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The Straw Ox

from Boys And Girls Bookshelf - MODERN FAIRY TALES





A Russian Tale


An old man and an old woman lived in an old house on the edge of the
forest. The old man worked in the field all day and the woman spun flax.
But for all of their hard work they were very poor--never one penny
could they save. One day the old man said to the old woman:

"I would like to give you something to please you, but I have nothing to
give."

"Never mind that," said the old woman, "make me a straw ox."

"A straw ox!" cried the old man. "What will you do with that?"

"Never mind that," said the old woman.

So the old man made a straw ox.

"Smear it all over with tar," said the old woman.

"Why should I smear it with tar?" asked the old man.

"Never mind that," said the old woman.

So the old man smeared the straw ox all over with tar.

The next morning when the old woman went out into the field to gather
flax she took the straw ox with her and left it standing alone near the
edge of the forest.

A bear came out of the woods, and said to the ox: "Who are you?"

"I am an ox all smeared with tar,
And filled with straw, as oxen are,"

replied the ox.

"Oh," said the bear. "I need some straw to mend my coat, and the tar
will keep it in place. Give me some straw and some tar."

"Help yourself," said the ox.

So the bear began to tear at the ox, and his great paws stuck fast, and
he pulled and he tugged, and he tugged and he pulled, and the more he
pulled and tugged, the faster he stuck, and he could not get away.

Then the ox dragged the bear to the old house on the edge of the forest.

When the old woman came back with her apron full of flax and saw that
the straw ox had gone she ran home as fast as she could. There stood the
ox with the bear stuck fast to him.

"Husband, husband! Come here at once," she cried. "The ox has brought
home a bear; what shall we do?"

So the old man came as fast as he could, pulled the bear off the ox,
tied him up, and threw him into the cellar.

The next morning when the old woman went into the field to gather flax
she again took the straw ox with her, and again she left him standing
alone near the edge of the forest.

A wolf came out of the woods, and said to the ox: "Who are you?"

"I am an ox all smeared with tar,
And filled with straw, as oxen are,"

replied the ox.

"Oh," said the wolf, "I need some tar to smear my coat so that the dogs
cannot catch me."

"Help yourself," said the ox.

The wolf put up his paws to take the tar and his paws stuck fast. He
pulled and he tugged, and he tugged and he pulled, and the more he
pulled and tugged, the faster he stuck and he could not get away.

Then the ox dragged the wolf to the old house on the edge of the forest.

When the old woman came back with her apron full of flax and saw that
the straw ox had gone she ran home as fast as she could. There stood the
ox in the yard with the wolf stuck fast to him.

"Husband, husband! Come here at once!" she cried. "The ox has brought
home a wolf; what shall we do?"

So the old man came as fast as he could, pulled the wolf off the ox,
tied him up, and threw him into the cellar.

The next morning when the old woman went out into the field to gather
flax she again took the straw ox with her, and again she left it
standing alone near the edge of the forest.

A fox came out of the woods, and said to the ox: "Who are you?"

"I am an ox all smeared with tar,
And filled with straw, as oxen are,"

replied the ox.

"Oh," said the fox, "I need some tar to smear my coat so that the dogs
cannot catch me."

"Help yourself," said the ox.

The fox put up his paws to take the tar, and his paws stuck fast. He
pulled and he tugged, and he tugged and he pulled, and the more he
pulled and tugged, the faster he stuck, and he could not get away.

Then the ox dragged the fox to the old house on the edge of the forest.

When the old woman came back with her apron full of flax and saw that
the straw ox had gone she ran home as fast as she could. There stood the
ox with the fox stuck fast to him.

"Husband, husband! Come here at once!" she cried. "The ox has brought
home a fox; what shall we do?"

So the old man came as fast as he could, pulled the fox off the ox, tied
him up, and threw him into the cellar.

The next morning when the woman came back with her apron full of flax
and saw that the ox had gone and she had run home as fast as she could,
there stood the ox with a rabbit stuck fast to him.

And the old man threw the rabbit into the cellar.

The next morning the old man said:

"Now we will see what will come of all of this."

So he took his knife and sat down by the cellar door and began to make
the knife sharp and bright.

"What are you doing, old man?" asked the bear.

"I am making my knife sharp and bright so as to cut up your coat and
make a nice warm jacket for the old woman to keep her warm this winter."

"Oh," said the bear. "Do not cut up my coat. Let me go, and I will bring
you some nice, sweet honey to eat."

"Very well," said the old man, "see to it that you do."

So the old man let the bear go.

Then he sat down again and began to make his knife sharp and bright.

"What are you doing, old man?" asked the wolf.

"I am making my knife sharp and bright so as to cut up your coat to make
me a fine fur cap," said the old man.

"Oh," said the wolf. "Do not cut up my coat. Let me go and I will bring
you some sheep."

"Very well," said the old man, "see to it that you do."

So the old man let the wolf go.

Then he sat down again with his knife in his hand.

"What are you doing, old man?" asked the fox.

"I am making my knife sharp and bright so as to cut up your coat to make
me a nice fur collar."

"Oh," said the fox, "do not cut up my coat. Let me go and I will bring
you some geese."

"Very well," said the old man, "see to it that you do."

And in the same way he let the rabbit loose, who said that he would
bring some cabbage and some turnips and some carrots.

The next morning early the old woman woke up and said:

"Some one is knocking at the door."

So the old man got up and went to the door and opened it.

"See," said the bear, "I have brought you a jar full of honey."

"Very well," said the old man, and he gave the jar to the old woman who
put it on the shelf.

Then came the wolf driving a flock of sheep into the yard.

"See," said the wolf, "I have brought you a flock of sheep."

"Very well," said the old man, and he drove the sheep into the pasture.

Then came the fox, with many geese running before him, and the old man
drove them into the pen; and then came the rabbit with cabbages and
turnips and carrots and other good things, and the old woman took them
and put them into the pot and cooked them.

And the old man said to the old woman, "Now we have sheep in the pasture
and many geese in the pen, and we are rich, and I can give you something
to please you."





Next: The Little Princess Of The Fearless Heart

Previous: Princess Finola And The Dwarf



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