Black Tales for White Children | Annotated Tale

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Woodcutter and His Donkey, The

ONCE upon a time there was a poor woodcutter, and his work was to go out every day into the forest and cut wood. In the evening he used to load up his donkey with the wood he had cut and return to the town, where he sold it. The money he got each day was only sufficient for the food of himself and his wife for that day.

               They lived like that many months and many days, and they were very, very poor; till one day the woodcutter went out to the forest as usual to cut wood. As he was at work he looked up and saw a number of birds sitting on the top of a tree, with their beaks wide open. And there was a cloud of insects about the tree, and they fell into the birds' mouths.

               Then the woodcutter said to himself, "Behold these birds, they sit on the top of a tree with their mouths open, and God feeds them by bringing insects to fall into their mouths. They do not have to work or even to move from their perch; they just open their mouths and are fed. Why should I have to work hard all day and then only get just enough to eat? Why should not God feed me like that?"

               So he loaded up his donkey with the wood he had already cut and returned to the town. When he reached his house he went in and got into bed.

               His wife went out and sold the wood, and then bought some food and returned home. When she found her husband in bed she said, "My husband, are you ill?"

               He replied, "No, my wife, I am waiting for God to feed me as I saw Him feed the birds to-day."

               So she cooked the food and then called to him, "The food is ready, my husband."

               He replied, "No. To-day I saw that God fed the birds without them having to move. They just opened their mouths and the food dropped in, so now I am not going to move out of bed, but am just going to wait here in bed to be fed also."

               So his wife brought his food in to him there in bed and he ate and slept. Next morning his wife said to him, "Arise, my husband, for it is time that you went to work."

               He replied, "No, I am not going to work; I am just going to stop here in bed and wait to be fed."

               His wife said, "But, my husband, we have no food and no money in the house. What are we to do if you do not go and work?"

               He answered, "Never mind. God is able to feed the birds when they are hungry, and so He is able to feed me."

               So he stopped there in bed. Now a neighbour of his had a vision that night that in a certain cave was a great treasure stored. He wanted to go and search for it, and when he heard that the woodcutter was not going to work that day he thought that he would borrow his donkey to bring back the wealth, if his vision came true.

               So he came to borrow the donkey; but as he was a very mean man he did not want to tell of his vision or for what purpose he wanted the donkey. He knocked at the door, and the wife came and opened it, and he asked to see the woodcutter.

               The wife went to call her husband, but he said, "Tell him to come in here; I will not get up."

               So the neighbour came in and asked the woodcutter to lend him his donkey, and said, "If I have a prosperous journey I will give you a few coppers."

               The woodcutter agreed, and he took the donkey and went to the place about which he had dreamed. There he found the cave, and when he entered he saw piles of money, gold, silver and copper.

               So he gathered up first all the gold and then all the silver and filled the donkey's saddle-bags, till at last they would hold no more.

               He was loth to leave the copper, so he left the donkey outside the cave and went back and began to stuff his clothes with the copper coins. Whilst he was doing this the mouth of the cave fell in, and he was unable to get out.

               The donkey waited and waited till at last, when evening was near, seeing no one coming, it set off and returned home, and came to the door of the house. The wife heard a noise at the door and said, "My husband, there is some one at the door; get up and open it to see who it is."

               He replied, "No, my wife, I am going to stop just here in bed till God brings me my food."

               So the wife opened the door, and the donkey walked in to where the woodcutter was lying in bed. When he looked at it he saw that the saddle-bags were stuffed full of gold and silver.

               The man and his wife waited for the return of the neighbour, but when he did not come back they made plans together what they should do.

               The husband said to his wife, "Behold, my wife, the neighbours all know that we are very poor and have no money in the house. Even if we were to take a little money and buy food to-morrow they will say that we have stolen it, so how are we to spend all this wealth? Even if we go away they will know that we have not the money to expend on a journey, so what shall we do?"

               So they planned together, and then they crept out, when everybody was asleep, and put a little money on the doorstep of each house near them. On one they put ten reals, on another five, and so on.

               In the morning when every one opened their doors, behold, some silver coins on the doorstep. So the neighbours said to one another, "I got five reals; what did you get?" and so on. Another said, "Surely some Jin must have put all this money here in the night."

               Then were the neighbours not surprised when they saw that the woodcutter and his wife had a little money wherewith to buy food. So the woodcutter said to his neighbours, "I found twenty reals on my doorstep this morning, and I and my wife are going to expend this money on travelling to a far country, where perhaps we will meet with better fortune than here."

               So they bought the necessaries for a long journey with a little of that money, and then the greater part they packed up on the donkey and journeyed off.

               They travelled on and on, till at last they came to a country where they were not known, and there they bought a house and settled down, and the people said, "Behold, these must be some rich folk who have come from a far country."

               So they lived there in great splendour, and spent their money and gave praise to God.

               This is the story of the woodcutter who had trust in God, and it finishes here.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Woodcutter and His Donkey, The
Tale Author/Editor: Stigand, C. H. & Stigand, Nancy Yulee
Book Title: Black Tales for White Children
Book Author/Editor: Stigand, C. H. & Stigand, Nancy Yulee
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1914
Country of Origin: Africa
Classification: unclassified

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