Old Sultan

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

A farmer had a faithful dog named Sultan, who had grown old and lost all his teeth, and could no longer hold onto anything. One day the farmer was standing with his wife before the house door, and said, "Tomorrow I intend to shoot Old Sultan. He is no longer of any use."

His wife, who felt pity for the faithful animal, answered, "He has served us so long, and been so faithful, that we might well give him his keep."

"What?" said the man. "You are not very bright. He doesn't have a tooth left in his mouth, and no thief is afraid of him. He can go now. If he has served us, he has eaten well for it."

The poor dog, who was lying stretched out in the sun not far off, heard everything, and was sorry that tomorrow was to be his last day. He had a good friend, the wolf, and he crept out in the evening into the forest to him, and complained of the fate that awaited him.

"Listen, kinsman," said the wolf, "be of good cheer. I will help you out of your trouble. I have thought of something. Tomorrow, early in the morning, your master is going with his wife to make hay, and they will take their little child with them, for no one will be left behind in the house. While they are at work they lay the child behind the hedge in the shade. You lie down there too, just as if you wanted to guard it. Then I will come out of the woods, and carry off the child. You must run swiftly after me, as if you would take it away from me. I will let it fall, and you will take it back to its parents, who will think that you have rescued it, and will be far too grateful to do you any harm. On the contrary, you will be treated royally, and they will never let you want for anything again."

This idea pleased the dog, and it was carried out just as planned. The father screamed when he saw the wolf running across the field with his child, but when Old Sultan brought it back, he was full of joy, and stroked him and said, "Not a hair of yours shall be hurt. You shall eat free bread as long as you live."

And to his wife he said, "Go home at once and make Old Sultan some bread soup that he will not have to bite. And bring the pillow from my bed. I will give it to him to lie on. From then on Old Sultan was as well off as he could possibly wish.

Soon afterwards the wolf visited him, and was pleased that everything had succeeded so well. "But, kinsman," he said, "you will just close one eye if, when I have a chance, I carry off one of your master's fat sheep."

"Don't count on that," answered the dog. "I will remain true to my master. I cannot agree to that."

The wolf thought that this was not spoken in earnest, and he crept up in the night to take away the sheep. But the farmer, to whom the faithful Sultan had told the wolf's plan, was waiting for him and combed his hair cruelly with a flail. The wolf had to flee, but he cried out to the dog, "Just wait, you scoundrel. You'll regret this."

The next morning the wolf sent the boar to challenge the dog to come out into the forest and settle the affair. Old Sultan could find no one to be his second but a cat with only three legs, and as they went out together the poor cat limped along, stretching its tail upward with pain.

The wolf and his friend were already at the appointed place, but when they saw their enemy coming, they thought that he was bringing a saber with him, for they mistook the cat's outstretched tail for one. And when the poor animal hopped on three legs, they thought that each time it was picking up a stone to throw at them. Then they took fright. The wild boar crept into the underbrush and the wolf jumped up a tree.

As the dog and the cat approached, they wondered why no one was to be seen. The wild boar, however, had not been able to hide himself completely in the leaves. His ears were still sticking out. While the cat was looking cautiously about, the boar wiggled his ears, and the cat, who thought it was a mouse, jumped on it and bit down hard. The boar jumped up screaming loudly, "The guilty one is up in the tree."

The dog and cat looked up and saw the wolf, who was ashamed for having shown such fear, and who then made peace with the dog.

Related links

Targeted links open in new windows.

Revised May 12, 2008.