Thursday, 24 March 2016

The Fox as Herder

An introduction to Norwegian herd calling helps the uninitiated reader fully understand the tale below. Here are two examples:

And now that you understand just what a herding call is supposed to sound like, the tale:

The Fox as Herder

Once upon a time there was a wife who would go out to look for a herder. Then she met a bear.

“Where are you off to?” said the bear.

“Oh, I’m going out to find a herder,” said the wife.

“Don’t you want me as herder?” asked the bear.

“Well, yes, but only if you can call the animals,” said the wife.

“Hey-ho!” said the bear.

“No, I don’t want you,” said the wife when she heard him; and she left. When she had walked for a while, she met a wolf.

“Where are you off to?” said the wolf.

“I am going out to look for a herder,” answered the wife.

“Don’t you want me as a herder?” asked the wolf.

“Well, can you call the animals?” said the wife.

“Uh-ooh!” said the wolf.

“No, I don’t want you,” said the wife.

When she had gone a little further still, she met a fox.

“Where are you off to?” said the fox.

“Oh, I am out looking for a herder,” said the wife.

“Don’t you want me as herder?” asked the fox.

“Of course, so long as you can call the animals,” said the wife.

“Dill-dall-holom!” said the fox, so clear and fine.

“Yes, I want you to be my herder,” said the wife. And she set the fox to herd her livestock.

The first day the fox was herder, he ate up all the wife's goats. The second day, he made an end of all her sheep. And the third day, he ate up all the cattle.

When he came home in the evening, the wife asked him where he had left her livestock.

“The skull is in the river, and the carcass in the thicket.”

She was standing churning, but she felt that she must nevertheless go and take a look; and when she was away, the fox jumped into the churn and ate up all the cream. When the wife returned home and saw it, she grew so angry that she took the last drop of cream that remained, and threw it after the fox, so that he got the drop on the end of his tail.

And that is how the fox came to have a white tip to his tail.


  1. This reminds me of a Yakut (Siberian Turkic) story about how the ermine's tail got a black tip.

    Long ago, Ermine's fur remained brown all year round. One winter's day, Ermine sought warmthon the roof of a house by the smokehole. The hunter who lived there returning home when he spotted the small animal on his roof. He released an arrow at it. The arrow missed, but the startled creature fell down the smokehole, down, down, right into a great pot of boiling water. The hunter pulled the scalded, nearly-drowned Ermine from the water. Its burns were so severe that its fur simply fell off.
    The hunter proceeded to nurse Ermine back to health. When its fur returned, it was thicker and white as snow. The two got along splendidly.
    One day, while the hunter was out, Ermine found the hunter's stores of butter. In true musteline fashion, doing nothing by halves, Ermine devoured it to the very last lick. When the hunter returned, he flew into a rage. "So that's how it is! That's how you repay my kindness," he hellowed, seizing a hot poker and shoving it at Ermine.
    Ermine managed to dodge a blow from the steaming metal, but the end of its tail was burned. From that day forth, Ermine and its children all have blackened fur on the ends of their tails.

    [Adapted from the "Yakut Tales" Android app published by]

    1. That's almost the photographic negative of the fox tale. Thanks.