The Story Of A Very Bad Boy

: The Lilac Fairy Book

Once upon a time there lived in a little village in the very

middle of France a widow and her only son, a boy about fifteen,

whose name was Antoine, though no one ever called him anything

but Toueno-Boueno. They were very poor indeed, and their hut

shook about their ears on windy nights, till they expected the

walls to fall in and crush them, but instead of going to work as

a boy of his age ought to do, Toueno-Boueno d
d nothing but

lounge along the street, his eyes fixed on the ground, seeing

nothing that went on round him.

'You are very, very stupid, my dear child,' his mother would

sometimes say to him, and then she would add with a laugh,

'Certainly you will never catch a wolf by the tail.'

One day the old woman bade Antoine go into the forest and collect

enough dry leaves to make beds for herself and him. Before he had

finished it began to rain heavily, so he hid himself in the

hollow trunk of a tree, where he was so dry and comfortable that

he soon fell fast asleep. By and by he was awakened by a noise

which sounded like a dog scratching at the door, and he suddenly

felt frightened, why he did not know. Very cautiously he raised

his head, and right above him he saw a big hairy animal, coming

down tail foremost.

'It is the wolf that they talk so much about,' he said to

himself, and he made himself as small as he could and shrunk into

a corner.

The wolf came down the inside of the tree, slowly, slowly;

Antoine felt turned to stone, so terrified was he, and hardly

dared to breathe. Suddenly an idea entered his mind, which he

thought might save him still. He remembered to have heard from

his mother that a wolf could neither bend his back nor turn his

head, so as to look behind him, and quick as lightning he

stretched up his hand, and seizing the wolf's tail, pulled it

towards him.

Then he left the tree and dragged the animal to his mother's


'Mother, you have often declared that I was too stupid to catch a

wolf by the tail. Now see,' he cried triumphantly.

'Well, well, wonders will never cease,' answered the good woman,

who took care to keep at a safe distance. 'But as you really have

got him, let us see if we can't put him to some use. Fetch the

skin of the ram which died last week out of the chest, and we

will sew the wolf up in it. He will make a splendid ram, and to-

morrow we will drive him to the fair and sell him.'

Very likely the wolf, who was cunning and clever, may have

understood what she said, but he thought it best to give no sign,

and suffered the skin to be sewn upon him.

'I can always get away if I choose,' thought he, 'it is better

not to be in a hurry;' so he remained quite still while the skin

was drawn over his head, which made him very hot and

uncomfortable, and resisted the temptation to snap off the

fingers or noses that were so close to his mouth.

The fair was at its height next day when Toueno-Boueno arrived

with his wolf in ram's clothing. All the farmers crowded round

him, each offering a higher price than the last. Never had they

beheld such a beautiful beast, said they, and at last, after much

bargaining, he was handed over to three brothers for a good sum

of money.

It happened that these three brothers owned large flocks of

sheep, though none so large and fine as the one they had just


'My flock is the nearest,' observed the eldest brother; 'we will

leave him in the fold for the night, and to-morrow we will decide

which pastures will be best for him.' And the wolf grinned as he

listened, and held up his head a little higher than before.

Early next morning the young farmer began to go his rounds, and

the sheep-fold was the first place he visited. To his horror, the

sheep were all stretched out dead before him, except one, which

the wolf had eaten, bones and all. Instantly the truth flashed

upon him. It was no ram that lay curled up in the corner

pretending to be asleep (for in reality he could bend back and

turn his head as much as he liked), but a wolf who was watching

him out of the corner of his eye, and might spring upon him at

any moment. So the farmer took no notice, and only thought that

here was a fine chance of revenging himself on his next brother

for a trick which he had played, and merely told him that the ram

would not eat the grass in that field, and it might be well to

drive him to the pasture by the river, where his own flock was

feeding. The second brother eagerly swallowed the bait, and that

evening the wolf was driven down to the field where the young man

kept the sheep which had been left him by his father. By the next

morning they also were all dead, but the second brother likewise

held his peace, and allowed the sheep which belonged to the

youngest to share the fate of the other two. Then they met and

confessed to each other their disasters, and resolved to take the

animal as fast as possible back to Toueno-Boueno, who should get

a sound thrashing.

Antoine was sitting on a plum tree belonging to a neighbour,

eating the ripe fruit, when he saw the three young farmers coming

towards him. Swinging himself down, he flew home to the hut,

crying breathlessly, 'Mother, mother, the farmers are close by

with the wolf. They have found out all about it, and will

certainly kill me, and perhaps you too. But if you do as I tell

you, I may be able to save us both. Lie down on the floor, and

pretend to be dead, and be sure not to speak, whatever happens.

Thus when the three brothers, each armed with a whip, entered the

hut a few seconds later, they found a woman extended on the

floor, and Toueno kneeling at her side, whistling loudly into her


'What are you doing now, you rascal?' asked the eldest.

'What am I doing? Oh, my poor friends, I am the most miserable

creature in the world! I have lost the best of mothers, and I

don't know what will become of me,' and he hid his face in his

hands and sobbed again.

'But what are you whistling like that for?'

'Well, it is the only chance. This whistle has been known to

bring the dead back to life, and I hoped--' here he buried his

face in his hands again, but peeping between his fingers he saw

that the brother had opened their six eyes as wide as saucers.

'Look!' he suddenly exclaimed with a cry, 'Look! I am sure I felt

her body move! And now her nostrils are twitching. Ah! the

whistle has not lost its power after all,' and stooping down,

Toueno whistled more loudly than before, so that the old woman's

feet and hands showed signs of life, and she soon was able to

life her head.

The farmers were so astonished at her restoration, that it was

some time before they could speak. At length the eldest turned to

the boy and said:

'Now listen to me. There is no manner of doubt that you are a

young villain. You sold us a ram knowing full well that it was a

wolf, and we came here to-day to pay you out for it. But if you

will give us that whistle, we will pardon what you have done, and

will leave you alone.'

'It is my only treasure, and I set great store by it,' answered

the boy, pretending to hesitate. 'But as you wish for it so much,

well, I suppose I can't refuse,' and he held out the whistle,

which the eldest brother put in his pocket.

Armed with the precious whistle, the three brothers returned home

full of joy, and as they went the youngest said to the others, 'I

have such a good idea! Our wives are all lazy and grumbling, and

make our lives a burden. Let us give them a lesson, and kill them

as soon as we get in. Of course we can restore them to life at

once, but they will have had a rare fright.'

'Ah, how clever you are,' answered the other two. 'Nobody else

would have thought of that.'

So gaily the three husbands knocked down their three wives, who

fell dead to the ground. Then one by one the men tried the

whistle, and blew so loudly that it seemed as if their lungs

would burst, but the women lay stark and stiff and never moved an

eyelid. The husbands grew pale and cold, for they had never

dreamed of this, nor meant any harm, and after a while they

understood that their efforts were of no use, and that once more

the boy had tricked them. With stern faces they rose to their

feet, and taking a large sack they retraced their steps to the


This time there was no escape. Toueno had been asleep, and only

opened his eyes as they entered. Without a word on either side

they thrust him into the sack, and tying up the mouth, the eldest

threw it over his shoulder. After that they all set out to the

river, where they intended to drown the boy.

But the river was a long way off, and the day was very hot, and

Antoine was heavy, heavier than a whole sheaf of corn. They

carried him in turns, but even so they grew very tired and

thirsty, and when a little tavern came in sight on the roadside,

they thankfully flung the sack down on a bench and entered to

refresh themselves. They never noticed that a beggar was sitting

in the shade at the end of the bench, but Toueno's sharp ears

caught the sound of someone eating, and as soon as the farmers

had gone into the inn he began to groan softly.

'What is the matter?' asked the beggar, drawing a little nearer.

'Why have they shut you up, poor boy?'

'Because they wanted to make me a bishop, and I would not

consent,' answered Toueno.

'Dear me,' exclaimed the beggar, 'yet it isn't such a bad thing

to be a bishop.'

'I don't say it is,' replied the young rascal, 'but I should

never like it. However, if you have any fancy for wearing a

mitre, you need only untie the sack, and take my place.'

'I should like nothing better,' said the man, as he stooped to

undo the big knot.

So it was the beggar and not Toueno-Boueno who was flung into the


The next morning the three wives were buried, and on returning

from the cemetery, their husbands met Toueno-Boueno driving a

magnificent flock of sheep. At the sight of him the three farmers

stood still with astonishment.

'What! you scoundrel!' they cried at last, 'we drowned you

yesterday, and to-day we find you again, as well as ever!'

'It does seem odd, doesn't it?' answered he. 'But perhaps you

don't know that beneath this world there lies another yet more

beautiful and far, far richer. Well, it was there that you sent

me when you flung me into the river, and though I felt a little

strange at first, yet I soon began to look about me, and to see

what was happening. There I noticed that close to the place where

I had fallen, a sheep fair was being held, and a bystander told

me that every day horses or cattle were sold somewhere in the

town. If I had only had the luck to be thrown into the river on

the side of the horse fair I might have made my fortune! As it

was, I had to content myself with buying these sheep, which you

can get for nothing.'

'And do you know exactly the spot in the river which lies over

the horse fair?'

'As if I did not know it, when I have seen it with my own eyes.'

'Then if you do not want us to avenge our dead flocks and our

murdered wives, you will have to throw us into the river just

over the place of the horse fair.'

'Very well; only you must get three sacks and come with me to

that rock which juts into the river. I will throw you in from

there, and you will fall nearly on to the horses' backs.'

So he threw them in, and as they were never seen again, no one

ever knew into which fair they had fallen.

From 'Litterature Orale de L'Auvergne,' par Paul Sebillot.