Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The Bear and the Fox

I. Let Go the Spruce Root and Take the Fox’s Leg

There was once upon a time a bear that sat on a sunny bank, sleeping. Just like that a fox came past and saw it.

“Do you sit there lazily, grandfather?” said the fox. “Now I shall play you a prank,” thought Mikkel to himself. So he found three forest mice and laid them on a stump close before the nose of the bear. “Puh, bear! Per the shooter lies behind the stump!” he screamed into the bear’s ear, and took off by foot, away through the forest.

The bear jumped awake, and when he saw the three mice, he grew so angry that he had already lifted his paw, to strike them, for he thought it was they who had screamed in his ear. But then he saw Mikkel’s tail between the bushes on the edge of the forest, and set off so that the woodland whistled; and the bear was so close behind Mikkel that he grasped hold of his right hind leg, just as he was about to shoot down beneath a spruce root. There sat Mikkel fast, but helpless he was not; he screamed: “Let go the spruce root and take the fox’s leg!” and the bear let him go. But then the fox laughed from deep within his hole, and said: “Did I not fool you this time, too, grandfather?”

“Hidden is not forgotten,” said the bear, angrily.

II. They Wager on Bacon and a Bumblebee Hive

In the morning of the second day, the bear came walking across the marsh with a slaughtered pig. Mikkel sat up high on a rock on the bank of the marsh.

“Good day, grandfather,” said the fox. “What is that tasty morsel you have there?” he said.

“Bacon!” said the bear.

“I too have something good to eat,” said the fox.

“What is that?” said the bear.

“It is the largest bumblebee hive I have ever found,” said Mikkel.

“Indeed,” said the bear, groaning and drooling, so good he thought it would be to have a little honey. “Shall we swap food?” he said.

“No, I will not,” said Mikkel.

But then they made a wager, and agreed that they should name three kinds of tree. If the fox could do so more quickly than the bear, then he would be allowed a single bite of the bacon; but if the bear could do it more quickly, then he would be allowed a suck from the bee hive. He would probably be able to suck all the honey out in one go, thought the bear.

“Yes,” said the fox, “this is all well and good, but I tell you, if I win, then you must pull the bristles out from where I will bite,” he said.

“Very well. I will help you, since you do not care to help yourself,” said the bear.

Then they should name the trees.

“Fir, pine, fatwood,” growled the bear—his voice was coarse. But this was only one kind of tree, for the fir is nothing but a pine.

“Ash, alder, oak,” screamed the fox so that the forest resounded.

So he had won, and he came down and took the heart out of the pig in a single bite, and would run; the bear had grown so angry that he had taken the best bit of the whole pig, and he caught hold of his tail and held on to him.

“Stay a little,” said the bear, angrily.

“Well, it is all the same, grandfather; if you let me go, you shall taste my honey,” said the fox.

When the bear heard this, he let him go, and the fox ran for the honey.

“Here, suck on this bumblebee hive,” said Mikkel. “I hold a leaf, and beneath the leaf there is a hive you can suck through,” he said. And as soon as he held the bumblebee hive beneath the bear’s nose, he took away the leaf, jumped up on to a rock, and sat down to grin and to laugh, for it was neither a bumblebee hive, nor honey, it was a wasp’s nest as big as a man’s head, full of wasps; and the wasps swarmed out and stung the bear in his eyes, and ears, and mouth, and on his nose. And he had so much to do, batting them away, that he had no time to think about Mikkel.

From that day, the bear has been afraid of wasps.

III. They Should Own a Field in Common

Once upon a time the bear and the fox should own a field in common; they had a small clearing up in the forest. The first year they sowed rye. “Now, we should share fairly,” said Mikkel. “If you want the roots, then I shall have the tops,” he said. Yes, the bear would have this. But when they had threshed, the fox got the grain, but the bear got nothing but straw and roots. The bear did not like this, but the fox said that it was what they had agreed upon. “This year I have the profit,” said the fox, “another year you will have it; then you shall have the tops and I shall have the roots.”

But when the spring came, Mikkel asked the bear what he thought of turnips. Yes, they make better fare than grain, he said; and so thought the fox, too. When the autumn came, the fox took the turnips and the bear got the leaves. And then the bear grew so angry that he parted company with Mikkel immediately.

IV. Mikkel Wants to Taste Horse Meat

Then there was a day that the bear lay eating from a horse he had slain. Then was Mikkel abroad again, and he came slinking and drooling for a good piece of the horse meat. He bent and twisted until he came behind the bear, then he jumped to the other side of the horse carcass, and snatched a mouthful as he went past. The bear was not slow either; he struck out after Mikkel so that he caught the tip of his red tail in his paw. Since that time the fox has had a white tip to his tail.

“Wait now, Mikkel, and come here,” said the bear, “and I will teach you to catch horses.” Yes, Mikkel would like to learn, but he went no closer than he thought he should. “When you see a horse lying on a sunny bank, sleeping,” said the bear, “then you should tie yourself fast with the locks of its tail, and bite your teeth into the horse’s thigh,” he said.

It was not long before the fox found a horse sleeping on a sunny bank, you can imagine, and then he did as the bear had said; he bound himself well into the horse’s locks, and bit his teeth into the horse’s thigh. And it jumped up and began to kick and run, so Mikkel was thrown against both stock and stone, and he was not far from losing both sense and reason.

Suddenly they flew past a hare.

“Where are you off to, who flies so quickly, Mikkel?” said the hare.

“I am being taken for a ride, my dear Jens!” said the fox.

And the hare sat up on two legs and laughed so well that his mouth popped open, up to his ears, for Mikkel travelled so nicely on a ride.

But since that ride, the fox has not thought of catching a horse. That time it was the bear who was bad; otherwise they say he is as gullible as the troll.

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