Old Dogs Learn New Tricks

Fables of Aarne-Thompson-Uther Type 101

Edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2008-2009


  1. Old Sultan (Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).

  2. The Dog and the Wolf (Bohemia, Theodor Vernaleken).

  3. The Bear, the Dog, and the Cat (Russia, Alexander Afanasyev).

  4. The Sagacious Monkey and the Boar (Japan, Yei Theodora Ozaki).

  5. The Old Hound (Aesop).

  6. Links to related sites.

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Old Sultan


A farmer had a faithful dog named Sultan, who had grown old and lost all his teeth, and could no longer hold onto anything. One day the farmer was standing with his wife before the house door, and said, "Tomorrow I intend to shoot Old Sultan. He is no longer of any use."

His wife, who felt pity for the faithful animal, answered, "He has served us so long, and been so faithful, that we might well give him his keep."

"What?" said the man. "You are not very bright. He doesn't have a tooth left in his mouth, and no thief is afraid of him. He can go now. If he has served us, he has eaten well for it."

The poor dog, who was lying stretched out in the sun not far off, heard everything, and was sorry that tomorrow was to be his last day. He had a good friend, the wolf, and he crept out in the evening into the forest to him, and complained of the fate that awaited him.

"Listen, kinsman," said the wolf, "be of good cheer. I will help you out of your trouble. I have thought of something. Tomorrow, early in the morning, your master is going with his wife to make hay, and they will take their little child with them, for no one will be left behind in the house. While they are at work they lay the child behind the hedge in the shade. You lie down there too, just as if you wanted to guard it. Then I will come out of the woods, and carry off the child. You must run swiftly after me, as if you would take it away from me. I will let it fall, and you will take it back to its parents, who will think that you have rescued it, and will be far too grateful to do you any harm. On the contrary, you will be treated royally, and they will never let you want for anything again."

This idea pleased the dog, and it was carried out just as planned. The father screamed when he saw the wolf running across the field with his child, but when Old Sultan brought it back, he was full of joy, and stroked him and said, "Not a hair of yours shall be hurt. You shall eat free bread as long as you live."

And to his wife he said, "Go home at once and make Old Sultan some bread soup that he will not have to bite. And bring the pillow from my bed. I will give it to him to lie on. From then on Old Sultan was as well off as he could possibly wish.

Soon afterwards the wolf visited him, and was pleased that everything had succeeded so well. "But, kinsman," he said, "you will just close one eye if, when I have a chance, I carry off one of your master's fat sheep."

"Don't count on that," answered the dog. "I will remain true to my master. I cannot agree to that."

The wolf thought that this was not spoken in earnest, and he crept up in the night to take away the sheep. But the farmer, to whom the faithful Sultan had told the wolf's plan, was waiting for him and combed his hair cruelly with a flail. The wolf had to flee, but he cried out to the dog, "Just wait, you scoundrel. You'll regret this."

The next morning the wolf sent the boar to challenge the dog to come out into the forest and settle the affair. Old Sultan could find no one to be his second but a cat with only three legs, and as they went out together the poor cat limped along, stretching its tail upward with pain.

The wolf and his friend were already at the appointed place, but when they saw their enemy coming, they thought that he was bringing a saber with him, for they mistook the cat's outstretched tail for one. And when the poor animal hopped on three legs, they thought that each time it was picking up a stone to throw at them. Then they took fright. The wild boar crept into the underbrush and the wolf jumped up a tree.

As the dog and the cat approached, they wondered why no one was to be seen. The wild boar, however, had not been able to hide himself completely in the leaves. His ears were still sticking out. While the cat was looking cautiously about, the boar wiggled his ears, and the cat, who thought it was a mouse, jumped on it and bit down hard. The boar jumped up screaming loudly, "The guilty one is up in the tree."

The dog and cat looked up and saw the wolf, who was ashamed for having shown such fear, and who then made peace with the dog.

The Dog and the Wolf


There was once a peasant family; and, among other domestic animals, they had a house dog named Sultan. When the dog had grown old, the peasant drove him away, thinking that he could no longer properly attend to his duty.

Quite downcast, with drooping head, the dog left the village, and complained to himself, "This is the way I am rewarded for my faithful and hard service; after having spent my years of youth and strength in toil, I am driven away in my weak old age, and no rest is allowed me."

Sadly he went on, and wandered about for many days without finding a tolerable shelter. At last, lean and weak after his long wandering, he came to a forest. There came a wolf out of the forest, ran up to the poor dog, and cried, "Stop, old fellow, now thou art in my power, so get ready!"

When Sultan heard the wolf speak thus, he was in terror, and said, "Dear friend, do but give a good look at me first, and then you will certainly lose all appetite for me; in me you will find the worst meat that you ever tasted, for I am nothing but skin and bone. However, I can give you some good advice."

The wolf said, "I want no advice from you, wretched creature! Without your telling me, I know how it would run, namely, that I should spare your life. No! 'tis the old story, short and sweet, down my throat you go!"

Then the dog replied, "I have no thought of the kind, for I would not live longer. Use your jaws so long as you enjoy yourself, but I only advise you for the best. Would it not be the best plan to feed me first, and after I have been fattened you might then gobble me up? The food would not be lost in this way, because you would find it all at one meal in me. There would be a fine dish of meat. What thinkest thou, brother wolf?"

The wolf said, "Agreed, provided the feeding does not last long; follow me into my hut."

The dog did this, and both now went deeper into the forest. Arrived at the hut, Sultan crept in, but the wolf went on to get some game for the poor weak dog. When he came back, he threw his bag before Sultan, and Sultan made a good supper.

The next day the wolf came and said to the dog, "Yesterday you ate; today I will eat."

The dog replied, "But what have you taken into your head, dear wolf? Why, as to yesterday's food, I scarce know that I had it."

The wolf was very cross; but he had to put up with it, and go into the forest a second time to hunt down some fresh game for the dog. In this way Sultan contrived to put off the wolf so long, that at last he felt strong enough to take up the cudgels with him. The wolf kept on hunting, and brought his prey to the dog; but himself ate little or nothing that Sultan might get enough. And so it came to pass that the dog gained in flesh and strength, while the wolf equally fell off.

On the sixth day the wolf came up to the dog and said, "Now, I think you are ripe!"

Sultan replied, "O yes; in fact I feel myself so well that I will fight it out with you if you won't let me go."

Said the wolf, "You jest! Consider I have fed you for six whole days, yes, and eaten nothing myself, and now you want me to go away empty? No, no, that will never do!"

Then Sultan replied, "In one respect you are right, but how do you think you can be justified in eating me up?"

"'Tis the right of the strong over the weak," said the wolf.

"Good!" said the dog, you have given judgment against yourself." With these words he made a bold dash, and before the wolf knew where he was, he lay on the ground overcome by Sultan. "Because you spared my life, I will not now destroy you, but give you a chance for your own. So choose two comrades; I will do the same, and tomorrow meet me with them in the forest, and we will decide our dispute."

They separated to seek their seconds. The wolf went wrathfully deeper into the forest; the dog hastened to the nearest village. After long talk with the growling bear and the sly fox, the wolf found two comrades. Sultan ran first to the parsonage, and got the great grey cat to go along with him. Thence he turned his steps to the court of the local magistrate, and found in the brave cock his second comrade. It was hardly daybreak when the dog was with his companions on the way. He all but surprised his enemies in a deep sleep.

The wolf opened his eyes first, awoke his companions, and said to the bear, "You can climb trees, can't you? Be so good as to get up this tall fir tree, and look out and see whether our enemies are coming on."

Up went the bear, and as soon as he had got to the top, he called down, "Run, our enemies are here, close at hand, and what mighty enemies! One rides proudly along, and carries many sharp sabers with him that glisten brightly in the morning sun; behind him there soberly advances another, dragging a long iron bar after him. O dear! O dear!"

At these words the fox was so frightened that he thought it most advisable to take to his heels. The bear hastily scrambled down out of the tree, and crept into a dense thicket, so that only just the end of his tail peeped out. The foes came on. The wolf, seeing himself deserted by his companions, was about also to take to his heels, when Sultan confronted him. One spring, and the dog held the wolf by the throat, and put an end to him. Meanwhile the cat observed in the bushes the point of the bear's tail as it moved, and snapped at it, thinking to catch a mouse. In terror the bear came out of his hiding place, and fled in all haste up a tree, thinking that there he would be safe from foes. But he was deceived, for there was the cock before him. When the cock saw the bear on the tree, he sprang to the next bough, and to the next, and so on. The bear was beside himself, and in terror he fell down and lay dead as a door nail. So ended the battle.

The news of Sultan's heroic deeds and those of his comrades spread far and wide, even to that village where Sultan had formerly served. The consequence was that the peasant family took back again their faithful house dog, and lovingly cared for him.

The Bear, the Dog, and the Cat


Once there lived a peasant who had a good dog, and as the dog grew old it left off barking and guarding the yard and the storehouses. Its master would no longer nourish it, so the dog went into the wood and lay under a tree to die.

Then a bear came up and asked him, " Hello, Dog, why are you lying here?"

"I have come to die of hunger. You see how unjust people are. As long as you have any strength, they feed you and give you drink; but when your strength dies away and you become old they drive you from the courtyard."

"Well, Dog, would you like something to eat?"

"I certainly should."

"Well, come with me; I will feed you."

So they went on. On the way a foal met them.

"Look at me," said the bear, and he began to claw the ground with his paws. "Dog, O dog !"

"What do you want?"

"Look, are my eyes beautiful?"

"Yes, Bear, they are beautiful."

So the bear began clawing at the ground more savagely still. " Dog, O dog, is my hair disheveled?"

"It is disheveled, Bear."

"Dog, O dog, is my tail raised?"

"Yes, it is raised."

Then the bear laid hold of the foal by the tail, and the foal fell to the ground. The bear tore her to pieces and said,

"Well, Dog, eat as much as you will, and when everything is in order, come and see me."

So the dog lived by himself and had no cares, and when he had eaten all and was again hungry, he ran up to the bear.

"Well, my brother, have you done?"

"Yes, I have done, and again I am hungry."

"What! Are you hungry again? Do you know where your old mistress lives?"

"I do."

"Well, then, come; I will steal your mistress's child out of the cradle, and do you chase me away and take the child back. Then you may go back; she will go on feeding you as she formerly did, with bread."

So they agreed, and the bear ran up to the hut himself and stole the child out of the cradle. The child cried, and the woman burst out, hunted him, hunted him, but could not catch him. So they came back, and the mother wept, and the other women were afflicted. From somewhere or other the dog appeared, and he drove the bear away, gook the child and brought it back.

"Look," said the woman, "here is your old dog restoring your child!"

So they ran to meet him, and the mother was very glad and joyous. "Now," she said, "I shall never discharge this old dog anymore."

So they took him in, fed him with milk, gave him bread, and asked him only to taste the things. And they told the peasant, "Now you must keep and feed the dog, for he saved my child from the bear; and you were saying he had no strength!"

This all suited the dog very well, and he ate his fill, and he said, "May God grant health to the bear who did not let me die of hunger!" And he became the bear's best friend.

Once there was an evening party given at the peasant's house. At that time the bear came in as the dog's guest.

"Hail, Dog, with what luck are you meeting? Is it bread you are eating?"

"Praise be to God," answered the dog. "It is no mere living, it is butter week. And what are you doing? Let us go into the izbá [hut]. The masters have gone out for a walk and will not see what you are doing. You come into the izbá and go and hide under the stove as fast as you can. I will await you there and will recall you."

"Very well."

And so they went into the izbá. The dog saw that his master's guests had drunk too much, and made ready to receive his friend. The bear drank up one glass, then another, and broke it. The guests began singing songs, and the bear wanted to chime in.

But the dog persuaded him, "Do not sing. It would only do harm."

But it was no good, for he could not keep the bear silent, and he began singing his song. Then the guests heard the noise, laid hold of a stick and began to beat him. He burst out and ran away, and just got away with his life.

Now the peasant also had a cat, which had ceased catching mice, and even playing tricks. Wherever it might crawl it would break something or spill something. The peasant chased the cat out of the house. But the dog saw that it was going to a miserable life without any food, and secretly began bringing it bread and butter and feeding it.

Then the mistress looked on, and as soon as she saw this she began beating the dog, beat it hard, very hard, and saying all the time, "Give the cat no beef, nor bread."

Then, three days later, the dog went to the courtyard and saw that the cat was dying of starvation.

"What is the matter?" he said.

"I am dying of starvation. I was able to have enough whilst you were feeding me."

"Come with me."

So they went away. The dog went on, until he saw a drove of horses, and he began to scratch the earth with his paws and asked the cat, "Cat, O cat, are my eyes beautiful?"

"No, they are not beautiful."

"Say that they are beautiful!"

So the cat said, "They are beautiful."

"Cat, O cat, is my fur disheveled?"

"No, it is not disheveled."

"Say, you idiot, that it is disheveled."

"Well, it is disheveled."

"Cat, O cat, is my tail raised?"

"No, it is not raised."

"Say, you fool, that it is raised." Then the dog made a dash as a mare, but the mare kicked him back, and the dog died.

So the cat said, "Now I can see that his eyes are very red, and his fur is disheveled, and his tail is raised. Good-bye, brother Dog, I will go home to die."

The Sagacious Monkey and the Boar


Long, long ago, there lived in the province of Shinshin in Japan, a traveling monkey man, who earned his living by taking round a monkey and showing off the animal's tricks. One evening the man came home in a very bad temper and told his wife to send for the butcher the next morning.

The wife was very bewildered and asked her husband, "Why do you wish me to send for the butcher?"

" It's no use taking that monkey round any longer, he's too old and forgets his tricks. I beat him with my stick all I know how, but he won't dance properly. I must now sell him to the butcher and make what money out of him I can. There is nothing else to be done."

The woman felt very sorry for the poor little animal, and pleaded for her husband to spare the monkey, but her pleading was all in vain, the man was determined to sell him to the butcher.

Now the monkey was in the next room and overheard every word of the conversation. He soon understood that he was to be killed, and he said to himself, "Barbarous, indeed, is my master! Here I have served him faithfully for years, and instead of allowing me to end my days comfortably and in peace, he is going to let me be cut up by the butcher, and my poor body is to be roasted and stewed and eaten? Woe is me! What am I to do. Ah! A bright thought has struck me! There is, I know, a wild boar living in the forest nearby. I have often heard tell of his wisdom. Perhaps if I go to him and tell him the strait I am in he will give me his counsel. I will go and try."

There was no time to lose. The monkey slipped out of the house and ran as quickly as he could to the forest to find the boar. The boar was at home, and the monkey began his tale of woe at once. "Good Mr. Boar, I have heard of your excellent wisdom. I am in great trouble, you alone can help me. I have grown old in the service of my master, and because I cannot dance properly now he intends to sell me to the butcher. What do you advise me to do? I know how clever you are!"

The boar was pleased at the flattery and determined to help the monkey. He thought for a little while and then said, "Hasn't your master a baby?"

"Oh, yes," said the monkey, "he has one infant son."

" Doesn't it lie by the door in the morning when your mistress begins the work of the day? Well, I will come round early and when I see my opportunity I will seize the child and run off with it."

"What then?" said the monkey.

"Why the mother will be in a tremendous scare, and before your master and mistress know what to do, you must run after me and rescue the child and take it home safely to its parents, and you will see that when the butcher comes they won't have the heart to sell you."

The monkey thanked the boar many times and then went home. He did not sleep much that night, as you may imagine, for thinking of the morrow. His life depended on whether the boar's plan succeeded or not. He was the first up, waiting anxiously for what was to happen. It seemed to him a very long time before his master's wife began to move about and open the shutters to let in the light of day.

Then all happened as the boar had planned. The mother placed her child near the porch as usual while she tidied up the house and got her breakfast ready.

The child was crooning happily in the morning sunlight, dabbing on the mats at the play of light and shadow. Suddenly there was a noise in the porch and a loud cry from the child. The mother ran out from the kitchen to the spot, only just in time to see the boar disappearing through the gate with her child in its clutch. She flung out her hands with a loud cry of despair and rushed into the inner room where her husband was still sleeping soundly. He sat up slowly and rubbed his eyes, and crossly demanded what his wife was making all the noise about. By the time that the man was alive to what had happened, and they both got outside the gate, the boar had got well away, got outside the gate, the boar had got well away, but they saw the monkey running after the thief as hard as his legs would carry him. Both the man and wife were moved to admiration at the plucky conduct of the sagacious monkey, and their gratitude knew no bounds when the faithful monkey brought the child safely back to their arms.

" There!" said the wife. "This is the animal you want to kill -- if the monkey hadn't been here we should have lost our child forever."

"You are right, wife, for once," said the man as he carried the child into the house. "You may send the butcher back when he comes, and now give us all a good breakfast and the monkey too."

When the butcher arrived he was sent away with an order for some boar's meat for the evening dinner, and the monkey was petted and lived the rest of his days in peace, nor did his master ever strike him again.

The Old Hound


A hound who had served his master well for years, and had run down many a quarry in his time, began to lose his strength and speed owing to age. One day, when out hunting, his master started a powerful wild boar and set the hound at him. The latter seized the beast by the ear, but his teeth were gone and he could not retain his hold; so the boar escaped. His master began to scold him severely, but the hound interrupted him with these words, "My will is as strong as ever, master, but my body is old and feeble. You ought to honor me for what I have been instead of abusing me for what I am."

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Revised March 11, 2009.