terrible, really..."
"What? You think that I'm afraid of him? Take me to him immediately and we'll see who's the stronger."
"But Your Honour, he lives in a stone castle..."
"Ha, what is a castle to me! Lead me to him. I'll get him even if he hides on the top of the tallest fir!"
The Rabbit led the Bear to the well and said:
"Honourable Sir! Your strength is great. Look, your enemy had only to see you coming when he immediately ran and hid in his castle."
"Where is he ? Where is he ?" shouted the Bear, looking around and seeing no one.
"Come here and look down here!" said the Rabbit and led the Bear to the well. The Bear stood over its mouth, looked down and sure enough, there was the Bear.
"Can you see your enemy?" asked the Rabbit, "how he's looking up out of his hideaway?"
"Well, it won't be me if I don't get him out of there!" said the Bear and suddenly roared out of his Bear's throat down into the well. His voice roared and echoed back at him from out of the well twice as loud, as if out of a huge tunnel.
"So that's how it is!" shouted the Bear. "You threaten me? Just wait, I'll show you!"
With these words the Bear jumped down into the well with a great splash and there drowned. The Rabbit stood beside the well and watched until this enemy of the forest animals was completely drowned, then he sped like the wind to his friends and told them how he had fooled the Bear and released them from their misfortune. There is no need to tell you what joy reigned in the forest and how the animals thanked the Rabbit for his great deed.