The Fox (or Jackal)
and the Fleas

folktales of Aarne-Thompson type 63
selected and edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1999-2022


  1. When the Fox Is Infested with Fleas (Germany).

  2. When the Fox Wants to Get Rid of His Fleas (Norway).

  3. When the Fox Is Plagued by Fleas (Denmark).

  4. The Fox and the Flees (Scotland).

  5. How the Fox Gets Rid of Fleas (USA -- Georgia).

  6. The Jackal and the Flees (India / Pakistan).

Return to D. L. Ashliman's index of folklore and mythology electronic texts.

When the Fox Is Infested with Fleas


Jorach writes about the fox, that when he is infested with fleas that he puts a wisp of straw or a twig into his mouth and then walks backward into a stream. He first submerges his tail, then his body, until the fleas all flee to his head to avoid the water. He finally dips his head beneath the water, and the fleas all crawl onto wisp of straw, which he lets float away. He then jumps onto dry land, freed from the fleas.

When the Fox Wants to Get Rid of His Fleas


The Norwegian farmer can relate most stories of the sagacity and cunning for which the Fox, in all countries, is famous. . . . The Swedish archbifhop, Olaus Magnus (Hist. lib. xviii. c. 39; 40) says of the Fox:

When he wants to get rid of his fleas without disturbance, he takes a bunch of moss or straw in his mouth, and goes backwards into the water, wading by slow steps deeper and deeper; by which means the fleas have time, and can retire gradually to the dry places; at last to the part of the neck and head which he alone keeps above water; and to crown the work, he gathers all his enemies into the before-said bunch of straw, and then drops them in the water, and runs away well washed and cleaned.

This project is so cunning, that mankind could not teach him better.

When the Fox Is Plagued by Fleas


When the fox is badly plagued by fleas, he takes a tuft of moss in his mouth and goes backwards into deep water. When he has gone so far out that only his head is above the water, all the tormenting animals have sought refuge in the moss, which he then lets float away.

(West Jutland)

The Fox and the Fleas


The fox is much troubled by fleas, and this is the way in which he gets rid of them. He hunts about until he finds a lock of wool, and then he takes it to the river, and holds it in his mouth, and so puts the end of his brush into the water, and down he goes slowly. The fleas run away from the water, and at last they all run over the fox's nose into the wool, and then the fox dips his nose under and lets the wool go off with the stream.

How the Fox Gets Rid of Fleas

USA -- Georgia

Mr. Pruitt turned his pocket inside out to get some tobacco-crumbs for his pipe.

"Buddy," he remarked, turning to Joe Maxwell, "did you ever hear tell how the fox gits rid er fleas?"

Joe had never heard.

"Well," said Mr. Pruitt, "it's this away:"

When the fox, speshually ef it's one er these here big reds, gits full er fleas, which they er bleedze ter do in hot weather, he puts out an' goes tell he finds a flock er sheep. Then he runs in amongst 'em, an' runs along by the side er one tell he gits a chance ter pull a mouffle er wool out. Then he makes a break fer the creek an' finds him a wash-hole an' wades in.

He don't, ez you may say, splunge in. He jest wades in, a little bit at a time. Fust he gits in up ter his knees, an' then he goes in deeper an' deeper. But he hain't in no hurry. When the water strikes the fleas, nachally they start fer high-water mark. The fox feels 'em crawl up, an' then he goes in a little deeper. When they crawl up ez high ez his back he goes in furder, an' then they crawl to'rds his head. He gits a little deeper, an' they crawl out on his nose. Then he gits deeper, tell they hain't nothin' out er the water but the pint er his nose.

Now all this time he's got that chunk er wool in his mouf, an' when the fleas hain't got nowheres else ter go they make fer that. Then when the fleas is all in the wool, the fox drops it in the water, comes out, shakes hisse'f, an' trots off ter do some other devilment.

"Dat cert'ny is one way fer ter git red er fleas," exclaimed Mink, laughing heartily.

The Jackal and the Flees

India / Pakiston

There was once a jackal so infested with fleas that life was a burden to him. Determined to be rid of them, he sought for a pool of water, and snatching up a small piece of dry wood in his mouth, he began to enter the water with "measured steps and slow."

Gradually, as he advanced, the astonished fleas rushed up his legs and took refuge on his back. The rising water again drove them in multitudes from his back to his head, and from his head to his nose, whence they escaped on to the piece of wood, which became perfectly black with them.

When the sly jackal perceived the situation of his foes, he suddenly bobbed his head into the water, relinquished the wood, and with a chuckle swam back to the shore, leaving the feas to their fate.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's index of folklore and mythology electronic texts.

Revised August 29, 2022.