Lying Tales

stories of Aarne-Thompson type 1965
and similar playful lies
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 1999


  1. Lying Tale (England).

  2. Sir Gammer Vans (England).

  3. One Dark Night (USA).

  4. Knoist and His Three Sons (Germany).

  5. The Three Brothers (Italy).

  6. Related links.

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

Lying Tale

England (Yorkshire)

There were once five men. The one had no eyes, the second had no legs, the third was dumb, the fourth had no arms, the fifth was naked.

The blind man exclaimed, "Eh, lads, I see a bird!"

The dumb man said, "I'll shoot it!"

The man without legs said, "I'll run after it!"

The man without arms said, "I'll pick it up!"

And the naked man said, "I'll put it in my pocket!"

Chorus of Yorkshire children: "Eh! That is a lie!"

Sir Gammer Vans


Last Sunday morning at six o'clock in the evening as I was sailing over the tops of the mountains in my little boat, I met two men on horseback riding on one mare. So I asked them, could they tell me whether the little old woman was dead yet who was hanged last Saturday week for drowning herself in a shower of feathers?

They said they could not positively inform me, but if I went to Sir Gammer Vans he could tell me all about it.

"But how am I to know the house?" said I.

"Ho, 'tis easy enough," said they, "for 'tis a brick house, built entirely of flints, standing alone by itself in the middle of sixty or seventy others just like it."

"Oh, nothing in the world is easier," said I.

"Nothing can be easier," said they. So I went on my way.

Now this Sir G. Vans was a giant, and a bottle maker. And as all giants who are bottle makers usually pop out of a little thumb-bottle from behind the door, so did Sir G. Vans.

"How d'ye do?" says he.

"Very well, I thank you," says I.

"Have some breakfast with me?"

"With all my heart," says I.

So he gave me a slice of beer, and a cup of cold veal. And there was a little dog under the table that picked up all the crumbs.

"Hang him," says I.

"No, don't hang him," says he, "for he killed a hare yesterday. And if you don't believe me, I'll show you the hare alive in a basket."

So he took me into his garden to show me the curiosities. In one corner there was a fox hatching eagle's eggs. In another there was an iron apple tree, entirely covered with pears and lead. In the third there was the hare which the dog killed yesterday alive in the basket. And in the fourth there were twenty-four hipper switches threshing tobacco, and at the sight of me they threshed so hard that they drove the plug through the wall, and through a little dog that was passing by on the other side.

I, hearing the dog howl, jumped over the wall and turned it as neatly inside out as possible, when it ran away as if it had not an hour to live. Then he took me into the park to show me his deer. And I remembered that I had a warrant in my pocket to shoot venison for his majesty's dinner. So I set fire to my bow, poised my arrow, and shot amongst them. I broke seventeen ribs on one side, and twenty-one and a half on the other, but my arrow passed clean through without ever touching it, and the worst was I lost my arrow. However, I found it again in the hollow of a tree. I felt it. It felt clammy. I smelt it. It smelt honey.

"Oh, ho," said I. "Here's a bee's nest," when out sprang a covey of partridges. I shot at them. Some say I killed eighteen, but I am sure I killed thirty-six, besides a dead salmon which was flying over the bridge, of which I made the best apple pie I ever tasted.

One Dark Night

USA (Idaho)

One dark night in the middle of the day,
Two dead boys came out to play.
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard the noise,
Came inside and shot the two dead boys.

Knoist and His Three Sons


Between Werl and Soest there lived a man whose name was Knoist, and he had three sons. One was blind, the other lame, and the third stark naked. Once they were walking across a field, where they saw a hare. The blind one shot it, the lame one caught it, and the naked one put it in his pocket. Then they came to a tremendously large body of water, on which there were three ships. One leaked, one sank, the third had no bottom in it. All three got into the one with no bottom. Then they came to a tremendously large forest in which there was a tremendously large tree. In the tree was a tremendously large chapel. In the chapel was a sexton of hornbeam wood and a parson of boxwood, who were passing out holy water with cudgels.

Blessed is he
Who from this holy water can flee.

The Three Brothers


Once upon a time there were three brothers. Two had no clothes and one no shirt. The weather was very bad, and they make up their minds to go shooting. So they took down three guns -- two were broken and one had no barrel -- and walked and walked until they came at last to a meadow, where they saw a hare. They began to fire at it, but could not catch it.

"What shall we do?" said one of them. They remembered that nearby a godmother of theirs lived. So they went and knocked at her door and asked her to lend them a pot to cook the hare they had not caught. The godmother was not at home, but nevertheless she answered, "My children, go in the kitchen and there you will find three pots, two broken and one with no bottom. Take whichever you wish."

"Thanks, godmother!"

They went into the kitchen and chose the one without a bottom and put the hare in it to cook. While the hare was cooking, one said, "Let ask our godmother whether she has anything in her garden."

So they asked her, and she said, "I have three walnut trees. Two are dead and one has never borne any nuts. Knock off as many as you wish."

One went and shook the tree that had never borne nuts, and a little nut fell on his hat and broke his heel. Thereupon they picked up the nuts and went to get the hare, which meanwhile was cooked, and said, "What shall we do with so much stuff?"

So they went to a village where there were many ill, and they put up a notice in the street that whoever wished might, at such and such a place, get broth given him in charity. Everyone went to get some, and they took it in the salad basket, and it was given to them with a skimmer.

One who did not belong to the village drank so much of this broth that he was at the point of death. Then they went for three physicians. One was blind, one deaf, and one dumb. The blind man went in and said, "Let me look at your tongue."

The deaf man said, "How are you?"

The dumb said, "Give me some paper, pen, and ink."

They gave them to him, and he said,

Go to the apothecary,
For he knows the business.
Buy two cents' worth of I know not what.
Put it wherever you wish.
He will get well I know not when,
I will leave and commend him to you.

Related links

Revised December 28, 1999.