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English Fairy Tales
Typographical arrangement of this edition
© Abela Publishing 2017
This book may not be reproduced in its current format in any manner in any media, or transmitted by any means whatsoever, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, or mechanical ( including photocopy, file or video recording, internet web sites, blogs, wikis, or any other information storage and retrieval system) except as permitted by law without the prior written permission of the publisher.
This book is dedicated to the teachers and storytellers
who keep folklore and history alive
through the telling and re-telling of these tales
A percentage of the profit
from the sale of this book
will be donated to charities.
The Publisher acknowledges the work that
Joseph Jacobs and John D. Batten
did in compiling and illustrating this exquisite collection of
English Fairy Tales
in a time well before any electronic media was in use.
ENGLISH FAIRY TALES
Tom Tit Tot
The Three Sillies
The Rose Tree
The Old Woman and Her Pig
How Jack Went to Seek His Fortune
Nix Nought Nothing
Mouse and Mouser
Cap o' Rushes
Jack and the Beanstalk
The Story of the Three Little Pigs
The Master and His Pupil
Titty Mouse and Tatty Mouse
Jack and his Golden Snuff-Box
The Story of the Three Bears
Jack the Giant Killer
The Red Ettin
The Golden Arm
The History of Tom Thumb
Earl Mar's Daughter
Whittington and his Cat
The Strange Visitor
The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh
The Cat and the Mouse
The Fish and the Ring
The Magpie's Nest
The Cauld Lad of Hilton
The Ass, the Table and the Stick
The Well of the World's End
Master of All Masters
The Three Heads of the Well
Who says that English folk have no fairy tales of their own? The present volume contains only a selection out of some 140, of which I have found traces in this country. It is probable that many more exist.
A quarter of the tales in this volume have been collected during the last ten years or so, and some of them have not been hitherto published. Up to 1870, it was said equally of France and of Italy, that they possessed no folk-tales. Yet, within fifteen years from that date, over 1000 tales had been collected in each country. I am hoping that the present volume may lead to equal activity in this country, and would earnestly beg any reader of this book who knows of similar tales, to communicate them, written down as they are told, to me, care of the Publishers. The only reason, I imagine, why such tales have not hitherto been brought to light, is the lamentable gap between the governing and recording classes and the dumb working classes of this country--dumb to others but eloquent among themselves. It would be no unpatriotic task to help to bridge over this gulf, by giving a common fund of nursery literature to all classes of the English people, and, in any case, it can do no harm to add to the innocent gaiety of the nation.
A word or two as to our title seems necessary. We have called our stories Fairy Tales though few of them speak of fairies. [For some recent views on fairies and tales about fairies, see Notes] The same remark applies to the collection of the Brothers Grimm and to all the other European collections, which contain exactly the same classes of tales as ours. Yet our stories are what the little ones mean when they clamour for 'Fairy Tales', and this is the only name which they give to them. One cannot imagine a child saying, 'Tell us a folk-tale, nurse', or 'Another nursery tale, please, grandma'. As our book is intended for the little ones, we have indicated its contents by the name they use. The words 'Fairy Tales' must accordingly be taken to include tales in which occurs something 'fairy', something extraordinary--fairies, giants, dwarfs, speaking animals. It must be taken also to cover tales in which what is extraordinary is the stupidity of some of the actors. Many of the tales in this volume, as in similar collections for other European countries, are what the folklorists call Drolls. They serve to justify the title of Merrie England, which used to be given to this country of ours, and indicated unsuspected capacity for fun and humour among the unlettered classes. The story of Tom TitTot, which opens our collection, is unequalled among all other folk-tales I am acquainted with, for its combined sense of humour and dramatic power.
The first adjective of our title also needs a similar extension of its meaning. I have acted on Moliere's principle, and have taken what was good wherever I could find it. Thus, a couple of these stories have been found among descendants of English immigrants in America; a couple of others I tell as I heard them myself in my youth in Australia. One of the best was taken down from the mouth of an English Gipsy. I have also included some stories that have only been found in Lowland Scotch. I have felt justified in doing this, as of the twenty-one folk-tales contained in Chambers' Popular Rhymes of Scotland, no fewer than sixteen are also to be found in an English form. With the folk-tale as with the ballad, Lowland Scotch may be regarded as simply a dialect of English, and it is a mere chance whether a tale is extant in one or other, or both.
I have also rescued and retold a few Fairy Tales that only exist nowadays in the form of ballads. There are certain indications that the 'common form' of the English Fairy Tale was the cante-fable, a mixture of narrative and verse of which the most illustrious example in literature is Aucassin et Nicolette. In one case, I have endeavoured to retain this form, as the tale in which it occurs, Childe Rowland, is mentioned by Shakespeare in King Lear, and is probably, as I have shown, the source of Milton's Comus. Late as they have been collected, some dozen of the tales can be traced back to the sixteenth century, two of them being quoted by Shakespeare himself.
In the majority of instances I have had largely to re-write [It is perhaps worth remarking that the Brothers Grimm did the same with their stories. 'Dass der Ausdruck', say they in their Preface, 'mid die Ausführung des Einzelnen grossentheils von uns herrührt versteht sich von selbst'. I may add that many of their stories were taken from printed sources.] these Fairy Tales, especially those in dialect, including the Lowland Scotch. Children, and sometimes those of larger growth, will not read dialect. I have also had to reduce the flatulent phraseology of the eighteenth-century chap-books, and to rewrite in simpler style the stories only extant in 'Literary' English. I have, however, left a few vulgarisms in the mouths of vulgar people. Children appreciate the dramatic propriety of this as much as their elders. Generally speaking, it has been my ambition to write as a good old nurse will speak when she tells Fairy Tales. I am doubtful as to my success in catching the colloquial-romantic tone appropriate for such narratives, but the thing had to be done or else my main object, to give a book of English Fairy Tales which English children will listen to, would have been unachieved. This book is meant to be read aloud, and not merely taken in by the eye.
In a few instances I have introduced or changed an incident. I have never done so, however, without mentioning the fact in the Notes. These have been relegated to the obscurity of small print and a back place, while the little ones have been, perhaps unnecessarily, warned off them. They indicate my sources and give a few references to parallels and variants which may be of interest to fellow-students of Folk-lore. It is, perhaps, not necessary to inform readers who are not fellow-students that the study of Folk-tales has pretensions to be a science. It has its special terminology, and its own methods of investigation, by which it is hoped, one of these days, to gain fuller knowledge of the workings of the popular mind as well as traces of archaic modes of thought and custom. I hope on some future occasion to treat the subject of the English Folk-tale on a larger scale and with all the necessary paraphernalia of prolegomena and excursus. I shall then, of course, reproduce my originals with literal accuracy, and have therefore felt the more at liberty on the present occasion to make the necessary deviations from this in order to make the tales readable for children.
Finally, I have to thank those by whose kindness in waiving their rights to some of these stories, I have been enabled to compile this book. My friends, Mr E. Clodd, Mr F. Hindes Groome, and Mr Andrew Lang, have thus yielded up to me some of the most attractive stories in the following pages. The Councils of the English and of the American Folklore Societies, and Messrs Longmans, have also been equally generous. Nor can I close these remarks without a word of thanks and praise to the artistic skill with which my friend, Mr J. D. Batten, has made the romance and humour of these stories live again in the brilliant designs with which he has adorned these pages. It should be added that the dainty headpieces to Henny Penny and Mr Fox are due to my old friend, Mr Henry Ryland.
Prefatory Note to Third Edition
I havetaken the opportunity of a fresh issue of this book to revise the phraseology and bring the Notes, as far as possible, up to date. The remarkable cordiality with which the book has been received by readers, young and old, has laid upon me the obligation of making it as worthy as possible of such a kind reception.
Notes and References for
ENGLISH FAIRY TALES
The fairy tales of England have been treated in rather a step-motherly fashion. That they once existed in tolerable numbers there are still traces in the library list of Captain Cox, published by the New Shakespeare Society, among others, and in odd references in literature and in chap-books. But in the middle of last century the genius of Charles Perrault captivated English and Scotch children with as much force as or, probably, with even more force than he had entranced French ones. Cinderella and Puss in Boots and their companions ousted Childe Rowland and Mr Fox and Catskin. The superior elegance and clearness of the French tales replaced the rude vigour of the English ones. What Perrault began, the Grimms completed. Tom Tit Tot gave way to Rumpelstiltschen, the three Sillies to Hansel and Grethel, and the English Fairy Tale became a mélange confus of Perrault and the Grimms.
This would not have been so serious if English provincial life had been as conservative and tenacious as the provincial life of France, Italy, or Germany. But railways and the telegraph have disintegrated our provincial life much more than continental. And for various reasons the English peasant has never had so vivid a social life as the Bauer or Jacques Bonhomme. Consequently there is less hope of recovering the lost fairy tales of England to such a degree as has been accomplished with such brilliant success in almost every European country during the past thirty years, or still more conspicuously among the Gaels of Scotland by the late J. F. Campbell.
Yet something has been done even for England. Halliwell collected a considerable number of folk-tales in two volumes he edited for the Percy Society and reprinted in his Nursery Rhymes and Tales. Mr Baring-Gould appended to the first edition of Henderson's Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties (1866) several tales derived from the peasantry of Yorkshire and Devon. More recently Mrs Balfour collected among the peasants of the Cars in Lincolnshire the remarkable legends and tales she published in Folk-Lore, vol. ii, while scattered among the local newspapers and Notes and Queries there have been several drolls reproduced in dialect, among them Tom Tit Tot and Cap o' Rushes of this volume, originally published in the 'Suffolk Notes and Queries'. Mr Hartland has collected some of these in his English Folk and Fairy Tales, edited for the Camelot Series.
Since the first publication of this book in 1890, Mr S. O. Addy has published a number of traditional tales collected in the counties of York, Lincoln, Derby, and Nottingham (Household Tales and other Traditional Romances, Nutt, 1895). Mr Baring-Gould, who was himself one of the earliest modern collectors of English folk-tales, has brought together a number of legends and tales in his English Fairy Tales, 1895, and I have myself published a sequel entitled More English Fairy Tales, containing forty-four additional stories (Nutt, 1894). This includes a number of previously unpublished English folk-tales collected by Mrs Balfour and Mrs Gomme. In the introduction to the notes to this sequel volume, I have made some general remarks on the English folk-tale in particular, and on its relations to the general body of European tales. Of the eighty-seven tales contained in my two volumes, thirty-eight are Märchen proper, ten sagas or legends, nineteen drolls, four cumulative stories, six beast tales, and ten nonsense stories. With regard to their provenance, eight are derived from ballads, while twenty-nine others show traces of having rhyming portions and thus partaking of the nature of the cante-fable. Of the seventy story-radicles common to the European area, about forty are represented in my two volumes, and of these about twenty-seven are shown in the notes to have been imported. It is probable that of the remaining thirty radicles many once existed in England, and some of them can be traced in the English-speaking Pale in Ireland. These statistics show a rather larger proportion of imported tales than other parts of Europe, where tradition has not so completely died out. But, properly speaking, we may say that from a quarter to a third of the story store of any European country has been derived from abroad, and is in most cases shared by all Europe. Hitherto the attention of folk-lorists has been concentrated on these common elements of European folk-lore, but in reality the chief interest is afforded by the native tales in each country, which are the only ones to which we can legitimately apply the method of 'survivals'.
In a few cases English folk-tales still exist preserved in metrical form among the Ballads. Thus Catskin, which Mr Burchell told the Primrose children in The Vicar of Wakefield, is now only extant as a chap-book ballad. The story of Binnorie is closely allied to the theme of L'os qui chante, which M. Monseur has, with remarkable industry and success, traced in all the folk-literatures of Europe. Yet in England there is scarcely a trace of its being told otherwise than in ballad form, and that in Lowland Scotch or Northern English.
The folk-literature of the Northern Englishmen known as Scots is clearly closely allied to that of England. The chief collection that has been made of Scotch folk-tales is that of W. Chambers in that delightful book, The Nursery Rhymes of Scotland (1842). But out of the twenty-one tales included in the volume, sixteen can be traced among Southrons, and till evidence is shown to the contrary, there seems no reason to doubt that the remaining five were also once current on the southern side of the Border. There is no evidence of a distinct story store of Lowland Scots differing from that of Northern or even Southern Englishmen, and I have treated Scots for the purpose of this volume as if they were merely Englishmen, which may Lowland Caledonia forgive !
As some attention has been drawn to this question, I may perhaps explain a little more fully here the principle on which I have acted in making my collection of the folk-tales of the British Isles, which now fill four volumes. My principle of selection has been linguistic rather than ethnographic. I accordingly distinguish two areas in which the folk-tale has passed from mouth to mouth owing to the continuity of language. The first of these includes England and runs up to the Highland line in Scotland. I make no distinction, therefore, between Lowland Scotch folk-tales, when they existed, from other Northern English tales. As we have seen from the enumeration made in the last paragraph, the stories told by Chambers are of exactly the same character, and in most cases of the same plot as those collected in Southern Britain. There is no independent collection of Lowland Scotch tales. I therefore call the stories collected within the English-speaking area English Fairy Tales. Strictly speaking, the tales told, and collected within the English Pale in Ireland ought perhaps logically to be included under the same title. But in many cases there is evidence that the tales now told in English in East Ireland originally existed in Irish, and belong therefore to the Celtic areas of these Isles. I have therefore included them in the two volumes which I have devoted to a selection from the much more luxuriant crop of Celtic fairy tales collected in Scotland and Ireland (Celtic Fairy Tales, 1891; More Celtic Fairy Tales, 1895).
Of the origin of English folk-tales this is not the place to speak at any length. So far as they are common with other European folk-tales, I see no reason for doubting that they all had a common origin. I have given reason in the introduction to the notes of my Indian Fairy Tales in this series for believing that the source of that international nucleus of the European folk-tales is India. But for each country there remains a residuum peculiar to that country--e.g. for England, Jack and the Beanstalk or Childe Rowland, and there is no reason to doubt that these are artistic products of the folk-fancy of some Englishman. Whether we can trust to them to obtain archaeological evidence of former customs in this island is a somewhat doubtful question, which I have dealt with in a concrete shape in the notes to Childe Rowland.
In the introduction to the notes of the companion volume, I have made some remarks on the form taken by the English folk-tale. This is essentially colloquial, and hence rarely if ever rises into romance. This is not peculiar to England. Wherever the stories are collected from the folk they almost always partake of this colloquial and unromantic nature. It would seem as if anything of a romantic type was produced by the folk in the form of ballads rather than of tales. Our idea of fairies is derived from literary versions rather than from those that are really folk-tales. Indeed, we may trace it mainly to the Countess d'Aulnoy and the other French contributors to the Bibliothèque des fées, who followed the example of Perrault in giving graceful form to the tales of the folk. In England we get humour rather than romance from the productions of the folk-fancy. Very few of the extant English folk-tales show any signs of constructive plot ability among the folk.
In the present volume there are but few signs of survival of prehistoric custom and belief, which to many folk-lorists form the only source of interest in the folk-tale. I have discussed the chief of these in the note of No. 21, Childe Rowland. But there are traces of transformation in 3, 9, 11, 13, 29, 33, 41. Animals or inanimates speak in 3, 9, 10, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 28, 33, 34, 36, 41, while there are visitants from another world, 3, 15, 24, 32. Mr Clodd sees in Tom Tit Tot atrace of the curious superstition current among savages that to know a man's name gives you power over him.
In the following notes I give first the source whence I obtained the various tales. Then come parallels in some fullness for the United Kingdom, but only a single example for foreign countries, with a bibliographical reference where further variants can be found. Finally, a few remarks are sometimes added where the tales seem to need it. In two cases (Nos. 16 and 21) I have been more full.
ONCE upon a time there was a woman, and she baked five pies. And when they came out of the oven, they were that overbaked the crusts were too hard to eat. So she says to her daughter:
'Darter,' says she, 'put you them there pies on the shelf, and leave 'em there a little, and they'll come again.' - She meant, you know, the crust would get soft.
But the girl, she says to herself: 'Well, if they'll come again, I'll eat 'em now.' And she set to work and ate 'em all, first and last.
Well, come supper-time the woman said: 'Go you, and get one o' them there pies. I dare say they've come again now.'
The girl went and she looked, and there was nothing but the dishes. So back she came and says she: 'Noo, they ain't come again.'
'Not one of 'em?' says the mother.
'Not one of' 'em,' says she.
'Well, come again, or not come again,' said the woman, 'I'll have one for supper.'
'But you can't, if they ain't come,' said the girl.
'But I can,' says she. 'Go you, and bring the best of 'em.'
'Best or worst,' says the girl, 'I've ate 'em all, and you can't have one till that's come again.'
Well, the woman she was done, and she took her spinning to the door to spin, and as she span she sang:
'My darter ha' ate five, five pies today.My darter ha' ate five, five pies today.'
The king was coming down the street, and he heard her sing, but what she sang he couldn't hear, so he stopped and said:
'What was that you were singing, my good woman?'
The woman was ashamed to let him hear what her daughter had been doing, so she sang, instead of that:
'My darter ha' spun five, five skeins today.My darter ha' spun five, five skeins today.'
'Stars o' mine!' said the king, 'I never heard tell of anyone that could do that.' Then he said: 'Look you here, I want a wife, and I'll marry your daughter. But look you here,' says he, 'eleven months out of the year she shall have all she likes to eat, and all the gowns she likes to get, and all the company she likes to keep; but the last month of the year she'll have to spin five skeins every day, and if she don't I shall kill her.'
'All right,' says the woman; for she thought what a grand marriage that was. And as for the five skeins, when the time came, there'd be plenty of ways of getting out of it, and likeliest, he'd have forgotten all about it.
Well, so they were married. And for eleven months the girl had all she liked to eat, and all the gowns she liked to get, and all the company she liked to keep.
But when the time was getting over, she began to think about the skeins and to wonder if he had 'em in mind. But not one word did he say about 'em, and she thought he'd wholly forgotten 'em.
However, the last day of the last month he takes her to a room she'd never set eyes on before. There was nothing in it but a spinning-wheel and a stool. And says he: 'Now, my dear, here you'll be shut in tomorrow with some victuals and some flax, and if you haven't spun five skeins by the night, your head'll go off.'
And away he went about his business.
Well, she was that frightened, she'd always been such a gatless girl, that she didn't so much as know how to spin, and what was she to do tomorrow with no one to come nigh her to help her? She sate down on a stool in the kitchen, and law! how she did cry!
However, all of a sudden she heard a sort of a knocking low down on the door. She upped and oped it, and what should she see but a small little black thing with a long tail. That looked up at her right curious, and that said:
'What are you a-crying for?'
'What's that to you?' says she.
'Never you mind,' that said, 'but tell me what you're a-crying for.'
'That won't do me no good if I do,' says she.
'You don't know that,' that said, and twirled that's tail round.
'Well,' says she, 'that won't do no harm, if that don't do no good,' and she upped and told about the pies, and the skeins, and everything.
'This is what I'll do,' says the little black thing. 'I'll come to your window every morning and take the flax and bring it spun at night.'
'What's your pay?' says she.
That looked out of the corner of that's eyes, and that said:
'I'll give you three guesses every night to guess my name, and if you haven't guessed it before the month's up you shall be mine.'
Well, she thought, she'd be sure to guess that's name before the month was up. 'All right,' says she, 'I agree.'
'All right,' that says, and law! how that
twirled that's tail.
Well, the next day, her husband took her
into the room, and there was the flax and
the day's food.
'Now, there's the flax,' says he, 'and if
that ain't spun up this night, off goes your
head.' And then he went out and locked
He'd hardly gone, when there was a knocking against the window.
She upped and she oped it, and there sure enough was the little old thing sitting on the ledge.
'Where's the flax?' says he.
'Here it be,' says she. And she gave it to him.
Well, come the evening a knocking came again to the window. She upped and she oped it, and there was the little old thing with five skeins of flax on his arm.
'Here it be,' says he, and he gave it to her.
'Now, what's my name?' says he.
'What, is that Bill?' says she.
'Noo, that ain't,' says he, and he twirled his tail. 'Is that Ned?' says she.
'Noo, that ain't,' says he, and he twirled his tail. 'Well, is that Mark?' says she.
'Noo, that ain't,' says he, and he twirled his tail harder, and away he flew.
Well, when her husband came in, there were the five skeins ready for him. 'I see I shan't have to kill you tonight, my dear,' says he; 'you'll have your food and your flax in the morning,' says he, and away he goes.
Well, every day the flax and the food were brought, and every day that there little black impet used to come mornings and evenings. And all the day the girl sate trying to think of names to say to it when it came at night. But she never hit on the right one. And as it got towards the end of the month, the impet began to look so maliceful, and that twirled that's tail faster and faster each time she gave a guess.
At last it came to the last day but one. The impet came at night along with the five skeins, and that said:
'What, ain't you got my name yet?'
'Is that Nicodemus?' says she.
'Noo, 't ain't,' that says.
'Is that Sammle?' says she.
'Noo, 't ain't,' that says.
'A-well, is that Methusalem?' says she.
'Noo, 't ain't that neither,' that says.
Then that looks at her with that's eyes like a coal of fire, and that says: 'Woman, there's only tomorrow night, and then you'll be mine!' And away it flew.
Well, she felt that horrid. However, she heard the king coming along the passage. In he came, and when he sees the five skeins, he says, says he:
'Well, my dear,' says he. 'I don't see but what you'll have your skeins ready tomorrow night as well, and as I reckon I shan't have to kill you, I'll have supper in here tonight.' So they brought supper, and another stool for him, and down the two sate.
Well, he hadn't eaten but a mouthful or so, when he stops and begins to laugh.
'What is it?' says she.
'A-why,' says he, 'I was out a-hunting today, and I got away to a place in the wood I'd never seen before. And there was an old chalk-pit. And I heard a kind of a sort of humming. So I got off my hobby, and I went right quiet to the pit, and I looked down. Well, what should there be but the funniest little black thing you ever set eyes on. And what was that doing, but that had a little spinning-wheel, and that was spinning wonderful fast, and twirling that's tail. And as that span that sang:
'Nimmy nimmy notMy name's Tom Tit Tot.'
Well, when the girl heard this, she felt as if she could have jumped out of her skin for joy, but she didn't say a word.
Next day that there little thing looked so maliceful when he came for the flax. And when night came she heard that knocking against the window panes. She oped the window, and that come right in on the ledge. That was grinning from ear to ear, and Oo! that's tail was twirling round so fast.
'What's my name?' that says, as that gave her the skeins.
'Is that Solomon?' she says, pretending to be afeard.
'Noo, 'tain't,' that says, and that came further into the room.
'Well, is that Zebedee?' says she again.
'Noo, 'tain't,' says the impet. And then that laughed and twirled that's tail till you couldn't hardly see it.
'Take time, woman,' that says; 'next guess, and you're mine.' And that stretched out that's black hands at her.
Well, she backed a step or two, and she looked at it, and then she laughed out, and says she, pointing her finger at it:
'Nimmy nimmy notYour name's Tom Tit Tot.'
Well, when that heard her, that gave an awful shriek and away that flew into the dark, and she never saw it any more.
Once Upon a Time there was a farmer and his wife who had one daughter, and she was courted by a gentleman. Every evening he used to come and see her, and stop to supper at the farmhouse, and the daughter used to be sent down into the cellar to draw the beer for supper. So one evening she had gone down to draw the beer, and she happened to look up at the ceiling while she was drawing, and she saw a mallet stuck in one of the beams. It must have been there a long, long time, but somehow or other she had never noticed it before, and she began a-thinking. And she thought it was very dangerous to have that mallet there, for she said to herself: 'Suppose him and me was to be married, and we was to have a son, and he was to grow up to be a man, and come down into the cellar to draw the beer, like as I'm doing now, and the mallet was to fall on his head and kill him, what a dreadful thing it would be!' And she put down the candle and the jug, and sat herself down and began a-crying.
Well, they began to wonder upstairs how it was that she was so long drawing the beer, and her mother went down to see after her, and she found her sitting on the settle crying, and the beer running over the floor. 'Why, whatever is the matter?' said her mother. 'Oh, mother!' says she, 'look at that horrid mallet! Suppose we was to be married, and was to have a son, and he was to grow up, and was to come down to the cellar to draw the beer, and the mallet was to fall on his head and kill him, what a dreadful thing it would be!' 'Dear, dear! what a dreadful thing it would be!' said the mother, and she sat down aside of the daughter and started a-crying too. Then after a bit the father began to wonder that they didn't come back, and he went down into the cellar to look after them himself, and there they two sat a-crying, and the beer running all over the floor. 'Whatever is the matter?' says he. 'Why,' says the mother, 'look at that horrid mallet. Just suppose, if our daughter and her sweetheart was to be married, and was to have a son, and he was to grow up, and was to come down into the cellar to draw the beer, and the mallet was to fall on his head and kill him, what a dreadful thing it would be!' 'Dear, dear, dear! so it would!' said the father, and he sat himself down aside of the other two, and started a-crying.
Now the gentleman got tired of stopping up in the kitchen by himself, and at last he went down into the cellar, too, to see what they were after; and there they three sat a-crying side by side, and the beer running all over the floor. And he ran straight and turned the tap. Then he said: 'Whatever are you three doing, sitting there crying, and letting the beer run all over the floor?' 'Oh!' says the father, 'look at that horrid mallet! Suppose you and our daughter was to be married, and was to have a son, and he was to grow up, and was to come down into the cellar to draw the beer, and the mallet was to fall on his head and kill him!' And then they all started a-crying worse than before. But the gentleman burst out a-laughing, and reached up and pulled out the mallet, and then he said: 'I've travelled many miles, and I never met three such big sillies as you three before; and now I shall start out on my travels again, and when I can find three bigger sillies than you three, then I'll come back and marry your daughter.' So he wished them good-bye, and started off on his travels, and left them all crying because the girl had lost her sweetheart.
Well, he set out, and he travelled a long way, and at last he came to a woman's cottage that had some grass growing on the roof.
And the woman was trying to get her cow to go up a ladder to the grass, and the poor thing durst not go. So the gentleman asked the woman what she was doing. 'Why, lookye,' she said, 'look at all that beautiful grass. I'm going to get the cow on to the roof to eat it. She'll be quite safe, for I shall tie a string round her neck, and pass it down the chimney, and tie it to my wrist as I go about the house, so she can't fall off without my knowing it.' 'Oh, you poor silly!' said the gentleman, 'you should cut the grass and throw it down to the cow!' But the woman thought it was easier to get the cow up the ladder than to get the grass down, so she pushed her and coaxed her and got her up, and tied a string round her neck, and passed it down the chimney, and fastened it to her own wrist. And the gentleman went on his way, but he hadn't gone far when the cow tumbled off the roof, and hung by the string tied round her neck, and it strangled her. And the weight of the cow tied to her wrist pulled the woman up the chimney, and she stuck fast half-way and was smothered in the soot.
Well, that was one big silly.
And the gentleman went on and on, and he went to an inn to stop the night, and they were so full at the inn that they had to put him in a double-bedded room, and another traveller was to sleep in the other bed. The other man was a very pleasant fellow, and they got very friendly together; but in the morning, when they were both getting up, the gentleman was surprised to see the other hang his trousers on the knobs of the chest of drawers and run across the room and try to jump into them, and he tried over and over again and couldn't manage it; and the gentleman wondered whatever he was doing it for. At last he stopped and wiped his face with his handkerchief. 'Oh dear,' he says, 'I do think trousers are the most awkwardest kind of clothes that ever were. I can't think who could have invented such things. It takes me the best part of an hour to get into mine every morning, and I get so hot! How do you manage yours?' So the gentleman burst out a-laughing, and showed him how to put them on; and he was very much obliged to him, and said he never should have thought of doing it that way.
So that was another big silly.
Then the gentleman went on his travels again; and he came to a village, and outside the village there was a pond, and round the pond was a crowd of people. And they had got rakes, and brooms, and pitchforks reaching into the pond; and the gentleman asked what was the matter.
'Why,' they say, 'matter enough! Moon's tumbled into the pond, and we can't rake her out anyhow!' So the gentleman burst out a-laughing, and told them to look up into the sky, and that it was only the shadow in the water. But they wouldn't listen to him, and abused him shamefully, and he got away as quick as he could.
So there was a whole lot of sillies bigger than them three sillies at home. So the gentleman turned back home and married the farmer' s daughter, and if they didn't live happy for ever after, that's nothing to do with you or me.
There was Once Upon a Time