This month: fairy tales from ancient Egypt!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Peaceable Farmer Understands the Language of Animals


(Lucas Cranach, the Farmer)

The Difference between Speaking and Communicating Sorted Out in this Fairy Tale from Lithuania

A Retelling of the Fairy Tale The Peaceable Farmer


A peaceable farmer had the ability to understand the language of animals. But he had to promise not to tell anyone about his powers. For if he revealed a single secret of the animals, he would die.
One evening the farmer sat at his table for the evening meal. His chair was not far from the crib where his ox ate the hay. As daylight waned, a farmhand was just coming home from the field and tied an ass next to the ox. The ass was tired and grumpily complained to the ox about his misfortune. Oh the burdens he had to endure! The ox gave the ass the following piece of advice:
“As soon as they give you something to eat, ignore the food and pretend to be sick! You won’t have to work then.”

The farmer sitting nearby heard it all. The next morning when the farmhand announced that the ass was ill, the farmer ordered him to take the ox instead of the ass to accomplish the day’s work. When evening came the farmer was once again sitting at his table, but this time the ass was tied to the manger. The ox came home from working in the field and he was not at all happy. He complained to the ass he should stop acting sick because he had heard that the farmer had promised to slaughter him if he did not return to work. The ass had become worthless and the farmer planned to buy a new beast of burden. The farmer heard this all and burst out laughing. His wife asked him why he was laughing but he only replied, that he could not reveal the reason.
Since that day the farmer’s wife needled him mercilessly about the reason for his amusement. He knew he would have to die if he revealed the real reason, so he remained silent. Finally she became so angry, that she refused to eat with him. In her rage, she ceased loving him and could barely wait for him to die. But the farmer loved his wife dearly and said he wanted to tell her the reason for his laughter, but then he would have to die. Immediately his wife cheered up. They once more ate their evening meal together and full of joy the wife awaited the promised hour, when her husband would tell the reason of his laughter.

The farmer called together his entire household to say farewell. All were deeply moved and saddened because he was going to die. They all wished to convince his wife to turn away from her evilness and abandon her curiosity. But their pleas went unheard.

The farmer had a special love for his chickens, ducks, and feathered fowl. He decided to give each and every bird one last meal before he died. The rooster crowed happily and came strutting, as if he were a king. The dog came bounding out of his doghouse but rebuked the chicken: “Why are you so happy? Don’t you know our master is readying himself for death?”

The rooster replied: “Our master need only learn the language of his wife. If he did, he wouldn’t have to die a premature death. I myself have seventy wives and know how to talk to each and every one of them. The farmer heard it all. He led his wife into an empty room and decided to try this language understood only by wives. No one knows exactly what was said, but when he emerged, he told the entire household his wife was no longer curious about the reason for his laughter. He had avoided death. The couple lived to a ripe old age, until finally in their dotage a natural death divided them.


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