Thursday, 4 February 2016

Four Short Animal Tales

Folktales that have personifed animals as characters may be classified as animal tales. There are quite a number of animal tales in the collections of Asbjørnsen & Moe. Below are four of the shorter examples.

There are tales where the personification of the animals serves to evoke our sympathy, but with the added bonus of a healthy moral:

Everyone Thinks the Best of Their Own Children

There was once a shooter who was out in the forest, and he met a dunlin.

“Dear me! Don’t shoot my children,” said the dunlin.

“Which are your children, then?” Asked the shooter.

“The most beautiful children wondering the forest are mine,” answered the dunlin.

“I don’t suppose I will shoot them, then,” said the shooter.

But when he returned, he had a whole bunch of dunlins that he had shot, in his hand.

“Ow! Ow! Why did you shoot my children nevertheless?” said the dunlin.

“Were these your children?” asked the shooter. “I shot the ugliest I found.”

“Oh yes,” said the dunlin, “don’t you know that everyone thinks the best of their own children?”

Some tales spin what little plot they contain around cadences that represent the calls of various animals:

The Cock, the Cuckoo, and the Blackcock

The cock, the cuckoo, and the blackcock, once upon a time, went together to buy a cow. As it was not possible to divide it, and they could not settle on buying one another out, they agreed that the one who awoke first in the morning should have the cow.

The cock woke first:

“Now the cow is mine! Now the cow is mine!” said the cock.

When the cock crowed, the cuckoo awoke:

“Half cow! Half cow!” said the cuckoo.

When the cuckoo called, the blackcock awoke:

“Dear brethren, we should share as right is, and fair! As right is, and fair! Choo! Chee!” said the blackcock.

Can you tell me who should have had the cow?

This next one, whilst relying on the cadence, “You shall have your shoes,” also introduces the hen as a scold:

The Cock and the Hen

Hen: You promise me shoes, year by year, year by year, and yet I have no shoes.

Cock: You shall have your shoes.

Hen: I lay eggs—and I do so well—and even so, I walk around barefoot.

Cock: Then take your eggs, and move to town, and buy yourself shoes, and walk around barefoot no longer.

Lastly, for now, some animal tales rather unfortunately reflect the misogyny of the society that brought them forth:

The Hare Who Had Married

There was once a hare who was out walking in the green.

“Hip hurrah! Hey and hop!” he shrieked, jumped and ran, and just like that he somersaulted along, and landed on two legs in the undergrowth.

Just then a fox came skulking.

“Good day, good day,” said the hare. “I am happy today, for I have married, don’t you know,” said the hare.

“Well, that must be good, then,” said the fox.

“Oh, it wasn’t so good, for she was getting long in the tooth, and I wedded a real troll of an old woman,” he said.

“Well, that is bad,” said the fox.

“Oh, it isn’t so bad, either,” said the hare, “for I gained riches with her; she had a parlour.”

“Well, that’s good, then,” said the fox.

“Oh, it’s not so good, either,” said the hare, “for the parlour burned down, with everything we owned.”

“Oh, that’s very bad,” said the fox.

“Oh, it still isn’t so bad,” said the hare, “for the old woman burned up, too.”

How the listeners must have laughed.

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