Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories | Annotated Tale

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Why do cats eat mice?

The Story of Adam and Eve and the Devil.

WHEN Adam and Eve had lived for some time together, Adam suddenly noticed a change in his wife's demeanour. Watching her narrowly, he found that she had fallen in love with the devil. She had introduced him into the house, which she had built close to the seashore. Adam, as a wise man, kept his peace, but he thought day and night what was he to do to get rid of the devil and to save his wife? At last he thought that the only way would be to take his wife away into some distant land across the sea, where the devil could not follow him. But how were they to cross that sea? At last he discovered that the best way to cross the sea would be to make a boat, and then, when it was ready, he would take his wife quietly and they would both sail away. But the devil has nothing to do but to watch other people's doings, and to put a spoke into the wheel wherever he can. He was therefore not to be outdone in as simple a manner as Adam thought. He saw that Adam was cutting wood, and making timber and laths, and joining them together, but whenever he asked Adam what he was doing he would not answer him.

               So at last he came to Eve and told her: "Look here, that husband of yours is preparing some trick, and it is meant against you and me. You better find out what is in Adam's mind. What is he doing, and what is the meaning of it?"

               Eve, in order to please the devil, asked Adam what he was doing, but he knew it was no good giving a secret into the keeping of a woman. So he kept his counsel to himself. At last, when the devil saw the boat, he told Eve:

               "I know what Adam means, he wants to take you away and leave me here alone. That you must not allow, but when everything is ready and he is coming to fetch you, you ask him to allow you to bring the house-snake with you. He will not refuse you, and I will take the form of the snake, and so you will carry me with you into the boat. Then we shall see who will be the cleverer, Adam or I."

               So when Adam came to fetch Eve, she asked him to be allowed to bring also the house-snake with her. Adam, good-hearted fellow as he was, did not refuse her. What did the devil do? He took the form of the snake, and to make sure of being carried into the boat, he coiled himself round Eve's bosom, and so was carried by her into the boat, chuckling all the while at the stupidity of Adam. Adam had no suspicion who the passenger was, he had brought with him.

               One day, after he had sailed a long time, Adam, tired from his work, laid himself down to rest, when he suddenly felt that the boat was sinking. Up he jumped, trimmed the sail, and looked round to see whether the boat had sprung a leak and was making water, for he could not understand why the boat should suddenly sink and let the water in. The devil, thinking that Adam was asleep and not able to watch his tricks, had made himself heavy like lead in the hope of sinking the ship and drowning Adam. But he had reckoned without his host, for Adam woke up in the nick of time and caught the Wicked One at his evil deeds. When the devil saw that Adam was awake, he changed himself quickly into a mouse. Adam did not trouble, but thought his time would come. The devil, who cannot keep quiet but must do mischief whenever he can, was not content to be left in peace, and be carried across the water, but he must needs start gnawing away at one of the planks of the ship, and so make a hole and drown Adam. His misfortune was that, just when the plank at which he was gnawing had got as thin as a sheet of paper, Adam surprised the Black One at his work. What did he do? He took off his fur glove and threw it at the mouse.

               The fur glove changed into a cat which, seizing the mouse, killed it and ate it up. And thus the cat got the devil into it. And that is why the cat's hair bristles and makes sparks, and the eyes of the cat glisten in the dark. These are sparks of the devil in the cat.

Another Version.
The Story of the Devil, Noah and the Ark.


THERE is another version of this tale which transfers the origin of the mouse to the ark of Noah. Noah would not allow the devil to get into the ark which he had built. In order, therefore, to get in, the devil transformed himself into a mouse, which, being surprised at the same work of gnawing away the boards of the ark, was eaten up by the cat--the fur glove which Noah threw at her.

               A legend concerning the cat and mouse is found in the so-called "Alphabet of Pseudo Sirach," here in the Appendix, No. III. According to a Bohemian legend, the devil created the mouse that it might destroy "God's corn," whereupon the Lord created the cat. (Ralston, p. 330 note.)

               The apocryphal interpretation of the temptation of Eve by the serpent which has been identified with Satan is found in many ancient biblical legends. This story of the temptation has been transformed into a somewhat primitive love story between Eve and the devil--her paramour--who assumes the form of the house-snake and then wishes to drown poor unsophisticated Adam.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Why do cats eat mice?
Tale Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Book Title: Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories
Book Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1915
Country of Origin: Romania
Classification: unclassified

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