Grimm's Household Tales with the
translated by Margaret Hunt
The Fox and the Geese
THE fox once came to a meadow in which
was a flock of fine fat geese, on which he smiled and said, "I come
in the nick of time, you are sitting together quite beautifully, so that
I can eat you up one after the other." The geese cackled with terror,
sprang up, and began to wail and beg piteously for their lives. But the
fox would listen to nothing, and said, "There is no mercy to be had!
You must die." At length one of them took heart and said, "If
we poor geese are to yield up our vigorous young lives, show us the only
possible favour and allow us one more prayer, that we may not die in our
sins, and then we will place ourselves in a row, so that you can always
pick yourself out the fattest." "Yes," said the fox, "that
is reasonable, and a pious request. Pray away, I will wait till you are
done." Then the first began a good long prayer, for ever saying,
"Ga! Ga!" and as she would make no end, the second did not wait
until her turn came, but began also, "Ga! Ga!" The third and
fourth followed her, and soon they were all cackling together.
When they have done praying, the story shall be continued further, but at present they are still praying without stopping."
Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London: George Bell, 1884, 1892. 2 volumes.
From the neighbourhood of Paderborn. In a beautiful fable, No. 87, in Burkard Waldis, the Goose begs to be allowed to dance once more to her heart's content; as also in Pröhle's Märchen für die Jugend, 3. it is also told in Transylvania, see Haltrich, No. 20. It is a puzzling story, which is told instead of the more usual one of the shepherd, who wants to take several hundred sheep across a wide river in a small boat, in which there is always only room for one. Cervantes has, as is well known, used this very well in Don Quixote, vol. i. chap. 20; and Avellaneda has tried to out do him in his continuation, chap. 21, by a similar story of the geese which cross a narrow bridge. It is intrinsically much older. Petrus Alfonsus told it in the Disciplina clericalis, p. 129, and Schmidt in the notes gives further information. It is to be found in the Old French Castoiement, (Méon's Fabliaux, 2. 89-91), and in the Novelle Antiche, No. 30. Also in a pretty Low German poem in Haupt's Zeitschrift, 5. 469-512. A similar saga lies at the foundation of Aesop's orator Demades (Furia 54, Coray, 178). The proverb, "If the Wolf (here it is the Fox) teaches the geese to pray, he devours them for school fees," refers to this (Sailer, p. 60), and so does Ofterdingen's speech in the Krieg auf der Wartburg (Ms. 2, 5a), ("sie,) hânt gense wân sô si den wolf erkennent unde wellent fiz den ziunen gân."