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Why are there no counterpart to the fox and weasel in the sea? The story of the fox's heart and the fishes.

Q. Why are there no counterpart to the fox and weasel in the sea? The story of the fox's heart and the fishes.

R. Because they were cunning. When God had created the angel of death, he saw the creatures, and he said to God, "Lord of the Universe, grant me permission to kill them." God replied, "Thou shalt have power over all the creatures of the earth except the descendants of the bird Milham, who are not to taste the taste of death." He said, "O Lord, separate them from the rest if they are so pious, so that they do not learn the evil ways of the others and come to sin." God at once granted him his request. He built for them a great town and he placed them therein, and he sealed up the gate of that town, and he said, "It has been decreed (by God) that neither my sword, nor that of anyone else should have power over you unto the end of all generations." The angel of death returned then to God, who said to him, "Throw the pair of each created being into the sea and over the rest thou shalt have power." The angel did as he was told, and he threw into the sea a pair of each created being. When the fox saw what he was doing, he began crying and weeping. The angel asked him, "Why art thou weeping?" The fox replied, "I cry for my friend whom thou hast thrown into the sea." The angel asked him, "Where is thy friend?" The fox then went and stood close to the edge of the water and the angel saw his shadow in the water, and he believed that he had indeed thrown a pair of his friends into the sea, and he said to the fox, "Get thee hence." The fox ran quickly away and was thus saved.

               On his way he met the weasel, and he told her all that had happened and what he had done. The weasel did likewise and escaped also from being thrown into the sea.

               After the lapse of one year since these things had happened, did Leviathan gather together before him all the creatures of the sea, and it was found that neither fox nor weasel was among them. So he sent for them, but he was told what the fox had done to escape from being thrown into the sea. Moreover, they told Leviathan that the fox was very cunning. When Leviathan heard of his great intelligence, he became jealous of him. He sent large fishes to go and fetch him, by deceiving him and luring him away, and then to bring the fox to him. They went and found him walking leisurely along the seashore. When the fox saw the fishes approach and play about close to him, he entered into conversation with them. When they saw him, they asked him, "Who art thou?" He answered, "I am the fox." They said to him, "Dost thou not know that great honour is awaiting thee and it is for this purpose that we have come hither. He said, "What is it?" They replied, "Leviathan is sick unto death, and has left the command that no one else is to rule after him as king but the fox, for he is the most cunning of all the beasts. Thereafter, you now come with us, for we have been sent to offer thee this honour." He said to them, "How can I go into the sea and not be drowned?" They replied, "Ride on the back of one of us and we will carry thee safely over the waters of the sea, so that not even a drop of water shall touch the tip of thy nose until thou reachest the kingly palace. Then we will lower thee down into it and there thou wilt rule over all of us, and thou wilt rejoice all the days of thy life, and thou wilt no longer have to search for food, and be exposed to be hunted by mighty beasts and to be eaten by them."

               When the fox heard these words, he believed them, and mounting on the back of a mighty fish started with them on a journey on the sea. When the waves began to play round him he began to be anxious. His wit had forsaken him. Then he recovered himself and said, "Woe unto me, what have I done? The fishes have tricked me worse than I have ever tricked all the other beasts. Now that I have fallen into their hands how can I escape?"

               He then said to them, "I have come with you and I am now at your mercy. You may tell me what is it that you really want of me." They replied, "We will tell thee the truth. Leviathan had heard of thy reputation, that thou art very cunning, so he said to himself, I will cut his belly open and will eat his heart, and thus shall I become also very wise."

               The fox said to them, "Why did you not tell me the truth, for I would then have brought my heart with me. I would have given it to the king Leviathan and he would have shown me honour. You are now going to your own destruction." They said to him, "Hast thou not thy heart with thee?" He replied, "No, for such is our habit that we leave our heart behind and we walk about without it; whenever we want it we fetch it, and if there is no necessity for it we leave it where it is." So they said to him, "What shall we do now?"

               He replied, "My place and my dwelling is close to the seashore, if you are willing to do it, bring me back to the place whence you have taken me. I will go and fetch my heart and return with you to Leviathan, who is sure to honour me greatly. If you, however, will bring me to him without my heart, he will be very angry with you and eat you up. For I will tell him that you had not told me anything before you took me away, and that when I heard from you the reason of your errand, I told you to carry me back and that you refused to do so." The fishes then said at once, "Thou speakest well," and they returned to the place at the seashore whence they had taken him. He went down from the back of the fishes, and jumping and frolicking about he rolled over and over in the sand. The fishes said to him, "Haste thee, do not tarry, for we must depart quickly." He replied, "Ye fools, get yourselves away. If I had not had my heart I could not have gone with you into the sea. Is there any creature in existence moving about and not having a heart within?" They replied, "Thou hast mocked at us." He replied, "If I got the best of the angel of death, how much more likely am I to get it of you?" They returned full of shame to the Leviathan and told him all that had happened. He replied, "He is truly cunning, and ye have proved to be fools. About such as you it is said, 'The stupidity of the fools is the cause of their death,'" and so he ate them up.

               Thus it has remained that although there are creatures in the sea corresponding to those on land, there are none like unto the fox and the weasel.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Why are there no counterpart to the fox and weasel in the sea? The story of the fox's heart and the fishes.
Tale Author/Editor: Sira, Ben
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: Hebrew
Classification: unclassified

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