Fortune And The Wood-cutter

: The Brown Fairy Book

Several hundreds of years ago there lived in a forest a wood-cutter and

his wife and children. He was very poor, having only his axe to depend

upon, and two mules to carry the wood he cut to the neighbouring town;

but he worked hard, and was always out of bed by five o'clock, summer

and winter.

This went on for twenty years, and though his sons were now grown

up, and went with their father to the forest,
verything seemed to

go against them, and they remained as poor as ever. In the end the

wood-cutter lost heart, and said to himself:

'What is the good of working like this if I never am a penny the richer

at the end? I shall go to the forest no more! And perhaps, if I take to

my bed, and do not run after Fortune, one day she may come to me.'

So the next morning he did not get up, and when six o'clock struck, his

wife, who had been cleaning the house, went to see what was the matter.

'Are you ill?' she asked wonderingly, surprised at not finding him

dressed. 'The cock has crowed ever so often. It is high time for you to

get up.'

'Why should I get up?' asked the man, without moving.

'Why? to go to the forest, of course.'

'Yes; and when I have toiled all day I hardly earn enough to give us one


'But what can we do, my poor husband?' said she. 'It is just a trick of

Fortune's, who would never smile upon us.'

'Well, I have had my fill of Fortune's tricks,' cried he. 'If she wants

me she can find me here. But I have done with the wood for ever.'

'My dear husband, grief has driven you mad! Do you think Fortune will

come to anybody who does not go after her? Dress yourself, and saddle

the mules, and begin your work. Do you know that there is not a morsel

of bread in the house?'

'I don't care if there isn't, and I am not going to the forest. It is no

use your talking; nothing will make me change my mind.'

The distracted wife begged and implored in vain; her husband persisted

in staying in bed, and at last, in despair, she left him and went back

to her work.

An hour or two later a man from the nearest village knocked at her door,

and when she opened it, he said to her: 'Good-morning, mother. I have

got a job to do, and I want to know if your husband will lend me your

mules, as I see he is not using them, and can lend me a hand himself?'

'He is upstairs; you had better ask him,' answered the woman. And the

man went up, and repeated his request.

'I am sorry, neighbour, but I have sworn not to leave my bed, and

nothing will make me break my vow.'

'Well, then, will you lend me your two mules? I will pay you something

for them.'

'Certainly, neighbour. Take them and welcome.'

So the man left the house, and leading the mules from the stable, placed

two sacks on their back, and drove them to a field where he had found

a hidden treasure. He filled the sacks with the money, though he knew

perfectly well that it belonged to the sultan, and was driving them

quietly home again, when he saw two soldiers coming along the road. Now

the man was aware that if he was caught he would be condemned to death,

so he fled back into the forest. The mules, left to themselves, took the

path that led to their master's stable.

The wood-cutter's wife was looking out of the window when the mules drew

up before the door, so heavily laden that they almost sank under their

burdens. She lost no time in calling her husband, who was still lying in


'Quick! quick! get up as fast as you can. Our two mules have returned

with sacks on their backs, so heavily laden with something or other that

the poor beasts can hardly stand up.'

'Wife, I have told you a dozen times already that I am not going to get

up. Why can't you leave me in peace?'

As she found she could get no help from her husband the woman took a

large knife and cut the cords which bound the sacks on to the animals'

backs. They fell at once to the ground, and out poured a rain of gold

pieces, till the little court-yard shone like the sun.

'A treasure!' gasped the woman, as soon as she could speak from

surprise. 'A treasure!' And she ran off to tell her husband.

'Get up! get up!' she cried. 'You were quite right not to go to the

forest, and to await Fortune in your bed; she has come at last! Our

mules have returned home laden with all the gold in the world, and it is

now lying in the court. No one in the whole country can be as rich as we


In an instant the wood-cutter was on his feet, and running to the court,

where he paused dazzled by the glitter of the coins which lay around


'You see, my dear wife, that I was right,' he said at last. 'Fortune

is so capricious, you can never count on her. Run after her, and she is

sure to fly from you; stay still, and she is sure to come.'