Crop Division between Man and Ogre

Folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 1030

selected and edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2008-2021


  1. The Farmer and the Devil on Island of the Popefigs (France, François Rabelais).

  2. The Troll Outwitted (Denmark).

  3. The Bear and the Fox Go into Partnership (Norway).

  4. The Fox and the Wolf Plant Oats and Potatoes (Scotland).

  5. The Farmer and the Boggart (England).

  6. The Bogie and the Farmer (England).

  7. Jack o' Kent and the Devil: The Tops and the Butts (England).

  8. Link to Th' Man an' th' Boggard (England). External link to the book by Mabel Peacock, North Lincolnshire Dialect: Tales and Rhymes in the Lindsey Folk-Speech (London: George Jackson and Son, 1886), pp. 67-71.

  9. Paddy Always on Top (Ireland).

  10. Above the Ground and under the Ground (USA).

  11. The Peasant and the Devil (Germany).

  12. Saint John and the Devil (Italy/Austria).

  13. The Peasant and the Bear (Russia).

  14. Mercury and the Traveller (Aesop).

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

The Farmer and the Devil on Island of the Popefigs

France, François Rabelais

The Fourth Book of Pantagruel.

Pantagruel ... was told that for the last three years there had raged in the island a pestilence so horrible, that the half or more of the country had remained desolate, and the lands without occupiers. When the pestilence had gone by, this man ... was plowing a large and fertile piece of ground and sowing it with wheat at the very day and hour that a small devil (one who did not know how to thunder or hail except only on parsley and cabbages, and moreover could not yet read or write) had obtained leave from Lucifer to go for a holiday and recreation in this Island of the Popefigs, wherein the devils were very familiar with the men and women, and often went there to pass their time.

This devil, having got to the place, addressed himself to the laborer, and asked him what he was doing. The poor man answered him that he was sowing this field with wheat, to help him to live the following year.

"Nay, but this field is none of thine," said the devil. "It is mine, and belongs to me; for ... all this country was adjudged, proscribed and given up to us. To sow corn, however, is not my province; wherefore I leave thee the field, but on condition that we share the profit."

"I am willing," answered the laborer.

"I mean," said the devil, "that we are to make two lots of the profit that results. One shall be that which grows above the earth, the other that which shall be covered by the earth. The right of choosing belongs to me, for I am a devil, born of a noble and ancient race; thou art but a clown. I make choice of that which shall be in the earth. Thou shall have that which is above. At what time shall be the in-gathering?"

"About the middle of July," answered the laborer.

"Very well," said the devil, "I will not fail to be here. Meantime do as is thy duty to do. Work, villain, work. I am off to tempt to the gallant sin of luxury, the noble nuns of Pette-sec, also the cowled hypocrites and gluttons. Of their desires I am more than assured. They have but to meet, and the combat takes place."

When mid July had come, the devil presented himself at the place, accompanied by a troop of little devilkins of the choir. There, finding the laborer, he said, "Now, villain, how hast thou done since my departure? It is fitting now that we should make out our shares."

"It is but reason," answered the laborer. Then the laborer and his men began to reap the corn. The devilkins likewise pulled up the stubble from the earth. The laborer threshed his corn on the threshing floor, winnowed it, put it in sacks and carried it to market to sell. The imps did the same, and set themselves down at the marketplace, near the laborer, to sell their stubble.

The laborer sold his corn very well, and with the money filled an old half-buskin, which he carried at his girdle. The devils sold nothing. Nay, on the contrary, the peasants jeered at them in open market.

When the market was over, the devil said to the laborer, "Villain, thou hast cheated me this time. Next time thou shall not do so."

"Master Devil," said the laborer, "how could I have cheated you, when you had the first choice? The truth is, that in this choice you thought to cheat me, expecting that nothing would come out of the earth for my share, and that you would find below the whole of the grain which I had sown, intending therewith to tempt the poor and needy, the hypocrites, or the misers, and by temptation to make them fall into your snares. But you are mighty young at your trade. The grain which you see in the earth is dead and rotten. The corruption of that has caused the generation of the other, which you saw me sell. So you do choose the worse. That is why you are cursed in the Gospel."

"Let us leave this subject," said the devil. "What canst thou sow our field with next year? "

"To make a profit like a good husbandman," said the laborer, "the proper thing would be to sow turnips."

"Well," said the devil, "thou art an honest clown. Sow turnips in abundance. I will guard them from the storm, and will not hail upon them. But understand thoroughly: I retain for my share that which shall be above ground. Thou shall have all that is below. Work, villain, work. I am off to tempt the heretics. Their souls are dainty morsels when broiled on the coals. My lord Lucifer has the colic; they will make a tid-bit for him."

When the time of gathering was come, the devil appeared on the ground with a squadron of waiting devilkins. There, finding the laborer and his men, he began to cut and gather the leaves of the turnips. After him the laborer dug and pulled up the big turnips, and put them into sacks. So they all go off together to market. The laborer sold his turnips very well. The devil sold nothing, and, what was worse, they jeered at him publicly.

"I see very well, villain," said the devil, "that I have been cheated by thee. I will make an end of the business between thee and me.

The Troll Outwitted


A husbandman, who had a little mount on his field, resolved not to let it lie waste, and began to plow it up. At this the troll, who dwelt in the mount, came out and demanded who it was that dared to plow on his roof. The husbandman said that he did not know it was his roof, and at the same time represented to him that it was disadvantageous for both to let such a piece of land lie uncultivated; that he was willing to plow, sow and reap every year, and that the troll should alternately have that which in one year grew on the earth, and the man that which grew beneath, and the next year the reverse. To this the troll agreed, and the man in the first year sowed carrots, and in the year following, corn [grain], and gave the troll the tops of the carrots and the roots of the corn. From that time there was a good understanding between them.

The Bear and the Fox Go into Partnership


Once the fox and the bear made up their minds to have a field in common. They found a small clearing far away in the forest, where they sowed rye the first year.

"Now we must share and share alike," said Reynard. "If you will have the roots I will have the tops," he said.

Yes, Bruin was quite willing. But when they had threshed the crop, the fox got all the grain, while the bear got nothing but the roots and tares.

Bruin didn't like this, but the fox said it was only as they had agreed. "This year I am the gainer," said the fox. "Another year it will be your turn. You can then have the tops, and I will be satisfied with the roots."

Next spring the fox asked the bear if he didn't think turnips would be the right thing for that year.

"Yes, that better food than grain," said the bear, and the fox thought the same.

When the autumn came the fox took the turnips, but the bear only got the tops.

The bear then became so angry that he parted company then and there with Reynard.

The Fox and the Wolf Plant Oats and Potatoes


[The fox and the wolf together came into possession of a piece of land.] It was oats that they set that year, and they reaped it, and they began to divide it.

"Well, then," said the fox, "wouldst thou rather have the root or the tip? Thou shalt have thy choice."

"I'd rather the root," said the wolf.

Then the fox had fine oaten bread all the year, and the other one had fodder.

On the next year they set a crop; and it was potatoes that they set, and they grew well.

"Which wouldst thou like best, the root or the crop this year?" said the fox.

"Indeed, thou shalt not take the twist out of me anymore. I will have the top this year," quoth the wolf.

"Good enough, my hero," said the fox.

Thus the wolf had the potato tops, and the fox the potatoes. But the wolf used to keep stealing the potatoes from the fox.

The Farmer and the Boggart


T' boggart, a squat hairy man, strong as a six-year-old horse, and with arms almost as long as tackle poles, comes to a farmer who has just taken a bit of land, and declares that he is the proper owner, and the farmer must quit. The farmer proposes an appeal to the law, but boggart will have naught to do wi' law, which has never yet done him justice, and suggests that they should share the produce equally.

"Very well," says the farmer, "wilt thou tek what grows above ground, or what grows beneath ground? Only, moind, thou mun stick to what thou sattles; oi doant want no back-reckunnings after."

He arranges to take what grows above ground, and the farmer promptly sets potatoes. Of course, when the boggart comes at harvest time to claim his share he gets nothing but the haulms and twitch, and is in a sore taking. At last, however, he agrees to take all that grows beneath ground for next season, whereupon the farmer sows wheat, and when boggart comes round at t' backend, the man gets corn and straw, and naught is left for boggart but the stubble.

Boggart then insists that next year wheat should be sown again, and that they should mow together, each taking what he mows. The farmer consults the local wise man, and studs boggart's "falls" with thin iron rods, which wear down boggart's strength in cutting and take all the edge of his scythe. So boggart stops to whet, and boggart stops to rest, but the farmer mows steadily on till at last the boggart throws down his scythe in despair and says, "Ye may tek t' mucky owd land an' all 'ats on it; I wean't hev no more to do wi' it."

And off he goes and nivver comes back no more, leastways not after no land, but awms aboot t' delves, an' skears loane foaks o' noights; an' if thou leaves thy dinner or thy tools about, ofttimes he meks off wi' 'em.

The Bogie and the Farmer


The following legend, very commonly narrated in Northamptonshire, places this [the Bogies lack of cunning] in a strong light:

One of these spirits [a Bogie] once asserted a claim to a field hitherto possessed by a farmer, and, after much disputing, they came to an arrangement by agreeing to divide its produce between them. At seed-time the farmer asks the Bogie what part of the crop he will have, "tops or bottoms."

"Bottoms," said the spirit. Upon hearing which his crafty antagonist sows the field with wheat, so that when harvest arrived the corn [grain] falls to his share, while the poor Bogie is obliged to content himself with the stubble.

Next year the Bogie, finding he had made such an unfortunate selection in the bottoms, chose the "tops," whereupon the crafty farmer sets the field with turnips -- thus, again, outwitting the simple claimant.

Tired of this unprofitable farming, the Bogie agrees to hazard his claims on a mowing match, the land in question to be the stake for which they played. Before the day of meeting the canny earth-tiller procures a number of iron bars, which he strews among the grass to be mown by his opponent; and when the trial commences, the unsuspecting goblin finds his progress retarded by his scythe continually coming into contact with these obstacles, which he takes to be some hard species of dock.

"Mortal hard docks these!" said he. "Nation hard docks!"

His blunted blade soon brings him to a standstill; and as, in such cases, it is not allowable for one to sharpen without the other, he turns to his antagonist, now far ahead, and in a tone of despair inquires, "When dye wiffle waffle (whet), mate?"

"Waffle!" said the farmer, with a well-feigned stare of amazement, "oh, about noon, mebby."

"Then," said the despairing Bogie, "I've lost my land!"

So saying, he disappeared, and the farmer reaped the reward of his artifice by ever afterwards continuing the undisputed possessor of the soil.

Jack o' Kent and the Devil: The Tops and the Butts


One day Jack took the devil into a field of wheat, when it was springing up. He said, "Which will you have, the tops or the butts?"

There was not much top to be seen, so the devil said he's have the butts.

At harvest time Jack accordingly had the wheat, the devil the straw. Naturally he grumbled a good deal over such a bad bargain.

Next year the field was sown with turnip seed, and Jack said, "You shall have tops this time."

The devil agreed to this, and in due time Jack had the turnips, leaving his partner the green tops.

After that they went to mow a field of grass, each one to have all the hay he could cut. They were to begin together in the morning. Jack got up in the night and put harrow tines in the grass on the side of the meadow where the devil was to mow.

In the morning these notched and blunted the scythe, which was continually catching in them; but the "Old 'Un," thinking they were only burdocks, kept muttering, "Burdock, Jack! Burdock Jack!"

Jack took no notice, and, mowing away diligently, secured nearly all the crop for himself once more.

Then they went to threshing. Jack was to have bottoms this time, so he got the barn floor, and the devil went on top. He put up a hurdle [gate] for the devil to thresh on, and as he battered away Jack collected the corn [grain] on the floor.

Paddy Always on Top


One day Paddy was going to an auction and he met the devil on his way.

"Well Paddy," said the devil, "are you going to the auction?"

"I am." said Paddy.

"What do you think of buying a field for oats between us?"

"All right," agreed Paddy, "What part will you take?"

"I will take under the ground" said the devil.

When the time came for cutting it, Paddy got the oats and the devil got the roots.

Next year Paddy was going to the auction and he met the devil again.

He asked him this time to buy a field for potatoes.

Paddy asked him what he would take this year, and the devil said he would take over the ground.

Paddy got the potatoes and the devil got the stalks.

The devil said that he would have nothing to do with Paddy again, as he had got the best of him every time.

(This story was got from Patrick Tuite, Mullagh.)

Above the Ground and under the Ground

USA (North Carolina)

Devil an' a prospec' went to farmin'. Devil said he would take everything grown in the groun'; an' Prospec', out of de groun'. Plant a crop o' corn. Prospec' got all de crop, Devil didn't get nothin'.

Devil said, "We'll try it again. I'll take what grows out de groun', you take what grows in de groun'."

"All right."

Planted a crop of potatoes. Prospec' he got dat crop.

Devil said, "You can't whip me."

Prospec' said, "All right, try dat. What you want me to fight with?"

Devil say, "I'm going to take de foot ad [adze?], you take de peg-an'-awl."

"All right, we'll have to fight dis battle in a hogshead."

The Peasant and the Devil


Once upon a time there was a clever, wily peasant, whose tricks could be much talked about. The best story, however, is how he once got the best of the devil and made a fool of him. One day the peasant had been working in his field, and just as it was getting dark he was getting ready to go home when in the middle of his field he saw a pile of burning coals. Filled with amazement he walked toward it, and sitting on the top of the glowing coals there was a little black devil.

"You must be sitting on a treasure," said the peasant.

"Yes indeed," replied the devil, "on a treasure that contains more gold and silver than you have ever seen in your life."

"The treasure is in my field and belongs to me," said the peasant.

"It is yours," answered the devil, "if for two years you will give me one half of everything your field produces. I have enough money, but I have a desire for the fruits of the earth."

The peasant entered into the bargain, saying, "To prevent any dispute from arising about the division, everything above the ground shall belong to you, and everything beneath the ground to me."

The devil was quite satisfied with that, but the cunning peasant had planted turnips.

Now when harvest time came the devil appeared and wanted to take away his crop, but he found nothing except the yellow withered leaves, and the happy peasant dug up his turnips.

"You got the best of me this time," said the devil, "but it won't happen again. Next time what grows above ground shall be yours, and what is under it shall be mine."

"That is all right with me," answered the peasant. When planting time came the peasant did not plant turnips again, but wheat. The crop ripened, and the peasant went into the field and cut the full stalks off at ground level. When the devil came he found nothing but the stubble, and he angrily disappeared into a chasm in a cliff.

"That's the way one has to deal with foxes," said the peasant, then carried away the treasure.

Saint John and the Devil


Saint John and the devil were sitting together on the roof of a house. They made a wager as to who would first be able to string together a certain number of small wooden shingles. Saint John took only short pieces of string, pulled them through the nail holes, then tied all the strings together, and thus he had all the shingles strung together.

On the other hand, the devil clumsily took hold of a very long string and worked feverishly away. Because his string was always getting tangled up, the devil had to keep running back and forth in order to untangle it, and he was only half finished when Saint John had completed his work.

The devil was very angry at having lost this first wager. He then pointed to a field and said, "Let us take what is growing there and share it, each of us to receive half. Do you want the top or the bottom?"

Saint John looked and saw that it was a field of turnips. He chose the bottom half. The devil was happy to get the top half, thinking that it was the best part, the bottom part being only thin, bitter roots.

The two returned when the turnips had grown and were ready to harvest. Then the devil received only a little pile of half-withered, wormy leaves, whereas Saint John received a large pile of the most beautiful and juiciest turnips.

When the devil became angry again, Saint John pointed to another field and asked, "Do you want to wager once again?"

"Yes indeed," replied the devil, "but this time I'll take the bottom half."

"Then I'll take the top part," said John.

However, this field was planted with wheat, and when harvest time came, Saint John received the beautiful heads, heavy with grain, while the devil was left with the naked stubble.

The devil did not enter into any new wagers, but instead, filled with anger and rage, returned to hell.

The Peasant and the Bear


Once upon a time a certain peasant lost his wife, then he lost his other relations, and then he was left alone with no one to help him in his home or his fields.

So he went to Bruin and said, "Look here, Bruin, let's keep house and plant our garden and sow our corn together."

And Bruin asked, "But how shall we divide it afterwards?"

"How shall we divide it?" said the peasant, "Well, you take all the tops and let me have all the roots."

"All right," answered Bruin.

So they sowed some turnips, and they grew beautifully. And Bruin worked hard, and gathered in all the turnips, and then they began to divide them.

And the peasant said, "The tops are yours, aren't they, Bruin?"

"Yes," he answered.

So the peasant cut off all the turnip tops and gave them to Bruin, and then sat down to count the roots. And Bruin saw that the peasant had done him down. And he got huffy, lay down in his den, and started sucking his paws.

The next spring the peasant again came to see him, and said, "Look here, Bruin, let's work together again, shall we?"

And Bruin answered, "Right-ho! Only this time mind! you can have the tops, but I'm going to have the roots!"

"Very, well," said the peasant.

And they sowed some wheat, and when the ears grew up and ripened, you never saw such a sight. Then they began to divide it, and the peasant took all the tops with the grain, and gave Bruin the straw and the roots. So he didn't get anything that time either.

And Bruin said to the peasant, "Well, good-bye! I'm not going to work with you any more, you're too crafty!"

And with that he went off into the forest.

Mercury and the Traveller


One that was just entring upon a long journey took up a fancy of putting a trick upon Mercury. He say'd him a short prayer for the bon-voyage, with a promise that the god should go half with him in whatever he found.

Somebody had lost a bag of dates and almonds, it seems, and it was his fortune to find it. He fell to work upon 'em immediately, and when he had eaten up the kernels, and all that was good of them himself, he laid the stones and the shells upon an altar; and desir'd Mercury to to take notice that he had permorm'd his vow.

"For," says he, "here are the outsides of the one ande the insides of the other, and there's the moiety [division] I promis'd ye."

The Moral

Men talk as if they believed in God, but they live as if they thought there were none; but their very prayers are mockeries, and their vows and promises are no more than words, of course, which they never intended to make good.

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Revised March 11, 2021.