Bald Stories

folktales about hairless men
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1998-2020

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.


  1. A Man and Two Wives (Aesop--L'Estrange).

  2. The Man and His Two Wives (Aesop--Jacobs).

  3. The Middle-Aged Man between Two Ages and His Two Mistresses (Jean de La Fontaine).

  4. A Horse-Man's Wig Blown Off (Avianus).

  5. The Bald Man and the Fly (Aesop).

  6. The Pedant, the Bald Man, and the Barber. (Europe).

  7. The Foolish Bald Man and the Fool Who Pelted Him (India).

  8. The Bald Man and the Hair-Restorer (India).

  9. How Saint Peter Lost His Hair (Germany).

  10. Old Hanrahan (Ireland).

  11. How Come Mr. Buzzard to Have a Bald Head (African-American).

A Man and Two Wives


It was now Cuckow-Time and a Certain Middle-Ag'd Man, that was Half-Gray, Half-Brown, took a fancy to Marry Two Wives, of an Age One under Another, and Happy was the Woman that could please him Best. They took Mighty Care of him to All manner of Purposes, and still as they were Combing the Good Man's Head, they'd be Picking out here and there a Hair to make it all of a Colour. The Matronly Wife, she Pluck'd out All the Brown Hairs, and the Younger the White: So that they left the Man in in Conclusion no better than a Bald Buzzard betwixt them.

The Moral

'Tis a much Harder Thing to Please Two Wives then Two Masters; and He's a Bold Man that offers at it.

The Man and His Two Wives


In the old days, when men were allowed to have many wives, a middle-aged man had one wife that was old and one that was young; each loved him very much, and desired to see him like herself.

Now the man's hair was turning grey, which the young wife did not like, as it made him look too old for her husband. So every night she used to comb his hair and pull out the white ones. But the elder wife saw her husband growing grey with great pleasure, for she did not like to be mistaken for his mother. So every morning she used to arrange his hair and pull out as many of the black ones as she could. In consequence the man soon found himself entirely bald.

Yield to all and you will soon have nothing to yield.

The Middle-Aged Man between Two Ages and His Two Mistresses

Jean de La Fontaine

A man advanced in life,
And getting into grey,
Thought it high time in his decay
To dream about a wife.
He had enough in cash and houses,
Therefore a choice of charming spouses.
All strove to please him, Some too did tease him;
On which our lover checked his new propension,
No trifle was success in his intention.

Two widows o'er his heart did most prevail.
The one still fresh, the other rather stale;
But she by pretty arts repaid
What nature in her had decayed.
They smiled, they joked, they entertained him;
Sometimes they pleased, sometimes they pained him,
For as so lovingly they courted,
Too freely with his locks they sported,
That is, they dressed his hair.
Each to her fancy trimmed his bust;
The older lady for her share
Plucked from it the remaining black.
Her buxom rival thought it then but just
The grey and white locks to attack:
In fine, they dressed and plundered so,
The head was bald and white as snow.
He now found out their wicked pranks --
"Ladies," he said, "ten thousand thanks;
With head so bare I yet can boast
That I have rather gained than lost;
For either bride, I see, would rule
Me, her poor sheep, her slave, her tool.
All farther favours I refuse --
From Hymen I have had no news.
Bald heads, my queens, are not the go;
I thank you for the lesson though."

A Horse-Man's Wig Blown Off


There was a horse-man had a cap on with a false head of hair tack'd to'it. There comes a puff of wind, and blows off cap and wig together. The people made sport, he saw, with his bald crown, and so very fairly he put in with them to laugh for company.

"Why, gentlemen," says he, "would you have me keep other people's hair better than I did my own?"

The Moral: Many a man would be extreamly ridiculous, if he did not spoil the jest by playing upon himself first.

The Bald Man and the Fly


There was once a bald man who sat down after work on a hot summer's day. A fly came up a kept buzzing about his bald pate, and stinging him from time to time. The man aimed a blow at his little enemy, but -- whack -- his palm came on his head instead. Again the fly tormented him, but this time the man was wiser and said: "You will only injure youself if you take notice of despicable enemies."

The Pedant, the Bald Man, and the Barber


The following jest is spread -- mutatis mutandis -- over all Europe: A pedant, a bald man, and a barber, making a journey in company, agreed to watch in turn during the night. It was the barber's watch first. He propped up the sleeping pedant, and shaved his head, and when his time came, awoke him.

When the pedant felt his head bare, "What a fool is this barber," he cried, "for he has roused the bald man instead of me!"

The Foolish Bald Man and the Fool Who Pelted Him


There was a certain bald man with a head like a copper pot. Once on a time a young man, who, being hungry, had gathered wood-apples, as he was coming along his path, saw him sitting at the foot of a tree. In fun he hit him. on the head with a wood-apple; the bald man took it patiently and said nothing to him. Then he hit his head with all the rest of the wood-apples that he had, throwing them at him one after another, and the bald man remained silent, even though the blood flowed.

So the foolish young fellow had to go home hungry without his wood-apples, which he had broken to pieces in his useless and childish pastime of pelting the bald man; and the foolish bald man went home with his head streaming with blood, saying to himself; "Why should I not submit to being pelted with such delicious wood-apples?"

And everybody there laughed, when they saw him with his head covered with blood, looking like the diadem with which he had been crowned king of fools.

Thus you see that foolish persons become the objects of ridicule in the world, and do not succeed in their objects; but wise persons are honoured.

The Bald Man and the Hair-Restorer


There was a bald man, with a head like a copper pot. And he, being a fool, was ashamed because, though a rich man in the world, he had no hair on his head.

Then a rogue, who lived upon others, came to him and said, "There is a physician who knows a drug that will produce hair."

When he heard it, he said, "If you bring him to me, I will give wealth to you and to that physician also."

When he said this, the rogue for a long time devoured his substance, and brought to that simpleton a doctor who was a rogue also. And after the doctor too had long lived at his expense, he one day removed his head-dress designedly, and shewed him his bald head.

In spite of that, the blockhead, without considering, asked him for a drug which would produce hair, then the physician said to him, "Since I am bald myself, how can I produce hair in others? It was in order to explain this to you, that I showed you my bald head. But out on you! You do not understand even now."

With these words the physician went away.

So, you see, rogues perpetually make sport of fools.

How Saint Peter Lost His Hair


Everyone knows that Saint Peter is entirely bald, except for a single lock of hair in front that falls over his forehead, but most people do not know the following story that explains how this came to be.

While he and Christ were traveling together they came to a farmhouse where the farmwife was just cooking up some large yeast pancakes in grease. According to others it was noodles.

Saint Peter entered the house to beg for some pancakes, while the Lord waited outside. The farmwife was a good-hearted woman, and she gave Peter three pancakes, fresh from the pan. But Peter was selfish, and in order to gain an advantage when the pancakes were divided up, he quickly hid one of them in his cap, then put it on his head. He pretended that he had received only two pancakes, one of which he gave to the Lord.

The pancake under his cap was still hot, and it began to burn Peter terribly on the head, but he could not do anything about it; he just had to bear the pain.

Later, when he took off his cap, he discovered that the hot pancake had burned into his head a large bald spot, which remained with him as long as he lived. Only the lock of hair that had protruded from the front of his cap was spared. Thus Saint Peter's bald head has one lock of hair in front.

Old Hanrahan


Old Hanrahan one time went to the forth that's in front of his house and cut a bush, and he a fresh man enough. And next morning he hadn't a blade of hair on his head -- not a blade. And he had to buy a wig and wear it for the rest of his life. I remember him and the wig well.

And it was some years after that that Delane, the father of the great cricketer, was passing by that way, and the water had risen and he strayed off the road into it.

And as he got farther and farther in, till he was covered to better than his waist, he heard the voice of his wife crying, "Go on, John, go on farther."

And he called out, "These are John Hanrahan's faeries that took the hair off him."

"And what did you do then?" they asked when he got safe to the house, and was telling this.

And he said, "I turned my coat inside out, and after that they troubled me no more, and so I got safe to the road again."

But no one ever had luck that meddled with a forth, so it's always said.

How Come Mr. Buzzard to Have a Bald Head


One day, in the old times, Ann Nancy [Anansi] started out to find a good place for to build her house; she walk on till she find a break in a nice damp rock, and she set down to rest, and take 'servation of the points to throw her threads.

Presently, she hear a great floppin' of wings, and the old Mr. Buzzard come flying down and light on the rock, with a big piece of meat in he mouth. Ann Nancy, she scroon in the rock and look out, and she hear Mr. Buzzard say, "Good safe, good safe, come down, come down," and sure 'nough, when he say it three times, a safe come down, and Mr. Buzzard, he open the door and put in he meat and say, "Good safe, good safe, go up, go up," and it go up aright, and Mr. Buzzard fly away.

Then Ann Nancy, she set and study 'bout it, 'cause she done see the safe was full of all the good things she ever hear of, and it come across her mind to call it and see if it come down; so she say, like Mr. Buzzard, "Good safe, good safe, come down, come down," and sure 'nough, when she say it three times, down it come, and she open the door and step in, and she say, "Good safe, good safe, go up, go up," and up she go, and she eat her fill, and have a fine time.

Directly she hear a voice say, "Good safe, good safe, come down, come down," and the safe start down, and Ann Nancy, she so scared, she don't know what to do, but she say soft and quickly, "Good safe, go up," and it stop, and go up a little, but Mr. Buzzard say, "Good safe, come down, come down," and down it start, and poor Ann Nancy whisper quick, "Go up, good safe, go up," and it go back. And so they go for a long time, only Mr. Buzzard can't hear Ann Nancy, 'cause she whisper soft to the safe, and he cock he eye in 'stonishment to see the old safe bob up and down, like it gone 'stracted.

So they keep on, "Good safe, good safe, come down," "Good safe, good safe, go up," till poor Ann Nancy's brain get 'fused, and she make a slip and say, "Good safe, come down," and down it come.

Mr. Buzzard, he open the do', and there he find Ann Nancy, and he say, "Oh you poor mis'rable creeter," and he just 'bout to eat her up, when poor Ann Nancy, she begged so hard, and compliment his fine presence, and compare how he sail in the clouds while she 'bliged to crawl in the dirt, till he that proudful and set up he feel mighty pardoning spirit, and he let her go.

But Ann Nancy ain't got no gratitude in her mind; she feel she looked down on by all the creeters, and it sour her mind and temper. She ain't gwine forget anybody what cross her path, no, that she don't, and while she spin her house she just study constant how she gwine get the best of every creeter.

She knew Mr. Buzzard's weak point am he stomach, and one day she make it out dat she make a dining, and 'vite Mr. Buzzard and Miss Buzzard and the children. Ann Nancy, she know how to set out a-dining for sure, and when they all done got sot down to the table, and she mighty busy passing the hot coffee to Mr. Buzzard and the little Buzzards, she have a powerful big pot of scalding water ready, and she slop it all over poor old Mr. Buzzard's head, and the poor old man go bald-headed from that day. And he don't forget it on Ann Nancy, 'cause you see she de onliest creeter on the top side the earth what Mr. Buzzard don't eat.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised August 8, 2020.