Danish Fairy and Folk Tales/The Master Fool
THE MASTER FOOL
HERE once lived a woman who had a very foolish boy. One day, when she had been churning, the lad wished to go to town and sell the butter. His mother objected to this, saying it would not do at all, as he had never been in town before; but as he coaxed and pleaded for her permission, she at last consented, gave him a roll of butter, whereupon he went away.
The boy trudged along, and finally reached a large stone. Supposing this stone to be the town, he addressed it very politely, asking if it cared to buy some butter. Of course the stone made no reply. "I'll tell you," said the boy, "that my butter is of a good quality. If you wish, you may have a taste of it." Without waiting for permission, he smeared a bit of butter on the stone, and as it was a very warm day, it melted in the heat. Thinking that the stone—or the town—ate it with delight, the boy resumed: "I observe that you seem to like it. You may as well buy the whole, and I am willing to wait for the money until to-morrow." So he smeared the rest of the butter on the stone, and returned home. His mother at once asked him who had bought the butter, and what price he had received for it. "I sold it to the town and gave him credit until to-morrow," answered the boy. "How so?" pursued his mother. "You sold it to the town, you say? Why, that's nonsense. I would like to know to whom in town you sold it!" "Well," returned the lad, "I tell you that I sold it to the town, just as you told me to do." "All right, then," observed his mother; "we got rid of the butter, anyway. It was, of course, foolish to let you have it."
Next day the boy wanted to go and collect the money. His mother declared that it would be of no use: she knew he would secure nothing. But he would not listen to her; he went on his own accord, and arrived at the stone. "I have come," said he, "to collect the money for the butter you bought of me yesterday." The stone did not utter a single word, however. Now the boy became angry. "You wretch!" cried he; "yesterday you bought my butter, and to-day you refuse to pay for it—nay, even to answer me. Upon my word, I will show you that I am not to be trifled with." Thus he took hold of the stone and struggled with it until it tipped over, whereupon he found that it had covered a pot filled with money. Not hesitating for a moment, he picked it up and returned home with it.
When the woman saw her son return with so much money, she was greatly astonished, and proceeded to ask him where and how he had procured it. "I obtained it from the town, mother," answered he. "At first it refused both to pay and even to answer, so I grew angry, turned it over, and took all its money. I was sure, all the time, that it had enough to pay with; but it was stubborn, and did not wish to pay." "I don't comprehend your foolish talk," answered his mother. "How could you overthrow the town? Never mind, however; you realized a great deal of money."
Some time passed, and the woman slaughtered her cow. The boy wished to take the meat to town and sell it; so a large piece was put into a basket, with which he started off. This time he really came to town. When he had walked about the streets for a while, he met several dogs which barked at him. "How do you do!" said the boy. "Do you wish to buy some meat?" The dogs barked again. "Very well," answered our friend; "you may taste it." The dogs at once began to eat it. "Take all of it, then," said he, throwing the remainder before them; "to-morrow I will come for the money."
Next morning he returned and found the dogs in the street. Having saluted them, he told them that he had come for the money. The dogs barked and barked, but produced no money. "What!" cried he; "do you refuse to pay me? Indeed, I will teach you manners." As one small dog carried a pretty collar, he considered it one of the prominent members of the party, and seizing it, placed it under his arm, saying: "I see that you refuse to pay what you owe me; but I will teach you something else before we part. Depend upon that!" Having delivered this speech, he repaired to the king's palace, the dog under his arm.
The king had a daughter who was very beautiful, but always downcast and afflicted. Her father had declared that he who was able to cheer her and make her laugh would be at liberty to marry her and ascend the throne with her when he himself died.
When the boy arrived at the palace one of the sentinels stopped him, forbidding him to pass. "How?" exclaimed the boy. "Am I not permitted to seek my rights by the king, when I am being cheated by villains? What a confounded state of affairs!" "What is your errand, then?" inquired the sentinel. The boy proceeded to tell him all, whereupon he was allowed to pass on condition of promising to pay the sentinel one-half of the money for the meat. Soon he was stopped by another guard, who also made him promise to pay one-half of the money which he hoped to obtain. At length he reached the king's rooms, and his presence was announced. When the king appeared the boy told him how wrongly he had been treated. The king merely shrugged his shoulders, and said: "If you have sold the meat to the dogs you must see how you can obtain your money. I cannot help you collect it." "Well," said the boy to the dog, catching hold of his collar and giving him a thorough shaking, "you are a good specimen, aren't you?"
Upon this the king's daughter, who had listened to the whole story, was unable to keep herself from laughing. "Now you may secure a good price for your meat," said the king to the lad, "for you are free to marry my daughter." "No, I don't care for her," answered he. "You don't!" said the king; "well and good, I will give you a sum of money, for really I would rather that you should not marry her." "Money I don't care for," declared the boy. "If money cannot satisfy you," inquired the king, "what do you wish?" "I wish sixty raps of bastinado for my meat," declared the boy. "You shall have them," answered the king, "although that seems a poor reward." "Come here," continued he, turning to his men, "and give this boy sixty raps of bastinado." "No, thank you," said he; "the sentinels must receive them; they forced me to promise each of them one-half of the payment for the meat." Thus the guardsmen received their dues. "Listen to me!" now said the king. "I am sure that you are not so foolish as you seem. Will you not marry my daughter?" "Yes, I will," answered the boy; "since the soldiers have received what was due to them, and are entitled to no more." He was accordingly married to the princess, and they lived long and happily together. It seems to me that this was well done by such a foolish boy!