The Foolish Friend

and other folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 1586
in which a fool kills an insect resting on someone's head,
with catastrophic consequences,
selected and edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1999-2014


  1. The Mosquito and the Carpenter (The Jataka Tales).

  2. The Foolish Friend (The Panchatantra).

  3. The Gardner and the Bear (Bidpai).

  4. The Stupid Boy (Sri Lanka).

  5. The Seven Wise Men of Buneyr (Pakistan).

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

  7. The Bear and the Amateur of Gardening (Jean de La Fontaine).

  8. Fortunio (Italy, Giovanni Francesco Straparola).

  9. Giufà and the Judge (Italy).

  10. The Little Omelet (Italy).

  11. Permission Granted, but Probably Regreted (Switzerland).

  12. Foolish Hans (Austria-Hungary).

  13. The Blockhead and the Judge (England).

  14. The Tale of a Butter Tub (Iceland).

  15. The Seven Crazy Fellows (Philippines).

  16. The Monkeys and the Dragonflies (Philippines).

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

The Mosquito and the Carpenter

The Jataka Tales

Once on a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta gained his livelihood as a trader. In these days in a border village in Kasi there dwelt a number of carpenters. And it chanced that one of them, a bald gray-haired man, was planing away at some wood with his head glistening like a copper bowl, when a mosquito settled on his scalp and stung him with its dart like sting.

Said the carpenter to his son, who was seated hard by, "My boy, there's a mosquito stinging me on the head. Do drive it away."

"Hold still then father," said the son. "One blow will settle it."

(At that very time the Bodhisatta had reached that village in the way of trade, and was sitting in the carpenter's shop.)

"Rid me of it!" cried the father.

"All right, father," answered the son, who was behind the old man's back, and, raising a sharp ax on high with intent to kill only the mosquito, he cleft his father's head in two. So the old man fell dead on the spot.

Thought the Bodhisatta, who had been an eye witness of the whole scene, "Better than such a friend is an enemy with sense, whom fear of men's vengeance will deter from killing a man." And he recited these lines:

Sense-lacking friends are worse than foes with sense;
Witness the son that sought the gnat to slay,
But cleft, poor fool, his father's skull in two.

So saying, the Bodhisatta rose up and departed, passing away in after days to fare according to his deserts. And as for the carpenter, his body was burned by his kinsfolk.

The Foolish Friend

The Panchatantra

A king, while visiting his wives' apartments, took a monkey from a neighboring stable for a pet. He kept him constantly close at hand for his amusement, for as it is said, parrots, partridges, doves, rams, monkeys, and such creatures are a king's natural companions.

It goes without saying that the monkey, fed on the various dishes that the king gave him, grew large and was given respect by all who surrounded the king. Indeed, the king, due to his love and exceeding trust of the monkey, even gave him a sword to carry.

In the vicinity of the palace the king had a grove artfully planted with many trees of various sorts. Early in the springtime the king noticed how beautiful the grove was. Its blossoms exuded a magnificent fragrance, while swarms of bees sang praise to the god of love. Thus overcome by love, he entered the grove with his favorite wife. He ordered all his servants to wait for him at the entrance.

After having pleasantly strolling through and observing the grove, he grew tired and said to his monkey, "I want to sleep a little while in this arbor of flowers. Take care that nothing disturbs me!" Having said this, the king fell asleep.

Presently a bee, pursuing the aroma of the flowers, betel, and musk, flew up and lit on his head. Seeing this, the monkey thought angrily, "What is this? Am I to allow this common creature to bite the king before my very eyes?"

With that he proceeded to drive it away. However, in spite of the monkey's defense, the bee approached the king again and again. Finally, blinded by anger, the monkey drew his sword and struck down the bee with a single blow. However, the same blow also split the king's head.

The queen, who was sleeping next to the king jumped up in terror. Seeing the crime, she said, "Oh, oh, you foolish monkey! What have you done to the king who placed such trust in you?"

The monkey explained how it had happened, but thereafter he was shunned and scorned by everyone. Thus it is said, "Do not choose a fool for a friend, for the king was killed by a monkey."

And I say, "It is better to have a clever enemy than a foolish friend."

The Gardener and the Bear


In the eastern part of Persia there lived at one time a gardener whose one joy in life was his flowers and fruit trees. He had neither wife, nor children, nor friends; nothing except his garden. At length, however, the good man wearied of having no one to talk to. He decided to go out into the world and find a friend. Scarcely was he outside the garden before he came face to face with a bear, who, like the gardener, was looking for a companion. Immediately a great friendship sprang up between these two.

The gardener invited the bear to come into his garden, and fed him on quinces and melons. In return for this kindness, when the gardener lay down to take his afternoon nap, the bear stood by and drove off the flies.

One afternoon it happened that an unusually large fly alighted on the gardener's nose. The bear drove it off, but it only flew to the gardener's chin. Again the bear drove it away, but in a few moments it was back once more on the gardener's nose. The bear now was filled with rage. With no thought beyond that of punishing the fly, he seized a huge stone, and hurled it with such force at the gardener's nose that he killed not only the fly, but the sleeping gardener.

It is better to have a wise enemy than a foolish friend.

The Stupid Boy

Sri Lanka

In a certain city there are a Gamarala, a Gama-gaeni (his wife), and a son of theirs. The Gamarala went to the Chena. The Gama-gaeni lay down and told the Gama-puta (the son) to examine her head (for insects). While he was looking through the hair she fell asleep, and a fly settled on her head. "Ade! Fly, do not bite our mother's head," he said. "Mother will scold me."

The fly having gone flying away, settled again on her head. Saying ,"Now then, this fly is biting mother's head again," he placed his mother's head gently on the ground. Then having gone and taken a rice pestle, and come back with it, he said, "Is the fly still biting the head?" and struck at the fly with the rice pestle, killing his mother with the blow.

The boy's father having come, tried to arouse her. "How is it that mother is dead?" he asked.

The boy said, "A fly was biting our mother's head. I struck it with the rice pestle. Because of it she died."

So the Gamarala took the woman away and buried her.

The Bald Man and the Fly


A fly settled on the head of a bald man and bit him. In his eagerness to kill it, he hit himself a smart slap.

But the fly escaped, and said to him in derision, "You tried to kill me for just one little bite; what will you do to yourself now, for the heavy smack you have just given yourself?"

"Oh, for that blow I bear no grudge," he replied, "for I never intended myself any harm; but as for you, you contemptible insect, who live by sucking human blood, I'd have borne a good deal more than that for the satisfaction of dashing the life out of you!"

The Seven Wise Men of Buneyr


Seven men of Buneyr once left their native wilds for the purpose of seeking their fortunes. When evening came they all sat down under a tree to rest, when one of them said, "Let us count to see if we are all here." So he counted, "One, two, three, four, five, six," but, quite omitting to reckon himself, he exclaimed, "There's one of us missing, we are only six!"

"Nonsense!" cried the others, and the whole company of seven began counting with uplifted forefingers, but they all forgot to count themselves.

Fearing some evil, they now rose up, and at once set out to search for their missing comrade. Presently they met a shepherd, who greeted them civilly and said, "Friends, why are you in such low spirits?"

"We have lost one of our party," answered they; "we started this morning seven in number, and now we are only six. Have you seen any one of us hereabouts?"

"But," said the shepherd, "seven you are, for I have found your lost companion; behold: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven!"

"Ah," answered the wise men of Buneyr, "you have indeed found our missing brother. We owe you a debt of gratitude. Because you have done us this service, we insist on doing a month's free labor for you."

So the shepherd, overjoyed with his good fortune, took the men home with him.

Now, the shepherd's mother was a very old woman, in her dotage, utterly feeble and unable to help herself. When the morning came he placed her under the care of one of the Buneyris, saying to him, "You will stay here and take care of my old mother."

To another Buneyri he said, "You take out my goats, graze them on the hills by day, and watch over them by night."

To the other five he said, "As for you, I shall have work for you tomorrow."

The man who was left in charge of the old crippled mother found that his time was fully occupied in the constant endeavor to drive off the innumerable flies which in that hot season kept her in a state of continual excitement and irritation. When, however, he saw that all his efforts were fruitless, and that he flapped the wretches away in vain, he became desperate, and, lifting up a large stone, he aimed it deliberately at a certain fly which had settled on the woman's face. Hurling it with all his might, he of course missed the fly, but, alas! he knocked the woman prone on her back. When the shepherd saw this he wrung his hands in despair. "Ah," cried he, "what has your stupidity done for me? The fly has escaped, but as for my poor old mother, you have killed her dead."

Meanwhile, the second Buneyri led his flock of goats up and down among the hills, and when midday came he rested to eat his bread, while many of the assembled goats lay down beside him. As he was eating he began to observe how the goats were chewing the cud and occasionally looking at him So he foolishly imagined that they were mocking him, and waxed wroth. "So," cried he, "because I am taking my food, you must needs crowd round and make game of me, must you?" And, seizing his hatchet, he made a sudden rush at the poor animals, and he had already struck off the heads of several of them, when the shepherd came running to the spot, bemoaning his bad luck and crying to the fellow to desist from slaughter.

That night was a sorrowful one for the trustful shepherd, and bitterly he repented his rashness. In the morning the remaining five wise men of Buneyr came to him, and said, "It is now our turn. Give us some work to do, too!"

"No, no, my friends," answered he; "you have amply repaid me for the trifling favor I did for you in finding your missing companion; and now, for God's sake, go your way and let me see you no more."

Hearing these words, the wise men of Buneyr resumed their journey.

The Bear and the Amateur of Gardening

Jean de La Fontaine

A certain mountain bruin once, they say,
Was wont within a lonely wood to stray,
A new Bellerophon secluded there,
His mind had gone, and left his brain-pan bare.
Reason on lonely people sheds no ray.
It's good to speak -- better to silent stay:
Both in excess are bad. No animal
Was ever seen, or was within a call.
Bear though he was, he wearied of this life,
And longed for the world's joy and the world's strife.
Then "Melancholy marked him for her own."

Not far from him an old man lived alone.
Dull as the bear, he loved his garden well;
Was priest of Flora and Pomona; still,
Though the employment's pleasant, a kind friend
Is needfull, its full charms to it to lend.
Gardens talk little, save in my small book.

Weary at last of their mere smiling look,
And those his dumb companions, one fine day,
Our man set forth upon his lonely way,
To seek a friend. The bear, with the same thought,
Had left his mountain, satisfied with naught.

By chance most strange the two adventurers meet
At the same turning. He's afraid to greet
The bear; but fly he can't. What can he do?
Well, like a Gascon, he gets neatly through:
Conceals his fright. The bear is not well bred;
"Here is my cottage; pray come in, my lord;"
Still growls, "Come see me!" but the other said,
"Do me the honor at my frugal board
To lunch al fresco. I have milk and fruit,
That will, perhaps, your worship's pleasure suit
For once, though not your ordinary fare.
I offer all I have." With friendly air
They're chums already before reaching home;
Still better friends when there they've fairly come.

In my opinion it's a golden rule:
Better be lonely than be with a fool.
The bear, who did not speak two words a day,
Left the drudge there to work and toil away.

Bruin went hunting, and brought in the game,
Or flapped the blow-flies, when the blow-flies came;
And kept from off his sleeping partner's face
Of wingèd parasites the teasing race.

One day a buzzer o'er the sleeping man
Poised, and then settled on his nose -- their plan.
The bear was crazy: all his chase was vain;
"I'll catch you, thief!" he cried. It came again.
'Twas said, 'twas done: The flapper seized a stone,
And launched it bravely -- bravely it was thrown.
He crushed the fly, but smashed the poor man's skull --
A sturdy thrower, but a reasoner dull.

Nothing's so dangerous as a foolish friend;
Worse than a real wise foe, you may depend.


Italy, Giovanni Francesco Straparola

Fortunio, a servant, endeavoring to crush a fly, kills his master, and saves himself from the gallows by a pleasantry.
There lived in the city of Ferrara a rich grocer of good descent, who had in his service Fortunio, a fat good-tempered fellow of very slender wit. Now in the great heats the grocer was wont to lie down to sleep in the middle of the day, and at such times it was Fortunio's part to keep off the flies with a fan, lest they should disturb his master. One day it chanced that, amongst the others, was a very greedy meddlesome horsefly, which took no heed of Fortunio's fanning, nor of his strokes, but alighted constantly on the grocer's bald pate and stung him grievously. And though the fly was chased away three or four times, it always came back to give fresh trouble.

At last the servant, incensed at the boldness and persistency of the fly, rashly made trial to kill it when it was about to settle again on his master's temple and suck his blood. Simple fool that he was, he caught up a weighty bronze pestle, and, striking at the fly with all his might with the intent to kill it, he made an end of the grocer instead.

As soon as Fortunio saw that he had slain his master and thereby made himself liable to death by the law, he took counsel with himself how he might best save his neck, and first resolved to seek safety in flight, but he afterwards fixed upon another scheme, which was to bury the corpse secretly. Therefore, having wrapped up the dead body of his master in a sack and carried it into a garden adjacent to the shop, he buried it there. This done he went to the sheepfold, and, having chosen a big old ram, he took it and threw it down the well.

As the master did not appear at his usual hour in the evening the wife's suspicion fell upon Fortunio, and she questioned him as to her husband's whereabouts, but the fellow declared stoutly that he knew nothing of it. Then the good wife, overcome with grief, began to weep and to call for her husband aloud, but she called in vain. She went to her kinsfolk and told them her grief; whereupon they sought the governor of the city, and laid the crime to Fortunio's charge, demanding that he should be imprisoned and put to the question, in order to make him tell what had become of his master.

The governor, having put the servant in hold and tied him to the rope, gave him the strappado as prescribed by law, on account of the charges against him. Handling of this sort was not to his taste, and he forthwith promised to tell all he knew, if they would let him down.

So they brought him before the judge, and this was the cunning tale he had prepared for their befooling: "Yesterday, O judge! when I was asleep near the well, I was awakened by a great noise, as of some mighty rock being hurled down into the water below. In my amazement I ran to the well and looked into it, but the water was quite clear and I could see nothing amiss; so I turned to go back to the house, when the same noise again met my ears. I am now quite sure in my mind that my master, when trying to draw some water up out of the well, fell down into it. Now, that the truth of the matter may be laid bare, I make petition that all now present may go to the spot; then I will descend into the well and disclose what I may find therein."

The judge was favorable to Fortunio's prayer, holding that experiment is the surest proof, and that no evidence can equal what is brought before one's eyes, and betook himself to the well, bidding the whole assembly follow. There went not only the worshipful persons who were about the judge, but also a vast crowd of the common people, who were curious to learn what might be the issue of the affair.

Fortunio, obeying the commandment of the judge, went straightway down the well, and, when he had reached the bottom, made believe to be searching for his master's body in the water; but what he found was the carcass of the old ram which he himself had lately cast in.

Feigning to be vastly amazed at this, the cunning fellow bawled up from the bottom of the well, "O my mistress! Tell me whether your husband, my poor master, had horns or not; for I have alighted on somebody down here who has got an enormous pair, both long and large. Is it possible that he can be your husband?"

And when the good wife heard Fortunio's question she was so much overcome with shame that she could not find a word to say for herself. Meanwhile the bystanders waited, open-mouthed with curiosity, to set eyes on this corpse with horns, and to see whether it really was the body of the missing grocer or not; and when they saw hauled up Fortunio's old ram, they all clapped their hands, and were shaken by loud laughter.

The judge, when he saw the issue of Fortunio's search, deemed that the foolish fellow was acting in good faith, and that he verily believed what he brought out of the well to be the remains of his master. On this account the judge let him go free, as innocent, but the grocer was never seen more, and the good wife, to her dying day, bore the shame anent the horns which Fortunio's cunning trick had cast upon her.

Giufà and the Judge


One day Giufà went out to gather herbs, and it was night before he returned. On his way back the moon rose through the clouds, and Giufà sat down on a stone and watched the moon appear and disappear behind the clouds, and he exclaimed constantly, "It appears, it appears! It sets, it sets!"

Now there were near the way some thieves who were skinning a calf which they had stolen, and when they heard, "It appears, it sets!" they feared that the officers of justice were coming, so they ran away and left the meat.

When Giufà saw the thieves running away, he went to see what it was and found the calf skinned. He took his knife and cut off flesh enough to fill his sack and went home. When he arrived there his mother asked him why he came so late. He said it was because he was bringing some meat which she was to sell the next day, and the money was to be kept for him. The next day his mother sent him into the country and sold the meat.

In the evening Giufà returned and asked his mother, "Did you sell the meat?"

"Yes, I sold it to the flies on credit."

"When will they give you the money?"

"When they get it."

A week passed, and the flies brought no money, so Giufà went to the judge and said to him, "Sir, I want justice. I sold the flies meat on credit, and they have not come to pay me."

The judge said, "I pronounce this sentence on them: Wherever you see them, you may kill them."

Just then a fly lighted on the judge's nose, and Giufà dealt it such a blow that he broke the judge's head.

The Little Omelet


Once upon a time there was a little woman who had a little room and a little hen. The hen laid an egg and the little woman took it and made a little omelet of it, and put it to cool in the window. Along came a fly and ate it up. Imagine what an omelet that must have been! The little woman went to the magistrate and told him her story. He gave her a club and told her to kill the fly with it wherever she saw it. At that moment a fly lighted on the magistrate's nose, and the woman, believing it to be the same fly, gave it a blow and broke the magistrate's nose.

Permission Granted, but Probably Regreted


A peasant left a jug of milk with a neighbor for safekeeping. When he reclaimed the jug, the milk had disappeared. Angry words led to a lawsuit, and the judge decreed that the neighbor should pay for the milk, even though the latter claimed that the flies had consumed it.

"You should have struck them dead," said the judge.

"What?" replied the peasant, "You grant me permission to kill flies?"

"Yes indeed," responded the judge. "You have my permission to kill them anywhere you find them."

In that moment the peasant saw a fly on the judge's cheek. He stepped up to him and gave him a slap, saying, "I bet that cursed fly is one of those who drank up the milk!"

Because of the permission he had granted the peasant, the judge could do nothing about the slap.

Foolish Hans


Once upon a time there was a poor peasant woman. She was a widow and had but one son. His name was Hans, and he was very stupid.

It was summertime, and his mother gave him a large pot of honey, saying, "I am sending you to town to sell this, but don't let people say too much to you." She was afraid that people would bargain too much with him.

Arriving in town, he cried out, "Buy my honey!"

The people said, "How much does it cost?"

He said, "You are saying too much to me."

"Can't we at least ask how much it costs?"

"No," he said, "you have already said too much," and he packed up and left town.

Out in the country the flies and wasps swarmed around him, wanting his honey.

"Buy my honey!" he said. They were not able to say anything to him, so he poured his honey out on the ground. "You'll have to pay me in a week," he said.

Then he went home and told his mother, "I sold the honey and will get the money in a week."

A week later he again set off for town. Because of the money for the honey he took along a stout cudgel. He arrived at the spot, and there were still bees and flies there licking up the little honey that was left.

He said, "I want my money now," but they gave him nothing.

"I'll make short work of this," he said. "I am reporting you to the judge."

He went to the judge, who asked, "Just what do you want?"

"The flies and wasps bought honey from me," he said, "and now they refuse to pay."

The judge began to laugh, seeing that he was dealing with a real simpleton. "All I can tell you, is that whenever you see a fly you should strike it dead," he answered.

Just then a fly flew onto the judge's nose, and Hans hit the fly on his nose.

"Ouch, Jeez, my nose!" cried the judge.

Then Hans said, "I was hitting at the fly, not at your nose."

Then the judge thought, "He could kill someone if he sees a fly sitting on them. And who allowed it to happen? The judge, that's what people will say." So he asked, "How much did your honey cost?"

"Three hundred florins," said Hans.

So the judge wrote him a slip and sent him with it to the cashier, and when he received his money, he returned home.

The Blockhead and the Judge


Every schoolboy knows the story of the blockhead who complained to the judge of being annoyed with flies, and being told that he was at liberty to strike them wherever he saw them, observing a big "blue bottle" alight on the judge's nose, delivered a blow with his fist on that useful member, and smashed it as well as the fly.

The Tale of a Butter Tub


There lived a king and queen in their realm, and a carl and his old wife in their cottage.

Once the carl and his old wife bought for themselves a barrel full of butter, which they intended to have for their household use during the winter, but now they were at a loss where to hide the barrel, that nobody should steal out of it. At last they agreed upon having it kept at the king's palace. They readily got the king to undertake the guarding of their tub, but its owner put it into its right place, and covered it as they thought fit.

Now the autumn approached, and the old wife began to feel eager for some of the butter, and contrived at once a plan for getting her longing satisfied. One day, in fine weather, she was up early in the morning, and came in to her carl, saying she was called to the king's palace, to hold a child at baptism, wherefore she must go there. The carl said it was a matter of course. Now the old wife got ready in the greatest hurry and went to the king's palace. When she came there she said she should fetch a tiny slice of butter from the barrel. This everyone believed to be true, and she was let in to where the tub stood. Then the old woman took a great pat from the brim of the tub. After that she went home.

Then asked the carl what had been the name of the child at the king's.

The old woman answered, " Brimmy is hight [named] the well-shaped girl."

When the old woman had finished what she had first taken of the butter, she said one morning to her husband, "Eh! I am called yet once again to the king's."

"Well, go then," said the carl.

The old woman went away, and said at the king's as formerly, that she should fetch butter from the barrel. And this time, the old dame took butter away down to the middle of the tub.

When she came home, the carl asked what was the name of the child.

She answered, "Middle, is called the little girl."

When the old wife had finished this provision of butter, she said to the old man : " Yet, once more, am I called to the king's, to hold a child at baptism."

"Go then," quoth the carl.

The old wife went, and coming to the king's palace, said she came for butter. Now she took so much, that she could see the corner which the staves made with the bottom of the tub.

When she came home, the carl asked her what was the name of the child. She answered. "Logg [woodblock] is hight the ugly girl."

Now time passed till the old wife was, once more, in need of butter. Then she said to the old man, "I am called for, once more, at the king's."

"Go then," said the old man. The old woman went, and said, as formerly, that she had come for butter. This time, she took all that was left in the barrel. When she came home, the carl asked what was the name of the child.

"Bottom is hight the stubby swain," said the old woman.

Time passed, till the later months of winter came on. Then the household provisions of the old man and woman began to be rather scarce. The old man said to his old wife, that it would be best to fetch the butter tub from the king's palace. To this, the old woman agreed. They came there and asked for their barrel. It was given to them, and they saw that the covering and everything about the barrel was quite in order.

They rolled the barrel home, into the cottage. Now the carl opened the barrel, and lo! it was quite empty. He was rather startled at this, and asked his wife if she could tell the cause of it. She made believe to be no less astonished, and could find no reason for the trick they had been played.

But, at the same moment, the old wife saw a big fly, which had got into the open barrel, and she said, "Ah! There comes the wretched thief. Look here. This hateful fly has, doubtless, eaten all our butter from the tub."

This, the old man thought must be true, and ran off for the big hammer, with which he used to beat his dried fish, and would break the skull of the fly. He shut the door of the cottage, that the fly should not get out, and now chased the fly all over the place, knocking and beating at it, but never hitting save his own furniture and household chattels, which he broke to pieces. At last, the old man, being tired, sat down in fury and despair.

But then the fly came and sat on his nose. Then the carl begged his wife to kill the fly, and said, "Make haste, while it sits on the nose!" (which since has passed into a common saying). The old woman lifted up, with all her might, the hammer, and thumped it on the old man's nose, and broke his skull so well that he was dead on the spot; but the fly escaped with unbroken skull. It is unscathed yet. But the old woman is still wailing over her carl.

The Seven Crazy Fellows


Once there were living in the country in the northern part of Luzon seven crazy fellows, named Juan, Felipe, Mateo, Pedro, Francisco, Eulalio, and Jacinto. They were happy all the day long.

One morning Felipe asked his friends to go fishing. They stayed at the Cagayan River a long time. About two o'clock in the afternoon Mateo said to his companions, "We are hungry; let us go home!"

"Before we go," said Juan, "let us count ourselves, to see that we are all here!"

He counted; but because he forgot to count himself, he found that they were only six, and said that one of them had been drowned. Thereupon they all dived into the river to look for their lost companion; and when they came out, Francisco counted to see if he had been found; but he, too, left himself out, so in they dived again.

Jacinto said that they should not go home until they had found the one who was lost. While they were diving, an old man passed by. He asked the fools what they were diving for. They said that one of them had been drowned.

"How many were you at first?" said the old man.

They said that they were seven.

"All right," said the old man. "Dive in, and I will count you."

They dived, and he found that they were seven. Since he had found their lost companion, he asked them to come with him.

When they reached the old man's house, he selected Mateo and Francisco to look after his old wife; Eulalio he chose to be water carrier; Pedro, cook; Jacinto, wood carrier; and Juan and Felipe, his companions in hunting.

When the next day came, the old man said that he was going hunting, and he told Juan and Felipe to bring along rice with them. In a little while they reached the mountains, and he told the two fools to cook the rice at ten o'clock. He then went up the mountain with his dogs to catch a deer. Now, his two companions, who had been left at the foot of the mountain, had never seen a deer. When Felipe saw a deer standing under a tree, he thought that the antlers of the deer were the branches of a small tree without leaves: so he hung his hat and bag of rice on them, but the deer immediately ran away.

When the old man came back, he asked if the rice was ready. Felipe told him that he had hung his hat and the rice on a tree that ran away.

The old man was angry, and said, "That tree you saw was the antlers of a deer. We'll have to go home now, for we have nothing to eat."

Meanwhile the five crazy fellows who had been left at home were not idle. Eulalio went to get a pail of water. When he reached the well and saw his image in the water, he nodded, and the reflection nodded back at him. He did this over and over again; until finally, becoming tired, he jumped into the water, and was drowned.

Jacinto was sent to gather small sticks, but he only destroyed the fence around the garden.

Pedro cooked a chicken without removing the feathers. He also let the chicken burn until it was as black as coal.

Mateo and Francisco tried to keep the flies off the face of their old mistress. They soon became tired, because the flies kept coming back; so they took big sticks to kill them with. When a fly lighted on the nose of the old woman, they struck at it so hard that they killed her. She died with seemingly a smile on her face. The two fools said to each other that the old woman was very much pleased that they had killed the fly.

When the old man and his two companions reached home, the old man asked Pedro if there was any food to eat. Pedro said that it was in the pot. The old man looked in and saw the charred chicken and feathers. He was very angry at the cook.

Then he went in to see his wife, and found her dead. He asked Mateo and Francisco what they had done to the old woman. They said that they had only been killing flies that tried to trouble her, and that she was very much pleased by their work.

The next thing the crazy fellows had to do was to make a coffin for the dead woman; but they made it flat, and in such a way that there was nothing to prevent the corpse from falling off. The old man told them to carry the body to the church; but on their way they ran, and the body rolled off the flat coffin. They said to each other that running was a good thing, for it made their burden lighter.

When the priest found that the corpse was missing, he told the six crazy fellows to go back and get the body. While they were walking toward the house, they saw an old woman picking up sticks by the roadside.

"Old woman, what are you doing here?" they said. "The priest wants to see you."

While they were binding her, she cried out to her husband, "Ah! here are some bad boys trying to take me to the church."

But her husband said that the crazy fellows were only trying to tease her. When they reached the church with this old woman, the priest, who was also crazy, performed the burial ceremony over her. She cried out that she was alive; but the priest answered that since he had her burial fee, he did not care whether she was alive or not. So they buried this old woman in the ground.

When they were returning home, they saw the corpse that had fallen from the coffin on their way to the church. Francisco cried that it was the ghost of the old woman. Terribly frightened, they ran away in different directions, and became scattered all over Luzon.

The Monkeys and the Dragonflies


One day, when the sun was at the zenith and the air was very hot, a poor dragonfly, fatigued with her long journey, alighted to rest on a branch of a tree in which a great many monkeys lived.

While she was fanning herself with her wings, a monkey approached her, and said, "Aha! What are you doing here, wretched creature?"

"O sir! I wish you would permit me to rest on this branch while the sun is so hot," said the dragonfly softly. "I have been flying all morning, and I am so hot and tired that I can go no farther," she added.

"Indeed!" exclaimed the monkey in a mocking tone. "We don't allow any weak creature such as you are to stay under our shelter. Go away!" he said angrily, and, taking a dry twig, he threw it at the poor creature.

The dragonfly, being very quick, had flown away before the cruel monkey could hit her. She hurried to her brother the king, and told him what had happened. The king became very angry, and resolved to make war on the monkeys. So he dispatched three of his soldiers to the king of the monkeys with this challenge:

The King of the Monkeys


As one of your subjects has treated my sister cruelly, I am resolved to kill you and your subjects with all speed.


The monkey king laughed at the challenge. He said to the messengers, "Let your king and his soldiers come to the battlefield, and they will see how well my troops fight."

"You don't mean what you say, cruel king," answered the messengers. "You should not judge before the fight is over."

"What fools, what fools!" exclaimed the king of the monkeys. "Go to your ruler and tell him my answer," and he drove the poor little creatures away.

When the king of the dragonflies received the reply, he immediately ordered his soldiers to go to the battlefield, but without anything to fight with. Meanwhile the monkeys came, each armed with a heavy stick.

Then the monkey king shouted, "Strike the flying creatures with your clubs!"

When King Dragon heard this order, he commanded his soldiers to alight on the foreheads of their enemies. Then the monkeys began to strike at the dragonflies, which were on the foreheads of their companions. The dragonflies were very quick, and were not hurt at all; but the monkeys were all killed. Thus the light, quick-witted dragonflies won the victory over the strong but foolish monkeys.

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

Revised November 20, 2014.