A long time ago an old man lived with his old wife and the old man loved to hear fairy tales. One day a Russian came to the old man and beseeched him for a night’s lodging. The old man consented, but in return the Russian would have to tell fairy tales the entire night long.
The Russian agreed. The old man ate his evening meal with the Russian. Then the two men lay down sideways on the old wooden plank. The old wife sat nearby on the hearth bench and spun by the light of a pine torch. Soon the Russian began his tales.
For a long time the Russian spoke of his life, where he had been and what had happened. And so, he told stories well into the morning until the cock crowed. Then he was silent for a while and asked the old man:
“Pater, do you know who is lying next to you on this plank bench?” –
“Who then?” the old man asked. “Naturally, you are a Russian.” –
“No, I am not a Russian but a wolf.”
The old man threw a hasty glance at the Russian and saw it was true. He was a wolf. The old man was terrified, but the wolf said to him: “Do not be afraid! Look at me! In truth you are a bear!”
The old man hastily took a look at himself. He had become a bear. “Can you hear me, Pater?” the wolf said. “We cannot stay here on the wooden bench. It is better that we run free as long as we live.”
They ran from there and met the horse of the old man. The wolf saw the horse and said: “We shall devour him!” --- “What! Don’t you see that it is my horse?” the old man said.
“What do I care if it your horse. Hunger knows no law.” They devoured the horse and ran ahead and met an old woman. It was the wife of the old man. The wolf spoke again: “We shall also devour the old woman!”
“Why do you want to eat her? Don’t you see that it is my wife?” the bear said.
“What do I care about your wife?” the wolf replied. And so, they devoured the old woman.
They rambled and wandered and roved, the bear and the wolf, the entire summer long. Then winter came and the wolf spoke: “We want to crawl into a cave! You creep deeper inside; I will lay closer to the opening! If hunters see us, they will shoot me dead first. Then watch and listen! As soon as they shoot me dead and want to take my fur, flee from the cave, jump over me and you will be a man again!”
The wolf and bear rested in the cave. Then the hunters came, shot the wolf dead and wanted to rob him of his fur. And now as the bear attempted to run out of the cave and wanted to jump over the wolf, the old man fell from the plank bench screaming “Ouw, ouw, ouw! Someone has struck me in the behind.”
The old woman was startled and jumped up from the hearth bench. “What is wrong, father? What is the matter with you? Why have you fallen down? You weren’t drinking.” -- “Why?” the old man asked. Don’t you know what I look like?” And the old man began his story. “The Russian and I were wild animals; he was a wolf and I a bear. We roamed around all summer. We ate our horse and we ate you.”
The old woman gripped her sides and laughed out loud: “Ha, ha, ha,” she said. “You two lay on the wooden bench for almost an hour and snored with all your might while I sat and spun.”
The old man injured himself not a little and since that time he no longer listens to tall tales until the cock crows.
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