Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Bear and the Fox

1. Why the Bear Is Stub-tailed

The bear once met the fox, who came skulking with a brace of fish he had stolen.

“Where did you get that from?” asked the bear.

“I have been fishing, Mr Bear,” answered the fox.

And so the bear too wanted to learn to fish, and asked the fox how he should go about it.

“It is a simple trick for you,” said the fox, “and it is soon learned. You need only go out on the ice, chop yourself a hole, and stick your tail down through; and then you must keep it there for quite a while. You must not mind that it stings a little; that is when the fish bite. The longer you keep it there, the more fish you will catch. And then, just like that, you should snatch it upwards.”

Well, the bear did as the fox had said, and kept his tail down the hole for a long, long time, until it was frozen well fast, and then he snatched it upwards–right off. And now he goes stub-tailed, even today.

2. The Fox Cheats the Bear Out of His Christmas Fare

The bear and the fox once bought a mould of butter together; they should have it for Christmas, and they therefore hid it under a dense spruce bush. Then they went away a distance, and lay down to sleep on a sunny bank. When they had lain a while, the fox rose and shouted, “Yes!” and set off straight to the butter mould, of which he ate a good third.

But when he returned, and the bear asked him where he had been, since he was so greasy around his chops, he said, “Would you believe I was asked to wet a baby’s head?”

“Really? What was the child called?” asked the bear.

“Caught out,” said the fox.

Then they lay down to sleep again. A short time later, the fox jumped up again, and shouted, “Yes!” and shot off to the butter mould. This time, he ate a good portion.

When he came back, and the bear asked him where he had been, he answered, “Would you believe it? I was asked to wet a baby’s head again.”

“What was the child’s name, then?” said the bear.

“Half-past twelve.”

The bear thought this a strange name, but he did not wonder long about it, for he yawned and slept again. He had only slept a short while before things went the same way as on both of the other occasions: the fox jumped up again, shouted, “Yes!” and went off, straight to the butter mould; and this time, he ate the rest.

When he came back, he had been to wet a baby’s head again, and when the bear would know what the child was called, he answered: “Lick the bottom!”

With that, they lay down to sleep again, and they lay a good while. Then they should go and see to the butter; but it had been eaten up. And then the bear blamed the fox, and the fox the bear; and the one said that the other had been to the butter mould, while he himself slept.

“Well, well,” said Mikkel, “we will soon know which of us has stolen the butter. Now we shall lie down, over on the sunny bank. The one who is greasiest behind when we awake: he has stolen the butter.”

Well, this test was one the bear wanted in on; he knew in his heart he had not even tasted the butter, and he lay down safely to sleep in the sun. Then Mikkel skulked over to the mould for a morsel of butter which remained in a crevice; and back at the bear, he spread its behind with it; then he lay down to sleep, as if nothing had happened. Then, when both awoke, the sun had melted the butter; and so the bear was the one who had eaten the butter, nevertheless.

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