Friday, 12 January 2018

The Ram and the Pig Who Should Go to the Forest and Live by Themselves

There was once upon a time a ram that stood in the sheepfold, and should make himself fat; he lived therefore well, and was sated and stuffed with all that was good. Just like that, the milk maid came and gave him more: “Eat now, ram. You shall not be here much longer; tomorrow we shall slaughter you,” she said.

It is an old proverb that one must not despise an old wives’ tale, and that good advice and drink may cure anything but death; “but perhaps there is advice against it in this case,” thought the ram to himself. So he ate until he was full, and good and sated, butted down the door, and swept on his way to the neighbouring farm. There he went into the pig sty, to a pig he had got to know well, out in the mark, and they had since been steady friends, and agreed well together.

“Good day, and thank you for last time,” said the ram to the pig.1

“Good day, and thank you for last time, yourself,” said the pig.

“Do you know why you have it so good, and why they look after you so well?” said the ram.

“No, no,” said the pig.

“Many mouths soon empty the barrel, you know; they will slaughter you and eat you,” said the ram.

“Will they?” said the pig. “Bless the food they have eaten,” he said.

“If you are of my mind, we will go into the forest, and build a house and an enclosure for ourselves; one sits always best on one’s own bench,” said the ram.

Yes, the pig wanted to, too; “there is joy in good company,” he said. And so off they went.

When they had gone a way, they met a goose. “Good day, good folk, and thank you for last time,” said the goose. “Where are these folk off to, who travel so swiftly today?” she said.2

“Good day to you, and thank you for last time, yourself,” said the ram. “At home, we had it far too good, and therefore will we go to the forest and live by ourselves, masters of our own home,” he said.

“Yes, I suppose I have also had enough of where I am,” said the goose. “Could I not go with you, me too? Good company brightens the day,” she said.

“With gossip and nibbling we will build neither house nor cabin,” said the pig. “What will you do there?”

“With advice and toil, a creature 3 comes as far as a giant,” said the goose. “I can pluck moss and push it into the walls, so the house will be tight and warm.”

Yes, she should be allowed to go with them, for the pig would like to have it good and warm.

When they had gone a way, farther—the goose could not travel so quickly—they met a hare, which came hopping out of the forest.

“Good day, good folk, and thank you for last time,” said the hare. “How far are you padding today?” he said.

“Good day to you, and thank you for last time, yourself,” said the ram. “At home we had it far too good; we are therefore on our way to the forest, to build a house and be by ourselves; wherever we wonder, there is no place like home,” he said.4

“Well, I have a house in every bush, a house in every bush,” said the hare, “but I have often said in the winter that I live for the summer, and then I will build me a house—so I have a mind to go with you, and put one up at last, me too,” he said.

“Yes, and should we get into real trouble then you would be the one to scare the dogs,” said the pig, “for you would be no help to us building the house.”

“The one who would be in the world will always have something to do,” said the hare; “I have teeth to plug with, and paws to beat on the wall, so I will do nicely as a carpenter, for good tools make good work, said the man who skinned his horse with an awl,” said the hare.

Yes, he would be allowed to help build the house, there was no questioning it.

When they came a little way farther, they met a cock.

“Good day, good day good folk, and thank you for last time,” said the cock. “Where is this folk off to today?” he said.

“Good day to you, and thank you for last time, yourself,” said the ram. “We had it far too good at home; we are therefore going to the forest to build a house and be by ourselves, for he who is outside and bakes, loses both charcoal and cakes,” he said.

“Yes, yes, I have it well enough where I am,” said the cock, “but better to build your own dwelling than to sit on a foreign perch and glare; and at home is the cock the richest,” he said. “If I could have such fine companions, then might I also have a mind to go to the forest and build a house.”

“Yes, flapping and crowing, it hepls to make a noise, but a mouth on a shaft chops no logs,” said the pig. “You cannot help us build the house,” they said.

“It is not good to strive where there is neither a dog nor a cock,” said the cock; “I am early awake, and early to wake.”

“Yes, the morning hour has gold in its mouth; let him come along!” said the pig; he was always the greatest sleeper, he was. “Sleep is a great thief; he will always try to steal half your time,” he said.

A procession of the animals, by Erik Werenskiold.

So they went into the forest in a flock and a company, and built a house; the pig chopped the timber, and the ram drove it forth; the hare was the carpenter, gnawing and hammering the walls and roof; the goose plucked moss and pressed it into the gaps in the walls; the cock crowed, and made sure that none of them overslept in the mornings. And when the house was finished, and the roof covered in bark and turf, then they lived by themselves and had it both good and well. “It is good both in the east and the west, but still home is best.”

But a way farther in the forest, there was a wolf lair, in which lived a couple of greyshanks. When they saw a new house put up in the neighbourhood, they wanted to know what manner of folk they had gained in the neighbourhood; or they thought thus: a good neighbour is better than a brother in a foreign land;5 and better it is to live in a good neighbourhood than to be renowned.

So one of them paid a visit, to borrow a light for his pipe. As soon as he came in through the door, the ram squeezed him so that he fell head first on to the hearth; the pig began to chop and bite; the goose hissed and pinched; the cock up on the cock beam crowed and made a din; and the hare was so frightened that he went both high and low and trampled and trod in every corner.

After a long, long time, the wolf came out again.

“Now you know our neighbours,” said he who had remained outside. “I suppose you came to paradise on flat ground, since you stayed in there for so long. But how did it go with your light? You have neither smoke nor pipe,” he said.

“Yes, it was a good light and a good party,” said he who had been inside. “Never before have I been subjected to such treatment. But one gains the glory of the companionship one seeks, and unexpected guests receive unexpected fare,” said the wolf. “When I came through the door, the shoemaker struck me with his cobbler’s shoe, so I fell on my head, right in the furnace; there sat two smiths; they blew and blasted me with the bellows, and pinched and struck with glowing pincers and bars, so they took pieces of flesh from my carcass. The shooter, he went about looking for his gun, but luckily he could not find it. And then there sat one up beneath the roof, flapping and crowing: ‘Get the hook in him. Pull him here, pull him here!’ he screamed; and had he caught hold of me, then had I certainly never come out alive.”

Wolf chased by pig, by Erik Werenskiold.

  1. Norwegian: takk for sist, a standard greeting for acquaintances, even today. 

  2. In times past, it was considered polite to address someone using the third person. 

  3. Norwegian: kryp, literally “creep”, denoting “creepy-crawly”. 

  4. Norwegian: når borte er fresta, er heimen best, literally: “when away has been tried, home is best.” 

  5. See Proverbs 27:10: “Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.” 

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