The Tail-Fisher

Folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther Type 2
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2009-2011


  1. Why the Bear Is Stumpy-Tailed (Norway).

  2. How the Wolf Lost His Tail (Scotland).

  3. Reynard and Bruin (Europe).

  4. Why the Bear Has a Stumpy Tail (Flanders).

  5. The Hare and the Fox (Germany).

  6. The Wolf's Unfortunate Fishing Trip (Germany/Poland).

  7. How Mr. Rabbit Lost His Fine Bushy Tail (USA).

  8. The Frozen Tail (USA).

  9. Fox and Wolf (American Indian).

  10. Why Rabbit Has a Short Tail (Antigua).

  11. Links to additional tales.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Why the Bear Is Stumpy-Tailed


One day the bear met the fox, who came slinking along with a string of fish he had stolen.

"Whence did you get those from?" asked the bear.

"Oh! my Lord Bruin, I've been out fishing and caught them," said the fox.

So the bear had a mind to learn to fish too, and bade the fox tell him how he was to set about it.

"Oh! it's an easy craft for you," answered the fox, and soon learnt. You've only got to go upon the ice, and cut a hole and stick your tail down into it; and so you must go on holding it there as long as you can. You're not to mind if your tail smarts a little; that's when the fish bite. The longer you hold it there the more fish you'll get; and then all at once out with it, with a cross pull sideways, and with a strong pull too."

Yes; the bear did as the fox had said, and held his tail a long, long time down in the hole, till it was fast frozen in. Then he pulled it out with a cross pull, and it snapped short off. That's why Bruin goes about with a stumpy tail this very day.

How the Wolf Lost His Tail


One day the wolf and the fox were out together, and they stole a dish of crowdie. Now the wolf was the biggest beast of the two, and he had a long tail like a greyhound, and great teeth.

The fox was afraid of him, and did not dare to say a word when the wolf ate the most of the crowdie, and left only a little at the bottom of the dish for him, but he determined to punish him for it; so the next night when they were out together the fox said, "I smell a very nice cheese, and (pointing to the moonshine on the ice) there it is too."

"And how will you get it?" said the wolf.

"Well, stop you here till I see if the farmer is asleep, and if you keep your tail on it, nobody will see you or know that it is there. Keep it steady. I may be some time coming back."

So the wolf lay down and laid his tail on the moonshine in the ice, and kept it for an hour till it was fast.

Then the fox, who had been watching him, ran in to the farmer and said, "The wolf is there; he will eat up the children -- the wolf! the wolf!"

Then the farmer and his wife came out with sticks to kill the wolf, but the wolf ran off leaving his tail behind him, and that's why the wolf is stumpy tailed to this day, though the fox has a long brush.

Reynard and Bruin


You must know that once upon a time Reynard the Fox and Bruin the Bear went into partnership and kept house together. Would you like to know the reason? Well, Reynard knew that Bruin had a beehive full of honeycomb, and that was what he wanted; but Bruin kept so close a guard upon his honey that Master Reynard didn't know how to get away from him and get hold of the honey.

So one day he said to Bruin, "Pardner, I have to go and be gossip -- that means godfather, you know -- to one of my old friends."

"Why, certainly," said Bruin.

So off Reynard goes into the woods, and after a time he crept back and uncovered the beehive and had such a feast of honey. Then he went back to Bruin, who asked him what name had been given to the child. Reynard had forgotten all about the christening and could only say, "Just-begun."

"What a funny name," said Master Bruin.

A little while after Reynard thought he would like another feast of honey. So he told Bruin that he had to go to another christening; and off he went. And when he came back and Bruin asked him what was the name given to the child Reynard said, "Half-eaten."

The third time the same thing occurred, and this time the name given by Reynard to the child that didn't exist was "All-gone." You can guess why.

A short time afterwards Master Bruin thought he would like to eat up some of his honey and asked Reynard to come and join him in the feast. When they got to the beehive Bruin was so surprised to find that there was no honey left; and he turned round to Reynard and said, "Just-begun, Half- eaten, All-gone -- so that is what you meant; you have eaten my honey."

"Why no," said Reynard, "how could that be? I have never stirred from your side except when I went a-gossiping, and then I was far away from here. You must have eaten the honey yourself, perhaps when you were asleep; at any rate we can easily tell; let us lie down here in the sunshine, and if either of us has eaten the honey, the sun will soon sweat it out of us."

No sooner said than done, and the two lay side by side in the sunshine. Soon Master Bruin commenced to doze, and Mr. Reynard took some honey from the hive and smeared it round Bruin's snout; then he woke him up and said, "See, the honey is oozing out of your snout; you must have eaten it when you were asleep."

Some time after this Reynard saw a man driving a cart full of fish, which made his mouth water. So he ran and he ran and he ran till he got far away in front of the cart and lay down in the road as still as if he were dead.

When the man came up to him and saw him lying there dead, as he thought, he said to himself, "Why, that will make a beautiful red fox scarf and muff for my wife Ann."

And he got down and seized hold of Reynard and threw him into the cart all along with the fish, and then he went driving on as before. Reynard began to throw the fish out till there were none left, and then he jumped out himself without the man noticing it, who drove up to his door and called out, "Ann, Ann, see what I have brought you."

And when his wife came to the door she looked into the cart and said, "Why, there is nothing there."

Reynard in the meantime had brought all his fish together and began eating some when up comes Bruin and asked for a share.

"No, no," said Reynard, "we only share food when we have shared work. I fished for these, you go and fish for others."

"Why, how could you fish for these? The water is all frozen over," said Bruin.

"I'll soon show you," said Reynard, and brought him down to the bank of the river, and pointed to a hole in the ice and said, "I put my tail in that, and the fish were so hungry I couldn't draw them up quick enough. Why do you not do the same?"

So Bruin put his tail down and waited and waited but no fish came. "Have patience, man," said Reynard; "as soon as one fish comes the rest will follow."

"Ah, I feel a bite," said Bruin, as the water commenced to freeze round his tail and caught it in the ice.

"Better wait till two or three have been caught and then you can catch three at a time. I'll go back and finish my lunch."

And with that Master Reynard trotted up to the man's wife and said to her, "Ma'am, there's a big black bear caught by the tail in the ice; you can do what you like with him."

So the woman called her husband and they took big sticks and went down to the river and commenced whacking Bruin who, by this time, was fast in the ice. He pulled and he pulled and he pulled, till at last he got away leaving three quarters of his tail in the ice, and that is why bears have such short tails up to the present day.

Meanwhile Master Reynard was having a great time in the man's house, golloping everything he could find till the man and his wife came back and found him with his nose in the cream jug. As soon as he heard them come in he tried to get away, but not before the man had seized hold of the cream jug and thrown it at him, just catching him on the tail, and that is the reason why the tips of foxes' tails are cream white to this very day.

Well, Reynard crept home and found Bruin in such a state, who commenced to grumble and complain that it was all Reynard's fault that he had lost his tail.

So Reynard pointed to his own tail and said, "Why, that's nothing; see my tail; they hit me so hard upon the head my brains fell out upon my tail. Oh, how bad I feel; won't you carry me to my little bed."

So Bruin, who was a good-hearted soul, took him upon his back and rolled with him towards the house. And as he went on Reynard kept saying, "The sick carries the sound, the sick carries the sound."

"What's that you are saying?" asked Bruin.

"Oh, I have no brains left, I do not know what I am saying," said Reynard but kept on singing, "The sick carries the sound, ha, ha, the sick carries the sound."

Then Bruin knew that he had been done and threw Reynard down upon the ground, and would have eaten him up but that the fox slunk away and rushed into a briar bush. Bruin followed him closely into the briar bush and caught Reynard's hind leg in his mouth. Then Reynard called out, "That's right, you fool, bite the briar root, bite the briar root."

Bruin thinking that he was biting the briar root, let go Reynard's foot and snapped at the nearest briar root. "That's right, now you've got me, don't hurt me too much," called out Reynard, and slunk away. "Don't hurt me too much, don't hurt me too much."

When Bruin heard Reynard's voice dying away in the distance he knew that he had been done again, and that was the end of their partnership.

Some time after this a man was plowing in the field with his two oxen, who were very lazy that day. So the man called out at them, "Get a move on or I'll give you to the bear"; and when they didn't quicken their pace he tried to frighten them by calling out, "Bear, Bear, come and take these lazy oxen."

Sure enough, Bruin heard him and came out of the woods and said, "Here I am, give me the oxen, or else it'll be worse for you."

The man was in despair but said, "Yes, yes, of course they are yours, but please let me finish my morning's plowing so I may finish this acre."

Bruin could not say "No" to that, and sat down licking his chops and waiting for the oxen. The man went on plowing, thinking what he should do, when just at the corner of the field Reynard came up to him and said, "If you will give me two geese, I'll help you out of this fix and deliver the bear into your hands."

The man agreed and he told him what to do and went away into the woods. Soon after, the bear and the man heard a noise like "bow-wow, bow-wow"; and the Bear came to the man and said, "What's that?"

"Oh, that must be the lord's hounds out hunting for bears."

"Hide me, hide me," said Bruin, "and I will let you off the oxen."

Then Reynard called out from the wood, "What's that black thing you've got there?"

And the Bear said, "Say it's the stump of a tree."

So when the man had called this out to the fox, Reynard called out, "Put it in the cart; fix it with the chain; cut off the boughs, and drive your axe into the stump."

Then the bear said to the man, "Pretend to do what he bids you; heave me into the cart; bind me with the chain; pretend to cut off the boughs, and drive the axe into the stump."

So the man lifted Bruin into the cart, bound him with the chain, then cut off his limbs and buried the axe in his head.

Then Reynard came forward and asked for his reward, and the man went back to his house to get the pair of geese that he had promised.

"Wife, wife," he called out, as he neared the house, "get me a pair of geese, which I have promised the fox for ridding me of the bear."

"I can do better than that," said his wife Ann, and brought him out a bag with two struggling animals in it.

"Give these to Master Reynard," said she; "they will be geese enough for him." So the man took the bag and went down to the field and gave the bag to Reynard, but when he opened it out sprang two hounds, and he had great trouble in running away from them to his den.

When he got to his den the fox asked each of his limbs, how they had helped him in his flight. His nose said, "I smelt the hounds"; his eyes said, "We looked for the shortest way"; his ears said, "We listened for the breathing of the hounds"; and his legs said, "We ran away with you."

Then he asked his tail what it had done, and it said, "Why, I got caught in the bushes or made your leg stumble; that is all I could do."

So, as a punishment, the fox stuck his tail out of his den, and the hounds saw it and caught hold of it, and dragged the fox out of his den by it and ate him all up. So that was the end of Master Reynard, and well he deserved it. Don't you think so?

Why the Bear Has a Stumpy Tail


One very cold winter, when the ground was covered with snow and the ponds and rivers were frozen hard, Reynard the Fox and all the other animals went out to enjoy themselves by sliding and skating on the ice. After a time Reynard began to feel hungry, so he wandered off by himself in search of something to eat. He nosed about here, and he nosed about there; he lay in wait behind bushes in the hope of being able to catch a bird; he lurked by the walls of farmhouses ready to spring out upon any unsuspecting chicken that might show itself, but all in vain. The birds were wary, and the fowls were all safe in the hen houses.

Disappointed with his lack of success Reynard betook himself to the river, now covered with a glistening sheet of ice, and there, under the shelter of a bank, he found a hole in the ice which had not been frozen over. He sat down to watch the hole, and presently a little fish popped up its head for a breath of air. Reynard's paw darted, and the next moment the unfortunate creature lay gasping on the ice. Fish after fish the fox caught in this way, and when he had quite satisfied his hunger he strung the remainder on a stick and took his departure, not forgetting first of all to offer up a prayer for the repose of his victims.

He had not gone far before he met Mrs. Bruin, who had also come out in search of something to eat. When she saw Reynard with his fine catch of fish, she opened her eyes, I can tell you, and said, "Wherever did you get all those fine fishes from, cousin? They make my mouth water! I am so hungry that I could bite the head off an iron nail!"

"Ah," said Reynard slyly, "wouldn't you just like to know!"

"It is what I'm asking you," said Mrs. Bruin. "You would surely not be so mean as to keep the good news to yourself!"

"I don't know so much about that," answered Reynard, "but I have a certain fondness for you, cousin, so come along with me and I will show you the place where I caught the fish."

Nothing loath, the bear followed, and presently they came to the hole in the ice.

"Do you see that hole, cousin?" said Reynard. "That is where the fish come up to breathe. All you have to do is to sit on the ice and let your tail hang down into the water. After a time the fish will come to bite at it, but don't you move. Sit quite still until the evening; then you will find a score of fishes on your tail and you can pull them out all together."

Mrs. Bruin was delighted with the plan and immediately sat down and dipped her tail into the water.

"That's the way," said Reynard. "Now I'll just be walking home to see to my dinner, but I'll be back presently. Be careful to keep quite still, or you ll spoil everything!"

So for the next three hours Mrs. Bruin sat on the ice with her tail in the water, and very cold it was, but she consoled herself with the thought of the delicious meal she would have when the fish were landed.

Reynard returned. " Well, cousin," siad he, "how do you feel?"

"Very cold," said Mrs. Bruin, with her teeth chattering. "My tail is so numb that I hardly know I've got one!"

"Doe it feel heavy?" asked Reynard anxiously.

"Very heavy," said Mrs. Bruin.

"There mus be hundreds of fish on it!" said Reynard.

He left the bank and walked round the bear, observing that the water in the hole had frozen over, and the Mrs. Bruin's tail was hel firmly in the ice.

"I think you may safely pull up now," he went on, "but you must be careful to land all the fish together. There is only one way to do that: you must give a strong, sharp, sudden pull and take them by surprise. Now then, are you ready? One, two, three . . . !"

At the word three Mrs. Bruin rose on her hind legs and gave a mighty jerk, but her tail was so firmly embedded in the ice that it would not come out.

"My word," cried Reynard, "you have caught the whole river-full. Persevere, cousin now then, a long pull and a strong pull!"

"Ouf!" grunted Mrs. Bruin, "ouf, ouf . . . ah!"

And then she suddenly tumbled head over heels on the ice, as with one mighty jerk, she snapped her beautiful bushy tail clean off close to the roots.

When she had gathered her scattered wits together well enough to understand what had happened, she went to look for Reynard, but he had suddenly remembered an important engagement elsewhere, and was not to be found. And from that time down to this every bear has been born with a little stumpy tail.

  • Source: Jean de Bosschère, Folk Tales of Flanders (New York: Dodd, Mean and Company, 1918), pp. 168-72.

  • Flanders is the northern part of Belgium, where the native language is Flemish (Dutch).

  • Return to the table of contents.

    The Hare and the Fox


    A hare and a fox were traveling together. It was wintertime. Nothing green was growing, and neither mice nor lice were creeping afield.

    "This is hungry weather," said the fox to the hare. "My insides are all knotted together."

    "Yes, indeed," answered the hare. "There are hard times everywhere. I would eat my own ears if I could get them into my mouth."

    Thus they marched hungrily onward together. Then in the distance they saw a peasant girl approaching them. She was carrying a basket, and the fox and the hare sensed a pleasant smell coming from the basket, the smell of fresh bread rolls.

    "Do you know what!" said the fox. "Lie down and pretend to be dead. The girl will set her basket down and pick you up for your poor pelt, because hare pelts can be made into gloves. Meanwhile I'll make off with the basket of rolls, all for our benefit."

    The hare did what the fox suggested: he fell down and pretended to be dead. The fox hid behind a snowdrift. The girl came and saw the hare with all four legs stretched out. She set down the basket, and bent over the hare. The fox quickly snatched up the basket and ran off across the field. The hare immediately came to life and hurried after his companion.

    However, the fox showed no sign of sharing the rolls, but instead made it clear that he intended to eat all of them by himself. This did not please the hare at all.

    They were approaching a small pond, and the hare said to the fox, "Why don't we catch some fish for our meal? Then we could have fish with white bread, just like grand gentlemen! Just lower your tail into the water, then the fish, who themselves don't have much to eat these days, will grab onto it. But you'd better hurry, before the pond freezes over."

    The fox thought that this was a good plan, so he went to the pond, which was just about to freeze over, and hung his tail into the water. In a short time the fox's tail was frozen tightly in the ice. Then the hare took the basket of rolls and slowly ate them, one after the other, before the fox's eyes.

    Finally he said to the fox, "Just wait until it thaws! Just wait until springtime! Just wait until it thaws!"

    And then he ran away, leaving the fox yelping after him, yelping like an angry dog on a chain.

    The Wolf's Unfortunate Fishing Trip


    The wolf and the fox were traveling together. It was very cold.

    The fox said, "I have a good pelt, but I am still freezing."

    The wolf said, "I have always heard that it is warm where the girls hang out. Let's go to the spinning room."

    The fox said, "For all I care."

    So they went there, and the wolf began flirting with the girls, while the fox made himself comfortable next to the stove. He had a great appetite for something delicious. He crept around here and there, but couldn't sniff up anything. So he went outside, intending to take a boat ride. Someone was just passing by with a wagonload of herrings. The fox jumped onto the wagon, opened a tub, and threw out most of the herrings that were in it. Then he jumped down and ate up all the herrings, except for one.

    He was about to bite into this last one when the wolf came up and said, "What are you eating?"

    The fox said, "Fish. Do you want a taste?"

    He gave the wolf half a herring, and it tasted very good to the wolf. He said, "Where did you catch such a fish?"

    The fox answered, "Here in the pond."

    The wolf said, "I would like to catch some."

    The fox said, "Just hang your tail down into the water."

    However, it had turned cold, and the water stung the wolf's tail. After a while he wanted to pull his tail out, but the fox said, "Test its weight!"

    The wolf said, "I don't notice anything."

    The fox said, "Then it's too soon."

    Some time later he again wanted to pull his tail out, and the fox said, "Test its weight!"

    The wolf said, "It seems that something is taking hold of it."

    The fox said, "It's still too soon. Those are only little fish."

    By now the tail was nearly completely frozen into the ice.

    Some time later the wolf once again wanted to pull his tail out, and the fox said, "Test its weight!"

    The wolf said, "I seem to have caught a very large fish." His tail was completely frozen into the ice.

    The fox said, "Pull!" But however hard he pulled, he couldn't pull it out.

    The fox said, "Push with your feet! Push with your feet!" And he went on his way.

    The wolf pulled and pulled, and tugged and tugged, until finally he tore off his tail. This angered him greatly, and from that time onward he was always an enemy of the fox.

    How Mr. Rabbit Lost His Fine Bushy Tail

    Joel Chandler Harris

    "One time," said Uncle Remus, sighing heavily and settling himself back in his seat with an air of melancholy resignation --" one time Brer Rabbit wuz gwine 'long down de road shakin' his big bushy tail, en feelin' des ez scrumpshus ez a bee-martin wid a fresh bug."

    Here the old man paused and glanced at the little boy, but it was evident that the youngster had become so accustomed to the marvelous developments of Uncle Remus's stories, that the extraordinary statement made no unusual impression upon him.

    Therefore the old man began again, and this time in a louder arid more insinuating tone: "One time ole man Rabbit, he wuz gwine 'long down de road shakin' his long, bushy tail, en feelin' mighty biggity."

    This was effective.

    "Great goodness, Uncle Remus!" exclaimed the little boy in open-eyed wonder, "everybody knows that rabbits haven't got long, bushy tails."

    The old man shifted his position in his chair and allowed his venerable head to drop forward until his whole appearance was suggestive of the deepest dejection; and this was intensified by a groan that seemed to be the result of great mental agony. Finally he spoke, but not as addressing himself to the little boy.

    "I notices dat dem fokes w'at makes a great 'miration 'bout w'at dey knows is des de fokes w'ich you can't put no 'pennunce in w'en de 'cashun come up. Yer one un urn now, en he done come en excuse me er 'lowin' dat rabbits is got long, bushy tails, w'ich goodness knows ef I'd a dremp' it, I'd a whirl in en on dremp it"

    "Well, but Uncle Remus, you said rabbits had long, bushy tails," replied the little boy. "Now you know you did."

    "Ef I ain't fergit it off'n my mine, I say dat ole Brer Rabbit wuz gwine down de big road shakin' his long, bushy tail. Dat w'at I say, en dat I stan's by."

    The little boy looked puzzled, but he didn't say anything. After a while the old man continued: "Now, den, ef dat's 'greed ter, I'm gwine on, en ef tain't 'greed ter, den I'm gwineter pick up my cane an look atter my own intrust. I go wuk lyin' roun' yer dat's des natally gittin' moldy."

    The little boy still remained quiet, and Uncle mus proceeded: "One day Brer Rabbit wuz gwine down de road shakin' his long, bushy tail, w'en who should he strike up wid but ole Brer Fox gwine amblin' long wid a big string er fish! W'en dey pass de time er day wid wunner nudder, Brer Rabbit, he open up de confab, he did, en he ax Brer Fox whar he git dat nice string er fish, en Brer Fox, he up'n 'spon' dat he kotch um, en Brer Rabbit, he saw whar'bouts, en Brer Fox, he say down at de babtizin' creek, en Brer Rabbit he ax how, kaze in dem days dey wuz monstus fon' er minners, en Brer Fox, he sot down on a log, he did, en he up'n tell Brer Rabbit dat all he gotter do fer ter git er big mess er minners is ter go ter de creek atter sun down, en drap his tail in de water en set dar twel daylight, en den draw up a whole armful er fishes, en dem w'at he don't want, he kin fling back. Right dar's whar Brer Rabbit drap his watermillion, kaze he tuck'n sot out dat night en went a fishin'. De wedder wuz sorter cole, en Brer Rabbit, he got 'im a bottle er dram en put out fer de creek, en w'en he git dar he pick out a good place, en he sorter squot down, he did, en let his tail hang in de water. He sot dar, en he sot dar, en he drunk his dram, en he think he gwineter freeze, but bimeby day come, en dar he wuz. He make a pull, en he feel like he comin' in two, en he fetch nudder jerk, en lo en beholes, whar wuz his tail?"

    There was a long pause.

    "Did it come off, Uncle Remus?" asked the little boy, presently.

    "She did dat!" replied the old man with unction. "She did dat, and dat w'at make all deze yer bob-tail rabbits w'at you see hoppin' en skaddlin' thoo de woods."

    "Are they all that way just becaue the old Rabbit lost his tail in the creek?" asked the little boy.

    "Dat's it, honey," replied the old man. "Dat's w'at dey tells me. Look like dey er bleedzd ter take atter der pa."

    The Frozen Tail


    Once there was a fox an' a rabbit. They was in partnership. The rabbit used to go fishing a lot. The rabbit told the fox he could show him where there was a nice lot of fish.

    The rabbit said, "Don't pull up until you feel your tail getting stiff an' heavy."

    After a while the fox said, "My tail getting heavy, can I pull up?"

    Rabbit said, "No, don't pull up yet. Wait till you get a few more on. Pull up now! You got a nice bunch on."

    His tail stuck, was froze.

    "That's just what I wanted, Mr. Fox, you treated me so dirty."

    Fox and Wolf

    American Indian

    Very long ago there were two men living together, and making maple sugar. They made one mokok ("bark box") of sugar, and then they cached it away, burying it, and said to each other, "We will let it remain here until we are very hungry."

    The younger man was a Fox, and he was a good hunter. Every time he went out, he brought home chickens or small wild game. The other man was a greedy Wolf, and he never killed anything, or brought anything home: so Fox thought he would play a trick on his chum for being lazy.

    "You ought to go over to that house," said Fox to Wolf. "Maybe they will give you something to eat. When I went over there, they gave me a chicken."

    So Wolf went over as he was told. When he got to the house, he did not hide himself, but went in open sight. The owner of the house saw the Wolf coming up, so he set his dogs on him to drive him away; and Wolf escaped only by running into the river.

    "So it is this one that takes off our chickens!" said the man.

    When Wolf arrived at his home, he told his younger brother, Fox, "Why, I hardly escaped from that man!"

    "Why!" said Fox to him. "They did not recognize you; that's why." But Wolf made no answer.

    While they were in the house together, Fox went outside, and cried, "He!" to deceive Wolf.

    "What's the matter with you?" asked Wolf.

    "Oh! they have come after me to give a name to a child."

    "Then you'd better go over. Maybe they will give you something to eat."

    Instead of going, however, Fox went to their cache of maple sugar, and ate some of it. When he returned, Wolf asked him, "What did you name the baby?"

    "Mokimon," replied Fox; and this word means to "reveal" or "dig out" something you have hidden.

    At another time, while they were sitting together, Fox said, "He!" and "Oh, yes!"

    "What's that?" inquired Wolf.

    "Oh! I am called to give a name to a newborn baby."

    "Well, then, go. Maybe they will give you something to eat."

    So Fox went and returned. "What's the name of the child?" asked Wolf.

    This time, Fox answered, "Wapiton"; and this word means "to commence to eat."

    At another time, Fox cried out, "He!" and "All right!" as though some one had called to him, "I'll come."

    "What's that?" asked Wolf.

    "They want me to go over and name their child."

    "Well, then, go," says Wolf. "You always get something to eat every time they want you."

    So Fox went, and soon returned. Wolf asked him again, "What name did you give it?"

    "Hapata kiton," answered Fox; that is to say, "half eaten."

    Then another time Fox cried "He!" as if in answer to some one speaking to him, and then, as though some one called from the distance, "Hau!"

    Wolf, as he did not quite hear, asked Fox what the matter was. "Oh, nothing!" replied Fox, "only they want me to come over and name their child."

    "Well, then, you'd better go. Maybe you'll get a chance to eat; maybe you'll fetch me something too."

    So Fox started out, and soon returned home.

    "Well, what name did you give this time?" asked Wolf.

    "Noskwaton," said Fox; and this means "all licked up."

    Then Wolf caught on. "Maybe you are eating our stored maple sugar!" he cried. But Fox sat still and laughed at him.

    Then Wolf went over and looked at their cache. Sure enough, he found the empty box with its contents all gone, and pretty well licked up.

    Meantime Fox skipped out, and soon found a large tree by the river, leaning out over the water. He climbed into its branches and hid there. Presently the angry Wolf returned home, and, not finding Fox, tracked him to the tree. Wolf climbed part way to Fox without seeing him, as he was on the branches. Then Wolf was afraid, and while he was hesitating, he happened to look at the water, and there he saw the reflection of Fox laughing at him on the surface. The Wolf, in a fury, plunged into the bottom of the stream, but of course failed to catch Fox. He tried four times, and after the fourth attempt he was tired, and quit jumping in for a while. While he was resting, he looked up and saw Fox laughing at him.

    Then Wolf said to Fox, "Let's go home and make up"; for he thought in his heart that anyway Fox was feeding him all the time.

    By and by it became winter. Fox frequently went out, and returned with abundance of fish. "How do you manage to get so many?" asked Wolf.

    "You'd better go out and try for yourself," said Fox. "The way I do, when I am fishing, is to cut a hole in the ice. I put my tail in, instead of a line, and I remain there until I feel bites. I move ahead a little to let the fish string on my tail; but I stay a long time, until I get a great many fish on my tail. When it feels pretty heavy, I jerk it out, and catch all I want."

    Fox was in hopes that he could get Wolf frozen to death in the ice, and so avoid the necessity of feeding him any longer. So he took Wolf out, and cut five holes in the ice, -- one for his tail, and one for each paw, -- telling him he could catch more fish that way. Wolf staid there to fish all night. Every once in a while he would move his feet or tail a little, and they felt so heavy, he was sure he was getting a tremendous load; and he staid a little longer. In the mean time he was freezing fast in the ice. When he found out the predicament he was in, he jerked backwards and forwards again and again, until all the hair wore off his tail, and there he was. He thought he had let too many fish on his tail and feet to haul them out, and he worked hard to free himself. At last he wore his tail out at the surface of the ice, and pulled off his claws and the bottoms of his feet. Fox told him he had caught too many fish, and that they had bitten his tail and feet; and Wolf believed it.

    Another time, Fox found a wasp's nest in a tree: so he went home and told Wolf that there was honey in it, and persuaded him to try and jump up and get it, on the plea that Wolf could jump higher than he could. As soon as Wolf set out to try, Fox ran away, and Wolf was nearly stung to death. Fox fled over a wagon-road to conceal his tracks, and as he travelled, he met a negro with a team, hauling a load of bread. Fox, cunning as he was, lay down on the side of the road and pretended that he was dead. The negro saw him lying there, and picked him up and put him in his wagon behind his load. Fox very presently came to, and, waiting for his chance, he would throw off a loaf of bread every now and then, till he had gotten rid of a good many. Then he jumped off, and carried the loaves to a secret place, where he built him a shelter, and prepared to live for a time.

    In the meantime, Wolf came along, half starved, and crippled from his meddling with a live wasp's nest and from his fishing experience. Fox fed him on his arrival, and said, "You ought to do the way I did. It's easy to get bread. I got mine by playing dead on the road. Tomorrow the negro will pass by with another load; and you can watch for him and do as I did, and steal his bread."

    Next morning, Wolf started out to watch the road, and pretty soon he saw the negro coming with a big load of bread: so he lay down beside the road, where the darky could see him, and played dead. The darky did see him, sure enough; and he stopped his team, and got off and got a big stick, and knocked Wolf over the head, and killed him dead for sure.

    "I will not get fooled this time!" he said, "for yesterday I lost too many loaves of bread for putting a dead Fox in my wagon without examining him."

    So he did take the Wolf home dead. That ended him, and since then Fox has eaten alone.

    Why Rabbit Has a Short Tail


    Dis was how dis come, Rabbit once have a tail long like dem oder an'mals. Not short all de time. On dis occasion Rabbit was goin' about, an' he was hot. Dis was summer, an' everyt'ing was hot. Rabbit he had run all over, was feelin' warm. By an by he come to where Bro' Barricuter (fish) was. When Bro' Rabbit come near to de water, Bro' Barricuter speak to him. Say, "Why is it dat you so warm, Bro' Rabbit?"

    Rabbit tell him dat is so warm 'round here, an' dat he been runnin' all 'bout. He not able to stay cool.

    Den Bro' Barricuter fool Rabbit. An' Rabbit is a smart one. Bro' Barricuter say, "Bro' Rabbit, Ah will tell you which way you can get cool." Rabbit he glad for dat, an' ask de Barricuter to please do dis. Bro' Barricuter say dat Rabbit must come up to dis piece of wood what is over de water, an' let he tail hang down into de water. "In dis way, Bro' Rabbit, de cool from de water will go up from you' tail, an' you will not be warm."

    Rabbit not against dis, an' he come. Now, when Rabbit come up to dis piece a wood, he drop his tail to de water. Den Bro' Barricuter drap up to Rabbit tail, an' he bit it off. Dat how Barricuter fool Rabbit, an' is why Rabbit has dat short tail.


    Links to additional stories

    English-Language Texts

    1. Joseph Jacobs, "The Russet Dog," More Celtic Fairy Tales (London: David Nutt, 1894 ), pp. 125-34.

    2. Andrew Lang, "The Fox and the Lapp" (Lapland), The Brown Fairy Book (London: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1904), pp. 245-55.

    German-Language Texts -- Texte in deutscher Sprache

    1. Alexander N. Afanassjew [Afanas'ev, Afanasyev], "Die Füchsin und der Wolf," Russische Volksmärchen, Deutsch von Anna Meyer (Wien: C. W. Stern, 1906), S. 1-11.

    2. J. C. Poestion, "Der Fuchs und der Bär," Lappländische Märchen, Volkssagen, Räthsel und Sprichwörter: Nach lappländischen, norwegischen und schwedischen Quellen, mit Beiträgen von Felix Liebrecht (Wien: Druck und Verlag von Carl Gerold's Sohn, 1886), Nr. 1, S. 7-15.

    Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

    Revised April 28, 2011.