ONCE upon a time there lived a very poor man who had a wife and family, and there was also a tomcat prowling about the house. One day a neighbour took pity on them and gave the man a handful of flour of maize. Overjoyed he went home, and mixing it with water made a nice dish. Pouring it out on to the plates, he and his wife and the children sat round eating as much as they could.
Tom, smelling the dish, began to mew, and the father, taking pity on Tom, said to the children:
"Poor Tom is starving too, give him some of the mameliga" (maize pudding). But they said, "He must have it in a better style. We will gird him with a sword round his loins, and he will draw it and cut for himself as big a slice as he likes." And so they did. But when Tom saw himself girded with a sword, which clanked as he moved about, he said, "I am much too good for this family," and off he went into the world.
On his way he met a vixen, and she asked him:
"Where are you going, Sir Knight?"
He said, "I am going to get married."
"Will you marry me?"
Tom replied, "Yes, you are just as good as any other bride."
So they went together to the vixen's lair, and a happy life began for our friend. For the vixen went catching birds, rabbits, and other animals, and bringing them home to feed her husband.
One day the vixen met the wolf. "Hallo, sister," he cried, "have you got a meal ready?"
"I have and I have not. I am married now, and I have a soldier for a husband."
"I should like to see him," said the wolf; "show him to me."
"Come, I will show him to you," said the vixen, and going to her lair called Tom, who came out and met the wolf. Tom came out with his sword clanking behind him, and when he saw that huge beast with his huge head, his hair stood on end and he began to spit and to snarl for very fear. The wolf, thinking that Tom was getting angry and ready to draw his sword and cut him up, turned tail and ran away.
Running very fast he met the bear, who asked him:
"What is the matter with you that you run so fast? Who is running after you?" The wolf told him all that had happened, and how the vixen had got a mighty soldier for a husband, who killed anybody who came near him.
The bear began to get curious and ran to the vixen's lair, and the same thing happened to him, for Tom came out with his hair standing on end, and growled, and snarled, and spat, shaking all the time with fear. The bear ran away as fast as he could and came to the wolf, and they discussed between themselves how best to get rid of that terrible Tom, as their lives were no longer safe. So they called the hare and the lion into counsel. These decided to invite the vixen and her Tom to a banquet at which they would all fall upon him and end his career. So they spread a table-cloth under a huge tree, but none had the courage to go and call the guests. The bear said, "Send the wolf," but he replied he was too weak and they would catch him. The bear said he was rather stout and heavy and they would catch him. So the trouble fell upon the hare. He, poor fellow, could not help himself, so he went with the message to invite them. But he did not venture too near. From a distance he called out to them that they were invited to a banquet, and off he went after he had delivered the message.
When the vixen heard the message she told Tom, and together they went to the banquet. On the way Tom saw a crow on the top of a tree, and, as is the way with cats, before one could turn round Tom had climbed to the top of the tree and had caught the crow. He then killed it, and threw it down on the ground.
The hosts, who were sitting at the table, saw what had happened, and said to one another, "Just see what that knight is doing. Even the people on the very top of the tree are not safe from him. He catches them and kills them. How then can we fight him on the earth?"
So the lion crawled under the table, the bear climbed up the tree, and the wolf and the hare hid themselves in a bush.
When the vixen and Tom came to the place, no one was there, and they wondered where their hosts could be. Whilst they were looking round, Tom saw the tip of the lion's tail, and, thinking it to be a rat, he attacked it. When the lion felt someone tugging at his tail he did not wait any longer, but ran away as fast as his legs could carry him.
When Tom saw that huge lion he got frightened and ran up the tree. Now the bear saw Tom running up the tree, and he got frightened and tumbled head over heels down the tree on to the table with Tom after him, who, being frightened, ran into the bush. There the wolf and the hare were crouching, hidden away. No sooner did they see Tom than off they dashed in a fright. Tom ran back to the vixen, who was sitting at the table thinking with great satisfaction how they had all run away out of fear of Tom.
She embraced him, and they sat down alone to the banquet and enjoyed themselves, no one disturbing them.
In Krauss, No. 3, there is a story parallel yet not identical with it. In the South Slavonic, a cat, together with a dog, a duck and a gander, defeats the wolf, fox, bear and wild pig arrayed against them in battle. Tom contributes most to the victory by sudden attacks on the ear of the hidden pig, and frightening the bear in the tree by climbing up in fear, etc. In other respects the stories disagree.
The setting is entirely different. The wolf challenged to combat the dog, who had betrayed him on two occasions, and each one brought his contingent to the appointed place of battle. The dog brought his friends of the courtyard, and the wolf his of the forest, and the battle ended in the discomfiture of the latter as mentioned above.
Another version is found in Haltrich (No. 82), in which a cat feeds on the carcase of a horse. It is seen successively by the fox, the wolf, the bear and the wild pig, who get frightened by the sight of a small, wild beast, which had killed an animal many times their size and was eating it.
The cat runs after them by mere chance, and manages to bite the pig's ear and frighten the others to such an extent that they are still running, all except the wolf, who has fallen on a pointed stick and got impaled.
Among the Cossack Tales (W. Bain, London 1894, p. 130 ff.) there is a story similar, not quite identical.
Marriage of Tom and the Vixen, The.
Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories
Sidgwick & Jackson
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