The Bremen Town Musicians

and other folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 130
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1999-2024


  1. The Bremen Town Musicians (Germany).

  2. The Robber and the Farm Animals (Germany/Switzerland).

  3. The Sheep and the Pig Who Set Up House (Norway).

  4. The Six Male Animals (Denmark).

  5. The Animals and the Devil (Finland).

  6. The Choristers of St. Gudule (Flanders)

  7. The Story of the White Pet (Scotland).

  8. The Bull, the Tup, the Cock, and the Steg (England).

  9. Jack and His Comrades (Ireland).

  10. A Story (Ireland).

  11. How Jack Went to Seek His Fortune, version 1 (USA).

  12. How Jack Went to Seek His Fortune, version 2 (USA).

  13. The Dog, the Cat, the Ass, and the Cock (USA).

  14. Benibaire (Spain).

  15. The World's Reward (South Africa).

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

The Bremen Town Musicians


A man had a donkey, who for long years had untiringly carried sacks to the mill, but whose strength was now failing, so that he was becoming less and less able to work. Then his master thought that he would no longer feed him, but the donkey noticed that it was not a good wind that was blowing and ran away, setting forth on the road to Bremen, where he thought he could become a town musician. When he had gone a little way he found a hunting dog lying in the road, who was panting like one who had run himself tired.

"Why are you panting so, Grab-Hold?" asked the donkey.

"Oh," said the dog, "because I am old and am getting weaker every day and can no longer go hunting, my master wanted to kill me, so I ran off; but now how should I earn my bread?"

"Do you know what," said the donkey, "I am going to Bremen and am going to become a town musician there. Come along and take up music too. I'll play the lute, and you can beat the drums."

The dog was satisfied with that, and they went further. It didn't take long, before they came to a cat sitting by the side of the road and making a face like three days of rainy weather. "What has crossed you, old Beard-Licker?" said the donkey.

"Oh," answered the cat, "who can be cheerful when his neck is at risk? I am getting on in years, and my teeth are getting dull, so I would rather sit behind the stove and purr than to chase around after mice. Therefore my mistress wanted to drown me, but I took off. Now good advice is scarce. Where should I go?"

"Come with us to Bremen. After all, you understand night music. You can become a town musician there." The cat agreed and went along.

Then the three refugees came to a farmyard, and the rooster of the house was sitting on the gate crying with all his might.

"Your cries pierce one's marrow and bone," said the donkey. "What are you up to?"

"I just prophesied good weather," said the rooster, "because it is Our Dear Lady's Day, when she washes the Christ Child's shirts and wants to dry them; but because Sunday guests are coming tomorrow, the lady of the house has no mercy and told the cook that she wants to eat me tomorrow in the soup, so I am supposed to let them cut off my head this evening. Now I am going to cry at the top of my voice as long as I can."

"Hey now, Red-Head," said the donkey, "instead come away with us. We're going to Bremen. You can always find something better than death. You have a good voice, and when we make music together, it will be very pleasing."

The rooster was happy with the proposal, and all four went off together. However, they could not reach the city of Bremen in one day, and in the evening they came into a forest, where they would spend the night. The donkey and the dog lay down under a big tree, but the cat and the rooster took to the branches. The rooster flew right to the top, where it was safest for him. Before falling asleep he looked around once again in all four directions, and he thought that he saw a little spark burning in the distance. He hollered to his companions, that there must be a house not too far away, for a light was shining.

The donkey said, "Then we must get up and go there, because the lodging here is poor." The dog said that he could do well with a few bones with a little meat on them. Thus they set forth toward the place where the light was, and they soon saw it glistening more brightly, and it became larger and larger, until they came to the front of a brightly lit robbers' house.

The donkey, the largest of them, approached the window and looked in.

"What do you see, Gray-Horse?" asked the rooster.

"What do I see?" answered the donkey. "A table set with good things to eat and drink, and robbers sitting there enjoying themselves."

"That would be something for us," said the rooster.

"Ee-ah, ee-ah, oh, if we were there!" said the donkey.

Then the animals discussed how they might drive the robbers away, and at last they came upon a plan. The donkey was to stand with his front feet on the window, the dog to jump on the donkey's back, the cat to climb onto the dog, and finally the rooster would fly up and sit on the cat's head. When they had done that, at a signal they began to make their music all together. The donkey brayed, the dog barked, the cat meowed and the rooster crowed. Then they crashed through the window into the room, shattering the panes.

The robbers jumped up at the terrible bellowing, thinking that a ghost was coming in, and fled in great fear out into the woods. Then the four companions seated themselves at the table and freely partook of the leftovers, eating as if they would get nothing more for four weeks.

When the four minstrels were finished, they put out the light and looked for a place to sleep, each according to his nature and his desire. The donkey lay down on the manure pile, the dog behind the door, the cat on the hearth next to the warm ashes, and the rooster sat on the beam of the roof. Because they were tired from their long journey, they soon fell asleep.

When midnight had passed and the robbers saw from the distance that the light was no longer burning in the house, and everything appeared to be quiet, the captain said, "We shouldn't have let ourselves be chased off," and he told one of them to go back and investigate the house. The one they sent found everything still, and went into the kitchen to strike a light. He mistook the cat's glowing, fiery eyes for live coals, and held a sulfur match next to them, so that it would catch fire. But the cat didn't think this was funny and jumped into his face, spitting, and scratching.

He was terribly frightened and ran toward the back door, but the dog, who was lying there, jumped up and bit him in the leg. When he ran across the yard past the manure pile, the donkey gave him a healthy blow with his hind foot, and the rooster, who had been awakened from his sleep by the noise and was now alert, cried down from the beam, "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"

Then the robber ran as fast as he could back to his captain and said, "Oh, there is a horrible witch sitting in the house, she blew at me and scratched my face with her long fingers. And there is a man with a knife standing in front of the door, and he stabbed me in the leg. And a black monster is lying in the yard, and it struck at me with a wooden club. And the judge is sitting up there on the roof, and he was calling out, 'Bring the rascal here.' Then I did what I could to get away."

From that time forth, the robbers did not dare go back into the house. However, the four Bremen Musicians liked it so well there, that they never left it again. And the person who just told that, his mouth is still warm.

The Robber and the Farm Animals


Once upon a time there was a miller's servant who had served his master faithfully and diligently for many years. He had grown old in the mill, and the heavy work that he had to do there finally surpassed his strength. So one day he said to his master: "I can no longer serve you; I am too weak. I am therefore asking you for my dismissal and my wages."

The miller said: "The time of wandering servants has passed. You are free to leave if you wish, but you will receive no wages.

Now the old servant would sooner give up his wages than to continue to be tormented in the mill, so he took leave from his master.

Before leaving home he went to the animals that until now he had fed and tended, in order to bid them farewell. While taking leave from the horse, it said to him: "Where are you going?"

"I have to leave," he said. "I cannot take it here any longer." And when he set forth, the horse followed along after him.

He then went to the ox, stroked him once again, and said: "God be with you, old fellow!"

"Where are you going?" spoke the ox.

"Oh, I must leave. I cannot take it here any longer," said the miller's servant and sadly went on his way to take leave from the dog. The ox followed along behind, just as the horse had done. And the other animals to whom he said farewell -- the dog, the cat, the goose, and the rooster -- all did the same thing.

He made his way out into the country, where he first noticed that the faithful animals were following him. He spoke to them in a friendly manner, asking them to turn around and return home. "I have nothing more for myself," he said, "and I can no longer care for you." But the animals told him that they would not abandon him, and they contentedly followed along behind.

After several days they came to a great forest. Here the horse and the ox found good grass, which the goose and the rooster enjoyed as well. However, the other animals -- the cat and the dog -- had to suffer hunger, as did the old miller's servant; but they did not grumble and complain. Finally, after having gone very deep into the forest, they suddenly saw a large, beautiful house before them. It was locked up securely. Only an empty stall was open, and from here they could go through the barn into the house itself.

Because no one could be seen in the house, the servant decided to stay there with his animals, and he assigned each one to a place. He put the horse up front in the stall. He led the ox to the other side. The rooster was given a place on the roof, the dog on the manure pile, the cat on the hearth, and the goose behind the stove. Then he gave each one his feed, which was plentifully stored in the house. He himself ate and drank all he wanted, then fell asleep in a good bed, which was all made up in the bedroom.

During the night, while he was fast asleep, the robber -- who owned the forest house -- returned. As he stepped into yard, the dog jumped on him furiously, and barked at him. The rooster cried down from the roof: "Cock-a-doodle-doo, cock-a-doodle-doo!" All this terrified the robber, for he had never seen farm animals that live with people, knowing instead only the wild animals of the forest. He fled hurriedly into the stall, but there the horse kicked out from behind, hitting him in the side. He staggered around and around, and only with difficulty could he retreat into the back part of the stall. He scarcely arrived there when the ox turned around and tried to pick him up on his horns. This frightened him anew, and he ran as fast as he could through the barn and into the kitchen, where he wanted to strike a light and see what was there. Feeling around the hearth, he touched the cat, which jumped on him and scratched him with its claws until jumped away head over heels, and tried to hide behind the stove in the main room. The goose jumped up, screaming and beating its wings. The terrified robber fled into the bedroom. There the miller's servant was snoring mightily like a purring spinning wheel, and the robber thought the entire room was filled with strangers. You had better believe that he was overcome by a terrible fear. He rushed out of the house and ran into the woods, not stopping until until he had found his fellow robbers.

He began talking: "I don't know what has happened in our house. Some strange people are living there. When I stepped into the yard a large wildman jumped at me, yelling and bellowing so terribly that I thought he would kill me. An another one cheered him on, calling down from the roof: 'Hit him for me too! Hit him for me too!' The first one was bad enough; I wasn't going to wait for more of them to jump me, so I fled into the stall. There a shoemaker threw a last at my side, and I can still feel where it hit. I ran to the back of the stall. A pitchfork maker was standing there who tried to impale me on his pitchfork. I ran into the kitchen, where a hackle maker beat me with his hackle [a sharp-toothed tool for combing flax]. I tried to hide behind the stove, but there was a shovel maker there who beat me with his shovel. Finally I ran into the bedroom, but there were so many others snoring in there that was happy to escape with my life."

When the robbers heard this, they were so horrified that not a one of them had any desire to enter the house. To the contrary, they believed that the entire region was threatened by these strange people. That same night they departed for another country, and they never returned.

The miller's servant lived in peace in the robbers' house with his faithful animals. He no longer had to suffer in his old age, for the beautiful garden next to the house produced more fruit, vegetables, and all kinds of food every year than he and his animals could eat.

The Sheep and the Pig Who Set Up House


Once on a time there was a sheep who stood in the pen to be fattened; so he lived well, and was stuffed and crammed with everything that was good.

So it went on, till, one day, the dairymaid came and gave him still more food, and then she said, "Eat. away, sheep; you won't be much longer here; we are going to kill you tomorrow."

It is an old saying, that women's counsel is always worth having, and that there is a cure and physic for everything but death.

"But, after all," said the sheep to himself, "there may be a cure even for death this time."

So he ate till he was ready to burst; and when he was crammed full, he butted out the door of the pen, and took his way to the neighboring farm. There he went to the pigsty to a pig whom he had known out on the common, and ever since had been the best friends with.

"Good day!" said the sheep, "and thanks for our last merry meeting."

"Good day!" answered the pig, "and the same to you."

"Do you know," said the sheep, "why it is you are so well off, and why it is they fatten you and take such pains with you?"

"No, I don't," said the pig.

"Many a flask empties the cask; I suppose you know that," said the sheep. "They are going to kill and eat you."

"Are they?" said the pig. "Well, I hope they'll say grace after meat."

"If you will do as I do," said the sheep, "we'll go off to the wood, build us a house, and set up for ourselves. A home is a home be it ever so homely."

Yes! The pig was willing enough.

"Good company is such a comfort," he said, and so the two set off.

So, when they had gone a bit they met a goose.

"Good day, good sirs, and thanks for our last merry meeting," said the goose. "Whither away so fast today?"

"Good day, and the same to you," said the sheep. "You must know we were too well off at home, and so we are going to set up for ourselves in the wood, for you know every man's house is his castle."

"Well!" said the goose, "it's much the same with me where I am. Can't I go with you too, for it's child's play when three share the day."

"With gossip and gabble is built neither house nor stable," said the pig. "Let us know what you can do."

"By cunning and skill a cripple can do what he will," said the goose. "I can pluck moss and stuff it into the seams of the planks, and your house will be tight and warm."

"Yes! They would give him leave, for above all things, piggy wished to be warm and comfortable.

So, when they had gone a bit farther -- the goose had hard work to walk so fast -- they met a hare, who came frisking out of the wood.

"Good day, good sirs, and thanks for our last merry meeting," she said. "How far are you trotting today?"

"Good day, and the same to you," said the sheep. "We were far too well off at home, and so we're going to the wood, to build us a house, and set up for ourselves, for you know, try all the world round, there's nothing like home."

"As for that," said the hare, "I have a house in every bush -- yes, a house in every bush; but, yet, I have often said, in winter, 'If I only live till summer, I'll build me a house.' And so I have half a mind to go with you and build one up, after all."

"Yes!" said the pig. "If we ever get into a scrape, we might use you to scare away the dogs, for you don't fancy you could help us in house building."

"He who lives long enough always finds work enough to do," said the hare. "I have teeth to gnaw pegs, and paws to drive them into the wall, so I can very well set up to be a carpenter, for 'good tools make good work,' as the man said, when he flayed the mare with a gimlet."

Yes! He too got leave to go with them and build their house; there was nothing more to be said about it.

When they had gone a bit farther they met a cock.

"Good day, good sirs," said the cock, "and thanks for our last merry meeting. Whither are ye going today, gentlemen?"

"Good day, and the same to you," said the sheep. "At home we were too well off, and so we are going off to the wood to build us a house, and set up for ourselves; for he who out of doors shall bake, loses at last both coal and cake."

"Well! said the cock, "that's just my case; but it's better to sit on one's own perch, for then one can never be left in the lurch, and, besides, all cocks crow loudest at home. Now, if I might have leave to join such a gallant company, I also would like to go to the wood and build a house."

"Ay! Ay!" said the pig. "Flapping and crowing sets tongues a-going; but a jaw on a stick never yet laid a brick. How can you ever help us to build a house?"

"Oh!" said the cock, "that house will never have a clock, where there is neither dog nor cock. I am up early, and I wake every one."

"Very true," said the pig. "The morning hour has a golden dower; let him come with us;" for, you must know, piggy was always the soundest sleeper. "Sleep is the biggest thief," he said. "He thinks nothing of stealing half one's life."

So they all set off to the wood, as a band and brotherhood, and built the house. The pig hewed the timber, and the sheep drew it home; the hare was carpenter, and gnawed pegs and bolts, and hammered them into the walls and roof; the goose plucked moss and stuffed it into the seams; the cock crew, and looked out that they did not oversleep themselves in the morning; and when the house was ready, and the roof lined with birch bark, and thatched with turf. There they lived by themselves, and were merry and well.

"Tis good to travel east and west," said the sheep, "but after all a home is best."

But you must know that a bit farther on in the wood was a wolf's den, and there lived two graylegs. So when they saw that a new house had risen up hard by, they wanted to know what sort of folk their neighbors were, for they thought to themselves that a good neighbor was better than a brother in a foreign land, and that it was better to live in a good neighborhood than to know many people miles and miles off.

So one of them made up an errand, and went into the new house and asked for a light for his pipe. But as soon as ever he got inside the door, the sheep gave him such a butt that he fell head foremost into the stove. Then the pig began to gore and bite him, the goose to nip and peck him, the cock upon the roost to crow and chatter; and as for the hare -- he was so frightened out of his wits, that he ran about aloft and on the floor, and scratched and scrambled in every corner of the house.

So after a long time the wolf came out.

"Well!" said the one who waited for him outside, "neighborhood makes brotherhood. You must have come into a perfect paradise on bare earth, since you stayed so long. But what became of the light, for you have neither pipe nor smoke."

"Yes, yes!" said the other. "It was just a nice light and a pleasant company. Such manners I never saw in all my life. But then you know we can't pick and choose in this wicked world, and an unbidden guest gets bad treatment. As soon as I got inside the door, the shoemaker let fly at me with his last, so that I fell head foremost into the stithy fire; and there sat two smiths who blew the bellows and made the sparks fly, and beat and punched me with red hot tongs and pincers, so that they tore whole pieces out of my body. As for the hunter he went scrambling about looking for his gun, and it was good luck he did not find it. And all the while there was another who sat up under the roof, and slapped his arms and sang out, 'Put a hook into him and drag him hither; drag him hither.' That was what he screamed, and if he had only got hold of me, I should never have come out alive."

The Six Male Animals


There was a farmer who thought that he would raise six male animals together to see how long each one could live. They were a bull, a ram, a dog, a cat, a cock, and a drake. After their birth each one became big and strong, especially the bull, who was now so manly that they could control him only with difficulty.

One day a stranger came to visit the farmer. They went out to the field to see the animals, and they came across the mean bull.

"What a hideous bull you have there!" said the stranger. "Will he become a breeding animal?"

"Yes, he is hideous," said the farmer, "but he probably won't keep his freedom. I have taken care of these male animals to see how long each one would live, but now we probably will have the bull gelded, or maybe we should just slaughter him."

Yes, the stranger thought that that would be the best thing to do.

While the men were walking around looking for hay to pile up, the bull thought to himself: "Well, is that to be my fate? Thus far I have thrived, but now have only very little power. They lied to me about my long life."

That evening after returning home, he talked to the other male animals about what he had heard. They too were afraid that on another occasion they might suffer the same fate, so they all decided to run away.

They ran off as best they were able to, but as soon as they had left the field the drake got tired and said: "Sit, sit, sit, sit!"

"No," said the bull. "That won't do. We have to leave, but I can help you. If you can't keep up, you will have to get on my back."

That happened, and they traveled onward for a day. Finally the cock got tired. He ran along flapping his wings and saying: "Kokky, kokky, kokky!"

"Yes, men," said the bull, "it may well be a bit warm for you. You can complain about it, but we have to continue onward."

Then, without permission, the cock jumped onto the bull's back next to the drake, but the bull certainly could carry them both.

Well, they went on like that until finally in the evening they approached a mill. They were hungry and tired, and they resolved to rest and have something to eat there. When they come closer to the mill, the miller and his wife came running out to them.

The bull asked: "Could this be the miller?"

"Yes, I'm the miller," he said.

"Listen, could we get shelter in your mill tonight and get something to eat? We are very hungry."

"Well, men, you can get something to eat now, but nighttime is not good. No one can be in the mill at night because of ghosts."

"That's all right," said the bull. "We can stay there. We can deal with the ghosts."

"All right," said the miller, "you may go down there if you dare to, but you yourselves are responsible for the consequences. You can tell my journeyman to give you the keys when he is finished for the day."

Well, they went down to miller's journeyman and got instructions as to where they could get something to eat. The journeyman then left for his own supper and gave the keys to the bull.

Next the bull arranged everything as to where they should spend the night. Outside there was an iron shed without a door where boots could be dried. The cock was to sit there and keep watch. The dog was to lie under the tile stove. The cat was to sit on the chimney. The ram was to sit in the oven. The bull and the drake went into the great room. They were all to stay awake, but the cock was so tired from his wandering that he immediately fell asleep.

After midnight old Lucifer appeared, and he had another devil with him. When they arrived at the gate, he said to his companion: "Now you can go inside and light the candle, and then I will come."

The companion went ahead, but he noticed nothing outside the door, because the cock was sleeping soundly. When he entered the living room, the dog jumped out from under the tile stove and angrily bared his teeth. He tore at the devil's trousers, ripping them to pieces. The devil escaped into the kitchen, where the cat flew at his head, spitting and scratching.

The poor devil wasn't safe there, and he thought to himself: "Perhaps no one is in the oven."

He climbed inside, but the powerful ram butted him from one side of the oven to the other, finally pushing him out. He made his way toward the door when the ram butted his behind, pushing him into the ashes in the fireplace. He got out of the fireplace, but then the cat jumped on him again, spitting and scratching.

He made his way back through the living room, where the dog attacked him again, giving him a terrible bite.

He absolutely had to get outside where he could be in peace. He went back through the great room, but the bull met him, butting him from the ground to the ceiling and from the ceiling to the ground with his horns, while the drake ran around the bull crying "Sit! Sit! Sit!"

He finally managed to escape from the bull and the drake, and he wanted to return to the Old Man. At the same time, the cock, awakened by all the commotion, shouted: "Kokkelihyhaa!"

The poor devil finally got back to the Old Man at the gate.

Lucifer said: "What? You didn't light the candle!"

"No," he said, "I had something else to think about. I tried to light the candle, and now you can try it."

"What was the matter? Why couldn't you light the candle?"

"I don't know what it was about. When I entered the living room a man came out from the tile stove, and he walked on all fours. He must have been a German, because I couldn't understand a word of what he said. He tore my trousers and bit my legs and gnashed his teeth. Finally I got away from him, but there was an old hag sitting in the ashes with a carding comb in each hand, and she flew at my head and carded me in the head with both carding combs, all the time spitting terribly. At last I escaped into the oven and wanted to try it there; but a giant came towards me with a club in his hand, and he knocked me from one side of the oven to the other. Finally I got out of there, but the old hag with the carding combs attacked me again. At last I got into the living room, but the old man who spoke German bit my legs terribly. Then I reached the front room. It was the only place in the house that was peaceful, because I hadn't noticed anything there when I first came. I just got inside the door, when a terrible large giant with a pitchfork in each hand attacked me. He forked me from the ground to the ceiling and from the ceiling to the ground, while a wretched little man ran around him shouting: 'I have a stick! I have a stick!' I escaped from there into the corridor, but it was just as bad there, because just as I was going out the door, a guard was standing there and shouted: 'I have a hook to poke in your behind, so you'd better put up your hands!'"

The Animals and the Devil


Once upon a time there was an old man who owned three animals: a cat, a rooster, and an ox. One evening at supper time the man said to his servant, "Tomorrow morning you have to kill the cat."

However, after the meal the servant warned the cat, "Flee, otherwise early tomorrow you'll be slaughtered."

The cat took the warning to heart, and the next morning when they wanted to kill her, she had fled, and they heard nothing more from her.

The next evening the man said, "Tomorrow morning we have to slaughter our rooster."

The servant warned the rooster as well, and he too hurriedly left the farmyard. In like manner the ox ran away as well, and the three of them came together in the woods. They wandered on through the trees.

A wolf approached them, and they asked him, "Where are you going?"

"I'm headed for the herd over there," answered the wolf. "I'll try to catch a little lamb for a snack."

"Don't go there!" replied the others. "They will kill you. Instead, come with us."

The wolf agreed to this, and the four went on their way.

A bear approached them, and they asked him, "Where are you going?"

"To the village over there, where I'll get some oats to eat," answered the bear.

"Don't go there; it's too dangerous," said the others. You'd better come with us instead."

So the bear joined them, and after the five of them had gone a little further they came upon a hare. They convinced him to come with them as well.

Coming to a village, and they approached a bath-house.

A dog lay at its entrance, and he warned them, "Don't go inside. Evil spirits live there."

But they went inside anyway. The bear laid himself down on the doorstep; the wolf between the doorposts; the ox found a corner for himself; the rooster flew onto a rafter; the cat lay on the hearth; the hare under the bench; and the dog in the middle of the room.

The devil came to the bath-house and opened the door. The wolf immediately bit him in the leg; the bear hit him with his paw; the ox butted him with his horns; the rooster began to crow and the cat to meow; the hare jumped back and forth under the bench, and the dog ran around and around the room.

Frightened by all the confusion, the devil fell over backwards.

Picking himself up, he freed himself from his enemies' claws and fled out the door into the woods, where he claimed to his companions: "Don't go into the bath-house. Powerful strangers are there. On the doorstep a tailor stuck me with his needles. A rough-haired man hit me in the chest with his fists. A cobbler hit me with his gear-bag until I fell over backward. The apprentices ran around the room, jumping from one corner to the other with glowing eyes, trying to beat me, but they couldn't find me. One of them [the rooster] cried out to them as I was getting away: 'Grab the guy! Grab the guy!'"

The Choristers of St. Gudule


The miller of Sandhills had a donkey which had served him well in its time, but was now too old to work. The miller was a careful man, who did not believe in feeding useless mouths, so he decided that he would sell the donkey for the price of its skin.

"I do not suppose I shall get very much for the wretched beast," he said, regarding poor Grayskin as he stood with hanging head in his stall, "but I shall save the cost of his corn anyhow, and that is always something."

Left alone, Grayskin reflected sadly upon the fate in store for him. "Such is the way of the world," he thought. "When I was young and hearty nothing was too good for me. Now I'm old and useless I am to be cast out. But am I so useless after all? True, I can no longer pull a cart to market, but I have a magnificent voice still. There must be a place somewhere for one who can sing as beautifully as I. I'll go to the Cathedral of St. Gudule in Brussels and offer myself as a chorister."

Grayskin lost no time in acting upon his resolve, but left his stable immediately and set out on the road to Brussels. Passing the burgomaster's house he saw an old hound sitting disconsolately on the doorstep.

"Hallo, friend!" said he. "What is the matter with you? You seem very sad this morning."

"The matter is that I am tired of life," answered the dog. "I'm getting old and stiff, and I can no longer hunt hares for my master as I used to do. The result is that I am reckoned good for nothing, and they grudge me every morsel of food I put into my mouth."

"Come, come, cheer up, my friend," said Grayskin. "Never say die! I am in a similar case to yourself and have just left my master for precisely the same reason. My plan is to go to the Cathedral of St. Gudule and offer my services to the master of the choir. If I may say so without conceit, I have a lovely voice -- one must make the most of one's gifts, you know -- and I ought to be able to command good pay."

"Well, if it comes to that," said the dog, "I can sing too. I sang a lovely song to the moon last night, and if you'll believe me, all the people in our street opened their windows to listen. I sang for quite an hour, and I'd have gone on longer if some malicious person, who was no doubt jealous, had not thrown an old boot at my head."

"Excellent," said Grayskin. "Come along with me. You shall sing tenor and I'll sing bass. We'll make a famous pair."

So the dog joined company with Grayskin, and they went on together towards Brussels.

A little farther down the road they saw a cat sitting on the rubbish heap outside a miserable hovel. The creature was half blind with age and had a face as long as a fiddle.

"Why, what is the matter with you?" asked Grayskin, who had a tender heart.

"Matter enough," said the cat. "I've just been turned out of house and home, and all because I took a little piece of bacon from the larder. Upon my honor, it was no bigger than a baby's fist, but they made as much fuss as though it had been a whole gammon. I was beaten and kicked out to starve. If I could catch mice as I used to do, it would not matter so much, but the mice are too quick for me nowadays. They laugh at me. Nothing remains for me but to die, and I hope it may be soon."

"Nonsense," said Grayskin. "You shall live to laugh at all your troubles. Come along with us and sing in the choir at St. Gudule. Your voice is a little too thin for my own taste, but you'll make a very good soprano in a trio. What do you say?"

"You give me new hopes," answered the cat. "Of course I'll join you," and so the three went on together.

Towards nightfall they arrived at a farmyard, on the gate of which a cock was crowing lustily.

"Hall!" said Grayskin. "What's all this about?"

"I am singing my last song on earth," said the cock. "An hour ago I sang a song, although it is not my usual custom to crow in the afternoon, and as I ended I heard the farmer's wife say, 'Hearken to Chanticleer. He's crowing for fine weather tomorrow. I wonder if he'd crow so loudly if he knew that we had guests coming, and that he was going into the pot to make their soup!' She has a horrid laugh, that woman. I have always hated her!"

"And do you mean to tell me," said Grayskin, "that you are going to stay here quite contentedly till they come to wring your neck?"

"What else can I do?" asked Chanticleer.

"Join us and turn your talents to account. We are all beautiful singers and we are going to Brussels to offer ourselves as choristers at St. Gudule. We were a trio before. With you we shall be a quartet, and that's one better!"

Chanticleer was only too glad to find a means of escape, so he willingly joined the party, and they once more took the road.

A little while afterwards they came to a thick wood, which was the haunt of a notorious band of robbers. There they decided to rest for the night, so Grayskin and the dog lay down beneath the shelter of a large beech tree, while the cat climbed onto one of the branches, and Chanticleer perched himself at the very top. From this lofty post he could see over the whole wood, and it was not long before he espied a light twinkling among the trees not far away.

"There must be a house of some sort over there," he said to his companions. "Shall we go and see? We may find something to eat."

"Or some straw to lie upon, at any rate," said Grayskin. "This damp ground gives me rheumatics in my old bones."

"I was just thinking the same thing," said the dog. "Let us go."

So the four choristers, led by the cock, walked in the direction from which the light came, and before long they found themselves in front of a little house, the windows of which were brilliantly lighted. In order to reach to the windows the animals made a tower of their bodies, with Grayskin at the bottom and Chanticleer at the top.

Now this house was the abode of a band of robbers, who, at that very moment, were seated before a table laden with all kinds of food. There they sat and feasted, and poor Chanticleer's mouth watered as he watched them.

"Is there anybody inside?" asked the dog, who was impatient.

"Hush!" said Chanticleer. "Men! They're eating their dinner!"

"I wish I was," said the dog. "What are they eating?"

"All sorts of things -- sausage and fish ...."

"Sausage!" said the dog.

"Fish!" said the cat.

"And ever so many other delicacies," Chanticleer went on. "Look here, friends. Wouldn't it be a fine thing if we could get a share of their meal? I confess that my stomach aches with hunger."

"And mine too," said the dog. "I've never been so hungry in my life. But how are we to get the food?"

"Let us serenade them, and perhaps they'll throw us something as a reward," said Grayskin. "Music, you know, has charms to soothe the savage breast."

This seemed such a good idea that the choristers lost no time in putting it into execution. All four began to sing. They donkey hee-hawed, the dog howled, the cat meowed, and the cock crowed. From the noise they made one would have thought that the heavens were falling.

The effect of this marvelous quartet upon the robbers was instantaneous. Leaping from their seats, they ran from place to place in mortal terror, tumbling over one another, oversetting chairs and adding to the racket by their shrieks and cries. At that moment the cock fell against the window, breaking the glass to smithereens. The donkey gave the frame a push, and all the four precipitated themselves into the room.

This was the last straw. The robbers could stand no more. Half mad with fear they rushed to the door and fled into the forest.

Then our four choristers drew up to the table and set to work upon the food with which it was laden. Their long walk had given them a good appetite, so that there was little left by the time they had finished. Feeling drowsy after their meal, they then settled themselves to sleep. The donkey made himself a bed on a heap of straw in the yard; the dog stretched himself out upon the mat by the house door; the cat lay among the warm cinders on the hearth; and the cock perched upon the rooftop. A few minutes more and they were all fast asleep.

Meanwhile the robbers, who had retreated some distance into the forest, waited anxiously for something dreadful to happen. An hour passed by and there was neither sight nor sound to alarm them, so they began to feel a little ashamed of their cowardice. Creeping stealthily nearer to the cottage, they saw that everything was still, and that no light was showing from the windows.

At last the robber chief sent his lieutenant to spy out the land, and this man, returning to the cottage without mishap, found his way into the kitchen and proceeded to light a candle. He had no matches, but he saw two sparks of fire among the cinders on the hearth, so he went forward to get a light from them.

Now this light came from the cat's eyes, and as soon as puss felt the robber touch her, she sprang up, snarling and spitting, and scratched his face. With a scream of terror, he dropped his candle and rushed for the door, and as he passed, the dog bit him in the leg. By this time the noise had awakened Grayskin, who got upon his feet just as the man ran by, and helped him forward with a might kick, which sent him flying out into the roadway. Seeing this, the cock on the housetop spread his wings and crowed in triumph, "Cock-a-doodle-doo!"

I wish you could have seen the way that robber ran! He covered the ground so quickly that he seemed like a flying shadow, and I am perfectly certain that not even a hare could have overtaken him. At last, panting for breath, he rejoined his comrades in the forest, who were eagerly awaiting his return.

"Well," cried the chief, "is the way clear? Can we go back?"

"Not on any account," cried the robber. "There's a horrible witch in the kitchen. Directly I entered she sprang at me and tore my face with her long claws, calling out at the same time to her creatures to come and devour me. As I ran through the door, one of them buried his fangs in my leg, and a little farther on, in the yard, a great black monster struck at me with an enormous club, giving me a blow that nearly broke my backbone. On the roof a little demon with wings and eyes that shone like coals of fire cried, 'Stop him! Eat him! Stop him! Eat him!' You may guess that I did not wait for more. It is a miracle that I have escaped with my life!"

When they heard this terrible story the robbers lost no time in decamping, and such was their terror that they deserted the forest altogether and went away to another part of the country. The result was that our four friends were left to dwell in the cottage, where they lived happily for the rest of their lives, and as they had now everything they wanted, they quite gave up their idea of going to St. Gudule.

The Story of the White Pet


There was a farmer before now who had a White Pet (sheep), and when Christmas was drawing near, he thought that he would kill the White Pet. The White Pet heard that, and he thought he would run away; and that is what he did.

He had not gone far when a bull met him. Said the bull to him, "All hail! White Pet, where are you going?"

"I," said the White Pet, "am going to seek my fortune; they were going to kill me for Christmas, and I thought I had better run away."

"It is better for me," said the bull, "to go with you, for they were going to do the very same with me."

"I am willing," said the White Pet; "the larger the party the better the fun."

They went forward until they fell in with a dog. "All hail! White Pet," said the dog.

"All hail! dog."

"Where are you going?" said the dog.

"I am running away, for I heard that they were threatening to kill me for Christmas."

"They were going to do the very same to me," said the dog, "and I will go with you."

"Come, then," said the White Pet.

They went then, until a cat joined them. "All hail! White Pet," said the cat.

"All hail! oh cat."

"Where are you going?" said the cat.

"I am going to seek my fortune," said the White Pet, " because they were going to kill me at Christmas."

"They were talking about killing me too," said the cat," and I had better go with you."

"Come on then," said the White Pet.

Then they went forward until a cock met them. "All hail! White Pet," said the cock.

"All hail to yourself! oh cock," said the White Pet.

"Where," said the cock," are you going?"

"I," said the White Pet, "am going away, for they were threatening my death at Christmas."

"They were going to kill me at the very same time," said the cock, " and I will go with you."

"Come, then," said the White Pet.

They went forward until they fell in with a goose. "All hail! White Pet," said the goose. "All hail to yourself! oh goose," said the White Pet.

"Where are you going?" said the goose.

"I," said the White Pet, "am running away, because they were going to kill me at Christmas."

"They were going to do that to me too," said the goose, "and I will go with you."

The party went forward until the night was drawing on them, and they saw a little light far away; and though far off, they were not long getting there. When they reached the house they said to each other that they would look in at the window to see who was in the house, and they saw thieves counting money; and the White Pet said, "Let every one of us call his own call. I will call my own call; and let the bull call his own call; let the dog call his own call; and the cat her own call; and the cock his own call; and the goose his own call." With that they gave out one shout -- Gaire!

When the thieves heard the shouting outside, they thought the mischief was there; and they fled out, and they went to a wood that was near them. When the White Pet and his company saw that the house was empty, they went in and they got the money that the thieves had been counting, and they divided it among themselves; and then they thought that they would settle to rest. Said the White Pet, "Where will you sleep tonight, oh bull?"

"I will sleep," said the bull, "behind the door where I used to be."

"Where will you sleep, White Pet?"

"I will sleep," said the White Pet, "in the middle of the floor where I used to be."

"Where will you sleep, oh dog?" said the White Pet.

"I will sleep beside the fire where I used to be," said the dog.

"Where will you sleep, oh cat?"

"I will sleep," said the cat, "in the candle press, where I like to be."

"Where will you sleep, oh cock?" said the White Pet.

"I," said the cock, " will sleep on the rafters where I used to be."

"Where will you sleep, oh goose?"

"I will sleep," said the goose, "on the manure pile, where I was accustomed to be."

They were not long settled to rest, when one of the thieves returned to look in to see if he could perceive if any one at all was in the house. All things were still, and he went on forward to the candle press for a candle, that he might kindle to make him a light; but when he put his hand in the box the cat thrust her claws into his hand, but he took a candle with him, and he tried to light it. Then the dog got up, and he stuck his tail into a pot of water that was beside the fire; he shook his tail and put out the candle. Then the thief thought that the mischief was in the house, and he fled; but when he was passing the White Pet, he gave him a blow; before he got past the bull, he gave him a kick; and the cock began to crow; and when he went out, the goose began to belabor him with his wings about the shanks.

He went to the wood where his comrades were, as fast as was in his legs. They asked him how it had gone with him. "It went," said he, "but middling; when I went to the candle press, there was a man in it who thrust ten knives into my hand; and when I went to the fireside to light the candle, there was a big black man lying there, who was sprinkling water on it to put it out; and when I tried to go out, there was a big man in the middle of the floor, who gave me a shove; and another man behind the door who pushed me out; and there was a little brat on the loft calling out Cuir-anees-an-shaw-ay-s-foni-mi-hayn-da -- Send him up here and I'll do for him; and there was a shoemaker, out on the manure pile, belaboring me about the shanks with his apron."

When the thieves heard that, they did not return to seek their lot of money; and the White Pet and his comrades got it to themselves; and it kept them peaceably as long as they lived.

The Bull, the Tup, the Cock, and the Steg


A bull, a tup [ram], a cock, and a steg [gander] set out together to seek their fortune. When it got to night, they came to a house, and asked for a night's lodging, but the folks said no. However, at last they were let come into the kitchen. The bull said he would lie on the floor, the tup said he would lie by his side, the cock would perch on the rannel bank, and the steg would stand at t' back of the door.

At midnight, when all was quiet, two men, meaning to rob the house, were heard parleying outside which should go in, and which watch outside. One went in, the bull got up and knocked him about, the tup did the same, and the cock said, "Fetch him here, I'll pick out his eyen."

So he says, "I'd best be out of this."

As he went to the door, the steg took him by the nose with its neb, and beat him with its wings.

The other said when he got out, "What have you done?"

"Done!" says he, "The devil knocked me about; when he'd done, one of his imps set on. A thin wi' glowering eyen said, 'Fetch him here,' etc. and when I got to the door, a blacksmith took me by the snout with his tongs, and flapped me by the lugs with his leather apron."

Jack and His Comrades


Once there was a poor widow, and often there was, and she had one son. A very scarce summer came, and they didn't know how they'd live till the new potatoes would be fit for eating.

So Jack said to his mother one evening, "Mother, bake my cake, and kill my cock, till I go seek my fortune; and if I meet it, never fear but I'll soon be back to share it with you."

So she did as he asked her, and he set out at break of day on his journey.

His mother came along with him to the bawn (yard) gate, and says she, "Jack, which would you rather have, half the cake and half the cock with my blessing, or the whole of 'em with my curse?"

"O musha, mother," says Jack, "why do you ax me that question? Sure you know I wouldn't have your curse and Damer's estate along with it."

"Well, then, Jack," says she, "here's the whole tote (lot) of 'em, and my thousand blessings along with them." So she stood on the bawn ditch (fence) and blessed him as far as her eyes could see him.

Well, he went along and along till he was tired, and ne'er a farmer's house he went into wanted a boy. At last his road led by the side of a bog, and there was a poor ass up to his shoulders near a big bunch of grass he was striving to come at.

"Ah, then, Jack asthore," says he, "help me out or I'll be dhrownded."

"Never say't twice," says Jack, and he pitched in big stones and scraws (sods) into the slob, till the ass got good ground under him.

"Thank you, Jack," says he, when he was out on the hard road; "I'll do as much for you another time. Where are you going?"

"Faith, I'm going to seek my fortune till harvest comes in, God bless it!"

"And if you like," says the ass, "I'll go along with you; who knows what luck we may have!"

"With all my heart; it's getting late, let us be jogging." Well, they were going through a village, and a whole army of gorsoons [garçons] were hunting a poor dog with a kittle tied to his tail. He ran up to Jack for protection, and the ass let such a roar out of him, that the little thieves took to their heels as if the ould boy (the devil) was after them.

"More power to you, Jack!" says the dog. "I'm much obleeged to you; where is the baste and yourself going?"

"We're going to seek our fortune till harvest comes in."

"And wouldn't I be proud to go with you!" says the dog, "and get shut (rid) of them ill conducted boys; purshuin' to 'em!"

"Well, well, throw your tail over your arm, and come along."

They got outside the town, and sat down under an old wall, and Jack pulled out his bread and meat, and shared with the dog; and the ass made his dinner on a bunch of thistles. While they were eating and chatting, what should come by but a poor half-starved cat, and the moll-row he gave out of him would make your heart ache.

"You look as if you saw the tops of nine houses since breakfast," says Jack; "here's a bone and something on it."

"May your child never know a hungry belly!" says Tom; "it's myself that's in need of your kindness. May I be so bold as to ask where yez are all going?"

"We're going to seek our fortune till the harvest comes in, and you may join us if you like."

"And that I'll do with a heart and a half," says the cat, " and thank'ee for asking me."

Off they set again, and just as the shadows of the trees were three times as long as themselves, they heard a great cackling in a field inside the road, and out over the ditch jumped a fox with a fine black cock in his mouth.

"Oh you anointed villian!" says the ass, roaring like thunder.

"At him, good dog!" says Jack, and the word wasn't out of his mouth when Coley was in full sweep after the Moddhera Rua (Red Dog). Reynard dropped his prize like a hot potato, and was off like shot, and the poor cock came back fluttering and trembling to Jack and his comrades.

"O musha, naybours!" says he, "wasn't it the hoith o' luck that threw you in my way! Maybe I won't remember your kindness if ever I find you in hardship; and where in the world are you all going?"

"We're going to seek our fortune till the harvest comes in; you may join our party if you like, and sit on Neddy's crupper when your legs and wings are tired."

Well, the march began again, and just as the sun was gone down they looked around, and there was neither cabin nor farm house in sight.

"Well, well," says Jack, "the worse luck now the better another time, and it's only a summer night after all. We'll go into the wood, and make our bed on the long grass."

No sooner said than done. Jack stretched himself on a bunch of dry grass, the ass lay near him, the dog and cat lay in the ass's warm lap, and the cock went to roost in the next tree.

Well, the soundness of deep sleep was over them all, when the cock took a notion of crowing. "Bother you, Cuileach Dhu (Black Cock)!" says the ass; "you disturbed me from as nice a wisp of hay as ever I tasted. What's the matter?"

"It's daybreak that's the matter; don't you see light yonder?"

"I see a light indeed," says Jack, "but it's from a candle it's coming, and not from the sun. As you've roused us we may as well go over, and ask for lodging."

So they all shook themselves, and went on through grass, and rocks, and briars, till they got down into a hollow, and there was the light coming through the shadow, and along with it came singing, and laughing, and cursing.

"Easy, boys!" says Jack; "walk on your tippy toes till we see what sort of people we have to deal with."

So they crept near the window, and there they saw six robbers inside, with pistols, and blunderbushes, and cutlashes, sitting at a table, eating roast beef and pork, and drinking mulled beer, and wine, and whisky punch.

"Wasn't that a fine haul we made at the Lord of Dunlavin's!" says one ugly-looking thief with his mouth full, "and it's little we'd get only for the honest porter; here's his purty health!"

"The porter's purty health!" cried out every one of them, and Jack bent his finger at his comrades.

"Close your ranks, my men," says he in a whisper, "and let every one mind the word of command."

So the ass put his fore-hoofs on the sill of the window, the dog got on the ass's head, the cat got on the dog's head, and the cock on the cat's head. Then Jack made a sign, and they all sung out like mad. "Hee haw, hee-haw!" roared the ass; "bow-wow!" barked the dog; "meaw-meaw!" cried the cat; "cock-a-doodle-doo!" crowed the cock.

"Level your pistols!" cried Jack, "and make smithereens of 'em. Don't leave a mother's son of 'em alive; present, fire!"

With that they gave another halloo, and smashed every pane in the window. The robbers were frightened out of their lives. They blew out the candles, threw down the table, and skelped out at the back door as if they were in earnest, and never drew rein till they were in the very heart of the wood.

Jack and his party got into the room, closed the shutters, lighted the candles, and ate and drank till hunger and thirst were gone. Then they lay down to rest -- Jack in the bed, the ass in the stable, the dog on the door mat, the cat by the fire, and the cock on the perch.

At first the robbers were very glad to find themselves safe in the thick wood, but they soon began to get vexed. "This damp grass is very different from our warm room," says one; "I was obliged to drop a fine pig's crubeen (foot)," says another; " I didn't get a foy-spoonful of my last tumbler," says another; "and all the Lord of Dunlavin's goold and silver that we left behind!" says the last.

"I think I'll venture back," says the captain, "and see if we can recover anything."

"That's a good boy!" said they all, and away he went.

The lights were all out, and so he groped his way to the fire, and there the cat flew in his face, and tore him with teeth and claws. He let a roar out of him, and made for the room door, to look for a candle inside. He trod on the dog's tail, and if he did, he got the marks of his teeth in his arms, and legs, and thighs.

"Millia murdher (thousand murders)!" cried he; "I wish I was out of this unlucky house."

When he got to the street door, the cock dropped down upon him with his claws and bill, and what the cat and dog done to him was only a flay-bite to what he got from the cock.

"Oh, tattheration to you all, you unfeeling vagabones!" says he, when he recovered his breath; and he staggered and spun round and round till he reeled into the stable, back foremost, but the ass received him with a kick on the broadest part of his small clothes, and laid him comfortably on the dunghill. When he came to himself, he scratched his head, and began to think what happened him; and as soon as he found that his legs were able to carry him, he crawled away, dragging one foot after another, till he reached the wood.

"Well, well," cried them all, when he came within hearing, "any chance of our property?"

"You may say chance," says he, "and it's itself is the poor chance all out. Ah, will any of you pull a bed of dry grass for me? All the sticking-plaster in Inniscorfy (Enniscorthy) will be too little for the cuts and bruises I have on me. Ah, if you only knew what I have gone through for you! When I got to the kitchen fire, looking for a sod of lighted turf, what should be there but a colliach (old woman) carding flax, and you may see the marks she left on my face with the cards. I made to the room door as fast as I could, and who should I stumble over but a cobbler and his seat, and if he did not work at me with his awls and his pinchers you may call me a rogue. Well, I got away from him somehow, but when I was passing through the door, it must be the divel himself that pounced down on me with his claws, and his teeth, that were equal to sixpenny nails, and his wings -- ill luck be in his road! Well, at last I reached the stable, and there, by way of salute, I got a pelt from a sledge-hammer that sent me half a mile off. If you don't believe me, I'll give you leave to go and judge for yourselves."

"Oh, my poor captain," says they, "we believe you to the nines. Catch us, indeed, going within a hen's race of that unlucky cabin!"

Well, before the sun shook his doublet next morning, Jack and his comrades were up and about. They made a hearty breakfast on what was left the night before, and then they all agreed to set off to the castle of the Lord of Dunlavin, and give him back all his gold and silver. Jack put it all in the two ends of a sack, and laid it across Neddy's back, and all took the road in their hands. Away they went, through bogs, up hills, down dales, and sometimes along the yalla high road, till they came to the hall door of the Lord of Dunlavin, and who should be there, airing his powdered head, his white stockings, and his red breeches, but the thief of a porter.

He gave a cross look to the visitors, and says he to Jack, "What do you want here, my fine fellow? There isn't room for you all."

"We want," says Jack, "what I'm sure you haven't to give us -- and that is, common civility."

"Come, be off, you lazy geochachs (greedy strollers)!" says he, "while a cat 'ud be licking her ear, or I'll let the dogs at you."

"Would you tell a body," says the cock that was perched on the ass's head, "who was it that opened the door for the robbers the other night?"

Ah! maybe the porter's red face didn't turn the colour of his frill, and the Lord of Dunlavin and his pretty daughter, that were standing at the parlour window unknownst to the porter, put out their heads.

"I'd be glad, Barney," says the master, "to hear your answer to the gentleman with the red comb on him."

"Ah, my lord, don't believe the rascal; sure I didn't open the door to the six robbers."

"And how did you know there were six, you poor innocent?" said the lord.

"Never mind, sir," says Jack, "all your gold and silver is there in that sack, and I don't think you will begrudge us our supper and bed after our long march from the wood of Athsalach (muddy ford)."

"Begrudge, indeed! Not one of you will ever see a poor day if I can help it."

So all were welcomed to their heart's content, and the ass, and the dog, and the cock got the best posts in the farmyard, and the cat took possession of the kitchen. The lord took Jack in hands, dressed him from top to toe in broadcloth, and frills as white as snow, and turnpumps, and put a watch in his fob. When they sat down to dinner, the lady of the house said Jack had the air of a born gentleman about him, and the lord said he'd make him his steward. Jack brought his mother, and settled her comfortably near the castle, and all were as happy as you please.

The old woman that told me the story said Jack and the young lady were married ; but if they were, I hope he spent two or three years getting the edication of a gentleman. I don't think that a country boy would feel comfortable, striving to find discoorse for a well-bred young lady, the length of a summer's day, even if he had the Academy of Compliments and the Complete Letter Writer by heart.*

*Footnote: Two chap or pedler's books, great favourites among our populace during the last century, and still finding some readers. The concluding observations, as well as the body of the story, are in the words of the original narrator.

A Story


Once upon a time there was a sheep who stood in his pen to be fattened.

When the maid came to feed him she said, "Eat away sheep you won't be here much longer. To morrow we are going to kill you."

The sheep ate until he ate a good deal to much, and when he had finished he went out the door of his pen, and made his way to the neighbouring farm. There he went straight tot he pig-sty where there lived a pig whom he met out in the field.

"Good day," said the sheep, "and thanks for your kindness last time we met."

"Good day," said the pig, "and the same to you."

"Do you know why they feed you so good," said the sheep.

"No," said the pig.

"Because they are going to kill you and eat you," said the sheep.

"Much good may do them," said the pig.

"Come to the wood and we will build a house for ourselves," said the sheep.

"Good company is a fine thing," said the pig, and the too set off together.

When they had gone a short distance they met a goose.

"Good day," said the goose, "where are ye going to day."

"Well," said they, "you must know we were not to well treated at home, and we are going to the wood to build a house for ourselves."

"May I go with ye," said the goose, "for it's child's play when three share the [?]."

"What can you do to build a house?" said the pig.

"I can pull moss and [?] it in them cracks and make your house very comfortable," said the goose.

"Very well," said the pig, "she might come with us," for above all things Mr. Piggy wished to be warm and comfortable.

When our friends had gone a little farther, walking slowly, for the goose found it hard to keep up with them. they met a hare.

"Good day sirs," said the hare, "how far are ye travelling to day,"

"Good day," said the sheep, "we were not very well off at home and so we are going to the wood to build a house."

"Well," said the hare, "I have a home in every bush, but I often said in winter, If I live till summer I'll build a house," and so I have a good mind to go with you.

"We might bring you with us to frighten away the dogs," said the pig with a grin, "but I don't know what you can do towards building a house."

"Well," said the hare, "I have teeth to get pegs and paws to drive them intot he wall,"

"All right," they said the hare might go with them and help to build the house.

When they had gone a bit farther they met a cock.

"Good day sirs," said the cock, "where are ye going to day gentlemen.

"Good day," said the sheep. "At home we were not to well off and we are going to build a house for ourselves."

"Well," said the cock, "I would like to join such a gallant company. I also would like to build a house."

"How can you ever help us to build a house," said the pig.

"Ah," said the cock, "I am up early and can wake every one.

"Very true," said the pig, "let him come with us."

So they all set off together. When the house was finished they lived very well and merry ever afterwards.

How Jack Went to Seek His Fortune


Version 1

Once on a time there was a boy named Jack, and one morning he started to go and seek his fortune. He hadn't gone very far before he met a cat.

"Where are you going, Jack?" said the cat.

"I am going to seek my fortune."

"May I go with you?"

"Yes," said Jack, "the more the merrier."

So on they went, jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt.

They went a little further and they met a dog.

"Where are you going, Jack?" said the dog.

"I am going to seek my fortune."

"May I go with you?"

"Yes," said Jack, "the more the merrier."

So on they went, jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt.

They went a little further and they met a goat,

"Where are you going, Jack?" said the goat.

"I am going to seek my fortune."

"May I go with you?"

"Yes," said Jack, "the more the merrier."

So on they went, jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt.

They went a little further and they met a bull.

"Where are you going, Jack?" said the bull.

"I am going to seek my fortune."

"May I go with you?"

"Yes," said Jack, "the more the merrier."

So on they went, jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt.

They went a little further and they met a skunk.

"Where are you going, Jack?" said the skunk.

"May I go with you?"

"Yes," said Jack, "the more the merrier."

So on they went, jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt.

They went a little further and they met a rooster.

"Where are you going, Jack?" said the rooster.

"I am going to seek my fortune."

"May I go with you?"

"Yes," said Jack, "the more the merrier."

So on they went, jiggelty-jolt, jiggelty-jolt.

Well, they went on till it was about dark, and they began to think of some place where they could spend the night. About this time they came in sight of a house, and Jack told them to keep still while he went up a looked in through the window. And there were some robbers counting over their money. Then Jack went back and told them to wait till he gave the word, and then to make all the noise they could. So when they were all ready Jack gave the word, and the cat mewed, and the dog barked, and the goat blatted, and the bull bellowed, and the rooster crowed, and all together they made such a dreadful noise that it frightened the robbers all away.

And then they went in a took possession of the house. Jack was afraid the robbers would come back in the night, and so when it came time to go to bed he put the cat in the rocking-chair, and he put the dog under the table, and he put the goat upstairs, and he put the bull down cellar, and he put the skunk in the corner of the fireplace, and the rooster flew up onto the roof, and Jack went to bed.

By and by the robbers saw it was all dark, and they sent one man back to the house to look after their money. Before long he came back in a great fright and told them his story.

"I went back to the house," said he, "and went in an tried to sit down in the rocking-chair, and there was an old woman knitting, and she stuck her knitting needles into me. I went to the table to look after the money, and there was a shoemaker under the table, and he stuck his awl into me. I started to go upstairs, and there was a man up there threshing, and he knocked me down with his flail. I started to go down cellar, and there was a man down there chopping wood, and he knocked me up with his axe. I went to warm me at the fireplace, and there was an old woman washing dishes, and she threw her dishwater onto me. But I shouldn't have minded all that if it hadn't been for that little fellow on top of the house, who kept a hollering, 'Toss him up to me-e! Toss him up to me-e!'"

How Jack Went to Seek His Fortune


Version 2

Once on a time there was a boy named Jack, who set out to seek his fortune. He had not gone but a little way when he came to a horse.

The horse said, "Where are you going, Jack?"

He said, "I'm going to seek my fortune. Won't you go along too?"

"Don't know, guess I will." So they walked along together.

By and by they came to a cow. The cow said, "Where are you going, Jack?"

He said, "I'm going to seek my fortune. Won't you go along too?"

"Don't know, guess I will." So they walked along together.

By and by they came to a ram. The ram said, "Where are you going, Jack?"

He said, "I'm going to seek my fortune. Won't you go along too?"

"Don't know, guess I will." So they walked along together.

By and by they came to a dog. The dog said, "Where are you going, Jack?"

"I'm going to seek my fortune. Won't you go along too?"

"Don't know, guess I will." So they all walked along together.

By and by they came to a cat. The cat said, "Where are you going, Jack?"

He said, "I'm going to seek my fortune. Won't you go along too?"

"Don't know, guess I will." So they all walked along together.

By and by they came to a rooster. The rooster said, "Where are you going, Jack?"

"I'm going to seek my fortune. Won't you go along too?"

"Don't know, don't care if I do." So they all walked along together.

They traveled along until it began to grow dark, and then they were looking for a place to spend the night, when they saw a log cabin in the edge of a woods.

Jack went up to the house and found the door unlocked, and went in. After looking about he found a good bed upstairs and plenty of good food in the cupboard. There was a fire on the hearth. As he could see no one living there, after he had eaten a good supper and fed all the animals, he began to make preparations for the night.

First he led the horse out into the stable, and fed him some hay, for he found plenty of good hay on the mow. Then he took all the other animals into the house, and he found the door closed into the locker, so he stationed the dog under the table near the door, so that he mighty bite anyone who might chance to enter the house. The cat lay down on the hearth, and the rooster perched on a large crossbeam, and then he stationed the cow at the foot of the stairs, and the ram at the top of the stairs that led to the loft. Then he covered up the fire, put out the light, and went to bed, and was soon fast asleep.

Now it happened that this valley was the home of two wicked robbers, who had gone out during the day in search of plunder.

Late in the night Jack was awakened by a great noise, for the robbers had returned and opened the door, expecting to find things as usual. They were suddenly grabbed by the dog, who bit them furiously, barking all the while.

At last they managed to escape from him, and started to the fireplace, thinking to strike a light. One of the robbers tried to light a match by a coal which he thought he saw shining in the ashes; but this was the cat's eye, and as soon as she was molested she flew on them and scratched their faces dreadfully, till they were glad to escape from the fireplace.

They went from the fireplace toward the stairs, but as they passed under the rooster's perch he dropped very disagreeable material (these words to be whispered) upon them.

The robbers groped their way through the dark to the foot of the stairs, meaning to creep up to the bed and rest till morning, but just as they reached the stairs they were suddenly caught on the horns of the cow, and tossed up in the air.

The ram called out, "Toss 'em up to me!"

Before they lighted he caught them on his horns and tossed them up in the air. And the cow called out, "Toss 'em down to me!"

Before they lighted she caught them on her horns and tossed them up in the air. Then the ram called out, "Toss 'em up to me!"

And before they lighted he caught them on his horns, etc. (to be repeated ad libitum). And so they tossed them back and forth until they were all mangled and bloody.

At last they managed to escape from the cow's horns, and thought they would crawl off to the barn and spend the rest of the night. As they passed the dog in going to the door he gave them a parting snip, but they escaped from him and found the way out to the barn. When they tried to creep in at the door the horse began to kick them so dreadfully that they had to give that up, and were only just able to creep off to a fence corner, where they laid down and died.

As soon as Jack found that everything was quiet he went to sleep, and slept soundly till morn, after he got up and dressed himself. By and by he looked about and found there was a large bag of gold under his bed, which had been stolen from time to time by the robbers. So Jack kept the gold, was well provided for, and lived happily forever after with his faithful animals.

The Dog, the Cat, the Ass, and the Cock


Once upon a time, a long while ago, when beasts and fowls could talk, it happened that a dog lived in a farmer's barnyard. By and by he grew tired of watching the house all night and working hard all day, so he thought he'd go out into the world to seek his fortune. One fine day, when the farmer had gone away, he started off down the road.

He hadn't gone far when he spied a cat curled up asleep on a door-stone in a farmer's yard, so he looked over the fence and called to the cat, "I'm going out into the world to seek my fortune. Don't you want to come along too?"

But the cat said she was very comfortable where she was, and didn't think she cared to go traveling. But the dog told her that by and by when she got old the farmer wouldn't let her lie on his sunny door-stone, but would make her lie in the cold, no matter whether it snowed or not. So the cat concluded she'd go along too, and they walked down the road arm in arm.

They hadn't gone far when they spied a jackass eating grass in a farmer's yard.

So the dog looked over the fence and called to the jackass, "We're going out into the world to seek our fortune. Don't you want to come along too?"

But the jackass said he was very comfortable where he was, and didn't think he cared to go traveling. But the dog told him that by and by, when he got old and stiff, he'd have to work early and late, year after year, for only just what he would eat, and short allowance at that. So the jackass concluded to go along too, and they all walked down the road arm in arm.

They hadn't gone far when they spied a cock crowing in a farmer's yard, so the dog looked over the fence and called, "We're going out into the world to seek our fortune. Don't you want to come along too?"

But the rooster said he was very comfortable where he was, and didn't think he cared to go traveling. But the dog told him that by and by, when it came Thanksgiving, pop would go his head, and he'd make a fine dinner for the farmer. So the rooster concluded he'd go along too, and they all walked down the road arm in arm.

Now they had neglected to take anything to eat along with them, and when night overtook them, weary, footsore, and hungry, they were in a dense forest, and they all began to blame the dog for getting them into such a scrape. The ass proposed that the cock should fly to the top of a high tree to see if he could discover a place for them to lodge. He had scarcely perched on a limb before he called to his friends that a house was a little way off, for he could see a light in the window. The dog called to him to come down and lead the was to the house, and they all walked off arm in arm to the house.

When they got there it was perfectly still about the house. They could hear no one inside. The ass kicked at the door, but no one answered. They looked about and found the house had only one window, and that was so high up they couldn't look in. He proposed that the jackass should stand on his hind legs, with his forelegs resting against the house, while the dog should clamber up his back and stand on his head, the cat run up the backs of both, and the rooster fly to the cat's head, and then he could just look in at the window.

"Hurry and tell what you see," said the jackass, "for my neck is breaking off."

"I see a fire on a hearth and a table loaded with all sorts of fine things to eat: turkey and plum pudding, and pan-dowdy, and a band of men sitting round the table."

"Zounds!" said the dog, "we must get in."

So the rooster flew against the window with such a crash that it scared the robbers -- for this was a band of robbers -- nearly to death. They jumped up from the table so quickly that they overturned their chairs and whisked out the candles, while in flew the rooster, the cat, and the dog at the window, while the jackass went round and waited at the door till the robbers came out and ran away.

Then the beasts lighted the candles again, and picked up the chairs, and sat down and had a good supper. Then they began to look about to see how they should dispose of themselves for the night. The jackass went out in the barn to sleep in the hay, the dog lay on the rug by the hearth, the cat took up her bed among the warm ashes, and the rooster flew to the ridgepole of the house, and soon all were fast asleep, being very tired by their long day's journey.

By and by the robbers plucked up courage, and about midnight came back to the house to see if perchance they had not been scared at their shadows. Two of them got in at the window to take a survey, and seeing the cat's glowing eyes in the ashes mistook them for coals, and scratching a match in them the cat sunk her claws in his hand, which terrified him so much that in attempting to escape he ran against the dog, and he in turn caught the robber by the leg and bit him.

By this time the tumult had awakened the ass, and just as the robber rushed out at the door the jackass met him and kicked him ten feet in the air, while the rooster set up a hideous crowing. It took but a few minutes for the robbers to escape to the woods and find their companions, to whom they told a doleful tale, how in trying to light a match at the fireplace the devil with red-hot eyes stuck his claws into his hands, a second devil attacked him in the rear, while another devil kicked him into the air, and as he came down on the greensward, more dead than alive, another horrid demon form the housetop cried out, "Throw the rascal up her, through the rascal up here."

The thieves could never be induced to go back to the house. They thought it haunted by devils. So our friends, the jackass, the dog, the cat, and the rooster, lived there happy forever after, preferring it to traveling about to see the world.



Once upon a time there were three little kids who were very poor, and the eldest said: "What shall we do?"

The second replied: "I don't know."

And the third said: "I know what we will do. We will go to Benibaire's house and steal three flasks of oil."

"Well thought of," said the others; "we will go there."

After walking a league, they heard a voice crying: "Bah, bah."

They saw a great sheep, and were afraid, and ran away, saying: "Fly, fly, it is going to attack us."

But the sheep cried to them: "Don't be afraid. Where are you going?"

"To Benibaire's house, to steal three flasks of oil," they answered.

"Would you like me to go too?" said the sheep.

"Oh, yes," they replied. They went another league, and heard a voice that said: "Mieaou, mieaou."

And they saw a very great black cat, and were frightened, and ran away, saying: "Fly, fly, it is going to scratch us."

But the cat cried to them: "Don't be frightened, I won't scratch you. Where are you going?"

"To Benibaire's house, to steal three flasks of oil," they replied.

"Would you like me to go too?"

"Oh, do come," answered the kids.

They went a league farther, and heard a voice crowing: "Cock-a-doodle-doo."

And the saw a very fiery cock, and were frightened, and fled, saying: "Fly, fly, it is going to peck us."

The cock said to them: "Don't be afraid, I won't peck you. Where are you going?"

"To Benibaire's house, to steal three flasks of oil."

"Would you like me to go?"

"By all means," replied the kids. They went another league, and saw a packing needle, and were frightened, and ran away, saying: "Fly, fly, It will prick us."

But the needle said: "Don't be afraid, I won't prick you. Where are you going?"

"To Benibaire's house, to steal three flasks of oil."

"Would you like me to go?"

"Yes, come along."

They went another league, and arrived at Benibaire's house; and as it was night, the door was closed.

"How shall we get in?" said the little kids.

To which the cock replied: "I will fly on to the roof, and get down the chimney."

And he did so, and opened the door to them all.

They entered the house, and said, "Where shall we hide ourselves?"

The cock replied: "I have my place already; I will go into the chimney."

The cat hid in the cinders; the needle put itself into the towel, and the sheep got behind the door. Then the kids went to the jars to draw the oil.

Whilst they were drawing it they let the funnel fall, and this aroused Benibaire, who said: "Oh, Lord! thieves have got into my house."

He got up and went to the chimney, and looked up the flue, to see if it were day. Whilst he was looking up, the cock dropped some lime into his eyes and blinded him. He ran to the towel to wipe his face, and as the needle was there, it pricked him; he went to kindle a fire by the eye of the cat in the ashes, and she darted out at him and scratched him; he went flying to the door, and when he got there the sheep gave him a push and he rolled into the street; he went to the mill, and fell into the river, and was drowned, and the three kids remained masters of the house, and had a very good time of it.

The World's Reward

South Africa

Once there was a man that had an old dog, so old that the man desired to put him aside. The dog had served him very faithfully when he was still young, but ingratitude is the world's reward, and the man now wanted to dispose of him. The old dumb creature, however, ferreted out the plan of his master, and so at once resolved to go away of his own accord.

After he had walked quite a way he met an old bull in the veldt.

"Don't you want to go with me?" asked the dog.

"Where?" was the reply.

"To the land of the aged," said the dog, "where troubles don't disturb you, and thanklessness does not deface the deeds of man."

"Good," said the bull, "I am your companion."

The two now walked on and found a ram. The dog laid the plan before him, and all moved off together, until they afterwards came successively upon a donkey, a cat, a cock, and a goose. These joined their company, and the seven set out on their journey.

Late one night they came to a house, and through the open door they saw a table spread with all kinds of nice food, of which some robbers were having their fill. It would help nothing to ask for admittance, and seeing that they were hungry, they must think of something else.

Therefore the donkey climbed up on the bull, the ram on the donkey, the dog on the ram, the cat on the dog, the goose on the cat, and the cock on the goose, and with one accord they all let out terrible (threatening) noises (cryings). The bull began to bellow, the donkey to bray, the dog to bark, the ram to bleat, the cat to mew, the goose to giggle gaggle, and the cock to crow, all without cessation.

The people in the house were frightened perfectly limp; they glanced out through the front door, and there they stared on the strange sight. Some of them took to the ropes over the back lower door, some disappeared through the window, and in a few counts the house was empty.

Then the seven old animals climbed down from one another, stepped into the house, and satisfied themselves with the delicious food.

But when they had finished, there still remained a great deal of food, too much to take with them on their remaining journey, and so together they contrived a plan to hold their position until the next day after breakfast.

The dog said, "See here, I am accustomed to watch at the front door of my master's house," and thereupon flopped himself down to sleep; the bull said, "I go behind the door," and there he took his position; the ram said, I will go up on to the loft"; the donkey, "I at the middle door"; the cat, "I in the fireplace"; the goose, "I in the back door "; and the cock said, "I am going to sleep on the bed."

The captain of the robbers after a while sent one of his men back to see if these creatures had yet left the house. The man came very cautiously into the neighborhood, listened and listened, but he heard nothing; he peeped through the window, and saw in the grate just two coals still glimmering, and thereupon started to walk through the front door. There the old dog seized him by the leg. He jumped into the house, but the bull was ready, swept him up with his horns, and tossed him on to the loft. Here the ram received him and pushed him off the loft again. Reaching ground, he made for the middle door, but the donkey set up a terrible braying and at the same time gave him a kick that landed him in the fireplace, where the cat flew at him and scratched him nearly to pieces. He then jumped out through the back door, and here the goose got him by the trousers. When he was some distance away the cock crowed. He thereupon ran so that you could hear the stones rattle in the dark.

Purple and crimson and out of breath, he came back to his companions.

"Frightful, frightful!" was all that they could get from him at first, but after a while he told them, "When I looked through the window I saw in the fireplace two bright coals shining, and when I wanted to go through the front door to go and look, I stepped into an iron trap. I jumped into the house, and there some one seized me with a fork and pitched me up on to the loft, there again someone was ready, and threw me down on all fours. I wanted to fly through the middle door, but there some one blew on a trumpet, and smote me with a sledge hammer so that I did not know where I landed; but coming to very quickly, I found I was in the fireplace, and there another flew at me and scratched the eyes almost out of my head. I thereupon fled out of the back door, and lastly I was attacked on the leg by the sixth with a pair of fire tongs, and when I was still running away, someone shouted out of the house, 'Stop him, stop h - i - m!'"

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

See also Aging and Death in Folklore. An essay by D. L. Ashliman, with supporting texts from proverbs, folktales, and myths from around the world.

Revised January 11, 2024