: Europa's Fairy Book
There was once a man and he had three sons, and when he died they all
had to go out to seek a living. So the eldest went out first, leaving
his two brothers at home, and went to a neighbouring farmer to try and
get work from him.
"Well, well, my man," said the farmer, "I can give you work but on
only one condition."
"What is that?"
"I cannot abear any high talk on
y farm. You must keep cool and not
lose your temper."
"Oh, never bother about that," said the youngster, "I never lose my
temper, or scarcely ever."
"Ah, but if you do," said the farmer, "I make it a condition that I
shall tear a strip of your skin from your nape to your waist; that
will make a pretty ribbon to tie around the throat of my dog there."
"That doesn't suit me," was the reply. "So fare thee well, master, I
must try another place."
"Keep cool, keep cool," said the farmer. "I am a just man; what's good
for the man I consider good for the master. So if I should lose my
temper I am quite willing that you should take the ribbon of flesh
from my back."
"Oh, if that's so," said the youngster, "I'll agree to stay. But we
must have it in black and white."
So they sent for the notary and wrote it all down that if either lost
his temper he should also lose a strip of skin from his back. But the
eldest son had not been in the house a week when the master gave him
so hard a task that he lost his temper and had to give up a strip of
skin from his back. So he went home and told his brothers about it.
Well, the brothers were savage at hearing what he had suffered. And
the second son went to the same man in the hope of getting revenge for
his brother. But the same thing happened to him, and he had to come
with a strip of skin from his back like his elder brother.
Now the third son, whose name was Jack, made up his mind he wouldn't
be done like the other two. And he went to the man and he engaged
himself to serve him for the same wage but on the same conditions that
his two brothers had done.
The very first morning that Jack had to go out to work his master gave
him a piece of dry bread and told him to mind the sheep.
"Is this all I'm to get to eat?" said Jack.
"Why, yes," said the master; "there'll be supper when you come home."
Jack was going to complain when his master called out to him, "Keep
cool, Jack, keep cool," and pointed to his back.
So Jack swallowed his rage and went out into the field. But on his way
he met a man, to whom he sold one of the sheep for five shillings, and
went and bought enough to eat and drink for a whole week.
When he got home that evening his master began to count the sheep, and
when he found one was missing, he said to Jack:
"You've let one of the sheep run away."
"No, no, sir," said Jack, "I sold him to a man passing along."
"You shouldn't have done that without my telling you; but where's the
"Oh, with the money," said Jack, "I went and bought me some eats." And
he showed him what he had bought.
The master was going to fly in a rage, but Jack said to him: "Keep
cool, master, keep cool," and pointed to his back. So he remembered
and said nothing more.
The next day Jack was ordered to take the pigs to market to sell them,
and after he had cut off all their tails he sold them and pocketed the
money; and then he went to a marsh near the farm and planted all the
tails in the marsh.
When he got home the master asked him if he had sold the pigs.
He said: "No, they all rushed into the marsh at the foot of the
"I don't believe you," said the master, and was going to get into a
rage when Jack said to him:
"Keep cool, master, keep cool."
So he went with Jack to the marsh, and when he saw the pigs' tails all
peeping out the marsh he went and plucked one of them out of the
ground, and Jack said:
"There, you've torn the tail from the poor pig's back."
Then the master was going to get into a rage again but Jack said:
"Keep cool, master, keep cool," and pointed to his back.
Next day the master didn't like sending Jack out with the animals or
else he might sell them to get some dinner. So he said to him:
"Jack, I want you today to clean the horses and the stable within and
"Very well, master," said Jack, and went to the stable; and he
whitewashed it within and he whitewashed it without. Then he went to
the horses and killed them and took out their insides and cleaned them
within; and then he washed their skins.
In the evening the master came to see how Jack had got on with his
work and was delighted to find the stable looking so clean.
"But where are the horses?" he said; and Jack pointed to them lying
dead on their backs.
"Why, what have you done?" said the master.
"You told me to clean them within and without and how could I clean
them within without killing them?" said Jack.
Then the master was just going to fly into a rage, when Jack said to
him: "Keep cool, master, keep cool," and pointed to his back.
So next day the master had sent Jack out with the sheep, but so that
he should not sell any of them to get money for his lunch he sent his
wife with them telling her to watch Jack from behind a bush, and if he
tried to sell any of the sheep to stop him. But Jack saw her and
didn't say anything or try and sell any of the sheep.
But next day, when he went out with them, he took with him his gun,
and when the farmer's wife got behind the bush to watch him, he called
out: "Ah, wolf, I see you," and fired his gun at her and hit her in
the leg. She screamed out, and the master came running up and said:
"What's this, Jack, what's this?"
Then Jack said: "Why, master, I thought that was a wolf and I shot my
gun at it and it turned out to be the missus."
"How dare you, you scoundrel, shoot my wife!" cried out the master.
"Don't be in a rage, master, don't be in a rage," said Jack.
"Anybody would be in a rage if his wife was shot," said the master.
"Well, then," said Jack, "I'll have that strip off your back." And as
there were witnesses present the master had to let Jack take a strip
of skin from his back.
And with that he went home to his brothers.