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The Fairy Tales of Joseph Jacobs


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ONCE upon a time, though it was not in my time nor in your time nor in anybody else's time, there lived a cobbler named Tom and his wife named Joan. And they lived fairly happily together, except that whatever Tom did Joan did the opposite, and whatever Joan thought Tom thought quite contrary-wise. When Tom wanted beef for dinner Joan liked pork, and if Joan wanted to have chicken Tom would like to have duck. And so it went on all the time.

Now it happened that one day Joan was cleaning up the kitchen and, turning suddenly, she knocked two or three pots and pans together and broke them all. So Tom, who was yorking in the front room, came and asked Joan, "What's all this? What have you been doing?" Now Joan had got the pair of scissors in her hand, and sooner than tell him what had really happened she said, "I cut these pots and pans into pieces with my scissors."

"What," said Tom, "cut pottery with your scissors, you nonsensical woman; you can't do it!"

"I tell you I did with my scissors!"

"You couldn't."

"I did."

"You couldn't."

"I did."







At last Tom got so angry that he seized Joan by the shoulders and shoved her out of the house and said, "If you don't tell me how you broke those pots and pans I'll throw you into the river." But Joan kept on saying, "It was with the scissors"; and Tom got so enraged that at last he took her to the bank of the river and said, "Now for the last time, will you tell me the truth; how did you break those pots and pans?"

"With the scissors."

And with that he threw her into the river, and she sank once, and she sank twice, and just before she was about to sink for the third time she put her hand up into the air, out of the water, and made a motion with her first and middle finger as if she were moving the scissors. So Tom saw it was no use to try to persuade her to do anything but what she wanted. So he rushed up the stream and met a neighbour who said, "Tom, Tom, what are you running for?"

"Oh, I want to find Joan; she fell into the river just in front of our house, and I am afraid she is going to be drowned."

"But," said the neighbour, "you're running up stream."

"Well," said Tom, "Joan always went contrary wise whatever happened." And so he never found her in time to save her.

Jacobs' Notes and References

This familiar story is found as early as Pauli, "Schimpf und Ernst," No. 595. It is frequent in Italy, especially in Pitre's Selections. Koehler has references to the other European versions in Blade, p. 155. Crane, Italian Popular Tales, No. xcvi, has rendered one of Pitre's versions.

Jacobs, Joseph, ed. European Folk and Fairy Tales. New York: G. P Putnam's Sons, 1916.

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Page created 4/15/05; Last updated 10/22/07